I'll say this - Barbarians are definitely more of a threat in VP compared to previous versions. But that's entirely intentional - it was far too easy to just spam buildings, settle, and expand with no real threat in prior versions. Barbs were a nuisance, not an actual problem. Now, barbs affect build order and behavior in the first 100 turns, which adds more nuance to what was otherwise becoming standardized fare. re: Authority being 'the weakest' tree, a reminder from prior discussions on the topic. Authority, like Imperialism, benefits from conquest. The trees both pretty much demand it, thus if you are taking these trees without actually using them as intended you are going to feel a bit gimped. Furthermore, because conquest is a zero-sum game, the bonuses of these trees are lower (taking a city is a reward in and of itself, one compounded by your opponent's loss).