1878, one city, marble in the starting area. OK but not great river position, only 1 maritime and 1 cultural CS, one AI opponent (Egypt) who thoughtfully built me 3 puppet cities. Took awhile to find the rest of the world without a seaport. So you can get a good finish using the wonder strategy (I did stonehenge, great library -> civil service, oracle.). It seems like dumb luck has a lot to do with a good score - getting the right city states and the right random quests early to get their boosts for free. And goody huts - extra pop and the right tech can be huge boosts. I don't remember C4 hall of fame entries depending so much on a few random things close to the start. One city is clearly optimal with the rules as they are - milk the city states and puppets for bonus culture. At higher difficulty 2 might be the right choice to get a mighty army of 4 faster.