Thank you for the explanation areon. And your assessment is spot on. With the bigger map I am using, I have added a bunch of Persian cities to the east (as well as a bunch of cities for Germania, Gothia and Scythia). Have done some stuff to make Rome (and others) potentially stronger early. Hope that I have lucked out and got the balance right. Only in 204 BC and am relatively happy. Early game is not as insanely difficult as the original 275BC Hard was, but it is no cakewalk either.