Civ4 AI Survivor Season 6: Wildcard Game Alternate Histories


Wildcard Game 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. The Wildcard game was a nailbiting affair with Huayna Capac winning by culture via a narrow 4 turn margin and Zara snatching away second place by a mere 5 points over Wang Kon - 4337 points to 4332 points! 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:

Season Six Wildcard Game

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.)

It can be difficult finding fair maps for the larger field of leaders in the Wildcard game as getting something that looks good for all nine leaders is no easy feat. Fortunately, this map wound up delivering an amazing Wildcard game with a photo-finish ending between an extremely close trio of Huayna Capac, Zara Yaqob, and Wang Kon. This was carried over into the alternate histories where I watched a bunch of close, tense, and exciting matches with the ultimate winner coming down to the wire. Game #1 saw Huayna Capac win by spaceship a single turn before Pericles was set to arrive in Alpha Centauri while in Game #16 the Incan leader nearly threw away an easy win by going for culture only to cross over the Domination limit shortly before Zara could complete his spaceship. In Game #11, Zara finished the whole tech tree more than a dozen turns before anyone else but he couldn't launch the spaceship because Louis was mercilessly nuking his cities and captured the Ethiopian capital twice! This allowed Huayna Capac to steal an unexpected Diplomatic victory in dramatic fashion. And then there was Game #20 where Huayna Capac and Louis were due to have their spaceships arrive on the same turn, only for the Incan spaceship to *CRASH* at 20% odds because Huayna Capac had launched it with only 4/5 casings. I've never seen an AI spaceship crash in all my years playing Civ4 and this happening to decide a same-turn tiebreaker likely would have melted down the Livestream chat if it had happened in a real game. I'm honestly shocked that a map with nine leaders had so many tense endings in repeat playthroughs.

Now you may have noted Huayna Capac's name popping up a bunch of times in those dramatic finishes that I described above. To no surprise, the Incan leader was overwhelmingly the top leader on this map with nine additional victories plus another quartet of runner up finishes. Huayna Capac also had by far the most kills with 30 and set a single game record by landing five kills in a single match in Game #16. He killed Lincoln, Gandhi, Pericles, Wang Kon, and Louis in succession while also winning by Domination to take home an incredible 10 points in a single game. Obviously this was only possible due to the larger field of leaders in the Wildcard game but it was still stunning to watch in action. I wasn't sure that anyone would be able to win by Domination on this map due to the greater size (i.e. someone would finish via culture or space before a leader could acquire that much land) only to be surprised by three different Domination endings in the alternate histories. While it was a tougher victory condition to achieve, it turned out not to be impossible. Huayna Capac won at least one time by all four victory conditions (Cultural, Diplomatic, Domination, Spaceship) to cement his mastery over this scenario. It's hard to believe that one leader could be this dominant in a field of nine competitors.

There were two other leaders that stood out from the rest of the pack: the surprising pair of Louis and Gilgamesh. Louis was one of the more popular picks for First to Die due to his jungle start and nearby high peace weight leaders. He struggled with barbarians in the actual Wildcard game and this seemingly proved the community opinion correct. However, Louis did much better in the alternate histories and ended up with the second-most victories (4) and the second-most kills (20) after Huayna Capac. He often picked up the Incan religion and then the Huayna Capac/Louis pairing worked together to eliminate a bunch of more peaceful AI leaders from the map. But Louis didn't just tag along as the sidekick to the Incans, there were a handful of games where Louis killed Huayna Capac and became the runaway AI by absorbing his lands to take home the victory. As for Gilgamesh, his First to Die status in the actual Wildcard game was kind of a fluke since that only happened one time in the alternate histories and he had an excellent survival rate of 80%. More typically, Gilgamesh was able to defeat his eternal rival Wang Kon and then snowball into a position to be a major competitor. Although Gilgamesh only won twice, he survived long enough to pick up a bunch of kills and remained lurking in the background in many of these games.

As for the rest of the field, none of them were serious contenders and the high peace weight AI leaders mostly served as punching bags for their more aggressive low peace weight rivals. They all needed luck to break their way to be in a position to win games; Pericles, Wang Kon, and Roosevelt each won a single game and Zara never won a match at all. I'd estimate that all of these leaders had roughly equal odds to achieve a victory, each of them likely somewhere in the 5-10% range. Gandhi was a special case as he won two games (both by culture, naturally) but was otherwise one of the weakest leaders in the field and suffered under an 80% elimination rate. He struggled mightily in the early game again and again - I guess not handling the Raging Barbarians well? - and sat around building cultural stuff while hoping not to die. Once in a great while he managed to dodge every war declaration and win; normally this strategy failed and he was eliminated. The weakness of the high peace weight leaders can be seen in their paltry kill totals: 7 (Pericles), 5 (Wang Kon), 6 (Zara Yaqob), 3 (Roosevelt), 1 (Gandhi), and 2 (Lincoln) for a combined total of 24 kills. Huayna Capac had more than that on his own and Louis nearly matched their combined kill total as well. These high peace weight AI leaders simply did not snowball their position by conquering and absorbing territory, leaving them at the mercy of more militaristic leaders who did. They could occasionally win the game but only when everything broke in their favor and that wasn't a reliable strategy for success.

The weakest leader on the map by far was Lincoln and he turned out to be the correct choice for First to Die. We nearly saw this in the actual Wildcard game as Gilgamesh was narrowly eliminated before the American leader, and more replays of the map confirmed that Lincoln had about 50/50 odds to be knocked out first. It was easy to understand why Lincoln fared so poorly as he started next to Huayna Capac and Louis, the two strongest leaders in the game, and Lincoln's weakness translated directly into their strength. This was entirely Lincoln's fault as he also struggled with the Raging Barbarians and frequently lost cities to them; what we saw in the Livestream game wasn't a coincidence. It seems that the AI leaders with very low train unit build preferences like Gandhi and Lincoln simply aren't a good fit for the extra barbarians. Finally, the barbarians themselves had variable effects from game to game. They typically captured one or two AI cities in each match but where and when they took those cities was completely random. AI capitals falling was much rarer but did happen, maybe taking place about once every five games. Sometimes this led to unexpected results: Huayna Capac actually lost his capital to barbarians on Turn 48 in Game #6 and still went on to win the match anyway. This also would have been hilarious to watch on the Livestream and would have likely led to a bunch of memes about the greatest comeback in AI Survivor history. Too bad we didn't get to see it!

Now for a look at the individual leaders:

Leader Summaries

Huayna Capac of the Incans
Wars Declared: 58
Wars Declared Upon: 29
Survival Percentage: 70%
Finishes: 9 Firsts, 4 Seconds (53 points)
Kills: 30
Overall Score: 83 points

The evidence continues to pile up that Huayna Capac sits at the very top of the tier list for AI Survivor rankings. He dominated this scenario and easily lapped the rest of the field in the scoring; there was one stretch where Huayna Capac won 5 out of 6 games and took second place in the only game he didn't win. The Incans were surprisingly aggressive on this map, declaring more wars than anyone else although that was due at least in part to being in such a strong position in these matches. Huayna Capac's gameplan was pretty much the same in every successful outing: conquer Lincoln and then continue onwards to Gandhi after that by pushing further and further west. Sometimes he fought Roosevelt in the lategame and it was common for the Incan borders to stretch all the way across the bottom of the map. Huayna Capac's Financial trait and river valley start combined together to make him the strongest economic leader in most games which he was successfully able to translate into decisive military conquest. The Incans also had ivory nearby and most conquests of Lincoln were carried out with the traditional pairing of elephants and catapults, after which it was usually too late for anyone else to stop the "Financial leader with two civ's allotment of territory" snowball. When Huayna Capac struggled, it was either due to an inability to conquer Lincoln or else suffering a rare invasion from Louis. For all of his success, Huayna Capac did get eliminated six times (and was even First to Die once!) which was counterbalanced by recording a top two finish in 13 of the 14 games where he survived. Basically if the rest of the field wasn't able to knock out the Incans they were pretty much guaranteed to advance to the playoffs.

Louis of France
Wars Declared: 56
Wars Declared Upon: 49
Survival Percentage: 70%
Finishes: 4 Firsts, 2 Seconds (24 points)
Kills: 20
Overall Score: 44 points

Louis was probably the most surprising leader on this map given how successful he was relative to expectations. He handled the jungle starting position unexpectedly well and emerged as the clear second-place leader on this map after Huyna Capac. For all of the danger associated with starting in the center of the jungle belt surrounded by rivals, it did also present Louis with lots of grassland tiles once the jungle was removed and plenty of opportunities for expansion. The central starting position predictably landed Louis in a bunch of wars and he found himself in more total conflicts (105) than anyone else in the field. Again, this meant that Louis was eliminated much more often (40% of the time) as compared to leaders in safer places like Gilgamesh or Pericles while also having better odds to outright win the game. It was a feast or famine situation for sure. Interestingly, Louis' victories were strongly correlated with Huyna Capac being eliminated as the best French games saw Louis conquer the Incans to take their juicy land for himself. Three of the four Louis victories took place in the minority of games where Huayna Capac was knocked out. If Huayna Capac was still standing, Louis was more likely to be relegated to second-place status since he couldn't compete with the superior Incan economy. I think that Louis did a fine job in this game of maximizing the value from a difficult position on the map.

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Wars Declared: 57
Wars Declared Upon: 34
Survival Percentage: 80%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 3 Seconds (16 points)
Kills: 15
Overall Score: 31 points

The third and final low peace weight leader in the Wildcard game couldn't match the performance of the first two while still grading out noticeably better than his high peace weight competitors. The story of Gilgamesh's performance was his bitter feud with Wang Kon as the two of them clashed in every game. Sumeria's borders always wrapped around in that weird crescent shape that we observed in the actual Wildcard game, and between massive border tension and divergent peace weights it was an inevitability that Gilgamesh would brawl with Wang Kon. Unlike what we saw in the actual Wildcard game, Gilgamesh usually won this battle to the death and a disproportionate share of his kills were claimed at the expense of the Koreans. It's ironic that Gilgamesh was First to Die on Livestream as he wound up having the best overall survival rate (80%) in the alternate histories! Wang Kon had his revenge though: it typically took so long to defeat the Protective Koreans that Gilgamesh was rarely in a position to win these repeat playthroughs. More often Gilgamesh would be sitting in third or fourth place, not strong enough economically to win by spaceship or culture while also unlikely to suffer elimination. Both of the Gilgamesh victories took place in games where Wang Kon was First to Die (with Gilgamesh and Louis working together to score the early elimination) and he was able to get over the hump on expansion. This was the opposite of the situation that Louis found himself in: less likely to be killed while also having a lower chance to claim an outright victory.

Pericles of Greece
Wars Declared: 29
Wars Declared Upon: 27
Survival Percentage: 70%
Finishes: 1 First, 3 Seconds (11 points)
Kills: 7
Overall Score: 18 points

Wang Kon of Korea
Wars Declared: 25
Wars Declared Upon: 57
Survival Percentage: 20%
Finishes: 1 First, 2 Seconds (9 points)
Kills: 5
Overall Score: 14 points

Zara Yaqob of Ethiopia
Wars Declared: 43
Wars Declared Upon: 30
Survival Percentage: 75%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 4 Seconds (8 points)
Kills: 6
Overall Score: 14 points

Roosevelt of America
Wars Declared: 35
Wars Declared Upon: 28
Survival Percentage: 50%
Finishes: 1 First, 2 Seconds (9 points)
Kills: 3
Overall Score: 12 points

I'm grouping all of these leaders together because their performances tended to be similar. As a group, they were high peace weight leaders that mostly tried to play the game in peaceful fashion and enjoyed only limited success in the alternate histories. These were leaders who needed diplomacy to break in their favor, or for them to be left alone while their peers collapsed in endless warring, if they were going to score a victory. Pericles was a bit of a disappointment as many people in the community thought that he had good odds to land a cultural victory. Instead, he basically never chased after culture at all for no clear reason, winning his only victory in Game #10 by spaceship at a very late date (Turn 359) and only because there was so much fighting amongst everyone else. Pericles may also have been hurt by the Raging Barbarians since he's another leader with a low train unit emphasis. Wang Kon was the whipping boy of the northern side of the map, repeatedly dogpiled by Gilgamesh and Louis. His 25 offensive wars against 57 defensive wars really tells the story of his alternate histories. Wang Kon's single victory in Game #5 took place when he managed to solo kill Gilgamesh and then roll over Louis' lands afterwards. He still would have lost that game to Huayna Capac but the Incan leader inexplicably threw away a certain victory to chase after culture and opened the door for the Korean victory. (The Livestream reactions to this would have been... interesting. )

Roosevelt was more or less a carbon copy of Pericles: a peaceful leader situated in a sheltered spot on the map who sat back and built in most games. He clashed at times with his neighbors Zara and Gandhi but had one of the lowest total number of wars in the game at only 63. Roosevelt never pursued a cultural ending and therefore his goal was always to race down the tech tree for the spaceship. However, with no Financial trait and a lack of conquests to add additional territory, Roosevelt lacked the economic heft to compete with Huayna Capac and usually fell well short of completing the tech tree. His one victory in Game #19 was arguably the weirdest outcome of the alternate histories, a game where Zara and Lincoln killed Louis and then Lincoln went on to eliminate Huayna Capac, clearing the way for the Roosevelt spaceship. As for Zara, he was a bit more militaristic than the rest of this group and managed to achieve a surprisingly high 75% survival rate given his central jungle start. He was often in the mix as a major competitor and suffered some bad luck in terms of not winning one of the alternate histories. Louis narrowly edged him out in the space race in Game #17 and I mentioned above how he finished the whole tech tree in Game #11 but couldn't launch the spaceship because all of his cities were getting nuked into oblivion. I think that if we were to run this scenario 100 times, Zara would likely outscore the other leaders in this quartet and have more first place finishes. However, he was still clearly a tier below Louis and Gilgamesh since Zara proved unable to conquer additional territory and eliminate rivals on a consistent basis.

Gandhi of India
Wars Declared: 11
Wars Declared Upon: 36
Survival Percentage: 20%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 0 Seconds (10 points)
Kills: 1
Overall Score: 11 points

Gandhi once again showed himself to be exactly the AI leader that we expected him to be. The community feeling was that Gandhi had good odds to win if he could survive to the finish of the competition and that belief was absolutely correct. Gandhi won fully half of the matches where he survived to the end... for a grand total of 2 victories in the 4 games where he survived, paired along with 16 matches where he was killed. Perhaps the most surprising element of the Wildcard game was the fact that Gandhi's survival rate was so bad as this map seemed tailored to his strengths. Gandhi bordered two extremely peaceful AI leaders in Lincoln and Roosevelt as well as having the central jungle belt to protect him from northern leaders like Gilgamesh and Louis. He really didn't face that much aggression, seeing only 36 wars in 20 alternate histories; this wasn't like Playoff Game Three from Season Five where Gandhi was absolutely pounded into the ground and had no chance. He just wasn't very good on this map for reasons that aren't entirely clear, repeatedly suffering from a poor economy and proving unable to achieve the explosive culture that we've seen in other AI Survivor matches. I think that the Raging Barbarians hurt Gandhi and the relative lack of rivers in his part of the map wasn't great either. Still, this wasn't a bad starting position by any means and I can't quite explain the struggles of Gandhi on this map. His two victories were extremely early Cultural wins (Turn 267 and Turn 268) plus Gandhi came within two turns of winning Game #17 with his last city at 49k culture only to have it captured by Zara. I think that Lincoln simply died too fast in many of these games and opened up Gandhi to being conquered by Huayna Capac before he could accelerate to a cultural victory. Speaking of which:

Lincoln of America
Wars Declared: 13
Wars Declared Upon: 37
Survival Percentage: 10%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 0 Seconds (0 points)
Kills: 2
Overall Score: 2 points

Lincoln was by far the weakest leader in the Wildcard game and the only one who never achieved a single Top Two finish. That was hard to do since he was eliminated in fully 90% of these matches including being First to Die nine different times, much more frequently than anyone else. Lincoln was essentially Gandhi without the longshot odds to win a Cultural victory. He also struggled with barbarians and frequently lost cities to them, including losing his capital multiple different times. This set him up for a series of early eliminations at the hands of Huayna Capac, including a hilarious Turn 84 elimination in Game #9 which resulted in a steamroller victory for the Incans. The weakness of Lincoln then had further knock-on effects for the rest of the field, as Huayna Capac almost always continued onwards by attacking Gandhi and removing one of the other potential candidates for a peaceful victory type. Once the Incans had Lincoln's territory under their control it became extremely difficult for anyone else to claim first place. Lincoln therefore wound up being one of the most important leaders in the game, if not for the reasons that he would have preferred. He had exactly one game where he achieved anything, the bizarre Game #19 where Lincoln scored kills over both Louis and Huyna Capac. This was an extreme outlier result as Lincoln scored zero points of any kind in his other 19 games while dying 18 times. It was a Wildcard game that Lincoln surely would like to forget.


Overall then, it turned out that the Wildcard game we watched was largely typical of the alternate histories, with a few oddball variations here and there around the margins. Huayna Capac was by far the most likely leader to win the game and Cultural was his most common victory condition. The Runner Up spot was a complete crapshoot with no one having any kind of serious advantage. Zara was technically tied with Huayna Capac for the most second place finishes but this was definitely within the realm of small sample size bias as seven different leaders fell within the 10-20% range. Gandhi and Lincoln had no real shot for that category and everyone else was fairly close to stumbling into second place. Our biggest departure from the ordinary realm was Gilgamesh being First to Die and giving us the rarity of a strong Wang Kon instead of a strong Louis as in most of the alternate histories. Korea's performance in the actual Wildcard game was at the very top end of the range of Wang Kon's outcomes which makes me feel better about him failing to advance. It would have been an unusual outcome to see Wang Kon move on to the playoffs (although it's not like Zara had particularly good Top Two odds either). In terms of the other scoring categories (victory type, finishing date, and number of wars) we saw a pretty standard game in the middle portion of a Normal distribution. All in all, we got to see a great match and the most deserving leader took home the first place prize - with a big score for my fantasy team too, heh.

Thanks as always for reading, I hope you enjoyed this look back at the Wildcard game!