I've been playing VEM and love it! I've tried going with Tradition first and also with Liberty first in different games. Both games had similar maps and settings. Prince difficulty, PerfectWorld3 map, huge map sizes on marathon speed. The huge maps pretty much guarantee that there is a lot of open space out there to expand into. I even increased the number of civilizations from 12 to 15 and city states from 24 to 28 (the max CS). There's still tons of open space available with lots of barbarians out there. The opener from Honor is a must with these settings as you're fighting barbarians almost non-stop for a very long time. In my Tradition game, I started off I had Egypt so I prioritized culture and wonder building while also maintaining a pretty strong army to deter aggressive civs from attacking me. I was attacked by Denmark since my army was weak at that time. I fought them off and ended up taking over their cities pretty early on. I found that the Oligarchy policy in Tradition is really strong. Maintenance costs are so high in VEM and this policy alone allows you to have no maintenance costs on basically half of my army. When the Oligarchy policy from Tradition is combined with Military Caste from Honor, then garrisons become even more powerful as they add happiness and culture. A garrison basically becomes an additional monument in the city. In the tradition game with Egypt I didn't build all the wonders, but concentrated on the best culture wonders. I had tons of excess happiness and was able to expand basically at will. In a 2nd game I played with Russia and went with a Liberty first strategy and expanded as quickly as possible. Happiness was a huge limiter to expansion as my happiness hovered between -5 and +10. I had plenty of resources due to the Siberian Riches Unique Ability of Russia, but couldn't really build much of an army. Maybe my strategy was all wrong using Liberty, but I had a really hard time with maintenance costs. Every garrison costs cash so maybe I shouldn't employ garrisons while going with Liberty unless the city is on the border. Production is definitely higher with Liberty as Meritocracy basically gives you +4 production in every city right from the start once you finish Liberty to get the free walls in every city. Castles also provide another +2 production with no maintenance costs later on. Is a tradition policy more in synch with a gold economy and liberty with a production economy? I also find that the policy in Liberty that decreases unhappiness by 1 per city once there is a trade route to the city is rather weak under a huge map. With all that land, cities tend to be more spread out. My cities are usually 5-9 tiles separated from each other, so the city needs to be of a considerable size before I find it worth it to build a road to that city. Also, on a huge map there tend to not be tons of different luxury resources around. There are lots of duplicate luxuries, so finding a new luxury resource somewhere close by is hard to do. That contributes to making the cities far apart. Overall, I found Tradition much easier, but maybe it's because I'm still learning the game. Culture really lacks with liberty compared to tradition. It's harder to build wonders with liberty. Maybe I just had a really lucky start with Egypt though because my capitol city had marble close by combined with the Monarchy social policy combined with Egypt Unique ability. Wonders were easy to build with that set-up. With Russia, no marble, no monarchy it was hard to build wonders. My question is what kind of style of game should you play with Russia going liberty where there is plenty of open space to expand into? I built Kreposts everywhere but they seem to be a pretty weak building. The border expansion of cities isn't very strong, but the buying of tiles is good. I would suggest on the next build/patch that you add a small amount of culture to the Krepost such as +4 culture like a monument. I never got around to using Cossacks since I basically gave up in the Renaissance era because my computer would crash too much (since I was using a weak computer at that time). They seem rather weak though. Same strength as a cavalry with only a bonus against weakened units. I'd suggest making Cossacks a little stronger since they aren't really much different than a normal cavalry. Overall, I found Egypt to be a much stronger civilization than Russia. The burial tomb is really strong, maybe too strong. No maintenance on a temple and an additional +2 happiness along with +6 culture. When using piety policies, a burial tomb gives +8 culture and +3 happiness with no maintenance. I'd suggest toning down the Burial Tomb from +2 happiness to +1 happiness. Egyptian war chariots are fine as is. They're useful but not overpowering. Just my 2 cents.