Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Game Eight 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

Justinian of the Byzantines
Traits: Imperialistic, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Champion
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 35 points, 3rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Justinian is the Civ4 leader that best combines religious and military pursuits together into a dominant total package. Justinian benefits from a strong trait pairing in the Spiritual + Imperialistic combination, routinely securing a larger-than-average share of the available land. He is tied to the Byzantine civilization, which suffers from terrible starting techs but benefits from one of the game's most overpowered units in the form of the Cataphract. Knights with 12 strength are enough to win many games of their own accord and Justinian has put them to good use in many of his victories. (He's also sometimes refused to research Guilds until a very late date, as it doesn't correspond with his Religious + Military tech flavors.) There's no question that Justinian is an aggressive leader who leans towards conquest, with a high aggression rating (7.6/10), heavy unit emphasis (8/10), and a somewhat low peace weight. Unlike the game's most insane warmongers, however, Justinian largely limits his aggression to competitors outside of his religious bloc. He will strongly favor leaders who share his religion and hate those who don't. Justinian also will not plot war at "Pleased" relations, which simultaneously keeps him from backstabbing his allies but also sometimes limits the gains that the Byzantines could be making with more decisive action. Justinian will typically found an early religion and use it to make some friends, then go on the attack against those who are outside his religious bloc. He does this well enough to make up for his lackluster performance on the economic side of the game. Research doesn't matter if everyone else has been crushed to death beneath cataphract hooves.

Past Performance: Justinian has more combined first and second place finishes than anyone else through four seasons of AI Survivor. He's taken part in a ton of AI Survivor games as well, appearing in ten different matches while scoring four victories and three runner-up finishes. Justinian's best season was his initial foray, as he took a second place finish in a difficult opening round game and then won his playoff game and the eventual championship. This was seen as an unusual result at the time since Justinian is not a popular choice for human Multiplayer matches. However, additional seasons have proven that Justinian's victory was no accident and his traits are well suited to AI Survivor. Justinian had a poor showing in Season Two but then bounced back in Season Three by making it all the way back to the championship game. He came close to taking home a second crown before finishing in second place behind Stalin. Even though Season Four was less kind to Justinian, he still won his opening round game in runaway fashion via religious diplomacy before bowing out in the playoff round. The Byzantines couldn't overcome a seafood-heavy start in Season Five but still remain one of the favorites in the competition. Justinian is another top AI leader who always poses a threat to add to his immpressive medal collection.

Pool Two Leader

Hannibal of Carthage
Traits: Financial, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three, Four, and Five Playoffs
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 16 points, tied 15th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Hannibal has one of the better trait combinations and can be a highly dangerous contestant if he successfully balances his military and economic strengths. Hannibal has the always-useful Financial trait and combines it together with Charismatic, which can often come in handy given how the AI struggles to manage happiness in its cities. In the rare case where Hannibal manages to build Stonehenge, he'll be off and running against the rest of the field. Carthage as a civilization is notably weaker, with subpar starting techs for anything other than a coastal start and a horse archer unique unit that takes a strength hit compared to the base unit. Hannibal is a militaristic leader in terms of personality, with a fairly high aggression rating (7/10), low peace weight, and Military for his research flavor (paired together with a lesser Gold preference). His build unit rating isn't quite as high (6/10) and Hannibal is undercut to some degree by failing to plot war at "Pleased" relations. When Hannibal does well, he's able to conquer additional territory and then make it economically profitable through use of his Financial trait. However, he will also sometimes pick foolish conflicts and stall out his economy with too much warring in a way that even Financial cottage cheese can't rectify.

Past Performance: Hannibal underperformed during the first two seasons of AI Survivor before finding his footing in his more recent efforts. He was a popular pick to win his opening round match in both Seasons One and Two, then ended up disapponting the Carthaginian backers by suffering an early exit followed by a trip to the Wildcard game and another elimination in Season Two. Hannibal had his best showing in Season Three with a dominant victory in his first match against the pregame favorite Mao Zedong, but was unable to avoid a thorough beating at the hands of Caesar in the playoffs. Season Four featured a thoroughly confusing opening round match with both Hannibal and Hammurabi, which turned into a close second place finish behind a culturally-dominant Stalin. Hannibal then found himself in the "group of death" playoff match and wasn't able to advance through a field stacked with several of the top leaders in AI Survivor history. Hannibal finished second in an extended duel with Saladin in Season Five's opening round game before falling to an unleashed Gilgamesh in the playoffs. He's shown that he can compete with the best leaders at least some of the time, needing next to demonstrate more consistent results instead of flashes of potential.

Unseeded Leaders

Darius of Persia
Traits: Financial, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four Championship Game
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, 24th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Darius has arguably the best pure economic traits in the game, with Financial and Organized. While he's stuck with the weak Immortal and Apothecary, he also gets fantastic starting techs in Agriculture and Hunting, allowing him to improve his food resources quickly. Darius has one of the better set-ups overall, and thanks to his traits and starting techs, begins the game already slightly ahead of the field. Darius is clearly an economic leader in most ways. He has Gold and Growth flavours, and those combined with his traits mean Darius should almost always be able to construct a good economy. He loves building wonders (8/10), and unlike many of the other peaceful leaders, he builds enough units to defend himself too (6/10). That's lucky, because he also has a high peace weight of 8, and will often be target for attack from the more aggressive leaders. Lastly, Darius himself isn't necessarily going to build in peace, he actually has an average aggression rating (5.2/10), and he can and will claim more land by the sword if necessary. On paper, Darius probably has one of the best setups in the game; he's a peaceful leader with amazing economic traits, but he's also willing to defend himself and fight for more land.

Past Performance: Alongside Victoria, Darius is one of the biggest puzzles of AI Survivor. Theoretically he's undoubtedly one of the strongest leaders in the vein of Mansa Musa or Huayna Capac, and yet the victories just haven't materialised for him in the same way. Darius made it to the Wildcard Game in Seasons One and Two, and came second in the latter year, but fell quickly in the playoffs afterwards. He was even worse in Season Three, failing to expand and quickly being dogpiled by the other AIs. Finally, in Season Four, we saw some success from Darius, as he outteched the competition for his first victory in his opening game, before nearly winning his playoff game as well, stupidly tossing Charlemagne the win after dominating the entire game. However, Darius then got an unlucky field in the Championship, being the only high peace weight leader, and was quickly torn apart. Season Five had another bad opening round game for Darius as he was the victim of Mongol aggression in the midgame. So why hasn't it all worked out for Darius like it has for Mansa? It seems like there is, at least, an easy answer. Time after time, Darius is slow to expand. His strong games come when there is lots of land around him, and it matters less, and his early losses come on the smaller maps where the other AIs claim it first. Darius' traits mean that with even land, he can out-research almost any other AI; he just struggles to get to that point! Look at the map carefully when evaluating Darius' performance; on the larger maps, he's got a pretty good chance of an upset victory thanks to his traits. On the smaller maps though, it seems Darius' starting techs aren't good enough to boost his expansion; he just doesn't build enough settlers, and gets outproduced (and eventually wiped out) by the AIs that do.

Montezuma of the Aztecs
Traits: Aggressive, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 point, tied 47th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Anyone who's played much Civ 4 probably already has a pretty good idea of the Montezuma AI. He tends to... stand out. To start with, Montezuma gets the Aggressive and Spiritual traits, a strong, if not top-tier, combination for these games. His unique items are the Jaguar Warrior and the Sacrificial Altar, both useful in the hands of a human, but relatively worthless in those of the AI. Lastly, Montezuma starts with Hunting and Mysticism, which allows him to found a religion right off the bat. Make no mistake, Montezuma likes himself some religion. But it's not the traits or unique stuff that makes Montezuma so well-known in Civ 4; it's the man himself. Sullla described Montezuma as a "rabid dog let loose in the streets to cause as much trouble as possible before being put down", and considering that Montezuma is still a strategy game AI, that's surprisingly accurate. Montezuma has polarizing numbers all over the place. He has the highest aggression rating in the game (10/10), and Montezuma is actually the benchmark for the normalized system we use to judge the rest of this bunch. His unit build (8/10) and tribute demand (10/10) ratings are both very high, which is lucky because there is rarely a time when Montezuma isn't fighting at least one other player. Montezuma won't bother with building wonders (0/10); he takes them instead. He doesn't ask other AIs for help either (0/10); he wants to do all the fighting himself. Monty's peace weight (0) is also the lowest possible in the game, and any cooperation between him and a "good" AI should be virtually impossible. Montezuma's flavours are Military and Religion, and his "strategy" is almost universally to found a religion, and then psychotically defend it to the death. Or just attack the other true believers anyway during his downtime. There's no way that could possibly go wrong...

Past Performance: Well, it turns out that pure insanity tends not to work so well for these games, and it's a sad sign that while Gandhi the ultra-pacifist has picked up two kills, Monty's only scored one. Montezuma has yet to win a game or place second so far, and his most successful game was the Wildcard Round in Season Three. That's the game where he picked up his only kill, on a weak, barbarian-infested America, and then celebrated the only way Montezuma knows how: attacking a friendly Mongolian Empire larger and stronger than himself. That ended his short, sweet chance of victory on the spot, and the fact that it's his best game is kind of hilarious. Montezuma's appearances in AI Survivor usually go one of two ways. The first is that he stupidly attacks someone far larger and stronger than himself, in which case he promptly gets himself killed, as in that Wildcard Game. The second and more common way that Montezuma screws himself has been to indiscriminately (and unsuccessfully) attack anyone and everyone, until the entire world dogpiles him in a collective fury (for examples of this, see Monty's opening games in Seasons One, Two and Four). While Montezuma's absurd playstyle makes him unlikely to win a game, he's one of the AIs most likely to shake things up, and the Aztec leader has become a fan favourite. Any game featuring Montezuma is likely to see some fun twists and turns before its end.

Victoria of England
Traits: Financial, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Wildcard Game
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 49th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

Personality: Victoria gets the privilege of having the two best-performing traits in AI Survivor history: Financial and Imperialistic. This should allow her to get out to a fast start and have the economy to support it. She also gets the powerful Redcoat unique unit and Stock Exchange, both well above average in their own right. Victoria's only weakness on paper is her combination of starting techs, Fishing and Mining, which aren't garbage tier but are definitely in the bottom half of potential combinations. Other than her amazing traits and unique items, Victoria is a relatively standard AI. Her flavours are Gold and Growth. Her ratings are about average across the board with few exceptions, including aggression (5.1/10), wonder (6/10) and unit (4/10) build preferences. The main exception to this is her low likelihood to demand tribute (2/10). She has a high peace weight, and is likely to fight warmongers and befriend peaceniks, though unlike most high peace weight leaders she can declare war at "Pleased" relations. Victoria is essentially the quintessential average personality gifted with god-tier traits.

Past Performance: Victoria is one of the biggest puzzles of AI Survivor, and after five seasons it's becoming difficult to blame her unimpressive games on chance. She has performed remarkably poorly thus far considering her traits and unique items, and has yet to score a single point in the power rankings. Her only real game of note was the Season Three Wildcard Game, the only time Victoria effectively leveraged her Imperialistic trait to claim a large portion of the map. In that game, she threw away a certain spaceship victory for a faraway cultural attempt, making her most notable action... a throw. On the other end of the spectrum, Victoria suffered one of the earliest eliminations ever during her Season Four opening game, failing to expand and dying 1 vs 1 to a hungry Louis, a performance nearly rivalled by her disastrous game in Season Two. Like most of the "average" AIs, such as Joao and Washington, Victoria seems too indecisive to chase any game plan effectively, choosing instead to pursue a few poorly, and so far her traits have not meant the difference, leading to the bizarre situation where the leader with the best traits in the game is tied for last place. No one else has done a better job of turning something into nothing.

Wang Kon of Korea
Traits: Financial, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 26th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Wang Kon is infamous in AI Survivor circles for acting as the "Troll King", the one leader who will do the most obnoxious thing possible to screw with the rest of the field as well as the viewers watching the game. He has one amazing trait in the form of Financial and one terrible trait in the form of Protective, the two polar opposite traits in terms of overall usefulness in Civ4. Wang Kon's Korean civilization has a subpar set of starting techs combined together with the decent Hwacha and the excellent (if late-arriving) Seowon. As far as AI personalities run, Wang Kon is a pretty basic peaceful builder. While he has a somewhat high aggression rating (6.1/10), his build unit rating is low (4/10) and he doesn't make a lot of demands on his neighbors. With Gold and Science research flavor, a high peace weight, and an inability to declare war at "Pleased" relations, this would seem to be a standard economic leader in the Elizabeth or Frederick or Roosevelt mold, someone who's mostly going to stay out of the way and tech away in peace.

Past Performance: Appearances can be deceiving. Wang Kon has acted in bizarre patterns again and again, defying all logic with both brilliant and braindead actions that trolled everyone in sight. It started in Season One, where Wang Kon spent the latter turns of the game hiding from Mao Zedong's armies behind Asoka's closed borders before the Chinese leader finally found a pathway through and eliminated Korea. Wang Kon's single appearance in Season Two was played out as if controlled by a drunken sailor, pointlessly marched his army halfway across the map to Russia again and again to troll Stalin. Two foolish civic switches by Wang Kon removed his shared religion and shared civic bonus with Huayna Capac, resulting in a stomping by the great yellow Incan menace. The trolling reached its height in Season Three, however, as Wang Kon lost his capital and half his empire to Mehmed, only to rally back after being saved by Charlemagne. He slowly re-acquired most of his territory via the "liberation" mechanic, and then won an extreme lategame Spaceship victory by virtue of Charlemagne stupidly launching without a full set of engines in place and tying on the victory date. A tie apparently goes to the leader who has a more complete spaceship - unbelievable. Korea's following appearances were less memorable, with a fast elimination in the Season Three playoffs followed by a Wildcard appearance in Season Four where Wang Kon was again the First to Die. He did thoroughly ruin the game of Louis in the opening match of Season Four though, fighting an endless war that saved Gandhi and allowed the Indians to take home a Cultural victory. For better or for worse, Wang Kon was eliminated in the opening round of Season Five without doing anything particularly trollish or memorable. Long story short, Wang Kon should be a pretty unremarkable leader but has proven to be nothing of the sort. He will do something weird just to screw around with everyone else, the AI Survivor equivalent of the Twitch Plays Pokemon livestream chat.

Zara Yacob of Ethiopia
Traits: Creative, Organized
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Zara plays with the Creative and Organized traits, combining to push a landgrab style of play and giving production discounts on a huge variety of buildings. For his unique items Zara plays with the Oromo Warrior, a slightly better musketman, and the Stele, useful for a cultural victory and not much else. Lastly, Zara gets the Hunting/Mining combo for his starting techs, which means he can be slow to connect his food resources, especially if he goes for a religion. Zara's numbers tend to be in roughly the middle of the board, including his aggression rating (5.6/10), unit build preference (6/10), wonder build preference (4/10) and even his peace weight, at a neutral 6. His flavours are Growth and Religion, an unusual combination that could lead to healthy and happy cities, while the last unusual thing about Zara is the huge diplomatic emphasis he places on faith. The diplomatic bonus for sharing a religion with Zara can go up to +8, and the penalty for religious differences is nothing to sneeze at either. Expect Zara's diplomacy to follow religious alignment to a tee, and when he finds himself on the wrong side of a coalition, Zara had better watch out.

Past Performance: Zara is one of the AIs with a pile of laurels for one season and literally nothing to show for himself since. All 15 of Zara's points were scored in Season One, as he clawed his way from the Wildcard Game all the way to second place in the Championship, in true underdog fashion. His path to victory usually involved staying out of fights pre-catapults, gobbling up a religious rival or two once they were unlocked, and then using the extra land to launch a spaceship (or straight up claim domination) before his allies. It proved to be a very effective strategy. However, since then Zara has struggled to make anything of himself. He played a weak opening game in Season Two and was unable to advance in another Wildcard game, and then in Seasons Three and Four Zara was outright eliminated by more aggressive AIs, first Caesar, then Kublai Khan. Each of these games displayed the downside of a heavily religious gameplan, as Zara threw away a midgame lead with a few unsuccessful cross-map crusades in Season Three, and in Season Four he ardently practiced a minority Christianity in a very angry, very Buddhist world. You can probably guess how that ended. Zara also suffered a shockingly early exit in Season Five, with Alexander setting a record by killing him on Turn 80! To find more success and repeat his Season One magic, Zara will need to be a lot smarter about both which faith he chooses to follow, and also which religious enemies he decides to attack. The writing is really on the wall by now that Zara is not an especially good AI and with each additional season his initial outing looks more like luck than skill.

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