[Quick aside -- if this post isn't really located appropriately or anything, forgive me and let me know and I'll be happy to take it down or move it] tl;dr I play on Prince / Marathon / Huge / 18 Nations (try to stick to base game settings otherwise) and think I'm ignoring tons of aspects of the game that would allow me to easily improve and handle Prince way, way better than I do today. I'm hyper economy / space race focused and ultimately I think I do that because I'm really poor at managing an economy and end up putting all my energy into it. From other stuff I've read here, struggling to balance my checkbook, focusing on super cities, and ignoring specialists / great people appear to be my greatest failings. That said, feel free to skip to the "Possible Flaws" section for a list of things I might be failing at. ---------------- Okay so, I've played Civ 4 for a million years (probably true of anyone reading this as well), absolutely love it, but ultimately plateaued years ago and never really took the time to figure out why. Have had a couple periods trying out the old Googles, but never with great success. Based on reading some stuff here, it seems like a lot of the people frequenting this forum would be very qualified to offer really straight forward and solid critiques of my play, so I'm hoping I can lay out where I'm at, where I'd like to be, and what I think my obvious flaws are and see what folks think I should be doing differently or might be overlooking. Where I'm at today I almost exclusively play on Prince, with a huge map, custom continents, marathon speed, sea level low, and 18 nations. The map size, speed, and nation count I use simply because that creates the most enjoyable experience for me, rather than choosing those based on my play style or skillset. These days I typically play with Victoria, due to my inability to manage an economy particularly effectively (more on this later). I win a decent amount but I'd guess that I abandon more than 50% of my games after having a couple cities taken mid-game by a powerful civilization, feeling that it's unrealistic to expect myself to both keep up technologically and figure out how to compete militaristically. Some tweaks I sometimes make, but try to avoid because I think at the end of the day they're really me trying to change the game to suit my skills, rather than me becoming more skillful: No barbarians: Usually I do this just because they're an early-game annoyance, but without them I sometimes feel too free to go down paths I otherwise wouldn't (eg. religion) Permanent alliances: This generally feels like the most egregious tweak, in that it really feels like I do it just to paper over my weaknesses with another AI nation No vassals: I don't love how frequently the game becomes about competing with a single super nation that's vacuumed up several other countries Where I'd like to be I'd like to get to a point where I can start a game on Prince, with all / most of the normal settings, and a random civilization, and get respond to any variety of circumstances, without re-rolling the map, and win the game most of the time. At that point I'll happily start the process over on Monarch lol. Possible flaws Early game economy: Especially with barbs on, I feel like I'm missing something basic as other civs seem to be able to expand fairly freely and continue to compete technologically. I use whatever that binary research strategy is called (almost always either 0% or 100%) which helps a tiny bit, but overall there's enough times where I feel like I've crippled myself by trying to aggressively expand early that I wonder if I'm missing a basic early strategy that avoids panicked mass cottage building Specialized Cities: Several times now I've read people discuss specializing cities. I think I do this poorly. It seems to me that most people will target some cities to be super economy heavy whereas others are production heavy. I think I obsess over trying to have cities that do everything. The result is that cities need to grow a ton, which results in me probably not whipping enough, and an extreme reliance on Hereditary Rule. This whole approach feels like it works against itself since it's so late in my games before I can get towns to produce an extra hammer (generally doesn't happen until Broadcast Towers can minimize the impact on science to keep cities happy) Being okay with unhappiness?: Related to that last point, I'm not sure if I'm too worried about cities being unhappy. It's not clear to me when unhappiness results in destroyed improvements, and moreover I don't know if it's a more sound strategy to be okay with that and simply prepare workers to regularly fix destroyed things Obsession over science: I've won a couple domination victories over the years, but virtually all of my victories are space race. The result is that I think I obsess too much over competing technologically. If I allow myself not to, I feel like I then end up sprinting for The Internet later on and maybe lose decades that could be spent doing other things Building workers early: I feel like I've frequently read about people stealing workers and I wonder if this is simply an approach one should look to take regularly? I'm wary of creating bad relationships early but I don't know if that's silly. I also just don't think I'm good at it -- at best, it feels like I can maybe snatch one before a civ can avoid putting their workers in a place to get snatched Bad Diplomacy: I get in the habit of just turning down anyone's request for me to go to war or cancel deals. Sometimes I try to be better about it and figure out if the request sets me up for a good alignment. That said, it's especially frustrating to join a war when everyone in your religion is beating up on one guy, just to realize you've contributed to a civ capitulating to a super nation that'll ultimately see you as its next meal Ignoring culture: On rare occasion I'll try to focus a particular city a little heavier on culture to win a useful contested tile, but beyond that I generally do the minimum here. I'd really like to try for a cultural victory at some point, but I think about it often and struggle to see how I'd compete both militaristically and technologically, while giving enough attention to culture for 3 cities to achieve 150k Ignoring espionage: I haven't seen a ton of talk about the importance of espionage, but worth raising up in case someone has a call out. There have definitely been a few times I've gone hard on espionage in the late game to edge out a close victory, but aside from major space race sabotages or trying to destroy cultural buildings in a particular city, I'm usually well behind on espionage and simply hope I don't piss anyone off enough that they start annoying me with destroyed improvements and sick cities Ignoring world wonders: At this point in my play, it's pretty common I'll build virtually no world wonders, and I don't know if I'm whiffing here. In fact, I also generate almost no fail gold and I think I just don't have a great sense of when to look for fail gold / how much of an impact I can expect at a given time. I think both the fail gold and lack of world wonders largely comes back to my obsession over having perfect cities that do it all Horrible specialist / great person game: Plainly, I see a lot of discussion about specialist strategies and corporations and I think I'm just terrible planning around all this or even knowing what I could plan around to begin with. I get corporations a decent amount, but it's generally just incidental and I just use them to boost a super economy city. I don't even spread corporations within my own cities because I'm scared of the city maintenance city and I'm guessing this is a huge whiff on my part As you can see, my plateau probably has to do with me failing to micro manage at all. I think I'm failing to acknowledge when I can ignore things because they won't make a huge impact, and failing to recognize when I should put more effort into things because they'll pay dividends in the long run. That said, the nature of my request here is that I'm not really sure where to start here, and I'm guessing there's very obvious places to start for me here. Anyways, any and all input is greatly appreciated! Sorry this was super long but when people are asking me for help I like when they're specific, and so I tried to be as specific as possible here. PS. Mods I'm using K-Mod right at the moment, is this generally an appreciated mod for people who are big on the base game? Are there any specific settings I should be using with like BUG or any of those mods? For reference, I've only played a tiny bit with K-Mod and am starting with Noble there -- I read that the AI is much better and it's definitely seemed that way in the little bit that I've played. I've really wanted to use a major overhaul mod but it looks like in practice very few actually can get an overhaul totally right. I've played a little bit of A New Dawn but it seems like the last build has super weak AI.