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):
Alexander of the Greeks
Traits: Aggressive, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons One, Five, and Six
Total Kills: 8
Overall Power Ranking: 17 points, 17th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Alex is another of the warmongers in Civ 4. He plays with the Aggressive and Philosophical traits, a weak pairing that doesn't offer much in the way of synergy or individual power. He also gets the phalanx, a powerful unit in the hands of a human but not especially useful in that of the AI (Alex will build plenty of spears anyway), and the Odeon, a nice happiness boost for the midgame. Lastly, Alex has a pair of average starting techs in Fishing and Hunting, and like all Fishing leaders is much stronger when he starts on the coast. With one of the highest aggression ratings in the game (8.6/10), a high unit build preference (8/10) and the military/growth flavour pairing, Alex is likely to go to war early and often. He's also one of the leaders with the "demonic evil" peace weight of 0, which makes any cooperation with the "good" leaders essentially impossible. Like the other warmongers though, Alex is so aggressive that if there aren't any good leaders around, he's pretty likely to just attack one of his buddies anyway. Other than the key aggressive stats, Alex is a pretty generic leader. He has middling numbers in just about everything else, including tribute demands (4/10) and wonder building (4/10), and he cares an average amount about religion too. Look for Alex to be one of the driving forces of this game. He can't get off the warpath until everyone else - or himself - is dead.
Past Performance: Alexander has put together exactly one impressive game thus far, a crushing Domination victory in his opening round game of Season Five. He was able to eliminate Zara Yaqob at an early date and everything lined up perfect for Alex to the run the table over the rest of the field. Alex's only other notable placing so far was in Season One, where he placed an extremely distant - we're talking lightyears here - second to Boudica in Game Three after fighting a series of unsuccessful wars; it wasn't an impressive game. He also slipped into the playoffs in Season Six while picking up a series of kills in games that the alternate histories suggested were not likely outcomes. Otherwise Alex has struggled mightily, the first player to die in both his Season Two and Three games. The closest Alex has come to success so far was in his Season Four Opening Game, where he played a genuinely strong first 250 turns. Alex's downfall in that game was less his own incompetence and more Kublai's determined defence (and then Tokugawa's lethal invasion) and having played a major part in the death of nearly every other leader and topping the scoreboard for ages, Alex was unlucky not to score at least a kill point or two. Despite this, it's worth acknowledging that Alex has displayed incompetence more often than not, and his games are yet another pile of evidence that unadulterated aggression is just not the best strategy for this kind of setup.
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, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish:Championship Game: Season Four
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, 21st 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. Darius had his favorite thing in Season Six, a quiet corner where he could build in his sandbox, which translated into a second place finish. 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.
Saladin of Arabia
Traits: Spiritual, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Five
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 8 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Saladin is one of several leaders that focuses on religion and military; unlike most of the other leaders with this combination, he's only middle of the spectrum in terms of aggression and peace weight. Saladin is hurt badly by his leader traits and Arabian civilization, with the useless Protective trait handicapping his performance. He is also penalized by having to start with arguably the worst starting tech pairing in the game in Mysticism and Wheel. Saladin's free starting Deity worker cannot hook up any food resources or build mines, while being stuck two techs away from both Bronze Working and Animal Husbandry. Saladin heavily emphasizes religion and he will therefore always try to found one of the Meditation/Polytheism faiths, leaving him even further in the hole compared to his rivals. This poor starting situation typically leaves Saladin significantly behind the other leaders and makes it hard for him to keep pace with their expansion. Most of his AI ratings are in the middle of the range of available values, such as his aggression rating (5.5/10) and peace weight. Saladin rarely makes demands of his neighbors and will be a good friend when sharing the same faith, though his preferred civic of Theocracy makes it almost impossible for rival religions to get any kind of footing. This is a straightforward AI personality: he's going to try to found a religion and then attack those who don't share it, although not nearly to the same degree as someone like Montezuma or Isabella.
Past Performance: Saladin was somewhat unfortunate in his past games before managing to break through with a first place finish in Season Five. For all of his weaknesses at the start of the game, Saladin has been in a solid position on multiple occasions coming out of the landgrab phase. Unfortunately he has often found himself on the wrong side of the religious diplomacy and suffered as a result. This was the problem in Season One, as Saladin had a self-founded Hinduism that no one else practiced and it led to his eventual elimination by Catherine. He hung on to the Wildcard game in a very peaceful Season Two opening round match only to finish in the middle of the pack in a large field. Season Three was a replay of Season One for Saladin, with his own self-founded religion that Justinian opposed and eventually stomped out. And in Season Four, Saladin clung to life in both his opening round game and the Wildcard match without ever coming close to a victory. Everything came together in the opening round game of Season Five though, where Saladin took advantage of multiple nearby gold resources and some idiotic neighbors to win a very late Spaceship victory. To his credit, Saladin has been in eight total matches thus far and was only eliminated twice. On the other hand, his sole victory came at the absurdly late date of Turn 421 and the Arabian economy has never been much to write home about. This is the Protective trait at its finest: stalling out losing games while doing nothing to help achieve a win.
Gandhi of India
Traits: Spiritual, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 10
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons Two, Three, Four, and Five
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 22 points, 14th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Gandhi is without a doubt one of the most unique leaders in Civ4. For traits, he plays with the powerful Spiritual, and the terrible (for AI Survivor) Philosophical, an overall unremarkable pair that lands at about average, the most important point being that Gandhi gets several half-cost cultural buildings. He also has access to the above average Fast Worker and Mausoleum. Lastly, his starting techs are Mysticism and Mining, a generally weak pair useful for pursuing an early religion and not much else; like many religious leaders, Gandhi often takes a long time to improve his tiles and connect his resources. Gandhi is the leader least likely to declare war in the entire game, with an aggression rating of 0/10. He also has the lowest possible rating for building units (0/10) and demanding tribute (0/10), essentially making Gandhi a hyper pacifist who entirely neglects his military and prays it won't come back to bite him in the rear. Surprisingly, Gandhi is also quite unlikely to build wonders (2/10); he doesn't waste time with those either. Rather than units and wonders, Gandhi spends the entire game laser-focused on one thing: cultural buildings. Gandhi is a rare leader with only one flavour in Civ 4: CULTURE. He pursues religions like a man possessed and puts his production bonuses to extremely effective use. It's not uncommon to see Gandhi desperately fighting wars of survival whilst simultaneously building his third or fourth temple in each city. It usually doesn't end well. Gandhi is probably the most feast-or-famine type leader in AI Survivor. If he is not attacked by his neighbours, he can rush out a cultural victory like nobody's business, but if he is, he collapses faster than any other leader in the game. An early war declaration from a neighbour can often ruin any chance of a Gandhi victory on the spot.
Past Performance: Gandhi's all-or-nothing playstyle has been surprisingly effective, and Gandhi has won almost every opening round he's played in thus far. Season One showed the nothing side, as Gandhi rolled a hostile group of neighbours and was devoured early on, attacked by 4/5 of the other players. However, in Seasons Two, Three, and Four, Gandhi has rolled low-skilled, high peaceweight games; in other words, his perfect field. Gandhi won all of these games and it usually wasn't very close. He's even scored a couple of kills! Gandhi has struggled in the playoffs so far, always drawing aggressive fields and being savaged early on, being First to Die in three of his four losses. He drew arguably the most hopeless starting position in playoff history in Season Five and was predictably eliminated despite a game effort at survival. Gandhi's success thus far should likely be viewed skeptically, as three of his wins have been against some of the weakest fields in AI Survivor history, and when he goes up against stronger competitors Gandhi has been thoroughly unable to keep up. Pay particular attention to which other leaders are in Gandhi's games when predicting his performance; it's especially important for him.
Qin Shi Huang
Traits: Industrious, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons One and Three
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 6 points, tied 40th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Qin Shi Huang has the unfortunate penalty of being saddled with the worst trait combination in Civ4 for AI Survivor purposes. The Industrious trait seems to cause the AI leaders to tie up their cities on wonders in lieu of expanding out across the map, while the Protective trait is well-known for being the weakest of the bunch. Defensive promotions and cheaper walls can help string out a losing game but won't do much of anything to help win a game. Qin's saving grace is the Chinese civilization, with its amazing starting tech combination and powerful Cho-Ko-Nu unique unit. The extra promotions on this unit are about the only useful thing that Qin gets from his traits. Qin's AI personality is mostly that of a peaceful builder, as he has a low aggression rating (3.9/10) and a fairly high wonder emphasis (6/10). Qin generally won't pick a lot of fights as he doesn't make a lot of demands and he has a low train unit emphasis (2/10). This economic setup is oddly paired with a low peace weight and the ability to plot war at "Pleased" relations. This is likely the reason why Qin has outperformed his terrible trait combination, as low peace weight leaders who can successfully pull off economic development tend to be some of the strongest competitors in AI Survivor. It's too bad for Qin that he doesn't get more useful traits to pair with his otherwise promising setup.
Past Performance: Qin has consistently exceeded expectations in past seasons, managing a pair of trips to the playoffs despite often unpromising circumstances. He's made a living in the Wildcard game in particular, advancing to the playoffs in Season One by taking home a silver medal in that last chance effort. This wasn't enough to overcome a field of mostly high peace weight leaders in the playoffs, losing out to Mansa Musa and Elizabeth in a tight contest. Qin's best outing took place in Season Three, where he finished in second place behind Julius Caesar and nearly advanced to the Championship game before a late era stomping at the hands of Mansa Musa again intervened. On the other hand, Qin has also struggled mightily in other outings, suffering early eliminations in both Season Two and Season Four without accomplishing much of anything. While he's done a good job of punching above his weight, he also doesn't have that much weight to be punching with. There are other leaders who are much better at the economic side of the game and Qin often can't keep pace with them.
Pacal of the Mayans
Traits: Financial, Expansive
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game: Seasons Two, Three, and Six
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 32 points, 6th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Pacal has a top tier trait combination, with the amazing Financial and the good Expansive, allowing him to get those Financial cottages up and running even faster. He also gets the bad Holkan unique unit and the good Ball Court, which adds a nice boost to happiness in the midgame. Lastly, Pacal gets Mysticism and Mining for his starting techs, a pretty crappy pair only useful for chasing a religion out of the gate. Pacal is a pretty standard economic AI in most ways, with a low aggression rating (2.8/10), though his unit preference (4/10) isn't as suicidally low as some of the leaders like him. His flavours are Culture and Growth, and you can usually expect Pacal to pursue an early religion right out of the gate. Pacal is one of the two leaders (along with Huayna Capac) who combine a low peace weight with a heavily economic style of play. With a peaceweight of 2, an ideal Pacal game probably sees the warmongers and peaceniks fight it out amongst each other while he sits back and builds an insurmountable tech lead.
Past Performance: Pacal's previous performances have been a real mixed bag but there's been more good than bad overall. In Season One, Pacal played one of the worst games of the season, executing a poor landgrab and successfully aggravating nearly everyone else in the game until his final, inevitable, thankful demise at the hands of Elizabeth in the closing stages. Then, in Season Two, Pacal played a strong opening round game, followed by a near disastrous Playoff Game where he just squeezed into second place, and then a championship where he scored a strong third. Whew, bit of a mixed bag there. Next, Pacal again barely eked out a second place in the Wildcard Game of Season Three, narrowly beating out Suleiman of all people, and again he made it past the playoffs in second place, largely by screwing up less than the leaders not named Mansa Musa. He finished Season Three with an unremarkable championship showing in which he was torn apart late in the game after not really doing anything. Later, Pacal one-upped his performance in Season One by scoring one of the earliest eliminations ever in AI Survivor during his Season Four game. Though this was admittedly an unlucky tactical situation, Pacal didn't lose because he didn't have strategic resources: he lost because he refused to research the techs necessary to connect the damn things! Pacal's Season Five performance mixed a strong opening round showing with a disappointing elimination in the playoffs. Season Six saw Pacal win two more victories, with an absolutely dominant playoff game performance from an amazing starting position. With that said, the alternative histories for his opening round game proved that Pacal had been exceptionally lucky and he flamed out in the championship game yet again. Pacal is clearly one of the best AI leaders while also having the chance to collapse in any game.
Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:
This was the clearest of the three playoff games in terms of predictions from the AI Survivor community. Darius emerged as a strong favorite to win the victory with Pacal trailing a good distance behind; at the time of writing this two days before the start of the game, Saladin and Gandhi hadn't received even a single vote for the first place spot! The Runner Up category was the usual jumble with no obvious favorites, followed by Gandhi overwhelmingly taking the vote to be First to Die. That pie chart looked like a green Pac-man swallowing the rest of the field, only to have an even larger Pac-man of the same color appear in the next category as Spaceship was the massive favorite for victory type. Either a lot of people were going to hold hands and score well or most of the community would go home disappointed from this playoff game.
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!
GreenJacket: I mostly just picked what I would like to happen. A lot of what happens in this game is going to up to mere chance I believe. I predict Pacal will conquer Gandhi if their religions turn out different, but it's also likely they will become religious allies. Whoever Alexander goes after first will also be a deciding factor as he has two protective neighbors, but I think he will go after Saladin rather than Pacal. If Alexander wins, he will be set for dominating the others, but I believe he will get bogged down. Darius is nice and protected in his own little corner of the map, and so I think he is most likely to win.
NotSpamBot: This is all assuming that Gandhi doesn't go psycho mode and attacks Darius for the first war of the game. Again.
Mooaddict: Pacal has very good starting city techwise, and pretty nice space to expand. Unless Saladin attacks him almost immediately he will eat Gandhi and snowball from there. Darius expands in the corner, doesn't really bother anyone and financial + alive is just too good for rest of the crowd. Probably joins Pacal in his quest to wipe the floor with Gandhi, and mutual military makes them friends.
jarrebesetoert: Ghandi FTD is a given, I think. Jungle start, next to Pacal with a different religion, his holy city will create a lot of border tension, builds no units, highest peace weight,... That means Pacal will take over his land after expanding to the east. His land isn't the greatest, but so is no ones (except Darius) and he has a lot of room to expand into and some easy early luxuries nearby (he can improve the gold and jungle ivory quite soon). He also doesn't have copper, so he probably won't attack Ghandi too soon, only after he connects his iron. Darius has a dream start, playing right into his starting techs, a bit isolated. I suspect he will do very well at the start of the game, BUT he's screwed long term in peace weight. I think it will take a long time before anyone can take him over though, being ahead in tech in the beginning. Alex has an awful start given his starting techs and will still start attacking everyone until he's dead. I'm hoping he goes for Saladin, because it's his neighbour with the highest (least low) peace weight. So: Pacal first to space and then I guess Qin second, taking some territory from Darius in the late game, maybe smacking Alex in the head after he decides to attack Qin in the late game or something.... or not. Such a weird (but entertaining!) season this has been.
kcostell: Saladin needs to research Agriculture/AH to improve his starting resources. He wants to go for a religion instead, which could be disastrous given that there's two other civs starting with Mysticism and his two resource tiles have 0 commerce initially. If Saladin misses out, that leaves Pacal and Gandhi next to each other on opposing religions. And Darius wouldn't mind at all being able to just sit in his corner while those two go at it, especially if Qin gets himself converted to one side or the other.
Diplomatic Toku: Last game was better, but not good(dont like cultural victories). Think alternative histories will show Kublai, Hannibal, DeGaulle and Louis all having victories and there not be 1 strong leader. Also feels like Mehmed got lucky in this game. Still ok with first and second. For THIS game i will definately root for Alexander, even though i wont vote for him. Think he dies to Qin after a failed backstab. I will vote for Qin as first and then Pacal second even if i dont like him. With 3 leaders liking culture in a championship game, they can cancel themselves out atleast and we get a Dom/Space vic. Im liking and hoping for Qin to win it all.
moerb: I really like Pacal's starting position. He is close to a lake which connects to both Qin and Alex. This should greatly increase the odds of spreading his religion. He also has 5 luxury resources near his capital! Qin usually has the better economy and is closer to the high PW AI compared to Alex. He will gain more territory easily. Darius has a pretty isolated territory. Ghandi will shield him from early aggression.
Dagoth Gares: I see the mapscript made sure Alex won't be getting a turn 80 kill here (not that it'll stop him from trying).
hasuprotoss: If only Gandhi didn't steal all of the religions he could make Saladin and someone else fight but alas... Gandhi's religious teching proves detrimental, the high peace weights are goners, and then Alex just uses his plains cow (ok, when Plain Cow is so high in the picking contest it's gotta be a real thing... right?) to power his way to a domination victory!
Schmun: While I will always pick the Iranians, Darius does have a very good start in this one and is out of the way of the most aggressive Civs. He should be protected from an early sucker punch and two front war, with Gandhi to the north he’s only likely to come into conflict with Qin, so hopefully he’ll be econ-ing ahead by the time he comes up against any serious aggression. Basically, Darius is the ticking clock in this game; if one of the warlike AIs doesn’t win by domination (or Gandhi by culture) then Darius auto wins by spaceship. I’m slightly uneasy about the balance of peaceweights on this map, but Gandhi is insulated from Alexander by two less psycho civs, so I’m hoping the high peace weight block can endure long enough for Darius to be safe via tech advantage.
Bernn: God help me but I'm picking Darius again. Yes, 80% of these leaders are going to hate him. Yes, he's one of the flakiest AIs in Survivor history. And yes, his victory in the opening round was on the back of an extremely juicy start. But nobody else on this map can compete with his sheer economic power and if he can avoid conflict for the first 120 turns or so he's got a nearly guaranteed win. His capital is definitely weaker than in his opening round, but it's probably still the best one here. He's even got a good deal of extra space in the north. Gandhi will act as a natural punching bag to soak up aggression and then by the time India bites the dust Persia will be too far ahead to stop. Qin doesn't even have copper, so Darius is basically immune to early wars. He could absolutely still fumble this, but I'm optimistic.
nicklamp: Gandhi and Darius will sit back with their expansion, allowing Qin to take an early lead in territory by expanding to the west while also avoiding Alexander's ire. Alexander runs through Saladin who has a slow start but breaks his teeth on Pacal. Qin and Pacal team up on Alexander and have a peaceful game until Qin leaves the planet
Agni Neres: The penultimate game of the season, nicely balanced with two each Protective, Philosophical, and Financial leaders. Both Darius and Qin will be quick out the gate; Darius because both his starting techs are immediately useful, Qin because his capital is on a hill tile and his surrounding land will provide at least three powerful cities with corn, pig, cow resources almost equidistant and in different directions. Gandhi's start is terrible, and he will waste time researching a religion; the jungle ensures he'll be far behind well into the game. Picking him for FTD. Aggressive Alex has no obvious easy first target, and I just can't see Saladin winning two in a row. Pacal, always dangerous in different ways, looks more like a spoiler than a winner here as well, with no rivers, gold, or gems to support his Financial trait. A bit wary of deja-vu here, as I picked the southwest corner DeGaulle last week to win, and he ended up FTD; maybe Darius can handle this great start more deftly.
bellarch: This once again feels like a hard map to predict. It's a split-peaceweight map, most of the leaders here are boom-or-bust style, and the starts are all decent-to-good but not great. That being said, this feels like the sort of map where a low-peaceweight AI has the advantage, and given his relatively consistent strength I think that means I have to give the advantage to Pacal, who will almost certainly win by Space. Gandhi or Darius could also win, but I think it's more likely that they provoke the wrong person and get killed. Gandhi in particular borders two low-peaceweight AIs and might end up in religious conflict with Pacal, and is therefore most likely to be FTD. Second is a weird one here, but I prefer giving it to a low-peaceweight AI given that I'm predicting Pacal to win and Gandhi to die. And that means that Qin, who is not likely to suicide his longbows onto Pacal's modern armor late-game, is the runner-up. Of course, now that I've written this down Darius will probably ride his corner start to victory over an entire field that hates him, but that's just AI Survivor I suppose.
Cyneheard: Pacal is way too close to Gandhi to not fight him. That...will go poorly for Early Game Gandhi.