I'm not sure if they messed up the settlers. I think it's a thought through choice of the game designers. In a normal game of civIV where you start in the ancient age, the 150 hammer settler is extremely expensive and takes a long time to build. If the cost would be the same in a future start game, then the expansion period would be very short. In a future era start, the cities also start with many trade routes and a courthouse and at size 5. This means that a city can easily make enough profit to maintain itself from the moment it is constructed. So in contrast to a normal ancient age start, there is nothing stopping a rapid expansion strategy. The only way to keep expansion somewhat interesting is by dramatically increasing the cost of settlers. If you realise that you get a size 5 city with some 10 buildings, then the cost of the settler is actually fairly cheap compared to the normal ancient era settler cost. The reason that civilization IV doesn't have 5 move modern armor (or something like that) is that this would result in 1 turn wars. At present the cultural borders result in wars where it takes time to conquer a nation and this keeps wars interesting and costly. Single turn wars would probably be bad for gameplay. Even 3 move land units are hard to stop with cultural borders. They can often reach the enemy city in the turn that they start from your own territory. And once you conquer the enemy city, the rest of your modern armor could use much of the enemies railroad squares. I can imagine that 3 move land units might still work for modern armor without seriously unbalancing gameplay, but 4 or more would probably result in boring gameplay. By the way, I noticed that in your description of the gameplay which you like, you're purposefully removing huge chunks of the game until you're left with a fairly straightforward wargame. Wouldn't you enjoy a pure wargame more than civilization IV? Such games often pay more attention to the balance and realism of war which seems to be something that you're looking for.