These are my thoughts on the current balance of the espionage system. In general my gameplay goes like this: 1) My first spy goes to CS rigging until he gets level 2. I can sometimes bag a CS ally out of this, or at least a friend. Its a good training ground, and level 1 spies still tech so slowly anyway that its a good use. 2) Once my spy has leveled he goes to steal techs from the top person. Tech stealing to me is a mystery for the most part, I just put the spy in, and see how much time it will take, but I don't' really understand where the numbers come from. A key X factor is Spy assassination. If my level 3 spy gets killed....that will often cost me 2 techs of stealing because I have to level up a new spy. Its a big swing in terms of the effectiveness in spying. 3) Spy actions are like the wind to me. They come and go, no rhyme or reason. The only way it actually effects my play is that I always spend my gold, as I know having lots of gold increases the gold steal action. Otherwise, they happen or don't, I couldn't tell you how often. 4) Once constabularies are out, I generally stop spying. I can maybe squeeze out one last tech but then the turns become too long. This starts the lull phase for spies to me. I generally put them back into CS rigging. The rigs aren't as effective now but they keep the spies leveling a bit, its safe, and a few free diplo units of influence here or there is better than nothing. If I am wonder races I will sometimes keep a spy in my competitors capital just to check for wonder progress. 5) Coup wise....I consider coups when I get around 30%, unless I am hail marrying for a key vote. I will say that I appreciate coups on Immortal as compared to emperor....CS influence is so much higher now that losing a spy for the chance to flip 3k of influence is a lot more attractive. 6) Police stations exist for one purpose....as a prereq to the National Intelligence Agency. It is the weakest building in the game. Spying is already so weak at this point that I don't even bother. 7) National Intelligence Agency is when spies become interesting again. This turns my CS rigging into money makers. The science is also nice, but compared to my SPT at this point in the game its not that great, but getting a surge of 5k gold lets me do units upgrades and some key building investments...its pretty useful. 8) The only time I ever use diplomats is once Globalization hits. I might drop a diplomat in the culture leader if I'm going CV, but even that is a maybe. Vote buying is very hard, I would rather just keeping rigging to give me better position. 9) I will use GW thieving once in a blue moon. But if the city has good potential I would rather spy. And if it doesn't, I'm not going to bother with thieving. Generally I will thief in the rare instances where a secondary cities potential is higher than the capital. So condensing those down into a short list. 1) I like where rigging is at right now, its my standard baseline for spy use. 2) Spying I think is a little too easy to start, and becomes too difficult after constabularies. 3) Coups are in an alright place. 4) Diplomats are pretty weak. 5) Advance actions don't even exist to me. 6) Police Stations are very weak (mainly because constabularies have done all the work to kill spying). 7) Spy death is the biggest X factor in the system...it can really change the pace of your spy game. 8) If thieving was gone I wouldn't miss it, I don't feel it really adds anything to my gameplay.