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Sullla's AI Survivor Season Eight - Game 3 Thread

Jul 3, 2021
Sullla's AI Survivor Season 8 continues this Friday, June 21st on Sullla's Twitch Channel at 13:00 EDT. Kindly note the next game is scheduled an hour later than usual.

AI Survivor resumes this week with a field of fan favorites. We have not only the moneybag trio of Huayna, Hannibal, and Willem but also warmonger Shaka! Huayna Capac and Shaka fetched substantial fantasy bids, while Henrik picked up Hannibal for a more reasonable amount. There are also fantasy implications for Eauxps with Frederick in the game.

Game Three Roster.png

Watch the preview here, read up on the game here, and join in the fun by making your predictions here. (You can check out the current picks here). And a hearty welcome to all to discuss the game in this thread and follow along for what will hopefully continue to be a dynamic and entertaining season!

And if one contest just isn't enough, check out the friendly casino thread presented by @Fippy (AKA My)!
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Now, Sullla may not be here this week, but he did ask us to keep up the hype :mischief:

The AI loves 2nd city between 4.5 tiles to 5.5 tiles from capital

Spoiler I took inspiration from this insight to map out the starting land up to six tiles from the capital. :

Sitting Bull has the most starting land, while Frederick and Hannibal have the least. Frederick has the least amount of contested land, while Sitting Bull has the most. Willem has a fair bit too. Hannibal has the least uncontested land, while Shaka has the most. You will also notice that Hannibal has no access to the middle of the map, whereas Shaka, Frederick, and Sitting Bull have the best access.

There are two obvious takeaways for me: First, who settles the iron-rice, desert hills, floodplains in the triple overlap region is very important, as it will deny up to two cities! While the land is not great, this combined with the potential for an early Incan holy city could have dramatic consequences. Second, control of the Plains Cow between Shaka and Willem could determine the early contours of their borders as well as border tension.
Grr... Sulla gave Willem Hannibal's shade of orange again.

I'm passing on Huayna, his start sucks and the safe pick has screwed me twice already.

Instead I'm going for a hail mary with Hannibal. Poor guy has been screwed by luck, maybe this year will be different? Makes for a nice story anyway. He also has access to lots of flood plains and is in the opposite corner from Shaka. As Saxo mentioned, though, it's going to be dependent on who can get their settler out there first.

Willem is Shaka's closest neighbor, yikes! He can probably handle himself, but Shaka will bog him down sooner or later.

Speak of the Devil, Shaka can probably plow through most of the field with his start, but will probably stall out late game and watch as one of the southern leaders goes to space. 2nd place.

Sitting Bull exists to troll others by dying slowly, so he's not my FTD pick because we have:

Frederick. He's even less capable of protecting himself than SB, and last season he had a nice, roomy start like Hammy in game 1, but unlike Hammy he did nothing with it. He also starst opposite Shaka, so expect our favorite maniac to come knocking sooner rather than later.
Capac does have decent looking land. I think I like Shaka's start quite a lot. I may pull another long shot psycho pick.
I do think Shaka is the looming question on this map. He has a very high quality capital--could use more river and the other ivory brought inside--that plays to his starting techs and propensity for rapid expansion. While the lack of early copper could delay the war machine, the other AI have noticeably weaker starts. Shaka has tons of land without the jungle headache from last year. Unfortunately, his land does not seem very impressive. He should probably settle the Plains Cow toward Willem, but as he sees the corn, he may settle north of the capital first.

My preliminary issue with Hannibal is that he can lose the floodplains in a couple of forward settles. Even with that border region, I am not sure he can reliably get enough cities to go to space. And, on top of that, I agree, danjuno, Sitting Bull's unit production makes him an unattractive early conquest.

I don't love Huayna's land, but he does have options. I think the cow-gold to the northwest, the pig-ivory to the north, and the rice-wine to the northeast would all make decent first settles with drastic ramifications for map control. They are all a ways off, and I wonder if he would be distracted by the sheep-double gold to the west, which would be better as a later investment.
Shaka rolls over the map. Calling it now. First war slightly delayed because he will have to tech to iron working so he probably will already have 8+ cities and might already be well on the way to elepults. The other AIs are pretty passive so less chance of Shaka getting dogpiled. Shaka's econ can be pretty decent into the late game and there is a certain point when it doesn't really matter if the beakers per city isn't as high as other leaders when he just has more cities. He does well as prioritising key military techs which makes rolling over leaders like Willem easy when they refuse to tech rifling and he already has infantry.

Sorry HC fans, not his year again. He is going to get squeezed because he refuses to build settlers, maybe only 4-5 cities and the stone/marble combo is going to be a major distraction for him.
This was probably the most interesting map of the opening round to me from the time the maps were revealed. I'm stoked that it will be my turn to write up the game, and also really hope to get to do the alternate histories for it when the time comes. Three respected Financial leaders go up against three better starts - it's an intriguing setup!

Peeking at the picking contest results so far, Huayna is currently a big favorite with over 50% of the vote. I am pretty confident in asserting that this is simply because he's Huayna, not because of any special merit to his start. While he does have easy access to one of the starting religions, he'll be cramped on space, his land quality is uninspiring, and there are THREE potential poison pills at his capital. He could use the stone and marble to go crazy on wonders at the expense of settling cities, as we've seen from him before, or he could use the copper to launch a stupidly early war (doubly stupid if it's against Sitting Bull), and either of those will likely relegate him to the role of minor power. With Hannibal and Willem also flanking him, I don't think there's much room for a Huayna snowball in this game. Now, that said, I think he's still a real threat to win. Not only is he Huayna Capac, but Industrious + stone + marble means he'll probably be able to clean up the wonders and become a cultural monster. Even if he's only a minor power in the game otherwise, Cultural victory is a real threat if nobody ever bothers to bump him off.

I ran out of time to discuss the other leaders for now, so I'll have some more thoughts to share later...
OK, the other leaders.

In my opinion, the real favorite for this game should be Shaka. He has a dynamite capital for his starting techs that should get him off to a roaring start, plenty of space to expand to a good size in, and a comfy corner position that should offer minimal chance of him getting backstabbed. Freddy and Willem aren't exactly the scariest neighbors, and I think this could very easily become a Shaka snowball where it doesn't even matter that there's two Financial leaders on the other side of the map. It's certainly not a sure thing - in particular, I did see that his land is rather river-poor, which might mean he gets too bogged down in tech - but he certainly will be a very dangerous customer in the early game if nothing else.

That's bad news for Willem, who's his closest neighbor. I think Oranje's position otherwise looks decent, with probably the best overall land of any of the Financial trio (at least once he cuts that jungle down), and if Shaka somehow doesn't end up ever bothering him, he's in a very good place for this game. But the odds are very high that Shaka comes calling at some point, and unless it takes so long that Willem can tech to a military lead before it happens, I think it devastates his chances of winning the game.

Hannibal has an interesting spot. He's quite cramped, but the land he does have available nearby looks like it's quite nice in quality. If he can profit off a dogpile of Huayna or Sitting Bull, he's got a great chance, but I don't know how easy of a time he'll have getting that dogpile to start with, especially since he's not very likely to willingly fight Capac. He + Shaka make for an appealing ticket to advance from this game since they're on opposite sides of the map.

Sitting Bull has some nice land and a good amount of space, but his central position leaves him very exposed to attack, and c'mon, he's Sitting Bull. Maybe if he plays unusually aggressively he can get a snowball going, but otherwise stagnation is probably his best-case scenario, though maybe his bigger size will make him tougher than normal to conquer.

And then there's my fantasy leader, Frederick. I think Fred's drawn a fantastic start on this map, with beautiful land nearby, a lot of it, and nobody else starting close except for a Sitting Bull who's extremely unlikely to ever attack him and will be a great meatshield instead. Fred even has an immediately-minable gold resource at his capital! I think most leaders would be big favorites to win from this spot; Huayna would probably have >80% of the vote at least if he'd been swapped with Fred! But it's Fred, and it is hard to imagine him pulling ahead and winning under any circumstance. Still, if ever he were to pull it off again, this would be the map to do it. I think the crux of his performance here is when he fights Shaka and what happens then. They're not too likely to fight early because of their distance, but they probably will at some point, and if Fred can hold Shaka off or even get the better of him, I think he probably gets a top-two finish. But if Shaka's too strong, then...

My picks for this game are Shaka to win, Hannibal in second, and Willem first to die. Second was a tough pick, but if Shaka wins then it's more likely one of the southern duo comes in second instead of Fred, and while I originally picked Huayna, on further thought he seemed more boom-or-bust in this scenario. Willem I think is the favorite for FTD here, since he'll start next to a juiced Shaka, could always be backstabbed by Huayna as well, and the only other decent candidate (Sitting Bull) will be much harder to bring down.

As I explained here, I think Shaka ought to be the favorite for this match, but as I explained in my entry, I also picked him in hopes that it will jinx him and make Fred more likely to deliver for my fantasy team... (But if that doesn't happen, I get the fun of a strong Shaka game. Win-win!)
I did see that his land is rather river-poor, which might mean he gets too bogged down in tech
This is a good point. I was struck more by the number of strategics that make for few resource clusters visible to Shaka early on. There's plains cow-ivory-dye to the south, clams-ivory to the west, cow-wine-spices to the northeast, and the uninhabitable gold-double silk to the east. The river valley in between Shaka and Frederick with double gold will be a great mid-game expansion probably for the warmonger.

First war slightly delayed because he will have to tech to iron working so he probably will already have 8+ cities and might already be well on the way to elepults.
This combined with Shaka's dry land would seem to improve Willem's odds. If the former settles eight cities in the north, Willem's culture and starting copper could stall out early aggression. Shaka would then likely move on to another target, and that could be enough for Willem to sort things out. Wherever Shaka lands with catapults will be ugly. If he settles the river to the south, that would probably suffice to shut Willem out of the game.
I settled on Fred FTD because I suspected that Shaka would get pushed away from the middle, leading to more competition in the north. By which I mean Shaka repeatedly stabbing Fred.
I won my bet on religion with Justinian. HC is not as religious, but he could potentially pick up a bunch of religions with shrines and wonders and his buddy Hannibal having his back. Might be Freddy with gold start will ruin these plans.

Regardless, even if Freddy and maybe SB get different religions, I see my bet on HC in pretty good shape as long as two things happen: Shaka doesn't kill Willem too quickly and Hannbal doesn't backstab HC or get a different religion.

The only likely other outcome I can see for this game is as was said by others that Shaka starts steamrolling with early war success and/or crazy REX.
Lol...Bull got de beef but that is fool's gold when it comes to him...I'd never put my money on him

He should be called Sleeping Bull
We have seen Gandhi and Lizzy start wars..i wonder if SB is coded differently? (and not even agg AI helps)
He should do better in theory..with his super archers & big military.
Totem Poles also make him research myst more reliable than warmongers i guess.
He tends to tech poorly too, and his unitprob likely does not help with that. He will just sit there with a ton of units doin' nuthin'. AIs tend not to do Philo well either.
He tends to tech poorly too, and his unitprob likely does not help with that. He will just sit there with a ton of units doin' nuthin'. AIs tend not to do Philo well either.
We have seen Gandhi and Lizzy start wars..i wonder if SB is coded differently? (and not even agg AI helps)
He should do better in theory..with his super archers & big military.
Totem Poles also make him research myst more reliable than warmongers i guess.
If I had to wager, I'd say that the idea behind Sitting Bull is a lot like what we just saw Hammurabi do: win by fighting defensive wars. Build a lot of protective units, have a warmonger waste their stack on you, and then just move in to roll them up instead of vice-versa. However, what we've seen happen is that Sitting Bull typically throws his stack away just like the attacker, and because he's a bit of a wimp, he doesn't like to stay in wars long enough to actually make any headway in capturing territory, making him more of a punching bag at best. Hopefully the man will know how to leverage his BEST RESOURCE for optimal performance...
My thoughts on the map dynamics:

Starting with Shaka, who can decide how the whole game plays out:
- An early attack on Wilhelm will be hard to win; Shaka will probably be backwards and allow Wilhelm to take some land and be a comfortable second(?) place
- A post-construction attack on Willy: Elepults for the win!
- A psycho attack on Freddy: economic stagnation for both, opening the way for a southern leader
- Late attack on Willy: As long as the Dutch have longbows, economic stagnation for the Zulu and mid-late game elimination

Sitting Bull is placed nicely to draw aggression from the south, and Freddy is far enough from Shaka that border tensions will not happen until mid-game. With the longest river on the map he can tech ahead. His best chance at survival is being left alone long enough that he can develop a large empire defended by a small number of technologically-advanced units - that that looks likely here

Really strong start for Fishing/Agriculture, with early copper to defend himself. As long as Shaka doesn't steamroll him, I like his odds for a decent finish

Poor land with stone and marble. I expect him to turtle with a few cities, build many wonders, and found many religions. I think he is toast if Hanny catches one of Huayna's secondary religions. If Shaka steamrolls Willy, then Huayna is next, and Huayna's wonders will boost Shaka to domination.

A wildcard. If he can overcome a slow start, his economy will power him to a strong finish. Stagnation if he attacks SB's longbows; chance to win it all if he takes on Huayna, or SB pre-feudalism??

Sitting Bull:
Fast start, will frustrate some warmonger's plans. Early aggression will be from the south, while his good land is to the north and west. He could weather many attacks while keeping his core cities safe. He could remain relevant for a while.
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