Civ4 AI Survivor Season 7: Playoff Game Two 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. This is a stub of a report since we don't know which leaders will make the playoffs yet; check back later for a full preview once the playoff field has been set. 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 Two Winner

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: Playoff Round: Seasons Three, Four, and Five
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 16 points, tied 18th 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. The Carthaginian leader also had one of the most hilariously weak starting positions in recent years in Season Six, leading Hannibal to slow-build a settler over 80 turns in a jungle-choked second city. 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.

Game Five Winner

Kublai Khan of the Mongols
Traits: Aggressive, Creative
Starting Techs: Hunting, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 5 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Four Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 10
Overall Power Ranking: 30 points, 8th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Kublai Khan is a much more successful version of a Mongolian leader. His warmongering benefits from the Aggressive trait while the Creative trait helps to push out early game borders and provide at least some degree of research support with cheap libraries. This is an early game setup but those are the most important turns in any Civilization game. Kublai's Mongolian civ is well above average, with strong unique features in the Keshik and Ger paired with subpar starting techs. As an AI leader Kublai Khan tries to balance cultural and military goals, generally doing a pretty good job at both of them. He has average ratings for training units, building wonders, and an average aggression rating (6.4/10). Kublai does have a low peace weight and he has an additional diplomatic penalty for anyone who refuses his demands. He doesn't make those demands very often though, and he doesn't care very much about religion in general. Kublai's tech preferences are expectedly Military and Culture in nature, and he lives up to his Mongol heritage by plotting war at "Pleased" relations. Long story short, Kublai Khan is the military + culture leader done correctly, unlike several others who try and fail at this combination.

Past Performance: Kublai Khan is the unquestioned winner of the runner-up award, taking home five different second place finishes including coming in second place in all three of his Season Four appearances. There's a reason for this, as Kublai often isn't dominant enough to win outright but successfully manages to ride the coattails of a low peace weight ally. Kublai has appeared in thirteen different games in all, one of the highest totals in the competition, and has taken home a medal of some kind in seven of them. He's also been a scrappy fighter that rarely gets eliminated outright, including battling back from the Wildcard game in Season Three. Kublai's most impressive achievement has been making the championship game on three separate occasions in Seasons Two, Three, and Four. He had an overall victory in hand in Season Four and should have been the season's champion before bizarrely throwing away his win by chasing after a longshot Cultural victory. While Kublai tends to sneak under the radar a bit, he has a consistent track record of success that exceeds almost everyone else in the field.

Game Eight Winner

Louis XIV of France
Traits: Creative, Industrious
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons Three and Five
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 8 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Louis XIV has a strange AI personality that mixes together a heavy emphasis on wonders together with military aggression. It's not a winning combination. Louis has the Creative and Industrious pairing of traits, a setup that's good for claiming land and then developing cities upwards with additional infrastructure. He also gets to benefit from the strong French civilization, with its excellent starting techs and the useful Musketeer unique unit. However, Louis largely wastes these positive features with a destructive AI personality that pulls in too many directions at once. He's obsessed with building wonders, sporting the rare 10/10 rating in that category, and too often ties up his cities on world wonders with questionable benefits. Louis also has a Culture flavor for his research and tends to spend a lot of time at the top of the tech tree grabbing stuff along the Aesthetics line. These are poor choices for a leader who also has a Military tech flavor, a fairly high aggression rating (6.3/10), and a very low peace weight. Louis tends to make for a bad neighbor as his borders are always intruding on the other empires and he demands tribute constantly (8/10). Needless to say, the guy who likes to pick fights with his rivals while simultaneously locking up his cities on long wonder builds hasn't had a ton of success to date.

Past Performance: Louis has managed a pair of second place finishes thus far while being surprisingly competitive in many of his appearances. His true performance level is likely stronger than what these numbers suggest. With that said, Louis was quickly eliminated in each of the first two seasons of AI Survivor without serving as much more than a speedbump. And in both of his runner-up finishes, he was an extremely distant finisher with less than half of the score of a runaway Justinian (Season Three) and Suryavarman (Season Five). However, Louis was leading his Season Three playoff game for much of the match before running afoul of a distastrous two-front war against Caesar and Kublai, and he was similarly the leader for the first 200 turns of his opening round game in Season Four. Louis probably would have won that contest if Wang Kon hadn't built the Statue of Zeus to troll him in their lengthy war. He was also extremely strong in the alternate histories for his Season Six games without experiencing the same results in the actual matches. In other words, it's clear that there's some potential here even if Louis has a bizarre personality pulling at culture + military cross-purposes.

Game Three Runner Up

De Gaulle of France
Traits: Charismatic, Industrious
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Three
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 29th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: De Gaulle's AI personality seems to have been created by a designer who was poking fun at various different French sterotypes. De Gaulle's trait combination of Charismatic and Industrious is underwhelming for AI Survivor purposes and doesn't appear to have much in the way of synergy. He does get to take advantage of France's excellent starting techs and solid Musketeer unique unit but that's about all that this leader has working in his favor. De Gaulle has a very low wonder-building preference (2/10), which largely serves to waste his Industrious trait, and mixes this together with obnoxious behavior towards his neighbors. He will make constant tribute demands (10/10) and civic change requests (8/10) that tend to make him unpopular with the other AI leaders. De Gaulle also infamously has the lowest resistance to capitulation in the game (0/10), and while that doesn't matter as much in a game without vassal states, he still makes few friends thanks to his peace weight score of zero. It's a confusing and incoherent AI personality that combines annoying behavior with a lack of the requisite ruthlessness needed to be a true conquerer.

Past Performance: De Gaulle had a terrible performance over the first two seasons of AI Survivor, suffering a quick elimination as First to Die in both of his opening round matches. He was ranked dead last, 52nd out of 52 leaders, following the conclusion of Season Two. Thus it was a gigantic shock to everyone when De Gaulle played a dominant match in the opening round of Season Three, scoring a first place finish and racking up three kills in the process. It was a game where De Gaulle devoured perennial doormat Frederick and then snowballed into runaway AI status with no one else even close at the end. He had no such luck in the playoff round as De Gaulle ended up being a speedbump to another impressive Mansa Musa win, and then in Season Four he couldn't manage to overcome stronger, better warmongers in the form of Caesar and Shaka. Season Five was another dud performance as De Gaulle was overrun in the midgame by Tokugawa and Pacal. De Gaulle has therefore been outright eliminated in five of his six opening round games, scoring 7 of his 9 total points in his one strong performance. De Gaulle is far from the worst AI but he's pretty much had one good game and otherwise been terrible.

Game Six Runner Up

Mehmed of the Ottomans
Traits: Expansive, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Five Champion
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 21st place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Mehmed is a typical member from the group of militaristic AI leaders. He's not quite as crazy as some of his shared rivals in the Montezuma or Shaka mold, but he still acts predictably and starts a lot of trouble for his neighbors. Mehmed does have a pair of good economic traits in the Expansive/Organized combo, albeit both of them traits that the AI doesn't leverage particularly well. His Ottoman civilization also benefits from having excellent starting techs and decent unique features in the Janissary and Hamman. Mehmed's biggest problem is that he's too militaristic for his own good, endlessly picking wars and failing to leverage those economic traits to good effect. He has a maxed out preference for training units (10/10) and a high aggression rating (7.8/10) to go along with his low peace weight. And yet Mehmed also won't plot war at "Pleased" relations for some reason, often causing him to stack up units endlessly to no effect whatsoever. His research flavors are Military and an odd Culture, once again reinforcing how Mehmed tends to neglect economy in favor of more and more units. Mehmed has often been a popular pick from the community because he looks like he should be strong on paper, and yet he traditionally let everyone down over and over again.

Past Performance: At least until Season Five, that is. Mehmed initiated a lot of fighting through the first four seasons but without translating those conflicts into a top two finish. He was often a leading figure at various points in time before falling apart and collapsing in the later stages of the gameplay. Mehmed's experience in Season One was typical, as he conquered multiple rivals before getting chopped to bits by a more advanced Mansa Musa. He came close to taking second place in his Season Two match, and eliminated Bismarck in Season Three only to fall apart in a two front war afterwards. Everything changed in Season Five though, as Mehmed finished in second place twice in the opening round and playoffs followed by stunning everyone by winning the outright championship. He was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his one shining moment to bring home the trophy. Season Six suggested that this was more luck than skill but Mehmed will always have that shocking victory to look back upon. While Mehmed clearly isn't one of the best AI leaders, he's a competent military leader who can win games if the conditions break in his favor.

Wildcard Game Runner Up

Tokugawa of Japan
Traits: Aggressive, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons Two and Four
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 13 points, 25th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Tokugawa is infamous for being the most isolationist leader in Civ4. He won't sign Open Borders with anyone else unless relations warm up to "Pleased", and he generally refuses to trade or interact with anyone else unless they share a mutual military struggle. Tokugawa suffers from one of the worst leader trait combinations in the game, with lots of unit promotions but little else to recommend it. He's also saddled with a weak civilization in Japan, which suffers from poor starting techs and the uselessly-late Shale Plant. Unfortunately the Samurai unit is nothing special in Civ4. Tokugawa's AI personality reflects his generally militaristic bent, with an above average aggression rating (7.3/10) and train unit emphasis. He makes it clear that he wants to be left alone by never asking for help (0/10) or demanding tribute (1/10) or making religious conversion demands (2/10). Tokugawa's best feature is probably his tech flavor, where he has the rare Science preference to go along with a lesser Military emphasis. This is likely the reason why Tokugawa has been somewhat decent at building an economy despite his atrocious leader traits. Long story short, this guy is basically an old man telling everyone to stay out of his yard while shaking a rolled-up newspaper.

Past Performance: Tokugawa is widely viewed as one of the worst possible choices for a Single Player game of Civ4, and he's exceeded expectations to date with two different trips to the playoffs. Tokugawa scored a runner up finish behind Shaka back in Season Two, and when we did some repeated playthroughs of that same setup, it emerged that he was clearly a top pick in that specific circumstance. In a very weak field of competitors, Tokugawa and Shaka repeatedly proved to be stronger than their peers. Tokugawa's best performance took place in Season Four where he stunned everyone by winning a dominant runaway victory. Again, this was another group of generally weak opponents but Tokugawa nonetheless smoked them well and good. Of course this doesn't mean that Tokugawa is one of the better AI leaders, as he's also had multiple opening round games where he stewed around not achieving anything with his isolationist ways, and Tokugawa actually managed to die to the Apostolic Palace (!) during his second playoff appearance. Still, this is a leader that has shown at least basic competency in past seasons, which is more than many of the other AI leaders can claim.

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

The only category with a clear favorite was the first one where the community strongly backed Kublai Khan to claim the victory. The Mongolian leader was the only Pool 1 leader to win his opening round game and the general sentiment was that this would continue onwards into the playoffs. While the Runner Up category typically is the hardest one to pick, it was unusual to see no consensus choice in the First to Die category as well. The community seemed to like De Gaulle and Louis the most after Kublai Khan while Tokugawa and Hannibal were the most popular choices for a quick exit. Spaceship and Domination were the preferred victory types on this map as this group of aggressive leaders didn't seem likely to go the Cultural or Diplomatic routes.

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!

Sir Colville of the Dale: OK, Ieyasu. You have a shot to unify the land, but now is not the time to fight your ally the Toyotomi. You need to defeat the Ancien Regime at Odawara to have the Kanto Region as your base. Then you need Hideyoshi's outside conquests to succeed, and you may need to contribute troops. Finally, you have to wait for Hideyoshi to fly to heaven so that you can make your move once the clan is weakened. Take it all at Sekigahara once Mitsunari takes over. Yes, I played too much Samurai Warriors 3.

Mooaddict: I just like De Gaulle starting position. Lots of flood plains to cottage and far enough from everyone else that he can pic up production before too late. Expansion + technology advantage early game means a lot.

Diplomatic Toku: Well the last game was a total snoozefest. I actually left after about an hour (sry Sullla). We hopefully get something better with playoff game 2. This seems impossible to predict, since we cant say who founds religions here. 3 ais declare at pleased and 3 wont, so religion will play a big part. Mehmed has really bad land and toku seems stuck in a corner. Kublai looks good, but i dont like him as an ai. I will stay true to myself and vote for i want to have happen, instead what i think. Lets say De Gaulle uses all that good land and teams up with Hannibal somehow and they kill Kublai?? And then go to space fairly late. Seems plausible? probably not, but who cares. Either way this game will likely be fun, whether or not i get any points.

Madmandoc: I have no confidence in this sword. Or this prediction. My first instinct is to go with the only financial leader. But I just can't get over Hannibal's position, which seems boxed in by Kublai and Tokugawa. Kublai will be putting culture all over the place and Toku is almost impossible to fight in the early game. Hannibal will end up with few cities and some will be coastal. For this reason, I pick him first to die. I'm picking Kublai to win. He has a lot of room to expand and should be able to use creative to gain a ton of space. He may well pick up part or all of Hannibal's empire. For second I am picking... De Gualle. He has a lot of space and should be able to get a good economy going on those flood plains. I am going with culture for the win condition. Kublai and the french leaders all tend toward culture. Other than Hannibal these are weak techers and I think we will see several wars that accomplish nothing other than to slow everyone down. Late win date of 324. 11 wars, but other than Hannibal getting destroyed due to low city count, I expect they wont accomplish a lot.

ZincAlloy: Two Frances enter, but can they both leave? De Gaulle and Loius are both worth watching here. De Gaulle has excellent land and enough room to expand, so he's likely to be out in front in the early game. But it's all low peace weights and half of them can't declare at pleased, so it's going to be up to someone like Louis to actually get some wars started. Or he'll just get stuck fighting Japan and their super-promoted units for a thousand years.

Plains-Cow: Another map where there are NO leaders that start with plains-cow tiles (ugh, talk about a total tossup game!) However, Kublai is the closest to the only two plains-cow tiles on the map, making him the most likely one to win. Now if he can only manage to settle them before anyone else does and steamroll the field like he did earlier in the season...also, I picked Mehmed for second because you can't spell his name without "meh," which I find humorous.

the_lord_admiral: This game just seems absolutely gifted to De Gaulle. Tokugawa and Hannibal are both crammed in corners next to creative leaders who are going to stifle their expansion and probably provoke an early war. Tokugawa has no metal until iron, so Louis should be able to keep him crammed in the corner and eventually wipe him out. Hannibal (the strongest AI in this game, IMO) will put up a much better fight against Kublai but should eventually lose out to him. Mehmed has garbage land to expand into. And De Gaulle has so much beautiful flood-plain filled territory all for his own. I think he takes almost the entire south of the map and goes to space with 12+ cities.

kcostell: I can see Mehmed putting his second AND third cities smack in the middle of the jungle, stunting his growth. Hoping that Louis is the main beneficiary of this.

LinkMarioSamus: I'm putting my faith in a top seed again! Kublai Khan does seem to have a good position where he has multiple routes for conquest and lots of land to settle peacefully, and I think he will be able to at least keep up with De Gaulle and his godly starting position expansion-wise because De Gaulle might tie up his top cities on wonders like a moron. Tokugawa just seems like he might get squeezed to oblivion, so I'm picking him FTD even though it has never happened to him before. This field also looks kind of similar to Kublai's opening round field where everyone is fairly evenly matched, so I imagine Kublai will be able to get the land to wait out any stalemate and take advantage of potential dogpiles.

BigBlueBen: I don't know anymore... Kublai is in tier1 for a reason, right? I'll pick him - a relatively competent warmonger (at least compared with his fellow Mongolian) with capital copper (and creative + wheel means he won't screw himself over too hard in the first 60 turns). Mehmed for second just because he's furthest away from Mongolia. Toku first to die, he has about three decent city spots, then nothing else he's likely to settle before one of the creative leaders or Hannibal gets first. Hannibal isn't much better off land-wise, but he has third-ring copper and better tech with financial coast. I almost picked De Gaulle with those lovely flood-plains and he can tech pottery turn 1. He could be the tech leader 150 turns into the game and win, but I don't think Mehmed and Khan let that happen.

Schmunn: De Gaulle has a food-rich start, but my question is: where does he go? I think the land outside of his immediate area is fairly poor. Kublai has a lot of room to expand, but I don't like his start that much AND the pool 1 leaders are all cursed this season. I think this is Hannibal's game - financial/alive of course, but also with a good start for him and room to expand. Toku I think has the best chance of just sticking around for 2nd. I'm predicting FTD as Louis - Mehmed will be weaker but he's hidden away up in the corner of the map. Win condition is probably spaceship, but I'm actually going to go crazy here and predict a diplo win. We haven't had one yet this season, and the mutually low peaceweight lead me to think that some serious mutual struggle bonuses might be acquired and result in victory via the UN. Number of wars for majority low peaceweight games is always ticky, could be a bloodbath or they could all strangely get along. There's no real psycho AI in this one to mix things up. Overall, I'm going to be brave with my predictions!

Guanidine: Are you ready for the French connection? De Gaulle's golden wine region will power his space ship while Louis shanks Kublai Khan repeatedly. I don't think we will even see anyone else on the minimap!

Agni Neres: Wow - a game where the highest peace rating on the board is TWO! Everyone should get along swimmingly, but they won't, though the war count should be subdued. No one starts with Mysticism, so the religions are completely unpredictable. Put Hannibal in DeGaulle's spot, and he wins every time. As it is, however, he has very few land tiles to leverage his Financial trait, and is in danger of being locked out of both iron and horses. Toku has the most cramped position, but is Protective and has uncontested iron to his north. One of those two will be first to die. The Paris-Karakorum axis, only one tile off of a straight line of longitude, features two Creative leaders that will swallow the entire middle of the continent. The leaders in the west have much more land available for expansion before conflict begins, and it looks like DeGaulle's flood plains should carry the day here; he also has stone for his Industrious trait. Louis, Kublai, and Mehmed will all have good games, and in fact may all survive to the end. For the first time this season, I'll predict a Spaceship win -- in a world full of warmongers. These maps are just crazy!

Bernn: This lineup is reminiscent of the Wildcard game earlier this season - a bunch of aggressive, backstabby AIs thrown into a pressure cooker and left to simmer until one claws their way to the top. I suspect Hannibal will get the most support here, and his capital definitely plays into his starting techs, but I think conflict between him and Kublai Khan is very likely and will sink both their games. Louis met my expectations during Game Eight and I'll go with him again. He's got a solid start, Creative is a great trait and his only neighbor Tokugawa has a crummy starting position and is my choice for First to Die. Japan is crammed into the corner, short on food, and Tokugawa is a mediocre expander at the best of times. I'm counting on Louis taking down a runty Tokugawa and snowballing from his territory. It's gonna be a fun one.

Willem: I'm starting to think plains-cow might mean something.

Playoff Game Two Picking Contest Entry Form