Game Two Alternate Histories Online 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 Two saw Hannibal break out of a subpar start to win a Space Victory off the back of a terribly defended America. 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 we have since used the same general format. This particular set of alternate histories were run by Myth - many thanks for spending so much time on this task! Myth 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 originally noted, 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.)
Myth: Well, here is the reason I do not gamble.
When fellow Alternate Histories Runner Amicalola and I were discussing this game before I ran them, we both thought Suryavarman was going to easily win at least half of these Alternate Histories, if not more. Sullla also commented on the livestream after the game that he thought Suryavarman would be the juggernaut, and most of the community chatter in the AI Survivor channel on Discord mirrored these assumptions. Turns out we were all incredibly wrong: Suleiman, someone we make fun of with the "Silly Man" moniker, was the strongest AI by a country mile, scoring over 100 points in a dominating performance. The community completely whiffed on this one: only 10 out of nearly 300 entries voted for him to win, with Mansa and Suryavarman taking the votes of 86% of those entries between them. What could have possibly led to this result? And what from the Actual Game caused such a drastic change from the norm?
Well, the answer to the first question turns out to be a mix of three things. First and foremost, Suleiman had 3 early happiness resources in nearby gold, gems, and ivory resources:
This, along with the promise of FOUR further calendar resources (silks, sugar, incense, and spices) allowed the Ottoman Sultan to balloon out to drastic population leads in game after game, compounded by very strong surrounding lands with tons of riverside tiles and food resources. This alone would lead to a strong AI, but Suleiman had even more going for him on this map.
Second of the three, three of his four neighbors were very, very weak in the majority of the alternates. Of the two to the west, Hannibal was absolutely screwed, rarely even making it out to 6 cities, and Lincoln's Peace Weight put him on the chopping block by most leaders on this map. To his east, Bismarck often also struggled to expand, finding himself on similar amounts of cities as Hannibal most of the time. Bismarck also made the mistake to declare war on Suleiman and commit suicide over and over again. Suryavarman was usually strong, but the Khmer were far enough away to not hinder Suleiman, leading to a situation where they almost never fought before Turn 200, and by then Suleiman usually was already snowballing. Suleiman would take out at least one of these three leaders early in all of his top-2 performances.
Finally, Suleiman's third boon was the extensive river network (as seen on the preview image at the top of the page). He founded a religion in about 80% of these games, and the river network ensured that it spread far and wide. His two main religious rivals - Suryavarman and, strangely, Hannibal - also always founded their religions OFF of rivers, which led to diplomatic isolation. Suleiman was able to get up to at least pleased relations with all of his biggest rivals, shielding him from the dogpiles everyone else found themselves in. Usually his inability to plot at his own pleased relations would be a hindrance, but with at least 2 empires worth of territory in most of these games, he was able to outperform all others technologically. Only twice did this fallacy come back to bite him, both times allowing Mansa Musa to win a cultural victory because Suleiman was unable to attack him.
In terms of what went wrong for Suleiman in the Actual Game, there are two obvious culprits. First, he lost a city to the barbs right after getting attacked by Bismarck, giving him fewer build queues to deal with the German menace. Secondly, and more importantly, Lincoln usually didn't just donate his territory to Hannibal! I do not know what Lincoln was doing in the Actual Game, defending as if he voted himself First to Die in the picking contest, but Hannibal getting a free second empire from America eventually led to him being strong enough to take out the Ottomans, which never repeated itself across all 20 alternates.
As for the other six leaders, only two really managed to do much at all: Suryavarman and Mansa Musa. Our seeded leaders were able to mostly just come second to the Ottoman monster through their own strengths - military & expansion for Suryavarman and technology & culture for Mansa. These two played as foils of one another: they could never both be strong. Suryavarman was more dominant, often breaking out of his start and running over a neighbor (Bismarck, Mansa Musa, and Hannibal were all common targets). In fact, he would have won more than 2 games, but his economy was absolutely atrocious in almost every single game. He was utterly unable to keep up in tech with Suleiman, often falling apart or losing the end-game space race. On the other hand, Mansa Musa was incredibly good at what he's known for: teching away and attempting culture later in the game. Mansa and Suleiman shared religion most of the time, allowing them to comfortably top 2. Even after going free religion, the two had enough pluses from trade, years of peace, and open borders to remain at least pleased. Mansa also held against Sury a LOT better than in the Actual Game, rarely folding in the same way we all saw on livestream. His three victories all came from the same thing: teching up to infantry and then going culture. He had some close calls as well: in the very first game, he lost one of his Big Three TWO TURNS before it would have gone legendary, and in one of his victories he was about to get attacked. These two were mainly second fiddles, but had their own strong games.
The remaining four were non-entities, rarely being able to reach the point of relevancy. Augustus was the best of them, and his low point total is a bit of a misnomer: he often was quite strong, only to get killed by the Ottomans or, more rarely, Suryavarman later in the game. He was also the victim of dogpiles in many games, belying his actual strength. Lincoln, Bismarck, and Hannibal were all extraordinarily weak, only getting a top-2 when weird things happened. Lincoln managed to sneak a win while extremely far behind Suryavarman in territory due to Khmer's aforementioned terrible economy, while Bismarck and Hannibal only ever came second because the runaway AI decided to kill everyone other than them. Hannibal's Actual Game Magic was the 100th percentile performance, never even coming close to repeating itself within these replays. In fact, after watching just how weak he was in these 20 reruns, I doubt that even 100 games would allow him a repeat victory.
Now for a look at the individual leaders:
Suleiman of the Ottomans
Wars Declared: 44
Wars Declared Upon: 32
Survival Percentage: 90%
Finishes: 14 Firsts, 2 Seconds (74 points)
Overall Score: 109 points
Suleiman deserves an apology from all of us who call him the Silly Man, myself included. As I mentioned at the start of the write-up, I never thought that Suleiman would amount to much in this game, expecting him to be nothing more than a bump on the way to a Suryavarman domination win. It was honestly quite nice to see a less-than-stellar leader do something like this, kind of like seeing Bismarck post a similarly (though barely not quite as) dominant performance in Season Six. Other than what was mentioned previously, he really showcased the strength of Imperialistic in quite a few of these games, often being on 4 cities before anyone else or hitting 5-6 cities when some leaders (Hannibal…) were on 3-4. Something had to go wrong for Sulei to not run away with it.
Suryavarman of the Khmer
Wars Declared: 57
Wars Declared Upon: 37
Survival Percentage: 55%
Finishes: 2 Firsts, 6 Seconds (22 points)
Overall Score: 33 points
Suryavarman, the leader who probably SHOULD have won the Actual Game, had a much harder time of things than his dominant performance would have suggested. I posted the results - sans names - in the AI Survivor Discord channel, and pretty much everyone thought this guy was our 109-pointer. And honestly? He was extremely disappointing. He had multiple games where he should have been a runaway, only to have such a bad economy that Mansa or Sulei or even Augustus researched all the way up to infantry or TANKS before he got rifling. Not from ignoring it in classic Willem fashion, just from having that bad of an economy. These are games where he had 2+ empires of land, and he either came second or straight-up died due to his terrible GNP. Some of these games were definitely from training way too many units, very similarly to the Actual Game, but some were just flabbergastingly sad showings.
Mansa Musa of Mali
Wars Declared: 13
Wars Declared Upon: 46
Survival Percentage: 55%
Finishes: 3 Firsts, 5 Seconds (25 points)
Overall Score: 27 points
Our Pre-Game favorite and Season Six Champion was better than his poor showing in the Actual Game, but still not great overall. If allowed to get going, which was more often than not, he was able to have either the best or nearly the best economy in the game, allowing him to research up to infantry and/or tanks and build lots of wonders, then attempt a cultural victory in every single game he survived to Turn 250 or so. Most of the time these attempts fell flat, getting dogpiled or 1v1'd by Suleiman once their diplomatic pluses ran out and let the Ottomans drop to cautious. He also had quite a few games where he just was not fast enough in that cultural attempt, coming second to Suleiman's space, domination, or, in one game, cultural victory. Fairly, he definitely did a lot more than I expected with a very poor start, showing just how strong Mansa Moneybags really is.
Augustus of Rome
Wars Declared: 36
Wars Declared Upon: 20
Survival Percentage: 50%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 3 Seconds (6 points)
Overall Score: 14 points
The best of our terrible quartet, Augustus at least tried. He was responsible for one of the weirdest trends of the Alternate Histories: in almost every single game, he and Hannibal fought in a bizarre cross-map struggle for relevance. To Augustus's credit, he won this fight almost every single time this remained a 1v1 (hence the 8 kills), but it just was not close to what he needed to actually be relevant on this map. As I mentioned before, he really did have quite a few strong showings in the early and mid games, piggybacked off of great Imperialistic land grabs, but it all fell apart due to his 8 Peace Weight. The poor guy definitely outperformed his 14 points, but that isn't saying much.
Lincoln of America
Wars Declared: 11
Wars Declared Upon: 45
Survival Percentage: 35%
Finishes: 1 First, 1 Second (7 points)
Overall Score: 11 points
Hannibal of Carthage
Wars Declared: 43
Wars Declared Upon: 28
Survival Percentage: 40%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 2 Seconds (4 points)
Overall Score: 9 points
Our western duo wound up being very similar: mediocre, fighting each other over and over and never getting anywhere. Far from Hannibal's crushing conquering of Lincoln in the Actual Game, he was completely unable to capture more than a single city from America on his own in any of the alternates, only finding any success when someone else piled in. The same was true for Lincoln: both leaders barely made any headway on the other, just for someone else (Sury/Sulei attacking Lincoln or Augustus/Sulei attacking Hannibal) to come and help out, allowing them to get some extra territory like vultures. Lincoln's one victory was extremely unlikely, barely touched while Sury made it to 60% land area and still was unable to win. These two, while better than our unfortunate last leader, were still pretty terrible.
Bismarck of Germany
Wars Declared: 27
Wars Declared Upon: 23
Survival Percentage: 30%
Finishes: 0 Firsts, 1 Second (2 points)
Overall Score: 4 points
But again, at least they weren't Bismarck. I have no idea what was wrong with him - he struggled to expand past 5 cities, declared suicidal wars as if he was possessed by the spirit of Montezuma, and couldn't tech his way out of a paper bag. His land wasn't that weak, he just squandered it.
The Actual Game Two was so drastically unlike these alternates that it's almost silly. Hannibal and Suryavarman's late-game showdown, while entertaining, was about as unlikely as winning the lottery. In fact, Hannibal's 8-point Actual Game almost outscored his performance in the other 20 games combined, which reminds me of Montezuma in Game Seven. Who knows what Playoff 2 would have looked like with Suleiman instead of Hannibal - a much different experience, for sure! Suleiman's dominating performance would have been extremely fun to watch, it's disappointing that it wound up being what it was.
In terms of fantasy, these results both change a lot and don't matter in the end. Poor Suleiman scored zero points for Amica in the Fantasy Contest, with Slashin' somehow vulturing them from him. It's crazy to think Amica should have been EVEN FURTHER AHEAD than he ended up being, and 30 gold for Suleiman really was a steal in hindsight. Slashin' made out like a bandit, scoring 8 points in a miracle victory. Jmie's Mansa bid could have worked out really well, with one of those 3 cultural wins leading to a further 2 points when the inevitable First to Die came from Playoff Two's field. Every other leader likely scored as many points as they should have, with maybe a bit of unluckiness in not scoring the Bismarck FTD (though Lincoln was right up there in that category as well, which makes that a moot point).
Amica needed these setbacks, anyway - we couldn't have had him lap me by 8 times, could we?