Are there any games where you *don't* spend ages trying to hold-off stronger enemies? I spend most of my games either planning for and waging preemptive wars, or fending greedy neighbors... I've been playing at Immortal for 2 months now, and I've only managed to win a couple of games.
If there's a pattern, it's closer to survival of the fittest than the OP implies.
Yes; if you start on your own land mass, you'll have peace initially. On Immortal level unless the closest player is quite far, you can then expect their attack to come in the Middle ages; which should be easy to beat off with a combo of a Crossbow and a naval ship in their target city with walls.
As to the other maps:
Four corners: You can expect wars between at least 2 of them early and often. (The diagonal civ being the one that might not DOW you.)
Duel: Early and often
The fixed region over 95% land maps (such as Great Plains): If you start (or become) centrally located, you can expect wars with everybody.
Ring & Donut: Wars with both your neighbors expected *
Pangaea: Wars with all your neighbors expected *
Maps in which you share the starting landmass with one or two other players: Wars with both your neighbors expected. One of them might even DOW you in the middle of fighting a war with the other AI.
* On these map types: If the result of a successful war is that you are now the neighbor of someone you weren't before, they will likely go from your best friend to hostile in a few turns.
OP's comment is quite correct. I have more interest in the early & mid game. After I've already effectively won, I'm largely going thru the motions for any game. (Not only for Civ V, but for the earlier games in the franchise and indeed games having nothing to do with civ.)