As always in games that allow you to customise your faction, there's debates over the strongest and weakest options. Often, contention over who's best at any given aspect of the games, people will throw leaders into the equation whose traits/uniques simply can't be compared numerically. In those situations, I often think of 'hard' and 'soft' benefits. By a 'hard' benefit, I mean a 'can do' benefit that enables you to execute a given strategy reliably and with efficiency... although it often requires a considerable investment and the question remains whether the whole thing is worth it in the first place. Conversely, a 'soft' benefit makes a given strategy easier, less risky, minimises unpleasant consequences or enables you to switch your strategy towards it even when you didn't plan it right from the start. Interestingly, there aren't really definite 'hard' or 'soft' traits, Uniques etc, it all depends on the approach. Following a few examples... *** 1. Early game and overall strategy a) Huayna Capac is the king of hard. Name any dedicated strategy, and odds are he can do it better than anyone else... or is at least in the top 3 spots. His Rush is the fastest and most extreme in the game... but he could just as easily ignore his UU and play as a hardcore builder. His economic bonus from FIN gives him a head start in wonder races compared to other IND leaders. He can pull off a double-holy-city gambit or focus on trade wonders and REX to his heart's content. The problem is you usually can't do all of them, and devoting to a single one of thse is often risky. It sucks to be narrowly beaten to 2 early religions and have little useful to do for your workers, to build nothing but Quechuas and finding out that you are isolated, and it might suck to be beaten to several wonders (at other times, the gold is a very good consolation price). b) Hatshepsut is a good example for a softy. She doesn't need to worry about border popping, meaning placing cities in a way that they're useful now and later becomes easier - this often enables a wonder-heavy strategy since she can secure stone or marble with fewer headaches. She can rush extremely well, but won't have to devote to it before it's clear whether there are juicy targets. If the need arises, she can box in the opposition. Later on, she can switch religions at will for diplomatic benefits, get her economy from war to peace footing and vice versa without losing turns and enter panic mode at will to frantically draft/whip defenders. She has no numeric bonuses for anythiing beyond the usual cheaper buildings - no research, no reduced upkeep, no buffed military units etc - but her 'convenience' traits and a powerful early UU mean she can accept any gift from the Random Number Gods graciously. 2. Warfare a) Tokugawa and Cyrus get considerable direct military benefits. Tokugawa will, everything else being equal, have the best bread-and-butter units in the game (well, Boudica rivals him early on) and his modern infantry units will make promotion addicts drool. Cyrus has slightly less extreme warmonger traits - they also have considerable secondary benefits - but they apply to all units including his excellent Unique and tanks in modern warfare. If you think foot soldiers are smelly peasants and unfit for the conduct of gentlemanly (or ladylike) warfare, he has the best to offer. b) If your main concern isn't how effectively you can bash heads but how you can handle the general stress war puts on your civ, you might consider Frederick or either of the Indians to be an excellent warmonger. SPI gets you from peace to war and back again with no loss, PHI is a powerful trait for a specialist economy which many prefer for a warmongering economy and ORG means your conquest won't bleed you dry. India's fast workers are another economic benefit, while Panzers ensure that there won't be a big Oops if you neglect your science trying to take over the world with tanks. 3. REXing a) Who's the best 'hard' REXer depends on your perspective: Joao gets the prize for best city spammer, but Catherine is the best land grabber if your reason for early cities lies mostly in hemming in the competition. Of course, once you have infinity+1 cities, the question remains how you will get your economy out of the sewer. b) Darius has no bonuses that help the process itself, but he takes the economic consequences well. Since a few normally neglegible wonders greatly help as well, Roosevelt or Huayna Capac are also good at expanding rapidly without suffering for it. *** Ok, now that hopefully I've cleared up what I meant, is there a pattern in which hard or soft benefits are superior for your chosen strategy? I think some arguments I've heard boil down to stating that soft benefits become increasingly stronger on high levels since you can't depend on being able to force through your a-priori strategy... others that you should have one of each (one to base your strategy around and one 'support' trait). Or is the whole train of thought useless and it's a big 'it depends'? I'd be glad to get a little feedback.