AI stupidities in CIV3


Dec 13, 2001
I just saw a very interesting feature in the CIV2 section regarding stupid AI quirks in civ2 and wondered why there wasnt such a piece for civ3.

Granted the AI in civ3 is lightyears ahead of civ2 but there still are annoying idiosyncrasies.

I am not writing this to put down the game. I think the game is awesome but fixing these AI problems would make it even better.

I will start with one shortcoming that I have observed over and over again.

The AI is horrible of the defensive. I am sure I am not the first person to make this observation. There are numerous times where I have gathered my troops to approach the enemy capital city. As I close in I have seen enemy troops actually leave the city to start futile attacks else where. Either they will head out to attack on of my workers of one of my lightly defended cities.

I think that most human players in such a situation would hunker down in the threatened city to defend it as best they can.

Again, I think the AI in this game is pretty awesome, so some might think that I am nit picking but....
Taking that a step farther, it's pretty funny to watch all of the units abandon the city :confused: Granted, that doesn't happen often (I've only seen it twice).

There are several long threads debating AI flaws, enhancements, wishes, etc. Just do a search of the forums usings general terms like computer (AI is too shoet too search, but there are many posts that contain this term in the subject). Here are a few recent threads:

AI stupidity, or smarter than we thought?
People complaining about the AI?

Hope this helps :)
Well, I'm not defending the AI as such, but two of the 'quirks' mentioned above, are tactics I've employed more than once myself!

For instance, I've got a city with a couple of spearmen and maybe a swordsman or two and I'm faced with an oncoming hoard of horsemen. I've been known to move one or two of my troops to adjacent squares, just to try and slow down the onslaught (while I reinforce from elsewhere). It's more appropriate when you can get to a better defensive position (such as a mountain, and use that advantage). My reasoning is that its all too easy for the AI to funnel a bunch of horsemen so that they can strike one after another at my city (on the same turn) and likely take it over. By spreading the target, the AI at least has to split its attack. Sometimes just gaining an extra turn is all you need to successfully defend a city.

The other example (abandoning a city) is something I've done deliberately before. Let's say I've got 4 cities on the edge of my territory who are facing a concerted attack from outside. I could be optimistic and defend each city till the death, but that probably means I risk losing them all. I will usually select the nearest city to the likely attack, sell off as many of the city upgrades that I can (e.g. Library, Temple) and regroup those troops to strengthen my remaining cities. I'll even consider quick building a settler or worker (effectively evacuating some of my people) if I can. The other thing to consider is to sell-off any defensive upgrades (such as Wall) - if I want to make it easier for me to retake the city a few turns later.

I'm not saying that's the reasoning behind the AI's quirks but it explains some of my own!

Motto: One's man's tactics are another man's quirks?
Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is, to quote Monty Python: "Run away! Run away!"

In my most recent game, the Aztecs, who were on another continent, declared war on me for no readily apparent reason. I had Nationalism and Military Tradition, and they were mostly at the Gunpowder and Chivalry level, so I decided to take advantage of my window of opportunity.

I loaded up a couple of Galleons with Riflemen, Cavalry, and Cannons, and set off to capture Tenochtitlan. It fell in short order, being defended by one Musketman and a few Spearmen. Montezuma sent a horde of Swordsmen to try to take the city back -- you can imagine the result. I got two Great Leaders out of the battles, and was able to start the Heroic Epic and Military Academy, and rush-build Universal Suffrage.

Since Tenochtitlan was inland, I decided to take a port city as well, choosing one that was near Tenochtitlan and also near a source of Furs -- I thought I might pick up a luxury through cultural domination. I was able to capture the second city as well -- but then the real Aztec counterattack came.

Montezuma had managed to get Military Tradition from somewhere, and my two captured Aztec cities were assaulted by wave upon wave of Cavalry. Although I'd garrisoned them well, including an Army of Riflemen, the sheer weight of Aztec numbers overwhelmed them.

Well, as the song goes, you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I pulled all my forces out of Tenochtitlan and retreated towards the port city (I can never remember the names of those damn Aztec cities, not that it matters). While the Aztecs were taking their cities back, I sold and disbanded everything I could, just to keep the Aztecs from getting their hands on them (scorched earth!). I wound up loading two badly-damaged Elite Cavalry and a couple of Cannons onto a Galleon and pulling out of Aztecia. As soon as the Aztecs took their port back, I negotiated a peace treaty with reparations.

When the dust of battle cleared, I'd dealt the Aztecs a severe cultural blow, gained some cash from captured cities and more from reparations, started two Small Wonders and completed a Great Wonder. All without losing any of my own territory (they did land some Swordsmen and Knights on my continent, but that was just laughable). Considered in that light, the retreat didn't seem so bad. And a couple of centuries later, Montezuma came to me asking for a Mutual Protection Pact! Guess he didn't stay mad at me forever. (I demanded annual payments with the pact, we stayed in it for the required 20 turns, and at the end Montezuma suggested we cancel it. I was happy to agree.)
Yes. I agree that the AI can be stupid at times. But considering a computer's lack of ability to think independently, I'd say that Firaxis did a good job.

The reason the AI is so brainless is because computers are stupid. I'm not insulting them, I'm just saying that they cannot act without predefined instruction. The human brain is far more sophisticated. Even the slowest-witted are smarter than a computer. Remember that just because a computer is better at number-crunching than the human brain, that doesn't make it smart. Being smart means being able to think up the best possible actions to take (in this case anyway) out of a number of possible actions. The computer must follow predefined instruction. You also need to factor in human emotions, personality of the player. Those can affect how people rule empires (in this case anyway). Having heart and soul also helps us in the decision making process. Computers, being nothing but clockwork are completely incapable of emotion.

Once technology allows a computer to become as sophisticated as a human brain and sentient algorithms are written to think independently, the days of beating up stupid CPU opponents will come to an end (I admit, it can be fun, but it does get worn out quickly). But until then, please just bear with it. Just think about current levels of technology. Don't point the finger at Firaxis. They were working to the best of their ability with the technology that is available. They did exceptionally well, outdoing the AI of Civ II. In a way, the 'stop the human from winning at all cost' approach makes standing the test of time more difficult. It is the best that this technology is capable of. Unless they could try and make the AI observe the trends of the player, and then in successive games change its strategy to try and exploit the weaknesses of the player (that's how chessmaster computers work). I don't know if it is possible, but just a thought.

Try this site:
actually, even before real sentient computer thought ever comes to be, we'll have computers so fast that the computer can do better at "thinking ahead". Granted, when the AI knows very little of the map and its enemies, it will still suck, but once the CPU knows its enemies fairly well, it could use the same thing chess programs use - play the game X turns, assuming every possible action takes place, and that all rivals make the most intelligent move (in Civ this would be monstrous, of course, hence the need for an incredibly fast computer), and take whichever action ended up being the best...

It's a rather "brute-force" sort of attack, and the AI isn't really doing much thinking, but it would certainly make a formidable opponent. And combined with a few strategic algorithms for "personality", this will probably eventually work very well.

Problem is, in a powerful chess program you can wait a long time (easily 5 minutes) for the computer to take his turn. In something as dynamic and huge as Civ3, the typical computer would probably be playing scenarios for years on today's computer. It will be a LONG while before this kind of computing power is available... and by then the games will be even more sophisticated! Even so, I think it'll be sooner than computers with sentient thought.
Let us leave out the very many AI cheats for the moment, such as the infamous ocean-going galleys appearing like magic.

Let's stick with stupidities for the moment. One of my favorites deals with settlers. We all know the game is programmed to produce a diarhhea of settlers flooding your borders and settling on every scrap of land, including next to colonies (making colonies worthless). It is IDIOTIC and should be patched out. Why?

I saw one civ spend dozens of turns roaming around my border with THREE sets of settler/warrior/worker trios. I kept TEDIOUSLY having to block them with my own warriors and scouts. A big pain.
The AI civ just wasted its resources and time doing this lame REPETITOUS dance.

Last night I was at war with Egypt and China after destroying the Babs. After razing a Bab town the Chinese instantly sent a settler/warrior to that place to settle it. This is another irritating AI cheat - if you raze one civ's town/city another civ will somehow know of it and immediately dispatch a settler. Stupid.

Well, the Chinese sent the settler/warrior right into the teeth of my swordsmen - before we were at war - and I attacked and destroyed them not wanting a Chinese town there. So what does the stupid AI do? TRY TO SEND ANOTHER SETTLER/WARRIOR to the same place while we were at war. I destroyed them too.

None too bright when the Chinese AI should have been building military units.

Oh yes, speaking of stupidities, with the Babs in the above war, it was also idiotic for one of their conquered towns to culture flip to Babylon when the only town left was their capital and I had a load of sworsdmen nearby. I simply razed both cities. Good-by Babs. Man, culture flipping sucks.
I being the first to discover navigation. I got a huge tech lead and keep it. As usual the ai starts moving its galleys to sea. So I I upgrade some galleys to caravels (8 or 10 of them) and send them sea ward. Half way across the world I discover an english galley. Englands next to me so no way he could get there before I did. Course thats known.

Move forward to the begining of modern times, China has infantry. I have mech infantry. I watched the computer move about 8 infantry 2 squares into my terriritory in one turn. This would be ok (annoying but ok) except infantry can only move one square. Thats a pretty serious cheat (but they still died).

I marked land mines as sub's with a movement of 1 and found them deep within my territory. The ai may have been using air transports or helicopters to drop them but they were well past where they should have been. This wouldnt be bad except I forgot to tag some units so they could see sub so Id use the go command and blam, One seriously messed up tank or infantry. Guess thats a player stupidity not and AI one.

I also caught the AI grabbing 2 free techs. The americans and I were neck and neck, Both going to space race, I viewed his techs and we both had were even. The next turn he was 3 ahead, So I poked through all the leaders and discovered no one else had them to trade. He eventually beat me to the space race which pissed me off.

Course the diplomatic victory and space race victory are a tad silly anyway. So I load up 40K people in a ship to leave, I got alot more then 40K people my country. What about them? And Diplomatic? The US owns and controls the UN in real life. They could probably get a vote to declare them the diplomatic victor which would give them a certificate to wipe there butt with in the bathroom cause thats about all it would mean. Bah, from now on I turn those off.

Course it was nice to find the americans in the 1200's with a whole bunch of zulu city names and I couldnt find shaka anywhere :)
In the game I described above, well, I continued it to Conquest Victory just now while watching the Olympics.

Both the Egyptians and Chinese CONTINUED to send settler/spearman teams into my territory while at war with me instead of building military. I destroyed them, and then destroyed those civs.

When the AI is THAT stupid it hardly seems like an achievement.

Civ III is programmed to continuously send that settler diarhhea into every open piece of territory (which it knows about instantly via Cheat) even while at war. Dumb.

BTW, another favorite AI stupidity while at war is, as I am invading, it starts to build HAPPINESS Wonders even though in desperate need of military units. To the AI, ANY Wonder is a GREAT deal at any time. Not smart.
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