Yeah, I developed this strategy on Vanilla awhile ago, and I've since seen the benefit of merchants. That extra food is like half a specialist. If you've got Angkor Wat, priests are probably a little better, but otherwise merchants are great. You could mix those pools without too much trouble, since you'll get a gold-making GP either way. And a merchant is great for the trade mission which can finance the upgrading of an entire army. From what I've read of your posts, you've probably played many more games to the modern age than I have. I strongly prefer the domination victory type, and I also probably don't play on a high enough level, so those victories come by rifling, or assembly line at the latest. So I haven't really taken an SE to the end of a space race. I still think it wouldn't compare to a bunch of town-spammed cities running US and FS in terms of commerce. The watermills and workshops (especially in BTS) can definitely beat out anything in terms of production. Running Caste and SP as civics makes them very powerful, and has nice synergy with the SE. All of these points are well taken - please keep in mind I had only played a few BTS games at that point.