Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Conclusions

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Season Six of Civ4 AI Survivor concluded in August 2021 with a somewhat bizarre Championship game featuring a bunch of our top scoring leaders. If you're still reading or watching through the games from Season Six and want to remain unspoiled, it's time to stop reading right now because the rest of this page will be going through the finishing results in great detail. We're going to look at the data from this year's matches to see what we can figure out about the thirteen matches that took place, and then compare that information to past years of AI Survivor in attempt to draw some larger conclusions. (Warning: this page has some large images that may not display well on mobile. These conclusions are better read on desktop/tablet, or better yet viewed using the Excel spreadsheet linked above.) Let's start by looking at the overview summary of how each leader finished in Season Six:

In prior seasons, we used this order for the "Finish Ranking" statistics. I used Season Three's Conclusions page to describe in great detail why I didn't think that ranking system was very useful for comparing results, particularly across more than one year, but this list does provide a concise summary of how everyone finished in Season Six. This season broke with recent past results by having an unusually low number of Domination victories and therefore fewer total leader eliminations as compared to Seasons Four and Five. This may have been due to having a larger number of successful games from leaders with high peace weights who were less likely to run over the rest of the field militarily. Whatever the cause, we ended up with a larger Wildcard field of nine leaders and fewer kills than in other seasons, only 42 eliminations overall. By way of comparison, we had 44 kills in Seasons Four and Five along with an amazing 46 kills in Season Three. Removing the Apostolic Palace may be responsible for slightly fewer eliminations via religious dogpiles even though we tended to focus on the opposite scenario where it shut down warring via forced peace. Hard to say.

This was another season of continued failure for the two Egyptian leaders and poor Hatshepsut is the only one of the 52 leaders who hasn't scored a single point yet across six seasons. It should happen sooner or later for her as Hatty has been the victim of repeated bad draws in terms of her starting position. This was also a bad year for some of the leaders who typically make it deep into the competition, with Julius Caesar and Justinian and Stalin and Kublai Khan all failing to score a single point. Caesar and Stalin were even First to Die in their respective games, a long fall from grace for the two titans of Season Three. This was the first season where Kublai Khan wasn't able to scratch out a point of some kind, almost certainly due to the poor starting position that he rolled. This was also the first time since Season One that Gandhi proved unable to win his opening round game and the back-to-back trips to the Championship game from Charlemagne, Gilgamesh, and Willem were all interrupted. Charlemagne and Willem died in their opening round games while Gilgamesh was an unexpected First to Die in the Wildcard game.

As a result, the door was opened for a group of fresh faces to make deep runs into the Season Six tournament bracket. There were a bunch of underdog victories in the opening round as several leaders were able to score their first points in AI Survivor history. Frederick, Victoria, and Sitting Bull were all sitting (heh) on zero points coming into this season; Frederick and Victoria both won their opening round games and Sitting Bull was a same-turn tiebreaker away from taking first place in his duel with Frederick. Similarly, Bismarck and Churchill came into the season with 2 points and 1 point respectively as a result of scoring a few odd kills. They both won their opening round matches and Churchill was able to follow in the wake of Huayna Capac to the Championship game, which he nearly won outright after snowballing through Catherine's territory. This was therefore a fantastic season for Germany and England, at least for everyone other than poor Elizabeth. She's had a rough time since reaching the final match in Season One.

As always, the kills were heavily concentrated amongst the leaders who made the playoffs though not to the same degree as in past seasons. The 27 leaders that fell in the opening round managed 5 kills between them which (believe it or not) was much better than we typically see from this group. At the other end of the spectrum, the 6 leaders that made the Championship collected only 13 trophies between them and with none of them getting more than 3 kills. The Golden Spear winner ended up being Alexander who didn't even make the championship and won the award largely due to kill-stealing several last hits from his more capable rivals. This simply wasn't a big year in terms of military performances, nothing like Season Three where Julius Caesar and Stalin both had 7 kills apiece with a bunch of Domination victories notched on their belts. This was a season of economic emphasis instead with the final match full of Financial leaders and not bloodthirsty warmongers.

The AI ranking list has also been updated to reflect an additional year of competition. As a quick reminder of how the ranking system works, leaders score 5 points for a first place finish, 2 points for a second place finish, and 1 point for each kill. This is a completely arbitrary system, of course, but it seems to do a decent job of recognizing AI performance across different games and different seasons. I included an additional column listing the points scored solely in Season Six to help indicate which leaders were the biggest movers in this season. This was another season of mixed performances from the seeded leaders at the top of the table. On the one hand, the Financial leaders at the top of the standings cleaned up bigtime, with Mansa Musa and Huayna Capac and Pacal all having amazing seasons that pushed them into the Championship game. In fact, those three leaders accounted for 7 victories between them - we only run 13 games in total! - along with the championship crown. On the other hand, the militaristic leaders in the top ranks all largely collapsed without achieving anything in Season Six. With zero points for Caesar, Justinian, Stalin, and Kublai Khan along with a single point result for Gilgamesh, the net result was some separation at the very top between that group and the Huayna Capac/Mansa Musa pair. It will take a spectacular season from one of the warmongers to get back within shouting distance of Huayna Capac and his 55 point lifetime tally.

Thanks to those unexpected victories in the opening round, there are fewer leaders than ever down at the 1 point or 2 point threshhold. Montezuma and Hatshepsut remain the only two leaders who have never managed a first or second place finish whereas Ramesses, Sitting Bull, and Hatshepsut again are the only leaders who haven't scored a single kill. It takes a special kind of failure to have achieved neither of these outcomes in six full seasons of competition. We've now run enough games that most of the mediocre leaders fall into the "one good game" category. This includes one-off showings from leaders like De Gaulle and Isabella and Lincoln; odds are that this is where Frederick and Churchill and the like will find themselves in future seasons. These leaders can be effective given the right starting position or a uniquely favorable diplomatic situation but aren't good enough to consistently put up big numbers like the seeded leaders.

This was a season of opening round upsets and as a result the points were a bit more evenly distributed when compared to past years. In Season Four, the leaders in the bottom half of the list accounted for 7 points while the leaders in the top half totaled a whopping 128 points. (The same ratio for this season was 94 points against 39 points - still lopsided but nowhere near the same degree.) Obviously as we continue to run more seasons of AI Survivor the results will get less stratified in this manner since the effects of any one season get reduced. Big single game performances from the aforementioned Bismarck, Frederick, and Victoria helped inject some additional points into the bottom parts of the leaderboard. Special mention also should go to Napoleon who had 3 more kills and has 6 kills in total without ever finishing first in a game; the only other comparable leader is Genghis Khan with 5 kills thanks to a similar AI personality. With a bunch of Financial leaders winning all three playoff games and the overall championship, we didn't see the top of the leaderboard hogging all the kills as has taken place in some prior seasons.

After six seasons, the average score for an AI leader is now 15.21 points. I've noticed that the average goes up by about 2.50 points each season which makes perfect sense: there are 13 * 7 = 91 finish points available and we typically see about 45 eliminations. 91 + 45 = 136 and divide that by 52 leaders for roughly 2.60 additional points per leader per season. Obviously these points are not even distributed and instead tend to cluster at the top end of the leaderboard, which is why the average is 15.21 points but the median is only 11 points. Amusingly Churchill and Wang Kon are currently the median leaders with Churchill going from next-to-last place all the way up to the middle of the table with a single good season. The median leader has about 4 kills at this point which helps show the exceptional status of the top of the group. Huayna Capac's strong season brought him into a tie with Caesar at 15 total kills with Gilgamesh in third place at 12 kills and no one else having more than 10. Will we see someone hit 20 kills in Season Seven?

Another year's worth of data has allowed us to update the Trait rankings for Season Six. We've done enough seasons at this point that a single additional year of competition doesn't swing the ratings around too noticeably. The traits that were strong in past seasons largely graded out as being strong once again. There seems to be clear separation at this point between the top traits of Financial, Creative, and Imperialistic from the rest of the different options. Financial had an unusually strong season this time around and I suspect it's being overrated a bit in this data thanks to the way that the Season Six playoffs shook out. There's no question that it's one of the best traits for AI Survivor purposes but it didn't out-perform the other options to this degree in prior seasons. Nevertheless, the extra commerce from Financial definitely helps a lot and the other expansion-oriented traits of Creative / Imperialistic are helpful to the AI leaders for obvious reasons. They let the AI claim more land on the map and then snowball off of having more total production queues. Most of our top-performing leaders have at least one of these three traits at their disposal.

There was another clump of six different traits in the middle of the pack that graded out as having roughly similar scores. Industrious, Expansive, Spiritual, Protective, Organized, and Aggressive were all roughly comparable to one another without much differentiation between them. I wrote the exact same thing about these six traits at the end of Season Five and their continued ranking in the middle of the group suggests that they are all roughly comparable to one another. It doesn't appear that these traits are particularly great or particularly terrible for AI Survivor purposes. The Protective trait is still hanging solidly right in the center of the rankings so it appears to be pretty average in AI hands, not the "worst trait in the game" status that Protective has when played by humans. We've seen that the extra Protective promotions and cheap walls/castles genuinely do seem to help out when the AI leaders inevitably get into stupid wars. At the very least, it's hard to argue that Protective is noticeably worse than the other traits under these cirumstances.

The Industrious trait continues to feel overvalued due to the presence of Huayna Capac and Stalin, with all of the other leaders having poor seasons but the trait grading out as average instead of terrible due to the two of them. I think that this is one of the weakest traits for AI Survivor purposes that only looks decent because the best leader in the game (our boy Huayna) happens to have the trait. Stalin continues to return to earth and it was only the brilliance of Huayna Capac that keeps holding up the value of the trait. How badly is Huayna Capac warping the rankings here? Even including Stalin's big score, the average for Industrious drops all the way down to 10.38 when Huayna Capac is removed which would be an effective tie for the worst-performing trait. Now of course any trait will look bad if you take out its top-scoring leader but the mighty Incan leader is propping up the value of Industrious trait to an almost comical degree.

Charismatic remained in next-to-last status this season, and that was a bit of a surprise because it seems to be helpful for the AIs in terms of managing happiness. Even with Cyrus and Churchill making runs to the Championship game it wasn't enough to bump the performance of Charismatic and this is increasingly looking like one of the weakest options for AI Survivor purposes. There was a clear gap between the glut of traits in the middle of the pack and then the Charismatic/Philosophical duo at the bottom. Speaking of the Philosophical trait, it once again graded out as the worst in the competition for the third year in a row. It's been a precipitous fall from the Season One version of these rankings which had Philosophical as the best trait overall. That was under the old Finish Ranking system that heavily valued silly stuff like not getting eliminated in the Wildcard game so it's not a direct comparison, but it's still noteworthy how the trait has collapsed in value over the following seasons. Philosophical is a poor trait for the AI leaders because they inevitably run so many specialists that they always get lots of Great People regardless. Plus the AI has no idea how to leverage individual Great People for timed Golden Ages, and of course we turn off Tech Trading to remove the value of lightbulbing followed by tech brokering. The Philosophical trait also happens to be paired with lots of pacifistic leaders with high peace weights, and as we've seen repeatedly, those are some of the worst-performing AI personalities under our settings. Philosophical is a solid trait overall in Civ4 but it clearly struggles under the games that we run.

C = Cost spent to purchase
P = Points scored

This was the first year that we put together a Fantasy contest for AI Survivor and it proved to be a huge success. After rolling the maps for the season and then drawing the 52 leaders onto those maps, we held an auction draft where each of the seven contestants had 200 gold to spend however they chose. Our fantasy contestants could invest in a handful of favorites like antisocialmunky or spread out with lots of smaller bids on less popular leaders like Xinitiao. Fantasy scoring was identical to our normal AI Survivor setup with 5 points for first place, 2 points for second place, and 1 point per kill, along with an extra 2 points for having a First to Die leader to attract bidding on leaders who seemed likely to make a quick exit. This was enormously entertaining and I had a blast tracking the results of the fantasy competition throughout the season... not least because my fantasy team ended up winning! This was largely due to dumb luck (I certainly didn't expect to get 9 points from Bismarck and 8 points from Frederick) but it was great fun and I'm planning to bring the fantasty contest back again for Season Seven. I'd like to get eight total entrants and I'm happy to *NOT* be one of them to moderate the fantasy auction. More details on this to come when we get closer to the start of the next season.

There will also be a more in-depth report looking at the fantasy competition once the alternate histories for Season Six are complete. That will give us a better indication of who made excellent bids in the auction and who simply got lucky with their picks. Expect to see the results of this analysis in a few months when the alternate histories have been finished.

Mansa Musa, Survivor Season Six Gold Medalist

It was a fitting ending for a season where the Financial trait was so dominant that we crowned Mansa Musa as our champion for Season Six. Mansa has consistently been one of the top leaders in AI Survivor ever since he made a run to the final game back in Season One. He had made the Championship game multiple times in past years and always ran into a field full of low peace weight leaders which would inevitably dogpile him diplomatically. There's a pretty firm consensus in the AI Survivor community that Mansa Musa is the best leader in the game when it comes to pure economy and the only thing holding him back has been his peace weight score of 9. It was a real question whether he would ever be able to win the overall title due to this built-in enmity with the low peace weight leaders of the world. To make matters worse, Mansa suffered opening round First to Die exits in both Season Four and Season Five. I thought that the removal of the freebie Deity starting techs hurt him more than just about another other leader (Mali has the poor combination of Wheel/Mining) and I was firmly in the skeptical camp regarding his performance for Season Six. But Mansa proved me and the other doubters wrong by stomping all over the competition this year, winning three victories in three games, all of them by Culture, to become the highly deserving winner of Season Six. After two years where Charlemagne and Mehmed were left standing at the end of our event, it was a pleasure to have an amazing leader like Mansa Musa take home the crown. (We almost saw Churchill win which would have left me thoroughly depressed.)

Anyway, I'd like to give thanks here once again to everyone here who took part in Season Six of AI Survivor. Even if it was nothing more than spending two minutes to submit a prediction, the competition wouldn't have been the same without all of your contributions. Turnout in the picking contest was very slightly down from Season Five, with about 210 predictions on average for each game, however that was honestly better than I expected to see. Last year we ran Season Five at a time when most of the world was stuck indoors due to the COVID pandemic and interest in online activities like AI Survivor was correspondingly increased. Season Six held almost the entire audience from the previous year and we were still averaging more than 200 viewers watching along on the Livestream. We peaked at 273 live viewers during the Championship which I believe is the highest I've ever had outside of IPL casting for League of Legends. I continue to be amazed at how many people are interested in watching the computer play against itself. This event simply would not be what it is without the lively banter in the chat taking place alongside the action. I am surprised again and again at the brilliant insights that the viewers come up with in their predictions, along with the hilarious and inane running commentary that makes it such a pleasure to put these games together. Over the upcoming months we'll take some time to look at alternate histories for other games from Season Six and think about any additional fixes that we might add for the future. With any luck, we'll be back again next year for Season Seven - thanks again everyone!