Since I tried scout-monument-library-NC-settler build order + liberty policies my odds to win improved drastically. I used to lose half of games due to massive enemy armies, but after I started to use NC I lost just one out of ~20 games. To early warrior rush. It just gives too much benefits: early culture boost, no worries about happiness at start, huge science after NC is done. And nothing AI can do about that. E.g., Great Library - Civil Service handicap has a chance that AI will build GL faster and you'll get very complex game so I often opt out of it. But NC is secured, cheap and looks like best start without options. So I'm thinking to start playing with NC "self-banned" till 3rd city. So, what do you think? Did you met the games where you don't want to start from NC?