Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Game Six 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.

Here in Game Six we have an unusually strong field with two different leaders that made it to the Championship last year and two more leaders that made it to the Championship in Season One. Every one of these leaders reached the playoffs in past years, combining together for an astonishing 6 gold medals and 10 silver medals. We've only run 26 games in total prior to this year! In other words, while we have a typical mixture of superbuilders (Elizabeth/Pericles) and warmongers (Brennus/Caesar) and personalities somewhere in the middle (Cyrus/Qin/Zara), this is a field that lacks much in the way of dud performers. All of these leaders have shown themselves to be capable in past games. This looks like Season Three's opening round "Group of Death", and that might make predictions for this one a difficult task.

Brennus of the Celts
Season One Opening Round: Second Place in Game One
Season One Playoffs: Third Place in Game Two
Season Two Opening Round: Second Place in Game Six
Season Two Playoffs: Third Place in Game Two
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (13), Season Two (9), Overall (6)

AI Summary from Season One: Brennus has Spiritual and Charismatic traits in Civ4. As one of the two Celtic leaders, he has access to the Gallic Swordsman unique unit and the Dun as a unique building. Outside of the Spiritual trait, all of these are viewed as being fairly weak options - I can't recall anyone choosing to play Brennus in a standard Pitboss game of Civ4. The Celts also have Mysticism and Hunting starting techs, although starting techs don't matter that much for Deity AIs since they all begin with Wheel, Agriculture, Hunting, and Archery. Brennus the AI has a medium military flavor, along with an emphasis on religion. He has an aggression rating of 7/10, which is above average and make him a bit of a warmongerer. Brennus AI also cares a lot about religion, with a major bonus to shared faith and a large penalty to other competitors. He's a fairly average AI in total. I'm still trying to figure out if his excellent past performances - two trips to the playoffs and never having been eliminated in four games - are a product of a stronger than average AI personality or dumb luck.

Cyrus of Persia
Season One Opening Round: Second Place in Game Eight
Season One Playoffs: Eliminated in Game One
Season Two Opening Round: Second Place in Game Eight
Season Two Playoffs: Winner of Game One
Season Two Championship: Second Place in Championship
Total Kills: 6
Past Finishes: Season One (16), Season Two (2), Overall (4)

AI Summary from Season One: Cyrus finds himself in the role of another leader who had his traits changed in Civ4's expanions, and not for the better. Cyrus now has Charismatic and Imperialistic traits, a weak pairing that doesn't offer too much in the way of economy. It does let him get off to a decently fast start, but there are other leaders who fulfill the same role and do it better. Cyrus brings along the Persian civilization's Immortal unique unit and Apothecary unique building. Neither one has ever impressed me very much, not unless you're abusing AI archers on Marathon game speed with immortals. Cyrus AI has military and growth flavors for his research. He's a surprisingly aggressive leader (rating 7/10), although this is tempered somewhat by Cyrus' love of wonders (8/10). This mixture doesn't really make that much sense, and we saw earlier how Gilgamesh AI struggled with a similar setup. Cyrus has a low peace weight, one point above leaders like Catherine and Stalin. He will be predisposed to dislike someone with high peace weight, such as Elizabeth. I honestly don't have a whole lot more to say about Cyrus, he's somewhat aggressive but not enough to be interesting like Ragnar or Temujin.

Season Three Addition: Wow, were we wrong about this guy. Cyrus has been a stone cold killer in the competition over the past two years. He's only won a single game outright but has managed to finish second three different times, including in the Championship of Season Two. He was also only a couple of turns away from winning the Championship outright before Huayna Capac pulled off a miracle Cultural victory at the last minute. I have no idea why Cyrus would be an effective AI leader, and perhaps this is simply the result of a small sample size of games. In any case, those six kills should be a flashing warning light for the rest of the field. Only one other AI leader has claimed more scalps.

Elizabeth of England
Season One Opening Round: Second Place in Game Six
Season One Playoffs: Second Place in Game Two
Season One Championship: Eliminated in Championship
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated in Game One
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (4), Season Two (40), Overall (19)

AI Summary from Season One: Elizabeth is another Financial leader, one who leans towards peaceful tendencies. She has Financial and Philosophical traits, a pairing that was more popular in the past at Realms Beyond, only to fall into some disuse of late. Financial and Philosophical are traits that are seen as having some anti-synergy, between working cottages and working specialists. The English civilization has the Redcoat for a unique unit and the Stock Exchange for a unique building. Both are well above average, and the one weakness of the English civ is the starting techs, which won't be a factor here. Elizabeth AI has gold and culture flavors, befitting her peaceful nature. She has a very low unit emphasis (2/10), an extremely high peace weight as a "Good" leader, and one of the lowest aggression ratings in the game (1.9 out of 10). That's 49th out of the 52 leaders in likeliness to declare war. Elizabeth AI is another leader who's easy to befriend as a neighbor, and she rarely even makes demands. She wants to be left alone in peace to tech up the tree, and when left alone in Season One, she did very well indeed. That didn't happen in Season Two and she was an early elimination instead.

Julius Caesar of Rome
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated in Game Six
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Seven
Season Two Playoffs: Third Place in Game One
Total Kills: 4
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 fairly weak pairing which ensures that he never appears in our Pitboss games. 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 Elizabeth. 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.

Pericles of Greece
Season One Opening Round: Winner of Game Six
Season One Playoffs: Eliminated in Game Three
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game One
Season Two Playoffs: Second Place in Game One
Season Two Championship: Eliminated in Championship
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (15), Season Two (4), Overall (5)

AI Summary from Season One: Pericles is yet another generally peaceful leader with an economic focus. He has perhaps the best trait pairing in the game for pure culture, with Creative and Philosophical traits. That means cheap libraries, universities, theatres, and colosseums. As the other Greek leader paired with Alexander, Pericles has acccess to the Phalanx unique unit and Odeon unique building. There's some nice synergy between Pericles' Creative trait and that odeon, perhaps helpful in pursuing a cultural gameplan. As an AI, Pericles has production and science flavors. He's another AI leader who loves him some wonders, with an 8/10 rating in that category. The other numbers are mostly average across the board, right in the middle. Pericles AI desires peace with his neighbors, having a low aggression rating of 3.3 out of 10. His peace weight sits in the middle of the scale, halfway between the "Good" and "Evil" leaders. Pericles won't be drawn naturally to either side of the alignment scale. Pericles the AI likes to go for Cultural victories, and he'll probably be looking to pull one off here once again.

Season Three Addition: Somehow I keep underestimating Pericles even though he's won two games (by Culture and Diplomacy), came in second in another game, and made it to the Championship. His gameplan of fast expansion mixed with heavy cultural pressure seems to work well against the other AI leaders. Pericles might have a tough time here though, sandwiched between two dangerously aggressive AI leaders in Brennus and Caesar. The nearby stone resource could also be a poison pill given his love of early wonders. We shall see.

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

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

Zara Yacob of Ethiopia
Season One Opening Round: Third Place in Game Two
Season One Wildcard: Winner of Wildcard
Season One Playoffs: Winner of Game Three
Season One Championship: Second Place in Championship
Season Two Opening Round: Fourth Place in Game One
Season Two Wildcard: Fifth Place in Wildcard
Total Kills: 3
Past Finishes: Season One (2), Season Two (21), Overall (8)

AI Summary from Season One: Zara is our last leader for this game, and the final leader of the game in alphabetical order. Zara has Creative and Organized traits, bringing along the Oromo Warrior and Stele as unique stuff. I have a soft spot for Zara since he led us to victory in the Apolyton Demogame a number of years back. As an AI, Zara has growth and religious flavors. He sits in the middle of the table on most of the important numbers, like unit and wonder focus, and has a medium aggression rating of 5.6 out of 10. Zara AI also places a huge emphasis on religion, with a massive shared faith bonus (as much as +9 diplo points!) and a large penalty for differing faiths. Like Justinian, his favorite civic is also Theocracy. Zara AI therefore mostly follows a middle of the road path, but he carries a serious grudge over religion.

Season Three Addition: Zara is another leader who has experienced a great deal of success in past years of AI Survivor, especially in Season One. He's won two games and nearly climbed out of the Wildcard match to take the entire competition that year. Even in a down year in Season Two, he still made the Wildcard game again and finished in 21st place. Zara is one of the last remaining leaders never to be eliminated at all, which is seriously impressive after appearing in six total games. Can he imitate Justinian and bring back the Season One magic?

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

Zara has a clear lead in the winner category, with Cyrus and Elizabeth chasing on his heels. Cyrus also seems to be hugely popular for the second place category, much more popular than first place oddly enough. Meanwhile, Pericles is the heavy favorite in the First to Die category. It seems that being a culturally inclined leader starting in the center of the map is an unenviable position. 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!

rekenner: Cyrus looks too cramped and he's next to Brennus. I don't think Brennus will murder him quickly enough to snowball, but I think it will be enough to slow them both down. I think Lizzie has a very strong start. Her pacifism might be too much - even someone like Qin that's only slightly aggro might decide to nom her. Zara might be the safer choice for winner? Hm. And if Caesar decides to haul off and murder someone he could snowball - and maybe Zara is the likeliest choice for that? Pericles is also nearby. Pericles having Stone might be a kiss of death or it might get him on a wonder snowball that helps him win via Culture. I find this game hard to pick.

Shpoko: Qin and Pericles are in the worst spots, cramped and with neighbors with differing peace weights. Much of the early action happens here with Cyrus and Brennus teaming up to first kill Qin, then adding Julius to squash Pericles. Unfortunately, this lets Zara, in a reprise of the Season One Wildcard game build up a large empire again, before Liz flashes enough leg at Zara, through different religion and her ignoring Rifling again, to let Zara become a monster. Late Game, Zara and his faith buddy Julius grind down Brennus and Cyrus, leading to Zara winning by Domination.

ArtDeco: Zara go eat caesar salad pls. Let Julius and Brennus dogpile Pericles first, meanwhile tech ahead and win the game while Brennus puts Elizabeth on his priority list. (Note: Brennus and Elizabeth should find first 2 religions)

RefSteel: Just so we're clear: If Zara doesn't win this game, it's going to be a major upset. Elizabeth is one of my very favorite leaders though, so I picked her to win in spite of knowing better, and that means it's time to make up an improbable narrative in which she wins! I'm going to say Julius and Zara mix it up right around the time Rome finally gets its distant iron connected, and Praets capture enough cities to take Ethiopia out of contention before stalling out for lack of cats against the high cultural defenses of Zara's core. Meanwhile the eastern quartet fights a series of bloody wars that leave them all exhausted while Lizzy is happily teching up the tree, until Qin unwisely declares on her from a generation behind and gets eaten for his trouble. Later, she adopts a self-founded late religion, earning Zara's eternal ire, and she crushes his outdated force, claiming the core Julius couldn't, while Rome and Greece are busy going at each other's throats and Brennus is battling Cyrus for the second or third time over religion or border pressure or just because it seemed like a good day for war. Eventually the warring parties fall so far behind that their hordes of rifles and cavs are watching English Mech Infs and Modern Armor peacefully rolling by just before Liz plants the Union Jack on Alpha Centauri IV. ... And if you believe that, I've got some lovely bridges to sell you; you can take possession juuuuuuust as soon as England conquers them from Ethiopia.

marblefruit: Got to cheer for the only girl in the round...

JackDRB: Wow this is one hell of a lineup. None of them jump out at me instantly because they are all mid-to-top tier, so all are pretty viable picks. With Pericles being neighbours with aggressive leaders such as Caesar/Brennus and possibly Cyrus, I'm not overly confident in Pericles survival and assuming Peri dies, I don't think Lizzy can survive either. I'm not overly confident in the super warmongers converting their aggression into a successful win though in this super-strong field, meaning I'm relying on the more balanced leaders to win. I think Zara has the best position out of Zara/Qin/Cyrus, and Qin because I think position is arguably better than Cyrus despite Cyrus' past success.

Ghostpants: I think Pericles and Elizabeth probably have the among the better personalities and traits in this game, but unfortunately they've drawn the short straw, and with both being surrounded by low peace weight warmongers, they're both likely to be dogpiled and whittled away by the other five leaders in what is essentially a battle of the peace weights until the two of them die (kind of similar to the last game, but the other way around). Julius has reasonable land, and a lot of it, thus I think he's going to win this one after expanding out to his western iron and clobbering Pericles with praets. Brennus also has excellent land, and is surrounded by sea in three directions, and I think this strong but isolated position should be enough to mostly get second by itself, so assuming he does some conquering of his own (probably also of poor Pericles), Brennus should be able to get second. Cyrus and Zara have both been fantastic in past years, but they have jungle choked starts (particularly poor Zara) which seems to really hurt the AI in the expansion phase, and is a bad sign. And Qin, well... he isn't terrible, he's just kind of 'meh,' and in this group of death, that's a problem.

Warclam: I'm feeling good about Cyrus this game. We all know he's the REAL champion from season 2, he just got robbed by Huayna Capac exploiting that silly Beyond the Sword spaceship waiting period. Double down on Cyrus for first and second! Meanwhile, I'm going to agree with loads of others that Pericles is going to drop that stone right on his own head.

shallow_thought: Looking at the preview and the history of the "players", I think it's plausible that CHA and IMP are much stronger traits for the AI than for human players, in that they specifically counteract weaknesses (just as SPI is acknowledge to help reduce the cost of switching civics every time they discover a new one). CHA helps with the bad happiness management: if the AI can get one extra happy citizen into a size 6-10 city that is a 10-20% productivity increase. Throw in a monument (probably skipped by a human player much of the time) and that could be an extra two citizens. IMP specifically helps to reduce the impact of the "build settlers in small cities" tactic. I think that this may explain some of Cyrus' and Brennus' success. Immortals helping to capture cities from barb archers is a potential plus for Persia too. (On the other hand, I think ORG helps the Deity AI less than a typical human. Shame, as Zara is fun to play). Cyrus start looks better to me than Brennus. Decent food, guaranteed iron, resources initially tempting him to go central (if he can defog fast enough). Bit jungly, but IW will come fast. Despite all that, I do fancy Lizzy with her start - three food, gold to her south, furs to her north, two iron chances. I can see both doing well and then Cyrus swarming her with gunpowder units against longbows while she techs democracy, but I think she has just enough isolation to really use her strengths. In which case, the question may be whether she and Cyrus end up sharing a religion and forming a dominant block or split and tear each other apart. And Qin dies first because he wonder-whores and is in the middle.

Smosism: Zara will live, everybody else will be dieded