re:veniceIn terms of other civs that would impact game balance of existing civs, here's a few suggestions:
- With the addition of Swahili, there's going to be a lot of competition along the East African and Arabian coasts. Have you considered including Oman as a civ focused on Indian Ocean trade, to balance against Swahili, Arabs, Iran, and the Tamil?
- Have you considered making medieval Venice a civ? For all the jokes about a 'one-city civ', the Republic of Venice did own considerable territory along the Adriatic coast as well as Morea (Greece), even before it briefly sacked and captured Constantinople. Venice could be a fascinating bit of gameplay, and a big counterweight against France, Austria, Byzantines, Arabs, and Ottomans, especially given their focus on trade and naval combat.
- Currently, Mali is the only West African civ in the game. Have you considered including other civs like the Ghana Empire or the Songhai (or are you treating those as coterminous like Egypt and Mamluks)? Alternately, have you considered a Nigeria civ, based on the city-states of the lower Niger like Edo/Benin City? (That said, historically there wasn't much interaction between the Niger delta and the upper Niger, and Edo only comes to prominence after the decline of Mali and the Songhai, so Nigeria might have more of an effect in terms of balancing the Kongo civ to their south).
- This one's a bit more of a stretch, but I'm wondering if you've considered incorporating an Haudenosaunee or 'Iroquois Confederacy' civ during the early American period as a counterweight against English and French colonization of North America? I'm pretty sure the Iroquois were mostly sedentary, and the 'Great League of Peace' dates back quite a ways (most likely between 1450-1660, though perhaps even earlier to 1142!?). The gameplay would be similar to the Aztecs (prepare frantically for European arrival), with two differences: a) the Iroquois settler map would keep them away from the Atlantic coast, so there would be English and French cities, and b) one of the European civs would have strongly negative diplomatic penalties, while the other would have strongly positive diplo bonuses, and you could configure this based on 'first contact' or some other mechanism to ensure it changes game-to-game.
We already have venice. We have the late medieval/rennaissance italy spawn which is representative of the northern city states. The bigger map will actually enhance the civ we already have.