This is you. If you lose this unit, you lose the game. So don't.
--Classic ruleset description
Leader is a unit loss of which means loss of the game. In most rulesets Leaders do not appear by default, but one can be included in starting set of units.
If you kill your opponent's Leader, all his civilization just evaporates the next turn without even ruins of the cities, leaving to you only spare territory and infrastructure (but his cities originally founded by other living players are returned to the founders). So taking a city where the Leader resides will leave you with this city only, i.e., fast victory won't bring you much points.
Some other specific features of a Leader include (mainly having Classic ruleset in mind):
- Leader has a SuperSpy flag. Any Diplomat or Spy will always lose a diplomatic battle against a Leader. Also, Leader is, obviously, unbribable.
- Being initial unit, Leader naturally has no home city. But even if health loss of homeless units is turned on in the game, this does not affect Leaders (or any unit with "Gameloss" flag).
- Leader is evacuated from a sinking transport in the first rows; if there are no spare transports on the tile, he teleports to your nearest city (provided that you have one; it's one of "EvacuateFirst" flag effects, or of "Undisbandable" flag in 2.x versions).
- Leader is a non-military, non-attacking unit which ignores ZOCs and has no one himself.
- If in a game with "k" in the starters set a nation is broken by a civil war, the newborn nation gets a king in its capital (but not other starting units; Leader is linked to "k" letter by having "GamelossStartUnit" role in his definition).
Leaders' behaviour is changed in Webperimental ruleset where they are default starting units. Killing enemy's Leader, you get some of his cities, gold (a random part) and knowledge (shreds of the map and 1 to 3 (mostly 1) techs), while other cities are turning barbarian. Also, he can heal lightweight units (including himself) for 25 % health. Also, he can raze his own city. Since v. 3.0, a Leader, if his civilization knows Map Making, can convert in a coastal city to and from the unit Leader's Yacht; this unit is slower than regular Trireme, but sees two tiles far instead of one, so it can be useful in exploring nearby isles as long as no hostile civs around can pose a treat on seas.
- If he had cities, the expected number is , never more than N-5. The distribution is close to one with PDF extended to 0 as . E.g. if he had 20 cities, you have over 25% probability to get no cities and around 25% to get either 1 or 2 with the average number about 3.53.
TODO: describe new stuff from 3.1 rulesets
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