Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Game Five 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

Suryavarman of the Khmer
Traits: Creative, Expansive
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 1
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 3 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Championship Game
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 26 points, tied 8th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Suryavarman has a lot of power packed into his kit even if it sometimes seems to be pulling in six different directions at once. He has the quintessential early game trait pairing of Creative and Expansive, two traits that help to drive expansion and to claim land quickly. This was a popular trait pairing for a long time in unmodded Civ4 Multiplayer games, often chosen ahead of Financial leaders to get off to a roaring start. Suryavarman's Khmer civ is a bit weaker, with decent starting techs and adequate unique features in the Ballista Elephant and Baray without having anything of game-breaking strength. As far as Suryavarman's AI personality goes, he has a surprisingly aggressive setup for someone with good economic traits. Suryavarman has a high aggression rating (7.6/10), a very low peace weight, and a fairly high emphasis on training units (6/10). However, Suryavarman also positively loves building wonders (8/10), an odd fit for someone with his militaristic bent and expansion-focused traits. He will heavily emphasize religion in his diplomacy and carries a special penalty for anyone who refuses his demands. Along with the Creative border pops, this is not an easy neighbor to live alongside. Suryavarman's tech preferences are Gold and Culture, and he will indeed plot war at "Pleased" relations. He can be a highly unpredictable leader, either charging into multiple wars or sitting back to construct wonders in peace.

Past Performance: Suryavarman's previous appearances have reflected his somewhat erratic nature as an AI leader. He was the winner of the first ever game of AI Survivor in Season One, via the United Nations of all things, and took second place in a very difficult field from a tough starting position in the playoffs. Suryavarman had a weaker performance in the following championship game, suffering elimination while still taking a respectable third place. Since then he's been all over the map, everything from an elimination at the hands of Pacal in Season Two to an elimination in the Wildcard game in Season Three to an outright victory in the Wildcard game in Season Four and an absolutely crushing victory in the opening round of Season Five. Those repeated trips to the Wildcard round mean that Suryavarman has shown up in a lot of games, eleven of them in total thus far. Any leader with the rare combination of low peace weight together with good economic development makes for a dangerous opponent, and even if Suryavarman has been somewhat scattershot in recent seasons, he always has that potential to become a major threat.

Pool Two Leader

Willem of the Dutch
Traits: Financial, Creative
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four and Five Championship Game
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 18 points, 13th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Willem has one of the strongest economic setups in the game and he's been held back thus far only by his poorly-chosen set of research priorities. Willem has one of the best possible combinations of leader traits in the Financial + Creative pairing. Not only does Willem benefit from the free border pops and the Financial commerce bonus, there's even some basic synergy between the two in the form of cheap libraries. Willem's Dutch civilization is significantly less powerful, though it does have decent starting techs and can become strong if the Dikes ever show up in time to matter. As an AI leader Willem has middling scores in almost every category, lots of 4/10 and 5/10 ratings across the board. His aggression rating is about average at 6.7/10 and his peace weight also sits in the middle of the scale. Willem has a very low religious emphasis and he won't found his own faith very often despite his strong economic abilities. The single biggest weakness for Willem comes in the form of his tech preferences: he has Gold and Science flavors, which turn out to be one of the worst possible combinations for military tech. Willem has repeatedly refused to research Rifling technology to a ludicrous degree, in some games finishing Assembly Line and Flight (!) techs before picking up Rifling. This has led to his elimination at the hands of much less advanced civilizations as he needlessly fights with muskets against rifles. We have a general rule for Willem: if he makes it to Rifling tech then he wins the game; otherwise, he finds himself getting eliminated.

Past Performance: Willem has everything needed to be a strong leader for AI Survivor purposes and it was perplexing why his performance was so bad during the first few seasons. He successfully combines together great economic traits with a low peace weight and willingness to declare war at "Pleased" relations - this guy should be the second coming of Huayna Capac! Instead, he suffered early eliminations again and again during the first few seasons. Some of this was bad luck, as he drew a tough field of opponents in Season One and then a starting position crammed between Hannibal and Tokugawa in Season Two. Still, there's no avoiding the fact that Willem was underperforming his fundamentals, and when he was eliminated again in the opening round of Season Three, everyone was ready to write him off as a failure. This narrative flipped around in Season Four, however, with Willem finally living up to his potential by taking second place in the opening round (a game where he finished with the highest score) followed by a Cultural victory in the playoffs. He was on track to win the outright title in the Season Four Championship before a stubborn refusal to research Rifling tech doomed his efforts. Then in Season Five Willem marched back to the Championship once again with another pair of first and second place finishes. Along with Gilgamesh, he's been charging up the AI Survivor leaderboard over the past two seasons. It's clear by now that Willem is a serious threat to win any game in which he appears if he actually bothers to research military techs. It's his constant Achilles Heel and it will dictate how far he makes it in any match.

Unseeded Leaders

Bismarck of Germany
Traits: Expansive, Industrious
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Five Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 45th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Bismarck has the Expansive and Industrious traits, a below average combination probably most useful for the half-cost granaries and forges. As a German leader he gets the Panzer and Assembly Plant unique items, both of which are fairly strong on paper but come so late in the game that they may as well not exist, excluding very fringe circumstances. Lastly, Bismarck gets Hunting and Mining, which can make him slow to improve his food resources early in the game. Bismarck's main quirk is that he's a rare leader with only a single flavour: Military. Unlike most of the other leaders with just one flavour though, Bismarck's other preferences aren't particularly geared around it; he's otherwise a pretty standard AI. Bismarck has an average aggression rating (5.6/10), unit (6/10) and wonder (6/10) build preference, and a neutral peaceweight at 6. He's basically a generic AI that's more likely to be ahead instead of behind in military tech, but a little slower on the economic front.

Past Performance: Bismarck has historically been among the worst performing leaders in AI Survivor. Prior to his appearance in the Season Five Wildcard game, the German leader hadn't just died in all his games; he'd been first or second to die in every single appearance! The poor performance of Bismarck has been somewhat inexplicable on the surface. Part of it is likely due to a high preference on military; while Bismarck is often ahead in military tech early on, he tends to fall behind in most other areas in the game. For example, Bismarck is a rare leader that will sometimes research Archery tech first, despite being unable to connect any food resources, putting him in the same slow-start category as religious leaders without the upside of founding a religion. He's also been surprisingly feeble in military conflict, usually rolling up to die underneath a stronger neighbour. For whatever reason, Bismarck has been utterly incapable thus far in AI Survivor, and even optimistically he'd be described as one of the worst leaders. While he did score a pair of kills in Season Five, Bismarck has still been eliminated five times in six games and never sniffed a top two finish. Try to expect nothing from the Chancellor; you're likely to be disappointed.

Lincoln of the Americans
Traits: Charismatic, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 9
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Playoffs
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 7 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Lincoln can essentially be thought of as a slightly less extreme clone of Gandhi. He's almost as pacifistic in nature without taking things to quite as ridiculous of a degree. Lincoln's trait combination is pretty lackluster, depriving this peaceful leader of much of an economic foundation to work with. Philosophical in particular doesn't seem to do much for AI leaders who always run a gazillion specialists at all times. Lincoln is not helped either by his American civ with all of its uselessly-late unique features. Lincoln as a leader is extremely peaceful in nature with an exceedingly low aggression rating (0.8/10). He won't declare war at "Pleased" either so Lincoln rarely winds up initiating much in the way of conflict. Unlike Gandhi, he will at least train an average number of units (4/10) and therefore doesn't collapse instantly when attacked. Lincoln's an easy neighbor to get along with, as he rarely makes demands and doesn't hold much interest in religion. Unfortunately he also doesn't have any clear path to winning a victory, as his traits aren't great for pure economy and he doesn't have anything beyond half-cost universities to help with culture. It all adds up to a mixed bag, a nice guy leader who's too friendly to attack anyone while also lacking the tools to run the Mansa Musa or Darius playbook.

Past Performance: Lincoln won his very first game in the debut season of AI Survivor and has done essentially nothing since then. His Season One match held an atypical field of mostly high peace weight leaders, and once Ragnar + Kublai Khan were gone, Lincoln was able to sit back and win a big peaceful lovefest. All seven of Lincoln's points were scored in this initial game and he's been unable to muster anything since. He did come close to making the Season One Championship in another high peace weight playoff grouping but mostly it's been a series of early exits at the hands of more militaristic neighbors. Lincoln was First to Die in his opening round match in Season Two and saw another early exit in Season Four. The best he's managed was a Wildcard appearance in Season Three, where he again suffered a quick defeat. It's become clear that Lincoln's win in Season One was an unlikely result and he's an underwhelming choice for AI Survivor. Only in very specific circumstances can he emerge on top and claim a victory.

Ragnar of the Vikings
Traits: Financial, Aggressive
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Two Playoffs
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, tied 39th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: If you like insane seaborne invaders with funny hats, Ragnar is the guy for you! This lunatic has never met a war that he didn't like and any game with Ragnar present is sure to have some spicy moments. Ragnar combines together the Financial and Aggressive traits, which theoretically should make him better than the average warmonger in terms of managing his economy. That largely doesn't happen in practice though, as Ragnar takes every single lever available for managing his civ and turns it to the military setting, then dials the strength up to 11. His Viking civilization is pretty decent between its starting techs and Berserker unique unit and Trading Post unique building, although a lot of the benefits get wasted on the Pangaea maps used for AI Survivor. Ragnar's AI personality is a complete one-hit wonder: all military all the time. His aggression rating is absurdly overtuned (9.9/10), his train unit emphasis is maxed out (10/10), and he only has one tech flavor which, of course, is Military. Ragnar will fight war after war after war and neglect the building of infrastructure in his cities, which typically leaves him far behind in tech by the latter stages of each match. This often causes him to get eliminated at the hands of more advanced rivals, although sometimes he can ride the coattails of other low peace weight leaders and survive to the finish. Perhaps someday we'll see Ragnar snowball out in front of the rest of the field and then ride his Financial trait to a position of tech dominance but that hasn't happened thus far. Instead, Ragnar has mostly been a ticking time bomb that's gone off and ruined someone else's game... along with his own game at the same time.

Past Performance: Like most of the other crazed warmongers, Ragnar has been too aggressive for his own good and achieved little of substance. He has failed to win a single game and scored only two kills despite stirring up repeated conflicts in game after game. Ragnar's single runner-up finish is similarly deceptive, as he finished extremely far behind a dominant Catherine and made it to the playoffs by virtue of the fact that almost everyone else was dead. Sometimes an AI leader can luck into a second place spot without doing much of anything to deserve it. Far more often have been performances like Ragnar's outing in Season Three, where he inexplicably picked a fight with low peace weight neighbor Stalin only to be taken apart by Ramesses (!) of all people. Or alternately Ragnar has wasted golden opportunities, such as in Season Four where he drew a field of mostly low peace weight opponents and couldn't capitalize on easy prey neighbors in Lincoln and Pericles. This is a self-destructive leader who obsesses far too much over his army and fails to balance the economic, cultural, and diplomatic aspects of nation-building required to be successful in Civ4.

Washington of America
Traits: Charismatic, Expansive
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Five Championship Game
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 8 points, tied 30th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

Personality: Washington has a pacifistic AI personality combined with traits that lend themselves towards combat, leaving him stuck in an ineffectual spot that has achieved little to date. He has the combination of Expansive and Charismatic leader traits, a setup that theoretically leads to highly promoted units and faster expansion through cheap workers and granaries. Unfortunately Washington's personality is designed to play a peaceful builder game, and these traits simply aren't as useful as what other economy-focused leaders get to play around with. Extra happiness and health in each city is OK and all that but they're nowhere near as good as being Financial or getting the free culture from Creative or the free civic swaps from Spiritual. Washington certainly isn't helped by hauling around the American civilization, with its incredibly late-arriving unique features and only decent starting techs. Washington the AI has a low aggression rating (4.3/10), a high peace weight, and won't declare war at "Pleased" relations. He doesn't make many demands and typically acts as a great neighbor aside from a penchant for espionage spending (7/10). However, Washington inexplicably has Military and Growth tech preferences, causing him to prioritize military techs that he won't use and ignore development-focused research. It's a bizarre tech prioritization system that badly undercuts his performance. When combined with mediocre traits and the weak American civilization, it's easy to understand why Washington has struggled in past seasons.

Past Performance: Washington has a record of failure in AI Survivor, much like the early stages of his real-life military career. Washington was repeatedly eliminated without ever scoring a single kill or coming close to taking home a victory... right up until he found the perfect starting position in the playoffs of Season Five. His previous best showings were two appearances in the Wildcard game during Season One and Season Three, both times following sluggish "sit in the corner and do nothing" opening round games. Washington was eliminated in both of those Wildcard matches despite the generally low level of competition that prevails in them, as well as being eliminated in his opening round matches in Season Two and Season Four. Washington's Season Four appearance was typical of his past showings, with a decent early game but with no efforts to increase American territory by snowballing ahead through conquest, leading inevitably to being swallowed up by a rampaging Huayna Capac later on. Washington's breakthrough in Season Five involved a distant second place finish in the opening round followed by a shocking win in the playoffs, largely thanks to having a beautiful capital city and lots of good fortune in terms of how the diplomacy shook out. He was First to Die in the Season Five Championship though, a sign of what happened when Washington's luck ran out. This leader favors a passive style of gameplay and his associated leader traits and civilization simply aren't strong enough to win via that route unless everything lines up perfectly.

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Community predictions coming soon - check back later to see what the AI Survivor community thinks about this game!