The Guardian of Pristin Pass is the sort of challenge you don't see in many games, and perhaps for good reason – triggering it will almost certainly kill you. Once you know it you can avoid stepping adjacent to it, but it's killed most of us when we started out. Perhaps that's not fair, but it does set the atmosphere. Orthus is similar: once you know what to expect you can handle it, but initially it's perhaps unfair. You definitely need to play more if that's your view. Granted, some civilisations do play similarly, but the ones you've listed aren't amongst them. I find that Doviello, Grigori, Illians and Malakim at least play very similarly, and rarely play them. For the others you need to get some experience to see how they're special. For the Khazad, don't see them as a 'fast conquest' faction – they're builders with mid-late game potential for warfare. Make sure to use their siege line: Trebuchet, Create Battering Ram and Dwarven Cannon. You can lay waste to enemy cities with siege weapons alone, and defend your cities with the same. That's really only viable as Khazad. Also, if you work with the vault mechanic your production output will become incredible. In the late game if you need a little more of a special touch to them, you start getting the dwarven Tier 4 troops: Dwarven Shadows and Druids are absolutely incredible. The Luchuirp are probably stronger than the Khazad, in my view, but it's not that easy to call. The Khazad suffer less war weariness, they have better production and better defences. Also a crucial factor you may be missing: experience. Golems don't get it, and Barnaxus's ability is a poor substitute. The Luchuirp are top of my list of factions I feel invincible playing as… until I realise I haven't done as well as I expected. They look awesome, but sometimes there's no substitute to a high level early Aggressive Axeman who nabbed Orthus's Axe. This is, to be fair, not immediately obvious. You have to adopt an implicit Hippus strategy, and then you really shine: 1. Horselord gives +1 movement and +10% withdrawal chance. This might seem like a small deal at the moment, but you need to synergise to make use of the power of these. 2. Get Flanking promotions! I know, that +10% withdrawal chance seems like it's nothing you want. You don't want to lose a fight, right? But +10% means more the higher your base chance is. Hippus Horse Archers can easily get 85% withdrawal, right off the production line. That's a 15% chance of dying in a fight you lose: Kuriotates would have a 25% chance, almost twice as much. And their hero Magnadine can get 100% withdrawal: he doesn't die. A force of realistic level Hippus Horse Archers can ransack the world and almost never die, gaining ridiculous experience in the process. 3. Guild of the Nine isn't optional. The fact they can get Mounted Mercenaries out of instead of infantry ones isn't a nice extra: it's a key part of a good Hippus strategy. Mounted Mercenaries can defend, like Kuriotate Centaurs, and are generally excellent. Hippus should raid their way to riches and buy armies on the fly with Guild of the Nine. Magnadine's ability works with that, allowing you to buy any other troop types you might need. 4. Use their worldspell. This is not a civ you want to neglect the worldspell of: War Cry will win you a war. Possibly several. 5. Make sure you raid if you're playing Tasunke. Then you leverage their extra movement particularly well, as you can use it to raid and you can use enemy roads. This is an excellent economy by itself, plus it stops the enemy's progression. This isn't your fault, but I think the impression is because you're expecting the civilisations to play differently while you're playing them the same. You can play Amurites and use Swordsmen and Champions and not understand how they're different. Or you can play them, throw caution to the wind, invest entirely in the arcane tree and win with nothing but Wizards. You can play Sheaim and use Chariots, or you can rush Rosier the Fallen, try to use Pyre Zombies to prop you up with ultra-aggression while you ramp the AC up with Elegy of the Sheaim, obliterate the world by calling the Four Horsemen really early, stop your research early so you can buy the Meshabber of Dis outright, defend against the Horsemen with absolutely perfectly designed (they resist Horsemen damage types) Tar Demons that appear for free at high AC, and watch every empire in the world collapse, including yours. Win simply because you hold out the longest. (My absolute favourite type of game, and nothing like any other civ.) It's a testament to FFH's strength that you can play most civilisations in a generic way. The standard tactics are usually open to you. The advanced, unique ones are emergent, and rarely obvious. For instance, it can feel like Svartalfar are at a disadvantage without siege weapons and with their Fireballs being illusory, until the devastating XP-farming Illusionist + Fireball + Assassin method comes to you in a moment of genius. I personally tweak the map settings to make them quite nice. More resources and whatnot. But games played okay without that. Don't start war too early. This, again, is going to make it impossible for the civilisations to differentiate themselves. If you're doing most of your aggression very early, most civs won't have had chance to get their best tactics up and running. For the most part, FFH encourages you to play an initial phase where you fend off barbarians and build yourself up. Some civilisations can play around this: Barbarian types like the Clan certainly can, plus my above Sheaim strategy. You can also force a rush with Aggressive civilisations, but it's not easy. Acheron (the dragon) is certainly game-changing. You can disable him if you want, but he can be a lot of fun. If he shows up and blocks you in, don't see it as the end of your fun: see it as a new challenge. And the Dragon's Hoard is a useful reward for your troubles. However, I admit that playing Hippus and being penned in is a really bad stroke of luck. Hippus don't like to be in a pen. Really, the only civ that can't do warfare is the Elohim. I like to play with some mod or other that fixes that, as I feel like all civilisations should be balanced in combat if they choose to go into it. The Kuriotates's advantage is that their cavalry can defend. It's a great advantage, but I don't think it can compete with Hippus withdrawal + Magnadine + Mounted Mercenaries + leader traits. It's useful for protecting an empire of settlements and far flung super cities, but yep, it's also great on the offence. Still, I'd rather play a long list of civilisations before the Kuriotates if want I want to do is go to war, because the Kuriotates don't really have that many advantages – and don't forget their +20% war weariness! I hope you continued playing, because FFH has a hell of a lot to offer. I think it's understandable that you're finding it hard to get started, but don't give up. Try Erebus Continents and tweak a few settings if you want – perhaps disable Acheron. Don't feel bad about regenerating your starting position. The other thing I'd suggest is try to go a bit slower and maybe try something themed: one of my first amazing games was trying to play Amurites and really massively rely on magic, and another was when I played Calabim and really focused on getting super-vampires.