But you're somewhat repeating the same thing in the end. Smaller empires are not as good as larger ones assuming both are unhindered (since I've also already aknowledged that wide is harder and shouldn't be). If happiness is made easier AND the AI has no special agressivity against wide it is a total fantasy that small 4 city tradition is better. Why ? Because with it in the game the playstyle is already as good with favorable conditions. The problem as stated is that wider empire have no use for their extra production because the AI leaves you alone which should be the main point of getting one. Being less at risk. I totally disagree that a wide empire should eclipse you in all areas (culture/science on top of production) which is just my opinion for a saner game. War being rewarding has more to do with happiness once again and warmonger hate. Getting extra cities without these being an issue would be worth it. Especially if you slow down the game a bit. The pace of civ5 science wise is too fast to allow a lot of room for conquest. As for midgame expansion it's also a point I have adressed. I personally prefer playing wider game anyway but I feel the civ5 balance perspective is really distorted in this thread by players that have really no idea.