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 Four featured a group of leaders who were a bit unheralded as compared to some of the top names while still being able to boast of past successes. The standardbearer in that regard was Pool 1 leader Kublai Khan, an individual who repeatedly made it to the Championship game without managing to take home the top prize. He's somewhat of a specialist in flying under the radar and then managing to squeeze out a second place finish to advance to the next round. The Pool 2 leader drawn into this group was Pericles, a solid economic leader who often tended to be overlooked in favor of the Mansa Musas and Huayna Capacs of the world. He would need to make common cause with the other high peace weight leaders if he planned to find success in this game, with Ramesses and Victoria not having much of a past track record to rely upon. They would likely find themselves dueling with the other low peace weight leaders, especially Ragnar and his insane warmongering. Saladin would almost certainly found a religion and spread it to his neighbors while Hannibal looked to recreate the mixture of militarism and economic prowess that led to his previous dominant win. Who would emerge on top this time?
Kublai Khan of the Mongols
Traits: Aggressive, Creative
Starting Techs: Hunting, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 5 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four Championship Runner-Up
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 29 points, 6th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Kublai Khan is a much more successful version of a Mongolian leader. His warmongering benefits from the Aggressive trait while the Creative trait helps to push out early game borders and provide at least some degree of research support with cheap libraries. This is an early game setup but those are the most important turns in any Civilization game. Kublai's Mongolian civ is well above average, with strong unique features in the Keshik and Ger paired with subpar starting techs. As an AI leader Kublai Khan tries to balance cultural and military goals, generally doing a pretty good job at both of them. He has average ratings for training units, building wonders, and an average aggression rating (6.4/10). Kublai does have a low peace weight and he has an additional diplomatic penalty for anyone who refuses his demands. He doesn't make those demands very often though, and he doesn't care very much about religion in general. Kublai's tech preferences are expectedly Military and Culture in nature, and he lives up to his Mongol heritage by plotting war at "Pleased" relations. Long story short, Kublai Khan is the military + culture leader done correctly, unlike several others who try and fail at this combination.
Past Performance: Kublai Khan is the unquestioned winner of the runner-up award, taking home five different second place finishes including coming in second place in all three of his Season Four appearances. There's a reason for this, as Kublai often isn't dominant enough to win outright but successfully manages to ride the coattails of a low peace weight ally. Kublai has appeared in eleven different games in all, the most of anyone in AI Survivor, and has taken home a medal of some kind in seven of them. He's also been a scrappy fighter that rarely gets eliminated outright, including battling back from the Wildcard game in Season Three. Kublai's most impressive achievement has been making the championship game on three separate occasions in Seasons Two, Three, and Four, the only AI leader to pull off that accomplishment. He had an overall victory in hand in Season Four and should have been the season's champion before bizarrely throwing away his win by chasing after a longshot Cultural victory. While Kublai tends to sneak under the radar a bit, he has a consistent track record of success that exceeds almost everyone else in the field.
Pericles of Greece
Traits: Creative, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Two Championship Game
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 14 points, 15th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Pericles is one of the best leaders at pursuing a Cultural victory and he's had a good bit of success with that strategy in past seasons. Pericles has the ideal trait combination for chasing after cultural pursuits with the Creative + Philosophical pairing, providing cheap libraries and universities and theatres. The Greek civ doesn't offer too much in this regard, with subpar starting techs and an unrelated Phalanx unique unit, although I suppose that the Odeon unique building comes at half cost and can provide more Artist specialist slots. Pericles the AI leader has a peaceful bent in general, with a low aggression rating (3.3/10) and a modest build unit preference (4/10). Pericles would clearly much rather spend his time building wonders instead (8/10), which he'll do with great frequency in each game. Unlike many of the other peaceful leaders, Pericles doesn't place much of an emphasis on religion and rarely founds one of his own faiths. His research flavors are Production and Science, which also makes him a bit of a strange bird since he doesn't have a Culture or Religion tech preference in there. Overall Pericles is an easy neighbor to live with, as he almost never makes demands and has a middling peace weight that avoids either end of the spectrum. He's a leader who wants to be left alone and can become very dangerous if he gets that wish.
Past Performance: Pericles has typically done well when he's managed to roll a field of high peace weight AIs and not so well when he hasn't. In Season One, Pericles found himself sharing a game with Elizabeth and Frederick and Darius, and once the low peace weight leaders were gone, it turned into a lovefest where he took home a Diplomatic victory via the United Nations. The playoff round was another story entirely, as Pericles was boxed in by a hostile Suleiman and ruthlessly eliminated in the midgame. He had his best outing in Season Two, with a Cultural victory in the opening round thanks to another group of high peace weight opponents, followed by a surprising second place finish in the playoffs despite starting next to Catherine and Tokugawa. Everyone expected Pericles to die quickly in that one and instead he survived and propsered. It wasn't enough to avoid elimination in the Season Two Championship game, however, as Pericles faced some very tough competition from a group of low peace weight opponents. Pericles has been unable to advance in the most recent seasons of AI Survivor, falling afoul of the "group of death" in Season Three and then sabotaging his chances in Season Four by launching a war against Lincoln (!) instead of a militaristic neighbor. That went as poorly as expected and resulted in another elimination. Anyway, Pericles plays the cultural game well enough to have a real short of victory if he can draw a suitable field of opponents and avoid obviously destructive moves.
Hannibal of Carthage
Traits: Financial, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 0
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)
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.
Ragnar of the Vikings
Traits: Financial, Aggressive
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Two Playoffs
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: If you like insane seaborne invaders with funny hats, Ragnar is the guy for you! This lunatic has never met a war that he didn't like and any game with Ragnar present is sure to have some spicy moments. Ragnar combines together the Financial and Aggressive traits, which theoretically should make him better than the average warmonger in terms of managing his economy. That largely doesn't happen in practice though, as Ragnar takes every single lever available for managing his civ and turns it to the military setting, then dials the strength up to 11. His Viking civilization is pretty decent between its starting techs and Berserker unique unit and Trading Post unique building, although a lot of the benefits get wasted on the Pangaea maps used for AI Survivor. Ragnar's AI personality is a complete one-hit wonder: all military all the time. His aggression rating is absurdly overtuned (9.9/10), his train unit emphasis is maxed out (10/10), and he only has one tech flavor which, of course, is Military. Ragnar will fight war after war after war and neglect the building of infrastructure in his cities, which typically leaves him far behind in tech by the latter stages of each match. This often causes him to get eliminated at the hands of more advanced rivals, although sometimes he can ride the coattails of other low peace weight leaders and survive to the finish. Perhaps someday we'll see Ragnar snowball out in front of the rest of the field and then ride his Financial trait to a position of tech dominance but that hasn't happened thus far. Instead, Ragnar has mostly been a ticking time bomb that's gone off and ruined someone else's game... along with his own game at the same time.
Past Performance: Like most of the other crazed warmongers, Ragnar has been too aggressive for his own good and achieved little of substance. He has failed to win a single game and scored only two kills despite stirring up repeated conflicts in game after game. Ragnar's single runner-up finish is similarly deceptive, as he finished extremely far behind a dominant Catherine and made it to the playoffs by virtue of the fact that almost everyone else was dead. Sometimes an AI leader can luck into a second place spot without doing much of anything to deserve it. Far more often have been performances like Ragnar's outing in Season Three, where he inexplicably picked a fight with low peace weight neighbor Stalin only to be taken apart by Ramesses (!) of all people. Or alternately Ragnar has wasted golden opportunities, such as in Season Four where he drew a field of mostly low peace weight opponents and couldn't capitalize on easy prey neighbors in Lincoln and Pericles. This is a self-destructive leader who obsesses far too much over his army and fails to balance the economic, cultural, and diplomatic aspects of nation-building required to be successful in Civ4.
Ramesses II of Egypt
Traits: Industrious, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 40th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Ramesses is best summarized as a peaceful leader who loves to build wonders. His traits are well suited for this, with the Industrious trait granting additional production for wonders and Spiritual serving as a useful all-around development trait. The AI loves to waste turns in Anarchy flipping civics and it helps save them from their own follies. Ramesses is further helped by the presence of the powerful Egyptian civilization, which has excellent starting techs along with one of the game's best unique units in the form of the War Chariot. Unfortunately the whole is less than the sum of its parts as far as Ramesses is concerned, as his traits and AI personality contribute to one of the worst expansion rates in the competition. Ramesses is so busy building his wonders (10/10) that he forgets to train units (2/10) and struggles to get settlers out on the map to claim territory. He's helped here by a peace weight in the middle of the spectrum to prevent him from being quite as much of a sitting duck as Hatshepsut but the low aggression rating on Ramesses (3.7/10) makes it unlikely that he'll be able to snowball ahead from conquering territory. Ramesses also heavily emphasizes religion, strongly favoring his religious compatriots and disliking his rivals. With his Culture and Production tech flavors, he's another leader who's likely to found a religion despite not starting with Mysticism tech. Only in the rare situation where Ramesses is somehow able to acquire additional territory does he start to become a threat to win the game. His wonder-heavy gameplan simply doesn't work very well for AI Survivor purposes.
Past Performance: Ramesses has been one of the worst-performing leaders in AI Survivor, with zero kills to his name and frequent early eliminations. He was the First to Die in the first ever game of AI Survivor and things generally haven't improved a lot since then. Season Two was going a bit better for Ramesses until he picked a fight with Mansa Musa and was knocked out the competition for his impunity. Season Four's opening round game had an unfortunate field of mostly low peace weight leaders and that meant another First to Die outing for Ramesses. Only in Season Three did he have one solid game, stunning everyone who expected an early demise by triumphing over Ragnar and riding that conquest to a second place finish. This had less to do with Ramesses and more to do with Ragnar inexplicably deciding to attack his low peace weight neighbor Stalin, an invasion which was unusually suicidal even for Ragnar. Order was restored in the playoff round as Ramesses once again suffered an early exit. He's appeared in five total matches and suffered four eliminations without ever managing a kill, not exactly a successful track record from past years.
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)
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.
Victoria of England
Traits: Financial, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 47th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)
Personality: Victoria gets the privilege of having the two best-performing traits in AI Survivor history: Financial and Imperialistic. This should allow her to get out to a fast start and have the economy to support it. She also gets the powerful Redcoat unique unit and Stock Exchange, both well above average in their own right. Victoria’s only weakness on paper is her combination of starting techs, Fishing and Mining, which aren’t garbage tier but are definitely in the bottom half of potential combinations. Other than her amazing traits and unique items, Victoria is a relatively standard AI. Her flavours are Gold and Growth. Her ratings are about average across the board with few exceptions, including aggression (5.1/10), wonder (6/10) and unit (4/10) build preferences. The main exception to this is her low likelihood to demand tribute (2/10). She has a high peace weight, and is likely to fight warmongers and befriend peaceniks, though unlike most high peace weight leaders she can declare war at "Pleased" relations. Victoria is essentially the quintessential average personality gifted with god-tier traits.
Past Performance: Victoria is one of the biggest puzzles of AI Survivor, and after four seasons it’s becoming difficult to blame her unimpressive games on chance. She has performed remarkably poorly thus far considering her traits and unique items, and has yet to score a single point in the power rankings. Her only real game of note was the Season Three Wildcard Game, the only time Victoria effectively leveraged her Imperialistic trait to claim a large portion of the map. In that game, she threw away a certain spaceship victory for a faraway cultural attempt, making her most notable action... a throw. On the other end of the spectrum, Victoria suffered the third earliest elimination ever during her Season Four opening game, failing to expand and dying 1 vs 1 to a hungry Louis, a performance nearly rivalled by her disastrous game in Season Two. Like most of the "average" AIs, such as Joao and Washington, Victoria seems too indecisive to chase any game plan effectively, choosing instead to pursue a few poorly, and so far her traits have not meant the difference, leading to the bizarre situation where the leader with the best traits in the game is tied for last place. No one else has done a better job of turning something into nothing.
Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:
This was the first game of Season Four that didn't have a clear favorite for the winner. While there was a preference for Hannibal amongst the community, he was only drawing a little bit above a third of the vote and faced significant competition in popularity from Kublai Khan and Pericles. By contrast, this was the rare game with a consensus for the second place category, usually the hardest to pick, with Kublai Khan taking almost half of the total votes. At the other end of the spectrum, Victoria was overwhelmingly the most popular choice to be First to Die, with most of the community expecting a continuation of her streak of failure from past seasons. And when it came to the victory conditions, Domination and Spaceship were once again close in popularity along with a small Pericles-favoring minority who had Cultural as the ending result.
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!
MirrorG: Okay! So! Game 2 was bad, Game 3 was worse, so how about this: Pericles has a whole corner of the map to himself, with Victoria and Ramses providing a buffer between him and the most aggressive competition of Kublai and Ragnar. The big question mark in this game is Hannibal, who can either choose to focus west and slow down the warmongers, expand north and have the high peace weight buffer take the heat for Pericles, or focus east and ruin the Greeks' picnic. For the sake of my poor, poor score total, I'm banking on it not being the last one. As Kublai isn't quite as a performer as Caesar, I think he has a much bigger chance of stalling out / getting distracted before he can poke at the cultural civ's corner of the map (especially with Ragnar there to drag up the war count and Saladin to create diplomatic blocs with the religion he's undoubtedly going to grab), giving Greece enough time to watch the world burn as they stroll towards a cultural win. ...Just got to hope I'm actually right, this time :V
hasuprotoss: No idea how anyone will win this, but imagine that poor Victoria is the first to go. I guess the best I can do is that Hannibal gets out to an early land lead, holds the pop lead and wins by having some friends. IDK tho lol
Amicalola: I think Hannibal takes this one by domination. He's got a lot of room to expand, a stellar capital, two luxuries, and starts next to weak Ramesses and Saladin. He'll also hate most of the other leaders, so we'll get some good carnage. Ragnar gets second for me because I love his little peninsula, and like Hannibal, he's in a position to capitalize on Saladin's slow start-to-be. If any leader could mess that up though, it's him, so that one's risky. Saladin first to die because those starting techs, combined with a religion out of the gate... yikes. Then he'll get sandwiched between a hostile Carthage and Vikings. Ramesses and Kublai have very little food surrounding their capitals, so I don't think they'll be first to die, but I don't think they'll be major powers either. Victoria is just... Victoria. I can't imagine her doing well. Lastly, Pericles is good, but I just think he'll pull a Hammurabi and do nothing all game, eventually either being relegated to the Wildcard Game or being killed by whoever turns out to be the runaway.
ZincAlloy: What's that, Ragnar? You want to get into lots of wars with Kublai and Saladin and make sure none of you have a chance of winning? Good to hear, buddy! Have fun with that! Anyways, Pericles eventually unites the world for a diplo win, Kubiai does snag a kill of two for second, but much of the world survives to advance to the wildcard game.
SpamBot: So, Kublai is going to kill Victoria and then snowball ALL the way over to the east coast. He will probably also kill Ragnar when he inevitable suicides upon the Mongol empire.
LinkMarioSamus: Saladin having only one measly point for his Power Ranking has always seemed off: most of the other leaders with 0-2 points are the ones who perform consistently badly, and Saladin doesn't really belong in that category. I am picking him to win this match on the basis that he has the best diplomatic position by far of this whole group, and it's not even close. Ragnar and Victoria are the only leaders who aren't inclined to like Saladin in this match, and even they're not prone to think too much of him one way or the other. Furthermore, Saladin is the only leader in this match whose civ starts with Mysticism and he's in a fairly central position, so he could REALLY play kingmaker. Also, if Ragnar decides to attack him early he does have that Protective trait to hold the line and possibility even turn the whole conflict around! Finally, he has kind of been stuck behind powerful leaders in a lot of his games: he drew the same opening round game as Gandhi, Catherine, Charlemagne, and Stalin in Season 1 and was one of the game leaders for much of it, then his opening round game in Season 2 was won by Gandhi and in both Seasons 3 & 4 by Justinian, with the latter also having Charlemagne and Suryavarman to boot. Bottom line is this guy is not as incompetent as you'd think and he could be dangerous. Hannibal 2nd because his opening round victory in Season 3 was over the likes of Suryavarman and Sitting Bull and he has the next best diplomatic situation this game, albeit not by much over Pericles, Ramesses, and Kublai Khan (who is the next most-likely top two finisher in this game at least). Ragnar and Victoria both jointly have the worst diplomatic situation in this match: either is a viable FTD pick but I'll go with Victoria so she remains with 0 points by the end of this season. Bold prediction: none of the six leaders with 0 points will get any this season. Sitting Bull and Frederick have already left the competition empty-handed, so just four more to go!
Sir Colville of the Dale: Kublai eats Vicky, Pericles and Ramasses eat Hannibal, Ragnar eats Saladin, then stabs Kublai. Kublai eats Ragnar, and is still chewing through Ramasses when Pericles steals the Cultural Victory. Just that simple.
Koopatroopaturtle: Peace weight and religious spread along that massive river system will be key in this game. Everyone but Ragnar has an easy path to river connections around the world which will allow for broad religious alliances. The North has much less land than the south, meaning Victoria and Ramses will be heavily squeezed. Victoria's exposed position to Ragnar, Kublai, potential religious crusader Saladin, and Hannibal makes her the most likely first to die. Kublai will likely gain the most from her demise and snowball through Ramses with Hannibal or possibly Saladin, becoming the side-kick. Ragnar is too far in the corner to be effective. Kublai might make it to domination, but late space-ship victory is also possible.
ljubljana: i can't believe i'm actually picking ragnar
Dark Savant: There's more land in the southern hemisphere than usual, and it's more than just cold fishing villages for the civilizations at the ends -- Ragnar and Pericles. Ragnar has worse land and probably will get himself locked into yet another multitude of suicidal wars, so I'm favoring Pericles to do well. He's fond of culture even though he doesn't have the greatest personality and traits for it, so let's pick Cultural again -- that ALMOST was the right choice last time! Victoria is in a congested area and has a lot of unfriendly neighbors; she's likely to do poorly even if she actually gets off to a good start this time. Saladin and Hannibal are probably also going to suffer from middle starts with too many unfriendly neighbors. I think Kublai has overperformed in the past -- I'm going to bet on regression to the mean here. Ramesses is a risky pick for second place, but he and my winner choice are not particularly likely to fight, and he's reasonably well-shielded enough on this map to pull off a coattail ride.
Slashin': Three food resources AND horses all within the second ring of the great Khan's capital??? No other capital comes close to the potential explosiveness of Kublai's start during the landgrab phase, and he will definitely get an early lead in cities compared to his rivals. Kubali Khan will be further aided when Ramesses and Victoria get inevitably dogpiled on, and Kublai gets a fair share of his own captures with his keshiks. I think mutual struggles and similar peace weights will keep the warmongers from going too crazy with each other and result in he civs teching in peace once the high peaceweights are gone. Kublai's superior land grab and conquests will give him the tech lead for space, although being a mediocre techer means a relatively late launch. Predicting second is very difficult so I will just have to go with Pericles, whose semisolated start and neutralish peaceweight will keep him largely left alone.
Vincarius: Hannibal ad portas! Yes, I'll be betting on Hannibal to take the game with a spaceship victory. There appears to be one obvious choice for first to die: Victoria. She is a high peace weight civ surrounded by low peace weights. Hannibal would be a likely candidate to reap the spoils and from there on can snowball away with a spaceship victory. For 2nd place I have gone with Saladin simply because I believe he is a bit of an underrated civ and would like to see him get a good finish at last. Also he will likely get good relations with Hannibal which would shield him from his aggression and he is a neighbour of Victoria. On the other hand, Pericles does have a lot of land and Saladin does neighbour the Vikings so I could be very wrong here.
JackDRB: I know Kublai has the 2nd place reputation, but I think he has it in the bag this game. He has horses right there for Keshiks and the peaks between him and Ragnar will funnel him right into a probably underexpanded and weak Victoria, leading him to snowball and gobble up the whole of the north. Second is trickier, but I think the most sensible pick is Saladin. Hannibal is probably the best AI out of the rest, but I think he will struggle considering he starts next to very religious AIs and I think he will culturally dominated reducing the territory he will pick up, meanwhile Ragnar is too stupid to live. Saladin almost definitely founds a religion too, being the only one with Mysticism, and his river conveniently snakes up and passes by Kublai, making him a suitable ally/sidekick. Go Go Mongolia!
smithy: I really want Rags to get this one, he'll rarely have a better setup of land, potential allies and punchbags- but unfortunately he is Ragnar. He will pick one fight too many and spears can only beat so many tanks, so alas Kublai it is for my pick.
onestarchef: I think Kublai will get cramped in way too early to be able to dominate the opponent, but Hannibal has plenty of room to the south and east. Victoria will get dog-piled by the low peace weight leaders, where I think Hannibal will claim most of the spoils, and then will be too strong for Pericles to handle when they inevitably fight. I'm not sold on Kublai second for sure, but I just can't see a probable scenario where he doesn't at least make it to wildcard. I think the only thing that Hannibal has to avoid at all costs is an early war with Pericles that will cripple both of them, and if he manages to avoid that, he'll steamroll the rest of the game.
willow_arkan: Khan's position seems better then Hannibal's. Khan is next to Ragnar who shares a very low peace-weight and both are close to the incredibly high peace weight Victoria and, if not her, then Ragnar would be more likely to hurt Saladin. In contrast Hannibal is between to 2 middling peace weights and Pericles isn't completely useless in a fight and to the north are Rameses and Victoria who are more likely to side with Pericles. So while i believe Hannibal survives, since Rameses and Victoria aren't all that aggressive, I think he just links up with Kublai to eat Victoria and maybe Rameses after. Although he might share Saladin with Ragnar depending how things shake out, but in that case he is in danger of one of the 6+ piece-weights near him joining in against him. I feel Ragnar might just fight too many wars to stay in second place, more likely enabling conquests for Khan and to a lesser extent Hannibal, but falling behind them in tech. Plus his start doesn't exactly look fast. Saladin just looks like the odd man out when all the higher peace-weights are gone.
Anih: I can win with nonsensed thoughts (and Takuan hates me for that) :) So I continue to think strangely. Without resources I said Saladin will die first but with 3 Gold resources, I make him win :) If I want him to win, I need Ragnar to die first. I hope/predict it will be the first war : Saladin declares war to Ragnar (for the gold, gold is life ^^). I think with so many AIs it's difficult to win with Domination. So I chose Spaceship. I think it will remain 3 or 4 AIs at the end. I voted Pericles finishing second because he has a bigger place to expand his territory. I'm taking a big risk chosing Saladin first because he has so many neighbours. But if I say it, it can happen!
Willem: I'm figuring: a bloodbath! Kublai gets cramped, still gets big somehow, but then goes irrelevant somehow anyway. Viccy inexplicably dies while baba yetu is still fading out. Hannibal wins. So Viccy, with otherwise excellent prospects in a midgame, won't make it to the midgame yet again; like Mouse in the Matrix, Viccy falls heroically but unprepared in a hail of gunfire. In the midgame, Saladin's list of high peaceweight allies runs thin and he may have a glorious hero's end, may be a kid fortifying a sandcastle as high tide comes in... probably...- actually, Saladin could even be a dark horse longshot to win it if he joins in the right feeding frenzies and holds the line, like a snapping turtle... but i doubt it. The Hannibal domination - though much more measured and reasonable than Kublai's hopes - may be spoiled early by saladin/saladin's religion or by eastern alliances but is an interesting wrinkle of a possibility nonetheless. Pericles has great room in this map roll, as as does Ragnar. I like Pericles' chances. Pericles may have a culture win spoiled by his buddy ram who he may have to split some wonders with. Hannibal could also clash with him enough to spoil his hopes. Kublai could end up with 50%+ landmass and blunder his way to victory when he has so much land that he can't lose even with him seemly trying throw his lategame away at every opportunity.
Faded_Outline: First Law of Civ: No-one starting next to Ragnar gets to win. So that's Kublai and Saladin out, the former likely gets to add to his silverware collection while Hannibal does what he does best with those elephants and rolls ever onwards from there.