There's been too many threads on "happiness is so key!" and such, when I think that you actually pay for as much as you gain with it. What I did in my last game just shows one more thing that I think is going to need to be fixed. Obviously this needs some fine tuning. This will happen in 2 phases. This strategy works best with France, as you're going to have a HUGE empire. First phase, play the game as normal. You'll want to slingshot a bit to get the commerce / freedom trees, as every tree before then is going to suck for you (except maybe liberty for culture and happiness, as well as fast expansion). Don't build any happiness buildings, as their maintenance is too much. Focus on nabbing a lot of luxury resources, as once phase 2 hits, you won't grow anymore. Trade for as much luxury resources as possible, and max out your happiness. Get currency at some point, and start all your towns up on markets. Phase 2 is called ZERO HOUR. Your goal is to start up a massive war machine, and never stop. You know those times when you want to keep up the fight but you don't because your happiness is capped? Ignore that entirely! Get the com to that dumb level where they are willing to trade 5 cities for peace. ANNEX every single one. Don't build courthouses. Ignore happiness, and keep capturing cities. Switch all your mines to trade posts. Ignore growth and production. Get every single city maxed out on merchants, and pray for some great merchants. Sell off all happiness resources for more gold. Grab the key commerce policy of -25% spending cost. Build the key wonders for buying units/buildings. Gun for the Renaissance era, as Freedom is the key policy tree. Remember all you're working really is trade posts and specialists, so you'll get 2 extra science from each thing working. As this is really a specialist economy, you'll see quite a few great people, as well as lower food costs from Freedom. What you lose - NO city growth - NO golden ages from happiness - Half production - Penalty to combat What you gain - A LOT of gold off selling luxuries - More gold from production - Cities switching from growth to more useful tiles, like merchants and trade posts - No maintenance from happiness buildings and previously needed workshops - No maintenance happens from marketplaces or any other key buildings - Benefits of currency modifiers over production modifiers - More specialized policies - No caring to stop the war machine, and thus a much larger empire - Gobs and gobs of great generals and other specialists to use for golden ages (+1 commerce per tile in a massive empire!) - The highest science you'll ever see You'd be tempted to try this with Arabia for its gold on trade routes, but you need the culture from France. No other civ can have an empire this size and still pump out social policies.