Whenever possible, I go double Scout, steal somebody's Workers and make peace after selling everything for the turn ~40 slingshot RAs. That and the Worker of a CS get the job done until the capital can sneak one or two more in, and I lose nothing in comparison to your approach (and gain the NC) by delaying expansion. Siam can start building the capital Wat in the late 60s in a strong start, with the post-Colosseum Wats starting in the early 70s. Needing Libraries slows the process by about ten turns. What I'm struggling with right now is the correct SP approach. I'm finding that the strongest approach is simply Liberty -> Collective Rule -> Rationalism -> Secularism. If you hit the usual Culture ruin, Collective Rule arrives right when you want it. You move the Settler into place, pop it when the NC finishes and spam Settlers in the capital. The Rationalism GA then pushes the Unis/Wats along a bit (though delaying the Happiness GA), and Secularism arrives when you need it. If you want to grow cities larger than my usual size 3-4, you pretty much have to go for Landed Elite. Passing on extra cities in order to pop boom is a lot like going for Patronage was pre-patch - better in the short run, and considerably worse in the long run because you screw yourself on GS production. The rule of one city per GS you can produce before the game ends is not one to break lightly. The only exception is that the capital can often produce two if you decide to keep the Uni/Wat staffed.