As I said, I wouldn't spend a policy on Consulates though because by the time I'd be in a position to do that, I'd definitely be well into the Renaissance, meaning that I'd be getting Rationalism going. Plus, if we're going to talk about 1st tier policies, I'd personally consider Exploration to be the strongest of all, simply for the +3 hammers in coastal cities. How often do you use your first spy as a delegate to win votes? You can't buy anyone's votes if you don't have a delegate in their capital. If I'm not the tech leader, I'd be using it as a spy to get free techs. If I am the tech leader, I'd have him in my capital trying to catch other spies. By the time you get your second spy in the Industrial era, those extra votes are pretty pointless as you should be able to blow from Scientific Theory to Radio in a matter of 10 - 20 turns, meaning that City States would be involved no matter if you're the tech leader or not. And of course, City States give you more votes than just the 2. Sure, that 2 is a nice boost. I'm not saying the FB is a bad wonder by any means, I just don't think it's as good as ND personally, because that happiness comes at a crucial time after Colosseums and before Zoos/ideologies. I'm not saying that Aesthetics is a brilliant policy tree to open it; in fact I was saying the opposite, and using it to point out how bad opening Patronage is if you're not directly going for a diplomatic victory, and even then I'd consider something like Commerce to be more useful, or even Exploration for extra money from City State trade routes, combined with Freedom's +4 influence per turn from City State trade routes.