Civ4 AI Survivor Season 7: Playoff Game One Preview

This is a continuing feature for Season Seven 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 (note that all stats are from before the start of Season Seven):

Game One Winner

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: Playoff Round: Season Three
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, 48th 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.

Game Four Winner

Joao of Portugal
Traits: Expansive, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Two
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 6 points, tied 36th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Joao is supposed to be the best leader at rapid expansion in the game, with his combination of Expansive (cheap workers) and Imperialistic (cheap settlers) traits. However, in practice the Deity AIs tend to be more limited by their economies as opposed to their capacity to train more settlers, and Joao hasn't stood out as being especially good at expansion. He hasn't really stood out at all, aside from having a name that's difficult for non-Portuguese speakers to pronounce, and Joao mostly sits in the middling portion of the AI category ratings. He trains units at an average rate, builds wonders at an average rate, cares about religion at an average rate, declares wars at an average rate, and so on. He even has a peace weight right in the middle of the scale. About the only semi-interesting thing about Joao is that he makes a lot of demands, both for tribute (8/10) and to switch to his religion (10/10). This is a boring leader overall with little in the way of a distinct personality.

Past Performance: Joao has similarly failed to distinguish himself as either a strong performer or a memorably bad leader. He was eliminated in a notably weak field in his Season One match, then went on to score his only victory in Season Two with an uninspired effort in the Wildcard game. It was an unusual 11 player setup where Joao didn't pull off any particularly impressive moves, instead largely teching along in a corner of the map until reaching the end of the tree. He made a repeat showing in the Wildcard game in Season Three with less successful results and suffered the fate of being First to Die in his only Season Four appearance. Joao's single kill in nine overall matches is a sign of his passive and generally unsuccessful gameplay style. He's never emerged as a dominant force in any of his games and it's easy to forget that he's even present sometimes. Out of all of the leaders who have won a game, Joao is potentially the most uninteresting.

Game Seven Winner

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: Wildcard Game: Season Three
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 point, 51st 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.

Game Two Runner Up

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, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game: Season One
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 28 points, 9th 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, thirteen 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.

Game Five Runner Up

Churchill of England
Traits: Charismatic, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Six Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, 26th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Churchill has arguably the second-worst trait pairing in the game, with the below-average Charismatic and the terrible Protective. His English civilization is much nicer though, with the powerful Redcoat and Stock Exchange, which might help to make up for his traits. Lastly, he starts with Fishing and Mining, a weak pairing unless his capital is on the coast. Churchill is a little interesting in the sense that he has a low score in basically every category. He doesn't build a lot of wonders (2/10) or units (4/10). He doesn't demand tribute (1/10) and he has a pretty low aggression rating (4.3/10) too. In fact, the only thing this guy does is spend espionage (7/10); that's literally the only number above a 5/10 in his personality. He also has a neutral peace weight, so Churchill is fair game for attack from the good or evil leaders. Lastly, his flavours are Military and Gold. It all makes for an uninteresting personality that's more likely to sit in a corner plotting than anything else.

Past Performance: This was a section that had to be completely rewritten following Season Six. Churchill died in his opening game during the first three seasons of AI Survivor, and was first-to-die twice to boot. Then in Season Four, Churchill played his best game yet: he hid in a corner and got his butt saved by the Apostolic Palace numerous times, until he got to the Wildcard Game and, err, died miserably. Yikes. Season Five was no better as Churchill was a brief speed bump on Alexander's path to world domination. Coming into Season Six, Churchill had scored exactly 1 point from a random kill and was rated as one of the worst leaders in the field. Then he made it all the way to the Championship game in Season Six with a victory in the opening round and two more runner up finishes, with a close miss on the overall victory in the title game itself! Churchill fans should be careful not to get too carried away, however: Churchill had a starting position heavily titled in his favor in his sole victory while the alternate histories for his two runner up games showed that they had been exceedingly unlikely results. This is more likely to be a case of a weak leader who randomly got lucky instead of the start of a newfound competitor.

Game Eight Runner Up

Ramesses II of Egypt
Traits: Industrious, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Three
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 49th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Ramesses is best summarized as a peaceful leader who loves to build wonders. His traits are well suited for this, with the Industrious trait granting additional production for wonders and Spiritual serving as a useful all-around development trait. The AI loves to waste turns in Anarchy flipping civics and it helps save them from their own follies. Ramesses is further helped by the presence of the powerful Egyptian civilization, which has excellent starting techs along with one of the game's best unique units in the form of the War Chariot. Unfortunately the whole is less than the sum of its parts as far as Ramesses is concerned, as his traits and AI personality contribute to one of the worst expansion rates in the competition. Ramesses is so busy building his wonders (10/10) that he forgets to train units (2/10) and struggles to get settlers out on the map to claim territory. He's helped here by a peace weight in the middle of the spectrum to prevent him from being quite as much of a sitting duck as Hatshepsut but the low aggression rating on Ramesses (3.7/10) makes it unlikely that he'll be able to snowball ahead from conquering territory. Ramesses also heavily emphasizes religion, strongly favoring his religious compatriots and disliking his rivals. With his Culture and Production tech flavors, he's another leader who's likely to found a religion despite not starting with Mysticism tech. Only in the rare situation where Ramesses is somehow able to acquire additional territory does he start to become a threat to win the game. His wonder-heavy gameplan simply doesn't work very well for AI Survivor purposes.

Past Performance: Ramesses has been one of the worst-performing leaders in AI Survivor, with zero kills to his name and frequent early eliminations. He was the First to Die in the first ever game of AI Survivor and things generally haven't improved a lot since then. Season Two was going a bit better for Ramesses until he picked a fight with Mansa Musa and was knocked out the competition for his impunity. Season Four's opening round game had an unfortunate field of mostly low peace weight leaders and that meant another First to Die outing for Ramesses. Only in Season Three did he have one solid game, stunning everyone who expected an early demise by triumphing over Ragnar and riding that conquest to a second place finish. This had less to do with Ramesses and more to do with Ragnar inexplicably deciding to attack his low peace weight neighbor Stalin, an invasion which was unusually suicidal even for Ragnar. Order was restored in the playoff round as Ramesses once again suffered an early exit. It was back to the usual grind in Season Five and Season Six as Ramesses failed to expand properly and suffered more early defeats. He's appeared in seven total matches and suffered six eliminations without ever managing a kill, not exactly a successful track record from past years.

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

The community picked a clear favorite in Suryavarman who was selected by a little over half of the submissions, with modest support for Joao, Ramesses, and a surprising Montezuma among the rest. (Perhaps these individuals didn't see Monty's performance in the alternate histories for his opening round game?) There was no consensus whatsoever for the Runner Up spot, and then the First to Die contest was split between how people thought the Montezuma vs Ramesses duel at the top of the map would play out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Spaceship emerged as the most popular victory condition over Domination and Cultural outcomes.

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!

Diplomatic Toku: Monty!!!!!!! Kill Ramses and then just keep going til you reach the championship game. Dominate them all. With Capac and Mansa gone, now i just need Pacal and Darius to fail for the dream to come through.

the_lord_admiral: Now this looks interesting! There's exactly one AI I regard as even reasonably competent (Sury). His start is good but not amazing, and the presence of four high peace weight leaders might not be so great for him. Then again, he is next to Monty, and they might bond over their warmongering. Churchill and Hammy both have terrible starts with way too much forest. They do at least have peaceful neighbors and good land to expand into (especially Churchill), so it may not be as dire as it looks for them, but I'm betting on both to struggle. I think Joao's start is great (double wet corn? Yes please!), but his proximity to Sury kind of scares me and I have a feeling he'll get overrun. Ditto Ramesses vis-a-vis Monty. My guess is Monty and Ramesses found the first two religions, with fatal results for Ramesses. Sury beats Joao in the land grab phase and overwhelms him, and Sury and Monty both overrun a field of excessively peaceful leaders. Sury's just a better leader overall and does it more effectively than Monty, and wins a rather early domination victory.

Eauxps I. Fourgott: Chat is going to enjoy watching Sullla lose his mind when Churchill makes the championship for the second straight season.

Cyneheard: I'm very much counting on the Monty AI to go "Oh that's a 3-resource city" and grab a 2x gold/corn first city. Copper's not the easiest for him, which is a good thing - a little less likely to declare a stupid T60 war. I think he'll eat Sury reasonably early and steamroll to a victory, with Hammurabi best positioned to avoid the Aztec horde.

Madmandoc: This one is a bit tough to read. I think that Monty and Sury may become friends via peace weight and potential to share a religion. Monty will found the first religion and it may spread to his neighbors. I like Ramesses start but he is surrounded by potentially hostile powers, may waste production on early wonders, and will likely be the target of Monty with potential to be blindsided in a 2v1 thereafter. He is picked first to die. Joao has good land, but he is surrounded. It is just too tough to defend the center position. You end up with border tension all over the place and get ground down. I pick Sury to win and Monty for 2nd, with both picking up a large amount of territory but Sury's superior economy winning in the end.

ZincAlloy: It's a race to the east between Montezuma and Suryavarman, as the two low peace weights conquer their way through the rest of the competition! Who will win — the vastly more competent Khmer in the south, or the Aztecs who are too angry for their own good? Monty's got a good chance of getting two gold and already has elephants, but Sury can head south to get the all-important plains cow. It's sure to be a neck-and-neck race... and they're fighting each other, aren't they?

Dagoth Gares: Joao has lightning strike twice, pulling off a solid REX before Suryavarman launches a war and offers himself as a sacrifice to Portugal. Hammurabi rides his coattails to an unimpressive second-place finish. This is the reality we live in, where a Joao/Hammurabi ticket to the championship seems plausible.

Tatsucrow: Sury is unleashed on this map and there is no doubt he will be an absolute monster in this game. There are several other good starts here so I feel the deciding factor will be leader strength. Sury is most likely to be proactive and take charge, he's going to pick a target and won't stop until he either snowballs or is defeated. Yes his diplo situation looks bad, but a lot of these leaders are so passive and they might let him run away with the game before doing anything about it. Montezuma as always could shake things up, of course. I will pick Hammurabi for second place, although he might not get spared from Sury's wrath later in the game, Churchill seems to be in a weaker spot than him and thus is an easier target. FTD is Montezuma, his neighbors are not going to be too squishy and he will get himself into trouble as usual. Victory condition is Domination because Sury is probably just going to keep going nonstop and isn't the best at teching, though if he cottages up this start properly he won't need to worry too much. Sheer force of numbers will also play a role. This game Suryavarman will shine brightly. Praise the sun!

pindicator: The only reason Ramesses is in the playoffs and not roadkill (where he belongs) is because Kublai came in at the eleventh hour to stop Louis from rolling him over early. And then Louis took the religion off of the one city he did capture, stopping the whole "Conquer Egypt" thing in its tracks. I really don't see that saving Ramesses a second time. Meanwhile Monty is once again with great land and no copper, so he could very easily build up a bit before going ham on his neighbors. And with this field, once he takes out Ramesses then who is going to stop him? Fellow low-peace-weight Sury will tag along for the second spot to the finals.

Agni Neres: Well, here we are at Game 10, and I'm below the average total score - need to hit a long shot to get back in the competition, so why not Monty for the win? He has no copper, which will force him to develop economy before beginning his conquest -- a very good thing for him. Ramesses will be his first target, and therefore first to die. Hammurabi has no rivers; looks like a really slow start for him with all the forest. Sury is always dangerous, but the Creative leaders have all failed to impress this season. Joao has a good start to my eye, picking him for number two in this game. All he needs is to acquire and adopt Monty's religion, and help with the conquests of Egypt and the Khmer. Looking forward to Friday!

ManiaMuse: Might be mad picking Ramesses to win but this bunch of AIs are terrible and I think he has a good chance to pull off a sneaky cultural victory with a good mix of production and commerce around his start. I backed Hammurabi in game 1 and he did me proud so putting my faith in him again to pull off an underserving 2nd place. Monty will probably back to his usual suicidal tricks. Last game was definitely a fluke.

Colors: Surya has a strong start, a ton of room to expand, a meat shield ally, and the good leaders are saddled with some real duds. If Joao can't stop him, I think he rolls. Hammurabi's start stinks, and he and Churchill have historically been inert. Rammer may make some noise, but I think he gets dragged down by a war with Monty that weakens both sides. In a weak field, I'm taking the guy who should do pretty well.

eyser: I like the odds of Sury and Monty. They just need to kill their neighbor to get going, and they have good targets here. While Ramesses is a good AI, I really don't like his chances against Monty. Joao's only chance of winning a game is for whoever attacks him to be really weak, and he takes territories that way. He just doesn't have it in him to make decisive moves himself. I expect Churchill and Hammurabi to either do nothing and be in contention for second place, or die if a strong Sury/Monty come knocking. I am going Sury/Monty because while Monty is bad, he only has one direction to go. Its unlikely he gets caught in a 2 front war. Sury also only has 1 direction to go and will be the one to win this

RefSteel: Monty returns to form with a series of fruitless attacks that end when Sury decides to end the charade and kill him while Monty's mile-high stack of obsolete units is wandering through Egypt. Season 7 continues its curveballs though as shared faith (thanks to the endless river connecting them) and their mutual military struggle (including against Joao, who earns their hatred by settling up on basically everyone with a crashed economy) Sury and Rameses become best friends forever in spite of wildly different peace weights; the Khmer are still in the process of crushing the rest of the world when Egyptian culture conquers the hearts of the Pangaean people.

Zigzagzone: Welcome back to Game 4, where Joao can again settle all of the centre of the map, and where a shared river network allows everyone to be friends. Well, not with Monty of course. After just a little bloodshed, the UN will send Joao and Churchill to the Championship.

Bernn: As exciting as it'd be to see a dominant Suryavarman or Monty romp here, I don't think we're going to get it this time. Both their starts are mediocre and this field is just too peaceful: half the AIs have the exact same peaceweight of 6 and Hammurabi's 8 isn't far off. A medium peaceweight coalition is pretty much inevitable, and it's gonna be hard for just two aggressive leaders to make much headway against that. Plus there's a decent chance they'll go to war with each other anyway. There are a few interesting starts, but I shockingly like Hammurabi's odds the most. His coastal capital is a bit unfortunate, but he still has immediately improvable corn and triple clams are nothing to sneeze at once he gets Fishing online. More importantly, he's also far away from the warmongers on the west coast and can stay out of most if not all warring. This season's shown how if he's left alone in a corner Hammurabi can do a decent job of reaching space, and it just so happens this is a solid setup for that. Hammur in the finals? I think it's surprisingly likely.

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Hammurabi;
He will fight his civ's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for blood and terror
And to gnaw on still-beating hearts;
He is proud to claim the title
Of Playoff Game 1 Winner

Playoff Game One Picking Contest Entry Form