This is the story of my game of Civilization IV Adventure Thirty-two from Realms Beyond Civilization.
Well, my first reaction was that starting with a free Great Person is actually pretty tame. We've started with all sorts of crazy things like corporations, machine guns, stealth bombers, and Democracy. And it seems like any GP other than the Engineer would be subpar. If you actually want some other kind of GP, why not just take the GE, whack out an appropriate wonder, and let that wonder generate the other GP? Still, after some thought, I toyed with a few ideas for this game.
Idea One was to, just for the heck of it, build a seven-headed-hydra religious city. I'd take a Great Prophet to lightbulb Meditation while researching Polytheism, then beeline Monotheism. Build Oracle to sling Confucianism, and Stonehenge to generate Prophets to lightbulb Christianity and Islam. The only difficult part is slow-researching Philosophy, but that should be fine if I'm first to CoL. But the torpedo in this plan was this: there is not a single commerce-producing tile available in that starting position (! No Fishing, no non-forest rivers, no commerce resources), meaning the Polytheism research is too risky.
Idea Two involved a Great Artist. I'd walk my starting settler until discovering a rival capital, then settle exactly three tiles away and bomb a Great Work, aiming to flip a rival out of existence. I actually went so far as to lay out a spreadsheet with culture values and flip probabilities, then play out a test game (not on this map) with Worldbuilder help including a great spy to infiltrate and watch the AI. The problem is the garrison - on Monarch difficulty, the AI gets two free archers in the capital and keeps them there, enough to knock the flip odds down by more than half. Also, there's a time limit. The enemy capital outproduces me on plot culture by 2:1 initially and 3:1 after its level-three expansion on turn 75 (Epic speed). The flip chance approaches zero by around turn 120. The probability of two revolts in time is better than even, but not high enough to stake a game plan, because I'll look pretty silly if it doesn't work. Finally, even if it does work, then what? I have two cities after a silly stunt when I could've just built a settler instead. And I'm pretty tired of cultural victories by now.
Besides, I have another idea. I want to revisit a great game idea that an overzealous sponsor hoodwinked us out of playability. That's The Simple Life.
I'll take this Adventure and strive for victory with the fewest number of builds I can manage. The victory will be space; Simple Life disallowed culture and diplomacy. And a military win wouldn't be remotely comparable on a different map, but the space tech race resides in the same ballpark.
Here's a few build counts from other games for reference. Zeka turned in the only scored winning result in the real Simple Life game, reporting 299 builds. Looking through my BTS savegames, the lowest build total I can find in a normal game is a total of 355 in the Speed Racer cultural victory, and everything else is 500 or more. I also have a one-city challenge space win with 133 builds total, though OCC plays by its own rules (that capital is equivalent to about three cities with Bureaucracy and the easy national wonders.) My goal is clearly to at least come in ahead of zeka's 299, with a wild thought of beating that OCC 133, but just in general to score as low as I can.
Now what Great Person fits the idea of having few but large and efficient cities? Well, the play that's probably the most powerful overall as well: Great Engineering the Pyramids. Representation is a powerful boost to both research and city size, without counting anything against the build count. And the Pyramids will put out a second Great Engineer 50 turns later (Normal speed), who could either settle for a big boost up the growth curve, or bang out another wonder, most likely the Great Library.
Finally, I'm going to play on Normal speed, even though I know full well that many players have already started on Epic. In an unscored game, it doesn't really matter.