Ever since I came back to Civ 4, I've played several games where my sole goal is to get better at war, something I have always had problems with. I want to get to the point where I will DOW the enemy with a 0.7 or 0.8 power rating. In the last few months, I've managed to get my stack composition in order to properly counter enemy units, as well as paying close attention how I move my stack inside enemy territory to take advantage of hills and forests/jungles. Another thing I've tried to do is before I DOW, I map out which cities I will hit is specific order. However, in my current game, I was caught off guard a little. I amassed my troops to Charlemagne's border. I had a bunch of cannons, maces, a few pikemen. My power was about 1.3 over him. The first city I chose was 1 tile away from the border, which is why I chose it. I new where his stack was but I assumed he'd bring it to where my stack was for defense. Not so. I took the first city with minimal effort. However, my plan was de-railed because he sent his stack over my borders to attack my city. So. Is it safe to say that before I start any war, the enemy SoD needs to be taken care of, regardless of what the optimal war path is? I think I know the answer. If I would have taken out his stack at the beginning, I would not have have wasted any turns going on a detour to defend myself. These wasted turns were probably more than the turns I would have taken for a less-than-optimal war path.