Game One 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. Game One saw absolute chaos as Shaka nearly managed to 3v1 Hammurabi, Isabella, and Gandhi, only for him to fall short as Hammurabi won an extremely late spaceship victory. 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. This particular set of alternate histories were run by Amicalola - many thanks for spending so much time on this task! Amicalola posted the resulting data from the alternate histories and then discusses some of the findings below 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:
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.)
Amicalola: Though defining 'normal' is tricky in a game where every leader won at least 2/20 games, Shaka was usually a total beast on this map, with the game we watched on livestream probably being in the lower percentile of outcomes he could achieve - pretty remarkable considering he scored two kills and nearly won by domination! There were two main reasons for Shaka's strength: the first was that although his capital was not very strong, Shaka's surrounding land was excellent, with a lot of food and luxury resources available. Shaka expanded like an absolute plague on this map, usually ending up with the most cities despite failing to pop borders (sometimes until after T100) and having less land than Hammurabi and Isabella. This compounded his initial advantage from early cities, and Shaka was pretty much always the food/MFG leader throughout these games. Because of that, he could win the 1v1 war against most other leaders on the map even at tech parity, or hilariously (and semi-consistently) at a major tech disadvantage. Regularly Shaka would break through Hammurabi's infantry and tanks with riflemen, or Pericles' rifles with macemen, using sheer numbers through his massive hammer lead. This was partly because of the incompetence of these other leaders, but it was also a combination of Shaka's huge unit build rating and his foodhammer lead that allowed him to brute-force enemy defenses.
Shaka's other major reason for success was that the diplomacy very, very surprisingly worked out exceedingly well in his favour most of the time. Most obviously, Shaka had a safe northern neighbour in the form of Stalin to his north. Stalin was both weak and diplomatically inclined to like Shaka, and he almost never attacked him. Then, to the east, Shaka had Gandhi and Pericles, who started less than one war per game combined - sheesh, talk about pacifists! Even more beneficial to Shaka was the fact that most of their wars were not started against him - they were started against each other! That's right, the Gandhi vs. Pericles war was not entirely uncommon, with these two fighting in at least half of the games. These wars tended to be unproductive, although occasionally Pericles could make friends with Shaka/Stalin by partitioning India with them. Finally, Isabella and Hammurabi to the west were locked in a similar duel, which was one of the biggest differences from Real Game One. Isabella and Hammur typically split the early religions alongside Gandhi, and they did not get along at all in these games. They could only advance together once, and by far the most common outcome was Hammurabi being partitioned by Shaka and Isabella en route to a Spanish or Zulu victory. With Gandhi and Pericles tied up with each other, and the same being true for Isabella and Hammurabi, Shaka was left with his choice of where to attack - he was very rarely caught in two-front wars, and with the foodhammer advantage mentioned earlier, could either win 1v1s consistently against Pericles, Stalin, and sometimes Hammurabi, or join dogpiles of Gandhi and Hammurabi again. In nearly every game Shaka ballooned out to be larger than the other leaders, and it was usually his game to lose (which, to be fair, also happened a lot).
Shaka had a clear partner in crime, and surprisingly, it was not Stalin but instead Isabella who took that role. The reason for this was that Isabella's religion was very likely to spread to Shaka and Stalin, creating a religious bloc that typically lasted until the end of the game. Isabella also had a lot of land, and two clear pathways to success: she could either take out Stalin individually, or join Shaka in partitioning Hammurabi. These were both strong paths for Isabella, and far from being the weakling we observed on livestream, harassed by Stalin and incapable technologically, she was nearly always one of the top leaders throughout the game. Her partnership with Shaka was especially fruitful - they attacked each other only in exceptional circumstances (or when there was no one else left), and repeatedly dogpiled Hammurabi, Gandhi, and Stalin. Indeed, these leaders advanced together a third of the time, and which one came first basically just depended on who was lucky enough to capture the major cities. Isabella also benefited from a strong start and from settling Barcelona in the exact same area in every game: right on the border with Stalin. This served to essentially cripple Stalin from the outset, and to lock down a large portion of the central land for Izzy, which was enough for the religious zealot to be the clear second-strongest leader on this map. She was unlucky to die, and the Real Game that we watched was clearly on the low end of her performances here.
Shaka and Isabella were the dominant leaders often enough to declare it as the 'normal' outcome for this game. But there were plenty of games that went off in weird directions, including the Real Game One that we watched on livestream, and it is worth discussing some of these alternate paths. Shaka could falter for two reasons. Firstly, his technology was always shocking compared to Hammurabi, Pericles, and Gandhi (none of whom were particularly strong techers themselves), but sometimes this technological gap would cross the line from unfortunate to truly farcical. It wasn't uncommon for Shaka to be fighting units one generation ahead of his on the tech tree, but sometimes he even had to jump two generations, such as fighting mechanized infantry with riflemen, and this was usually where the façade cracked. It happened most often against Hammurabi (responsible for all three of Hammurabi's wins, plus his Real one), but Pericles, Isabella, Gandhi, and Stalin were all also able to snatch wins through Shaka's sheer technological incompetence. Many of Shaka's seconds were also through his poor tech, as he took over 55-60% of the map repeatedly, only to fall short against the final opponent in his bid for domination (e.g. Stalin in Game 5, or Pericles in Game 12, or Isabella in Game 19). Occasionally, Shaka could also fall on the wrong side of diplomacy, usually because Isabella's religion wouldn't spread to him like normal, or because he was simply unlucky in the dice rolls. This happened most notably in Game 10, where Shaka was 2v1'd by Hammurabi and Gandhi from a very early date, but it also occurred in Games 8 and 17, and in Real Game One, enough that it cannot be discounted as a fluke occurrence. The other thing that could notably throw these games out of whack was when Hammurabi failed to found a religion. Ironically, these were Hammurabi's best games as he would stop fighting with Isabella; conversely it tended to spell doom for Shaka and Stalin in the middle of the map, who would be crushed by the high peaceweight tide. However, this was not a regular occurrence as many of as suspected, and should instead be treated as an unlikely result. Shaka was a total beast in this game, and it's a shame we didn't get to watch one of his memorable slaughters of the field.
Now for a look at the individual leaders:
Shaka of the Zulus
Wars Declared: 74 (!)
Wars Declared Upon: 20
Survival Percentage: 75%
Finishes: 6 Firsts, 7 Seconds (44 points)
Overall Score: 77 points
I've already mostly covered the reasons for Shaka's success above. He had an excellent surrounding terrain full of river tiles, food and luxury resources and grasslands. He also had far better than expected diplomacy, with the eastern and western leaders tied up with each other, and Stalin both weak and friendly to the north. Shaka was able to consistently murder Pericles in 1v1 fights, and much like in Real Game One, this was how he started his snowball in many games (and was also responsible for Pericles' high death rate). Shaka also went after Gandhi a decent amount, which was successful too, especially when Stalin or Pericles joined him, neither of which was uncommon. Hammurabi was Shaka's worst target early on, as he was able to defend successfully from the hordes of impis and axemen, but it was also a disaster if Shaka attacked Hammurabi too late, as then the Babylonians could reach technology too advanced for Shaka to run them over. It was a difficult tightrope to walk, and Shaka managed it admirably, though there were a few falters (notably Games 5 and 13). Shaka was very good at keeping his foot on the gas pedal, starting an average of nearly four wars per game - including the games where he sucked from the getgo, like Game 10 - and his games should likely be thought of as a race against the clock. Either Shaka won domination before his rivals could out-tech him, or he got crushed in a late war (though in many of the latter games he still came second by virtue of being the only other leader left). It was a very impressive performance from a leader who has consistently exceeded expectations, and it was a lot of fun to watch Shaka's yellow borders spread like a plague across the map in game after game.
Isabella of Spain
Wars Declared: 38
Wars Declared Upon: 34
Survival Percentage: 70%
Finishes: 5 Firsts, 5 Seconds (35 points)
Overall Score: 49 points
Unlike Shaka, whose games were all over the shop in terms of who he attacked and when, Isabella had a couple of consistent routes to victory. Because she founded Barcelona in that same place every game, Stalin was very weak and he and Izzy came into conflict a lot in the early game. Isabella was basically guaranteed to win this conflict, which was always a losing proposition for Stalin; not that he seemed to know it, as most of Izzy's defensive wars came from what were essentially Russian suicide declarations. The other thing Isabella could do was fight Hammurabi in the south, who had usually founded his own religion. He was definitely her most common war target (though everyone received a bit of Spanish love), and these wars tended to either stalemate (bad for both leaders) or result in Spanish victory, as occurred in the crazy Game 2 and Games 4, 6 and 15. Isabella also attacked Gandhi a lot in these games, which was usually the final nail in the coffin for the oft-dogpiled Indian leader. Isabella's true success though came from spreading her religion extremely well, generally due to the enormous river system running between her territory and Shaka/Stalin's. It wasn't uncommon at all for Shaka, Stalin and Pericles to all convert to Isabella's religion, with Hammurabi and Gandhi stuck practicing their own faiths by themselves. When Isabella did fall short, it was usually because she got on the wrong side of Shaka or Stalin, especially in the hilarious Game 7 where she died on T112 without ever having researched ARCHERY OR BRONZE WORKING. And yes, she had researched Monotheism and Sailing. Other than exceptional circumstances like these though, Isabella was the clear number two leader here, and was clearly a bit unlucky not to advance at least to the Wildcard Game, if not the playoffs, as Sunhuge was robbed yet again for Fantasy purposes.
Stalin of Russia
Wars Declared: 61
Wars Declared Upon: 27
Survival Percentage: 45%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 4 Seconds (18 points)
Overall Score: 30 points
Stalin was somewhat of an enigma in this game, although that isn't exactly uncommon by now. Coming out of the landgrab, he was obviously the runt in most games, crippled by a combination of Isabella's holy city culture, and refusing to research any culture-producing technologies himself. He was diplomatically isolated, found himself in a losing war with Isabella or Gandhi in nearly every game, and could barely even rely on Shaka, who backstabbed and killed him repeatedly. Indeed, Stalin seemed to have a clear deathwish in many games, as he attacked the much-stronger Isabella over and over again, despite them sharing religions and Gandhi being on his other border. Despite this, Stalin found himself advancing and surviving more often than three other leaders, as the Russian leader proved extremely adept at 'sticking around' despite repeated weakness - this happened often enough that it cannot be discounted as a fluke, and Stalin was clearly doing something right when it came to out-surviving the other leaders. In all of those wars against Isabella, for example, Stalin was often able to mount a desperate defense, crippling his own civ but staying alive. Both his wins were clear flukes (in Game 5 Shaka/Hammurabi were each much stronger than Stalin, but beat each other into a pulp; in Game 18 Stalin received every single city in an early dogpile of Gandhi), and he wasn't even able to win when he claimed Izzy's entire empire for free in Game 7. But Stalin's ability to hang around despite massive disadvantage was impressive in its own way, and he would have been far from undeserving if he'd reached second place in Real Game One.
Hammurabi of Babylon
Wars Declared: 20
Wars Declared Upon: 40
Survival Percentage: 40%
Finishes: 3 Firsts, 2 Seconds (19 points)
Overall Score: 23 points
Much like Stalin, Hammurabi was a bit of a mixed bag and a difficult puzzle to solve in these games. He clearly played the 'ticking' clock role that is normally reserved for a financial leader, but while he teched faster than everyone else that still wasn't fast, with Hammurabi struggling to push even vaguely respectable dates for many technological discoveries. He always had a slow start, due to weak traits and few food resources, before gradually becoming one of the top leaders in basically every midgame. He had the most land on the map, and was very unlikely to be attacked (early on, at least), as almost all of Hammurabi's defensive wars came in the midgame; Shaka was much more likely to attack either Pericles or Gandhi, with Hammurabi typically being the target of Isabella instead. But in this midgame, it would often fall apart for Hammurabi, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, as mentioned, Isabella would come crashing into him from the north, and that basically meant Hammurabi's game was done for; it was just a question of whether Isabella or Shaka would be the one to finish the job. Alternatively, Hammurabi would be in a dominant position, and simply fail to execute properly - he would often be the top of the scoreboard, a generation ahead in military tech, and Just. Not. Do. Anything! This led to repeated losses to either dogpiles (where Hammurabi could have eliminated one enemy earlier on), culture, or Zulu domination victories which Hammer just sat back and watched. To his credit, Hammurabi did occasionally act on his strength, crushing Shaka or Isabella in the mid- to late-game, or simply outlasting them through highly lengthy wars of attrition. But there were also games where Hammurabi was essentially left alone for the first 300 turns, and still couldn't muster up a spaceship victory before T350 - this was especially apparent in Game 8, where a bruised and battered Pericles won by spaceship on T361, while Hammurabi couldn't figure out something better despite taking part in zero wars throughout the entire game!! It was a pretty weak showing from a leader that was arguably in the best spot on the map, and while Hammurabi wasn't exactly an undeserving winner, he also didn't impress me at all.
Pericles of Greece
Wars Declared: 13
Wars Declared Upon: 24
Survival Percentage: 30%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 2 Seconds (14 points)
Overall Score: 16 points
Pericles had a rough time in this game. He was very often the target of Shaka, and simply didn't have the land or technology advantage to fight against the Zulu hordes produced by nearly twice as many cities as Pericles could settle. Pericles' repeated 1v1 losses to Shaka were reflected in his total war count, where he only reached 37 total wars - barely even half of what all other leaders achieved, and literally half of Shaka's offensive wars alone. Pericles had more problems than just Shaka though, as it turned out that his and Gandhi's scuffle was far from an outlier result, and was actually quite normal. Pericles started most (but not all) of these fights, and funnily enough, it actually sometimes worked out in his favour, as he could make friends with Shaka and avoid his regularly scheduled Zulu execution (see Games 12 and 20, for example). Usually though, the wars just served to buy Pericles time before his inevitable defeat, as Shaka would nearly always attack him before Izzy or Stalin despite their mutual conflict bonuses. The problem was that Pericles simply didn't have very much room, and the larger armies of Shaka (who killed Pericles in at least half of these games) were much too big for any real tech advantage to beat. Amazingly, despite all of these natural disadvantages, Pericles managed to place nearly as often as Hammurabi, with just one less first place finish. In the games where he could grow larger, by taking over much of Shaka (Game 8) or Gandhi's (Game 12) territory, he could become quite dominant, and in games where he was left alone, he was smart enough not to poke the bear (in Game 16, Pericles reached 2nd without fighting a single war). Despite reaching a pretty low score overall, I would argue that these games showed Pericles' strengths as a leader as much as his weaknesses; he just couldn't do much from the position he was given.
Gandhi of India
Wars Declared: 4
Wars Declared Upon: 60
Survival Percentage: 10%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 0 Seconds (10 points)
Overall Score: 11 points
Gandhi was a total weakling in these games, easily performing the worst without too many redeeming features. He usually came out of the landgrab pretty strong, but Gandhi's peaceweight of 10 was a total liability in these games; although his results might look similar to Pericles, his games did not, and he was unable to replicate Pericles' semi-frequent strategy of making friends with Shaka through religion and mutual conflict. Not only did Shaka and Stalin regularly target Gandhi, as expected, but Isabella and Pericles also fought with him regularly, especially when Shaka and Stalin shared their religions (which was often). Even Hammurabi occasionally joined in on the fun and crossmap-attacked Gandhi, as in Game 19. Once Gandhi was attacked, he collapsed even more pathetically than Pericles tended to, despite having equal technology and much more land; this speed of collapse was responsible for his high First to Die rate (40%), as Gandhi just couldn't hold on once he lost momentum. Pericles dying to Shaka might have been an inevitability based on each leaders' land availability, but Gandhi dying repeatedly to a far weaker Stalin was far less excusable. And Gandhi did die to Stalin repeatedly, even when he wasn't dogpiled, in a truly pathetic display. Gandhi only survived to the finish in two games, and each of these featured pretty extraordinary circumstances. Game 2 saw extremely lengthy (and stalemated) 1v1s between Hammur/Izzy, Shaka/Pericles, and Stalin/Gandhi respectively, before Gandhi won a cultural victory at the extremely late date of T413 after almost never running the slider (hilariously, Isabella was probably going to capture Babylon before the spaceship arrived, so this game was likely 'stolen' from her rather than the Hammer). Meanwhile, in Game 10 Gandhi and Hammurabi dogpiled Shaka early on, before Gandhi uncharacteristically attacked and murdered Stalin en route to a dominant win. Each of these games felt like massive outliers at the time, and although Gandhi did win twice, it was clear that basically everything had to go right for him to do so. In other words, 4/5 of the other leaders had a clear imperative to eliminate Gandhi from the game, and all four of them proved themselves capable of acting on it. Gandhi's second place finish, far from being a 'troll' result where he was robbed of victory (as I personally and wrongly suspected!), was actually very lucky, and we probably shouldn't all be jumping on the Gandhi train just yet.
This is easily the most fun set of games I've run alternate histories on, with many results being not only possible but plausible. It's not often that all leaders will win at least twice out of twenty games! While the results were certainly spread all over the shop, and we would probably need to run 50 or even 100 games to get a true sense for the nuances, these games were informative enough for me to say that what we experienced on livestream was not the typical result. Far from being unusually strong, Shaka was actually weaker than in most games, where he took over the map unchecked. Isabella too was far weaker than normal, and she usually beat Hammurabi in the battle for supremacy in the West. In contrast, Hammurabi and Gandhi were each considerably stronger than normal, which was obviously reflected in the results, which saw them advancing to the playoffs while the true favourites squandered their potential in the opening round. Perhaps the most accurate thing about Real Game One was the weakness of Stalin and Pericles, which certainly was confirmed as expected in these games. Finally, with regard to fantasy, it turns out that Henrik was not robbed as I suspected, but instead quite lucky for Gandhi to make playoffs, as was Slashin' with Hammurabi! Instead, Cuthraxys and Sunhuge were the unlucky losers here, with Sunhuge in particular seeming to have been repeatedly robbed throughout these opening round games. The latter sucks especially because we didn't think much of his team at the time, while it actually may have been quite strong! Finally, it is a bit of a shame we didn't get to experience Big Shaka/Izzy on livestream (and in the playoffs!), but it was also good to receive confirmation that no, Hammurabi isn't actually a good leader who's snuck under the radar; he was just in the right place at the right time - a game full of absolute dropkicks - and that proved to be enough.
Cheers ~ Amicalola