Game One 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. Game One was billed as a match between Gandhi and Julius Caesar only to turn instead into a narrow spaceship race between Frederick and Sitting Bull. 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:
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.)
This is typically the part of the report where I talk about how there might have been some minor discrepancies here and there but overall the game that we watched on Livestream was typical for how the alternate histories played out. Well that was emphatically *NOT* the case for Game One as it turned out that we watched a wildly unlikely match which was completely unrepresentative of how this map was "supposed" to play out. The overwhelmingly dominant leader on this map was Pericles who was the winner 15 times in 20 games and rarely faced much of a challenge on his path to cultural supremacy. Pericles won by culture every single time and he almost always won at an early date. The Greek leader won 11 different times prior to Turn 300 and even won 5 different times on Turn 275 or earlier. These were blazingly fast cultural games that shortened the total length of the matches and left the other leaders with little chance to intercede before the inevitable ticking doom clock ran out. Compare these outcomes to the actual Game One where Pericles was basically an afterthought and it should be clear that we were off in some bizarre variant world that didn't match the normal course of events.
Normally it would be tough to figure out what exactly happened that caused the real Game One to spiral off track in such an odd fashion. Fortunately for our analysis we know exactly what took place: Pericles saw his third city get captured by the barbarians on the Livestream:
Losing Corinth was a disaster for poor Pericles and then it was compounded further when he recaptured the city from the barbs, only to see it get taken AGAIN by the units flying the pirate banners! This was so unlikely that I had to go back to the Livestream footage to try and see what transpired. Pericles had an archer on defense in Corinth and it appears to have been attacked by a barbarian archer/warrior combo, defeating the barb archer but then losing to the warrior. He was able to retake the city only to see it fall a second time on Turn 58. Then because Corinth was right next to the Greek source of copper two tiles north of the capital, it delayed the connection of this metal resource for long turns afterwards making Pericles further vulnerable to the barbarians. The Greek leader had been in first place on the scoreboard when Corinth initially fell and he never really recovered throughout the rest of the match, pausing expansion to build wonders and then failing to settle a fair share of the map. Pericles was set back something like 20-30 turns from where he would have been without the barb city capture and he could never catch up to fellow peaceniks Frederick, Sitting Bull, and Gandhi thereafter.
The vast majority of the map replays looked completely different for Pericles. He did not lose cities to barbarians in wonky low-odds dice rolls and (as many people in the picking contest anticipated) he easily connected his copper to have axes/spears on hand for barb suppression. Thanks to his Creative trait Pericles usually ended up with the most territory in the game at the end of the landgrab phase, and while his territory was heavily jungled it also had lots of rivers which made it exceedingly fertile once the trees could be hacked down. Pericles was rarely attacked in this game of minimal warring (more on that in a minute) and he almost always took the tech lead from an early point in time. He would accelerate out in front of everyone else in economy, turn on the culture slider, and that was pretty much all she wrote. By winning at such early dates, Pericles minimized the ability for any one leader to snowball ahead into a runaway position and overwhelm him militarily. He did next to no fighting at all (a mere 4 kills across 15 victories?!) and played the perfect peaceful cultural game time after time.
At the other end of the spectrum was Gandhi. The community was completely correct in selecting him as a heavy favorite as First to Die and he was relentlessly eliminated in game after game. Gandhi died 17 times in 20 games so it was quite rare for him to still be standing at the finish line. He was also First to Die 13 different times with Joao suffering that fate 3 times and no one else getting eliminated first more than once. Gandhi was unpopular with pretty much everyone thanks to having such a high peace weight and founding religions that most of the other leaders didn't adopt. There was every reason to believe that Gandhi would be knocked out of this game quickly and it was thoroughly strange that this did not happen in the actual Game One. The Gandhi that we saw was significantly stronger than normal, likely because Pericles was weaker than normal and they were competing for the same part of the map. In fact Pericles was frequently one of the leaders working to eliminate Gandhi as he was taken out in many dogpiles across the alternate histories. Gandhi managed to win a single time in Game #12 but even in that game he was in last place on the scoreboard when his Cultural victory finished. Gandhi was a weak leader in a weak position in this game and it was a miracle that he almost took the victory in the real Game One.
The most interesting AI on the map was Julius Caesar since his aggressive playstyle was so drastically different from the other leaders. I found that this setup was reminiscent of Caesar's opening match from Season Five where Roman aggression struggled to overcome a field of highly peaceful leaders. Caesar is a poor economic leader and relies on snowballing ahead through superior expansion and then conquest of opponent territory. But in both these alternate histories and the ones from Season Five, Caesar was confronted with a situation where seemingly everyone else in the game wanted to be as peaceful as possible at all times. There was always someone teching merrily along in isolation and Caesar would inevitably fall too far behind in tech to keep snowballing his position. It seems clear to me after watching 40 of these games across two different seasons that Caesar needs a couple of other aggressive leaders present in the game to initiate conflicts and slow down the tech pace a bit. This field of high peace weight leaders really was not a good setup for him. For that matter, local geography didn't help either:
This was the local terrain around Gandhi's starting position. Warfare between Caesar and Gandhi was an inevitability due to their peace weight difference and they clashed in virtually every game - with Caesar initiating the fighting every single time. (Gandhi started zero offensive wars across 20 games. ZERO!) But the land between the two leaders was rough in nature, with no river valleys and lots of hills everywhere. Gandhi's capital was located on top of a hill tile and he almost always placed one of his early cities on one of the northern hills next to the silver tile. Gandhi liked to rush to Feudalism tech whenever he was attacked and stuff his cities full of longbows. Even for Praetorians, these defenses were too difficult to crack and Caesar had immense difficulty punching through Indian front lines. This was indeed something that we spotted in the game on Livestream and it was repeated many times over. Caesar generally could not solo kill Gandhi and had to rely on a dogpile to overcome his western nemesis, which then meant Indian territory getting partitioned between multiple conquerers. Therefore although Gandhi died in almost every game it didn't result in a Roman snowball that could roll over the rest of the map. Caesar came close a few times, especially in Game #9 and Game #11, but he was never able to conquer faster than Pericles could win by culture.
As for the three northern leaders, they were pretty blah individuals that demonstrated why they have poor track records for AI Survivor. None of these leaders would declare war at "Pleased" relations and they were all largely content to sit back and build for the whole game... right up until Pericles would win by culture long before they could finish researching the tech tree for their spaceships. The better leaders in AI Survivor will look to snowball their position once they get ahead by going to war and continuing to accumulate more territory for themselves. It was exceedingly rare for any of these leaders to do that and they would let weaker opponents remain in the game undisturbed over and over again. Frederick in particular had exactly 4 kills while Sitting Bull and Joao could only manage 9 and 8 respectively. As compared to the game that we watched, Sitting Bull and Frederick both tended to be a bit weaker than what we saw, with Frederick claiming less land on average because Pericles expanded better when he didn't lose his cities to the barbarians. Sitting Bull wasn't always able to cut off Joao to the extent that we observed and there was more parity between the Native Americans and Portuguese. But on the whole this was a passive, uninteresting group of AI leaders to observe. The conventional wisdom is *NOT* wrong on these guys, they are bad leaders who happened to find themselves in an exceptionally good situation in Game One by pure chance.
Finally, it bears mentioning that this game was almost absurdly peaceful in nature. Gandhi was annihilated but everyone else had an exceedingly high survival rate; Pericles, Sitting Bull, Caesar, and Frederick all survived to the end in 15 or more games. Caesar was the only leader who looked to start wars: he had 58 offensive wars while the other leaders initiated 27, 24, 21, 16, and 0. Having run a bunch of these other alternate histories, I can confirm that these are exceptionally low numbers, essentially one offensive war per leader per game amongst the non-Caesar leaders. The game that we watched had seven total wars and that turned out to be completely typical for this map. Only three games made it into double digits (10 wars, 10 wars, and 12 wars) while there were two games that only had 5 wars and Game #11 had a mere 4 wars. Ugh, I'm glad we weren't watching that one on stream. No one died at all in Game #5 and I couldn't say that I was all that surprised. Everyone other than Caesar refused to declare war at "Pleased" relations and so we wound up with a map where all of the non-Romans spent the whole game building until Pericles won by culture. We were lucky to get a game that had as much action as it did.
Now for a look at the individual leaders:
Pericles of Greece
Wars Declared: 21
Wars Declared Upon: 19
Survival Percentage: 90%
Finishes: 15 Firsts, 1 Second (77 points)
Overall Score: 81 points
Pericles was in truth the dominant leader on this map as detailed above. He was essentially the default winner who would almost always take first place barring something unusual happening. In looking at what went wrong in some of his few bad games, Pericles suffered from having an unusually strong Gandhi in Game #12 and then wound up getting eliminated in Game #13 after founding Taoism and then finding himself on the wrong end of a 1 vs 3 religious dogpile. He was similarly knocked out of Game #14 thanks to an early 1 vs 2 war and faded into irrelevancy in Game #17 after getting stuck in a very long unwanted war with Frederick that went nowhere. But unless Pericles was crushed at an early date by multiple opponents he pretty much always won the game - his only other loss in Game #7 was due to a low-odds United Nations victory on the part of Caesar. Pericles had highly fertile terrain in his core, he was rarely attacked by even one opponent (much less a dogpile), and everyone other than Caesar had an exceedingly peaceful personality. This was pretty much the perfect setup for Pericles to toss down cottages, build a bunch of wonders, and then run the culture slider. It's too bad that we didn't get to experience what his performance should have looked like on the Livestream.
Julius Caesar of Rome
Wars Declared: 58
Wars Declared Upon: 10
Survival Percentage: 85%
Finishes: 1 First, 6 Seconds (17 points)
Overall Score: 31 points
The top seeded leader on this map had a rough draw and struggled to put together the string of successful conquests that he needed to dominate the map. It never quite happened across any of these map replays although Caesar did have several games where he scored multiple kills and became the top leader on the scoreboard. He needed to snowball through Gandhi to become strong and could never quite do so fast enough to become fully unleashed. Caesar's best partner in these games turned out to be Pericles and the two of them worked together to dismantle Gandhi in a number of different games. Of course, this generally resulted in Pericles finishing first and Caesar finishing in second as in Game #15 and Game #16. It was less common for Caesar to solo kill Gandhi although he did manage this in Game #9 and Game #11 which were some of the best Roman performances. Caesar also fought a bunch of wars against Sitting Bull (likely due to peace weight differences) and the Romans were able to defeat the Native Americans in a number of the alternate histories. Unfortunately for Caesar, even a successful war against Sitting Bull would result in an awkwardly-shaped empire which tended to be culturally crushed by Frederick and Joao. It was also quite common for Caesar to spend most of the game battering his head unsuccessfully against Gandhi's cities while capturing little to no territory. He only died three times and was only First to Die once but Rome was frequently one of the weaker powers, far behind in technology as compared to the peaceful leaders who had been teching the whole game. Although Caesar's single Diplomatic victory was essentially a fluke, he demonstrated once again that he's one of the better leaders for AI Survivor. This was a terrible diplomatic environment for Caesar and he still came in second more often than anyone else while scoring by far the most kills. Toss in a single low peace weight warmonger, like swapping in Shaka in place of Frederick, and he probably would have won half a dozen or more games.
Sitting Bull of the Native Americans
Wars Declared: 16
Wars Declared Upon: 31
Survival Percentage: 80%
Finishes: 1 First, 6 Seconds (17 points)
Overall Score: 26 points
Sitting Bull scored the best amongst the trio of pacifistic leaders on the northern side of the map. As I mentioned above, he typically didn't expand quite as well in the alternate histories and grabbed a somewhat smaller share of the land to wind up a bit weaker overall. Sitting Bull was his usual inert self and almost never started new wars, initiating a conflict only 16 times across 20 games. This static personality was responsible for Sitting Bull's generally mediocre performances as he didn't act to snowball his position ahead even when he was stronger than his neighbors. (To some extent this wasn't his fault because Sitting Bull won't plot war at "Pleased" relations and he was very commonly "Pleased" with the other high peace weight leaders in Pericles and Frederick and Joao... but it was still a real weakness in his gameplay.) Sitting Bull fought a fair bit with Caesar and sometimes Frederick and Joao but there was no consistent pattern of aggression on his end. He was almost always content to keep building forever without taking action. Even when Sitting Bull had a strong performance he still couldn't win peacefully through the space race before Pericles could cross the finish line on culture. In his one victory in Game #17, Pericles was eliminated at an early date in a dogpile and that gave Sitting Bull the time to tech to a later (Turn 319) Spaceship ending. I don't have much more to add, Sitting Bull was a passive leader and was mostly content to sit around doing nothing in game after game.
Frederick of Germany
Wars Declared: 24
Wars Declared Upon: 11
Survival Percentage: 75%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 3 Seconds (16 points)
Overall Score: 20 points
Frederick was the winner of the actual Game One and the alternate histories of this map revealed that his victory was an unlikely outcome. It wasn't completely ridiculous because he did win twice but it certainly wasn't anything like a common result. Frederick's path to victory was exactly what we observed on Livestream: something happening to knock Pericles out of contention and open up an opportunity for Frederick to tech his way to a spaceship ending. There was a direct correlation between Frederick doing well and Pericles doing poorly since both of them competed for the same territory in the northwest part of the map. I don't think it was a coincidence that Pericles was eliminated twice and those were the exact two games that Frederick won. The best game for Frederick was Game #14 where he combined with Joao to knock out Pericles in the early turns and then never fought again en route to a runaway Turn 293 Spaceship victory. Although Frederick was rarely eliminated outright in his other matches, he didn't come in second too often due to his extreme passivity. Frederick was only involved in 35 total wars (offensive and defensive) across 20 matches and managed a paltry 4 kills despite his rare eliminations. This was a sign that he almost never conquered any additional territory for himself and therefore lacked the score points to take a second place finish. He was even worse than Sitting Bull in looking to snowball an advantageous position by conquering his rivals. (Sitting Bull sometimes gained more territory because Caesar was often attacking him and sometimes the Native Americans were able to annex the Roman domains.) Overall then, Frederick was pretty similar to Sitting Bull but with slightly lower quality land and even more passivity. This wasn't exactly a formula for success.
Joao of Portugal
Wars Declared: 27
Wars Declared Upon: 14
Survival Percentage: 60%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 4 Seconds (8 points)
Overall Score: 16 points
Joao was the weakest of the northern leaders by a decent margin even if his score graded out similar to Frederick. That was largely due to the 8 kills scored by Joao which were a product of unusually good luck in getting the killing blow on a rival leader; he scored the "last hit" on a final city a disproportionate number of times. (I guess Joao was practicing his Smite steals against Baron Nashor, heh.) Joao was a bit more willing to go to war than Sitting Bull or Frederick and he actually fought Gandhi quite a bit in cross-map invasions. There were four or five different games where Gandhi was eliminated in a 1 vs 3 dogpile with Caesar and Pericles and then (randomly) Joao working together to crush the Indians. Joao tended to get the least amount of territory from these conflicts due to the distance of his core cities but these wars artificially inflated his score thanks to getting a bunch of the elimination credits. Joao's ability to acquire some land from Gandhi was unfortunately offset by having a weaker starting position than Sitting Bull or Frederick. He was often crushed up against the eastern seaboard and stuck on less territory than the other northern leaders. While both Frederick and Sitting Bull were able to win games economically when Pericles was out of the picture, there wasn't a single one of these games where Joao was a serious threat to win. Game #3 was probably his best game and he wasn't even remotely close to challenging Pericles for the victory. Between his lack of victories and notably higher elimination rate, Joao was a weaker customer than his nearby neighbors. He graded out in fifth place and I think that this is still overestimating his true performance level thanks to getting those fortunate elimination credits on multiple occasions.
Gandhi of India
Wars Declared: 0
Wars Declared Upon: 61
Survival Percentage: 15%
Finishes: 1 First, 0 Seconds (5 points)
Overall Score: 5 points
Poor Gandhi simply got annihilated on this map over and over again. I'm still amused that he declared zero offensive wars while getting invaded no less than 61 times. He was incredibly unpopular thanks to his maximum peace weight and his proclivity to found religions that no one else was following. There were many games where Gandhi was assaulted by multiple different opponents and overwhelmed at an early date; he was First to Die 13 different times which was far more than everyone else combined. At other times Gandhi would face only a single opponent at a time (usually Caesar) and his heavy cultural defenses along with walled cities on top of hills allowed him to hold out for long stretches of time. He only survived to the finish three times and wouldn't have managed even that minimal survival rate if these matches hadn't been consistently ending at such an early date. In his single victory in Game #12, Gandhi benefitted from a very lengthy war between Frederick and Pericles that dragged down the Greeks and then sneaked a Cultural finish despite being in last place on the scoreboard. He was running the culture slider while researching Communism tech and would have folded in a instant if anyone had attacked... but Sitting Bull had overrun Caesar thus clearing the path for Gandhi to get his peaceful ending condition. Gandhi pretty much needed everything to line up correctly just to survive on this map and have any sort of chance to win. He never started a war and never killed anyone, thus scoring all 5 points purely from that single first place finish. Classic Gandhi from start to finish!
This was such a weird game to watch on the map replays since they diverged so significantly from the actual Game One. I feel bad for the folks who had Pericles in the picking contest since he was completely the correct choice for this scenario and it didn't work out due to bad barbarian RNG. Even more unlucky was the walloper who successfully bid on Pericles for his fantasy AI Survivor team and should have scored a big payout for a great choice. Instead he was left with a single measly kill for Pericles and nothing more. The undeserving winner of Game One's fantasy contest was, uh, me thanks to getting 8 total points for Frederick (6 from this game and then another 2 for Fred being First to Die in the playoffs) off a measly bid of 13 gold. I definitely did not deserve that outcome based on what we saw in the alternate histories. There's some kind of saying that we used to have about being lucky and good, maybe you've heard me repeat it once or twice...
Thanks as always for reading, I hope you enjoyed this look back at Game One!