OP: Excellent guide - I've been doing exactly the mistakes you noted, trying to keep everyone in the middle. Last game however I decided to try and get a couple of solid friends after miserably failing few monarch games in a row. Inland lake, Japanese, monarch: I start between Monty and Genghis. I decide to befriend the mongols, rush Monty but his neighbor Napoleon jumps in to help him. To make a long story shrt, the war is still going on in 1300BC, Ghengis just arrived to help mop-up the strong French forces, Monty is down to 2 cities. Meanwhile, the third member of our triangle and 3rd overall, Julius Ceasar, with little help from me is in a war with the 1st ranked Huayna Capac (I'm ranked 2nd). I will probably send the Mongols at them too soon, with them beeing low ranked making it really easy to bribe them into any war. This I hope will slow down the Incans enough for me to finish off the Aztecs and French. I think I'll need to keep the Mongols busy though or they might turn after me eventhough we're at +8 total. So far it has been my best monarch game (w/default settings).