Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Championship Game 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.

We've finally reached the Championship Game for this season of AI Survivor. Everyone here has managed to survive two grueling rounds of competition that saw 42 of the other 46 leaders outright eliminated. Our six surviving finalists have repeatedly proved themselves in this year's playoff run, with the six of them racking up a combined 22 kills, 8 gold medals for first place finishes, and 4 silver medals for runner up performances. Perhaps the most impressive leaders have been Julius Caesar, Mansa Musa, and Stalin, each of whom went gold/gold in their two matches with a pair of first place finishes. Huayna Capac was the only leader to pull off that feat in Season Two, and Mansa Musa was the only one to turn in gold/gold finishes in Season One before doing it AGAIN this year. Having three such leaders this year is very impressive indeed. However, only one leader can be the overall tournament winner, and this final match will crown our ultimate champion. Will Mansa Musa finally lock down that elusive title, the only thing he's missing from his otherwise flawless reputation? Can Justinian become our first ever two-time winner of the competition? Who will take home the Golden Spear award for the most kills, with Caesar and Stalin coming into this match deadlocked at six kills apiece? There's a lot on the line here, and we'll know the answers in a few more days.

The map for the Championship Game is a modified Donut script with the six leaders evenly distributed around the outer edge. All leaders have mirrored starting positions and equal access to strategic resources, as well as comparable (if not exactly identical) luxuries. That's not to say that the map plays no role in this game, however; who starts next to whom still remains extremely important. Some of the leaders can get a good or bad draw depending on who their neighbors turn out to be.

Julius Caesar of Rome
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Seven
Season Two Playoffs: Third Place
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Six
Season Three Playoffs: Winner of Game Three
Total Kills: 10
Past Finishes: Season One (38), Season Two (7), Overall (22)

AI Summary from Season One: Now we finally get to a little bit more muscle. Julius Caesar has Imperialistic and Organized traits, a pairing that we used to overlook in Pitboss game but has since caught on as surprisingly strong. Imperialistic is a very powerful trait in these AI Survivor games and not to be underestimated. His Roman civilization features the Praetorian unique unit (and the "meh" Forum). Praetorians have often been used to good effect in past AI Survivor games, and watching for the location of the closest iron resource is always key with either Roman leader. Caesar the AI has military and production flavors, the only leader with this particular combination. Caesar AI doesn't have an especially high unit emphasis (only 6/10), but he's well above average in aggression rating at 7.6 out of 10. Caesar also demands tribute frequently (8/10), and he has a lower peace weight number. It's still well above Montezuma's peace weight of zero, but also a far cry from saintly leaders like Mansa Musa. Overall, expect Caesar to be one of the leaders driving the action forward in this game. If he can get an early conquest with his praetorians, he may be able to snowball the game from there, and with a ridiculous ten kills now in his back pocket following his previous victories in Season Three, Caesar is a very dangerous customer.

Justinian of the Byzantines
Season One Opening Round: Second Place
Season One Playoffs: Winner of Game One
Season One Championship: Winner of Season One Championship
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Four
Season Three Playoffs: Second Place
Total Kills: 6
Past Finishes: Season One (1), Season Two (36), Overall (12)

AI Summary from Season One: Here's the wildcard player for this particular round. Justinian has Spiritual and Imperialistic traits, and as the only Byzantine leader is renowned for bringing the mighty Cataphract as his unique unit. (He also has the unimpressive Hippodrome unique building.) We generally don't favor the Byzantines anymore due to their awful starting techs of Mysticism and The Wheel, but this doesn't matter for the Deity AIs, who all start with Agriculture, Wheel, Hunting, and Archery. Justinian AI has religious and military flavors, and heavily emphasizes building units (8/10 rating). He's well above average on the aggression rating at 7.6 out of 10, which is modest only in comparison with his eastern neighbors. Justinian also has Theocracy as his favorite civic, which means he will never go to Free Religion. In short, Justinian is likely to found his own religion, and then hate everyone else who doesn't have it for the rest of the game. Expect him to dominate the game or get swiftly crushed depending on how diplomacy shakes out.

Season Three Addition: Justinian was our champion from Season One with a very impressive showing. He was unable to follow up that performance in Season Two, eliminated immediately in his first game. We'll see if he can get back to his earlier winning ways this year. As it turned out, Justinian won a crushing victory in his opening round match of Season Three, followed by a narrow second place finish behind Stalin in the playoffs. This is his chance to win an unprecedented second title in only three years of competition.

Kublai Khan of the Mongols
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Second Place
Season Two Playoffs: Winner of Game Three
Season Two Championship: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Third Place
Season Three Wildcard: Winner of Wildcard
Season Three Playoffs: Second Place
Total Kills: 6
Past Finishes: Season One (36), Season Two (6), Overall (17)

AI Summary from Season One: Kublai Khan is another aggressive ruler and someone predisposed to dislike the "Good" leaders. Kublai has Aggressive and Creative traits, a combination that often works well on cramped Pangaea maps. Like Genghis Khan Temujin, he has the Keshik unique unit and the Ger unique building, both of which are above average. Kublai has military and cultural flavors, and at first glance looks very similar to some of the more peaceful leaders in the game like Ramesses. He even has a fondness for wonders (6/10) and an aggression rating that's only a little bit higher (6.4 out of 10). The difference lies in Kublai's peace weight, which ranks him as an "Evil" leader at the other end of the spectrum from most of the game's peaceniks. This will cause major tensions between Kublai and high peace weight leaders like Mansa Musa, and make it very difficult for them to get along. So despite having a similar AI personality overall, Kublai may find himself on the other end of a war declaration from his northern neighbor. Kublai reached the Championship in Season Two and has collected half a dozen kills thus far, marking him as another leader to watch. He often seems to fly under the radar despite two consecutive years in the Championship.

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
Season Three Playoffs: Winner of Game Two
Total Kills: 6
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 FIVE of the seven 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
Season Three Playoffs: Second Place
Total Kills: 5
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. Like Kublai, this is the second consecutive year that Pacal has made the Championship, and he'll have another chance to take home the overall crown.

Stalin of Russia
Season One Opening Round: Second Place
Season One Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game One
Season Three Playoffs: Winner of Game One
Total Kills: 7
Past Finishes: Season One (17), Season Two (42), Overall (31)

AI Summary from Season One: Stalin's traits are Aggressive and Industrious, a bit of an odd pairing without too much in the way of obvious synergy. Stalin also employs the same Russian unique stuff as Catherine, with the Cossack and the Research Institute. As an AI, Stalin predictably has military and production flavors. He is unsurprisingly rated as a rather aggressive leader (7.6 out of 10) and as an "Evil" leader according to peace weight. Interestingly, Stalin AI doesn't care much about religion at all, as befitting a good Communist. He gets few benefits from shared faith and little in the way of penalty from differing religions. Otherwise, Stalin's numbers are pretty average across the board, except for his massive love of espionage spending (10/10!) It's a fairly well constructed AI personality based on the historical persona. In a game where so many other AI leaders will be battling over religion, Stalin will opt out of the race altogether and do his own thing.

Season Three Addition: Stalin didn't accomplish much of anything in the first two seasons of AI Survivor, and it was a surprise when he took over and started dominating this year's competition. Stalin was the outright winner of both of his first two matches, piling up an impressive body count with three kills in each game to tie Caesar at six in total. Stalin's traits of Aggressive/Industrious don't appear to be especially great for these matches, but the Russian leader has been able to find the right moments to snowball ahead in both of his previous games. This will be his biggest test yet as he attempts to take home the overall crown.

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

The predictions for this game are closer than any of the other matches that I can recall. Four different leaders have collected a significant number of the first place picks from the community, and no one has much more than a quarter of the selections. Only Stalin and the eternally-overlooked Kublai Khan seem to be lacking in votes for the winning position. The runner up competition is even closer, with everyone other than Mansa Musa having roughly equal shares. I agree with that logic: Mansa will likely either finish in first place or last place, and nothing in between. For the same reason, Mansa Musa takes the pole position in the First to Die category. 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!

jarrebesetoert: Stalin eats Mansa. Jules being pushed by culture eats Kublai, then Pacal. Goes to space from there.

Eauxps I. Fourgott: Mansa might be an economic leader like no other, but the peace weight situation here has dealt him a terrible hand, as he's basically going to be forced into a 5v1. I don't think there's any way he can recover from that - but he will survive long enough to avoid being FtD. That distinction will go to Kublai, because screw him and he has his same losing starting position from last season. JC will FINALLY give him the walloping he deserves. Justin and Stalin will partition Mansa, and then Caesar will roll over Pacal who will once again be a moron with his research. JC will then decide to keep going and eventually assimilate Russia, and then reprise both last game and the Season 1 Championship by sitting around under the domination threshold while Justinian gets a repeat championship via spaceship. That's what I'd like to see happen. What will probably actually happen is Kublai and Pacal sit back, watch the others self-destruct, and then roll over them for a maximum-annoyance conclusion.

Fluffball: Mansa got screwed by his fellow friendly economy AIs shooting holes in their own boats and savagely murdering themselves.

RefSteel: Mansa will have an up-hill battle as the only "good guy" in the game, but nobody climbs mountains like Mansa Musa. Pacal might believe that he can out-tech the Lion of Mali, but he'll learn too late that it's not a race Maya can win. Since Pacal's next-best idea would likely be to declare war with way too few soldiers, a military tech deficit, and border tensions with his other neighbor, he could well end up getting crushed in a 2v1. On the other side of the map, Justinian's religious zealotry could finally catch up to him here, leading him into ill-timed wars, first with Russia, and later with Rome, leaving him struggling to survive against Caesar's Praets. All the while, Kublai and Mansa, with their Mutual Military Struggle to fuel their friendship, would be getting ready to dominate the tatters of their competition. To Mansa, of course, that means teching to space with the others two eras behind him. To Kublai, it means wave after devastating wave of Ger-boosted Knights and Cavalry.

notspambot: inb4 Mansa does his thing and win a spaceship victory on turn 290 or something

LinkMarioSamus: I'm just doing the same thing I did last year (okay, last time, fine) which allowed me to get the highest score for the championship match: picking the two leaders out of this group who have the best overall performance between the first two seasons of AI Survivor, and then picking T360 for the victory date due to the circular map and 15 wars for similar reasons. Only difference is picking Cultural Victory because that's how last championship panned out, and how last Mansa Musa game finished. In order to try and justify my picks more: Mansa Musa may have peace weight issues this match, but one of his two neighbors is Pacal who is the next biggest peacenik of the group. Plus they were good buddies last game, and then Mansa Musa can deal with one attacker with his skirmishers. Stalin getting last place...Ramses dying early and Khan not winning last game gets him exposed? Sounds as good as anything else in this crazy competition!

moerb: Mansa Musa will have to fight an uphill battle in this match. His high peace weight will make him the worst enemy of pretty much everybody else. With Mansa being doomed from the beginning his neighbors should profit from his demise. Pacal should get enough land from Mansa to win the seemingly inevitable space race.

Ghostpants Mansa may be the strongest economic leader but... wow, this is a low peace weight championship! So yeah, nice knowing you buddy. Caesar has a very unfortunate start in starting next to the other two expansionistic leaders. If he were anyone else that would probably spell certain doom but maybe Caesar can pull it off with imperialistic? Kublai is great for expansion and likely to build a lot of wonders, but he's probably going to fall behind in tech at some point and eventually just get wiped by someone stronger. Stalin, might get big off Pacal, but I'm just not seeing a Stalin victory, his tech is just too poor, and he's liable to get killed by a more advanced Pacal or Justinian. Justinian should be able to get off a big landgrab and then snowball, likely with spoils from the inevitable demise of Mansa. As for Pacal, that combination of low peace weight and good teching is just so good. I've been predicting victory every game he's in, and even though he's been the definition of "just enough" this season I'm willing to give him one last chance. Come on Pacal, you've made me look like a fool for three games now. Don't let me down this time!

Commodore: Julius can't be stopped this year, despite his horrible research. I suspect he'll be able to split up Justin with old Joe. Mansa just has too many evil leaders to prosper. Pacal will be in 2nd place undeservingly, again...

WillemvanDike: Yeah, that's right... I'm betting against the Mansanator. As you said yourself, either he wins his game or he is one of the first out. And up against 5 evil leaders, this is probably not going to be his game. So either goodbye or congratulations, Mansa! As for the rest of the game, it is going to be an agressive sausage fest with Julius emerging as the top hot dog winning by domination. The wars will be plentifull, but will consist of long drawn out conflicts, which will ultimatley be successful once others dogpile in. I orignally wanted to pick Pacal as the winner (gotta love Financial), but this guy seems to be the eternal number two, so there you go.

Tank Sinatra: If you want a vision of the future, imagine a cataphract hoof stamping on an AI's face - forever.