I know Shakes, rarely build it as it requires too many optional techs. Would slow down getting to the next age to research it. Can't steal it as I would not have spies.
In terms of game mechanics, steals can be made without spies. You just need an embassy (and gold). I've stolen ancient age techs before. The probability of success is lower without a spy.
Heck, one conceivable variant is that one only purchases or researches Writing. Then every other tech either needs stolen, or traded for another tech. Such a game would involve plenty of war I'd think, but the human player might not make all war decisions. Could even be interesting to see if it's winnable without ever declaring war on any AI. And 0% science is a fair bit, if not a lot, simpler than doing research. Probably a lower level rather than higher level variant I suppose.