For a while now, I've been playing monarch difficulty and able to win consistently, so I thought I would try and make the jump to emperor. I've also been experimenting with early rushes, which I hadn't used at all on lower difficulties. But I'm having a really big problem; after I expand to four cities, my economy starts taking a nose dive from city maintenance. If I'm doing an early rush, I have unit upkeep costs (and lack of cottage development) compounding that problem. It's really crippling; by the time I can recover my economy, my rivals are already teching like mad. On monarch difficulty, I would have no problem at all teching through Iron Working and Writing before an economic plateau, even when I was expanding quickly and neglecting cottages. But on emperor, unless I get a strong commerce start (i.e. gold in capital), my research peters out to <10 beakers/turn before I can even reach Writing. Here's my current game, with two different saves (v3.19), one right before I went to war with the Zulus, and one several turns after the war ended. The rush came later than I had hoped for, because my capital's food/hammer output was mediocre and copper took a while to hook up. It's an arid start with few rivers, so easy commerce is to hard to come by, but if I can pull a stable economy out of this start, then I should be able to do so with any reasonable start. EDIT: You can also see from the second save that all my rivals, even Shaka, have a strong tech lead over me. For that matter, most of them are roughly equal to me in terms of number of cities. I have room for horizontal expansion and vertical city growth, but I don't know if I'll recover in time to be competitive.