Civilization VI – Will the AI Be Smart?

If you’ve ever played Civilization V, you’ll know that the AI is dumb. As a post. Taking advantage of AI stupidity is actually one of the things you need to do to win, especially on higher difficulties. It’s also one of the things that makes multiplayer actually pretty radically different from single player, a half-decent human player will notice you doing something that a computer never will. The difficulty system in Civ isn’t even based on AI intelligence, it’s based on bonuses. Prince (level 4) is standard difficultly, play below it and the human gets bonuses, play above it and the AI gets bonuses, which I’ll post down below.

Settler Chieftain Warlord Prince King Emperor Immortal Deity
Free techs Pottery +Animal husbandry +Mining +The wheel
Barbarian bonus 45% 50% 55% 60% 60% 60% 60% 60%
Bonus settlers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Starting defence units 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 2
Starting workers 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Starting explore units 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
Declare war probability 0% 75% 85% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Work rate bonus 0% 0% 0% 0% 20% 50% 75% 100%
Unhappiness 100% 100% 100% 100% 90% 85% 75% 60%
Growth rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 90% 85% 75% 60%
Train rate 175% 130% 110% 100% 85% 80% 65% 50%
World train rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Construction rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 85% 80% 65% 60%
World construction rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Create rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 85% 80% 65% 60%
World create rate 160% 130% 110% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Building cost 100% 100% 100% 100% 85% 80% 65% 50%
Unit cost 100% 100% 100% 85% 80% 75% 65% 50%
Unit supply 0% 0% 10% 20% 30% 30% 40% 50%
Per era modifier 0 0 0 0 -2 -3 -4 -5
Advanced start points 100% 100% 100% 100% 120% 135% 150% 170%

Above are the bonuses that the AI gets on all eight difficulty levels of Civilization V. They can be a bit confusing, if you want to know more you can check out the Civfanatics forum. Let’s take a look primarily at the last two difficulties, Immortal and Deity. This is where the difficulty really starts to ramp up, and you can see why. The production which the AI needs to train units or create buildings for example, starts dropping by 15% rather than 5% or 10%. The AI also gets a free worker at Immortal and a free Settler at Deity, which are both massive bonuses. And these are the things that the AI needs to play at high levels, because it’s just so stupid.

So, just how dumb is the Civ AI? Well, let’s take a look at some screenshots I’ve gotten from the Civilization community. Here’s one from LacsiraxAriscal on /r/civAIgames.

LacsiraxAriscal dumb AI

Okay, there’s a lot going on here, and a lot of AI stupidity. First of all, let’s look at the keshiks, the burgundy and orange guys using the hat and tassel icon. They’re the Mongolian unique unit, and one of the things the AI like to do is spam their unique units. Keshiks are actually pretty good, and it’s a lot better to spam them than some other unique units. However, look at how many of them there are. Even with a good unit, diversification is important, yet the Mongolian AI here can only see that the Keshik is powerful, without taking into account any real strategy.

Let’s also look at how many units Mongolia has in the water. There are more than a half dozen in the sea north of Malia, as well as a keshik in a lake south-east of the city. The AI really loves to embark units, and I’m not really sure why. If I were to guess, I would say it’s because water counts as flat terrain, therefore units don’t take any movement penalties when moving across it. Looking at that embarked army to the north again, Mongolia probably sent them across the sea from Phiastos to attack the city. However, they can’t attack the city. Ranged units can’t attack at all, and melee units take a massive combat penalty. On top of that, units take a large defensive penalty, and killing embarked units is extremely easy. A much smarter strategy would have been to send the units down to Old Sari and attack from the south, in addition to a naval assault from the north. Or completely naval, to avoid the rough terrain to the south.

Finally, let’s take a look at what might be one of the stupidest things in this screenshot: Mongolia is completely unable to take the city of Malia. If you know Civ, you’ll know that a melee unit is needed in order to capture a city. But Mongolia has no nearby melee units, the city is completely surrounded by keshiks (which are mounted archers), a catapult, and a composite bowman. The only melee unit nearby is a pikeman, but it has little chance of making it to the city alive. It either has to embark on that lake, and almost certainly get killed in one shot by the city’s defences, or slowly make its way through the rough terrain of the jungle, once again a death sentence. There’s a musketman to the north-east and some knights to the south, but they too have little chance of making it to the city. The musketman will face the severe penalties of being embarked, and the AI won’t purposely move its raged units out of the way for the knights to get through, the only way those souther keshiks are moving is if they’re killed or forced to retreat. And this is actually a tactic to use against the AI, believe it or not. Kill off all the melee units that get near a city, so only ranged units are able to attack it. The city may stay at zero HP for a long time, but it’s in no real danger unless a melee unit gets close. You may even end up winning the war in the AI player’s mind, and be able to get things out of them in the peace deal. They’ll just see how much of their army you destroyed, and believe they lost despite the fact that you spent the entire war under siege.

Battle Royale Portugal

This next one comes from part 13 the /r/Civ Battle Royal, a massive AI-only game of Civ V created by mod TPangolin and hosted by various community members. It’s pretty interesting if you want to give it a look! This picture was brought to my attention by porkpot on /r/civAIgames, and while less stupidity is going on, I’ve talked about a lot of the stupid stuff the AI does already. Anyway, let’s start out with TPang’s commentary on this image.

In one of the biggest “What in the hell” moments of this entire game – Portugal declares peace with Kongo and hands over the city of Braga to the Kongo in a goddamn peace deal! I was having a hard time remembering that they were even at war.

Oh man… I cannot wait for the next edition of the Lazy Portugal Show. This just writes itself…

As a sidenote, I was hovering over Portugal at the time that this happened and spit apple cider all over my screen. Then I had to Google how to clean apple cider off of my screen so that was fun.

That’s the whole quote, meta references and all. The main thing we want to focus on is the first paragraph–why the heck did Portugal give away Braga? It’s a fairly good city too, it’s coastal, has 15 population, and blocks off Morocco’s access to the seas of southern Europe and northern Africa. Not to mention trapping the city of Marrakech. It still does that in Kongo’s hands, but Portugal loses a massive advantage in being able to attack from two directions. Goa and Coimbra are now trapped as well, units now have two sets of foreign seas to sail through.

Now, I said earlier that the AI is pretty bad at judging whether it’s losing a war or not. This is evident here, Maria (Portugal) has a unit on nearly every single tile she controls. She’s powerful, and would put up a huge fight if attacked directly. So why did she give up something as valuable as a city? Like TPang said, he could barely remember the war. Portugal clearly thought they were losing the war; enough to give up a city, but why? They have a powerful military and are fairly far from Kongo, who you can see on the minimap is taking up large chunk of western Africa. But again, they’re far away, have foreign borders to go through or around, and most importantly have no units near Portugal. What’s going in here is a bit of a mystery, but like I said the AI can be pretty stupid with peace deals sometimes. If a war drags out long enough they might be happy to pay for peace, even if absolutely nothing happened. Again, this is a tactic to use to beat the AI with it’s own stupidity. Declare war with an unpopular and far-off civilization, not only will you make friends with a lot of people, you might get a lot in the peace deal for a war that never really happened. Yes, it’s a bit of a cheese. But honestly, a lot of Immortal- and Deity-level tactics are cheeses. The AI basically cheats at higher difficulties with its massive bonuses, and players have to find creative ways around that.

Civ dunce cap

Okay, enough about the Civ V AI being dumb. Let’s talk about what we came here to talk about: will the Civ VI AI be smart? Well…no, probably not. Smarter, certainly. Civ VI will have six years of technological improvements on its side, as well as a whole new engine. Not to mention that there are mods out there for Civ V that improve the AI’s play, and from what I’ve heard to a fairly good job. So the AI players in Civilization VI will probably be smarter than those in Civilization V. That of course doesn’t mean they’ll actually be smart, they’ll more than likely still be pretty stupid. The thing is, strategy games by their very nature take careful thought and planning. That’s something that only the human mind can do. Sure, some computers can replicate it pretty well, but the ones that can are powerful and expensive, more than the most die-hard PC gamers could dream of. They’re not the computers in people’s homes, or the ones that development studios could design a game for. Now, there may seem to be smarter AI out there, but it requires a second look. Halo’s AI for example, is pretty good. But what does Halo’s AI do? It shoots at the player, avoids danger, etcetera. Yes, there probably are games out there with better AI than Civ, I’m not trying to say Civ is at the top of the AI intelligence list. But some games can have deceptively smart AI, others deceptively stupid. Honestly, Civ’s AI really doesn’t feel that smart, but it’s probably smarter than we give it credit for. Civ VI‘s AI is also likely to feel dumb, but I’m willing to bet that it will be smarter than previous games. I mean, I hope it is at least. All we can do is wait and see, I suppose. October can’t come fast enough.


Here are the threads I got pictures from:

Civfanatics

/r/Civ

/r/civAIgames

I’d like to thank everyone that helped out!