Hi, I find that many people are set into always bee-lining for Education or Mysticism. This is a thread that will hopefully provide other early game strategies that avoid a direct Bee-line. If anyone has any, please post them. Actually, I tend to find that in situations where you have a lot of caledar resources around and you are playing a civilization like the Grigori who don't start with Ancient Chants, it is actually better to go Agriculture -> Calendar. This provides you with a decent amount of good commerce tiles and the food needed to work them. This partcularly applies to Epic speed where it would take too long to go Ancient Chants -> Education/Mysticism and (I think) cottages take longer to develop. You can then fund further expansion using Markets at Festivals and increase your average city size with Carnivals, this in my expirience makes up for not having City States straight away. It also allows you to run a higher science rate then you probably could otherwise, making up for not having cottages. Having the Creative trait wold provide a useful synergy with this strategy. You wouldn't need Obelisks, which are provided at Mysticism, and your culture could be further bosted with Carnivals, (At Festivals). Carnivals provide only a percentage increase in culture as opposed to base culture and so would ordinarily need the Palace or Obelisk buildings (in the early game) to have any effect on culture. From here (Agriculture -> Calendar -> Festivals) you have a free shot at Drama, at which you get a free great bard, long before any other player or AI will. This is priceless on very congested maps, or if you have a big culture neighbour such as the Balseraphs on your doorstep. A culture bomb in the right city can be perfect for flipping nearby un-develloped cities or giving you a little breathing space for expansion. However, the other benefits given at Drama (theatres, the theatre of Dreams, and the big culture increasing item that I can't remember the name of) will be far too expensive in terms of hammers to build this early on in the game. However, if you can, at any point in the near future, (soldiers of Kilmorph, slaves from slavery, Remnants of Patria, w/e) then you will have far superior culture to you neighbours. Due to the price of the benefits of Drama, though. I find it best to put of researching Drama unless you realy need a culture bomb right now (maybe if you're being cut of from expansion room by another civ and they are too strong for you to attack. You will still almost certainly be the first to get drama so you can generally put it off for a while to research other important techs. I've found that going Crafting -> Mining (and maybe Bronze Working) is good. This gives you added production, maybe you will then be able to grab a theatre . It also sets you up for getting Runes of Kilmorph, giving you Soldiers of K and extra gold for expansion from the temples. Obviously, you now have mysticism, but you still don't have education, and it will be a while before you need it. I think this is probably the perfect early-game strategy for the Balseraphs, who get extra benefits from Festivals and have the creative trait (at least at the start, or if you play Keelyn). They also have other reasons for getting slaves, to fill their freak shows. Just my 2 several cents.