Civ4 AI Survivor Season 5: Championship Game 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:

For the Championship Game of Season Four, I asked if anyone was willing to create a custom map and Commodore volunteered to put one together. Commodore created a far superior version of a mirrored map as compared to the Donut one that I had used for the first three seasons of AI Survivor. This was true mirrored map with exactly identical terrain for all six leaders, looking very similar to the setups that we use at Realms Beyond for our Multiplayer games. This was one game where there would be no excuses about some AI leaders rolling better land than others. The pictures of the individual capitals will therefore all look identical to one another; here's the image of the central jungle region since it falls outside the starting positions:

Note that the terrain is again mirrored here, with the Calendar-based happiness resources in the center of the map located at the same distance from each capital city. Commodore did not run any rivers through the center of the continent and it could be some time before the AI leaders manage to tame the wilderness in there. Expect the northern and southern sides of the map to remain divided from one another during the early turns of the game. We're using the same mirrored map setup again for Season Five since it produced an entertaining and, uh, memorable game last time around.

Playoff One Winner

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 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish, 1 kill

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.

Playoff One Runner Up

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: 2 Second Place Finishes, 2 kills

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.

Playoff Two Winner

Asoka of India
Traits: Spiritual, Organized
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish:Season Two and Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 5 points, 32nd place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 2 First Place Finishes, 1 kill

Personality: Asoka plays with Spiritual and Organized for his traits, a decent pairing with strong economic benefit but of no use militarily. As an Indian leader, Asoka gets the above average Fast Worker and Mausoleum combo, and his starting techs are Mining and Mysticism, a pair good for chasing religions and not much else; Asoka can struggle with improving his land in the early game, though the Fast Worker at least helps him catch up. Asoka is a generally peaceful leader, but is less polarised than his counterpart Gandhi. He's got a pretty low aggression rating (3.7/10), unit build (2/10) and tribute demand (1/10) preferences, but a high wonder (8/10) build rate. With religion and science flavours, you can count on Asoka to consistently build up a strong economy as long as he's left alone. Asoka places a strong emphasis on faith, but unlike a lot of the other religious zealots, he's actually pretty easy to get along with, with a minor penalty for differing religion but a huge bonus for shared faith. In theory, Asoka should find it easy to make friends and he's unlikely to get involved in too many wars unless he finds himself in a particularly hostile world.

Past Performance: Asoka has given us a good depiction of a middle-tier economic leader. Weirdly, in his best game so far Asoka scored zero points, in a rare case where the power rankings were pretty unfair. This was Season One Game Eight, in which Asoka used the Apostolic Palace to full effect, throwing Hannibal under the bus and forcing peace after peace to delay his own demise. Asoka was within a whisker of an underdog cultural victory that game despite being short on land, and was beaten to the punch by Mao's diplomatic victory a mere five turns before he would have won. In the two following seasons, Asoka has drawn largely weak, peaceful fields, and proved himself proficient enough economically to at least draw second place both times, behind Big Brother Gandhi. Both seasons though, Asoka found himself in far more aggressive playoff games and collapsed to the aggression in rapid fashion, being first or second to die each game. Asoka's most recent appearance, opening Game Four of Season Four, played out similarly, as Asoka made himself a bunch of religious enemies and was quickly wiped out. Overall, Asoka's middling power ranking likely places him about where he should be, as when playing amongst a weak field he's certainly competent enough to advance, but like many of the other peaceful leaders his main weakness is an inability to stand up for himself in conflicts. In an unfriendly environment, Asoka is historically very unlikely to make it out alive.

Playoff Two Runner Up

Willem of the Dutch
Traits: Financial, Creative
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Four Championship Game
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 22nd place (out of 52 leaders)

Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish, 2 kills

Personality: Willem has one of the strongest economic setups in the game and he's been held back thus far only by his poorly-chosen set of research priorities. Willem has one of the best possible combinations of leader traits in the Financial + Creative pairing. Not only does Willem benefit from the free border pops and the Financial commerce bonus, there's even some basic synergy between the two in the form of cheap libraries. Willem's Dutch civilization is significantly less powerful, though it does have decent starting techs and can become strong if the Dikes ever show up in time to matter. As an AI leader Willem has middling scores in almost every category, lots of 4/10 and 5/10 ratings across the board. His aggression rating is about average at 6.7/10 and his peace weight also sits in the middle of the scale. Willem has a very low religious emphasis and he won't found his own faith very often despite his strong economic abilities. The single biggest weakness for Willem comes in the form of his tech preferences: he has Gold and Science flavors, which turn out to be one of the worst possible combinations for military tech. Willem has repeatedly refused to research Rifling technology to a ludicrous degree, in some games finishing Assembly Line and Flight (!) techs before picking up Rifling. This has led to his elimination at the hands of much less advanced civilizations as he needlessly fights with muskets against rifles. We have a general rule for Willem: if he makes it to Rifling tech then he wins the game; otherwise, he finds himself getting eliminated.

Past Performance: Willem has everything needed to be a strong leader for AI Survivor purposes and it was perplexing why his performance was so bad during the first few seasons. He successfully combines together great economic traits with a low peace weight and willingness to declare war at "Pleased" relations - this guy should be the second coming of Huayna Capac! Instead, he suffered early eliminations again and again during the first few seasons. Some of this was bad luck, as he drew a tough field of opponents in Season One and then a starting position crammed between Hannibal and Tokugawa in Season Two. Still, there's no avoiding the fact that Willem was underperforming his fundamentals, and when he was eliminated again in the opening round of Season Three, everyone was ready to write him off as a failure. This narrative flipped around in Season Four, however, with Willem finally living up to his potential by taking second place in the opening round (a game where he finished with the highest score) followed by a Cultural victory in the playoffs. He was on track to win the outright title in the Season Four Championship before a stubborn refusal to research Rifling tech doomed his efforts. It's clear by now that Willem is a serious threat to win any game in which he appears if he actually bothers to research military techs. It's his constant Achilles Heel and it will dictate how far he makes it in any match.

Playoff Three 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: 2 First Place Finishes, 4 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.

Playoff Three Runner Up

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: 2 Second Place Finishes, 2 kills

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.

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

The Championship game had a clear favorite from the community in the form of Willem. Perhaps given the general feeling that this was an underwhelming group of champions, the picking contest came out strongly for the Dutch leader along with a lesser preference for Gilgamesh. Charlemagne was the most popular pick for Runner Up given how many second place finishes he had on his record but as usual this was the category where it was hardest to make a selection. There was an even split between Asoka and Washington as most likely to be First to Die with Mehmed trailing in third place. Hardly anyone seemed to think that Charlemagne, Gilgamesh, or Willem would be the first one out of the match. We also saw a strong preference for Spaceship as the victory condition which likely was a smart choice given how many peaceful leaders were in this bunch.

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!

ZincAlloy: Following the patterns from the rest of this season, it becomes clear that the outcome for the championships will be the worst resolution possible. And that's Charlemagne first, Washington second. Neither of them deserve it, nobody wants it, but that's what we're getting. Willem and Gilgamesh will spend the match in a mutually destructive war, leaving the game wide open for Asoka to throw away so that Charlemagne can get the win. Sigh.

hasuprotoss: Somehow Washington pulls it out of the hat. I don't know how. I don't know why. It's 2020, let's get weird.

Ethan: The map's symmetry makes it hard for any one leader to get an edge on another r. Willem should be the fastest techer; last year on this map he made it the Industrial Age before falling victim to warmonger Kublai after not researching rifling. Kublai is a better warmonger than any of the other leaders in this game, so I don't see anyone stopping Willem in Willem's slow road to space. The most likely scenario in my mind is a series of 1v1s that get stalemated until the advent of artillery. Charlemagne should be the best expander, so his territory will give him an edge over the other non-financial leaders in the battle for second. Mehmed is the most likely to declare a dumb war and I have him as being a (relatively late-game) First to Die. Of course I'll probably get every single leader wrong and nail the victory date, number of wars, and victory condition, just like Playoff Game 2.

SpamBot: Asoka to win. The only one in this game aggresive enough to put him in into the ground is Gilgamesh, and I have a feeling that Charlemagne will take care of him. This along with Washington securing his flank means that Asoka is likely to get away with doing what he does best.

Bobchillingworth: I think this will ultimately turn out to be a fairly peaceful game. Mehmed is an imbecile and will get himself eliminated after declaring too many fruitless wars, and Gilgamesh and Wilhem could well end up dueling each other over Creative-induced border overlap. I actually particularly like Charlie and Washington here; they're boring, forgettable leaders, but both are excellent at expanding and competent at economic development. I'd favor Wilhem, but I'm not sure anyone will be inclined to let him tech away in peace.

Max: Two Good leaders, two Evil leaders, and two Neutral leaders in this game - what a variety! It's likely that Washington / Asoka will be fighting Gilgamesh / Mehmed this game, but also, the Washington / Asoka axis is easier to break due to religious differences, whereas Gilgamesh / Mehmed will likely get mutual military struggle and stay buddies. However, whilst this is going on, Willem will tech in safety, and Charlemagne will out-settle the rest of the pack. Looking forward to see this one play out!

Eauxps I. Fourgott: After the undeserving and underwhelming Mehmed dies first due to being sandwiched between high peaceweight leaders, Gilgamesh dies due to diplomatic isolation, and Asoka is eventually overwhelmed due to being the lone heathen outside of a religious bloc, the remaining leaders will mostly be friendly with each other. The picking contest's favorite of Willem will take advantage of this to build up to a clearly winning position with his economy, and be poised to win a Space Race victory with his economic edge, only to continue the Championship tradition of having the win sniped away by a leader with a weaker empire. The method by which this win is sniped? A victory condition that has never before appeared in the championship. Diplomatic. The actual winner? The most out-of-nowhere champion that AI Survivor will ever have, a man who had zero power points prior to this season. Washington. The leader who casts the winning vote in the UN? One whose impact has previously been felt on the championship, the student of Wang Kon, the great bane of the picking contest. Charlemagne.

dreamyeyed: If there ever was a game where picking "none" for First to Die made any sense, it would be this one. Identical starts means there will be no easy targets and the leaders are also so peaceful that they may not want to fight anyway. But I still think that there will be a few short and useless wars followed by several sloooooooooow conquests. This is all good news for Willem who can finally safely ignore Rifling without any consequences. He has been given another chance to defeat Charlemagne in the championship and I'm sure he'll do better this time without any warmongers around.

Queenest Cassiest: I believe in Washington. He's going to hide quietly tiding away, while Gilgamesh and Mehmed duke it out, and Asoka and Willem clash. Charlamagne will also do this, but because he sucks more Washington will win Spaceship by default. Or he'll die. But I believe.

Duizhang_Lu: This championship is a hippiefest, and not even of the interesting ones. Well, considering the low likelihood of Wilhelm dying to a warmonger who calls his disinterest in defending himself, I bet he'll tech himself to space in peace.

JackDRB: These are our championship contenders? Really? This is roughly as weak, maybe even weaker than last seasons championship! Thankfully the pool of leaders we have will be pretty interesting blend in the context of this game. For the winner, I'm going with Willem, since he has the clearest and most defined route to victory, and is, in my opinion, the strongest peaceful leader of the bunch here. Gilgamesh (well, Mehmed too, but I think he'll struggle a la Stalin last year with his chronic lack of culture) may throw a wrench in my plan, but I'm just gonna cross my fingers and conviently ignore Willem's incompetence, and hope he blasts off into space with a scientific tour-de-force. He also, as a small bonus, has two starting worker techs that directly improve the land (aside from Washington), all others are saddled with either The Wheel or Mysticism. Second place has to be Charlemagne. I have no idea how he will achieve this, I have no idea what other leaders actions will contribute to this happening, but he has finished well too many times to snub him once again, despite what personal feelings may dictate. He really is the rat, or cockroach, of AI survivor. Noone really wants to see him, and yet he still hangs around time and time again. First to die is Washington, maybe? I think he's the weakest in a weak bunch, which is no mean feat.

luddite: No real read on this game, I just believe in the power of financial (Willem)

SaucerCrab: This is half rooting for him and half legitimately believing with him having a corner spot and Asuka next to him that Washington can pull off "quietly build up without getting anyone mad and then running over people" again.


dankok8: High PW Asoka and Washington will get ganged up on and die. Willem will get some of the spoils and survive and he's by far the best leader in this game economically. Charlie and Mehmed don't declare at Pleased so the only one who can really threaten him is Gilga. And I think it's likely that Charlie will spread his religion to both Willem and Gilga because all of them are below the jungle belt. I think there will be a period of relative isolation early on between north and south.

Slashin': I’m picking King Ashoka and Charlemagne as they are some of my personal favorites and a high peaceweight champion would be a nice of pace, unlikely as it may be. Perhaps Asoka founds a religion and spreads it to Mehmed, while Charlemagne grabs the other one and does what he does best: wait for others to implode and become the runner up. Or perhaps Charlemagne wins the whole thing and we no longer have any more ai survivors from Sullla. In any case, what an odd array of leaders in the final round, to serve as a testament to this unpredictable yet interesting year!

eyser24: I am choosing Willem to win this. In the opening round game, I totally wrote him off and completely underestimated him. His dominant victory really surprised me and made me realize he was a serious player. In the playoff game, the fact that he was able to recover even after losing his capital was insanely impressive, and something we rarely see. I started out this season thinking Willem was incompetent. In this game I not only think he is the best choice, but I am really rooting for him to redeem himself from last season. For second place it was a tough choice between Gilgamesh and Charlemagne. Gilgamesh needs to make headway in a conquest to be strong, and I think in every game so far this season his attempts at conquest have been quite poor. He could not take out Lincoln in the opening round, and his attacks on Genghis and Hannibal were slow and ineffective, and these were AIs that were way weaker than him! He is a good AI but just not effective enough at war even with a significant advantage. Charlemagne is really good at surviving, taking out a neighbor or two, and becoming strong. He is not the best or flashiest AI, but I think he belongs in pool two for sure and will once again prove his general competence this game. As for the others, I could see Mehmed taking out a neighbor and ballooning, but I think its more likely he will do nothing. Washington will expand well and tech slower than Willem, and be wiped out by Charlemagne or Gilgamesh. The same fate awaits Asoka. Lastly, I want to thank you for holding another season, and for all the work you do to set this up. These games are just so much fun and I love watching and reading your write-ups, and this was the first year I got to watch every game live and do the contest which made games even more exciting. Thanks again for such a great season!

Season Five Championship Picking Contest Entry Form