I wrote awhile ago about how crazy the highest difficulty setting (Immortal) in CiV is. The computer receives absurd advantages to try to compensate for its shortcomings at strategy and I found that sometimes nothing I could do could stop it. At the time I wrote about it before I really felt like many of the normal ways to win simply weren't feasible against the Immortal AI, it was simply too hard.
I was wrong.
You see, I had to learn to play politics, CiV style. You might imagine that when you conquer a city you would take it over, or burn it down, or put a governor in charge that you like and let it do its own thing. These are the normal 3 options. However, you can make a fourth option for yourself which is to take over the city and then sell it to one of your opponents instead of keeping it. The AI will give a tremendous amount for a city so I would smash one opponent and sell their cities to the other AIs as bribes to give me huge wads of cash or to start wars with each other. I could get all of the AIs to gang up on whoever was winning at the time by selling them cities and keep roaming around the map smashing people. Eventually I had to go burn all their cities to the ground but the incredible control I had over who was fighting who and the huge sums of cash I got paid made things drastically easier. I also found that I could get resources that aren't really very useful and sell them off. Being extremely diligent about constantly selling resources, even ones the AIs couldn't realistically use, for the maximum amount gave me more money and thus more power, not to mention that it kept them broke a lot of the time. None of these tactics required being better at fighting, just being better at playing the AI for a fool, which you have to do when they get twice as much of everything as you do.
Of course I also just got better at managing my empires and fighting my wars. I now pretty much don't lose units in battles unless something really weird happens and have beaten Immortal games by crushing every single enemy militarily without losing a single unit in battle throughout the entire game. Today I decided that it was time for the real challenge: Beat the game on Immortal with only a single city. You see, you need lots of cities. The enemies not only get more stuff for each city, but they will have a dozen (or fifty) cities building things and attacking you and the less cities you have the more likely they are to attack as they think you are weak. Also since I cannot possibly field a real army I can never go smash them even if I do wipe out their armies in the field - I must just sit and wait for the next wave. If you had asked me 10 days ago if this was possible I would have laughed at you... how can you beat enemies that have drastically superior units and drastically more units when every single one is going to attack you as the target of choice? It is possible however, and although I have not yet won I have managed to survive to turn 450 where there are 3 enemy AIs left who all have future technology and immense armies. I have 5 military units, mid 1900s technology and one city but I am still alive and closing in on a cultural victory. At least one of the computers is rushing to build a spacecraft so my win is somewhat in doubt but I am absolutely certain that it can be won and if I had anticipated the challenge just a little better I will definitely defeat it.
The trouble of course is what could possibly be left after that? I start myself on a huge continent full of enemies who get incredible bonuses over me and refuse to build more than one city. I set myself every disadvantage the game settings allow and victory is surely feasible, if not necessarily assured. Alexander the Great, who I play as in this scenario, wept that there were no more enemies for him to defeat. I think I understand how he feels.