Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Game Four Preview

This is a continuing feature for Season Six of Civ4 AI Survivor: a preview of each game before it begins, providing a quick summary of the leaders involved and how the community expects the game to shake out. We start as always with an overview of the map:

We've had requests in past seasons for an overview screenshot of the map with the resource icon turned on:

It's hard for me to see much of anything with all of those little icons but you guys asked for it, you've got it! Now for a look at our individual leaders:

Pool One Leader

Stalin of Russia
Traits: Aggressive, Industrious
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Champion
Total Kills: 10
Overall Power Ranking: 34 points, 4th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Stalin has unexpectedly been one of the most dominant leaders in AI Survivor history, compiling a staggering track record of success that we're still not entirely sure how to explain. His traits are nothing special, with the Industrious trait largely acting as a detriment to AI performance and Aggressive never grading out as anything better than average. Stalin has undoubtedly been helped by his Russian civilization, with its decent starting techs and powerful Cossack unique unit. Understanding why Stalin has repeatedly crushed his opponents requires a deeper dive into his AI personality. He has a low peace weight and an above average aggression rating (7.6/10) while avoiding the truly nutty behavior of someone like Montezuma or Genghis Khan. Aside from a somewhat high build wonder rating (6/10), most of Stalin's AI ratings are in the middle of the spectrum and don't stand out one way or another. He loves espionage spending (10/10) but that's about it. What's unusual about Stalin is the fact that he doesn't care about religion at all, showing as little interest as Mao with miniscule shared faith bonuses and differing religion penalties. This may be a factor in his repeated victories as Stalin doesn't get hung up on the religious diplomacy and can act as he sees fit. He otherwise has Military and Production tech flavors and, of course, can plot war at "Pleased" relations. For whatever reason, this overall package has been extremely successful in prior seasons of AI Survivor.

Past Performance: Stalin didn't accomplish much during the first two seasons of AI Survivor, then exploded out of nowhere during the following two seasons and completely owned the competition. He scored 31 of his 34 points in Seasons Three and Four, taking home four first place finishes, nine kills, two repeat appearances in the championship game, and the overall title of Season Three Champion. No one was more successful over those two seasons, and Stalin's Season Three outing was a total stomp from start to finish. He took part in three games, all of them first place finishes, and also set the record for most kills in a single season with seven. Stalin has furthermore shown the ability to win in multiple different fashions, scoring Domination and Spaceship victories and even one Cultural victory. He has been completely ruthless at destroying his rivals, pouncing again and again on moments of weakness in the other leaders. At times it's felt as though a human was playing as Stalin against a bunch of AI turkeys. Thanks to making the championship game two seasons in a row, we went two full seasons without Stalin ever suffering an elimination! Stalin wasn't able to keep that streak alive with an opening round exit in Season Five but it's still been a wild ride over the previous few years.

Pool Two Leader

Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire
Traits: Imperialistic, Protective
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 4 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four Champion
Total Kills: 8
Overall Power Ranking: 26 points, 8th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Charlemagne (aka The Burger King) gets Imperialistic and Protective, the best and worst trait respectively in AI Survivor. He also gets the mediocre Landsknecht and the amazing Rathaus, and starts with Hunting and Mysticism techs. He's able to found a religion straight away, if not much else. Charlemagne is a pretty good template of the average aggression/religion focused leader. He gets military and religion flavours, like the rest of his bunch. He has a higher than average aggression rating (7/10) and a neutral peace weight of 6, so his diplomacy tends to fall along the line of religious spread. His unit build preference (6/10) is slightly above average, while his wonder build preference (3/10) is below average. Other than that, Charlemagne has average numbers in basically every other category, and he's actually a fairly bland AI.

Past Performance: While Charlemagne has one of the shorter personality sections, the past performance of the Season Four Champion is a real doozy. Charlie achieved literally nothing in the first two Seasons of AI Survivor, and looked to be just another stupid religious leader. In Season Three, that didn't change much, as his only real achievement was throwing away a certain victory in the last minute of Game Seven, before dying quickly in the playoffs. However, everything changed in Season Four. In his opening game, Charlemagne played a solid, if not spectacular, game which largely involved him riding Justinian's coattails on the right side of a religious coalition. The playoff game was the closest thing Charlemagne had to an actual dominant game, where he scored three kills following an extremely early conquest of Suryavarman. Even then, he only won because game-leader Darius decided to pursue a faraway cultural victory instead of, you know, win the game. Then, in the Championship, Charlemagne won even less deservedly, as he spent most of the game in third or fourth place before runaway Kublai Khan did the exact same thing as Darius! That's right, both of Charlie's victories, including the Championship, weren't from actually playing the game well; they were from other, better AIs screwing up even worse! Needless to say, Charlemagne has been one of the less popular leaders among the viewers. Sullla thought that this guy was a total fraud and doubted that he would be able to repeat his flukish Season Four result... only for Charlemagne to have a pair of strong second place finishes and return to the Season Five Championship game. The Holy Roman leader has had too many good outings at this point to dismiss his performance as pure coincidence; Charlemagne has to be considered an above-average leader for AI Survivor purposes even if he has been one the lucky side in many of these games.

Unseeded Leaders

Alexander of the Greeks
Traits: Aggressive, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One and Season Five Playoffs
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 11 points, 25th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Alex is another of the warmongers in Civ 4. He plays with the Aggressive and Philosophical traits, a weak pairing that doesn't offer much in the way of synergy or individual power. He also gets the phalanx, a powerful unit in the hands of a human but not especially useful in that of the AI (Alex will build plenty of spears anyway), and the Odeon, a nice happiness boost for the midgame. Lastly, Alex has a pair of average starting techs in Fishing and Hunting, and like all Fishing leaders is much stronger when he starts on the coast. With one of the highest aggression ratings in the game (8.6/10), a high unit build preference (8/10) and the military/growth flavour pairing, Alex is likely to go to war early and often. He's also one of the leaders with the "demonic evil" peace weight of 0, which makes any cooperation with the "good" leaders essentially impossible. Like the other warmongers though, Alex is so aggressive that if there aren't any good leaders around, he's pretty likely to just attack one of his buddies anyway. Other than the key aggressive stats, Alex is a pretty generic leader. He has middling numbers in just about everything else, including tribute demands (4/10) and wonder building (4/10), and he cares an average amount about religion too. Look for Alex to be one of the driving forces of this game. He can't get off the warpath until everyone else - or himself - is dead.

Past Performance: Alexander has put together exactly one impressive game thus far, a crushing Domination victory in his opening round game of Season Five. He was able to eliminate Zara Yaqob at an early date and everything lined up perfect for Alex to the run the table over the rest of the field. Alex's only other notable placing so far was in Season One, where he placed an extremely distant - we're talking lightyears here - second to Boudica in Game Three after fighting a series of unsuccessful wars; it wasn't an impressive game. Otherwise Alex has struggled mightily, the first player to die in both his Season Two and Three games. The closest Alex has come to success so far was in his Season Four Opening Game, where he played a genuinely strong first 250 turns. Alex's downfall in that game was less his own incompetence and more Kublai's determined defence (and then Tokugawa's lethal invasion) and having played a major part in the death of nearly every other leader and topping the scoreboard for ages, Alex was unlucky not to score at least a kill point or two. Despite this, it's worth acknowledging that Alex has displayed incompetence more often than not, and his games are yet another pile of evidence that unadulterated aggression is just not the best strategy for this kind of setup.

Brennus of the Celts
Traits: Spiritual, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One and Two Playoffs
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 26th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Brennus gets the Charismatic and Spiritual traits, a middle-tier economic pairing. He gets the less decent Gallic Warrior and Dun unique items, both well below average, and starts with Hunting and Mysticism techs, one of the "religion-or-bust" combinations. Brennus is less suicidally aggressive than his female counterpart, with only a moderately high aggression rating (7/10). Other than that, his preferences are pretty similar, with a moderate unit build rating (6/10) and a low wonder build rating (2/10), and Brennus is also highly unlikely to demand tribute (1/10). The other noteworthy difference between the two are their flavours, with Brennus' being military and religion. The male Celtic leader is far more likely to actually use his Mysticism start and research a religion out of the gate. He also cares a lot more about religion, with a high bonus and malus for sharing or not sharing faith with his neighbours. Brennus is basically one of the moderately aggressive, religious AIs, with an extremely low peace weight to boot (0/10).

Past Performance: Brennus is a middle-tier leader as far as past performance goes. He's scored two distant second-place finishes in the first two seasons, though neither were particularly impressive, and has never performed well in the playoffs, dying in his first game and coming very close to death in his second game. Otherwise, he played an unimpressive opening game and Wildcard game in Season Three, failing to advance further, and while he opened strongly in his Season Four game, he failed to keep up the momentum, throwing away a significant lead to a Darius/Gilgamesh combination later on. If there's been one unique aspect to Brennus thus far, it's been his penchant for avoiding eliminations. The Celtic leader has only suffered two eliminations in nine games and has been the king of "Third Place" with four such finishes. Brennus has so far been a substantially average leader, sometimes able to get a kill or two, sometimes falling flat on his face, but at this point it seems safe to say he's unlikely to run away with a game without some serious luck on his side.

Catherine of the Russians
Traits: Creative, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One and Two Playoffs
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Catherine has arguably the best traits for rapid expansion in the game, with Imperialistic for building settlers quickly, and Creative for popping borders of all her cities. She also gets the powerful Cossack, and the too-late-to-matter Research Institute for her unique items. Lastly, Catherine gets the weak combination of Hunting and Mining for her starting techs, meaning she'll have to research a few techs before she can get any of her food resources up and running. Catherine is one of the more unique personalities in the game. She has a unique change to her diplomacy in that refusing one of Cathy's demands will give a -2 malus as opposed to the usual -1. This applies to other AI leaders too, and Cathy often ends up hating nearly everybody else in the game because of it. Naturally, she has high likelihood to demand all kinds of tribute, with numbers like 8/10 and 10/10 for various types of demands. Catherine is the only AI leader in the game who can be bribed to join a war at "Friendly" relations. She is also moderately aggressive (6.7/10), and other than that most of her numbers are fairly average, including unit (4/10) and wonder build (6/10) ratings. She also has a fairly unusual flavour combination, with Cultural and Military flavours. Thanks to her traits, Catherine is one of the most likely AIs to claim a large portion of the map peacefully, and her moderate aggression rating means she can sometimes get the snowball rolling. However, the lack of economic benefit from her traits means that if she fails to do this, she will often fall behind technologically, the kiss of death in these games.

Past Performance: Catherine has played a couple of dominant games, and a few disappointing ones. Her opening game in Season One was a dominant romp, but she was beaten down by Justinian after a long duel in their playoff game. Then, in Season Two, Catherine came out on top of a host of aggressive AIs, leveraging her strong landgrab to slowly crush the rest of the competition (including a revenge kill on Justinian), before playing a mediocre playoff game, again staying alive without advancing. Season Three was Catherine's first year to not advance beyond the opening round, as she was killed by, you guessed it, Justinian, in another game where those two topped the scoreboard. Lastly, Catherine played a strong opening in her Season Four game, but played the diplomatic side horribly, declaring war on anyone and everyone before being deservedly crushed by Isabella. In her Season Two playoff game, Catherine didn't have a particularly strong landgrab, and she played a pretty average game. The reason that's noteworthy is that in every single other game that Catherine's appeared in, she's done the opposite. Win or lose, Catherine has consistently topped the scoreboard in the early and midgame, and it's clear by now that she puts her landgrab traits to effective use. The mark of a strong Cathy game is instead whether or not she can convert those early leads into tangible victories before her difficult personality catches up with her. Another feast-or-famine leader, Catherine's high-maintenance personality tends to make a lot of enemies, and her games usually end either when she kills all of them, or they kill her first.

Elizabeth of England
Traits: Financial, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 9
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Championship Game
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 7 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Elizabeth is an easy AI personality to understand, a pacifistic economic leader who will always seek out some kind of non-military victory condition. Elizabeth has one of the best trait combinations for teching in the Financial/Philosophical pairing, and while it's true that there's some anti-synergy there between running cottages and running specialists, there's little doubt that this setup will output a lot of beakers. If Elizabeth ends up getting a solid portion of the map under her control, she's one of the toughest leaders in the game to stop. She ranks no better than a mediocre leader for AI Survivor purposes precisely because this happens so rarely; Elizabeth has an exceedingly low aggression rating (1.9/10) and a low build unit preference (2/10). Surprisingly, she will indeed plot war at "Pleased" relations, but in most games you're more likely to see someone else invading England as Elizabeth frantically researches everything except the military technology which would save her. Elizabeth's Gold and Culture research preferences often cause her to ignore the Redcoats that she desperately needs for safety. In summary, Elizabeth performs far better in games with other high peace weight leaders where she's left alone to build in peace. She's a better version of Frederick and a weaker version of Mansa Musa.

Past Performance: Elizabeth had her most successful outing in the first season of AI Survivor, where she took two second place finishes and made it all the way to the Season One Championship before being eliminated. Her opening round performance was especially strong that year, narrowly losing to Pericles in the United Nations shortly before taking a victory via Spaceship or Culture. She was also the score leader when Mansa Musa won by Culture in her playoff game, reflecting another excellent showing. Elizabeth has hit a rough patch since then, however, eliminated in the opening round of Seasons Two, Three, Four, and Five. Her loss was particularly cruel in Season Three, as Elizabeth was drawn into the "group of death" match and she was less than ten turns away from a Cultural win when Caesar captured one of her three Legendary cities. The Romans kept right on marching until they conquered Elizabeth completely, handing her a defeat which did not reflect how strong her performance had been. This is another leader who can be dangerous if she draws the right neighbors, or alternately wind up as a helpless victim if surrounded by low peace weight aggressors.

Hammurabi of Babylon
Traits: Aggressive, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 3 points, tied 43rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Hammurabi is another leader who has traits pulling him in multiple different directions. His profile includes the ill-fitting Aggressive trait paired together with a setup that otherwise leans heavily in the peaceful builder direction with Organized. This Aggressive trait is largely wasted on a leader who loves to build wonders (8/10), features a defensive archer unique unit in the Bowman, and has only one research flavor: Culture. Hammurabi will obsess over anything associated with cultural output and stands a good chance of founding an early religion despite not starting with Mysticism tech. His own Agriculture/Wheel starting techs are excellent and that's one of the best things that he has going for him. Generally speaking though, Hammurabi ends up having a wasted leader trait as he sits in a corner of the map trying to develop his culture. He has a high peace weight, a low aggression rating (5.5), and won't plot war at "Pleased" relations. Unless Hammurabi gets involved in a religious dispute, he tends to be somewhat of an inert AI leader. Not one of the more interesting AI personalities in the competition.

Past Performance: Hammurabi has achieved little to date in past seasons of AI Survivor. He was First to Die in his initial match in Season One after starting in the middle of the map and running afoul of Kublai Khan. A peaceful field in Season Two led to an appearance in the Wildcard game but nothing else of particular note. Hammurabi's most successful appearance took place in Season Three where he found himself in another high peace weight group of leaders and took a distant second place finish behind Mansa Musa before getting steamrolled in his playoff match. Season Four saw another quick elimination in a game where Hammurabi was never one of the leaders, and Season Five had another run of inert performances waiting to be killed by more dynamic rivals. All indications are that Hammurabi is a third or fourth tier leader for AI Survivor purposes, an unlikely candidate to emerge as a top contender unless conditions line up just right.

Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:

This was the first game of the season where the community lacked a clear favorite. Stalin had the most votes to win this game but not by a dominant margin, with solid support for Catherine and Charlemagne and even a surprising Elizabeth. The Runner Up category was even more split with no one able to capture more than about a quarter of the vote share. Catherine had a narrow lead there over her fellow Russian compatriot. First to Die similarly lacked an overwhelming pick as Elizabeth was tops in the category at only a third of the total entries. This looked to be a wide open game from a picking contest standpoint.

Finally, here are some of the best/craziest written predictions about what would take place during the game. There were many other excellent entries but I had to pick and choose my favorites to keep this from running on too long. Thanks again for the submissions!

Khnud: I'm going for Stalin as the winner simply because no pool one leader has won so far and sooner or later one of 'em will come out on top. Plus, Stalin's tendency to stay out of religious wars and instead pick on his weakest neighbour really works to his advantage on a 7 leader map. Alex will use his elephants to roll over Hammurabi (who arguably has the worst starting position of them all) so Babylon is the first civ to fold. On the other side of the world, Brennus and Charlie will end up in religious conflict possibly dragging Cathy down with them, ruining the game for all three. I hope Lizzie can stay out of the fray long enough to establish a firm grip of the north and secure 2nd place, before Stalin dominates his neighbours (and the world).

delan: This game is impossible to call. The high peace weight civs are bunched together and far from the jackals who will want to maul them. The two Imperialistic leaders are neighbours. The only things I am sure of are that Brennus and Charlemagne will found separate religions and come to blows and that Alexander will maul his northern neighbours. He won't take them over, of course, but he'll certainly throw one of their games off. Elizabeth's start is deceptive because the land is amazing but she doesn't have easy access to metals, so I suspect she will have a hard time mounting a defense when Stalin and/or Alexander come knocking. Charley and Brennus will stifle their development in their crusades and counter-crusades. That leaves Stalin, who has almost a mirror of Elizabeth's quality land and distant metals, and Catherine, who lacks food but has access to a lot of gold and the traits to be successful at the land grab no matter what, and for deity AIs, any land is good land. Timidly calling this one for Russia, one of the two.

ManiaMuse: This one is going to be a mess. No leader is going to run away with it. There will be lotsl of wars that end in stalemates and unlikely alliances thanks to Catherine shenanigans. Eventually it will end up as a space race and Lizzy will have a slight tech edge by that point to just pip it. I expect lots to survive to the wildcard round.

Bobchillingworth: I think this game comes down to two questions. First, can the killers at the bottom of the map avoid dragging each other down and instead unite to crush the outnumbered forces of good (or in Charlie's case, force of moderate neutrality) at the top? Second, who will Cathy inevitably pick to sabotage? For the first, I'm going with "heck no", and for the second, "most likely herself". My prediction is that fan favorite Stalin, surrounded by madmen or leaders inclined to hate him, gets boxed in early and eventually picked apart. Charmin' Charlie wipes out Alex, Brennus, and Cathy, though not necessarily in that order, with the latter two having weakened each other first. I'm going with Spaceship, but could easily see him winning by Domination or even Diplo. Elizabeth does no better than possibly qualifying for the wildcard, despite having no legitimate excuse for not dominating the map. The Hammer gets second by dual virtue of having a rather nice, rush-proof start and being so forgettable the other leaders mostly ignore him.

LinkMarioSamus: While Pool 1 has been an overall disappointment, between Stalin's central position with fellow low-peace weight neighbors and his general ability to do everything well even if he doesn't really excel at anything he probably has the biggest chance to win this. For 2nd place it was tough between Alexander and Brennus, but I went with the former because I think he's considerably stronger and Brennus is kind of cramped on land. The high-peace weight leaders are not in a good diplomatic situation and I still feel like the first two seasons overrated Catherine to a good degree. Any of the four northern leaders are good choices for FTD, but I'll go with Elizabeth for being one of the most overrated leaders in the competition (seriously, the vast majority of leaders she has faced fared horribly last season, and things aren't looking much better this time around TBH) and having the highest peace weight of anyone in this game at 9. I suppose the idea is that Alexander and Stalin will work together to take her down, and then maybe Alex goes and conquers Babylon after that?

OleDavey: Total shot in the dark, but I think Brennus and Stalin will end up best buddies but will ultimately be dragged down by Alexander. Meanwhile, I think Charlie has the best starting and neighbor situation in the north, will roll over Catherine then split Liz with Hammurabi, before teching his way up to space.

BohemianSpoonyBard: [mental_gymnastics] Look, I know that Burger King's situation looks preety dire: no copper and no good food and luxury in the vicinity but he has still his charisma and majestic beard. I am sure he would pull it off! [/mental_gymnastics]

bellarch: I really want Cathy to win, but I don't think I can reasonably pick her - she probably has the worst starting position of anyone on this map between her so-so capital and the way that she'll be penned in by Charlie. No, the winner of this game will be, once again, Stalin (sigh). This looks like a standard high peaceweight vs. low peaceweight game -- and in these sort of games, the most competent low peaceweight AI, or the one with the best starting position, tends to win. Stalin is the best performer on both of these metrics. I do think that Cathy manages to slip into second place, however, as she reaps the benefits of a dogpile on Charlie, and then second-place Alex decides to commit suicide by attacking his more powerful and more competent neighbro. Between the peaceweight differences and Alex being Alex, this game is definitely going to domination. Lizzie is the first to die between her peaceful tech preferences, border tension with Stalin and Alex, and lack of expansion. I think that's everything? This game feels like it'll be very chalky, so I look forward to seeing the Burger King stake his claim to undisputed AI Survivor dominance while carrying resident extreme mediocrity Brennus in his wake

Rev: I went back and forth between Charlie & Cathy to win, since both are good at land grabs and have a lot of potential land to grab. Charlie has the advantage of bordering Elizabeth, who seems marked for death in this field, and could gain a lot when she collapses. On the other hand, a strong early game land grab from him could very well backfire like it did for Saladin in game 2, by cutting off the aggressive civs from the high peace weight leaders and making him the target instead. After all, 6 is a fairly high peace weight compared to 2 and 0, and Charlie's religion won't save him from Stalin and will likely make him Brennus' worst enemy. Cathy on the other hand, with a good land grab and the two gold resources nearby, will be in a prime position to benefit from Charlie's demise and snowball off of that. I could also see this being a strong game for Alex, since he starts next to two promising targets. There's too many variables to bet on a repeat of his season 5 opener, but that combined with starting on the other side of the map from Cathy is enough for me to pick him second. There's a good chance I'm underestimating Stalin in this, but I have too many lingering doubts about whether he's really as strong as he's rated.

Keler: I believe idiot Alexander will attack Stalin without catapults early on to ruin their early game then peace out and attack low peace weight leaders in middle game. I think if Charlemagne dies then elizabeth has no chance to avoid a dogpile coming. I expect trio stalin catherine and brennus to survive at the end. In whatever order that will be. I don't think Charlemagne can take out Catherine 1v1 in time, help must come save blue Russia at some point.

Amicalola: My pick is really weird this time. But the gambles are more fun, no? I have Charlemagne to win, for a couple of reasons. The big one is that I think the South is packed like a sardine can; Brennus, Stalin and Alexander are just as likely to attack each other as they are to attack the northerners, and it only takes one of them to tip the balance. The other big thing is that Catherine's land is nasty (again; poor Cathy!) and I don't think she'll be strong. Or rather, she'll keep up with her traits, but not enough to snowball like she needs to. Most weirdly, I have Stalin first to die. I still think he got lucky in Season 3, and more importantly, he's squished between Alexander and Brennus, plus Charlemagne to the north. I think there are pretty good odds Stalin attacks one of these, and then another attacks him to make it a 2v1 ending in Stalin's death. The beneficiary from all of this is Charlemagne, with a weak Cathy to the east, squabbling enemies to the south, and faithful lackeys to the West. Go Burger King Go!

BigBadBen: There's no Zara for Alex to beat up on this time around (unfortunately). He'll either try to rush Stalin or Hammer but it won't work. Stalin will pick up Brennus's religion keeping that flank safe from attack and allow him to murder the peace-nicks at his leisure. Cathy does her usual good land-grab and an alliance with Stalin makes for a very Russian world. (Of course with my luck so far this year, BurgerKing is somehow going to win this thing).

Bernn: I think Catherine is the only hope for the low peaceweights here. Stalin may be a heavyweight, but his starting lands are pretty anemic and he's uncomfortably close to the tundra. Unless he immediately vies for the center of the map, he's going to be left behind in territory, especially with holy cities to his north and east. And Alexander and Brennus don't have copper nearby while Elizabeth and Hammurabi do, so there's no chance of them getting off to an explosive start from an early conquest. As the only aggressive AI to start in the north, Catherine has the inside track here. If she can expand well and develop a tech edge, she'll be able to systematically chew through the peaceniks up top, ideally with some help from the southern AIs. If she's sluggish to expand or gets caught up in fruitless early warring, we're going to have a game where the warmongers squabble a bunch while Charlemagne or Elizabeth slowly limp to a spaceship victory. It's been a pretty rough season so far for aggressive snowballing types, but I just have to back Cathy here. It's always fun to watch her run wild.

pindicator: There's like 50 different ways this game could go and be believable. I'm going to bet on rivers spreading Charlie's religion far and wide while Brennus puts himself in a corner diplomatically. Alex does something and fails. Liz tries to tech but gets smacked by the crazies to her south. Cathy tries to expand but runs into the HRE wall / not so great land. Stalin has potential crazy to either side. Oh my goodness, Charlie is going to win this isn't he? This really could be another classic Burger King by Default victory. And Hammurabi survives in the corner.

Guanidine: What a map - I have basically no idea who will win. If Cathy doesn't crash her economy, she has a chance to expand well and leverage that to roll over Charlie. The south is too cramped to matter much, and Elizabeth will get killed at some point.

shallow_thought: It's a shame, as I've actually been doing quite well in the contest, but it's time for my annual, quixotic pick of an English leader to actually _do_ something (this has never gone well). Why this game? Because I have no idea how this is going to go otherwise. Liz and Hammer are low peace weight, but are shielded by mid-weight, hard to kill Charlie and by distance from the warmongers. Alex should like Stalin, but when has that ever stopped him wrecking someone's game? And Stalin's start doesn't look too great to me. So it's a complete toss-up that will be decided by religious spread, perhaps giving Liz a window?

Sir Colville of the Dale: "We're here at ringside with the former AI Survivor Champion Stalin discussing his upcoming Elimination Chamber match. Stalin, you're facing multiple Greats and a Good. What do you think of your chances?" "Alex has never won a match that didn't involve a jobber lying in the middle of the ring. Whatever else you want to say about Hammurabi, he won't embarrass himself like Zara. Alex can be eliminated at will." "The Good. You mean 'Good Queen Bess'?" "Maybe if she learns a finishing move. Until then, her part of the Chamber is free real estate. This former champion is ready to 'bring the Steel'." *Interrupted by entrance music* "You're not the only former champion here! I go to space while the only thing you know how to do is stab people in the back!" "Charlie! Does anyone take you seriously? Just be happy Sullla took the air quotes out of your title." "That's Charles the Great to you! Two-time finalist and master of the Impossible Whopp..." *gets shoved off ramp* "Macedonians, Brits, Holy Romans / They are not worthy opponents. / It takes a Russian to take down a Russian / I'm Cat. I'm a cat. You're a rodent."

Game Four Picking Contest Entry Form