I've been playing some higher difficulties recently and experimenting with early game build orders and what I conclude is that starting with scout is mediocre. Due to the new movement system and the abundance of rough terrain, scout is only slightly faster than other units and the AIs start with so many units that you can expect to only get a few goodie huts anyway. Hunting for tribal villages also has pretty high variance, sometimes you get lucky and get something nice, but usually it's just gold or some tech boost. What I found best (and much more consistent than hunting for huts) is starting with: Slinger -> Builder -> Slinger -> Slinger -> Upgrade to Archers -> take a couple city states. No kidding. Starting Warrior + 3 Archers can capture *any* city state. Even on Deity, I was able to capture 2 city states before the others were even close to Ancient Walls. Works best if you boost the Archery research by killing a barb with a slinger but even if not, then no big deal. You can grab both Mining and Animal Husbandry before going for archery and still have time before the 3rd slinger is ready. The best thing about this opening is that the captured cities already have some population in them and often come with buildings and sometimes even districts. You might think that you'd rather have them as allies, but on higher difficulties AIs really like to capture them for themselves, so this way you beat them to it. On Emperor and below you should be able to use that little army to wipe out your closest neighbor instead. AI has no idea how to deal with archers, so you can easily shoot down any warriros/chariots they send your way and then proceed to shoot their cities to death. Following this path nets you a few developed cities and an army sizable enough to discourage AIs to DOW you.