Not sure the balance section is the best for that but just to share some thoughts about snowballing and map roll. I’m having an easier time in one of my first immortal attempts (normal speed and map size, fractal) than most emperor games before. My surprise is not about snowballing (that’s the objective at some point) but that it started in classical era. With Sejong and Council of Elders I got (no reload) pyramids, gardens, great lib, oracle, then sankore, sofia, itza, globe, piza, porcelain (yes, Globe + Itza is such an overkill for perma golden age ...). Neighbours DoW me but were more than an era late and didn’t dare to seriously attack, I even felt bad about conquering them, just casually let two Hwachas fend them off. Tradition start, capital location felt decent but not outstanding: hills and crabs. However I had comfortable room in a 3 player continent and settled 5 cities total for the crab monopoly with two natural wonders while keeping reasonable distance with Assyria. I wanted gardens after pyramids but took a detour by fishing boats to get god of the sea (less sustained synergy with Korea than goddess of beauty, but stronger start). Still finished the wonder before anyone got to classical, which started looking weird in immortal. Being the first founder, I again ditched Inheritance synergy to rather further my advantage with CoE and went wonder spamming. I was in Renaissance before most were in Medieval. I am tied for first score with Huns but with a sizeable science and culture lead. The point of the thread: I don’t know what led to such an early, peaceful snowball. I almost felt the AI was bugged, Assyria was stuck in classical without having an aggressive neighbour. Don’t know if it was because of the pantheon or the founder. So maybe it’s just a matter of map? If you are surrounded without early war benefits, you can go with tradition but will have to invest quite a lot more in military than if you weren’t surrounded, without benefit other than surviving. So in any case it's a disadvantage, not an alternative strategy. With authority you are a generic civ against ancient/classical era monsters. While if you have room to peacefully expand you can snowball, there is no tailored strategy to follow, tradition with room is really better than tradition without. Maybe the map roll simply obliterates any other consideration about compound yields and does this pantheon or building gives one more or one less yield. It is of course legit to consider a surrounded start as if you’re simply playing a higher difficulty, but I think balance should account a bit for that. I certainly don’t have enough experience about what to nerf (if anything). But I wonder if there could be more paths that would actually fare better in a surrounded situation (besides being Aztecs or grabbing the very AI popular god of war). Vanilla BNW was maybe too tradition-favored, but it did give it more defensive power while penalizing expansion more than in VP. There was also the fun piety “small” start playing the underdog with 2 cities and using religion as diplomacy and catch-up tool. And in VP there are additional constraints like monopolies and population requirement for national wonders that still skews tradition towards at least 3 good cities. To summarize, it is good that VP gives more flexibility about empire shape, but does it give too much benefits to expansion in every configuration, even tradition? Hence giving much more importance to the map roll for pacific strategies? Would it be good or even possible to have more catch-up tools that ONLY benefit small, surrounded starts, ideally without new code? Or maybe rebalance the tradition tree, penalize a bit more expansion, while removing population constraints for national monuments, relaxing monopoly requirement and/or additional benefits for war near the capital? The whole point being in fully playing the map uncertainty instead of homogenizing that part or restarting when you have no early war bonus. Sorry for the long text, I put details in case I'm totally wrong or I just had a very weird game that can't be generalized or used some specific OP stuff.