Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Playoff Game Two Preview

This is a new feature for Season Three of Civ4 AI Survivor: a preview of each game before it begins, providing a quick summary of the leaders involved and how the community expects the game to shake out.

For our second playoff game, we have a bunch of outstanding economic leaders that dominated their opening round matches. Mansa Musa is arguably the best leader in the entire game at research, and he has a beautiful river valley in the southern part of the map to turn into cottage heaven. If Mansa is the game's best at teching, Gandhi may be the strongest leader when it comes to pursuing a Cultural victory, and he has an isolated location well shielded from potential aggression. Then there's also Pacal in the north central part of the continent, who will look to exploit his Financial/Expansive trait pairing into a position of dominance. The biggest danger for the Mansa/Gandhi pair will be the two civs on the western edge of the continent. Peter and De Gaulle both have very low peace weight scores, and they will almost certainly try to crush the economic leaders at some point in this match. The outcome of that struggle will likely decide which group of leaders make it on to the Championship. And then there's Qin in the far northeast, who will have the opportunity to build the wonders that he loves best on his little peninsula. Which direction Qin chooses to leap in the diplomacy could wind up deciding this game.

De Gaulle of France
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Eight
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (50), Season Two (52), Overall (52)

AI Summary from Season One: De Gaulle has a number of oddities in the way that his AI is programmed. He brings Industrious and Charismatic traits, making him unpopular for everyone other than Parkin in our Multiplayer events. De Gaulle's French civilization, on the other hand, is an outstanding choice, easily one of the best in the game with the Musketeer and Salon unique items. De Gaulle the AI has production and growth flavors. You'd think that he would have a wonder focus with his Industrious trait, but no, De Gaulle AI barely looks to build them at all. Only 2/10 rating for wonder construction. Instead, De Gaulle AI will make lots of tribute demands (10/10) and civic demands (8/10) on other leaders. While his aggression rating is only average at 5.7 out of 10, De Gaulle gets classified as an "Evil" leader via peace weight. He's actually as low as it's possible to go on the scale, sitting in the same position as leaders like Ragnar and Shaka. This suggests that someone at Firaxis was having some fun at De Gaulle's expense, especially when you consider how De Gaulle gets a rating of 0/10 in the "Resists Capitulating" category. Anyway, De Gaulle AI will be seriously unpopular with many of these other leaders, and that should produce some weird stuff before we're done.

Season Three Addition: De Gaulle has been the worst AI out of the 52 leaders over the first two years of the competition, and it hasn't been particularly close. He was the First to Die in both of the past games where he appeared, and he finished in 50th place in Season One and 52nd place, dead last, in Season Two. It's genuinely difficult to do that badly in two consecutive years in a row. De Gaulle's AI programming makes him into a total jerk who demands things incessantly from his neighbors, with traits that are suited for wonder-building and an AI who rarely chooses to build wonders. Pair that with a horribly low peace weight that causes all of the other economic AIs to hate him, and it's no surprise that he's fallen on his face so badly in past years. His opening round victory this year was a total shock. Was that a fluke, or can he do it again?

Gandhi of India
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Three
Season Two Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Two
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (48), Season Two (13), Overall (33)

AI Summary from Season One: Gandhi is arguably the most unique leader in the entire game, and his AI personality differs in several respects from everyone else. Gandhi has Philosophical and Spiritual traits, a decent second-tier pairing with a pretty good economic boost. He gets the Indian civilization, with the single best unique unit in the entire game in the Fast Worker, although the AI doesn't know how to use them properly. India's unique building is the Mausoleum, a jail replacement which is rather good itself. Gandhi the AI plays the game as a hyper-pacifist, as befitting his historical personality. Gandhi is the AI leader least likely to declare war in the whole game, with a normalized aggression rating of zero out of ten. He's the benchmark upon which all other peacenicks are judged. Gandhi only has one flavor for his research: CULTURE. He can often ignore military techs to an alarming degree. Gandhi's other ratings are a similar story in contrasts. He places no emphasis upon building units (0/10 rating), or espionage spending (0/10), or demanding tribute (0/10). He will ask for help (8/10) and demand civic changes (10/10) at a high rate, but even in those cases, Gandhi has a unique diplomatic mechanic where refusing his demands does not lower his opinion of you. However, Gandhi also has a unique mechanic whereby he places a -2 diplo penalty on anyone who declares war against someone he regards with "Pleased" or "Friendly" ratings. He has the highest peace weight in the entire game, a perfect 10/10, indicating quasi-divine morality. No one else has the same peace weight in the whole game. Overall, Gandhi is about as extreme as it's possible to get on the pacifist scale. He's extremely good at pursuing Cultural victory... but he has to survive to get to that point, and that's quite often his problem.

Mansa Musa of Mali
Season One Opening Round: Winner of Game Two
Season One Playoffs: Winner of Game Two
Season One Championship: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Six
Season Two Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Five
Total Kills: 5
Past Finishes: Season One (5), Season Two (17), Overall (6)

AI Summary from Season One: Mansa Musa is one of the game's economic powerhouses, with Spiritual and Financial traits. His Malinese civ brings an excellent unit in the Skirmisher, and a decent building in the Mint. I once dubbed Mansa Musa as having the "winner" AI in the same sense as Tokugawa has the "loser" AI, since he favors trading and peaceful development. Mansa AI has gold and religious flavors, the latter of which you might not expect. He actually founds his own religion pretty frequently, despite not starting with Mysticism tech. Mansa Musa has a very low aggression rating of 1.6 out of 10; basically, this guy wants to be left alone to tech in peace. Mansa will be reigned in slightly by turning off tech trading (where he swaps techs like crazy), but he's still one to watch.

Season Three Addition: Mansa has been one of the most dominant AIs in past years of competition, winning four of the six games that he's appeared in. There is arguably no AI in the whole game more terrifying from an economic perspective, and when Mansa Moneybags gets his cottages up and running all across his empire, he can be almost unstoppable. On the other hand, Mansa's also been eliminated completely in the other two games that he appeared in. If he gets roughed up too much by aggressive neighbors, it can all fall apart quickly for him.

Pacal of the Mayans
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Eight
Season Two Playoffs: Second Place
Season Two Championship: Third Place
Season Three Opening Round: Fourth Place
Season Three Wildcard: Second Place
Total Kills: 4
Past Finishes: Season One (33), Season Two (3), Overall (11)

AI Summary from Season One: Pacal's trait pairing of Financial and Expansive is widely viewed as the strongest for any leader in Civ4. Pacal is therefore a universal ban for our Multiplayer events, at least the ones played without any mods. He is the only leader for the Mayans, who feature the Holkan unique unit and the Ball Court unique building. This is a rare case where the unique building is the better of the pair, as it adds a nice boost to happiness. Pacal the AI has culture and growth flavors. He places a high priority on religion, with a huge penalty for leaders of rival faiths. Pacal will likely found his own religion in this game, with the Mayans being the one of the few civilizations in this game to start with Mysticism tech. Pacal the AI also likes to build wonders (8/10 rating), and otherwise has mostly average numbers. Pacal has the strange combination of a low aggression rating (2.8 out of 10) along with an "Evil" rating in peace weight. Pacal AI will be predisposed to like the aggressive leaders, and he won't fit in with the other economic leaders in this game. If Pacal can get an early conquest, his traits will probably make him unstoppable.

Peter of Russia
Season One Opening Round: Third Place
Season One Wildcard: Fourth Place
Season Two Opening Round: Third Place
Season Two Wildcard: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Second Place
Total Kills: 1
Past Finishes: Season One (20), Season Two (27), Overall (23)

AI Summary from Season One: Peter is Expansive and Philosophical in Civ4, with the Cossack and Research Institute as befitting his Russian civ. Despite his peaceful traits, Peter is actually a fairly aggressive leader, with an 8/10 aggression rating. He's very willing to go to war with his enemies. At the same time, however, Peter also rarely makes demands of other civs, and has science and growth flavors for his AI programming. It's all kind of a weird package. Peter AI could focus on peaceful teching, or he could just as easily go into a murderous rage and spend the whole game fighting his neighbors. Impossible to tell. He's been fairly good at avoiding elimination in past years, but not so great at actually winning games. Perhaps this is his time to imitate the other Russian leaders and finally have some success.

Qin Shi Huang of China
Season One Opening Round: Third Place
Season One Wildcard: Second Place
Season One Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Second Place
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (11), Season Two (28), Overall (16)

AI Summary from Season One: Qin was one of the mightiest leaders in the original version of Civ4, back when he paired Financial and Industrious traits with the Chinese civilization. Sadly the expansions were not kind to him, as Qin was changed to the vastly inferior Protective and Industrious pairing instead. Swapping the best trait in the game for the worst, ouch. Qin does still have the Chu Ko Nu and the Pavillion unique items from the Chinese civ, but loses out on a lot of China's power due to the free Deity starting techs. (China is the only civ in the game to start with Agriculture and Mining techs, widely considered the best pairing. On Deity, all of the AIs start with Agriculture, The Wheel, Hunting, and Archery techs.) Qin the AI has production and growth flavors, along with an emphasis on building wonders (6/10) if not nearly so much as Pericles. He's pretty average across the board otherwise, with a modest aggression rating of 3.9 out of 10. Qin is another AI without much in the way of a defining feature. He's done reasonably well in the past but it might not be enough in this stacked field.

Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:

Mansa Musa looks to be the favorite for this game, although not to the same extent as the top pick in many of the other games we've been running. Pacal and Gandhi are also popular choices to emerge victorious in this match. The second place spot seems to be the hardest to choose once again, with no clear consensus on who will finish there. It's interesting how Qin gets essentially no votes for first place but has more than anyone else for second. De Gaulle's victory in the opening round match wasn't enough to convince the community, as he takes the pole position in First to Die again. And almost everyone has picked Spaceship as the victory condition, which makes sense given the recent run of spaceship wins and this economically-heavy field of competitors. Finally, here are some of the best/craziest written predictions about what would take place during the game. There were many other excellent entries but I had to pick and choose my favorites to keep this from running on too long. Thanks again for the submissions!

Voldymort: Gandhi smites everyone with nukes. GG WP

RefSteel: The ghost of Wang Kon appears to be trolling Qin through the map itself this time, as the Chinese capital orphans a fish, and forces him to also orphan another fish or (preferably) a whale at the end of his peninsula. Of note, a human player would have moved to the plains hill marble without looking back, orphaning zero seafood and snowballing the 3h start tile to a dominant position. Sadly, the AI doesn't know how to move its starting Settler. I'm still picking Qin to ride Mansa's coat-tails to the finals, but only because they're my favorite two leaders in this playoff game. I mean, and because Mansa is terrific when he doesn't get crippled early by a psychotic neighbor or inexplicably forgetting to expand, but you know....

Smosism: DeGaulle more like DeFraud amirite bois hoho

magicalsushi: Mansa's got lots of space, and for once may not be the leader most hated by the warmonger civs, since Gandhi is also on the board. Pacal's also got decent territory, but he has two competent neighbours, whereas Mansa will probably be able to devour the hapless de Gaulle. Gandhi could prove to be a black horse, but I reckon he'll probably get into trouble before he has a chance to really get going. Peter or Qin both have a strong chance of staying out of trouble and coming in second place, but I cant choose between them so instead I'm just going to assume that Mansa and Pacal don't damage each other too much.

Jabah: Due to peace weight Mansa and Gandhi are doomed. The more aggressive leaders, Peter and DeGaulle are going first to break their teeths on Mansa strong defences, only to see Pacal and Qin arrive later and clean up.

Ghostpants: Sorry Pacal, you got thrown in the economic game of death. Mansa and Gandhi have the two best starting positions land wise (particularly Mansa, with bountiful food and plenty of space), so I'm thinking Mansa for first place once he crushes one of the poorer eastern leaders (most likely De Gaulle of the no-so-great plains) , followed by Gandhi in second (I'd have him picked for a culture win except Qin and De Gaulle are also both wonder whores. I doubt Pacal will die, and he'll probably do respectably well, I just doubt it'll be good enough against arguably the two best economic leaders in the game. Peter and Qin will likely declare a suicidal war against a more technologically advanced foe later in the game, and as for De Gaulle, I refuse to believe he's a genuinely strong leader, and hopefully Mansa sends him packing tout suite.

Faded_Outline: "Do not let Gandhi sit in the corner of the map and build up his civ uncontested!" (Series 2, game 3 writeup). Anyone who wants a piece of him is likely going to have to chew through Mansa first, and that'll be tricky if he gets a good start. I foresee a cluster of gainless wars in the middle thwarted repeatedly by AP trickery, lasting until Gandhi can safely nuke anyone that opposes a swift culture win.

SleepingDragon5: This game comes down to Team Bad vs Team Good - Mansa and Gandhi are the two individually strongest AIs on this map, but their very high peaceweights will bring them into conflict with the other leaders who are all very low peaceweight. I've predicted Mansa as first to die (mostly because of Gandhi's extremely sheltered position in the far southeast), but if Team Bad don't get their act together it's just as possible that Mansa could flatten one of them like he did to Alex and then steamroll to victory.

Dark Savant: Why isn't De Gaulle flying the flag of the Bourbon Restoration this game? (I strongly encourage you to look that up if you don't know what it looks like.) He's got a 5-food start -- I'm going to vote him as winner and hope he doesn't waste it. As far as my pick for first to die goes ... well, he's a likely target, and Mansa Musa does have this way of not building units.

Tank Sinatra: No need to overthink this. Mansa Musa will do what he will, and the weak will suffer as they must.