Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Playoff Game Three Writeup

For the third and final playoff game, we found ourselves with a field of mostly low peace weight AI leaders with checkered past histories in the competition. One of the longtime Livestream viewers was claiming that this was the weakest group of leaders to appear in a playoff game in AI Survivor history, and while I don't necessarily agree with that, it was true that most of these leaders had struggled in past seasons. The pregame opinion centered around three of these leaders to compete for first place, and two other leaders to vie for First to Die status. Among the contenders, the most popular pick to win was Julius Caesar. The Roman leader had put on an impressive showing in his opening round victory, and appeared to have an excellent chance to repeat the performance with room to expand and easy access to an iron resource. Kublai Khan and Hannibal were the other two popular leader choices, with both of them also finishing in first place in a previous game. Kublai often does well due to his expansionist tendencies, while Hannibal would bring the only Financial trait into this particular match. On the other side of the spectrum were Louis and Ramesses, both of them wonder-heavy leaders who had suffered early eliminations in the first two seasons of AI Survivor. They had both made it here via second place finishes in the opening round, and the smart money was on one of them taking an early exit. Finally, the last leader in this group was Charlemagne, the man who had thrown away a certain victory in the opening round to Wang Kon in one of the most ridiculous fashions imaginable. No one seemed to be picking him to finish either first or last in this game, and the Holy Roman leader was the forgotten individual as far as the picking contest was concerned.

The map for this game divided the AI leaders along an east-west axis, with three leaders appearing on each side. Each of the leaders had close neighbors to either the north or south, but the map offered a wide amount of open space to the east and west. This was an unusual setup and I thought it would make for an interesting game. Part of the reason why Louis was favored in the First to Die category was his starting position, sandwiched in between Caesar and Kublai on either side. I personally thought that Ramesses was more likely to be the first one out of this game, as his higher peace weight score would make the Egyptians unpopular to all of their surrounding neighbors. I also decided not to pick Hannibal for either of the top spots in this game because I thought he might get squeezed on territory, despite having an excellent starting capital with plenty of food and double ivory resources. As always, a lot was going to depend on how each of these leaders managed to expand in the early game, and then how the diplomacy would shake out between religions and war declarations.

The game started out with a tight race for the first religion. Charlemagne was the only one of these leaders to begin with Mysticism tech, however he opted to begin with Animal Husbandry research and therefore stayed out of the initial religious push, thus opening things up for everyone else. Louis and Ramesses both went Mysticism into Meditation, and a few turns later Caesar popped Mysticism from a hut and also joined the competition, with all three of them researching Meditation. Louis made it there first over Ramesses by virtue of turn order, and he established Christianity in his second city. Ramesses then followed that up with research into Polytheism, this time without anyone else imitating him, and founded a random Judaism. As a result, instead of Holy Rome and Egypt having the first two religions as we had expected, it was France and Egypt with the initial faiths, and Holy Rome with no religion at all. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Caesar would research an early Masonry tech in order to connect a marble resource at his capital, and that led him towards Monotheism and the founding of the third religion (Islam) on Turn 33. Now we had three major religions in three different parts of the map, and Charlemagne still didn't have his own religion! This was already shaping up to be an odd game.

No one did anything too stupid with the starting Deity settler. Most of the leaders pushed towards the center of the map and gained control over important territory, with the Holy Cities of Louis and Ramesses expanding borders quickly. Hannibal made the best play with his settler, sending it straight south and picking a spot that cut off any northern expansion from Ramesses. The Carthaginian city of Utica was first ring to Ramesses' capital as well as Hannibal's. Charlemagne picked the weakest location for the second city, on the coast to his south in a place that lacked much in the way of resources. He would stop to build a settler there at size 1 and end up wasting the Imperialistic bonus, slowing Holy Rome's early expansion. As the turns passed and more cities began to be established across the map, we noticed that Louis was settling in a bizarre pattern: his first four cities were built in a straight line to the east, each one heading further away from the previous city. This was already in progress at the time of the traditional Turn 50 overview:

Two turns after this picture was taken, Louis would found Rheims four tiles to the east of Lyons. As a result, France was claiming some land that likely could have gone to Hannibal, while leaving more territory to the north and south open for Caesar and Kublai. The Mongolian leader would take immediate advantage of this, setling two cities along his northern border in lands that really should have gone to Louis. Old Sarai claimed a copper resource that was only four tiles to the south of Paris, leaving Louis with no access to a metal resource in the early game. This was very strange behavior out of Louis, who had also rushed an early Stonehenge wonder despite not needing it overmuch as a Creative leader. It did help him produce an early Great Prophet for the Christian shrine though, which may have made the wonder worth it. All that culture made Louis the score leader, and to his credit it did appear that he was getting about as much land as anyone else, just in unusual directions.

Elsewhere, Mongolia was doing well and reached five cities before any of the other leaders. Kublai was under less pressure to expand since Louis hadn't headed in his direction and Ramesses seemed to be more focused on his domestic religion than anything else. Egypt had been sluggish at expanding thus far, picking the Heliopolis spot in the southern tundra and then Elephantine on the eastern coast. Ramesses would also go on to raze the barbarian city of Magyar one turn before it would have grown to size 2, which would have been enough to prevent it from autorazing. That was surely foolish on his part. Hannibal was leading the field in early research via his Financial trait, and he had constructed the Great Wall and would soon build the Pyramids as well, making use of a stone resource nearly his capital. However, the Carthaginians weren't doing much in the way of expanding - not helped by building a settler in a jungle-choked size 2 city as shown - and they were already getting squeezed on land. This would cause increasing problems down the road. Charlemagne had struggled in the early game, but now he was recovering and starting to push out settlers at a better pace. His research was the worst in the game though, and those terrible Protective/Imperialistic traits certainly weren't helping any. Finally, Rome was expanding decently well thus far, and had the good fortune not to be under much pressure as yet. Louis had made no moves towards Caesar and Charlemagne was still tied up with his own issues, leaving a lot of open space in the north.

The early religions began to spread beyond their homelands, spurred on by missionary activity, with Hannibal converting to Judaism and Kublai converting to Christianity. This would make Hannibal less likely to attack his southern Egyptian neighbor, while conversely making Kublai more likely to do so. Hannibal continued his wonder binge over the following turns, adding the Pyramids and the Oracle to his collection. He might have been better off pursuing the "settlers and workers" wonder though, as he soon found himself stuck on five cities and with no further room for expansion. Charlemagne decided that he needed to have his own religion as well, teching to Code of Laws and establishing Hinduism in his second city. We now had four total religions in this game: two leaders apiece with Christianity and Judaism, and then the two northern leaders with their isolated Islam and Hinduism. If you look back at the globe view above, one of the important questions had been which leader would be able to capture the barbarian city of Bulgar. This was an amazing location with six total resources: double corn, double silks, sheep, and copper. The prize wound up going to Caesar:

It was never much of a contest either, as Charlemagne didn't send any units to fight for control over this spot. This was still a major development in the overall game, however. It ensured that Caesar would claim everything to the north and west of this spot, and that he would gain control over the bevy of resources located at Bulgar. Charlemagne would have benefited significantly from taking this spot, and he would find himself in a much weaker position as a result. With the map filling up with cities, and with Caesar (Iron Working) and Kublai (Horseback Riding) about to unlock their unique units, we were primed for the first outbreak of warfare any turn now.

Over the last few turns, Ramesses had been settling closer and closer to Kublai. His most recent city was placed right on the border with two Mongolian cities, only four tiles away from the city center of Samarqand and Ning-hsia. Ramesses had done the same thing in his opening round game, settling right up on the border with Ragnar, and it had been pure luck that the Viking leader chose to go after Stalin rather than turn and smash Ramesses for those offending settlements. I was doubtful that the Egyptian leader would get away with pulling the same play a second time. It wasn't a surprise then when the war horns blared and we had our first conflict:

Or our first two conflict, to be more precise. Kublai had indeed decided to strike back at Ramesses, but we also had another Carthaginian conflict kicking off on the same turn. Hannibal was the leader who had been constrained the most on territory since the early game, due to a combination of Louis' strange decision to push eastwards and Hannibal's excessive wonder-building ways. Now that he had fallen to the bottom of the scoreboard, Hannibal decided to strike after his Holy Roman neighbors to the north. It was noteworthy that Hannibal was heading north and not south here, perhaps due to his shared Jewish faith with Ramesses. If Hannibal had attacked Ramesses together with Kublai, then we might have seen an immediate collapse of the Egyptians and the snowballing into dominant status of the attackers. Instead, this pair of 1 vs 1 wars were more likely to stall out and become protracted over time.

Hannibal's invasion force was highlighted in the picture above, and it didn't look very impressive. Two swords, four chariots, and an archer - was that the best you could do, Hannibal? And yet the defenses inside Prague were even weaker, with only a pair of archers to stop the attackers. Hannibal was indeed successful in capturing the city, even as another war began elsewhere on the map:

Caesar also wanted to get into the action, building a stack of praetorians and directing them south against Louis. Unfortunately for the Romans, this was probably the worst spot possible for Caesar to stage his assault. Tours was the textbook definition of a defensive hill fort, located on high ground with city walls and dominant culture in every direction. There was even a flatground killing field on all of the approachable tiles from the north, with no defensive cover for the incoming enemy units. If you were to set up a defensive border city in a Multiplayer game, it would look something like this. Louis had stuffed Tours full of a half dozen axes, and all of the praetorians in the world weren't going to break through. Caesar's initial attack mostly served to promote several of the defending axes to Shock status - not the best move. The Romans weren't going to make any progress here until they had siege units of some kind, and while Caesar was teching towards Construction, his poor research rate meant that they were a long distance away.

In the south, Kublai Khan punished Ramesses by capturing the former barbarian city of Angle. Then, just as the Mongolians were moving on the Egyptian city of Byblos with a big stack of swords, Kublai unexpectedly signed peace. Why would he do that?! It made no sense, with the Mongolians winning the war and about to capture additional territory. With peace now restored again, Ramesses continued settling even more cities up in Kublai's face:

At this point, I felt like Ramesses was taunting Kublai. Akhetaten was the Civilization equivalent of flipping off the Mongolian leader, with Ramesses knowing that this was a terrible city that served no purpose other than to troll the khan. All of these shenanigans had their impact on the larger game, however, as Kublai would have been much stronger if he had continued his war and captured Byblos, which would also have prevented Akhetaten from ever being founded. If those two westernmost Egyptian cities had been in Mongolian hands, Kublai would have been overwhelmingly dominant in the south instead of a roughly even split between the two leaders. Ramesses was again defying expectations and avoiding potential First to Die status, albeit by playing a very dangerous game.

The other two wars taking place had quickly settled into stalemates even as they continued to rage onwards. Caesar was unable to break through the French defenses at Tours, and the one time that Louis tried to sally forth into Roman territory, his invading force was unceremoniously slaughtered. Louis needed the protection of hill defenses and city walls; he wasn't able to challenge the Roman praetorians in the field. In the other ongoing war, Hannibal had been able to capture Prague but was unable to hold it, with his small invasion force soon eliminated and the city returned to Holy Roman hands. Charlemagne and Hannibal then settled into a violent stalemate of their own, with units traded back and forth constantly but no cities changing hands. Hannibal teched to Construction while building the Mausoleum and the Hanging Gardens, however even catapults weren't enough to change the dynamics of their situation. These two leaders were sitting at the bottom of the scoreboard, and their continued squabbling was only dragging them down further.

Eventually Caesar seemed to realize that his war with Louis was going nowhere and signed a white peace with no territory changing hands on either side. This had been a major waste of Caesar's time and energy, with his civ falling down to the middle of the rankings. With the other leaders now beginning to tech to Feudalism, the era of praetorian dominance was beginning to close without any major gains for the Romans. Louis used this interval of peace to build the Apostolic Palace, which became attuned to Christianity. As for Caesar, he shook off his unsuccessful invasion, regrouped his forces, and made a much better decision:

Caesar's decision to attack Charlemagne was perfectly timed, sliding the knife into the back of a weak and exhausted leader in no position to fight back. Hannibal and Charlemagne had never halted their fighting, and most of the Holy Roman forces were over in the east along the Carthaginian border. There was nothing in place to stop the Roman units from walking up to each Holy Roman city and sieging it, no ability for Charlemagne to fight back and try to gain control of the field. With catapults now brought along for the ride, Caesar had everything he needed to start rolling through his eastern neighbor. Mainz fell immediately and it was off to the races from there. We were amused to see this Rome + Carthage alliance, the "frenemies" pairing as it was dubbed during the Livestream. Although Caesar and Hannibal didn't like each other especially much, they were partners for the time being against Charlemagne.

In the south, the war was soon renewed between Kublai and Ramesses, although this time it was triggered by an unexpected source. Ramesses chose to declare war on Kublai Khan, not vice versa, in what can only be called a highly questionable decision. The Mongolians were stronger on the power bar graphs, this was the era in which keshiks would be at the height of their strength, and Kublai had even built Chichen Itza for the 25% extra defense in all of his cities. The Egyptians sent a fair sized stack against the Mongolian city of Angle, the one captured in the previous war, which they began very slowly sieging down with a single catapult. Kublai began focusing on the lightly defended Egyptian cities along his southern border, and as a fellow Christian leader along with Louis, he decided to bring some friends along to help out in this war:

The Apostolic Palace strikes again! Caesar, Hannibal, and Louis all had at least one Christian city in their territory, and they were pulled along for the ride into the war against Egypt. This was a total disaster for Ramesses, who found himself at war against everyone else in the game save Charlemagne, and Holy Rome was in no position to do much of anything to help. This new war had no immediate effect on Caesar or Hannibal, who continued their dual assault against Charlemagne. The two of them had been partitioning Holy Rome in mostly even fashion thus far, with slightly more of the spoils going over to the Romans. The main effect of the Apostolic Palace was to bring Louis into the war, as French units were close enough to start capturing some of the Egyptian cities. There was no immediate change, as Louis had been caught off guard and needed to build up an attack force, but in time Ramesses would have a powerful new enemy pressing down on his northern borders.

While the vultures might have been circling around Ramesses, they had already landed to begin picking over the carcass of Charlemagne. His capital of Aachen fell to Roman forces on Turn 147, and the final two cities were taken five turns later, one apiece going to Caesar and Hannibal:

The last two cities to fall were Vienna at the bottom of this picture and Nuremburg at the top. We had to go back and look at the event logger to confirm which leader picked up the killing blow, and due to turn order it was Caesar who had finished off the last remaining Holy Roman settlement. In total, Caesar had picked up four cities and Hannibal had obtained three, with the Romans getting the largest and strongest of the bunch as well. This well-timed invasion had catapulted Caesar up next to Louis in competition for the lead on the scoreboard, while simultaneously salvaging Hannibal's game and made him a competitor once again. In fact, the Carthaginians had a realistic claim towards pulling out some kind of peaceful victory condition, with that Financial trait in Hannibal's back pocket and enough land to be viable after absorbing half of Holy Rome. Far from anyone becoming a runaway civ, we were moving towards a situation where any of four different leaders had a chance to win.

Ramesses was not one of those four. His goose was thoroughly cooked and everyone knew it, with the big question now coming down to where and how the spoils of his demise would be distributed. Kublai was in the vanguard of this effort, with his forces rolling over those aggressive Egyptian settlements in the deep south and then pushing further to the east. Louis took some time to assemble a stack, and then slowly sieged down the Egyptian city closest to his border. He did eventually capture Alexandria for his troubles. Once Charlemagne had been defeated, both Caesar and Hannibal shifted their armies down from the north and joined in on the feeding frenzy as well. Hannibal took the city of Elephantine on his southern border, while Caesar managed to capture Memphis and its treasure trove of useful wonders. Memphis was also the Jewish Holy City, and Ramesses had spread the faith to almost three dozen cities by this point, making the shrine inside a highly valuable commodity.

The situation outside the last few Egyptian cities was a bit of a farce, with massive armies from four different nations competing to see who would land the finishing blow. It was pure randomness which leader would take these cities, nothing to do with tactics or strategy. None of the four leaders ever signed a separate peace with Ramesses, and the continued 4 vs 1 situation meant that the Apostolic Palace vote had signed his death warrant. As it turned out, Louis picked up the highly valuable Egyptian capital while Hannibal claimed the final killing strike:

Poor Ramesses. He was already losing the war to Kublai Khan even before the Apostolic Palace was invoked, and afterwards he simply had no chance. The biggest winner from this particular conflict had been Kublai Khan, as he picked up four cities in total and gained unquestioned control over the southern edge of the map. The rest of the spoils had been split more evenly, with Louis and Hannibal each gaining two cities while Caesar picked up one city for his efforts. For Caesar, the city of Memphis was an extremely valuable location to control, with the Jewish Shrine and several key wonders inside, with the most notable one being Sistine Chapel. The bonus culture from those specialists would help Caesar in controlling the borders of his new city, although Memphis would be tightly squeezed regardless. Louis had managed to capture the Statue of Zeus inside the former Egyptian capital of Thebes, and his cultural dominance would allow him to take control of much of this region. The seeds of a future conflict were being planted here, with significant border overlap between all four of these former allies down in the ex-Egyptian territories.

Peaceful coexistence dominated the following turns for a long while. The four leaders were all quite close to one another on the scoreboard at the conclusion of the Egyptian war, and there didn't seem to be an obvious frontrunner for the time being. If there was anyone in first place, it was probably Louis at this point. The French leader was surprising everyone with his strong performance thus far, and he was the first one to reach Liberalism and build the Taj Mahal for the free Golden Age. The rest of the field was fortunate that it was Hannibal who had control of the Mausoleum to help reign in Louis. The peace was maintained in part by the shared "mutual military struggle" bonuses that all four leaders had piled up with one another as a result of facing Ramesses. Everyone was "Pleased" or better with each other, although that was no obstacle to a new war starting up. Caesar, Kublai, and Louis will all declare war at "Pleased" relations, and only Hannibal was locked into perpetual peace for the time being. Hannibal and Louis had the research lead for the moment, with Caesar and Kublai starting to make up ground with the incorporation of their recent conquests.

We were watching what everyone was researching more closely during these peaceful turns, since there was no military action taking place, and we noticed that Kublai had taken a direct beeline for Rifling tech. Louis and Hannibal were further ahead in overall techs, but both of them had diverted down the Physics line of the tree without going for military technology. We wondered aloud if Kublai would be smart enough to take this opportunity to strike someone during the short period where he had an edge in military units. It was almost as if he were listening to us, because Kublai declared war on Louis on Turn 200. That was a very intelligent decision, and it was made even smarter on the next turn when Kublai pulled Caesar into the conflict on his side:

Caesar hadn't been building units in his cities and didn't appear to have been plotting war; this looked like Kublai's work at bringing him into the struggle agaisnt France. Whatever was the case, this was a brilliant move that spelled serious trouble for Louis. Caesar had a huge stack with over 100 units down at Memphis, and while he immediately lost the city, Caesar would capture the French city of Alexandria, then turn around and march back to Memphis to retake it again. Caesar would then follow this up by taking the ex-Egyptian capital of Memphis, leaving himself with a little colony of three cities down in the southeastern part of the map. Rome began conquering France from the south up to the north, in the exact opposite direction from what made logical sense. The AI in this game can be... special sometimes.

For his part, Kublai didn't have to engage in the cross-map shenanigans that Caesar's army faced and simply rolled north in force. First the border city of Marseilles fell to the Mongolians, then the city of Rheims directly to its north. Caesar researched Rifling tech on his own beeline and began upgrading his forces to rifles, then went for Military Tradition to turn his knights into cavalry. Kublai had Rifling techs but no Military Tradition, and therefore his invading forces were an unusual combination of rifles and knights. Louis foolishly refused to research better units, instead going for Physics and then Communism. He didn't even have Gunpowder tech to unlock his unique unit musketeers, much less rifles or grenadiers or cavalry. We've seen this repeatedly from some of the AIs, where they will refuse to research the military techs that would save them even as their empires are dying all around them. Louis was collapsing here and it was entirely his own fault.

With France halfway gone, Kublai made the surprising decision to sign peace:

He did get the city of Orleans gifted over as part of the peace treaty, and that was a nice pickup when paired together with the capture of the French capital. However, Kublai was calling off the dogs at a time when Louis was broken and bleeding, unable to put up much of anything in the way of resistance. With Caesar's army still concentrated down in the former Egyptian territories, Kublai would have been all but certain to get most of the remaining French cities, and potentially turn himself into the unstoppable runaway civ. Instead, with peace in place it was Caesar who would claim all of the remaining prizes. Caesar wasn't very fast in prosecuting his offensive, taking time to build the Statue of Liberty (which was admittedly worth the effort, especially when paired with Sistine) and incorporate Mining Inc corporation in his capital. Louis had enough time to limp to Rifling tech and finally deploy a few rifles in his remaining cities, although by now it was too late to make a difference. Still, slow offensive or not, Caesar's pursuit was relentless. He tracked down all of the French hideouts and finally administered the death blow on Turn 246:

It had taken the Romans more than 25 turns to take the last four French cities despite overwhelming numerical odds. Sheesh. There was a cost to the slow pace of this offensive too, as Caesar had remained locked in warmaking mode for longer than strictly necessary, building units relentlessly rather than diverting that production to infrastructure. He was first on the scoreboard but third in technology, with both Hannibal and Kublai several techs ahead of the Romans. Caesar was also in a strange position with those colonies down in the southeast, places that were struggling to control their local tiles due to cultural weakness. Caesar was quite a bit ahead in population (41% to 32% for Kublai) but behind in territory, with only 35% to 38% for the Mongolians. It was unclear if Caesar would be able to win a space race should this game remain purely peaceful. For that matter, none of the three remaining leaders were guaranteed a path into the Championship game. Even Caesar would likely be defeated if he had to face a combined attack from the other two leaders. We waited to see if the peace would continue to hold, and if not, who would be the one to break it.

The peace did hold for the next few dozen turns. Each of the three leaders teched into the Industrial age, with Hannibal still clinging to a narrow lead in research over Kublai, and with Caesar a bit further behind. Everyone industrialized their territory with factories, power plants, and railroads. We noticed that Kublai and Hannibal were mostly using their cities to Build Research in the hopes of teching faster, while Caesar continued to crank out military units at an alarming rate. Rome's size was large enough that Caesar was able to keep up in tech despite the weight of supporting such an enormous army. Eventually Caesar decided to strike:

Or as Cato the Elder would have put it:

The Punic Wars were back in earnest, as Caesar put aside his earlier partnership with Hannibal to begin another war of conquest. Unlike many of the earlier wars in this game, there was little in the way of drama here. Caesar was enormously more powerful than Hannibal, and even if they had been more comparable in military strength, the greater size and production capacity of Rome would have been enough to win out in the end. Hannibal's modest tech lead gave him the ability to build tanks, and if there had been more Carthaginian cities that might have been enough to turn the tides of war. However, Caesar had Industralism research underway on the turn that he launched his invasion, and it wasn't long before Rome was able to produce tanks as well. That removed the last potential advantage that Hannibal might have had, and it was all downhill from there.

As I've written in a number of other reports, lategame wars tend to move a lot faster than the ones in earlier periods of the game. There are no longer any walls and castles to shore up city defenses, only the protection provided by culture, and there are plenty of technologically advanced units to remove those fortifications. Coastal cities can be hit by destroyers and battleships, fighters and bombers can remove city defenses anywhere on the map, and tanks/mechs/mobile artillery all have the speed to push quickly from target to target. Caesar's armies wasted little time in this particular conflict, with stacks of units invading Hannibal from the north, south, and west. There was little that Hannibal could do as he was hit again and again from multiple directions. His cities began falling one after the other as waves of Roman tanks rolled across Carthaginian territory. Carthage itself was the last city to fall, with the ending blow landing on Turn 300:

This gave Caesar three kills for this match and six kills total for Season Three, tying Stalin for the overall lead. They were both well ahead of the pace from past seasons, with Mao taking home the Golden Spear in Season One with four kills, and Huayna Capac winning it in Season Two with five kills. Caesar and Stalin both had six, and each would have another game to score additional eliminations. It was clear now that Caesar and Kublai would be moving on to the Championship from this game - seeing as how everyone else was dead and all that - but it still remained to determine who would finish first and who would finish second for scoring purposes. We checked first to see if Caesar had enough land to win via Domination after conquering Carthage, and it turned out that he was a bit short at 58% of a needed 64% land area. Even if the Romans had swapped over to 100% culture on the slider, that was far enough short that it wasn't going to happen without the start of another war. Caesar and Kublai were "Pleased" with one another, and while both of them can declare war at "Pleased" relations, they had been game-long allies and a renewed struggle seemed unlikely.

That left things up to the space race then, as we had yet another game with a near-Domination come up a little bit short. Kublai was four techs ahead of Caesar at the time that the war with Hannibal ended, and that was a large enough deficit that it looked for a little while like the Mongolians might be able to launch their spaceship first. However, once Caesar built up the infrastructure of his newly captured cities with libraries and universities and such, he began to outpace Kublai in terms of beaker production:

We found that Kublai Khan topped out at around 2000 beakers/turn when he was using Build Research in all of his cities. When he swapped onto other builds, he would drop down to roughly 1500 beakers/turn as shown here. Caesar was initially matching him at that 2000 beakers/turn mark, and then began surging upwards over time until he was well above the Mongolian pace. Caesar also launched a very late Golden Age with a timely Great Prophet appearance and that was enough to temporarily get him up to 4000 beakers/turn, more than double what Kublai was producing. The tech gap between the two shrunk, equalized, and then the Romans began to open up their own lead. Caesar also built the Space Elevator to aid in the construction of the spaceship parts, while Kublai went after the useless poison pill Stealth technology. Amazingly, Caesar did not research Stealth and stayed on the pure spaceship path. Given Caesar's military preferences, I never thought we would see that. The net result was a spaceship launch from the Romans at the end of Turn 335 while the Mongolians were still two techs away from finishing the tree.

That looked to be the end of this game, only we noticed that Caesar was training military units in every city at a frantic pace. Why would he be doing such a thing? A check of the diplomacy screen revealed that Caesar was in "we have enough on our hands right now" mode, indicating that he was preparing to initiate a new war. We've seen this in enough games by now to make me think it's not a coincidence: the AIs seem to get more aggressive once their spaceship has been launched, as if they realize they can do whatever they want without further consequences. Would Caesar's planned attack take place before his spaceship arrived at Alpha Centauri - would this still be a Domination victory after all? Caesar only needed about 50 more tiles, and a quick offensive could pick that up in the time remaining. However, turn after turn passed without the anticipated war beginning, and with one turn left to go we were still waiting. As it turned out, Caesar launched his attack on the final interturn, with his modern armor crashing across the border just as the Spaceship victory went off:

Therefore we ended up with Caesar winning via space on Turn 345, but with one extra war recorded in the scoring since it did begin before the victory condition triggered. Naturally, we had to play on a little further to check out the results of this new conflict, and we skipped ahead to see some more of the action with the "One More Turn" option. Caesar and Kublai both opened up with large scale nuclear exchanges, with this pictured region of former France around Paris seeing the brunt of the mushroom clouds. Three turns into the war, the whole border region was covered in radioactive fallout. Kublai started out the war by capturing two cities, Chartres and Avignon, and yet the odds were stacked enormously against him. Caesar began the war with about 900 units to Kublai's 450 units, and after several turns Caesar was down to 800 units... with Kublai falling to 200 units. Ouch. The tides of battle were already shifting, as Caesar began to push into Kublai's core and take some of the key cities located there. And then the United Nations called a peacekeeping vote and that was the end of the war, after only five turns of fighting. Well, that was a bit of an anticlimax. With the spaceship victory already since decided, it was probably time to stop this game and call it a wrap.

In the end, Caesar and Kublai both moved on to the Championship game with a chance to take home the overall title. The two of them appeared to be the strongest leaders in this field, both of them winning previous rounds of AI Survivor and proving that this result wasn't a fluke. Caesar and Kublai had both chosen highly opportunistic moments to strike throughout this game, with Caesar making key moves against first Charlemagne and then Hannibal, whereas Kublai made a bold play to rush to Rifling tech and then execute a successful war against his northern neighbor. It will be fun watching them compete in the finals against several other highly skilled AI opponents. One more game to go, and one overall champion still to be determined. Stay tuned.