It's an opportunity cost "calculation". The opportunity cost is the value of achieving an alternative tech sooner rather than attempting to steer the RA for a deeper tech. You can't quantify that at ALL until you've settled on which tech you'd have chosen to research, had a RA been impractical. There absolutely is a net gain of beakers, but it's a delayed gain that is not always available. I don't see why you refuse to acknowledge this point. It doesn't change the cost-benefit of RA being overpowering one bit, but it IS there. I also have no doubt there are better systems. Firaxis LOVES doling out pointless micro and not giving a crap how we feel about it. You need look no further than the UI and the (lack of) hotkeys and frequency of unnecessary clicks by design. Correct, although I suspect this might even be true if you don't micro RA in many cases. Regardless, overpowered =/= exploit. Current game balance is built around the existence of the mechanic. Too bad firaxis doesn't realize that kind of thing when it makes balance changes . Yes, which is why the ability to micro RA can be seen as a mechanic left in to allow the human to compete with AI bonuses; they get the bonuses, the humans know how to micro RA to get more net gain. I'm not saying that the above is a GOOD design decision, but there is historical evidence to suggest that they tagged it with a "good enough" and moved on. Heaps of it, too. :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough: Yes, but you oversimplify the methods of putting a "tight clock" on the player. It can be done with bonuses, but it can also be done via making the AI optimize its turn-to-turn decisions and tactics better, or better recognizing and making decisions that lead it to victory. Even the "bonus" category is oversimplified! WHICH bonuses get x amount of help to the AI vs not can make a big difference on whether the difficulty is real or fake, too. Regardless of the bonus choices, however, the bonuses are (and have to be) applied within the constraints of the mechanics as they stand, or the mechanics can be re-worked to cut into the human advantage and then the bonuses don't have to be as severe. Which direction will firaxis go? They might not even touch it, but I STRONGLY doubt they'll make a change, consider how it affects balance, and attempt to address ripple effects. It'd be the first time I've ever seen that from them in a patch. What you're missing is whether cheating or playing well makes the game more/less fun, and whether each alternative offers diverse and perhaps situational strategies. Cheating has a tendency to limit them, although it's necessary for the AI. But to what extent? Where do you draw the line? When the difficulty starts being set based around gameplay mechanics that frankly make it more tedious EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO AI, it starts to look more and more objectively like a case where firaxis does, in fact, deserve blame. A good RA mechanic would force you to evaluate whether an RA is cost-effective against alternatives. A bad RA mechanic forces the player to do many clicks and is functionally always beneficial (or not beneficial - something that always sucks shouldn't be in the game either and needs re-balancing), adding tedium without much thought/strategy (a key facet of the S in TBS, mind you). To be clear, I am not blaming firaxis for giving the AI difficulty bonuses. I am blaming firaxis for leaving #@$@#%ing broken mechanics, UI, and flagrant strategic imbalances in the game and then balancing the AI difficulty around said problems. THAT is why tactics like this are not really valid to be called "exploits"; they shouldn't exist in the first place, but the game indisputably has been built with them in mind. To prove my point, let's go back to the aesthetics beeline strategy in civ IV BTS. If the AI followed a more diverse tech path (even if at random), the net tech pace would have been staggeringly faster as the AI-AI trades would become more fruitful. Also, if aesthetics were simply made more difficult to research (say alphabet as a pre-req instead of writing) its practical trade value would be significantly diminished. The same goes for the liberalism beeline; that was only done because the AI by and large avoided it UNIVERSALLY. Now take situations where the AI beelines medieval military or lib at random (or based on how many people it currently likes/hates). All of a sudden you have 500 AD or earlier deity lib times and a lot less trade value to the player; even the best would struggle to keep up with deity tech then, because much of the deity metagame centered on warring with a temporary tech lead and getting enough land to compete. Take that away, and the bonuses have to be adjusted. Firaxis never took that away. Will they take away RA micro and re-balance after doing it? I hope so. I'm not holding my breath. Finally, fixed algorithms can be dangerous to even veteran players if they are called upon unpredictably, such as AIs choosing between viable alternatives at random. For it to do that, however, there need to be viable alternatives. Think back to high-level play in every civ game in existence. It's amazing just how common cookie-cutter approaches and things like "academy/national college in capitol ASAP" and timed attacks are in every iteration. Those cookie cutter approaches emerge because they are consistently superior to other play, so much that the cases in which they're optimal form an overwhelming majority. Then noble/king/whatever players come in, see these tactics that have been developed to work through AI bonuses in a game with questionable fundamental design balance, and claim that "X IS AN EXPLOIT". The whole game might as well be an exploit by that logic. "Exploits" as most good players would define them do not exist in polished, well-balanced games. It's also hard to call out tactics the designers force you into executing as exploits.