This summary for Game Six was written by Eauxps I. Fourgott. Many thanks for volunteering to put this report together!
From the leader draw, Game Six promised to be a dynamic one, populated by a host of mostly aggressive leaders who tended to leave their marks on games. The biggest name, and audience favorite heading into the match, was Season 2 champion Huayna Capac, one of the strongest leaders in the tournament and most definitely a ruthless one as well. Joining him were Mao, a shining star in the first two seasons who had struggled a bit more recently; Boudica, one of the best warmongers who had a habit of putting up strong opening round performances; Gilgamesh, who exploded onto the scene with a dominant performance last season; and the ever-insane Montezuma. With so many aggressive, low-peaceweight leaders on the scene, this seemed likely to be a game with a lot of fighting, where there were quite a few directions that things could conceivably go. Wildly out of place among this group were two mostly pacifistic, high-peaceweight leaders, Lincoln and Augustus. Isolated from each other and bordering only militaristic AIs who would be predisposed to hate them, these two were commonly regarded at the outset to be dead meat. It was essentially a contest of five AIs with some extra land on hand to conquer.
Right out of the gate, there was a massive religious race, with everybody except for Mao and Lincoln trying to found one. As the only leader to start with Polytheism research, Huayna was guaranteed to grab one of the slots, and indeed founded Islam. Boudica and Monty also started the game with Mysticism, and ran a tight race to be the first to research Meditation - ultimately Boudica won the race due to turn order, founding Hinduism. Meanwhile, there was the usual array of smart and not-so-smart decisions made as far as where to found the second city. Stuck at the very western edge of the game's continent, Augustus decided to send his settler even further west to claim zero land. In the east, all eyes were on Huayna, who despite being the favorite to win was in a pretty squeezed starting position with little room to expand. Getting the Islamic Holy City in his second site would be a big help for him to grab some of that precious land - but instead his settler hugged the coast, settling right on the edge as far away from his neighbors as possible. The only good news for Huayna was that Monty chose to settle towards Boudica at first, instead of him, which would leave a bit more breathing room, at least to start with. Monty, Gilgamesh, Boudica, Lincoln, and Mao all chose fairly logical positions, although Mao went in a more westward direction, towards Augustus and away from Boudica.
Huayna and Gilgamesh were the first leaders to get their third settlers out, and caused some interest by sending them straight at each other. Gilgamesh ended up as the winner in this particular case, founding first straight towards Huayna to squeeze him more, and forcing Huayna's settler to trek back south to a different city site, ultimately settling closer to Montezuma instead. Meanwhile, situated in the center of the map, Boudica went straight north with her first settler and straight south with her second, bisecting the continent with her cities rather than settling closer to other leaders. Out west, Mao chose a logical third city position in terms of grabbing land (if a poor one in terms of the site for the city itself), but Augustus's third city was founded straight south in the tundra - not a terrible site, but once again doing nothing to grab any land. Back east, Monty struck another blow at Huayna by going east with his third city, grabbing the only nearby copper and cutting the Inca off from the rest of the southeastern portion of the continent. With both Monty and Boudica researching Bronze Working, and both already having copper in their territory, they were looking likely to be the game's early military leaders.
Gilgamesh was dominating the settling game early on. He put out his fifth city before anybody else got their fourth - and what an important city that fifth one was! Settled between Inca and America, it grabbed a copper resource that had been very near Lincoln's starting position. Not only did that secure a metal resource for Gligamesh, it also denied Lincoln the only metal that he had a realistic shot at getting. Lincoln was now without any metal, and currently the Worst Enemy of all five low-peaceweight leaders - he was in deep deep trouble indeed. Huayna was also not looking too good, as that fifth city cut off most of his options for westward expansion - he shortly afterwards planted a fourth city on the coast by his capital, guaranteeing him iron, but at four cities he was already almost completely out of room to expand. This was exactly the reason why some people, like myself and Sullla, didn't want to pick Huayna to win the game - he was just too squeezed on land!
As the expansion phase drew towards its close, Gligamesh was clearly doing the best, on 7 cities when nobody else had more than 5, next to two poorly-situated leaders, and having grabbed most of the land in his area. Montezuma didn't expand too quickly, but also wasn't being squeezed, and was able to get a decent pocket of territory. Augustus and Mao were similarly expanding slowly but not pressured, and even at this phase still had decent room to grow. Boudica was expanding all right, but she had completely crashed her economy before even researching the Wheel and needed to fix that glaring problem. Doing the worst were Huayna, who was indeed out of space to expand at four cities, and Lincoln, who had only five mediocre cities, no Mysticism for cultural expansion, no metals for defending his lands, and a giant target on his back. At least he was able to sneak a settler up into the ice and found on iron, to correct one of his problems, but he continued to be a complete dead man walking.
It didn�t take too long for the first war to break out, although it wasn't the one we were expecting:
Could've been a big, bold, successful move, except that Boudica just had a weak four-unit stack that marched up to Beijing and suicided against the defenses. More units trickled in, but they were mostly warriors, and the general feeling was that this was not a wise declaration by Boudica. A big stack eventually formed at the border city of Guangzhou, but failed in its attack. Boudica was getting nothing from this war, and her economy continued to be a dumpster fire, as she'd been stuck at 2-3 beakers per turn for a good 20 turns at least! Despite her decent landgrab, she seemed in grave danger of falling out of contention for the win thanks to her horrible tech rate. But this was also bad for Mao, now with a war to deal with and still only at five cities with no Mysticism. He'd been the most popular leader after Huayna in the picking contest, but had done horribly so far in this game and didn't look to be much of a contender. Augustus was looking surprisingly good right now.
Meanwhile, we got our first war in the east - but not one involving Lincoln as the Aztecs invaded the Incans. Good old Monty. It was quickly obvious that this force would not be taking any cities, and this opened up the potential for Huayna to better his position by taking Aztec lands, but in the short term this mostly served as a nuisance for Capac. The Aztec army walked around the Incan empire pillaging territory, harming Huayna's economy while not really doing much for Monty. In another blow to Huayna's game, Gilgamesh converted to Buddhism, a minority religion that Huayna had founded, leaving the Incan leader still without any religious allies. But then somebody decided that the Aztecs needed emancipating:
Lincoln's first war saw HIM as the aggressor! A large stack quickly marched south and captured the Aztec city of Texcoco, seeing the near-universal pick for First to Die draw the first blood of the game! Suddenly things didn't look so good for Monty, stuck in a 2-vs-1 situation - only he managed to get a peace treaty with Huayna a few turns afterwards, turning it into a 1-vs-1 battle. This felt like a mistake by Huayna, who had been about to research Construction and potentially conquer some Aztec lands, but now was instead sitting on his same five cities (he'd squeezed one more in against the Sumerian border). Monty now stood a better chance in this war than before, but Lincoln was stronger and on the verge of discovering Construction himself for catapults. IF nobody intervened (but that was a big IF) then the Aztecs could still be in trouble.
Out west, Mao and Boudica were locked in a stalemate. While Boudica made one coup by capturing a barb city by her territory, her economy was still terrible and it felt like she was destroying her game as well as Mao's. Augustus was quietly taking advantage of this distraction to settle most of the remaining western land, and while he still was not as close to being as strong as the eastern leaders (the three western leaders had three of the bottom four spots on the scoreboard) he was looking much better at this point than his neighbors. In the east, Huayna was doing surprisingly well, in the third-place spot on the scoreboard and with a decent tech rate despite his small size. He also got a sixth city, a tundra plant in the far south. Lincoln was for now doing quite well in second place, although his diplomatic situation remained shaky. Gilgamesh was in the driver's seat right now, on top of the scoreboard with a comparable tech rate to that of Huayna's, having already researched Construction for catapults, and with nobody having attacked him so far. His first attack could prove decisive in this game, and we were all waiting for the blow to fall.
For now, though, the blow was not falling, and instead the status quo continued, aided by Lincoln and Monty signing peace. But Monty being Monty, he wouldn't stay at peace for long, and decided to shake the game up a bit:
This was the best possible target for Monty, as Boudica was his weakest neighbor and drained from years of fruitless fighting in China. However, she did sign peace with Mao right away, allowing her to turn her attention towards the Aztecs. It wasn't going to be an easy battle for Monty - he was just too small and weak, by virtue of being the worst economically of the four eastern civs, and harmed further by Lincoln's backstab. Indeed, Boudica was able to sweep up and conquer the Aztec city of Teotihuacan right away. But it wouldn't be an easy conquest for her: Augustus was making his move against the Celts, and he had Praetorians! He also had amassed a huge production base, settling most of the land that should have been contested by China and Celtia as well as a ton of the southern tundra, and now he had the definite advantage against an exhausted Boudica. Indeed, Gergovia fell very quickly, and Boudica seemed to be on her way out. She was still holding strong against the Aztecs, for now, but if Augustus continued this assault successfully, her days were numbered.
Meanwhile, the Sumerian hammer finally fell: at long last, the attack on Lincoln that we were all waiting for! The problem was, Lincoln was one of the most powerful leaders in the game right now, and he already had longbows, so he was hardly the pushover he'd been looking like in the early game. Unless someone else got involved, it wasn't going to be an easy conquest for Gilgamesh. Still, he punched through and took the border city of Atlanta, and it did look likely that he would win the war in the end. Down in the southeast, Huayna was being ignored and happily playing a peaceful cultural game. Not being attacked was perfect for him, and he was building every wonder and founding every religion under the sun, while in a very early Free Religion due to having built Shwedagon Paya. A cultural victory for Capac appeared very possible. But he wanted more than just a peaceful culture win:
Monty instantly signed peace with Boudica, even getting Teotihuacan back in the deal, but he was still only at five cities and looking very weak indeed. Monty was now the odds-on favorite to be First to Die, as Lincoln was largely stonewalling Gilgamesh for now and Boudica managed a peace treaty with Augustus. She wasn't dying right away, but her chances at winning were done, with Augustus the surprisingly dominating leader out in the west. He, Huayna, and Gilgamesh were the most likely picks to advance at this point, with Gilgamesh having had the best start but not accomplishing much since then, while Huayna was teching like a beast and absorbing the Aztec empire.
The Sumerian-American war continued dragging on in a stalemate, while Huayna slowly made his way through the remains of Montezuma's territory. After a series of turns with not much going on, Boudica spiced things up again by making the only move she really could and going back to war with Mao, the only leader besides Monty who was anywhere close to her level. In theory she could have attacked Monty as well, but there were only a couple of cities left to be had there, so not many gains to be had. If she could conquer China, it would at least be a substantial addition to her territory. But it was not to be: Augustus had been spiking in power, and now he was back for Round 2. This looked very bad for Boudica, but it also wasn't looking very good long-term for Gilgamesh on the other side of the world! Unable to make further gains against Lincoln, he eventually signed peace and gave the city of Atlanta back in the deal, having completely squandered his big chance to take a bunch of land. Now he was decisively back in third place behind Huayna and Augustus, those two were gaining more territory in their wars, and he was not.
There was no great, unexpected comeback for Boudica in her war. She quickly folded and started losing cities left and right, both to Augustus and to Mao. Augustus was getting the lion's share of the territory due to being much stronger in military than Mao, but Mao did at least pick up one border city in Saxon, as at least a small compensation for all the trouble Boudica had given him early on. She ended up falling surprisingly quickly, down to just one city while Montezuma still drew breath! However, Monty had been too small and weak to outlast her:
Ah, Monty. He just went to war too early and often, and the worst part was that he never did well in any of his wars! His initial war against the Inca was never going to do more than harass them, and that left him nice and vulnerable for the Lincoln backstab. Ironically, that unprovoked attack on him was the biggest nail in Monty's coffin, dooming him to irrelevancy for the rest of the game, but then he just kept on fighting, never regrouping, and his initial attack came back to bite him when Huayna came knocking for some revenge. It was the same old story for the Aztec leader - too much fighting resulting in him getting knocked out early.
Just two turns afterwards, Mao got his second city capture, getting lucky enough to strike the killing blow against Boudica. She started this game in a great position, then completely bungled it. Her starting economy was a mess, no doubt not helped by not researching the Wheel for so long, and then she killed any chances she had by going for a too-early war against Mao that she never gained anything at all from. That might have killed Mao's chances of victory, but it killed hers too, leaving her to stagnate instead of developing her empire and allowing Augustus to become strong and later kill her off. I do think Boudica is capable of putting up good performances, but she performed terribly in this game.
The most surprising fact about the aftermath of these wars was that both high peace-weight leaders were still alive and well! Lincoln was not as strong as he had looked in the early game, but he still had his entire original core and had not been taken out. Augustus was in a strong second place with the biggest empire and it looked unlikely that anybody except Huayna could challenge him. But Huayna was most definitely the game leader now, having actually carved out a decent core of cities, with by far the best economy, out in front of tech, AND already having researched Rifling! At this point it didn't look like there was any possible way for Huayna not to lose, as he had the advantage in every category. The only question was whom he would allow to come to second place with him. As for the other two, Gilgamesh had failed to capitalize on his strong start and was now stuck in third place, needing Huayna to kill Augustus if he was to advance to the playoffs, and despite his two city captures, Mao was by far the weakest leader in the field, having been crippled by Boudica.
The next big event was not a war declaration, but the revelation that Huayna had turned on the culture slider! It was a super-early activation of the slider, as soon as Turn 209, but he was going for it! While the cultural victory was very much in the cards for Huayna, it wasn't going to come right away. His third city was over 100 turns away, but the timer was now set. That also really opened the game up, as with research off, Huayna would start to fall behind in tech. His military edge could disappear and he would become vulnerable, so somebody could come in and end his cultural bid, crippling him. Suddenly the outcome of the game was in a lot more doubt! ...But then, just a few turns later, HC turned the culture slider off again. You tease! He had changed his mind and decided to plot war now, and since he was the top leader in power, it was with bated breath that we watched to see where the hammer would fall. Lincoln was the mostly likely target of his aggression, but in theory he could go after anybody. Over 20 turns passed peacefully, and we continued watching to see what would happen. But when the war horns blared, they were from another source entirely:
Lincoln, what were you doing?!? Gilgamesh had discovered Rifling, and Lincoln was nowhere close to that. After having fought on so well in such a hopeless situation, it felt like Lincoln was now throwing it all away, suiciding against a stronger opponent. Atlanta quickly fell, and then as if Lincoln wasn't already dead enough, Huayna joined the party, declaring war and instantly taking Texcoco. Lincoln's fate was now sealed, and Gilgamesh commemorated by completely destroying his big attack stack. American cities fell left and right, until soon there weren't any left:
Lincoln was never in a position to do well in this game, but for most of the time he did an impressive job of holding on. He got off to a strong start and benefited from the chaotic declarations of his warmonger neighbors, and even made possibly the biggest move in the game by backstabbing Montezuma! Unfortunately, he still didn't do well enough to capitalize. He would have needed a stronger landgrab, or a successful conquests, to be a contender, but he never got that, and so all he did was survive for a lot longer than we all expected. Then while Huayna might have been going to attack and conquer him anyway, he still completely committed suicide by attacking a larger and stronger Gilgamesh, so you can't say that his elimination wasn't deserved.
In the aftermath of this war, Huayna was looking stronger than ever. He'd turned the cultural slider back on, but he also already had Assembly Line for infantry, and it didn't feel like, even with a bunch of turns sitting around not teching, anybody had a chance of taking him down anymore. Meanwhile, Gligamesh had not made the gains he needed in this war - he'd taken three border cities, but Huayna had gained the rest of the land. That left Gilgamesh still in a distant third place, over 1000 points behind Augustus. The status quo was essentially the same as before, minus Lincoln. The game continued on in peace, with not much happening after Lincoln's elimination. The other leaders kept teching up, and Huayna kept ammassing culture. Mao and Augustus had been without Rifling, and thus potentially vulnerable, for a while, but then they both researched the tech and erased that window of opportunity. Poor Gilgamesh was now doing even worse than ever, as his territory, that had once encroached so badly on Huayna, was getting engulfed by Incan slider-boosted culture, and his core cities were starting to flip away. But suddenly, potential salvation for the Sumerian leader appeared:
The one way that Gilgamesh could advance to the playoffs: just sit back and do nothing, while Inca took out Augustus for him! While Augustus did have rifles, that would only slow the advance of the Incan infantry-based armies. Even with decades of not researching, Huayna was still far enough ahead to be absolutely unstoppable. But he was also coming very quickly up on a cultural victory, with the finish date scheduled for pre-Turn 300. If the game lasted long enough, then Huayna would crush Augustus, and Gilgamesh would come in second. But the game might not last that long! The Incan conquest wasn't proceeding that quickly, and even as Augustus lost territory to the Incan army, Gilgamesh was also losing some points to the Incan culture wave. Gilgamesh tried to take his fate into his own hands, declaring war on Mao to try and boost his score up a bit more, but he wasn't able to actually take any land and affect the results that way. Eventually, it became clear that Huayna was culturing too fast and conquering too slow to change the results - with 10 turns left on his third city, Augustus was still a good 800 points ahead of Gilgamesh, and the Incans were not taking cities fast enough. A few turns later, it was all over:
Game over, with Huayna Capac winning via Culture. This was an absolute masterclass by the Incan leader, who looked doomed to irrelevancy at the start, but midway through the game emerged head and shoulders above all of the other leaders. Even with just a little bit of land, he was able to tech like crazy, and, while for this game it was not at all an unlikely result, he was left alone by all of his neighbors except for the weak Montezuma, allowing him to build up a lead to finish off a weak Aztec empire and cement his position in the game - after that, the outcome was never in doubt. Interestingly enough, it was Lincoln's attack on Montezuma, one of the two big turning points in the game, that assured Huayna's success - an unlikely role for Lincoln to fill in this setup!
Augustus finished in a deserving second place for his second playoff appearance, after initially getting there via a second-place finish in Season 1. He benefited from the other big turning point in the game, Boudica's war declaration, which resulted in his only two close neighbors being locked in a war of attrition for ages on end, allowing him to grow and flourish in peace. That put him in a prime position to conquer Boudica and cement his status as the dominant leader in the west, at which point nobody except Huayna had a chance of knocking him down. And he was still tough enough to withstand even Huayna's attack for long enough to maintain his position. Quite a good finish for a diplomatically isolated leader who looked to be a dead man walking at the start of the game!
Gilgamesh and Mao survive to move on to the growing Wildcard game's pool. Gilgamesh had a fantastic start and was in the driver's seat to start the game, but then he completely and utterly failed to accomplish anything with that start. While Augustus and Huayna took advantage of their early peace to strengthen their positions and then conquer a weak neighbor, Gilgamesh instead waited for too long and then took his aggression to a Lincoln who was almost as strong as he was, and despite a slight edge wasn't able to accomplish anything in that war besides a single city capture. A well-timed strike against Huayna might have served his interests better. That failed war left him decisively trailing behind the two game leaders, and by the time he was stronger than Lincoln and able to conquer him, Huayna was too powerful and took all the spoils for himself. That left Gilgamesh absolutely powerless to change his fate for the rest of the game. It was a disappointing performance for a leader who had such a good start, and was not worthy of advancing to the playoffs. At least he avoided the wrath of the big dogs to stick around for the wildcard game!
Poor Mao did basically nothing this game, but he never really had the opportunity. While his early landgrab was poor and would have restricted his options in any case, Boudica's early attack completely halted his development, allowing Augustus to thrive out there while Mao was stuck on his starting five cities. By the time that war was finally over, Mao was too weakened to be able to challenge anybody, so all he could do was sit on the sidelines and hope to not be attacked. That at least worked out for him, and now he'll have a chance to play an actual game in the Wildcard round.
This was certainly a wacky game on the whole, which did not go the way many people expected it. The high-peaceweight leaders being unattacked for so long, and one of them even advancing to the playoffs, was certainly a wacky result. Almost everybody expected either Mao or Boudica to be a dominant power in the west, so both of them being dragged down to irrelevancy threw a wrench into the prediction contest as well. But by far the main attraction of this game was Huayna Capac's successful rags-to-riches comeback, going from a leader out of room to expand at four cities to completely dominating the game. He proved why he's considered to be one of the best leaders into the competition, and we'll see him again in the playoff round - along with Augustus, who excites people considerably less. Meanwhile, there are only two games left in the opening round! We'll see what further surprises are in store for us there.