Civ4 AI Survivor Season 7: Game Three Preview

This is a continuing feature for Season Seven of Civ4 AI Survivor: a preview of each game before it begins, providing a quick summary of the leaders involved and how the community expects the game to shake out. We start as always with an overview of the map:

We've had requests in past seasons for an overview screenshot of the map with the resource icon turned on:

It's hard for me to see much of anything with all of those little icons but you guys asked for it, you've got it! Now for a look at our individual leaders:

Pool One Leader

Justinian of the Byzantines
Traits: Imperialistic, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Champion
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 35 points, 4th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Justinian is the Civ4 leader that best combines religious and military pursuits together into a dominant total package. Justinian benefits from a strong trait pairing in the Spiritual + Imperialistic combination, routinely securing a larger-than-average share of the available land. He is tied to the Byzantine civilization, which suffers from terrible starting techs but benefits from one of the game's most overpowered units in the form of the Cataphract. Knights with 12 strength are enough to win many games of their own accord and Justinian has put them to good use in many of his victories. (He's also sometimes refused to research Guilds until a very late date, as it doesn't correspond with his Religious + Military tech flavors.) There's no question that Justinian is an aggressive leader who leans towards conquest, with a high aggression rating (7.6/10), heavy unit emphasis (8/10), and a somewhat low peace weight. Unlike the game's most insane warmongers, however, Justinian largely limits his aggression to competitors outside of his religious bloc. He will strongly favor leaders who share his religion and hate those who don't. Justinian also will not plot war at "Pleased" relations, which simultaneously keeps him from backstabbing his allies but also sometimes limits the gains that the Byzantines could be making with more decisive action. Justinian will typically found an early religion and use it to make some friends, then go on the attack against those who are outside his religious bloc. He does this well enough to make up for his lackluster performance on the economic side of the game. Research doesn't matter if everyone else has been crushed to death beneath cataphract hooves.

Past Performance: Justinian has more combined first and second place finishes than anyone else through four seasons of AI Survivor. He's taken part in a ton of AI Survivor games as well, appearing in ten different matches while scoring four victories and three runner-up finishes. Justinian's best season was his initial foray, as he took a second place finish in a difficult opening round game and then won his playoff game and the eventual championship. This was seen as an unusual result at the time since Justinian is not a popular choice for human Multiplayer matches. However, additional seasons have proven that Justinian's victory was no accident and his traits are well suited to AI Survivor. Justinian had a poor showing in Season Two but then bounced back in Season Three by making it all the way back to the championship game. He came close to taking home a second crown before finishing in second place behind Stalin. Even though Season Four was less kind to Justinian, he still won his opening round game in runaway fashion via religious diplomacy before bowing out in the playoff round. The Byzantines couldn't overcome a seafood-heavy start in Season Five and had an unlucky opening game in Season Six but still remain one of the favorites in the competition. Justinian is another top AI leader who always poses a threat to add to his immpressive medal collection.

Pool Two Leader

Zara Yacob of Ethiopia
Traits: Creative, Organized
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season One Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 21 points, 15th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Zara plays with the Creative and Organized traits, combining to push a landgrab style of play and giving production discounts on a huge variety of buildings. For his unique items Zara plays with the Oromo Warrior, a slightly better musketman, and the Stele, useful for a cultural victory and not much else. Lastly, Zara gets the Hunting/Mining combo for his starting techs, which means he can be slow to connect his food resources, especially if he goes for a religion. Zara's numbers tend to be in roughly the middle of the board, including his aggression rating (5.6/10), unit build preference (6/10), wonder build preference (4/10) and even his peace weight, at a neutral 6. His flavours are Growth and Religion, an unusual combination that could lead to healthy and happy cities, while the last unusual thing about Zara is the huge diplomatic emphasis he places on faith. The diplomatic bonus for sharing a religion with Zara can go up to +8, and the penalty for religious differences is nothing to sneeze at either. Expect Zara's diplomacy to follow religious alignment to a tee, and when he finds himself on the wrong side of a coalition, Zara had better watch out.

Past Performance: Zara is one of the AIs with a pile of laurels for one season and little to show for himself since. Sixteen of Zara's points were scored in Season One, as he clawed his way from the Wildcard Game all the way to second place in the Championship, in true underdog fashion. His path to victory usually involved staying out of fights pre-catapults, gobbling up a religious rival or two once they were unlocked, and then using the extra land to launch a spaceship (or straight up claim domination) before his allies. It proved to be a very effective strategy. However, since then Zara has struggled to make anything of himself. He played a weak opening game in Season Two and was unable to advance in another Wildcard game, and then in Seasons Three and Four Zara was outright eliminated by more aggressive AIs, first Caesar, then Kublai Khan. Each of these games displayed the downside of a heavily religious gameplan, as Zara threw away a midgame lead with a few unsuccessful cross-map crusades in Season Three, and in Season Four he ardently practiced a minority Christianity in a very angry, very Buddhist world. You can probably guess how that ended. Zara also suffered a shockingly early exit in Season Five, with Alexander setting a record by killing him on Turn 80! Zara did have somewhat of a bounceback showing in Season Six with a runner up finish and three additional kills, if nowhere near the results from his initial outing. To find more success and repeat his Season One magic, Zara will need to be a lot smarter about both which faith he chooses to follow, and also which religious enemies he decides to attack. The writing is really on the wall by now that Zara is not an especially good AI and with each additional season his initial outing looks more like luck than skill.

Unseeded Leaders

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.

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.

Ragnar of the Vikings
Traits: Financial, Aggressive
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Two
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 5 points, tied 45th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: If you like insane seaborne invaders with funny hats, Ragnar is the guy for you! This lunatic has never met a war that he didn't like and any game with Ragnar present is sure to have some spicy moments. Ragnar combines together the Financial and Aggressive traits, which theoretically should make him better than the average warmonger in terms of managing his economy. That largely doesn't happen in practice though, as Ragnar takes every single lever available for managing his civ and turns it to the military setting, then dials the strength up to 11. His Viking civilization is pretty decent between its starting techs and Berserker unique unit and Trading Post unique building, although a lot of the benefits get wasted on the Pangaea maps used for AI Survivor. Ragnar's AI personality is a complete one-hit wonder: all military all the time. His aggression rating is absurdly overtuned (9.9/10), his train unit emphasis is maxed out (10/10), and he only has one tech flavor which, of course, is Military. Ragnar will fight war after war after war and neglect the building of infrastructure in his cities, which typically leaves him far behind in tech by the latter stages of each match. This often causes him to get eliminated at the hands of more advanced rivals, although sometimes he can ride the coattails of other low peace weight leaders and survive to the finish. Perhaps someday we'll see Ragnar snowball out in front of the rest of the field and then ride his Financial trait to a position of tech dominance but that hasn't happened thus far. Instead, Ragnar has mostly been a ticking time bomb that's gone off and ruined someone else's game... along with his own game at the same time.

Past Performance: Like most of the other crazed warmongers, Ragnar has been too aggressive for his own good and achieved little of substance. He has failed to win a single game and scored only three kills despite stirring up repeated conflicts in game after game. Ragnar's single runner-up finish is similarly deceptive, as he finished extremely far behind a dominant Catherine and made it to the playoffs by virtue of the fact that almost everyone else was dead. Sometimes an AI leader can luck into a second place spot without doing much of anything to deserve it. Far more often have been performances like Ragnar's outing in Season Three, where he inexplicably picked a fight with low peace weight neighbor Stalin only to be taken apart by Ramesses (!) of all people. Or alternately Ragnar has wasted golden opportunities, such as in Season Four where he drew a field of mostly low peace weight opponents and couldn't capitalize on easy prey neighbors in Lincoln and Pericles. This is a self-destructive leader who obsesses far too much over his army and fails to balance the economic, cultural, and diplomatic aspects of nation-building required to be successful in Civ4.

Victoria of England
Traits: Financial, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Six
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 6 points, tied 40th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Victoria gets the privilege of having the two best-performing traits in AI Survivor history: Financial and Imperialistic. This should allow her to get out to a fast start and have the economy to support it. She also gets the powerful Redcoat unique unit and Stock Exchange, both well above average in their own right. Victoria's only weakness on paper is her combination of starting techs, Fishing and Mining, which aren't garbage tier but are definitely in the bottom half of potential combinations. Other than her amazing traits and unique items, Victoria is a relatively standard AI. Her flavours are Gold and Growth. Her ratings are about average across the board with few exceptions, including aggression (5.1/10), wonder (6/10) and unit (4/10) build preferences. The main exception to this is her low likelihood to demand tribute (2/10). She has a high peace weight, and is likely to fight warmongers and befriend peaceniks, though unlike most high peace weight leaders she can declare war at "Pleased" relations. Victoria is essentially the quintessential average personality gifted with god-tier traits.

Past Performance: Victoria was infamous for performing remarkably poorly considering her traits and unique items, failing score a single point in the power rankings until finally claiming an opening round victory in Season Six. Previously her only real game of note was the Season Three Wildcard Game, the only time Victoria effectively leveraged her Imperialistic trait to claim a large portion of the map. In that game, she threw away a certain spaceship victory for a faraway cultural attempt, making her most notable action... a throw. On the other end of the spectrum, Victoria suffered one of the earliest eliminations ever during her Season Four opening game, failing to expand and dying 1 vs 1 to a hungry Louis, a performance nearly rivalled by her disastrous game in Season Two. Her sole victory turned out to be highly unlikely according to the alternate histories for the game, with Victoria somehow able to settle 17 cities peacefully without getting attacked - not something that was repeated in the additional playthroughs! Like most of the "average" AIs, such as Joao and Washington, Victoria seems too indecisive to chase any game plan effectively, choosing instead to pursue a few poorly, and so far her traits have not meant the difference, leading to the bizarre situation where the leader with the best traits in the game has one of the worst point totals. No one else has done a better job of turning something into nothing.

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

Game Three was our most lopsided match to date with almost two-thirds of the contest entries picking Justinian to win. No one else could get much beyond 12-13% support against the perceived Byzantine juggernaut. Zara and Alexander were the top choices for the Runner Up category, with the usual uncertainty for that slot, followed by no consensus at all on who would be First to Die. The community didn't think that Justinian would be the first to fall but couldn't decide which of De Gaulle, Ragnar, or Victoria would be the tastiest snack. The victory condition was then split between Spaceship and Domination with a slight preference for the former; this did not appear to be a setup which would lead to a Cultural ending.

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!

Alhambram: Alex vs Zara again, the earliest FTD [First to Die] record turn 80 is in danger!

Grace: Justinian has a good start, and hopefully he spreads his religion to Alex making them friends for the game., and then they tag team Ragnar and his terrible start for the FTD and eventual domination victory for Justinian. Who am I kidding, though, after the first two games I'm fully expecting Ragnar to just rip off his shirt and go crazy in a breakout performance just to mess with everybody.

need my speed: First time participating in this, and I have watched zero previous games - Zara. Of course (watch me being wrong~)! One of the very few AIs that consistently does very well, regardless of surrounding civilisations (as in, peaceful or warlike). He has floodplains, he has resources, he has everything. He should be able to survive Alexander if Alexander turns on him (and if Alexander turns on Justinian, Justinian should usually win that and take over Alexander - then it becomes interesting; a huge Justinian versus Zara Yaqob). Neither Zara nor Justinian can use religion to form a block with Alexander (nor with Ragnar for Justinian), as Alexander (and Ragnar) is/are too warmongery for it. But Zara could become friends with Victoria through religion, and they can both tech nicely to win. Ragnar, Victoria, and De Gaulle are always disappointing leaders sitting in their own corner amounting to nothing much (well, Ragnar will declare war, promptly die, and then survive in a corner of his own making, or die).

Scheals: The lack of early copper is astounding! Ragnar's terrain is so poor that I pity him. Justinian can die to Alexander's Chariot shenanigans or something along these lines BUT I believe Alex is going to settle towards Zera (wheat & cow spot), giving Justinian ample space for cities and later Calendar resources. Justinian and De Gaulle will get stone/marble poisoned, De Gaulle with the water start will suffer even more - although it will be either Vicky or Zera with the Great Lighthouse. Zera most likely will settle the double corn copper spot quite early, him being Creative will help holding Alexander at bay. Victoria is going to have an insane landgrab in this one, once again.

Duizhang_Lu: Justinian seems like a shoe-in, although he may have to work for his victory because he has some real crazies on his boundaries. Light the beacons!

SkipperXIV: Justinian is really the only AI here who has shown any level of competence so he seems like a shoo-in to win. Out of the rest, Zara seems the second most competent but he tends to found his own religion so he'll probably be at odds with Justinian too much for them to coexist. Alex will probably suicide himself against one (or more!) of his neighbors and get the tar beaten out of him. Ragnar and DeGaulle will probably have similar results, but I suspect Alex will pick a fight earlier and thus get put down earlier. I pick Victoria to second simply because I think Justinian will get to everyone else first.

LordNwahs: Alex takes over the world let's goooooooooooooooooooo (also de gaulle second because why not)

Kharush: It will take a long time before Ragnar and De Gaulle have connected metal. Therefore, the first blood will take place when Alexander, who follows the same religion as Justinian, decides that Zara with a heathen religion has to be conquered. While that war is going on, Ragnar points a stick to Justinian without realizing that the stick he picked up was straw. Justinian kicks Ragnar out and continues marching clockwise until achieving dominance.

Darkblob: Victoria is a bit precarious diplomatically, but with Zara to her south, she has a good chance to expand with only De Gaulle for competition. If she can get through the classical age unscathed, her land opens up and all the happiness resources help her pull away. Zara takes second because he has more food than Justinian. De Gaulle FTD after getting dogpiled by Ragnar and Victoria.

dankok8: i like Alex here with Iron in the BFC and also Gold which will help early research and happiness. Due to Justinian's military flavors and lower PW I think he's safer than Zara who could face a similar fate as he did against Alex before. If Zara delays Iron Working he could be staring down an early Green invasion and collapse completely. Also don't like Justinian given he has Ragnar and Alex around him. I think he struggles to break out. Vicky is my darkhorse pick. Copper in BFC and lots of space. But not so confident. She has a high PW so will have a bullseye on her back. And I'm not counting on De Gaulle to do squat.

BigBullSitter: Alex devours Zara in a deja vu moment. Then Vicky cuz its Vicky and her land is icky. Ragnar expands to 3 cities then invades a 8 city Justinian and gets what he deserves. Alex probably invades DeGaulle next. Either Justinian gets involved or DeGaulle is gone and not missed. By this point Justinian is far ahead in tech and swats Alex's invasions away while blasting off to space to spread Christianity to Alpha Centarians or something. Justinian 1st, Alex 2nd

Dagoth Gares: Are you trying to traumatize Zara, putting him right next to Alex like that?

ZincAlloy: The Byzantines are exhausted. First they had to hold off the endless Viking raids. Then the Greeks struck just as they started to push the Vikings back. And now the French have piled on top of all that. Justinian weeps, for once Constantinople falls, the three peace weight 0 leaders will destroy the eastern leaders, followed by themselves, and eventually render the planet uninhabitable. The only survivors will be those who escape on a spaceship.

JackDRB: Difficult to vote against Justinian in this one - he has a lot going for him, good land, good geography and given his strategy, good neighbours on top of this being quite a weak field. I forsee him being able to either converting his neighbours early and siccing them on the religious bloc that Zara will probably form OR munching them in the midgame, likely Ragnar given his awful land, but neither of his neighbours have quick access to copper so should dying to a say t60 axerush. Having easy access to Iron+Horses for Cataphracts (not that Justinian tends to use them all that much) is just the cherry on top! Zara on the other side of the world will probably try the Justianian playbook, but his situation is a bit weaker in almost every way - being pw 6 vs. pw 4 in game with 3 pw 0 leaders, one of your immediate neighbours being Victoria, pw8 and wildly out of place in this game, a dearth of rivers between him and Alex making him more likely to be in team Justinian i.e. a major enemy and a thorn in Zara's side - these all add up, even though his land is absolutely fantastic. In a world where Justianian gets knocked out early, Zara probably wins, but I just don't forsee that often.

The rest of the AI's I'm not treating with much respect, for good reason. Victoria is most likely FtD - peaceweight is destiny, when its tilted against you this much! - Alex has good land but no early copper for an axerush and so is less likely to get a quick snowball down, Ragnar same but without the good land (his land is frankly awful, I feel bad for him!), and De Gaulle is de Gaulle....Although I will actually pick De Gaulle for 2nd (might be crazy considering I tried an offpick 2nd last game, and plumped for Bismarck which I regretted about 10 turns into the game) - for a few reasons, he's far away from Justianian/Zara, so likely won't be attacked, his pw of 0 gives him a somewhat diplomatic shield against Ragnar, and tilts him towards attacking Victoria, which he should absolutely do, and try and pick up some of the spoils there. Finally, I like the fact he has Charasmatic monuments, is Industrious and has stone at the capital. Seriously dude, rush that supercharged Stonehenge!

Agni Neres: It is tempting to see the past as prologue, and pick Alex to smash Zara early. However, Zara should be able to get a tech lead with his wonderful rivers, and has the metal to defend himself. Justinian also looks like a good pick for FTD, but he will own the religion, and when it spreads to his neighbors should buy him time. While it would be satisfying to see the obnoxious DeGaulle go down first, Victoria's cash-poor land will put her behind in tech, her financial trait largely wasted. Four of six declare war at Pleased, so the war counter should be above average. In the end, I see the three warmongers checking each other long enough for Zara to reach space. The hardest call is second place, could be any of them.

Slashin': My name is Slashin'. My favorite color is grey. My favorite snack is toasted bread with a light spread of butter with the crusts cut off. I eat it with a cup of earl grey from the water I left in the filter the night before. Today, the weather is a nice shady overcast and grey mist. How lovely. I dream of raising cattle. When I return home in the afternoon, my pot roast will be done slow cooking. I don't put any seasoning because flavor overwhelms my senses. Watery, boiled, and somehow dry at the same time. My favorite. I pick Justinian and Zara for the contest. Vicky FtD. No real read on this game, just good starts and close peaceweights on seeded leaders. My picks are as predictable as they are milquetoast. Just the way I like it. Time for sleep, right after I put the slow cooker pot in the dishwasher and set a new pot for tomorrow's tea.

Plains-Cow: There are ZERO leaders who start with a plains-cow tile, meaning that it's a more level game this time. Justinian and Zara both have a plains-cow tile nearby, meaning that the first one to get there and make use of it will probably win. I think Justinian will get there first, followed by Zara, so they're my choices for first and second place. Ragnar does start with cows, but they're grassland cows, making them fat and lazy, so he's probably first to die. Also spaceships are cool fyyyyyooooossshhhhh!

Colors: Holy smokes that’s a lot of 0 peace weight leaders. My only qualm about picking Justinian and Zara as 1-2 is the dead certainty that they’ll be religious enemies, but I can’t bring myself to pick DeGaulle backing into second because he’s the last guy on the chopping block. Vicky and Ragnar have terrible starts, and Alex does not have the track record to be taken seriously. Justinian is still the champ in my heart, and I fully expect him to overrun the middle of the map and snowball out to a domination victory.

Vice_chairman: Justinian might seem like the clear favourite in this field of duds, but his position is rather cramped and I think he is very likely to get his game torpedoed by Ragnar or Alex. God forgive me, but I'm taking De Gaulle due to his disposal of tons of land. Second is peaceweight ally Alex.

Refsteel: So in lieu of participating in the fantasy draft, I'm making my picks based on a fantasy: I actually think Victoria is a much better leader than her standings give her credit for, and she's fallen prey to a lot of bad luck in a small sample of ten high-variance maps. The reason picking her here is a fantasy though is that ... it's happening again. Victoria finds herself as the highest peace weight leader in a field where all three other non-seeded leaders have peace weights of exactly 0. With her nearest iron ten tiles from London and four from Paris, she'll have plenty of military holes to fall into as well, and combining a Fishing civ with one of just two landlocked starts (and one tile off the coast with a lake, at that!) on the map -- and in fact the only start with no seafood nearby at all, she can hardly get off to a roaring start. With gold at Justinian's capital and Zara's incredible river wonderland, these two - among the best in their seeds to begin with - look ready to run over everything and meet from opposite sides in the middle of the map ... but I'm still betting on the long-shot!

Guanidine: What happens if you pack three insane maniacs on the same island and let them run wild? I really don't know, but boy, will we see!

Game Three Picking Contest Entry Form