Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Playoff Game Three Alternate Histories


Playoff Game Three Alternate Histories Spreadsheet

One of the recurring features of past seasons of AI Survivor have been our "alternate histories", running additional iterations on the same maps to see if the same events would play out again. Playoff Game Three was a crushing Huyna Capac victory as even a coalition of enemy AI leaders proved insufficient to stop his economic power. Was that something which would unfold in each game? This was a topic that called for more investigation with alternate history scenarios. Following the conclusion of previous seasons of AI Survivor, I had gone back and investigated some of the completed games and found that they tended to play out in the same patterns over and over again. While there was definitely some variation from game to game, and occasionally an unlikely outcome took place, for the most part the games were fairly predictable based on the personality of the AI leaders and the terrain of each particular map. Would we see the same patterns play out again and again on this particular map?

The original inspiration to run these alternate histories came from Wyatan. He decided to rerun the Season Four games 20 times each and publish the results. The objective in his words was twofold:

- See how random the prediction game actually is. There's a natural tendency when your predictions come true to go "See! Told you!", and on the contrary to dismiss the result as a mere fluke when things don't go the way you expected them to (pleading guilty there, Your Honour). Hopefully, with 20 iterations, we'll get a sense of how flukey the actual result was, and of how actually predictable each game was.

- Get a more accurate idea of each leader's performance. Over 6 seasons, we'll have a 75 game sample. That might seem a lot, but it's actually a very small sample, with each leader appearing 5-10 times only. With this much larger sample, we'll be able able to better gauge each leader's performance, in the specific context of each game. So if an AI is given a dud start, or really tough neighbours, it won't perform well. Which will only be an indication about the balance of that map, and not really about that AI's general performance. But conversely, by running the game 20 times, we'll get dumb luck out of the equation.

Wyatan did a fantastic job of putting together data for the Season Four games and I decided to use the same general format. First I'll post the resulting data and then discuss some of the findings in more detail. Keep in mind that everything we discuss in these alternate histories is map-specific: it pertains to these leaders with these starting positions in this game. As Wyatan mentioned, an AI leader could be a powerful figure on this particular map while still being a weak leader in more general terms. Now on to the results:

Season Six Playoff Game Three

Game One | Game Two | Game Three | Game Four | Game Five

Game Six | Game Seven | Game Eight | Game Nine | Game Ten

Game Eleven | Game Twelve | Game Thirteen | Game Fourteen | Game Fifteen

Game Sixteen | Game Seventeen | Game Eighteen | Game Nineteen | Game Twenty

(Note : "A" column tracks the number of war declarations initiated by the AI, "D" the number of times the AI is declared upon, "F" the points for finish ranking, and "K" the number of kills.)

The first two playoff games from Season Six had very little variation in their alternate histories, with Mansa Musa and Pacal easily dominating in the repeat playthroughs of each map just as they had done in the actual competition. I noticed several predictions from the community anticipating that Playoff Game Three would follow the same pattern and Huayna Capac would complete the Financial leader trifecta with his own romp. Needless to say, that did not happen and the alternate histories played out in a number of different fashions rather than a single leader crushing the rest of the field. Huayna Capac wasn't even the leader who wound up with the most points under our scoring system, with Augustus edging him out thanks to more kills and a much better survival rate. Huayna Capac was far from weak as he still won nine more victories across the 20 alternate histories and had the best odds to take home the top spot in any one individual game. However, the Incan leader was eliminated in pretty much every game that he didn't win making this very much a feast or famine situation for him. It was far from a smooth path to victory for any of the six leaders in this playoff game.

From watching the repeated playthroughs of this map, the single biggest determinant of how things played out was whether or not Huayna Capac was dogpiled by the rest of the field. To put things in the simplest possible terms, Huayna Capac almost always won when he wasn't ganged up upon and almost always was eliminated when he came under attack from multiple sides. The Incans were always the score leader coming out of the landgrab phase and the treasure trove of wonders that Huayna Capac built inevitably made him an economic powerhouse. The danger was his central position in the middle of the continent which invited aggression from all sides, and indeed Mao Zedong was virtually forced into conflict with Huayna in most games. The single biggest factor in terms of whether Huanya Capac was dogpiled turned out to be religion: he would always found one of the early religions and then it was largely random how widely that faith would be adopted. In the actual Playoff Game Three, Huayna's religion spread to both Mao and Alex which kept them off his back long enough to grow into an unstoppable runaway force. But this was a near-run thing where he came close to losing and there were many other games where Huayna's religion failed to spread beyond his borders. In those games, the Incans often found themselves facing a 2 vs 1 or 3 vs 1 situation which resulted in a total collapse and eventual elimination.

The great beneficiary of these Incan collapse scenarios was Augustus Caesar who turned out to be roughly equivalent to Huayna Capac in terms of pure finishing results. Huayna Capac had the higher highs and the lower lows, either winning the game outright or being completely eliminated in seemingly every game. By way of contrast, Augustus only died four times across the alternate histories and was able to pile up a lot of second place finishes to go along with his six victories. Augustus clashed with Churchill in just about every game and nearly always came out on top in a reversal of what we watched in the actual Playoff Game Three. He also had good opportunities for expansion through Alexander, the weakest AI leader on the map, which put him into position to swoop in for the win when Huayna Capac faltered. I was surprised to see how strong Augustus actually was on this map given that we had an unusual result where he was First to Die.

The other leader who was consistently strong on this map turned out to be Sitting Bull. Although he was a clear tier below Augustus and Huayna Capac in terms of performance, the Native American leader had an excellent survival rate and held on long enough to score a bunch of runner up finishes behind the top two AI leaders. Sitting Bull was a prickly customer who proved difficult to invade in most games and took advantage of strong diplomatic relations with Augustus across most of the alternate histories. They almost never fought one another while Huayna Capac was constantly fighting off invasions from both the low peace weight and high peace weight nations. While Sitting Bull rarely won the game outright, he was usually in the mix as the second or third strongest leader and claimed a lot of points by virtue of hanging around to the end of most matches.

As for the other leaders, Churchill had two strong games in the very first and very last alternate histories that I ran. In both games, he unexpectedly emerged as the strongest leader in the south and took advantage of dogpiles against Huayna Capac to win late (post Turn 350) finishes. These were outlier results though as Churchill managed only a single runner up finish in the other 18 games and achieved little of note, typically getting eliminated by Augustus in most matches. Churchill's strong performance in the actual Playoff Game Three looks to have been a real rarity. He still did much better than Mao and Alexander, neither of whom were able to win any games - and this wasn't just bad luck as neither of them was ever close to scoring a victory either. Mao was boxed into a corner by Huayna Capac and the Incans were simply too strong for Mao ever to break out and become a real threat in his own right. Even in the games where Huayna Capac died, Mao was always too far behind from his weak start to have any chance at victory. The best he could achieve was a handful of second place finishes. Finally, Alexander played the typical style one of the crazed warmongers, flailing about ineffectually before eventually dying in almost every game. He was important to the outcome of each game for the sole reason of seeing who would gobble up his territory and make better use of it.

Now for a look at the individual leaders:

Leader Summaries

Augustus of Rome
Wars Declared: 35
Wars Declared Upon: 27
Survival Percentage: 80%
Finishes: 6 Firsts, 8 Seconds (46 points)
Kills: 20
Overall Score: 66 points

Augustus Caesar was the surprising leader who scored the most points across the alternate histories, ending up in a virtual tie with Huayna Capac in terms of finishing points but scoring more than double the number of kills. They key for Augustus was coming out on top in his struggle against Churchill for control over the southern side of the map. In every single one of these alternate histories, the two of them were never able to share the top two spots. Whenever Augustus had a top two finish Churchill failed to take the other top spot, and vice versa. Most of the time, only one of the two of them could even survive to the end of the game as there was a strong correlation between first place finishes for Augustus and eliminations for Churchill. It seems that only one of them could be successful since they were competing for the same territory and Augustus was almost always the winner in their duel. Augustus was never able to win a pure economic victory, as his Spaceship attempts always finished behind Huayna Capac's Cultural efforts, but he was in the best position to capitalize in the many games where the Incans were dogpiled. Huayna Capac's diplomatic woes resulted in a lot of games where Augustus came out on top by default.

Huayna Capac of the Incas
Wars Declared: 31
Wars Declared Upon: 50
Survival Percentage: 50%
Finishes: 9 Firsts, 1 Second (47 points)
Kills: 9
Overall Score: 56 points

Huayna Capac's performance was a case study in extreme outcomes. On the positive side, he had the most overall victories with nine and cranked out a series of incredibly fast victory dates. He won on Turn 276, Turn 261, Turn 253, Turn 279, Turn 262, and Turn 260 - almost all of those victories coming via Culture. I've written about this before in other alternate histories, how some of the top economic leaders in Civ4 can race out to a tech lead and then hit the culture slider hard, with the result being games that come to shockingly early conclusions. In Huayna Capac's best games, his rivals were only just hitting rifles and cavalry on the tech tree when the match suddenly ended with three 50k cultural cities. Huayna Capac was by far the best leader in this game from an economic perspective and he finished either first or second in every single game where he survived to the finish. The main thing limiting him in these matches was a lack of more kills, largely because he kept pushing for Culture and winning early victories that left less time for offensive action.

That was the positive side of the ledger. On the negative side, Huayna Capac had major diplomatic problems in this game which resulted in him suffering elimination in the other half of the alternate histories. He would always found at least one religion and usually multiple religions, and in games where the Incan leader wasn't able to spread his faith around to make allies, it could get pretty ugly for him. The southern leaders with high peace weights were already predisposed to dislike Huayna Capac and often founded their own competing religions which sank relations further. On the northern side of the map, Mao was boxed into the northeast corner in game after game and the border pressure virtually forced him to attack the Incans. Then Alexander was on the other side in the west and, well, he's Alex who never met an invasion that he didn't like. Sometimes Huayna Capac was able to dodge enemy attacks or remain limited to one war at a time which allowed him to run away with the game economically. Just as frequently, he was dogpiled by two or three or even four other leaders at once and inevitably crumbled under the pressure. (Huayna Capac didn't help himself here by often ignoring Rifling tech for ages on end, dooming a couple of games that otherwise could have been victories.) The Incans were attacked more often than anyone else with 50 different invasions and this explains why the strongest AI leader in the field wasn't more dominant on the scoreboard. We basically saw one of his "good" outcomes in the actual Playoff Game Three and things were nowhere near as pretty in some of the repeat playthroughs.

Sitting Bull of the Native Americans
Wars Declared: 25
Wars Declared Upon: 42
Survival Percentage: 75%
Finishes: 3 Firsts, 7 Seconds (29 points)
Kills: 9
Overall Score: 38 points

Sitting Bull was another leader who had a surprisingly strong showing in the alternate histories, good enough to advance to the Championship about half the time with a whole bunch of second place finishes. Sitting Bull was the other leader who suffered a ton of invasions as he proved to be a magnet for attacks from Mao and Huayna Capac. This was where his otherwise terrible traits shined, with Protective archers and longbows making it exceedingly difficult to pull off successful attacks without a major tech edge. Sitting Bull was the other leader best positioned to take advantage of stumbles from Huayna Capac and all three of his victories were by Domination after eating big chunks of Incan territory in successful dogpiles. More frequently, he hung around as a prickly customer that wasn't worth invading and translated this into a series of runner up finishes behind other stronger leaders. He finished second behind Augustus four different times as the two of them were able to work together via similar peace weight scores and refusal to declare war at "Pleased" relations. Some of the lategames in the alternate histories were quite peaceful as Augustus and Churchill and Sitting Bull all refused to declare war on one another. While I wouldn't exactly call this a strong performance from Sitting Bull, it was at least competent and that's far better than we've seen from him in most previous years of AI Survivor.

Churchill of England
Wars Declared: 26
Wars Declared Upon: 32
Survival Percentage: 35%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 1 Seconds (12 points)
Kills: 9
Overall Score: 21 points

There was a big dropoff from the first three leaders (who were consistently in the mix for the top two spots) to the bottom three leaders who rarely had any chance at a victory. Churchill's score provides a somewhat inflated notion of his actual strength because he scored almost all of his points in the two games that he won, the first and the last alternate histories that I ran. In one of those games, Churchill took advantage of a bizarre Huayna Capac invasion of Augustus to emerge on top while in the other he managed to conquer most of Alexander's territory. Neither of these were typical outcomes and it was much more common for Churchill to fight against Augustus and wind up on the losing end. He only survived in about a third of these games which was much worse than the other two high peace weight leaders, Augustus and Sitting Bull. The strong showing from Churchill in the actual Playoff Game Three was highly atypical. Long story short, Churchill scored 18 points in the three games where he had a top two finish and accomplished basically nothing in the other 17 alternate histories.

Mao Zedong of China
Wars Declared: 45
Wars Declared Upon: 18
Survival Percentage: 65%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 3 Seconds (6 points)
Kills: 5
Overall Score: 11 points

Mao was a popular choice for second place in the picking contest going into this game, with many people in the community expecting him to team up with Huayna Capac to dominate the rest of the game. That didn't happen in the actual Playoff Game Three and it never occurred in the alternate histories either. Instead, Mao and Huayna Capac were locked into an adversarial relationship based on the huge amount of border tension that they shared. It was pretty rare to have a game where they didn't fight one another and more frequently they were at one another's throats. That was a real problem for Mao, as he was usually stuck boxed into the northeast corner of the map and he was too weak economically to overcome his Incan rival. He could only defeat Huayna Capac with help from other leaders and then they would end up claiming most of the spoils, leaving Mao hoping for a second place finish as his best outcome. He managed to achieve this three times, all of them in games where Huayna Capac was eliminated. The sheltered corner position did allow Mao to survive to the finish more often than not (he was attacked less often than anyone else) but it was usually as a trailing, weak leader who wasn't in a position to compete for a victory. Mao had a tough starting position in this game and wasn't really able to do much with it.

Alexander of Greece
Wars Declared: 32
Wars Declared Upon: 25
Survival Percentage: 20%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 0 Seconds (0 points)
Kills: 3
Overall Score: 3 points

Alexander played the game that everyone expected him to play, with insane aggression that essentially never achieved anything of consequence. He was the weakest leader on the map by a good margin and almost always died somewhere in the Turn 150-200 range when his warring backfired by attacking other nations which were much stronger. Alexander did have a huge influence on the outcome of these matches, however, as whoever conquered him often managed to snowball their position into a victory. Augustus and Huayna Capac both benefited from bordering his territory in numerous alternate histories, repeatedly devouring the Greek lands and then using them to run away with the rest of the match. In fact, this was also the recipe for victory for Sitting Bull who conquered Alex's lands in all three of his Domination wins despite the two of them being so far apart on the map. Running over Alex was pretty much the blueprint for success in this world. Alexander was never even remotely close to winning an alternate victory and scored his only points for a handful of random kills. He had three of these kills across 20 alternate histories so the pair of kills that he had in the actual Playoff Game Three was an exceptionally unlikely result.


This is usually a good place for me to talk about how representative the game that we watched happened to be in comparison to the alternate histories, and I have to say that Playoff Game Three turned out to be somewhat unusual. Augustus scored the most points across the alternate histories only to suffer the First to Die fate in the game that we experienced. I'm not exactly sure why he struggled so much with Churchill instead of dominating him which was the much more frequent outcome. Huayna Capac had one of his "good" diplomatic games as his religion was adopted by Mao and Alexander, buying him the time that he needed to develop in the early game instead of getting tied down in unproductive wars. Those conflicts did still arrive eventually but only after the Incans were strong enough to fight off multiple opponents at once. Viewers did get a sense for how Huayna Capac could often get dogpiled in these matches; just imagine Huayna Capac being a good bit weaker and his rivals being a good bit stronger to see how the "bad" diplomatic games could play out for the Incans. And Alexander doing anything at all, much less surviving to the end of the match and scoring a pair of kills, was almost unprecedented in the other games that I watched. Huayna Capac still won about half of the alternate histories so we didn't see a completely crazy result or anything like that, I'm only trying to let everyone know that the other half of the alternate histories played out *VERY* differently from a straightforward Incan steamroller.

Thanks as always for reading, I hope you enjoyed this look back at Playoff Game Three!