I am a long time player of Civ IV and played this game better many years ago, I took a long break from it before I picked it up again, and now it's driving me crazy that I can't beat the Emperor difficulty level like I used to do. I am stuck on Monarch, which is getting easier and easier to win and I am not feeling challenged on it anymore. My strategy on Monarch is to usually build 3 cities, having one or both of my extra cities gathering iron, copper, or horses if they are not in my capital's big fat cross. I train up a classical era army and go take out one of my nearest neighbors entire set of cities, and with the conquered land I make my empire run smooth. I can usually muster up a pretty large middle age force to take out several other opponents if I want a military style win, or just develop my classical conquered cities and shoot for one of the peaceful victories. On Emperor, this does not work so well. By the time I have 3 cities down and want to train up an army, most of the adjacent AI's have built up a strong military that is too tough to take out with simple horse archers, axemen, and swordsmen. Many times they have a strong offensive army by this time and are declaring war on me. I find myself getting boxed in pretty bad too. I like to play Pangea maps, and it seems like I am always getting surrounded by the AIs pretty fast. Do I need to try and build more cities and workers early on like this one strategy article I read suggests? Do I build a big defensive force and hold on until I get construction and then go out and try and conquer? Or do I wait even later than that to make a military move? How many cities is it a good idea to be building yourself? Somehow I think 3 cities built and no conquering in the early game is gonna set me up for failure. I also read where you need to found your early cities further out and try to block your adjacent AIs from expanding into your territory. Is tech trading really important in the higher levels to stay in the game? Any advice on all of this? I know there are a lot of people on here that do well at even higher levels that could get me unstuck from not being able to get going.