Having played CiV for 1000+ hours. I have come to some conclusions about how to incrementally effect the difficulty of the game. I thought I would share my thoughts here since an incremental increase in difficulty is a great way to improve play. The primary factors, in my experience, that effect the difficulty of a game are the Difficulty Setting, Game Speed, and Map Size. The Difficulty Setting clearly has the greatest effect on the difficulty of the game. I will take this for granted and not venture an explanation as justification seems self-evident. The effect the Game Speed has on difficulty, on the other hand, might not be as apparent. But the Game Speed is certainly a significant factor. Generally speaking, the faster the game speed, the harder the game. On higher difficulty settings this is largely because there are fewer turns to make up for the power differential present at the beginning of the game. There are fewer turns to make better choices than the AI and fewer turns to mobilize troops in the interest of military expansion. Every turn matters greatly at high levels of play. And the fewer turns there are, the more each of them matters. The third primary factor that effects the difficulty of a game is the Map Size. May thoughts on this factor may prove controversial and I welcome all comments and criticism. As I see it, the larger the map the harder the game. This, of course, is to some degree dependent upon which victory condition is sought. My assumption in this regard is that all default conditions are available and equally viable. There are a number of reasons that larger maps make for more difficult games. The primary reason is that a larger map means more civs. And the more civs there are, the greater chance that one of them becomes a runaway civ. And clearly a runaway civ can prove quite a hurdle in achieving victory. Another reason that larger maps are harder is that a domination victory, being perhaps the most viable at high levels, takes longer and is thus more difficult to achieve. It has been suggested numerous times on these boards that one of these easiest deity wins to attain is on a duel map. And this is completely in line with my experience. Assuming these factors are correctly identified, the hardest game would be on the highest Difficulty Setting, at the highest Game Speed and on the largest Map Size. I would suggest that to make the smallest incremental change in difficulty, one would modify the Map Size, while the greatest change would come by modifying the Difficulty Setting. The effect that changing the Game Speed would have on difficulty would fall between the other factors in its severity.