I think this is the best summary on the thread of the game's current state, although a month and a half before a major expansion is probably a premature time to make this kind of thread at all. A few points I'd make: 1. Religion. It strikes me less that the system is gamey and more that some of the options are. The idea of a faith system is good, and it's nicely-done that many religious effects relate to increasing faith, which increases plausibly religious effects such as missionary generation, temple construction, crusader recruitment (Holy Warriors) and religious tithes. Having the ability to manage the way your religion spreads is good. In general it is more realistic that you can have cities with dominant religions, and that cities within a civ may have different ones, than it is that all religions are represented equally (as in Civ IV), or that however far your religious influence spreads in another civ, you'll be equally hated if that religion happens not to be the state religion. The downside is effects like science, food and production from effects with quasi-mystical descriptions, faith-buying of Great People, and faith healing is a worse offender still - this is where it seems "gamey". And while Civ V's follower system more dynamically represents religious representation within cities than Civ IV's system, Civ V's binary approach to religious effects (a city only benefits from the effects of the dominant religion) is too simplistic. The most interesting unique in Brave New World in my view is the Indonesian candi, which generates an amount of faith that varies with the number of religions represented in the city. More effects of that kind would be a welcome addition to the system. Religion is certainly not as irrelevant to diplomacy as is often made out. Spreading religion to a civ with its own religion is frowned upon, and this system could be expanded (greater penalties for sending missionaries to holy cities, say, penalties for competing for the favour of city states with religious spread to them, and diplomatic sanctions by civs that have adopted a religion - as the system stands, only civs that actually give birth to a religion object to you spreading yours to their territory). The 'different religion' penalty and 'shared religion' bonus exist, but don't often come into play because they rely on converting the majority of cities in a civ, and the diplomatic reward by itself is not worth the investment needed to convert so many cities. This lack of religious tension isn't as unrealistic as people often perceive it, but simply in game terms the diplomatic effects of spreading religion should be more pronounced to reward religious expansion and penalise 'losing' the religion game. 2. City states. Late in the game espionage is a key player in keeping CSes. If you invest in them for long enough and focus on keeping them on-side with both quests and regular election rigging, those late-game coups that frustrate people simply don't happen because you have too much influence. Conquering them (or declaring war while allied with them) also removes the ability for others to turn them against you with gold. The AI also knows most of these tricks, and I've had games where some have actively conspired to try and capture my city-states by force in advance of a UN vote (unfortunately the AI's near-complete inability to capture cities in the late game is a barrier to success). My most engaging late games in Civ V have often been contesting control of city-states. In isolation this would be true, but unlike Civ IV maintenance happiness is not just a constraint on ICS, it's also a constraint on population growth within cities - so you have to juggle favouring one vs. the other depending on context. Civ V hasn't succeeded in making tall empires fully as viable as wide ones, but it's come a lot closer than earlier Civ games. The "spam colosseums and theatres" trick worked to control unhappiness in Civ IV as well. There's also the less-appreciated flipside, that Civ V happiness is not a pure management mechanic which exists to set a penalty, there are also rewards for playing in a way that gives you excess happiness (i.e. golden ages). In Civ IV, all you wanted to do with either happiness or maintenance was ensure that they weren't negative, you got no particular benefits from a positive happiness score or (for most of the game) a positive income. Although I agree that there are too many options for happiness management with G&K. If you don't use Ceremonial Burial or go heavy religion, managing happiness can still be an issue limiting city growth. This is true, but the extent to which it's a bad thing depends on your perspective. Less instant adaptability means a greater emphasis on long-term planning. In Civ V, if you have a struggling or nose-diving economy it's because you've overstretched on building too many buildings (and therefore probably too many cities) or too many units too fast. This is also generally the case in Civ IV, but has a "quick fix", albeit a fix that may cost you in the long term if you don't resolve the underlying issue. Which is probably the same answer you'd have been given at the same stage in Civ III or Civ IV's life cycle.