Civ4 AI Survivor Season 7: Game Five 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

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

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

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

Pool Two Leader

Cyrus of Persia
Traits: Charismatic, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 3
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 5 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Two Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 24 points, tied 12th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Cyrus has Charismatic and Imperialistic for his traits, with Imperialistic being so good that it makes this a pretty good combination. There's also some synergy there, as Charismatic happiness is a bigger deal with more cities to use it in. He gets the notably less useful Immortal and Apothecary unique items, but he has very good starting techs with Agriculture and Hunting; Cyrus will quickly be able to improve basically any food resource he has. Cyrus has a pretty high aggression rating (7/10), builds a fair number of units (6/10) and loves wonders (8/10); this guy does it all. He cares an average amount about religion (big bonus for sharing, small malus for difference), and his flavours are Military and Growth. It creates the image of another of the snowball leaders, and Cyrus' game plan seems to be building a lot of cities with Imperialistic, getting them tall with Charismatic and his Growth flavour, and then crushing a neighbour or two once he has an advantage in food and production.

Past Performance: Cyrus has turned out to be the king of second place, strong enough to be in the mix while frequently too weak to overcome leaders with superior economic traits. Cyrus has only won a single game, but he's placed a strong second a whopping five different times, never too far from the game's victor. Cyrus was runner-up to Mao in his Season One opening game, and was almost able to pull away from his neighbours before getting dogpiled in Playoff Game One. Then, in Season Two, Cyrus had his best year, again getting a strong second in his opening match, before a deserved first place in his playoff game. He was even nearly crowned champion that year; stupid Huayna Capac and his upset Cultural Victory. Several longtime AI Survivor fans still refer to Cyrus as the "True Season Two Champion." Still, the point remains that Cyrus tore up the competition in his first two years, and we were expecting big things from him in the following seasons. Unfortunately, Cyrus repeatedly failed to deliver on those expectations. He hasn't survived an opening game since Season Two, though he's been pretty unlucky. In Season Three, Cyrus was afflicted with constant attacks from both sides, first in sensible wars by Brennus, then nonsensical sabotage from across the map by Zara, in a game any leader would have struggled in. Then, in Season Four, Cyrus expanded out to a strong size and was one of the "Big Three" in the midgame, before a couple of unlikely attacks by fellow Big Three member Catherine set both of them back. This resulted in both of their eventual deaths at the hands of Isabella, who they should have been working together against in the first place! In Season Five, Cyrus was undone by a failure to settle for metal resources in the face of an aggressive Genghis Khan. Cyrus returned to form in Season Six with a somewhat lucky runner up finish in the opening round followed by a very strong playoff performance only exceeded by an even stronger game from Pacal. When he's allowed to actually play the game, Cyrus has put out some very consistent results, and he's definitely not a leader to underestimate if he can get rolling.

Unseeded Leaders

Asoka of India
Traits: Spiritual, Organized
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game: Season Five
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 16 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Asoka plays with Spiritual and Organized for his traits, a decent pairing with strong economic benefit but of no use militarily. As an Indian leader, Asoka gets the above average Fast Worker and Mausoleum combo, and his starting techs are Mining and Mysticism, a pair good for chasing religions and not much else; Asoka can struggle with improving his land in the early game, though the Fast Worker at least helps him catch up. Asoka is a generally peaceful leader, but is less polarised than his counterpart Gandhi. He's got a pretty low aggression rating (3.7/10), unit build (2/10) and tribute demand (1/10) preferences, but a high wonder (8/10) build rate. With religion and science flavours, you can count on Asoka to consistently build up a strong economy as long as he's left alone. Asoka places a strong emphasis on faith, but unlike a lot of the other religious zealots, he's actually pretty easy to get along with, with a minor penalty for differing religion but a huge bonus for shared faith. In theory, Asoka should find it easy to make friends and he's unlikely to get involved in too many wars unless he finds himself in a particularly hostile world.

Past Performance: Asoka has given us a good depiction of a middle-tier economic leader. In Season One, Asoka was within a whisker of an underdog cultural victory despite being short on land, and was beaten to the punch by Mao's diplomatic victory a mere five turns before he would have won. In the two following seasons, Asoka has drawn largely weak, peaceful fields, and proved himself proficient enough economically to at least draw second place both times, behind Big Brother Gandhi. Both seasons though, Asoka found himself in far more aggressive playoff games and collapsed to the aggression in rapid fashion, being first or second to die each game. Asoka's appearance in Game Four of Season Four played out similarly, as Asoka made himself a bunch of religious enemies and was quickly wiped out. His best season by far was Season Five where Asoka won twice en route to making the Championship game. Overall, Asoka's middling power ranking likely places him about where he should be, as when playing amongst a weak field he's certainly competent enough to advance, but like many of the other peaceful leaders his main weakness is an inability to stand up for himself in conflicts. In an unfriendly environment, Asoka is historically very unlikely to make it out alive.

Boudica of the Celts
Traits: Aggressive, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons One, Two, and Four
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 21st place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Boudica has the second most combat oriented trait combination in the game, with Aggressive and Charismatic. Her units will acquire promotions faster than any other AIs in the game, and it's a good thing too, because Boudica means to use them. A lot. She gets the mediocre Gallic Warrior and Dun for unique items, and lastly starts with Hunting and Mysticism. Boudica is one of the serious warmongers in Civ 4. She has an extremely high aggression rating (8.8/10), and Boudica is one of the AIs that uses their traits to full effect. She will not declare war at "Pleased" relations though, one of the stranger aspects of Boudica's AI personality. She has a middling build unit preference (6/10) and a low wonder build rate (2/10), and Boudica will often build a more balanced mix of units and buildings than most of the warlike AIs. Her flavours are also a little more balanced, with military and growth, and for one of the serious aggressors, Boudica can build a surprisingly competent economy in her downtime. Lastly, Boudica is less likely to waste her time on a religion than a lot of the other Mysticism-start leaders; it happens sometimes, but usually she'll move straight onto the key worker techs thanks to not having a religious flavour.

Past Performance: Alongside Shaka, Boudica is the other best-performing warmonger, with the two of them sitting in the top third of leaders. Boudica scored a dominant win in her opening game of Season One (admittedly, the weakest opening game that season) after crushing game-rival Isabella. She's also scored two strong second-place finishes in Seasons Two and Four, interestingly both behind Huayna Capac. The Celts fared poorly in the opening round of Season Five, however the alternate histories of that map revealed that Boudica was actually the leader most likely to win and had simply gotten unlucky. Boudica's often been successful at running over her early neighbours in a way that most of the warmongers seem unable to do (see Season One Louis or Season Four Napoleon), probably as a result of her extremely aggressive traits. Both of her second-place finishes have been far from distant, and Boudica has performed consistently well in the opening round. However, she's struggled far more in the playoff games, dying in all three seasons she's got there. Again like Shaka, Boudica seems unable to compete against the stiffer competition of more balanced leaders. Expect her to attack early and often, and don't be surprised if those early attacks succeed where most would fail.

Churchill of England
Traits: Charismatic, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Six Championship Runner Up
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, 26th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Churchill has arguably the second-worst trait pairing in the game, with the below-average Charismatic and the terrible Protective. His English civilization is much nicer though, with the powerful Redcoat and Stock Exchange, which might help to make up for his traits. Lastly, he starts with Fishing and Mining, a weak pairing unless his capital is on the coast. Churchill is a little interesting in the sense that he has a low score in basically every category. He doesn't build a lot of wonders (2/10) or units (4/10). He doesn't demand tribute (1/10) and he has a pretty low aggression rating (4.3/10) too. In fact, the only thing this guy does is spend espionage (7/10); that's literally the only number above a 5/10 in his personality. He also has a neutral peace weight, so Churchill is fair game for attack from the good or evil leaders. Lastly, his flavours are Military and Gold. It all makes for an uninteresting personality that's more likely to sit in a corner plotting than anything else.

Past Performance: This was a section that had to be completely rewritten following Season Six. Churchill died in his opening game during the first three seasons of AI Survivor, and was first-to-die twice to boot. Then in Season Four, Churchill played his best game yet: he hid in a corner and got his butt saved by the Apostolic Palace numerous times, until he got to the Wildcard Game and, err, died miserably. Yikes. Season Five was no better as Churchill was a brief speed bump on Alexander's path to world domination. Coming into Season Six, Churchill had scored exactly 1 point from a random kill and was rated as one of the worst leaders in the field. Then he made it all the way to the Championship game in Season Six with a victory in the opening round and two more runner up finishes, with a close miss on the overall victory in the title game itself! Churchill fans should be careful not to get too carried away, however: Churchill had a starting position heavily titled in his favor in his sole victory while the alternate histories for his two runner up games showed that they had been exceedingly unlikely results. This is more likely to be a case of a weak leader who randomly got lucky instead of the start of a newfound competitor.

Roosevelt of America
Traits: Industrious, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Four
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 5 points, tied 45th place (out of 52 leaders)

Personality: Roosevelt is a classic example of a peaceful builder that largely wants to stay out of conflicts. He has a solid economic trait pairing with Industrious and Organized, although lacking any of the top-tier grouping of Financial or Creative or Expansive. Roosevelt often tends to struggle with expansion since he lacks any traits or abilities to speed up his early game. The American civilization is doing him no favors here, with decent starting techs but unique features that both come far too late to make a difference. Roosevelt the AI is not very militaristic at all, with an aggression rating of 2.6/10 and a dangerously low train unit emphasis (2/10). Despite his Industrious trait, Roosevelt doesn't particularly emphasize wonder building (4/10) and prefers to focus on espionage spending (7/10). He also has little interest in religion and doesn't stack up much of a shared faith bonus or differing faiths penalty. Roosevelt has unusual tech preferences for his research, emphasizing Production and Gold flavors, and the expected high peace weight for a "good" leader. He will plot war at "Pleased" relations though in a bit of a twist. Generally speaking what you see is what you get with Roosevelt. He's going to try and play the builder game but he lacks the traits and the civ to make him a top competitor for that gameplan.

Past Performance: Roosevelt has been mediocre to poor overall, managing one trip to the playoffs without achieving anything too memorable or interesting. His theoretical best game took place in the opening round of Season Four, where he had a difficult corner start and was widely expected to be the First to Die. Instead, he managed to slip into the playoffs in second place behind Isabella. It wasn't a very impressive finish, mind you, as Roosevelt was 6000 points behind on the scoreboard, but he did survive and that was more than the rest of the field could say. Outside of that single game, Roosevelt has typically been a speed bump on the road to victory for other stronger leaders. He was eliminated in the opening round of Season One, then survived to the Wildcard game in Season Two without accomplishing much. Roosevelt made a truly bad decision in Season Three by converting to a self-founded religion that put him outside Justinian's religious alliance, resulting in a deserved elimination. His playoff game in Season Four also ended in self-inflicted disaster, committing suicide with an invasion of a much stronger Darius (an example of the "plot war at Pleased relations" backfiring). Roosevelt warred endlessly with Louis in Season Five to little effect before finally getting eliminated in the lategame. While Roosevelt is a decent enough leader in overall terms, he's demonstrated some truly awful decision-making in recent years of the competition.

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

This was the first game of the season that had no real consensus on anything that would take place. Kublai Khan and Cyrus were the favorites as the seeded leaders but hardly in overwhelming fashion and there was even less agreement on who would finish in second place. Unlike most of the Season Seven games, there was no clear favorite for First to Die either, with Roosevelt and Asoka and Churchill all drawing roughly equivalent shares of the vote. The overall perception going into this game was that it was wide open for the taking by almost any of the six AI combatants.

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!

Ethan: "Meditation brings wisdom; lack of Meditation brings Polytheism" Boudica and Kublai become religious allies and team up to give FDR a day that will live in infamy. Asoka if left alone could win a cultural victory - of course, Asoka isn't being left alone. The conquest will continue with Churchill who will fail to live up to his previous season. Cyrus gets much less land than Imperialistic implies and sneaks into the Wildcard to play pick-on-Peter with Shaka and Gilgamesh. Kublai will at long last launch the spaceship that has been in production since the final of Season 4, to much rejoicing.

Tincuradan: It's Northern warmongers versus the peaceful South! But since Roosevelt is so far away beyond the jungle, Boudica will likely strike at Kublai first. Not that I see that going well. Cyrus has a much easier target close to him in Churchill with lands choked in forests and jungle. So I think a Cyrus snowball isn't out of the question. However, Asoka is quite good at spreading religion, so I'm betting the south will form a religious block which will wield the Arsenal of Democracy to victory.

Kharush: The only leader able to keep early research going is Roosevelt (assuming he decides to research mining). Getting to pottery will be tough for everyone else. The same applies to iron working. Roosevelt may actually be the first one to declare war to wipe Asoka off the map to get out of a corner start.

Scheals: Early dom Kublai Victory with Roosevelt being the sole survivor weathering the Boudica storm throughout the game. Low war declaration count because I think the fights are going to be to the bitter ends/long stalemates. Only two leaders have capacity to declare at Pleased, Asoka and Boudica will have the religions (Cyrus possibly gets the third, wouldn't be surprised if Kublai gets the third, though) and that doesn't shake the setup too much - the Evil low peaceweight North shall stomp the meek Good peaceweight South. Boudica has an awful start. Roosevelt has the best capital but is somewhat boxed in, Kublai has plenty of space with good food and production. Now, important note: There is a serious lack of copper for the northern AIs. Churchill might get his or miss it, it might be either Asoka or Roosevelt getting it. It only means that they will be able to defend themselves better when the Swords come knocking. But, those swords will be backed up with sizeable empires.

Lymond: Roosy has a New Deal for the other civs on this map - that deal is Pain!

SkipperXIV: This one's tough; we don't really have any power players this game. Kublai has had some success in the past but his start is pretty atrocious. I think this might be Cyrus's game to shine. He's got a decent start, has a fair amount of land to expand into and his closest neighbor is the ever-incompetent Churchill. As for first to die, I think Roosevelt will get rolled up by Boudica when she inevitably goes full unga-bunga mode.

Chitis: My girl Boudica deserves a w

Slashin': Asoka's got good odds here with a decent capital for his starting techs. I also like that there's what i suspect is a chance for a holy city flip on new york if that scout moves towards roosevelt instead of scouting that river basin since Asoka sees that pigs right away and is bound to move his settler in that direction. Even if he ends up settling on that river basin, Asoka has good odds of flipping civs to his religion once he hits sailing and other civs start settling on that river. Churchill and Roosevelt are Asoka's bulwark against the low PWs as they smash units against their defenses, but considering that KK and Boudi are each other's closest neighbors, whose to say that they don't turn on each other first with border tension and religious differences in play? Either way, lots of inconclusive warring and with no one having particularly outstanding commerce to utilize this game, a late culture seems like a good bet presuming Asoka grabs his lion's share of religions.

Cyneheard: Talk about a sad field. Boudica's an underwhelming warmonger, Roosevelt is Roosevelt, and few of the others are scary. So obviously it's going to be a Cyrus-Boudica romp through the field or something, because Season Seven.

JackDRB: Given the relative poor quality of the AIs in general (KK and Cyrus are definitely in the weaker half of their respective pools), the chronic lack of rivers/poor quality of land and the high peaceweight's general lack of space (Asoka + Religion is _bad_ news for Roosy), sets this up better than most games for a military romp-fest (although the general lack of copper does hurt this a bit) - also means I expect this game to be a long one in general. Would regularly pick Kublai for this role, but I really don't like this start, and given the history this season, could easily be filed under "insanity" - lets go for Boudica and see a Celtic romp across the landscape putting those, uh, Gallic Warriors and Dun to good use? 2nd is anyone's guess, I'll go for Cyrus as a textbook "furthest-away-leader-aligned-with-picked-winner" pick and hope he does his 2nd magic. FtD I can see Asoka running into trouble, potentially squeezing Roosevelt (and he does plot at pleased!) and getting a leg up on being hated by others through religious conflict.

Max: Good warmongers (Kublai, Boudica, possibly Cyrus), and some soft targets - Asoka and Roosevelt. Best guess is that the warmongers take out Asoka first, as he tries to build all wonders ever, then wipe out Roosevelt and Churchill next. Kublai is Creative and in the middle of the map, so will have best culture pressure on newly acquired territories, and is poised to gain the most. So, Cyrus or Boudica for the second? Probably Boudica - better early start, more likely to spread religion to Kublai, less likely to attack him at random. Not sure if Kublai takes enough land for Domination, but let's roll the dice on that.

ZincAlloy: Congratulations Asoka, winner of the "Started in a Safe Corner" award. Enjoy your complementary first place. Look at this map. Cyrus gets slowed down too much trying to fight protective Churchill, Boudica and Kublai Khan fight each other and Roosevelt is both useless and too cramped for space. Asoka can just sit there and culture forever.

BluesyCobalt: I see Cyrus, Kublai, and Boudica all holding hands, skipping, and gleefully genociding their southern peacenik neighbors. Then it becomes a matter of time before they turn on each other. Kublai is going to be the strongest just because I think he's going to absolutely kill the land grab phase and gobble up most of the south, and Boudica's lack of ability to plot at pleased is going to save her from Choosing Unwisely(tm) and attacking Kublai, leaving him to turn Cyrus' land into an Ilkhanate.

Madmandoc: I am going to make what I expect to be a rare prediction. I'm going with Roosevelt to win. I am putting a ton of faith in Roosevelt's start. The double silver is going to rocket him through the early game, and i think the triple AH resources plus the Agriculture start will be enough to push him to early animal husbandry. This will make a killer capital with high levels of both food-hammers and commerce early. He is also going to be able to get three early happiness resources, two of which are gold and silver. Industrious plus a double silver start makes him an odds on favorite to build the Oracle. If he oracles metal casting for industrious forges or monarchy for happiness, he could be miles ahead of the competition before serious hostilties break out. His closest neighbor Asoka is no threat at all. Organized is not the best trait, but the AI does quite well with a fixed passive boost. Unlike with other traits, it can't shoot itself in the foot with bad play. I'm going with Churchill for second place. I'm also out on a limb with this one, but I was influenced but the fact that he is likely going to have access to *six* calendar resources. Once he gets to calendar, he should get a big surge. He may also eat his pacifist neighbor Asoka, which would provide land and likely religion / wonders. Asoka for first to die, because he doesn't build enough units. In accordance with my Roosevelt economic hypothesis, I'm going with a fairly early spaceship victory at turn 306.

ManiaMuse: Asoka to conquer the world with love and kindness and nuclear weapons.

LinkMarioSamus: This season has been ridiculous, so in honor of the recent crowning of a new English king why not pick Churchill to win? He's in basically the same position Hammurabi was in back in Game 1, except his diplomatic situation is even better and Churchill is a better AI leader in pretty much every way. This field has the smallest difference between the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked leaders of the whole opening round if I'm not mistaken (only 25 points separating Kublai Khan from Roosevelt), meaning a possible stalemate which would only benefit a leader like Churchill. After that, um, Cyrus partners with Churchill for 2nd place and Asoka is FTD because he doesn't build units and is in the center of the map? Like I said, how do you predict these ridiculous AI games anyway?

BigBlueBen: Does there have to be a winner? All these leaders seem to prefer finishing in second place (well Asoka has the same number of firsts as seconds, but he's second-best Gandhi, so the point stands). The tier 1 leaders are slowly getting better - Stalin was FTD, Mansa was 2nd to die, Justinian was genuinely strong for a while until Ragnar/Alex got the better of him, then Giggles managed to actually survive last game (admittedly, he might not have if the game went all the way to space). So keeping with the trend, Kublai gets 2nd here. One of the other low piece-weight leaders should win in that case, I'll go Boudica mostly because she's more fun than Cyrus.


Schmun: This field is really wide open. As an Iranian, I feel like I've got to choose Cyrus - plus, given the curse apparently hanging over Pool 1 leaders this season, this is the week I'm going to branch out and back another leader. My hope is that Cyrus gets a good chunk of land and can quietly build his way to a culture victory. Choosing as, if the low peace weight civs prevail, he'll do well plus I think Ashoka 1st and Cyrus 2nd is a real possibility. My predictions also rely on Boudica barreling into a war with Kublai, occupying the Mongolian and ending in Boudica FTD.

Plains-Cow: Few plains-cows for AI-kings under the sky,
Zero for Asoka in their halls of stone,
None for Roosevelt doomed to die.
One for the Dark Lord on his steppe throne,
In the Land of Mongolia where Holsteins lie.
One Plains-Cow to rule them all,
One Settler to find them,
One Pasture to bring them all
and under Kublai BIND THEM.

Game Five Picking Contest Entry Form