Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Alternate Histories #2

The first alternate history game that we did proved popular enough that I decided to investigate another one. By popular request, there was a desire to look at a game not from Season Three, but from Season Two. That was Game Five, a match that had the dubious honor of being the weakest field in Civ4 AI Survivor history. Here's the map that we rolled for that game:

Season Two Game Five

Game Five Livestream
Game Five Writeup

What a pathetic field of AI leaders. We had Hannibal, Shaka, Tokugawa, Isabella, Frederick, and Willem drawn into this group together. According to the power rankings compiled after the finish of Season Three, Shaka and Hannibal were the two best leaders in this group, tied together for 17th place (out of 52 total leaders). Tokugawa was ranked in a tie for 27th place, and then the other three leaders somehow managed to be stuck in a tie for last place, with zero first or second place finishes and zero kills after three seasons of competition. That's just embarassing, and having three of those hapless leaders together in one game was a major reason why this gaggle of leaders ranked so poorly. It's actually worse than that though: both Shaka and Tokugawa only ranked as highly as they did based off of having success in this particular game. Take out their first place and second place performances in this game, and the two of them fall down near the bottom of the pile. Hannibal is the only leader in this game to have any success elsewhere, with a first place finish in his opening round match of Season Three. This truly was a stunning display of ineptitude grouped together here.

In the actual Game Five match, Shaka overran Frederick while Tokugawa defeated Willem. Hannibal and Isabella fought a long and inconclusive war, which ended when Shaka plowed into Isabella from the flank and rolled up the rest of her territory. Then Shaka attacked Tokugawa and conquered enough territory to win a very early Domination victory on Turn 263, the fastest Domination win we've seen to date in AI Survivor. This was a highly requested match for alternate history scenarios because readers wanted to know if the same pattern would play out again. Would Shaka once again romp to Domination, or would another leader emerge on top? Would Hannibal's Financial trait allow him to get the jump on a Spaceship win this time? Would Frederick, Isabella, or Willem ever manage to score a single point? Let's find out.

Test One

The city settling patterns seem to hold mostly the same from game to game, and there were no significant changes in this alternate history. Isabella and Willem founded the first two religions again in this playthrough, although Willem randomly chose Buddhism as his religion this time instead of Judaism. Isabella would also found the Monotheism religion and bury it as a minory religion, with the result that only Christianity and Judaism played any significant role in this world. Since Isabella was much more fervent about spreading her religion than Willem, most of the world ended up practicing Christianity, leaving only Willem and Tokugawa as Buddhist practitioners. That shared faith didn't stop Tokugawa from launching the first war of the game against his northern neighbor on Turn 84, a successful attack that immediately took a border city. Willem seemed flustered by this invasion and soon began losing cities along his western border to Tokugawa. He lost his capital on Turn 96 and that appeared to seal his fate.

Further north, Hannibal had attacked Isabella in a reversal of the same conflict from the original Game Five. They struggled against one another for a dozen turns with no progress on either side until Shaka joined the fray by invading Isabella from the other side. Now she began losing cities as the Carthaginians and Zulus began pressing into Spain from east and west. Before that conflict could reach a resolution though, Willem was already exiting the stage for the game's first elimination:

It truly is amazing how bad Willem's AI personality is at these AI Survivor games given his outstanding traits. In any case, his demise had raised Tokugawa to the top of the scoreboard and put Japan into an excellent position going forward. Tokugawa had managed the same conquest in the actual Game Five, but it had taken place at a later date, after Shaka had already become the Runaway AI. This early defeat of a neighbor was setting up Tokugawa to be the snowball leader this time. Meanwhile, in the north Hannibal and Shaka were still at it, splitting up the gains from their attack on Isabella in relatively even fashion. Hannibal took the Spanish cities in the east while Shaka captured the ones in the west. Shaka was also able to get the capital of Madrid, but then Hannibal grabbed the last two cities remaining on the northern coast, including scoring the elimination credit:

As a result, the game was now divided into three tiers of leaders. Tokugawa was out in front by himself, then Hannibal and Shaka were in a tight contest for second place, and Frederick was a distant fourth place tagalong. The German leader was in an exceptionally bad position at this point, not only the weakest leader remaining in the game but also someone with a high peace weight score in a game full of low peace weight leaders. Making matters worse, he converted to Judaism on Turn 173 because it had been founded in one of his cities as the Code of Laws religion. What an idiot! It was like he was trying to commit suicide here, adopting a religion that no one else practiced and ensuring that he would be hated by Christians and Buddhists alike. The AI in this game sometimes, I swear...

To no one's surprise, Shaka declared war against Frederick on Turn 190, followed by Hannibal and Tokugawa piling on as well in independent war declarations half a dozen turns later. Tokugawa had already attacked Frederick earlier and stopped his advance only because Germany had been saved by an Apostolic Palace peace declarations. Now Frederick was out of Christianity and had no such rescue available. He was carved up from three different sides in rapid fashion and was reduced to a single tundra city in the extreme south. This looked like the end for sure, except that with one city remaining Frederick swapped back to Christianity again, and somehow managed to get another "stop the war" resolution through the Apostolic Palace:

His life was spared by the slimmest of margins for now. Two more turns and Germany would have been gone. Nonetheless, it seemed all but certain that Shaka or Tokugawa would come back later to finish off the crippled remnants of Frederick. Instead, Tokugawa decided that he wanted to go back to war with a different target, and a dozen turns later he invaded Hannibal. This was a strange war, as Tokugawa had inexplicably refused to research Rifling tech despite having a significant tech lead. He had Combustion and Assembly Line techs but not Rifling, which meant that Japan was stuck building cuirassiers and grenadiers when Tokugawa easily could have been fielding cavalry and infantry. As a result, Tokugawa was actually fighting at a disadvantage in military tech despite being nearly an era ahead in technology. Only Tokugawa could manage to find a way to pull that off.

It didn't matter though, as Tokugawa was so large by this point that he could still win anyway, even at a disadvantage in military units. Japan simply used quantity to overcome quality and began capturing all of the cities along their lengthy shared border. Shaka joined the war on Turn 238 and began capturing the former Spanish cities in the western portion of Hannibal's territory. This was a long, grueling conflict where Shaka peaced out with Hannibal once and then renewed the war again later. The outcome was never in doubt though, with Japan grinding down one Carthaginian city after another. Eventually Tokugawa finally researched Rifling tech and the speed of conquest picked up considerably afterwards. By Turn 270 Hannibal had lost everything outside of his initial starting peninsula, and he was gone completely by Turn 294:

Tokugawa was now very close to the amount of territory needed to trigger a Domination victory. He was about 4% short of what he needed, and we thought that taking the last German city alone might be enough to get him over the top. Tokugawa had the Sistine Chapel + Eiffel Tower + Statue of Liberty combo (along with most every other wonder in the game), and his cultural borders were dominant everywhere. He might be able to get over the land requirement based off of borders expanding and taking away tiles from Shaka alone. In the end this proved to be unnecessary, however. Shaka lost his mind and attacked Tokugawa on Turn 306, which went about as well as you would expect, and Tokugawa won by Domination five turns later:

Even though we had a different winner in this alternate history, the actual game itself played out very similarly. Tokugawa conquered Willem again, just as Shaka conquered Isabella and Frederick. It simply worked out that Tokugawa became the runaway AI instead of Shaka, largely due to an earlier defeat of Willem and an even split of Isabella's territory instead of Shaka taking everything. The same two leaders would have moved on to the playoffs. Amazingly, Frederick survived and would have gone to the Wildcard game by virtue of having a single city. He didn't deserve to survive and should have been thanking his sorry behind for the existence of the Apostolic Palace.

Test Two

In this game, Isabella still founded Christianity but it was Tokugawa would establish Buddhism, winning a same-turn tie with Willem. Isabella would go on to bury all of the later religions, leaving Christianity and Buddhism as the only faiths of significance in this world. The leaders each expanded out as usual, with Tokugawa as the somewhat surprising leader at the top of the scoreboard. Landing that early religion appeared to have helped him out. Christianity soon spread to Shaka and Frederick, while Buddhism expanded to the north and converted the Carthaginians. The one exception was Willem, who decided to embrace Isabella's minority religion of Judaism, practiced by no one else in the world. This had the predictable consequence of everyone hating the Dutch, and Hannibal launched the first war of the game against Willem on Turn 74. He nearly managed to capture the Dutch core city of Utrecht, only to fall just short and then lose a Carthaginian city to Willem. Would this finally be the game where Willem avoided an early exit? But no, Tokugawa also attacked from the south with a large army of swords, axes, and chariots. They quickly began carving up the Dutch cities, and even Isabella joining the war by attacking Hannibal wasn't enough to swing the outcome, since Shaka soon attacked Isabella himself. Only Frederick remained out of this round of warfare.

The net result of the fighting was that nearly all of the spoils of the Dutch territory went to Tokugawa. Amsterdam fell to the Japanese on Turn 95 and the rout was on from there. Shaka followed suit by taking Madrid two dozen turns later, and the Zulus began swallowing up the western half of Spain. Hannibal was limited in his gains since he had been fighting both Willem and Isabella, but did manage to take a couple of Spanish cities along his border. Once again Willem was the first to be eliminated:

Another game for Willem, another early exit. Isabella wasn't faring much better as she was carved apart and eliminated on Turn 146. Shaka took about two-thirds of the spoils with Hannibal getting the remainder. The game had now reached a state where Tokugawa was the clear leader of the pack, with Shaka a step behind, and then Hannibal and Frederick roughly in the same position at the bottom. Tokugawa had the edge over Shaka because he had finished his war much sooner and then spent the next three dozen turns working on infrastructure, slowly improving the terrible Japanese economy from its initial state. By Turn 150, Tokugawa had finally become the research leader and was ready to go on the march again, predictably invading his high peace weight neighbor in Frederick. Shaka piled on half a dozen turns later and Germany began to collapse almost immediately. Castle defenses slowed but did not stop the bleeding. Frederick forced through a "stop the war" resolution in the Apostolic Palace on Turn 178, which bought him a temporary retrieve. However, unlike the last test game, this wasn't enough to save his life. Shaka returned to war on Turn 200, Tokugawa joined in on Turn 205, and a few turns later Frederick was gone:

The same pattern that we had seen in the last few iterations of this map was again continuing. Willem, Isabella, and Frederick were all eliminated (or nearly eliminated), and then the remaining three leaders were left to contend for first place. Tokugawa remained on the top of the leaderboard, and yet Shaka had gotten a larger share of the territory from Germany's downfall, nearly catching up to the Japanese leader. Shaka and Hannibal were also stout allies by virtue of their shared Christian religion, which Tokugawa would never adopt since he had self-founded Buddhism. This was therefore setting up for a very interesting 2 vs 1 scenario where the two weaker leaders would be allied together against the stronger leader. Sure enough, Tokugawa attacked Hannibal on Turn 223 and captured two Carthaginian cities along their shared border. Shaka joined the war a few turns later on the side of Hannibal, and the result was a violent stalemate on all sides. This power bar graph pretty much tells the story:

Massive losses on each side, not a lot of territory changing hands. Most of this war was fought in the former German lands, where Shaka was able to capture one Japanese city along his border. That would be it though, despite large quantities of killed units on each side. Tokugawa had the technological edge, but that was canceled out by the larger total number of combined Zulu + Carthaginian cities. Eventually they all signed peace around the Turn 250 mark, and the world remained at rest for a few dozen turns.

It was not to last. Tokugawa attacked Hannibal again on Turn 289, and Shaka joined his ally on the very next turn. This time it was tank battles that took place on the plains of former Germany, lots and lots of tanks. Tokugawa had the edge here due to his mobile artillery, but otherwise the two foes were once again an even match. Hannibal had fallen far behind in tech though, and his rifle + cavalry forces were getting crushed in the individual unit matchups against Japan. Only the presence of the Zulus was keeping Carthage from being overrun.

Eventually, Tokugawa was able to tech his way to more advanced units that the Zulus couldn't match. When he finally reached modern armor and mechs, I noticed that the flow of combat began to swing definitively against the Zulu/Carthaginian allies. First the Carthaginian border cities began to fall, then Japanese forces began to push deep into Zulu territory and begin capturing cities. The score on the leaderboard, which had narrowed to as little as 500 points at the height of the conflict, ballooned out to 1000 points, then 1500 points. Tokugawa was seizing control of the game. The power bar graph had clearly swung in his favor, and the writing was now on the wall that a Japanese victory was imminent. Hannibal was really taking it on the chin, with his capital lost and only a few coastal cities still clinging to life. He would have been eliminated with ease if Tokugawa hadn't been more focused on attacking Zulu cities. The Japanese spaceship was launched on Turn 325 when Tokugawa completed the tech tree, but apparently the 10 turn delay to reach Alpha Centauri was too slow, as Tokugawa won a Domination victory before the clock could run out:

Tokugawa had also built every wonder in the game from the Medieval era onwards, and possession of the Sistine + Eiffel Tower + Statue of Liberty combo had helped expand his borders to get over the territory limit. It was the second dominant performance in a row for Tokugawa, and the third game where the same general pattern had taken place.

Test Three

This alternate history evolved in a somewhat different direction. It started out normally enough, with Isabella founding Christianity and Tokugawa winning the second race to establish Buddhism. However, unlike in past games, Isabella managed to have better luck this time in terms of where her religion spread. Hannibal picked up the Spanish minority religion of Taoism and Tokugawa stuck with his own Buddhism, but everyone else in the game wound up adopting Isabella's Christianity, and this helped her markedly in the diplomacy. As a result, when Isabella launched the first war of the game against Hannibal, none of the other civs tried to stab her in the back with their own invasions. In fact, it was Hannibal who lost a border city to Isabella this time around, which she managed to keep in the peace treaty that ended the war a little while later. Tokugawa launched his usual invasion of Willem on Turn 77, followed by Hannibal joining the war a dozen turns later. However, Hannibal had been weakened enough by Isabella that he was ineffective in this conflict, and Willem managed to hold his borders until he secured a peace with Tokugawa. Eventually, Willem even managed to get a city off of Hannibal in the peace treaty that ended their fighting. Similarly, Shaka launched an attack against Isabella like he seemed to do in every game, but this time Isabella fought him to a draw. The same wars were taking place as they did in the other alternate histories, only this time the normal patsies were proving much more resistant to being conquered.

After 150 turns, all six of the leaders were still alive and possessing largely intact empires. Frederick was actually in first place at this point, the only leader to remain out of the early fighting and with a highly developed empire under his control. Unfortunately, Frederick's research preferences made sure that he avoided anything military-related until he had no other choices, and this meant that despite his lead in techs and cities, he was still highly vulnerable to an attack. Shaka made his move on Turn 143 and he had not ignored military technology, crossing the border into Germany with elephants, maces, and eventually knights. This attack never would have worked against a human player, and Shaka was forced to spend many long turns on end slowly sieging down each of the German cities. However, Frederick never really did anything to stop Shaka either, curling up into the fetal position and eventually losing one city after another. By the time that Berlin fell on Turn 173, it was clear that it was only a matter of time until Frederick suffered elimination.

Meanwhile, Isabella had launched a new war against her old nemesis Hannibal, and the Carthaginians were weak enough that this was meeting with great success. While the western domains quickly fell under the Spanish banner, Isabella stalled out for a long time at the city of Carthage itself. She was wasting precious time against this one city, time that could have been spent consolidating her rule if she had managed to win the war sooner. While the Spanish attack was indeed succeeding, Tokugawa had joined Shaka in the campaign against Germany, and Frederick's days were clearly numbered. This was interrupted when Willem launched a supremely ill-timed war against Tokugawa, which had the net effect of diverting the Japanese units into Dutch territory instead. Shaka therefore cleaned up nearly all of the German cities, gaining not only the highly developed German lands but also Frederick's treasure trove of powerful wonders. Germany was the first civ eliminated on Turn 218:

In the north, Isabella finally managed to capture the city of Carthage after two dozen turns stalled outside its walls. After that she made rapid progress and achieved her own elimination of Hannibal on Turn 237. This was genuinely different than anything that I'd seen in the other alternate histories of this match: Isabella not dying early on, Isabella getting an actual KILL, wow! Good for her. However, the relentless forces underlying how the Civ4 AI operates were already beginning to work against her. Like the infamous dialectic of Marxist thought, there were structural factors that seemed likely to doom her in the end. Shaka had already completed his conquest of Germany and had spent the last 30 turns building up his civ and incorporating Frederick's domains. Tokugawa was completing his own conquest of Willem, and once again had emerged as the big dog in the eastern part of the continent. Although Willem had a better performance this game, "better" simply meant that he was the third one eliminated on Turn 261:

With only three leaders remaining, it became all but inevitable that Isabella would be the next target. Shaka and Tokugawa both had much lower peace weights, and they had fought a "mutual military struggle" war together against Frederick to make them strong allies. Sure enough, Shaka invaded Spain on Turn 237, and while Isabella was able to force a peace treaty through the Apostolic Palace to save herself initially, Shaka declared war again on Turn 271 with a massive force of cavalry. He absolutely rolled over Isabella with all those horse units, endless hordes of cavalry backed by infantry against Isabella's mostly rifle forces. The whole Spanish core was gone in ten turns, leaving Isabella with only her Carthaginian possessions remaining. That was when Tokugawa decided to join in the fun, vulturing some of the final spoils for himself in the wreckage of what remained of Spain. Isabella was eliminated in the same location where she had finished off Hannibal, on the even numbered Turn 300:

Therefore, despite all of the weirdness that had taken place in the starting portions of this game, we were once again left with only Shaka and Tokugawa still standing. Those two leaders had finished in first and second place in some combination in every one of these scenarios, and this game was headed for another similar finish. As I've said before, there's a determinism to these AI Survivor games that can't be explained by pure chance alone. Anyway, Shaka was the ascendant power from a military and territorial standpoint, and yet he actually was about four techs behind Tokugawa in research. I was curious as to whether this game would remain peaceful up until a spaceship ending, which might be enough for Japan to come out on top. In the end, Shaka slipped down to "Pleased" relations and that was enough to produce a violent ending to the contest.

Shaka attacked on Turn 326, and he initially had a great deal of trouble with Tokugawa's armies. Japan had just finished researching Robotics and had the advantage in unit quality with mechs, enough to hold the line and prevent the Zulus from taking any cities at first. However, it was only a matter of time until Shaka gained access to his own mechs and modern armor, and that was enough to turn the tide when combined with the larger Zulu territorial base. First one Japanese city fell, then another. Both leaders were launching nukes at each other by this point, but Shaka could afford to suffer the nukings more than Tokugawa could. Over time, Shaka managed to wrest away the whole Carthaginian periphery and begin pushing into the Japanese core. The Zulus triggered Domination shortly before launching a spaceship:

That was a late ending on Turn 363. It had been a slow tech pace throughout, too many poor economic leaders and too much fighting from everyone involved. I was struck in the aftermath of this game at how the same patterns continued to reassert themselves even in a game with this unusual opening. Willem, Frederick, and Isabella all appeared to be doomed on this map by the combination of peace weight and geography. Would we have any games where they managed to survive and prosper? (I'm not counting Frederick's ridiculous one city Apostolic Palace cheesefest in Test One, he would have died for sure without that wonder intervening.) It didn't seem very likely.

I decided that in lieu of writing about further alternate histories, I would simply simulate them out and post the results. This would provide us with a larger sample size for this map to see if anything different took place. Here were the results:

Test Four
Spaceship victory, Turn 324
Isabella eliminated Turn 311 (Tokugawa)
Frederick eliminated Turn 194 (Tokugawa)
Willem eliminated Turn 140 (Hannibal)

Test Five
Domination victory, Turn 322
Isabella (!)
Shaka eliminated Turn 266 (Isabella)
Frederick eliminated Turn 265 (Tokugawa)
Hannibal eliminated Turn 228 (Tokugawa)
Willem eliminated Turn 120 (Tokugawa)

Test Six
Spaceship victory, Turn 388
Willem eliminated Turn 369 (Shaka)
Tokugawa eliminated Turn 353 (Hannibal)
Frederick eliminated Turn 296 (Shaka)
Isabella eliminated Turn 267 (Shaka)

Test Seven
Domination victory, Turn 378
Isabella eliminated Turn 295 (Shaka)
Frederick eliminated Turn 283 (Hannibal)
Willem eliminated Turn 224 (Tokugawa)

Test Eight
Spaceship victory, Turn 390
Hannibal eliminated Turn 324 (Shaka)
Isabella eliminated Turn 238 (Shaka)
Willem eliminated Turn 237 (Tokugawa)
Frederick eliminated Turn 192 (Shaka)

Test Nine
Domination victory, Turn 296
Isabella eliminated Turn 248 (Shaka)
Willem eliminated Turn 227 (Shaka)
Frederick eliminated Turn 172 (Shaka)

Test Ten
Cultural victory, Turn 276
Willem (!!!)
Tokugawa eliminated Turn 263 (Shaka)
Isabella eliminated Turn 225 (Shaka)
Frederick eliminated Turn 128 (Tokugawa)

Wow, what an incredible outlier result in that last test. Out of the eleven total playthroughs of this map (including the actual Season Two Game Five match), Willem was eliminated ten times... and he wins a Cultural victory in the eleventh game. Go figure. I guess the same thing didn't happen in every game after all. There were some really strange events that took place in some of these test games. I saw every leader in the game found their own religion at least one time, including one game where Isabella began the game by picking Confucianism instead of Christianity for some reason. There was a game where Shaka randomly decided to start pursuing a Cultural victory when he had over 50% of the world's land area, and a game where Shaka and Tokugawa launched their spaceships 1 turn apart, with Tokugawa winning by a single turn despite being the second to launch because his spaceship had two engine components while the Zulu spaceship only had one. There was one game where Shaka steamrolled everyone for an early victory on Turn 276, several games that dragged out until almost Turn 400, and two other games where Shaka was eliminated entirely. Another game ended with a massive nuclear exchange between Hannibal and Tokugawa, with the Carthaginians landing their spaceship with the nuclear fallout still spreading across the continent. A lot of these games would have made for fantastic viewing experiences on Livestream as they twisted and turned in unexpected directions.

Nonetheless, there were clear trends that seemed to play out in game after game, and we shouldn't get thrown off by the rare outlier results that happened to pop up at low odds. Here's a quick run through of some of the trends that I saw after running this map repeatedly, starting with the worst-performing leaders and ending with the best-performing ones:

1 Third Place Finish
10 Eliminations

Frederick was a dead man walking in this game from the moment it began. He was a culture-loving, high peace weight leader in a game full of low peace weight warmongers. A starting position in between Shaka and Tokugawa left him with virtually no hope for survival, and he was a punching bag in game after game after game. Not once did Germany manage to emerge as a major power in the lategame. Frederick would build lots of floodplains cottages and lots of juicy wonders... and then they would repeatedly be taken away from him by foreign invaders. It was a brutal end to poor Freddy in these matches. Shaka was the most frequent beneficiary of Frederick's largesse, and that's very likely the major reason why Shaka consistently did so well on this map. Geography was all but forcing Shaka to attack either Isabella or Frederick, and he devoured one or both in nearly every game. At other times, it was Tokugawa who did the munching on Germany and snowballed off those lovely floodplains cities. In fact, Shaka and Tokugawa repeatedly tag-teamed Germany in these games, often partitioning the territory between them. Frederick's only survival came in Test One and only due to miraculously getting multiple stays of execution via the Apostolic Palace. He had a single city left down in the tundra when that game ended. It was a thoroughly miserable showing for Frederick in these eleven matches. Seriously though, zero first or second place finishes and zero kills in ELEVEN games?! Come on dude.

Frederick's fate in these games provides powerful evidence as to why they are not completely random in their outcomes. AI peace weight dictated that Frederick would be in deep trouble for this map setup, and the games played out in exactly that fashion again and again. In other words, while there was indeed randomness from game to game, there were enough structural factors working under the hood to predict that Germany was doomed to failure in anything other than a very unusual performance.

1 Runner Up Finish
10 Eliminations

Spain founded one of the early religions in every single game. As the only civ that started with Mysticism tech, combined together with Isabella's religious nuttery, Spain was essentially guaranteed to have an early self-founded religion. After that things went off in many different directions. Sometimes Isabella founded a bunch of other faiths, including a single game where she cleaned up all three of the early religions. In other games, she landed only that first religion and there were a bunch of competing early doctrines across the continent. One game had four different major religions, all established by different civs. I wasn't able to notice any clear trends in terms of how Spain's religions corresponded to the success of the civ. Generally speaking, Isabella would get out to an early score lead from the land claimed by her Holy City's borders, and then eventually fall apart and collapse sometime in the midgame. She was eliminated in every game other than Test Five with only a single runner-up finish to her name. The most typical scenario was the one that played out in the actual Survivor Season Two match: Isabella would get into an inconclusive early war with Hannibal, and then get attacked from the other side by Shaka, with the Zulus eventually claiming most of Spain's territory. This played out over and over again. Shaka often shared Isabella's religion and that didn't seem to matter much at all. He attacked and conquered Spain in nearly every game. Isabella's excessive focus on researching religious techs often left her easy prey for a Shaka that was behind in tech overall, but far ahead in terms of military units available.

Isabella's second place finish in Test Five was a clear outlier result. This game had an unusually weak Shaka; when the Zulus launched their typical attacks against Isabella, she was able to fend them off without losing any cities. I don't know why Shaka struggled in this game so much, perhaps poor luck against barbarians (?) Willem also survived much longer in this alternate history as compared to most other games, stuck in a series of mutually draining wars with Hannibal that left the Carthaginians weak enough to be conquered by Isabella. Finally, this was the rare game where Isabella went to war with Frederick and captured a bunch of territory from Germany. They almost never fought one another, and snowballing off Germany territory was important to Spain's success in this game. Isabella actually conquered Shaka on this occasion, the only time that happened. Even with all these unlikely results playing out, it still wasn't enough for Isabella to win and she was getting crushed by Tokugawa in the ending stages of this match. Isabella was clearly a weak leader on this particular map.

1 First Place Finish
10 Eliminations

Up until he pulled a win out of his rear in Test Ten, Willem was going to be ranked as the last place leader from this game. He was eliminated every single time in the first ten iterations of this setup, and was often the first leader to be removed. There was a simple reason for this: Willem found himself on the unfriendly side of a 2 vs 1 war in almost every game, and it usually resulted in his early exit. In a typical game, Willem would attack Hannibal or vice versa, and then Tokugawa would attack at a later date and clean up most of the spoils. Willem's Cultural trait may have been a disadvantage on this particular map, as it seemed to cause border tensions with his neighbors and consistently cause them to declare war on him. Getting squeezed in between Hannibal and Tokugawa surely wasn't an advantageous place to begin either.

The one exception was Test Ten, which played out differently than every other map. Willem ended up getting extremely lucky in this game, starting with Hannibal putting on a particularly weak showing. I have no idea why, but his expansion was noticeably weaker in this game as compared to all the others, maybe a settler lost to barbarians or something like that. Willem therefore claimed more territory to his north in this game, and then caught a break when he was attacked by Hannibal alone, no one else, allowing him to capture even more Carthaginian territory before peace was signed. Meanwhile, Tokugawa chose to attack Frederick instead of Willem in this game, and then after an early exit from Germany, Willem caught his biggest stroke of luck: a runaway Shaka inexplicably chose to attack Tokugawa instead of him. Shaka was #1 and Tokugawa was #2, and Shaka spent the next 70 turns slowly conquering all of Japan while ignoring Willem. This left Shaka at 55% land area, close to Domination but not there yet, and before Shaka could declare war on Willem to complete his conquest, Willem snuck over the Cultural victory line and won the game despite being 3000 score points behind the Zulus. This was a highly atypical result: it required a weak Hannibal, Tokugawa to attack Frederick instead of Willem, Shaka to attack Tokugawa instead of Willem, and the Dutch to build all of the key cultural wonders (Sistine, Mausoleum, Eiffel Tower, etc.) while also flipping the switch over to 100% culture at an early date while miraculously avoiding getting attacked by the Zulu juggernaut before the victory date arrived. Willem truly threaded the needle on this one.

Basically, this was the Civilization equivalent of the backup catcher going in to pinch hit and smacking a homerun, or the walk-on kid at the end of the bench draining a three pointer as time expires. It does happen on occasion but it's a wildly improbable result. While I believe that most of the AI Survivor games go roughly as expected, we've had a couple other contests where a bunch of weird stuff happened and we wound up with an unlikely outcome. Wang Kon's Korean spaceship victory in Season Three is perhaps the best example of that to date.

2 First Place Finishes
2 Second Place Finishes
3 Third Place Finishes
4 Eliminations

Hannibal had the most variable performances from game to game. He managed to win two of these matches, both times by spaceship, and came in second place twice more. On the other hand, he was also routinely one of the weakest AI empires in games where he did survive, and one of those "second place" finishes was an extremely distant trailing position obtained only because a runaway Shaka was pounding on Tokugawa instead of Hannibal. The Carthaginians were also eliminated outright in four of the eleven games, which didn't do much to inspire confidence. When it did take place Hannibal's success tended to occur at the expense of Willem. More broadly than that, Hannibal also generally did better in games where Tokugawa underperformed. Only one of them could become the dominant force in the east, and most of the time that happened to be Tokugawa. Too often Hannibal would get trapped in unproductive wars against Isabella or Willem, only to see Shaka or Tokugawa take most of the spoils of the fighting. This was partly a failure of map design; Hannibal likely didn't have enough land in his starting peninsula to be truly competitive, and he lacked much in the way of expansion options. He had no choice but to go through Willem, and that often left his empire in a weak position unless Hannibal could manage a smooth and speedy conquest.

Test Four was the only game where Hannibal truly begame the dominant power. Even in his other victory in Test Six, Shaka had significantly more land and score points, with Hannibal simply managing to launch the spaceship first. In Test Four, the big difference was Hannibal conquering nearly all of the German lands for himself. That didn't happen in any other game; while Hannibal went to war with Frederick in other games, inevitably he would only get one or two cities while Shaka or Tokugawa took the rest. All of those floodplains cottages then fueled Hannibal's Financial trait and gave him the edge needed to finish the tech tree first. The Carthaginians failed to get off their starting peninsula in most other games and therefore generally played the part of a second-tier civ. Now I'm not sure if that was due to deficiencies with Hannibal as a leader or deficiencies in the starting position for this particular map. Maybe a combination of both. For this particular scenario, however, Hannibal tended to be fairly mediocre.

4 First Place Finishes
3 Second Place Finishes
2 Third Place Finishes
2 Eliminations

4 First Place Finishes
5 Second Place Finishes
1 Third Place Finishes
1 Elimination

I put these two leaders together because their performances were so similar. Tokugawa and Shaka were effectively the co-winners on this map, splitting 8 of the 11 victories between the two of them along with 8 of the 11 runner up spots. One of them held a top two spot in every single game. They were also rarely eliminated, with Tokugawa checking out twice and Shaka exiting the field only one time. The two of them had the same general flow to their gameplay: snowballing ahead based off of eliminating a weak nearby neighbor (Willem for Tokugawa and Isabella for Shaka), along with the partitioning of poor Frederick who happened to start between the two of them. Again and again these leaders fed upon their vulnerable neighboring civs. I think it's significant that out of the eight total victories that these two leaders won together, seven of them were by Domination. (All four of Shaka's victories came by Domination, naturally.) When faced with stronger economic leaders like Huayna Capac or Mansa Musa, it's questionable as to whether the "attack first and ask questions later" approach of Shaka and Tokugawa would have proved effective. But against the weak opponents in this particular field, these two leaders cleaned house repeatedly.

There were some minor differences to their peformances. Tokugawa generally managed his economy a bit better than Shaka, and he didn't emphasize military technology to quite the same extent. Tokugawa often gained an edge by conquering barbarian cities that spawned in the jungles to the north of his starting position, cities that Willem rarely captured because the Dutch were usually off fighting someone else. Japan also tended to place some extra cities down in the southern tundra and have the most total land area in the game prior to going to war. Shaka typically had weaker lands but made up for it by obssessing over military technology. While his economy would be garbage, Shaka would beeline Bronze Working and Guilds and Rifling and get access to strong new units before anyone else. For example, Shaka repeatedly attacked with grenadiers against longbows in these games due to a laser focus on Military Science tech. The Zulus would often be behind Spain and Germany in overall tech, only to field more advanced units anyway due to Shaka's tech preferences. And once Shaka conquered the cottage and wonder heavy German lands, he would be off and running. In the few games where Shaka wasn't able to snowball ahead off his conquests, he became a weak and irrelevant power. That only happened twice in the eleven games though, and most of the time the Zulus became a juggernaut.


Running all of these alternate history tests reinforced my belief that the AI Survivor games are not pure chance. Things certainly can be variable from game to game, and sometimes we ended up with a highly unusual result that wouldn't be expected ahead of time. However, the same outcomes repeated themselves many times over, with the same leaders emerging on top again and again. On this particular map, Shaka and Tokugawa were clearly the best leaders, followed by Hannibal in second-tier status, and then the other three leaders as clear losers who were repeatedly crushed. Shaka/Tokugawa won 8 times and were eliminated 3 times; Frederick/Isabella/Willem won 1 time and were eliminated 30 times. That's not a coincidence. There is a science to predicting these matches, and understanding how the AI behaves allows you to make significantly more accurate predictions. It was also a validation of the power ranking methodology that I developed at the end of Season Three. Power ranking had Frederick, Isabella, and Willem all ranked as terrible leaders, and they were definitely shown in these alternate histories to be terrible indeed. Shaka, Hannibal, and Tokugawa were all ranked significantly higher, and sure enough, they all performed better in these extended tests.

That's all for now. If any of you take the savegame files and do some more testing of these AI Survivor matches, let me know how they go!