Civ4 AI Survivor Season 5: Playoff Game One Preview

This is a continuing feature for Season Five 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 start as always with an overview of the map:

With the opening round matches and the Wildcard game out of the way, we turned at last to the playoff round of Season Five. There were a number of familiar faces returning to the playoffs this year, including defending champion Charlemagne, along with some highly unexpected newcomers to the knockout round of competition. Pacal was a former visitor to the Championship game and Saladin had shown some ability in prior seasons, but Alexander stomping all over his rivals and scoring four kills en route to a first place finish? I don't think anyone saw that coming. These winners were joined in this playoff game by Charlemagne, who had defended his title with a powerful showing in his opening round game, and two "lucky to be there" distant trailing performances from Louis and Washington. They would have to do much better in this round if they expected to continue onwards to the Season Five Championship.

Opening Round Winners

Pacal of the Mayans
Traits: Financial, Expansive
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two and Three Championship Game
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 16 points, 12th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 0 kills

Personality: Pacal has a top tier trait combination, with the amazing Financial and the good Expansive, allowing him to get those Financial cottages up and running even faster. He also gets the bad Holkan unique unit and the good Ball Court, which adds a nice boost to happiness in the midgame. Lastly, Pacal gets Mysticism and Mining for his starting techs, a pretty crappy pair only useful for chasing a religion out of the gate. Pacal is a pretty standard economic AI in most ways, with a low aggression rating (2.8/10), though his unit preference (4/10) isn't as suicidally low as some of the leaders like him. His flavours are Culture and Growth, and you can usually expect Pacal to pursue an early religion right out of the gate. Pacal is one of the two leaders who combine a low peaceweight with a heavily economic style of play. With a peaceweight of 2, an ideal Pacal game probably sees the warmongers and peaceniks fight it out amongst each other while he sits back and builds an insurmountable tech lead.

Past Performance: Pacal's previous performances have been a real mixed bag, and he's a difficult AI to figure out. In Season One, Pacal played one of the worst games of the season, executing a poor landgrab and successfully aggravating nearly everyone else in the game until his final, inevitable, thankful demise at the hands of Elizabeth in the closing stages. Then, in Season Two, Pacal played a strong opening round game, followed by a near disastrous Playoff Game where he just squeezed into second place, and then a championship where he scored a strong third. Whew, bit of a mixed bag there. Next, Pacal again barely eked out a second place in the Wildcard Game of Season Three, narrowly beating out Suleiman of all people, and again he made it past the Playoffs in second place, largely by screwing up less than the leaders not named Mansa Musa. He finished Season Three with an unremarkable championship showing in which he was torn apart late in the game after not really doing anything. Lastly, Pacal one-upped his performance in Season One by scoring the earliest elimination ever in AI Survivor during his Season Four game. Though this was admittedly an unlucky tactical situation, Pacal didn't lose because he didn't have strategic resources: he lost because he refused to research the techs necessary to connect the damn things! With two terrible seasons and two Championship appearances, Pacal is one of the hardest leaders to judge. One thing is worth noting though: Pacal has only had one truly dominant game, and even then, Cyrus was a strong second place finisher. Meanwhile, all three of his second-place finishes were distant at best, near-death at worst, and in particular his successive failures to conquer Peter during his Season Three playoff game were a true display of incompetence. His non-playoff seasons have both been disasters of the highest order, and it's possible Pacal has somehow lucked his way into a higher power ranking than he deserves. Something to keep in mind, at least.

Saladin of Arabia
Traits: Spiritual, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two and Four Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 point, tied 44th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 2 kills

Personality: Saladin is one of the leaders that focuses on religion and military; unlike most of the other leaders with this combination, he's only middle of the spectrum in terms of aggression and peace weight. Saladin is hurt badly by his leader traits and Arabian civilization, with the useless Protective trait handicapping his performance. He is also penalized by having to start with arguably the worst starting tech pairing in the game in Mysticism and Wheel. Saladin's free starting Deity worker cannot hook up any food resources or build mines, while being stuck two techs away from both Bronze Working and Animal Husbandry. Saladin heavily emphasizes religion and he will therefore always try to found one of the Meditation/Polytheism faiths, leaving him even further in the hole compared to his rivals. This poor starting situation typically leaves Saladin significantly behind the other leaders and makes it hard for him to keep pace with their expansion. Most of his AI ratings are in the middle of the range of available values, such as his aggression rating (5.5/10) and peace weight. Saladin rarely makes demands of his neighbors and will be a good friend when sharing the same faith, though his preferred civic of Theocracy makes it almost impossible for rival religions to get any kind of footing. This is a straightforward AI personality: he's going to try to found a religion and then attack those who don't share it, although not nearly to the same degree as someone like Montezuma or Isabella.

Past Performance: Saladin's been somewhat unfortunate in his past games but has not managed to finish first or second thus far. His best showings have been two trips to the Wildcard game. For all of his weaknesses at the start of the game, Saladin has been in a solid position on multiple occasions coming out of the landgrab phase. Unfortunately he has often found himself on the wrong side of the religious diplomacy and suffered as a result. This was the problem in Season One, as Saladin had a self-founded Hinduism that no one else practiced and it led to his eventual elimination by Catherine. He hung on to the Wildcard game in a very peaceful Season Two opening round match only to finish in the middle of the pack in a large field. Season Three was a replay of Season One for Saladin, with his own self-founded religion that Justinian opposed and eventually stomped out. And in Season Four, Saladin clung to life in both his opening round game and the Wildcard match without ever coming close to a victory. To his credit, Saladin has been in six total matches thus far and was only eliminated twice. On the other hand, he's never been particularly close to winning or scored more than a single kill. This is the Protective trait at its finest: stalling out losing games while doing nothing to help achieve a win.

Alexander of the Greeks
Traits: Aggressive, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Playoffs
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 40th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 4 kills

Personality: Alex is another of the "warmongers" in Civ 4. He plays with the Aggressive and Philosophical traits, a weak pairing that doesn't offer much in the way of synergy or individual power. He also gets the phalanx, a powerful unit in the hands of a human but not especially useful in that of the AI (Alex will build plenty of spears anyway), and the Odeon, a nice happiness boost for the midgame. Lastly, Alex has a pair of average starting techs in Fishing and Hunting, and like all Fishing leaders is much stronger when he starts on the coast. With one of the highest aggression ratings in the game (8.6/10), a high unit build preference (8/10) and the military/growth flavour pairing, Alex is likely to go to war early and often. He's also one of the leaders with the "demonic evil" peace weight of 0, which makes any cooperation with the "good" leaders essentially impossible. Like the other warmongers though, Alex is so aggressive that if there aren't any good leaders around, he's pretty likely to just attack one of his buddies anyway. Other than the key aggressive stats, Alex is a pretty generic leader. He has middling numbers in just about everything else, including tribute demands (4/10) and wonder building (4/10), and he cares an average amount about religion too. Look for Alex to be one of the driving forces of this game. He can't get off the warpath until everyone else - or himself - is dead.

Past Performance: Alex is another of the sad warmongers with zero kills to his name after four seasons. Alex's only notable placing so far was in Season One, where he placed an extremely distant - we're talking lightyears here - second to Boudica in Game Three after fighting a series of unsuccessful wars; it wasn't an impressive game. Since then, Alex has struggled mightily, the first player to die in both his Season Two and Three games. The closest Alex has come to success so far was in his Season Four Opening Game, where he played a genuinely strong first 250 turns. Alex's downfall in that game was less his own incompetence and more Kublai's determined defence (and then Tokugawa's lethal invasion) and having played a major part in the death of nearly every other leader and topping the scoreboard for ages, Alex was unlucky not to score at least a kill point or two. Despite this, it's worth acknowledging that Alex has displayed incompetence more often than not, and his games are yet another pile of evidence that unadulterated aggression is just not the best strategy for this kind of setup.

Opening Round Runner Up Leaders

Louis XIV of France
Traits: Creative, Industrious
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 0 kills

Personality: Louis XIV has a strange AI personality that mixes together a heavy emphasis on wonders together with military aggression. It's not a winning combination. Louis has the Creative and Industrious pairing of traits, a setup that's good for claiming land and then developing cities upwards with additional infrastructure. He also gets to benefit from the strong French civilization, with its excellent starting techs and the useful Musketeer unique unit. However, Louis largely wastes these positive features with a destructive AI personality that pulls in too many directions at once. He's obsessed with building wonders, sporting the rare 10/10 rating in that category, and too often ties up his cities on world wonders with questionable benefits. Louis also has a Culture flavor for his research and tends to spend a lot of time at the top of the tech tree grabbing stuff along the Aesthetics line. These are poor choices for a leader who also has a Military tech flavor, a fairly high aggression rating (6.3/10), and a very low peace weight. Louis tends to make for a bad neighbor as his borders are always intruding on the other empires and he demands tribute constantly (8/10). Needless to say, the guy who likes to pick fights with his rivals while simultaneously locking up his cities on long wonder builds hasn't had a ton of success to date.

Past Performance: Louis has only managed a single second place finish thus far but he's been surprisingly competitive in many of his appearances. His true performance level is likely stronger than what these numbers suggest. With that said, Louis was quickly eliminated in each of the first two seasons of AI Survivor without serving as much more than a speedbump. And in his sole runner-up finish, he was an extremely distant finisher with less than half of the score of a runaway Justinian. However, Louis was leading his playoff game for much of the match before running afoul of a distastrous two-front war against Caesar and Kublai, and he was similarly the leader for the first 200 turns of his opening round game in Season Four. Louis probably would have won that contest if Wang Kon hadn't built the Statue of Zeus to troll him in their lengthy war. In other words, it's clear that there's some potential here even if Louis has a bizarre personality pulling at culture + military cross-purposes.

Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire
Traits: Imperialistic, Protective
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four "Champion"
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 20 points, 7th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 1 kill

Personality: Charlemagne (aka The Burger King) gets Imperialistic and Protective, the best and worst trait respectively in AI Survivor. He also gets the mediocre Landsknecht and the amazing Rathaus, and starts with Hunting and Mysticism techs. He's able to found a religion straight away, if not much else. Charlemagne is a pretty good template of the average aggression/religion focused leader. He gets military and religion flavours, like the rest of his bunch. He has a higher than average aggression rating (7/10) and a neutral peace weight of 6, so his diplomacy tends to fall along the line of religious spread. His unit build preference (6/10) is slightly above average, while his wonder build preference (3/10) is below average. Other than that, Charlemagne has average numbers in basically every other category, and he's actually a fairly bland AI.

Past Performance: While Charlemagne has one of the shorter personality sections, the past performance of the Season Four Champion is a real doozy. Charlie achieved literally nothing in the first two Seasons of AI Survivor, and looked to be just another stupid religious leader. In Season Three, that didn't change much, as his only real achievement was throwing away a certain victory in the last minute of Game Seven, before dying quickly in the playoffs. However, everything changed in Season Four. In his opening game, Charlemagne played a solid, if not spectacular, game which largely involved him riding Justinian's coattails on the right side of a religious coalition. The playoff game was the closest thing Charlemagne had to an actual dominant game, where he scored three kills following an extremely early conquest of Suryavarman. Even then, he only won because game-leader Darius decided to pursue a faraway cultural victory instead of, you know, win the game. Then, in the Championship, Charlemagne won even less deservedly, as he spent most of the game in third or fourth place before runaway Kublai Khan did the exact same thing as Darius! That's right, both of Charlie's victories, including the Championship, weren't from actually playing the game well; they were from other, better AIs screwing up even worse! Needless to say, Charlemagne is one of the less popular leaders among the viewers these days. Yet to score a victory off of his own merit, Charlemagne is probably the best case of a leader having a far better Power Ranking than they actually deserve. The other AIs in this game have caught a huge break; instead of Justinian, Mansa, or Huayna Capac as their game's protected seed, they get this joker. Expect Charlemagne's outcome to fall closely in line with religious diplomacy, and to hear a chorus of satisfaction from the Livestream if that goes badly. Sullla thinks that this guy is a total fraud and doubts he'll be able to repeat his flukish Season Four result.

Washington of America
Traits: Charismatic, Expansive
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One and Three Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 47th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 0 kills

Personality: Washington has a pacifistic AI personality combined with traits that lend themselves towards combat, leaving him stuck in an ineffectual spot that has achieved basically nothing to date. He has the combination of Expansive and Charismatic leader traits, a setup that theoretically leads to highly promoted units and faster expansion through cheap workers and granaries. Unfortunately Washington's personality is designed to play a peaceful builder game, and these traits simply aren't as useful as what other economy-focused leaders get to play around with. Extra happiness and health in each city is OK and all that but they're nowhere near as good as being Financial or getting the free culture from Creative or the free civic swaps from Spiritual. Washington certainly isn't helped by hauling around the American civilization, with its incredibly late-arriving unique features and only decent starting techs. Washington the AI has a low aggression rating (4.3/10), a high peace weight, and won't declare war at "Pleased" relations. He doesn't make many demands and typically acts as a great neighbor aside from a penchant for espionage spending (7/10). However, Washington inexplicably has Military and Growth tech preferences, causing him to prioritize military techs that he won't use and ignore development-focused research. It's a bizarre tech prioritization system that badly undercuts his performance. When combined with mediocre traits and the weak American civilization, it's easy to understand why Washington has struggled in past seasons.

Past Performance: Washington has a record of failure in AI Survivor, much like the early stages of his real-life military career. Washington has repeatedly been eliminated without ever scoring a single kill or coming close to taking home a victory. His best showings were two appearances in the Wildcard game during Season One and Season Three, both times following sluggish "sit in the corner and do nothing" opening round games. Washington was eliminated in both of those Wildcard matches despite the generally low level of competition that prevails in them, as well as being eliminated in his opening round matches in Season Two and Season Four. Washington's Season Four appearance was typical of his past showings, with a decent early game but with no efforts to increase American territory by snowballing ahead through conquest, leading inevitably to being swallowed up by a rampaging Huayna Capac later on. Wahington favors a passive style of gameplay and his associated leader traits and civilization simply aren't strong enough to win via that route.

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

We were back to having a clear favorite once again for the first playoff game as Pacal captured well above half of the community votes. There was some modest support for Charlemagne and Saladin but it was apparent that most of the predictions were backing the Mayans in this game. The Runner Up race was its usual divided self, with Charlemagne and Saladin pulling the most votes without anyone dominating. The First to Die category was unusually bifurcated between two options, as almost half of the community picked Washington while the other half picked Alexander. Almost everyone seemed to believe that one of those two would be the first to kick the bucket. For the victory conditions, the popularity of Pacal meant that Spaceship had a heavy advantage over the other options. Cultural victory nearly had as many votes as a Domination ending.

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!

Cjah88: My choices rely on Charlie getting attacked by Alexander and a bit of a repeat of the opening awe inspiring Greek death match. If Charlie doesn't get metal, it should happen as long as Alex and Pacal don't go to war. Saladin will probably take out Louie or Washington. I almost picked Washington for second, but the guy plays a very incompetent early game. Yes, he has a great starting location, but I doubt he can repeat the performance from the Willem game. Anyway, with Alex and Saladin cleaning up the map, Pacal can work his magic and hopefully get to space, but if Alex takes out Pacal then Charlie probably gets the win with Saladin or Louie in second.

ZincAlloy: Pacal, I love you and all, but here's the situation. You're a pretty strong AI, but kinda suck in the early game. And Alex is right there. He's got a good capital, and if he gets that iron he's gonna get ya. And then who's going to stop him? Alex will crush Louis and Washington. All you have to do is research bronze working and connect your copper. Can you do that for me? Please? Also a very undeserving Charlemagne comes second because of course he does.

Duizhang_Lu: How the hell did these turkeys make it to the playoffs? I only consider Pacal as an actually competitive leader, and even then, just barely, what are these jokers doing in my playoff game? Anyhow, nobody has good access to metals, so I think economic civs have the leg up in this game, pointing to Pacal. Also, I think Pacal's probably on the better side of the peaceweight divide. Fingers cross BurgerKing bites the dust.

LinkMarioSamus: To me the win is between Saladin and Pacal. Since I called Saladin correctly in the first round and I'm a little wary of how poorly Pacal might fare in a war, especially with his position in the middle of the map, I'm going with Saladin. Washington strikes me as the leader who least deserves to be here and the weakest, plus his diplomatic situation is awful, and his closer peace weight to Charlemagne makes him more likely to pick up Charlemagne's religion which would draw the ire of Saladin in addition to the three northern civs who are already inclined to hate him. Saladin is in the best position to capitalize on Washington's demise afterwards and then he rides his position to victory afterwards, taking out Charlemagne and then anyone who so much as looks at him funny? I assume Pacal is Saladin's least likely target, as the leader in the match with the closest peace weight to him (other than Charlemagne who likely founds the rival religion), and after Khan let me down in the wildcard game I don't have much faith in Alexander to keep up his streak.

CaiusDrewart: I see Pacal as the strongest civ in a weak field. I don't have a lot of conviction about picking Saladin for second, but I could see him profiting off America's weakness and having a decent game. Despite a nice starting location, Washington has to be a pretty easy pick for FTD. His high peace weight is going to be disastrous for him. He's a less-than-stellar AI to begin with. For the rest of the leaders, I could see Alex attacking Charlemagne and probably making little progress, but potentially damaging both of their games. I don't think Louis is a great leader and he seems to have drawn the worst start of the bunch, so I'd be surprised if he's a big factor this game.

Sir Colville of the Dale: When I looked at the lineup, I thought Burger King had a real shot at pulling off this Impossible Whopper. Then he started next to Alex. Then I realized he could end up practicing a self-founded religion that no one else did. It was fun while it lasted. Saladin carries Louis to the championship.

JackDRB: Another game where its difficult to argue against the Financial leader. Pacal has some good riverside land, multiple early happiness resources, early copper etc etc. If he doesn't turn this into a dominant technological win I will be surprised. 2nd place is usually tricky but I'm going for Louis as the "least worst option". Charlie/Sally will be wrong side of religious divide (i.e. not with Pacal), Alex has no chance of replicating what he did last game, and Washington is a dead man walking with that sky-high peaceweight.

Bernn: More than any other game this season, I think the religious diplomacy will be incredibly pivotal here. Pacal, Charlemagne and Saladin all want to push their own religions, and all three have a solid shot at dominating the field if they form the right friendships within the remaining competitors. I hate to say it, but Charlemagne's start actually looks good to me - yeah, his initial techs don't help the seafood capital but he's got plenty of room to expand and stay out of trouble in the early stages of the game. Alexander will burn himself out in an early war that accomplishes nothing (he seems to be without copper so a Game Seven early snowball scenario won't happen here) and Washington probably won't do much, so coming out of the landgrab phase Charlemagne's large territory and weak neighbors will let him push to the finish. ...but that's a pretty unexciting choice, and I don't want to see the Burger King advance past this round, so I'll go wilder: I think Washington is going to surprise everyone and put those floodplains and gold to use. His neighbors will be caught up in religious infighting and stalemate wars, and by the time they notice what the Americans are up to he'll be an era ahead in tech and virtually untouchable. Washington hits Space with Pacal as the second, who becomes strong by absorbing Alexander.

bellarch: The big takeaway from the map: Alex has no copper. That means his early wars will be delayed . . . quite possibly until he has Construction or is near it, in which case he actually stands a chance of successful early-ish conquest rather than wasting his time bashing axes against Protective Archers behind city walls. Therefore I predict that Alex will actually take out Charlie (RIP Burger King, FTD), who is delayed by his seafood start and poor tech preferences and growth. Given that the rest of the field is largely passive, Alex continues his conquests and sweeps his way to a late-ish domination victory. This wouldn't be the case in many, many fields - but in this field, everyone . . . kinda sucks . . . so Alex has an opportunity. The only one who can stop him is Pacal and his superior teching, but I'll bet that Pacal will spend his time chasing the Electricity dream instead of researching Rifling, or pursuing Culture before getting Rifling, and so Pacal will die horribly. Louis survives to come in second as a low-peaceweight leader who is sufficiently far away from Alex's wrecking ball. This is probably an unlikely prediction, but it's better than any other narrative I can construct, and I'm not sure there's a more likely outcome here. The alternative is that Pacal techs his way to late Space or Culture on not much land while everyone else fails to do anything much of note, I guess.

BohemianSpoonyBard: This is gonna be IMO a wild religious fight between Pacal (usually picking Polytheism in my games) and Burgerking (usually picking Mysticism). Saladin would lose because he is working on dry corn so he has no bonus to early research but he would research monotheism and isolate himself from others. Of course everything can be different in real game but that is my experience. Of course I am again voting for Charlie for pure bias and I wish him good luck that he would use his charm and holy city of Prague, where religious problems are thrown out of window (literally :) ), wisely.

T K: I can imagine Pacal getting dogpiled here, but I don't like Alex's land and Louis is cursed with nearby stone. I find it just as likely that Pacal founds a religion and gains them as allies. Saladin & Burgermagne then get wrapped up in wars with Alex & Louis (as well as each other) while Washington pitifully competes with Pacal for a peaceable victory condition. Predicting Spaceship since Louis will eat the early wonders. Voting Charlememe for anything will only fuel his undeserved results, though I'm expecting Alex to suicide into him because that's how Charlie's luck goes.

haphazard1: Not really sure what to make of this bunch, so going with an unlikely pick. Washington gets off to a strong early start thanks to agriculture at his capital and that gold, while Charlemagne flounders early after Pacal and Saladin split the first two religions. The Burger King keeps chasing religion and has a horrific unimproved start long after his rivals, leading to him being first to die when Alex marches south. The protective trait will make it a long, bloody conquest and Alex will be hopelessly behind by the time it is over, becoming a non-factor. Louis gets caught up in the religious wars between Pacal and Saladin, and dies after spending too much time building wonders with his stone resource. Washington joins the religion wars after the other civs are exhausted and cleans up, winning by domination. Second? Who knows? I am going with Saladin but this one is up in the air.

Slashin': Whoa, we have a group of slow starters here. Louis is a bit of a slow starter and especially so when he gets bogged down in log wonderbuild queues in his capital. That said, his two neighbors are even slower than he is and neither can actually improve any of the resources in their capital at the start of the game as they chase for religions. Louis has a wet corn he can use at the start of the game to fuel his expansion, and a nearby copper in the south, so i believe he will come out on top of the landgrab while his low peace weight will keep him friendly with his neighbors. Alexander lacks copper while his neighbors are either protective or early metals, so no zara yaqob shenanigans here. He looks like a good candidate for first to die as a result.

luddite: I think one of two things will happen. Maybe Alex declares war on Pacal and steamrolls him, and becomes a juggernaut like he did in his previous game. Or maybe he leaves Pacal alone, in which case Pacal can tech his way to a win. So I picked Pacal both to win and first to die.

RefSteel: ...are we sure this isn't another wildcard game? I don't see anyone in this field to actually like, so I'm just going with the idea that Saladin is farthest from Alex, with two neighbors who look like dead weight even in comparison with the rest of this questionable field, with second place going to whoever the winner doesn't finish killing before hitting the domination limit. This will not be Alex of course; Alex will certainly wreck one or both neighbors' games with inconclusive wars, but only at the cost of also wrecking his own, and I'm guessing Pacal eventually ends up assimilating Greece after getting an early edge with holy city culture and actually having copper - unlike the rest of the west, as far as I can tell.

Wyatan: This game is so unpredictable that instead, I'll try and predict Sullla's picks : Pacal wins, Louis second, Washington first to die, turn 325 Spaceship victory, 10 wars.

smithy: Every great hero has his sidekick, his partner in crime; to watch his back in times of trouble, and provide comic relief whilst never seeking to steal the limelight. Just as Gilgamesh has Enkidu, and Batman has Robin: Please now join Playoff Round 1's sole competent leader - young Pacal II on his quest to find someone other than his mother to accompany him to victory this day. On the road he meets many strange fellows who offer him their credentials: First man up for this audition will be Alex - trying to sell himself as the upstart plucky underdog he unfortunately comes across only as doing a fairly creditable impersonation of Scrappy Doo - starting pointless fights and annoying the hell out of everyone. Pacal makes a mental note to ensure he is the first to be booted out of the mystery machine that is this years playoffs. Next up is Washington - a noble man who cuts a bold figure. Pacal is having none of this: Sean Bean always cuts a mighty bold figure at the start of the story, and everyone knows how that always ends... Perhaps Saladin could be his Mr Miyagi? A spiritual guide to help him on the path? Alas this is not to be, Saladin's hatred for anyone not of his creed strikes Pacal as more Voldemort than Merlin. Nonetheless this man is a danger to be wary of. Pacal is having nothing to do with Louis at all. He knows Louis covets all of his Wonders and is quite prepared to stab innocent Pacal in the back to get them. Louis is just a Grand Vizier in a silly wig. There is only one candidate left now - who will be his Dr Watson? His Subutai? The answer leaves him mortified: in his dreams of being a popular hero it could not be any worse - this man is the dirty loincloth to his Gandhi, the road to his Germany, this man... is the Burger King. Later on he comes to terms with this fateful turn of events - perhaps if he becomes champion the Mayan people might actually learn to fear his anger rather than just giggling a lot, and surely there is no way Charlie will pose any sort of threat in the Championship game?

Playoff Game One Picking Contest Entry Form