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:
Julius Caesar of the Romans
Traits: Imperialistic, Organized
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Championship Game: Season Three
Total Kills: 15
Overall Power Ranking: 37 points, 3rd place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Caesar gets access to the Imperialistic and Organized traits, the former being top-tier and the latter being below average. Imperialistic is so strong that it makes this pair powerful, however, as more land = more everything in AI Survivor. His unique items are the busted Praetorian unique unit, as well as the significantly less useful Forum, again the praetorian being so good that this pair is still well above average. Lastly, Caesar has the Fishing and Mining starting techs, a generally weak pair that becomes significantly stronger with seafood at the capital, as with all fishing starts. Caesar, more than most leaders, depends on having the right starting resources, as seafood, iron, and metal luxuries all greatly speed up his snowball, as in his dominant opening game of Season Four. And make no mistake, Caesar's game plan is to snowball. With an above average aggression rating (7.6/10), unit preference (6/10) and military/production flavours, Caesar is far more likely than not to start an early war, and with a neutral peaceweight (4), all opponents are fair game for an attack. However, in early wars Caesar has a serious ace up his sleeve: praetorians. These guys are so strong that they almost break the game, often barging their way through city walls like no other unit can. Caesar depends heavily on an extremely successful landgrab using Imperialistic, an early conquest using praetorians, or both. From there, Caesar's gameplay looks similar to many other militaristic AIs, using his extra land to out-produce everyone else. If Caesar is unable to get his snowball rolling, his poor economic traits and aggressive personality usually mean he will fall behind and get himself killed, making him another feast-or-famine type leader.
Past Performance: Caesar has achieved a high level of success thus far in AI Survivor. In Season One, he successfully managed to murder De Gaulle, but instead of pausing for breath, immediately declared war on a stronger and more advanced Pericles. He did not make it out alive. This was the first of a series of displays of Caesar's biggest weakness: he is bad at building an economy. Like, really bad. In Season Two, Caesar was able to come out on top of an extremely close game, before floundering in the playoffs in an unremarkable performance. Season Three was Caesar's big year, as he won an opening "game of death" and displayed his ideal game, using praetorians to outmuscle Pericles early in the game (vengeance for Season One?), fighting a series of wars to annex Ethiopia, and preventing Elizabeth's cultural win in an extremely climactic showdown. He was also able to win his playoff game in similar snowball fashion, before finally placing third in the championship. In Season Four, Caesar was able to repeat the magic in his opening game, but performed miserably in his playoff game, stuck in a jungle heavy start and eliminated by Charlemagne. He somehow managed to achieve a second place finish in a very difficult opening round game of Season Five and then couldn't quite make the top two in his playoff match. It's also noteworthy that Caesar has repeatedly bathed in the blood of his enemies and currently stands tied atop the leaderboard with 15 kills. Overall, Caesar is another leader likely to either win a game or perform miserably. Thus far, Caesar has been one of the leaders most likely to feast rather than starve.
Willem of the Dutch
Traits: Financial, Creative
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game: Seasons Four and Five
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 18 points, 16th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Willem has one of the strongest economic setups in the game and he's been held back thus far only by his poorly-chosen set of research priorities. Willem has one of the best possible combinations of leader traits in the Financial + Creative pairing. Not only does Willem benefit from the free border pops and the Financial commerce bonus, there's even some basic synergy between the two in the form of cheap libraries. Willem's Dutch civilization is significantly less powerful, though it does have decent starting techs and can become strong if the Dikes ever show up in time to matter. As an AI leader Willem has middling scores in almost every category, lots of 4/10 and 5/10 ratings across the board. His aggression rating is about average at 6.7/10 and his peace weight also sits in the middle of the scale. Willem has a very low religious emphasis and he won't found his own faith very often despite his strong economic abilities. The single biggest weakness for Willem comes in the form of his tech preferences: he has Gold and Science flavors, which turn out to be one of the worst possible combinations for military tech. Willem has repeatedly refused to research Rifling technology to a ludicrous degree, in some games finishing Assembly Line and Flight (!) techs before picking up Rifling. This has led to his elimination at the hands of much less advanced civilizations as he needlessly fights with muskets against rifles. We have a general rule for Willem: if he makes it to Rifling tech then he wins the game; otherwise, he finds himself getting eliminated.
Past Performance: Willem has everything needed to be a strong leader for AI Survivor purposes and it was perplexing why his performance was so bad during the first few seasons. He successfully combines together great economic traits with a low peace weight and willingness to declare war at "Pleased" relations - this guy should be the second coming of Huayna Capac! Instead, he suffered early eliminations again and again during the first few seasons. Some of this was bad luck, as he drew a tough field of opponents in Season One and then a starting position crammed between Hannibal and Tokugawa in Season Two. Still, there's no avoiding the fact that Willem was underperforming his fundamentals, and when he was eliminated again in the opening round of Season Three, everyone was ready to write him off as a failure. This narrative flipped around in Season Four, however, with Willem finally living up to his potential by taking second place in the opening round (a game where he finished with the highest score) followed by a Cultural victory in the playoffs. He was on track to win the outright title in the Season Four Championship before a stubborn refusal to research Rifling tech doomed his efforts. Then in Season Five Willem marched back to the Championship once again with another pair of first and second place finishes. Along with Gilgamesh, he's been charging up the AI Survivor leaderboard over the past few seasons. It's clear by now that Willem is a serious threat to win any game in which he appears if he actually bothers to research military techs - which he didn't in Season Six en route to another early elimination. It's his constant Achilles Heel and it will dictate how far he makes it in any match.
Brennus of the Celts
Traits: Spiritual, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mysticism
Peace Weight: 0
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons One and Two
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 29th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Brennus gets the Charismatic and Spiritual traits, a middle-tier economic pairing. He gets the less decent Gallic Warrior and Dun unique items, both well below average, and starts with Hunting and Mysticism techs, one of the "religion-or-bust" combinations. Brennus is less suicidally aggressive than his female counterpart, with only a moderately high aggression rating (7/10). Other than that, his preferences are pretty similar, with a moderate unit build rating (6/10) and a low wonder build rating (2/10), and Brennus is also highly unlikely to demand tribute (1/10). The other noteworthy difference between the two are their flavours, with Brennus' being military and religion. The male Celtic leader is far more likely to actually use his Mysticism start and research a religion out of the gate. He also cares a lot more about religion, with a high bonus and malus for sharing or not sharing faith with his neighbours. Brennus is basically one of the moderately aggressive, religious AIs, with an extremely low peace weight to boot (0/10).
Past Performance: Brennus is a middle-tier leader as far as past performance goes. He's scored two distant second-place finishes in the first two seasons, though neither were particularly impressive, and has never performed well in the playoffs, dying in his first game and coming very close to death in his second game. Otherwise, he played an unimpressive opening game and Wildcard game in Season Three, failing to advance further, and while he opened strongly in his Season Four game, he failed to keep up the momentum, throwing away a significant lead to a Darius/Gilgamesh combination later on. If there's been one unique aspect to Brennus thus far, it's been his penchant for avoiding eliminations. The Celtic leader has only suffered three eliminations in ten games and has been the king of "Third Place" with four such finishes. Brennus has so far been a substantially average leader, sometimes able to get a kill or two, sometimes falling flat on his face, but at this point it seems safe to say he's unlikely to run away with a game without some serious luck on his side.
Darius of Persia
Traits: Financial, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 8
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish:Championship Game: Season Four
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, 21st place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Darius has arguably the best pure economic traits in the game, with Financial and Organized. While he's stuck with the weak Immortal and Apothecary, he also gets fantastic starting techs in Agriculture and Hunting, allowing him to improve his food resources quickly. Darius has one of the better set-ups overall, and thanks to his traits and starting techs, begins the game already slightly ahead of the field. Darius is clearly an economic leader in most ways. He has Gold and Growth flavours, and those combined with his traits mean Darius should almost always be able to construct a good economy. He loves building wonders (8/10), and unlike many of the other peaceful leaders, he builds enough units to defend himself too (6/10). That's lucky, because he also has a high peace weight of 8, and will often be target for attack from the more aggressive leaders. Lastly, Darius himself isn't necessarily going to build in peace, he actually has an average aggression rating (5.2/10), and he can and will claim more land by the sword if necessary. On paper, Darius probably has one of the best setups in the game; he's a peaceful leader with amazing economic traits, but he's also willing to defend himself and fight for more land.
Past Performance: Alongside Victoria, Darius is one of the biggest puzzles of AI Survivor. Theoretically he's undoubtedly one of the strongest leaders in the vein of Mansa Musa or Huayna Capac, and yet the victories just haven't materialised for him in the same way. Darius made it to the Wildcard Game in Seasons One and Two, and came second in the latter year, but fell quickly in the playoffs afterwards. He was even worse in Season Three, failing to expand and quickly being dogpiled by the other AIs. Finally, in Season Four, we saw some success from Darius, as he outteched the competition for his first victory in his opening game, before nearly winning his playoff game as well, stupidly tossing Charlemagne the win after dominating the entire game. However, Darius then got an unlucky field in the Championship, being the only high peace weight leader, and was quickly torn apart. Season Five had another bad opening round game for Darius as he was the victim of Mongol aggression in the midgame. Darius had his favorite thing in Season Six, a quiet corner where he could build in his sandbox, which translated into a second place finish. So why hasn't it all worked out for Darius like it has for Mansa? It seems like there is, at least, an easy answer. Time after time, Darius is slow to expand. His strong games come when there is lots of land around him, and it matters less, and his early losses come on the smaller maps where the other AIs claim it first. Darius' traits mean that with even land, he can out-research almost any other AI; he just struggles to get to that point! Look at the map carefully when evaluating Darius' performance; on the larger maps, he's got a pretty good chance of an upset victory thanks to his traits. On the smaller maps though, it seems Darius' starting techs aren't good enough to boost his expansion; he just doesn't build enough settlers, and gets outproduced (and eventually wiped out) by the AIs that do.
Mehmed of the Ottomans
Traits: Expansive, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Five Champion
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 21st place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Mehmed is a typical member from the group of militaristic AI leaders. He's not quite as crazy as some of his shared rivals in the Montezuma or Shaka mold, but he still acts predictably and starts a lot of trouble for his neighbors. Mehmed does have a pair of good economic traits in the Expansive/Organized combo, albeit both of them traits that the AI doesn't leverage particularly well. His Ottoman civilization also benefits from having excellent starting techs and decent unique features in the Janissary and Hamman. Mehmed's biggest problem is that he's too militaristic for his own good, endlessly picking wars and failing to leverage those economic traits to good effect. He has a maxed out preference for training units (10/10) and a high aggression rating (7.8/10) to go along with his low peace weight. And yet Mehmed also won't plot war at "Pleased" relations for some reason, often causing him to stack up units endlessly to no effect whatsoever. His research flavors are Military and an odd Culture, once again reinforcing how Mehmed tends to neglect economy in favor of more and more units. Mehmed has often been a popular pick from the community because he looks like he should be strong on paper, and yet he traditionally let everyone down over and over again.
Past Performance: At least until Season Five, that is. Mehmed initiated a lot of fighting through the first four seasons but without translating those conflicts into a top two finish. He was often a leading figure at various points in time before falling apart and collapsing in the later stages of the gameplay. Mehmed's experience in Season One was typical, as he conquered multiple rivals before getting chopped to bits by a more advanced Mansa Musa. He came close to taking second place in his Season Two match, and eliminated Bismarck in Season Three only to fall apart in a two front war afterwards. Everything changed in Season Five though, as Mehmed finished in second place twice in the opening round and playoffs followed by stunning everyone by winning the outright championship. He was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his one shining moment to bring home the trophy. Season Six suggested that this was more luck than skill but Mehmed will always have that shocking victory to look back upon. While Mehmed clearly isn't one of the best AI leaders, he's a competent military leader who can win games if the conditions break in his favor.
Saladin of Arabia
Traits: Spiritual, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Declares War at Pleased Relations? NO
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Season Five
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 8 points, tied 33rd place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Saladin is one of several leaders that focuses on religion and military; unlike most of the other leaders with this combination, he's only middle of the spectrum in terms of aggression and peace weight. Saladin is hurt badly by his leader traits and Arabian civilization, with the useless Protective trait handicapping his performance. He is also penalized by having to start with arguably the worst starting tech pairing in the game in Mysticism and Wheel. Saladin's free starting Deity worker cannot hook up any food resources or build mines, while being stuck two techs away from both Bronze Working and Animal Husbandry. Saladin heavily emphasizes religion and he will therefore always try to found one of the Meditation/Polytheism faiths, leaving him even further in the hole compared to his rivals. This poor starting situation typically leaves Saladin significantly behind the other leaders and makes it hard for him to keep pace with their expansion. Most of his AI ratings are in the middle of the range of available values, such as his aggression rating (5.5/10) and peace weight. Saladin rarely makes demands of his neighbors and will be a good friend when sharing the same faith, though his preferred civic of Theocracy makes it almost impossible for rival religions to get any kind of footing. This is a straightforward AI personality: he's going to try to found a religion and then attack those who don't share it, although not nearly to the same degree as someone like Montezuma or Isabella.
Past Performance: Saladin was somewhat unfortunate in his past games before managing to break through with a first place finish in Season Five. For all of his weaknesses at the start of the game, Saladin has been in a solid position on multiple occasions coming out of the landgrab phase. Unfortunately he has often found himself on the wrong side of the religious diplomacy and suffered as a result. This was the problem in Season One, as Saladin had a self-founded Hinduism that no one else practiced and it led to his eventual elimination by Catherine. He hung on to the Wildcard game in a very peaceful Season Two opening round match only to finish in the middle of the pack in a large field. Season Three was a replay of Season One for Saladin, with his own self-founded religion that Justinian opposed and eventually stomped out. And in Season Four, Saladin clung to life in both his opening round game and the Wildcard match without ever coming close to a victory. Everything came together in the opening round game of Season Five though, where Saladin took advantage of multiple nearby gold resources and some idiotic neighbors to win a very late Spaceship victory. To his credit, Saladin has been in eight total matches thus far and was only eliminated twice. On the other hand, his sole victory came at the absurdly late date of Turn 421 and the Arabian economy has never been much to write home about. This is the Protective trait at its finest: stalling out losing games while doing nothing to help achieve a win.
Tokugawa of Japan
Traits: Aggressive, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Declares War at Pleased Relations? YES
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round: Seasons Two and Four
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 13 points, 25th place (out of 52 leaders)
Personality: Tokugawa is infamous for being the most isolationist leader in Civ4. He won't sign Open Borders with anyone else unless relations warm up to "Pleased", and he generally refuses to trade or interact with anyone else unless they share a mutual military struggle. Tokugawa suffers from one of the worst leader trait combinations in the game, with lots of unit promotions but little else to recommend it. He's also saddled with a weak civilization in Japan, which suffers from poor starting techs and the uselessly-late Shale Plant. Unfortunately the Samurai unit is nothing special in Civ4. Tokugawa's AI personality reflects his generally militaristic bent, with an above average aggression rating (7.3/10) and train unit emphasis. He makes it clear that he wants to be left alone by never asking for help (0/10) or demanding tribute (1/10) or making religious conversion demands (2/10). Tokugawa's best feature is probably his tech flavor, where he has the rare Science preference to go along with a lesser Military emphasis. This is likely the reason why Tokugawa has been somewhat decent at building an economy despite his atrocious leader traits. Long story short, this guy is basically an old man telling everyone to stay out of his yard while shaking a rolled-up newspaper.
Past Performance: Tokugawa is widely viewed as one of the worst possible choices for a Single Player game of Civ4, and he's exceeded expectations to date with two different trips to the playoffs. Tokugawa scored a runner up finish behind Shaka back in Season Two, and when we did some repeated playthroughs of that same setup, it emerged that he was clearly a top pick in that specific circumstance. In a very weak field of competitors, Tokugawa and Shaka repeatedly proved to be stronger than their peers. Tokugawa's best performance took place in Season Four where he stunned everyone by winning a dominant runaway victory. Again, this was another group of generally weak opponents but Tokugawa nonetheless smoked them well and good. Of course this doesn't mean that Tokugawa is one of the better AI leaders, as he's also had multiple opening round games where he stewed around not achieving anything with his isolationist ways, and Tokugawa actually managed to die to the Apostolic Palace (!) during his second playoff appearance. Still, this is a leader that has shown at least basic competency in past seasons, which is more than many of the other AI leaders can claim.
Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:
The community seemed to be split in half going into Game Six, with a clear majority picking Julius Caesar to win and a sizable minority selecting Darius. Willem was the only other leader who could muster more than a trace amount of support as the other four leaders were not seen as having much of a chance. The Runner Up spot had the usual hodgepodge with the most picks going for Mehmed, Darius, and then Saladin. First to Die had a similar trio of popular picks in Willem, Saladin, and Tokugawa and then the victory type matched the leader choices with the Caesar folks picking Domination and the Darius people picking Spaceship. This wasn't seen as a good map for the Cultural ending as Willem was likely the only leader who would head in that direction.
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!
ZincAlloy: You get a gold tile! And you get a gold tile! But not you, Tokugawa, you get to sit in a corner by yourself. Julius Caesar is living a life of luxury with gold and wine at his capital, but he's also stuck in the middle of the western thunderdome. So I'm going with a surprise Darius victory. He's got not one but two gold, lots of space, and an awful diplomatic situation. But as long as Brennus attacks someone else, I think he can luck into not getting attacked until it's too late to stop a culture win.
idontknowwhatimdoing: Julius Caesar must win on turn 314 at the latest because he's going to die on 3/15
BluesyCobalt: As much as I want to be true to Caesar, Darius with that financial double-gold start, tons of land to expand into, and neighbors he's likely to be either stronger than (Willem) or more advanced than (Brennus), is just too tempting. I think he gobbles up the Western half of the continent and techs to space at a pace that would make Mansa Musa blush.
Max: Julius has Gold and Iron, he should be able to make the most of it. I'm going to bet against Willem - I think he'll forget to research Rifling again. Darius should hold off the other leaders for a while, but will eventually succumb to a 2-v-1, but Saladin's position feels most endangered to me. So, let's bet on Caesar and Mehmed carving up their enemies, then going to space.
Still Eternity: Brennus kind of has a mediocre starting position compared to everyone else but he has a huuuuuuge amount of territory he can expand to that isn't in contention with anyone else aside from Darius to the far south. I think he can take a win of sheer force of numbers. He probably won't clear the whole map, so, Space victory likely, but as long as he and Julius don't become mortal enemies, they probably win together. Toku will probably get rolled by Julius and Willem being next to Julius is asking for trouble. Darius is kind of a lame duck but maybe he surprises and nabs all the territory I suspect Brennus will nab. No strong feelings about the Arabian leaders.
SkipperXIV: Julius leverages his exceptional starting location to Praetorian rush his creme-puff neighbors in Willem and Saladin then use that power base to run over the rest of the competition. Darius survives by virtue of his own great start and being farthest away from the Roman war machine.
BigBlueBen: I know it's stupid to try to predict religion spreads, but Willem and Caesar share a long river, and the Dutch should get one of the early religions and actively try to spread it. Since those two share the same piece-weight, I actually think they can get along together nicely - despite polar opposite play styles - if the religions cooperate... So, I'll pick Willem first and Caesar second. Now just watch - this is the game Darius actually does something and dominates the field with those two gold mines.
Plains-Cow: A lot of great AIs on this map, but I gotta go with my boy Toku-cow-wa for reppin' that plains-cow start. There's a chance he'll be too busy meditating on their powerful potential to actually put them to use, but he can probably make some good haikus:
On plains of rolling moos
Chewing on his cud
NotSpamBot: Darius have a dream setup to succeed, so I am going with him. However, his high peaceweight means isolation while the Central Powers of Arabia/Rome/Netherlands are looking like a team, so I wouldn't be surprised if Caesar/Willem wins. I am still going with Darius because I don't think they will work together that well and being surrounded by a Team Evil who seem posed to be dragging them down rather than bothering Darius, at least for the early game.
Dagoth Gares: Willem can't spend eons avoiding Rifling if he dies in the Praetorian era.
nlspeed: Willem's starting city has good land, but that is mostly it. On average, Julius's land is better (and, with Horses and Iron). Darius's start is the best, definitely, plus he starts with Hunting (Horse, Pig) and Agriculture (Corn), and he has a lot of room for cities (together with Brennus) - but Darius has a higher peace weight, which might make him sit quietly while others eclipse him (Willem wins a peaceful victory against Darius, and if this is not a peaceful game - which it won't be - then Darius can sit back all he wants while Mehmed or Julius take a Domination win). He might get lucky if Brennus declares war against him but then loses said war, giving Darius the opportunity to take more land, but that seems unlikely. Brennus drowns in food, which as Zara taught us isn't really handy for Deity AIs (they need production). Brennus does have a lot of room for cities though - but presumably Saladin (who is in the middle of the map), and maybe Mehmed or Willem, will end up with different religions and this will prevent Brennus from winning. Saladin's land is trash (desert, jungle, sea), but he might befriend Julius or Mehmed through religion. Which will spell his defeat, because if these three are allied through religion, Julius wins. Saladin might also outright die to Brennus.
Mehmed also has a food-heavy start. He's a very solid AI, and without looking at the map I would choose him to win, but he's caught between tundra and jungle, and lacks production to fully utilise his military skills. Although I predict him to expand faster than Tokugawa and thus get a decent slice of land anyway, and the quantity of land can make up for quality in that sense. Probably goes off to attack Brennus at some point because of religious differences. Tokugawa is off in the corner trapped between tundra, desert, and ocean. He will either die to Julius or to whomever replaces Julius (if in a 2v1 scenario - if, say, Mehmed and Tokugawa team up against Julius, that makes Mehmed a superpower, and Tokugawa won't profit much from it or even die to Mehmed later on).
So Julius wins, unless he throws away his early game. But if all civilisations are allowed to grow normally without committing suicide by futile wars (a way too big if, I know), Julius rolls over Willem eventually (what is a rifle?), Julius finishes off Tokugawa at some point (maybe it takes a bit longer with Protective, but the outcome won't be in doubt), Julius befriends Saladin and/or Mehmed through religion, or Julius kills Saladin - maybe there will be a nice showdown between Julius and Mehmed? Julius, and religion, are the deciding factors of this game. Which means that the runner-up will be Darius (highest chance of keeping up in tech and remaining at peace, beating back Brennus who proceeds to die later on because of religion), Brennus (too large a chance that religion will make Saladin and/or Willem hostile), or Willem (a likely target for Julius - but Willem could survive that if it is in the Axemen-but-no-Praetorians-era!). Mehmed and/or Saladin might survive, but wouldn't be second in this scenario. Julius wins Domination at 1950 AD, Darius comes second, Tokugawa is first to die. Death to the plains cow!/p>
Alhambram: Honestly my intuition tells me of JC domination win, but my patriotic heart demands Willem cultural win.
RefSteel: Saladin is certain to found a religion, but he's going to struggle to spread it early on without a lot of luck. Diplomatically isolated by his own hatred of everyone whose religion differs from his own, he's my bet for First to Choose Unwisely and get slaughtered by Caesar's Praets. Darius meanwhile will build merrily toward Space in his private corner, oblivious to the wars raging across the more-crowded portions of the continent (and occasionally getting bogged down and/or losing remote cities to a cross-map declaration from some loon) until someone who takes a more-active role in global politics wins a victory to whose advent Darius remains equally oblivious. Oh, and who will that winner be? I don't know, but I *want* it to be Tokugawa, in spite of starting with no food in sight that doesn't need AH with his Fishing civ, because it would be such a great upset: His is the only capital with neither corn nor gold nor floodplains when nearly everyone else has at least two of the three!
dankok: Darius is a crazy techer with 2 Gold in his capital BFC. That will be too much economic advantage for other leaders to overcome. Normally I'd be worried picking him because of his high peaceweight but he is on the edge of the map and could be a whole era ahead in tech when he gets attacked. Of course things could go wrong but if he doesn't get dogpiled I think he has really good odds to finish the Spaceship. I like JC's start with Gold and Iron too but as all warmongers it depends when and who he first attacks. Also not a fan of his central position. Still I have Caesar 2nd. Toku and Sal both have weak land and Willem delays Rifling. That's known by know. Mehmed is a dark horse here. Solid leader with good land.
Agni Neres: Saladin declares WAR on Brennus! Film at 11! That's about the only sure bet on this map. At first look, I wrote down Darius to reach space; but after scrolling thru the leader previews realized he is peace-weight 8, with no other contestant higher than four. So scratch that and think some more. Willem looks good here, provided he goes down the Rifling tech line; all three of space, domination, and cultural victories are possible for him. Thanks to Oil Slick Bay (and a coastal desert to boot), his culture won't hamper Darius too much. Could we actually see a naval invasion between those two? FTD is a toss-up between the abrasive Saladin, and cornered Tokugawa. Both Brennus and Mehmed have vast tracts of land 'behind the lines' to settle, so neither of them dies first. Caesar has a food problem he is unlikely to solve, thus leaving him lagging in the tech race, though his Praetorians should keep him alive for quite a while. With three backstabbers (declare at Pleased), war count is above average. Should be an exciting game!
Guanidine: You warned us, but I won't listen. Darius just has the perfect setup for himself with maybe the most fertile starting position ever, great river / coast land to expand to, and most importantly a religious ally as buffer against the world. At the same time, Saladin might be the most doomed AI in a long time: forest choked, boxed in from the start, and a warmonger neighbor as a religious enemy right from the start. AND there's Mehmed and Julius Caesar to kill him if Brennus can't get it done. I wouldn't count on a snowball from that though: the chance for the warmongers to fight one another for fun and profit is just too large, so that FIN/ALIVE will win this game.
Bernn: I've been burned by Darius every single time I pick him. Dare I do it again? That capital of his is just so beautiful - possibly the best we've seen this season - and he's even nicely isolated. Sure, his long term diplomatic situation is dreadful, but that won't matter much if he's teching at 3x the rate of anyone else. I suspect we'll see a fair amount of backstabbing and infighting between these aggressive AIs anyway. Willem has a great start too, but he's a lot more liable to get boxed in and his Creative borders could provoke Caesar into war. I can't believe I'm saying this yet again, but I'm going with Darius. Please don't let me down.
riverrunpast: Truly the group of death.