Civ4 AI Survivor Season 5: 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:

Game Three looked to be a story of two different paths to victory, each symbolized in turn by the two seeded leaders drawn into this game. The peaceful approach to victory was embodied by Gandhi, the Pool 2 leader known for his extremely pacifistic gameplay style. Gandhi is one of the most likely leaders to win a Cultural victory in Civ4, but he has to survive long enough to get there and that often tends to be a problem. He was joined on the high end of the peace weight scale by three other peaceful builders: Elizabeth, Frederick, and Hammurabi. All of these leaders would prefer to see a world of harmonious coexistence where they could build their wonders and develop their cottages without being disturbed. The other path to victory was symbolized by the Pool 1 leader drawn into this game, Julius Caesar. His wins always seemed to be militaristic in nature, Roman armies backed by the might of the Praetorian unique unit, and Caesar looked to feast on his peaceful opponents along with the similarly-inclined Suleiman. Will the goodly leaders be smart enough to work together against the threat posed by the aggressive leaders in the southwest?

Pool One Leader

Julius Caesar of the Romans
Traits: Imperialistic, Organized
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Championship Game
Total Kills: 11
Overall Power Ranking: 31 points, tied 4th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Caesar gets access to the Imperialistic and Organized traits, the former being top-tier and the latter being below average. Imperialistic is so strong that it makes this pair powerful, however, as more land = more everything in AI Survivor. His unique items are the busted Praetorian unique unit, as well as the significantly less useful Forum, again the praetorian being so good that this pair is still well above average. Lastly, Caesar has the Fishing and Mining starting techs, a generally weak pair that becomes significantly stronger with seafood at the capital, as with all fishing starts. Caesar, more than most leaders, depends on having the right starting resources, as seafood, iron, and metal luxuries all greatly speed up his snowball, as in his dominant opening game of Season Four. And make no mistake, Caesar’s game plan is to snowball. With an above average aggression rating (7.6/10), unit preference (6/10) and military/production flavours, Caesar is far more likely than not to start an early war, and with a neutral peaceweight (4), all opponents are fair game for an attack. However, in early wars Caesar has a serious ace up his sleeve: praetorians. These guys are so strong that they almost break the game, often barging their way through city walls like no other unit can. Caesar depends heavily on an extremely successful landgrab using Imperialistic, an early conquest using praetorians, or both. From there, Caesar’s gameplay looks similar to many other militaristic AI’s, using his extra land to out-produce everyone else. If Caesar is unable to get his snowball rolling, his poor economic traits and aggressive personality usually mean he will fall behind and get himself killed, making him another feast-or-famine type leader.

Past Performance: Caesar has achieved a high level of success thus far in AI Survivor. In Season One, he successfully managed to murder De Gaulle, but instead of pausing for breath, immediately declared war on a stronger and more advanced Pericles. He did not make it out alive. This was the first of a series of displays of Caesar’s biggest weakness: he is bad at building an economy. Like, really bad. In Season Two, Caesar was able to come out on top of an extremely close game, before floundering in the playoffs in an unremarkable performance. Season Three was Caesar’s big year, as he won an opening “game of death” and displayed his ideal game, using praetorians to outmuscle Pericles early in the game (vengeance for Season One?), fighting a series of wars to annex Ethiopia, and preventing Elizabeth’s cultural win in an extremely climactic showdown. He was also able to win his playoff game in similar snowball fashion, before finally placing third in the championship. In Season Four, Caesar was able to repeat the magic in his opening game, but performed miserably in his playoff game, stuck in a jungle heavy start and eliminated by Charlemagne. Overall, Caesar is another leader likely to either win a game or perform miserably, with a second-place finish yet to occur. Thus far, with four victories and 11 kills to his name, Caesar has been one of the leaders most likely to feast rather than starve.

Pool Two Leader

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)

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.

Unseeded Leaders

Elizabeth of England
Traits: Financial, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 9
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Championship Game
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 6 points, tied 29th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Elizabeth is an easy AI personality to understand, a pacifistic economic leader who will always seek out some kind of non-military victory condition. Elizabeth has one of the best trait combinations for teching in the Financial/Philosophical pairing, and while it's true that there's some anti-synergy there between running cottages and running specialists, there's little doubt that this setup will output a lot of beakers. If Elizabeth ends up getting a solid portion of the map under her control, she's one of the toughest leaders in the game to stop. She ranks no better than a mediocre leader for AI Survivor purposes precisely because this happens so rarely; Elizabeth has an exceedingly low aggression rating (1.9/10) and a low build unit preference (2/10). Surprisingly, she will indeed plot war at "Pleased" relations, but in most game you're more likely to see someone else invading England as Elizabeth frantically researches everything except the military technology which would save her. Elizabeth's Gold and Culture research preferences often cause her to ignore the Redcoats that she desperately needs for safety. In summary, Elizabeth performs far better in games with other high peace weight leaders where she's left alone to build in peace. She's a better version of Frederick and a weaker version of Mansa Musa.

Past Performance: Elizabeth had her most successful outing in the first season of AI Survivor, where she took two second place finishes and made it all the way to the Season One Championship before being eliminated. Her opening round performance was especially strong that year, narrowly losing to Pericles in the United Nations shortly before taking a victory via Spaceship or Culture. She was also the score leader when Mansa Musa won by Culture in her playoff game, reflecting another excellent showing. Elizabeth has hit a rough patch since then, however, eliminated in the opening round of Seasons Two, Three, and Four. Her loss was particularly cruel in Season Three, as Elizabeth was drawn into the "group of death" match and she was less than ten turns away from a Cultural win when Caesar captured one of her three Legendary cities. The Romans kept right on marching until they conquered Elizabeth completely, handing her a defeat which did not reflect how strong her performance had been. This is another leader who can be dangerous if she draws the right neighbors, or alternately wind up as a helpless victim if surrounded by low peace weight aggressors.

Frederick of Germany
Traits: Philosophical, Organized
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 47th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

Personality: Frederick is another peaceful AI leader, albeit one lacking most of the tools necessary to be effective. His trait pairing of Philosophical and Organized comes off as underwhelming for a builder game, lacking Financial or Expansive or Creative or even the likes of Spiritual. There's nothing here to help Frederick to get off to a fast start and also nothing to allow him to max out at a higher economic tier after the expansion portion of the game has finished. All of Germany's unique stuff comes far too late in the game to matter and the German starting tech pairing of Hunting + Mining is only mediocre. Frederick's AI ratings are generally average across the board, with scores of 4/10 in seemingly every category. He has a high peace weight, he doesn't train a lot of units (2/10), and he doesn't start many wars (4/10 aggression rating). Frederick is probably most notable for having only one research flavor, Production, a choice which hasn't fared particularly well in practice. He's generally a pretty boring AI overall, trying to pull off one of those pacifistic "sit in the corner and tech to a victory" strategies but without the traits or civ choice to pull it off.

Past Performance: Frederick is one of the unfortunate half dozen leaders to remain completely locked out of the scoring after four seasons of competition. His best showing was in Season One where he managed to draw a game full of other high peace weight leaders and survived to reach the Wildcard game. Frederick didn't do anything particularly impressive in that game, mind you, and he was decisively outbuilt by Pericles and Elizabeth when it came down to a purely peaceful competition. However, this was far better than the other three seasons of AI Survivor that followed, as Frederick was eliminated in game after game, claiming the dubious First to Die distinction on multiple occasions. In his defense, Frederick has drawn a brutal set of low peace weight neighbors on multiple occasions, but he's also never shown any signs of contending for a victory even in the game where he had a friendlier starting environment. Eternally saddled with the weak German civilization, Frederick shows every sign of being one of the weakest AI leaders in the competition.

Hammurabi of Babylon
Traits: Aggressive, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 3 points, tied 37th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Hammurabi is another leader who has traits pulling him in multiple different directions. His profile includes the ill-fitting Aggressive trait paired together with a setup that otherwise leans heavily in the peaceful builder direction with Organized. This Aggressive trait is largely wasted on a leader who loves to build wonders (8/10), features a defensive archer unique unit in the Bowman, and has only one research flavor: Culture. Hammurabi will obsess over anything associated with cultural output and stands a good chance of founding an early religion despite not starting with Mysticism tech. His own Agriculture/Wheel starting techs are excellent and that's one of the best things that he has going for him. Generally speaking though, Hammurabi ends up having a wasted leader trait as he sits in a corner of the map trying to develop his culture. He has a high peace weight, a low aggression rating (5.5), and won't plot war at "Pleased" relations. Unless Hammurabi gets involved in a religious dispute, he tends to be somewhat of an inert AI leader. Not one of the more interesting AI personalities in the competition.

Past Performance: Hammurabi has achieved little to date in past seasons of AI Survivor. He was First to Die in his initial match in Season One after starting in the middle of the map and running afoul of Kublai Khan. A peaceful field in Season Two led to an appearance in the Wildcard game but nothing else of particular note. Hammurabi's most successful appearance took place in Season Three where he found himself in another high peace weight group of leaders and took a distant second place finish behind Mansa Musa before getting steamrolled in his playoff match. Season Four saw another quick elimination in a game where Hammurabi was never one of the leaders. All indications are that Hammurabi is a third or fourth tier leader for AI Survivor purposes, an unlikely candidate to emerge as a top contender unless conditions line up just right.

Suleiman of the Ottomans
Traits: Imperialistic, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Championship Game
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 22nd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Suleiman is a fairly standard militaristic AI leader tied to a good civilization and a bizarre pairing of traits. This might be the least synergistic pairing of traits in Civ4, with Imperialistic favoring rapid expansion across the map while Philosophical works at cross-purposes through the running of specialists. At least Suleiman does get to take advantage of Imperialistic, a consistently successful trait for AI Survivor purposes. He also benefits from the Ottoman civ, which features excellent starting techs and two useful (if not overpowered) unique features in the Janissary and Hamman. Suleiman's AI personality emphasizes military aspects but not to an overwhelming degree. He has a high aggression rating (7/10) and does like to train units (6/10). On the other hand, his peace weight is in the middle of the scale, he doesn't make a lot of demands against other leaders, and he won't declare war at "Pleased" relations. Suleiman surprisingly doesn't care much about religion at all, although he has decent odds to found a later religion because his tech flavors are Culture and Military. His setup is a mixed bag overall, with conflicting leader traits and several different points of emphasis in Suleiman's personality. The various parts can occasionally come together into a larger whole but not on a consistent basis.

Past Performance: Suleiman had by far his best outing in Season One when he made it all the way to the championship game. This was a lucky turn of events since Suleiman was a distant runner-up in both his opening round game (behind Huayna Capac) and his playoff game (trailing Zara). He was the First to Die in the Season One Championship and we speculated at the time that Suleiman might have been fortunate to make it that far. Subsequent seasons have proven that to be true with Suleiman failing to advance back to the playoffs again. He was eliminated in the opening round of both Season Two and Season Four, while in Season Three Suleiman survived long enough to make the Wildcard game. He came within a whisker of taking second place in that matchup before falling just short on the scoreboard to Pacal. Suleiman also did manage to pick up two kills in those seasons despite not advancing, a sign that he was at least somewhat competitive in those matches. Overall Suleiman is a decent AI that falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, just not an individual likely to appear again in the championship round.

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

As expected, nearly all of the predictions fell into one of two camps. A majority of the contest entrants were backing Julius Caesar to win a Domination victory by conquering the rest of the field. A smaller but still substantial number of submissions were expecting a peaceful outcome to the game, and that meant backing Gandhi for either a Cultural or Spaceship ending. None of the other leaders were able to pick up more than trace support for a victory and at the time of posting there wasn't a single entry choosing Hammurabi. For once there was a clear favorite in the second place category, with Suleiman as the natural choice to pair with a Caesar victory, and Frederick was the overwhelming choice to be the First to Die. Even the games that anticipated Gandhi pulled out the win still figured that the German leader wouldn't be making it to the ending date. Finally, the presence of Gandhi meant that there were a significant number of contest entries picking a Cultural victory, although Domination remained the most popular option thanks to so many people backing Caesar. This game was going to tip in one of two directions and it wasn't clear which way that would be.

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!

Duizhang_Lu: Oh man, this is a game that could go down many paths. I think there's a 40/40 chance that either Gandhi or Liz wins. If Gandhi wins, it's definitely cultural, but if Liz wins, it could be either or. And of course, I think Caesar has a dark horse chance of victory. The Romans are surrounded by other civs predisposed to hate them, and even though the sheer weight of numbers will likely drag them down, I think the Romans may have a (slight) shot due to the sheer incompetence of their enemies at war. If the romans die, the ottomans are sure to follow them and the game is a lovefest from then on out.

MirrorG: Well, after the unmitigated disaster that was my picks last round, how about we try a bit of a safer bet this game? Rome is guaranteed the resources it needs to start up its reign of terror, and has the Ottomans as a potential buffer / ally between them and the bloc of high peace weights, meaning Rome can just focus on dominating its end of the board and then snowballing over the rest. As such, I think they'll go for Frederick first and then just arc their way across the map from there, needing to go the long way around to stop Gandhi as his culture poses a 'time limit' to Rome's domination.

Fjord: Elizabeth is due a win. She can hopefully pick up a northern block of same religion without getting entangled in what will almost certainly be struggle between Sulieman and Ghandi. Frederick is simply Julius Ceasar's nearest viable target and his start position looks weak.

eyser24: No one can compete against Caesar militarily, and he proved last season he can tech and maintain a great economy too by having what was one of the best AI performances in any season. He has what he needs at his start to be a powerhouse. I don't see him getting wiped out unless he falls multiple tech eras behind, meaning he should survive to either get first or second. Tough choice between Gandhi and Elizabeth for second, as Elizabeth has a better start resource wise but is closer to Caesar, and I have underestimated Gandhi and overestimated Elizabeth in the past. All the other AIs I feel are basically dead men walking, especially the disaster known as Frederick.

dreamyeyed: Gandhi gets the first religion and hopefully uses it to make friends. Caesar attacks and conquers Frederick early while Suleiman does the same to Hammurabi. Suleiman eventually wins by capturing Gandhi's wonders.

RonJenzy: Games with binary outcomes part 3: Stardust Praetorians. Does Caesar hold back his bloodlust until he's in a good position to run over these high peace weight fools? Then he wins because Praets are broken. If he doesn't hold back? He cripples himself and Gandhi wins by virtue of being left alone. Sillyman actually has a decent chance in this game if Caesar messes up, but he's weaker overall so he might actually just get his butt kicked by some hippies. Personally, I think this field is just weak enough for Gandhi, and Hammurabi takes 2nd by virtue of being the farthest away from any potential conflict. Frederick dies first in any case by virtue of being next to Caesar.

ZincAlloy: Look at that Caesar start. The legionnaires feast on wet corn tonight! Fredrick is so very, very dead. So are the other high peace weights, but they get to stick around a little bit longer. Suleiman second based solely on peace weight. Gandhi has a chance if Suleiman is a total idiot and Caesar comes for him last, but I'm not going to bet on that. Still, there is a world where Gandhi hides behind the three good-aligned meatshields to reach tech supremacy.

ThreeLeggedChicken: That's an interesting one, in that it is reminiscent of Caesar's season 3 game - getting a good start with an culturally-inclined enemy in the other side of the continent, thus reducing the game in whether he will be able to reach them in time to capture them. In fact, the wildcard of the game is Suleiman; if he manages to hold on his own and avoid getting involved in a multi-fronted war against the Eastern civs, he projects to be Caesar's ally in his conquest of the globe. If he doesn't (and this is my prediction), Gandhi will run away with this game, while Lizzie will fight Caesar's quantity to an extended draw. Frederick will, in any case, be overrun by Praetorians, which is still more compelling of a storyline than Hammurabi's one for this game.

Ethan: After tying Willem and Washington's shoelaces together, ensuring that his two worst enemies would fight in a different arena, prepper Julius Caesar landed on Pangaea and quickly made his way to his cache. He'd stashed away some iron, horses, wet corn, and other assorted goods in a spot just south of where Frederick would be pre-building infrastructure for him. With the help of his trusty ally Suleiman - dogpiler extraordinaire - Caesar was able to pick off all of the peaceful leaders one at a time. Caesar didn't need to take AP History to figure out that the Apostolic Palace was history, and the cowardly AI strategy of stopping wars by decree posed no obstacle to his inevitable conquest.

Slashin': Corner Gandhi given a lot of space to expand with two easy to tech into food sources and a conga line of peaceniks along the north that will be distracting the mighty Roman legions. We've seen this setup before and Gandhi always comes out on top when hes given breathing room to build every cultural buildings before being impenetrable once he stumbles onto rifling. Julius's bid for world domination are tempered by a low food non coastal start that slow down his praetorian legions, but they secure him a moderate amount of territory before deserting to get selfies with their favorite bollywood actors.

KaiserRek: Some German parsley, Babylonian sun-dried tomatoes, Indian curry, and British thyme all make for good seasonings on Caesar's salad.

Amicalola: I think Elizabeth gets a very early spaceship victory here. Suleiman is almost guaranteed to attack Gandhi, but unfortunately no one else is, so I think Gandhi might stalemate it and wreck both their games. Meanwhile I think JC has a better chance of fully killing Frederick, but his economy is going to stall out so badly against Elizabeth who'll be at peace long term that he won't advance further, and might even suicide into her lategame, maces vs infantry style. Lastly, Hammurabi gets second because he'll stay out of the way and tech/wonder in peace all game, while everyone else either wrecks their economies (JC, Suleiman, Gandhi), dies (Frederick) or wins (Elizabeth). It won't be a strong performance, but everyone else will be worse. I think the most likely thing to wreck my prediction is if one of the high-peaceweight leaders intervenes in the Gandhi v. Suleiman wars, but because they all have low aggression ratings I'm counting against that. Please be too peaceful for your own good, Lizzie and Hammer.

RefSteel: With Julius in the game along with fast-expanding Suleiman, it looks like a case where the four high-peaceweight AIs will either stand united or get divided (over religious differences or just through bystander syndrome) and conquered. I really want to believe that Elizabeth can ride her Financial floodplains to victory, with Gandhi in her train, but I'm hedging my bets on Frederick because Caesar seems predestined to Praet him to death while he's still only built four cities, each stuck on a different Wonder he'll never complete. If logic says he'll roll right on across the top of the map from there with help from Sulei while the peaceful AIs wring their hands, that won't prevent me from suiting my picks to my unlikely hopes.

Agni Neres: Gandhi either wins or dies; the question is whether Frederick dies first. I'm going with Gandhi FTD due to (1) certain religion difference and (2) no iron (the iron in the screenshot is much closer to Suleiman). The south has much better food supply than the north, so all three southerners should grab more land in the early game. All three of Gandhi, Hammurabi, Suleiman are capable of Cultural victory, so we go with that. Number of wars low due to many peaceful players in the game.

Isidora: One thing is sure: somebody will kill Frederick

By the way, I had to highlight these dueling predictions from this Civilization-enjoying couple!

Anih: I will try to beat my boyfriend Takuan, by betting on the starting positions that appeared the strongest to me : Gandhi's (first place) and Caesar's (second place). I don't think Gandhi could win by Culture due to his lack of Marble and Stone resources, and he's unlikely to win by Domination. So spaceship it is. I think Elizabeth will attack Hammurabi due to close borders struggles, whereas JC will attack Suleiman for the same reasons. My reasoning doesn't make sense since if i'm right, then JC would be in an ideal situation to win the game instead of Gandhi, by Domination. But i've been irrationnal during the Season 4 contest and beat my BF so i'll keep it up.

Takuan: I wanna win against my girlfriend Anih, so despite kind of agreeing with her choice, i'm going to bet on a different horse. I'll go with JC winning by Domination. Gandhi has a great territory to expand and peacefully tech to Culture, but hopefully he'll be stalled by Suleiman attacking him. On the other side of the map, Caesar will snowball out of the worst AI of the game (aka Frederick) thanks to his Praetorians (made it easier with the eary access to Iron in his capital). Just switch Hammurabi and Freddy's positions, and i'd say JC struggles enough against Hammy to allow Gandhi to just out tech and win. But in that setup, i think JC will run away with the game. Suleiman in second place, by virtue of being JC's best buddy and thus being spared by Rome's might.

Game Three Picking Contest Entry Form