Civ4 AI Survivor Season 5: Playoff Game Three 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:

The third and final playoff game brought together a group of AI Survivor heavyweights for a no-holds-barred brawl on a sardine can of a map. Gandhi had the unfortunate luck to draw a central starting position in the middle of a group of low peace weight leaders, and he would need all of his cultural know-how to survive in this environment. Season Two champion Huayna Capac was also appearing once again after another dominant victory in his opening round game. He would be joined by fellow Financial leader Hannibal and low peace weight bruisers Mehmed and Peter in the Runner Up category. Peter in particular had done almost nothing in his opening round game and been carried into the playoffs by Alexander. Finally, Gilgamesh advanced to this playoff match through the Wildcard game and found himself competing once more with the Incans. Gilgamesh drew a rather absurd starting position and he'd have to hope that it would propel him from a tricky middle starting position.

Opening Round Winners

Gandhi of India
Traits: Spiritual, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 10
Past Finishes: 3 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two, Three, and Four Playoffs
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 17 points, tied 10th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 0 kills

Personality: Gandhi is without a doubt one of the most unique leaders in Civ4. For traits, he plays with the powerful Spiritual, and the terrible (for AI Survivor) Philosophical, an overall unremarkable pair that lands at about average, the most important point being that Gandhi gets several half-cost cultural buildings. He also has access to the above average Fast Worker and Mausoleum. Lastly, his starting techs are Mysticism and Mining, a generally weak pair useful for pursuing an early religion and not much else; like many religious leaders, Gandhi often takes a long time to improve his tiles and connect his resources. Gandhi is the leader least likely to declare war in the entire game, with an aggression rating of 0/10. He also has the lowest possible rating for building units (0/10) and demanding tribute (0/10), essentially making Gandhi a hyper pacifist who entirely neglects his military and prays it won't come back to bite him in the rear. Surprisingly, Gandhi is also quite unlikely to build wonders (2/10); he doesn't waste time with those either. Rather than units and wonders, Gandhi spends the entire game laser-focused on one thing: cultural buildings. Gandhi is a rare leader with only one flavour in Civ 4: CULTURE. He pursues religions like a man possessed and puts his production bonuses to extremely effective use. It's not uncommon to see Gandhi desperately fighting wars of survival whilst simultaneously building his third or fourth temple in each city. It usually doesn't end well. Gandhi is probably the most feast-or-famine type leader in AI Survivor. If he is not attacked by his neighbours, he can rush out a cultural victory like nobody's business, but if he is, he collapses faster than any other leader in the game. An early war declaration from a neighbour can often ruin any chance of a Gandhi victory on the spot.

Past Performance: Gandhi's all-or-nothing playstyle has been surprisingly effective, and Gandhi has won almost every opening round he's played in thus far. Season One showed the nothing side, as Gandhi rolled a hostile group of neighbours and was devoured early on, attacked by 4/5 of the other players. However, in Seasons Two, Three, and Four, Gandhi has rolled low-skilled, high peaceweight games; in other words, his perfect field. Gandhi won all of these games and it usually wasn't very close. He's even scored a couple of kills! Gandhi has struggled in the playoffs so far, always drawing aggressive fields and being savaged early on, being First to Die in three of his four losses. Gandhi's success thus far should likely be viewed skeptically, as his three wins have been against some of the weakest fields in AI Survivor history, and when he goes up against stronger competitors Gandhi has been thoroughly unable keep up. Pay particular attention to which other leaders are in Gandhi's games when predicting his performance; it's especially important for him.

Huayna Capac of the Incas
Traits: Financial, Industrious
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 5 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two Champion
Total Kills: 10
Overall Power Ranking: 35 points, tied 1st place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 2 kills

Personality: Huyna Capac is one of the strongest leaders in Civ4 and brings a frighteningly powerful total package to the competition. He has the always-excellent Financial trait and hasn't seemed to suffer overmuch despite having to pair it with the typically weak Industious trait. More importantly, Huayna Capac is the only leader who gets to take advantage of the overpowered Incan civilization, with the single best building in the game coming in the form of the "granary that also produces culture" Terrace. The unique unit Quechua is also surprisingly useful for AI Survivor purposes, as the AI leaders often struggle with barbarian archers and this unit allows Huayna Capac to roll over them without issue. Huyna is one of the rare AI leaders who joins together outstanding economic abilities with an aggressive streak, and that tends to be the most dangerous setup possible for these games. Huayna has a fairly high aggression rating (6.7/10), a low peace weight, and he's willing to plot war at "Pleased" relations. His weaknesses are an excessive love of wonder-building (8/10), although he's better able to afford this thanks to the Industrious trait, and a heavy emphasis on religion. On the rare occasions where Huayna falters, it's due to tieing up too many cities on wonders and getting stuck in destructive religious conflicts. More often than not though, Huayna Capac will found his own religion and use it to dominate the diplomacy while scoring every wonder on the map and running over a series of poor fools who can't keep up with his teching prowess.

Past Performance: There's a strong argument to be made that Huayna Capac has been the most consistent and overall best performing AI leader over the first four seasons. He has appeared in eight total matches thus far and won five of them, also scoring at least one victory in every season other than Season Three. Huayna Capac has shown the capability of winning in multiple different fashions, with Spaceship, Domination, and even a Cultural victory under his belt. He was also the overall winner of the whole competition in Season Two, and while it's true that this was somewhat of a flukish result, the victory was dramatic in the extreme and an impressive way of pulling out a win despite being far behind in land and technology. Huayna Capac has also scored an impressive ten kills to date and remains one of the most ruthless individuals in the competition. There's basically nothing that Huayna Capac has failed to accomplish at this point, smashing his rivals again and again with seeming ease. He will be a favorite to win in every single match in which he appears.

Opening Round Runner Up Leaders

Mehmed of the Ottomans
Traits: Expansive, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 3 points, tied 37th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 1 kill

Personality: Mehmed is a typical member from the group of militaristic AI leaders. He's not quite as crazy as some of his shared rivals in the Montezuma or Shaka mold, but he still acts predictably and starts a lot of trouble for his neighbors. Mehmed does have a pair of good economic traits in the Expansive/Organized combo, albeit both of them traits that the AI doesn't leverage particularly well. His Ottoman civilization also benefits from having excellent starting techs and decent unique features in the Janissary and Hamman. Mehmed's biggest problem is that he's too militaristic for his own good, endlessly picking wars and failing to leverage those economic traits to good effect. He has a maxed out preference for training units (10/10) and a high aggression rating (7.8/10) to go along with his low peace weight. And yet Mehmed also won't plot war at "Pleased" relations for some reason, often causing him to stack up units endlessly to no effect whatsoever. His research flavors are Military and an odd Culture, once again reinforcing how Mehmed tends to neglect economy in favor of more and more units. Mehmed has often been a popular pick from the community because he looks like he should be strong on paper, and yet he's let everyone down over and over again.

Past Performance: Mehmed has done a lot of fighting through the first four seasons but without translating those conflicts into a top two finish. He's often been a leading figure at various points in time before falling apart and collapsing in the later stages of the gameplay. Mehmed's experience in Season One was typical, as he conquered multiple rivals before getting chopped to bits by a more advanced Mansa Musa. He came close to taking second place in his Season Two match, and eliminated Bismarck in Season Three only to fall apart in a two front war afterwards. Mehmed does have the somewhat impressive feat of scoring three kills without manging a first or second place finish, tied with Napoleon for the most kills without ever sniffing the playoff round. This continues to feel like a leader who should be performing better and fails to do so through repeated self-sabotage.

Hannibal of Carthage
Traits: Financial, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three and Four Playoffs
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 2 kills

Personality: Hannibal has one of the better trait combinations and can be a highly dangerous contestant if he successfully balances his military and economic strengths. Hannibal has the always-useful Financial trait and combines it together with Charismatic, which can often come in handy given how the AI struggles to manage happiness in its cities. In the rare case where Hannibal manages to build Stonehenge, he'll be off and running against the rest of the field. Carthage as a civilization is notably weaker, with subpar starting techs for anything other than a coastal start and a horse archer unique unit that takes a strength hit compared to the base unit. Hannibal is a militaristic leader in terms of personality, with a fairly high aggression rating (7/10), low peace weight, and Military for his research flavor (paired together with a lesser Gold preference). His build unit rating isn't quite as high (6/10) and Hannibal is undercut to some degree by failing to plot war at "Pleased" relations. When Hannibal does well, he's able to conquer additional territory and then make it economically profitable through use of his Financial trait. However, he will also sometimes pick foolish conflicts and stall out his economy with too much warring in a way that even Financial cottage cheese can't rectify.

Past Performance: Hannibal underperformed during the first two seasons of AI Survivor before finding his footing in his more recent efforts. He was a popular pick to win his opening round match in both Seasons One and Two, then ended up disapponting the Carthaginian backers by suffering an early exit followed by a trip to the Wildcard game and another elimination in Season Two. Hannibal had his best showing in Season Three with a dominant victory in his first match against the pregame favorite Mao Zedong, but was unable to avoid a thorough beating at the hands of Caesar in the playoffs. Season Four featured a thoroughly confusing opening round match with both Hannibal and Hammurabi, which turned into a close second place finish behind a culturally-dominant Stalin. Hannibal then found himself in the "group of death" playoff match and wasn't able to advance through a field stacked with several of the top leaders in AI Survivor history. He's shown that he can compete with the best leaders at least some of the time, needing next to demonstrate more consistent results instead of flashes of potential.

Peter of Russia
Traits: Expansive, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
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: Peter the Great is an AI leader who seems to be pulling in six different directions at once, leaving a bit of a confusing mess as the result. Peter has two traits that lack any clear synergy, with Expansive theoretically being useful for growing outwards while Philosophical develops upwards. Neither of these traits is particularly strong in the hands of the AI and Peter ends up weaker in this setup as compared to when played by a skillful human. Fortunately the Russian civilization is a good choice to have available, with decent starting techs and a powerful unique unit in the form of the Cossack. As for the leader himself, Peter's AI personality is all over the place in terms of what it emphasizes. He has a higher than average unit training preference (6/10) but also an above average desire to build wonders (6/10) and spend on espionage (7/10). This is a leader who doesn't care too much about religion, for whatever that's worth. Peter would appear to be your standard militaristic AI, with a high aggression rating (8/10) and low peace weight and willingness to declare war at "Pleased" relations. However, Peter has tech preference that don't match a conquest gameplan at all, instead using Science and Growth flavors for his research. He also rarely if ever makes any demands of his neighbors: no tribute demands (2/10), no civics changes (1/10), no asking other AI leaders to convert religions (2/10). It's not particularly clear what goal Peter has in mind for any particular game and the AI often seems confused as well.

Past Performance: Peter's performance has been somewhere between mediocre and poor in past seasons of AI Survivor. He's frequently been a popular pick in the viewer contest only to disappoint his backers with aimless, lackluster showings. Peter appeared in the first ever game of AI Survivor and couldn't manage a result better than a third place finish followed by a near-elimination in the subsequent Wildcard game. Peter found his way back to the Wildcard game again in Season Two after another distant last place finish only to suffer the humiliation of being the first leader eliminated in an eleven-nation field. Ouch. Peter's best result was a second-place finish in the opening round of Season Three, although he was again nowhere close to first place as he trailed a long distance behind the winning Hannibal. He was killed in both his playoff round match and his Season Four opening round game, albeit with a much better performance in the latter game that topped the field for the first 200 turns. Thanks to his repeated Wildcard game appearances Peter has been in a lot of total games, seven matches in full. However, he's scored only the single second place finish and never come in first in those seven games. Along with his paltry two kills, Peter has a clear track record of mostly ineffective performances.

Wildcard Winner

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Traits: Creative, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Four Championship Game
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 2 kills

Personality: Gilgamesh is a highly aggressive warmonger who finds himself bizarrely paired with defensive leader traits and an economic civilization. His trait combination of Creative + Protective is an odd grouping with no clear direction in mind. Faster border pops joined together with extra defensive promotions - huh? I suppose they're using for Pink Dotting a neighbor with a forward city plant but that's about it. The Sumerian civilization is quite a bit better, with excellent starting techs and a useful building in the Ziggurat. The Vulture doesn't grade out much better than a standard axe and definitely serves as the weakest part of this civilization's package. Gilgamesh has a strangely high wonder building preference (8/10) and an above average interest in religion. He's also one of the most likely leaders to launch new wars (8/10 aggression rating) and he emphasizes military techs in his research. He also has Culture as his other flavor alongside that Military preference, so again, this is kind of a confused individual. Gilgamesh can't seem to decide if he wants to be a culture/wonder leader or a military leader and often struggles to reconcile these competing impulses. He can be quite successful sometimes when it all comes together but we've also seen a lot of helpless flailing in multiple directions at once.

Past Performance: Gilgamesh struggled for the first three years of AI Survivor before finally assembling a strong run to the Championship game in Season Four. Gilgamesh had a genuinely unfair starting position in Season One, the sort that we wouldn't use in our current setup, and he was predictably eliminated in that contest. He also had the bad luck to draw a field of exclusively high peace weight leaders in Season Two, and then found himself the victim of an Apostolic Palace mass war declaration in Season Three. But in his opening round match of Season Four Gilgamesh finished in a strong second place behind Darius, and then he had his best performance to date with a wire-to-wire stomping of his playoff opponents. Overaggression foiled Gilgamesh in the Season Four Championship but he's shown that he can put up a good showing when given a fair opportunity to compete.

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

Playoff Three was a game of heavy favorites on the part of the community. Huyana Capac was running away with the picking contest as more than 70% of the entrants backed him to return to the championship game. Gilgamesh and Mehmed had trace support while the rest of the field didn't even register on the graph. Runner Up was the only category with a notable split, and yet Gilgamesh still had a huge lead in this category over Mehmed and Hannibal as the next most popular picks. First to Die was the single most lopsided category in all of Season Five, with Gandhi as the overwhelmingly popular choice to make a rapid exit stage left. It was hard to doubt that logic given the way that this map had been set up. The popularity of Huayna Capac also meant that Spaceship was the preferred victory condition for this game.

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!

Mousey_Commander: Gandhi is dead

Cjah88: Gandhi is surrounded by sharks on all sides. First to die. Gilgamesh will tech to Longbows incredible fast and secure his land and position as second since The Ottomans are idiots and will fall to Hannibal eventually or even Gilgamesh. Tough to say who takes out the Ottomans, but they're not going to make it to the end. Inca to Space by the early 300s turn wise.

Amicalola: I think this is the perfect opportunity for a diplomatic victory! After the butchering of poor Gandhi, everyone will like each other, and so whoever has the most population seems fairly likely to win diplomatically. At least, more than the "crazy outcome" that it normally is. So I'm rooting for it mostly out of an interest to see something different. As far as who wins it, I think Mehmed might not lead in tech (so someone else will build the UN and be his opponent), but he WILL lead in population with that juicy backline, and hopefully everyone will like him more than whoever the tech leader is, probably Huayna or Hannibal.

eyser24: This game will likely depend on who most benefits after Gandhi's seemingly inevitable collapse, and I think any of these AI besides Peter has a good shot at that. Huayna seems to be the one that is most likely as he is the closest, so I am choosing him based on this as well as general competence. The main thing that worries me is that I know he will be the overwhelming favorite to win this, and the overwhelming favorite in this picking contest never wins! For second place Gilgamesh is starting to remind me of Kublai Khan. He just does not have the killer instinct to win (his wildcard game and war against Genghis was pretty poorly executed and he did not deserve the victory in that game), but he survives, can take out a rival consistently, and performs well enough to get second place. He also has a great start here and really should be able to take out a neighbor or two. I do not see Peter doing much of anything besides getting attacked by Gilgamesh. Mehmed could balloon if he is the one to take out Gandhi, and I think he has the mostly likely chance to do so after Huayna. Hannibal is a wildcard and I suspect he will probably not get wiped out, but not win. If he attacks either Mehmed or Gilgamesh early that would be interesting, as I see he has copper and I do not think the others have that. I think that is unlikely though and he will probably get third place.

ZincAlloy: Ghandi, Ghandi, Ghandi. What are you thinking, having a peace weight so high? It's twice all your opponents' weights combined! I have to say, I don't think you're long for this world. Huayna's probably the one to do Ghandi in, and that boost will help him out against Gilgamesh and his capital made out of solid gold. Well, that and Hannibal being super aggressive will slow Gilgamesh down. I think Mehmed comes second, as he's got a bit more space than everyone else. Honestly, this map is pretty cramped looking for everyone, but we've seen that Huayna can win a game without any real land at all.

rekenner: Huayna. Capac. Huayna. Capac. Huayna. Capac. Super. Hot.

Alhambram: Mehmed got strong triple farmable resources start, he start spamming settlers and starts in slightly bigger area to expand in. Then Mehmed gains most from Gandhi dogpile including his holy city and converts to Gandhi's religion. This put him in conflict with Huyana Capac and in ensuring war Mehmed takes all wonderfilled Incan cities. Then Peter who is close HC and got his religion too is next, ultimately Mehmed dislikes shared borders with Gilgamesh and crushes him to cross domination finish line.

Sleeping Dragon: Gandhi will make AI Survivor history by becoming the first AI to attempt to ragequit, after meeting all his neighbours and being Worst Enemy of Everyone by T27. He will be unable to quit, being a computer program, and from then on he will bombard the Observer civ with messages. Rather than messages asking to cancel deals or join the inevitable mass wars against him, instead he'll resort to comments such as: "Oh thanks for disabling the Apostolic Palace this season! I'm SO glad I don't have the ability to force people to make peace!" and "So Asoka gets two straight games where he can just build peacefully in a corner and the only war on him was declared by HATTIE of all people, and I get this crowd? FML!"

LinkMarioSamus: Time for Huayna Capac to show how things are done around here. Can we return to some semblance of normalcy please?

Eauxps I. Fourgott: It's as though this game was custom-made for Huayna to dominate. He's coming off a game where he dominated despite a horrible start, against four leaders who all underperformed in the opening round and didn't do as well as they should (Peter as the maybe-exception because Alex didn't leave a lot of room to move)... and Gandhi, who's like a mouse tossed in a pool of crocodiles. He will be snapped up very quickly, and it'll be Huayna's show from there. There's no way this could possibly go wrong, right? RIGHT?

Bernn: Let's get the immediate out of the way first: Gandhi is not going to survive this game. He pulled off a miraculous win in his opening match, but this field is a far harder ask and he's a natural FTD candidate because of it. But it's not going to be an early death, based on the scarce copper - this won't be a game where Gandhi gets rushed by axes and spears and folds early on. Everyone else is going to hate Gandhi's guts, but they'll need Iron Working and probably Construction to crack India. Thus, the leaders in the best shape this match are the ones who can develop and grow their economy well in the earlier stages of the game before growing strong militarily and winning prizes through conquest. I really want to pick Huayna Capac because that describes his game plan perfectly, but that coastal start is making me nervous. Hannibal's capital looks good to me and he can definitely play the economic game, but I think that copper nearby will do him more harm than good by encouraging early, unproductive wars. But Gilgamesh, crawling his way back from the Wildcard game, looks really good to me. Triple gold plus floodplains will get his economy off to a humming start, and Creative is always strong. I think the Sumerians will make it to the final again.

dankok8: Hard to go against Capac here. He's got nearby Iron and has Gandhi as a meat shield on one side. The latter will get absorbed by Mehmed or maybe Gilga but Capac will be a full era ahead of them in tech by then. Hannibal and Peter are kind of mediocre AI's that I don't see doing much especially as both don't have much land to expand to. Basically I'm fairly confident with Huayna winning then either Mehmed or Gilga finishing second. Leaning on Mehmed though because he has the most nice land to expand into before devouring Gandhi.

ThreeLeggedChicken: Gandhi gets Season 4 playoffs flashbacks when he is mass-declared by almost every living entity in the planet. Huayna and - early expansion beneficiary extraordinaire, thanks to his backfill in the west - Mehmed share the spoils, while Huayna's religious buddy Peter decides to backstab Gilgamesh instead, which inevitably drags down both leaders. From this point on, Huayna generally techs peacefully, while the combination of his own wonders and Indian holy cities proves enough to propel him to an early cultural victory. Mehmed keeps on declaring mildly successful wars to advance to the championship by sheer land area. In his private residence in Tiwanaku, where he is held confined, Gandhi is heard confessing to security guards "if there ever was a final field I could win, it would be that one. Hell, Washington and Charlemagne would protect me, and I am better than that pretender Asoka - where was he before Civ 4 as a leader?"

Slashin': Gandhi is the Nasus player who goes to the restroom pregame and comes back just when minions spawn, only to get ambushed by 5 Garens in the bush between towers. The one to get first blood snowballs the game from there. I've been burned for not picking Huayna before, and probably will be again for picking a Mehmed/Gilgamesh ticket. Will Huayna Capac likely win the game? Probably, its freaking Huayna Capac and his start is by no means bad. However, picking Huayna doesn't get me an edge in the playoff scoring contest and I have lost ground I need to cover in any hopes of getting in first. As a result, I'm going for the second most likely scenario. I'm picking Mehmed for first because his start is unprecedently fast, with THREE WET FOOD FARMING resources he can leverage right off the bat with his starting techs, with Gilgamesh being the natural runner up to Mehmed with farmable flood plains and those gold hills. Additionally, he starts with the wheel so his tech preferences wont screw with him as much like the other military leaders. Neither Gilgamesh nor Mehmed have easy access to copper, but this may be a blessing in disguise as one of the other leaders with copper wear themselves down first on gandhi's walls, while these two swoop for the kill with their massive infrastructure base later on on a weakened gandhi. It's very likely that Mehmed adopts Gandhi's religion, especially if he captures Gandhi's holy city, and this will put him at odds with Huayna Capac and co. once military struggles decay. Since he can't declare war at pleased, I think the win will be a spaceship victory, which also hedges on the scenario if huayna capac wins instead.

Brian Shanahan: I think Huayna's going to win this one. He won the first game from an unwinnable start so an average one shouldn't faze him. To do that he kills Gandhi and rides the two civ's worth of land to Alpha Centauri. I picked Gilgamesh second because of his three gold floodplain HOF start. With last weeks sixteen points, is this the turnaround that needs?

Playoff Game Three Picking Contest Entry Form