That's a bit vague I think. There are a number of mechanics that favor the attacker such as Casus Belli and war weariness and pillaging (defender always gets Surprise War values) , as well as poorly balanced units in combat, weakness of cities early on, massive power spikes due to gaps in the tech tree and the poor cost to benefit ratio of later age improvements all skew the balance towards more war if possible. Now this may have always been the case for the franchise, but it's especially noticeable here and also completely independent of whoever's at the controls. A very simple example is Mongolia's trading post and diplomatic visibility ability which can be negated by declaring war on them first. Well, like it or not, a good deal of the game is focused around single player and not balanced around multiplayer; So kinda have to deal with what we've got or else we're not talking about anything at all. I'm aware that the balance will forever be skewed because of that, but most people aren't going to care about why the whys and ifs. Though I'm definitely with you that "tall vs wide" is a pretty dull concept since turtle metas are terrible metas. Whether it's endless block block block invul unkillable characters in MMOs, to stalling the match to 30 minutes in Pokemon, or wasting everyone's time by building 20 photon cannons in some obscure corner on an island, it just doesn't work to promote passive gameplays because then it just devolves into whoever gets bored first loses and would be especially silly in a 4x game since it'd like ignore 3 of the Xs at least. I mean, really, ignoring 90% of the map and watch as the AIs flounder about maybe struggling to build the first space part while you crawl to a victory isn't fun either. And yes, a tall meta is way worse than a wide one. I hesitate to call an empire a great one when it's smaller than my region in Sim City 4! . But since I come from an RTS background, I subscribe more to a "fast" vs "slow" dichotomy; more about the risks and rewards it takes to play economically or militarily. Even though the end result is generally conquest.