Epic 50, part 1

I have decided to do one last play despite the MapStat ban primarily to be part of the milestone EPIC 50.

Looking over the rules I see a few key objectives.
1) To heavily fortify the island city. This one is the most vulnerable to a potential capture and an auto-loss.
2) Push science heavily to achieve a diplomatic victory.
3) To be paranoid about not screwing up gross over irrigation on the map and breaking the rules.
4) Make sure not to puke at the thought of Kathy being a "desirable" women.
5) Make sure that the following civs survive: Byzantines, Russians, Egyptians and Spanish.
6) Push culture in the starting 5 cities, while the other cities cover military, expansion, etc as much as viable.
7) To evaluate my attack targets very carefully to not break the rules about attacking top 5 culture cities.

The first problem I have is the gross over irrigation. The game wants cultured cities, yet the cities are screwed for shields.

The worker wastage award goes to the 2 workers that wasted there time with this road, but left no shields in the core. Needless to say they were recalled.

My first big mystery is where are all the other civs, and why no contact so far.
After looking at the game I decide that The Island Paradise and The Finest Furs are not worth trying for the top 5 list due to lack of shields. I hope the other 3 have a chance.
It is clear that we were meant for a totally trashed start for shields. I find a hint that a forest tile was chopped by The Pungent Weeds.

The first civ I met is Spain in 430 BC. I can't offer wines yet, as no valid trade route is available. I give Mysticism and Writing for Iron Working and $78. I then curse the lack of visible iron.
I meet Egypt in 410BC. I trade Map Making for Masonry and The Wheel. I curse the lack of visible horses, and notice I have a race to get the visible iron source.
I continue to improve the tech situation in 390BC when I trade Polytheism for Mathematics and Horseback Riding.

In 350 BC the 6th Babylon city is formed. I finally have a city with shield potential, as chopped forest with furs will always be a bonus grassland tile. In addition, this allows for the additional shipping I will need to find other civs, and snag the critical iron island.

I give Egypt the mandatory wines gift in 310BC when a trade route opened up.

I meet the Byzantines in 270 BC. No trades are possible, and I am starting to notice a suspicious pattern about the gender of my nearby neighbors.
I met the annoying Persian also in 270 BC, and the Ottomans in the very next tile.

I really get a laugh a couple of turns later when I realize they are both on a 5-tile island.
I attempted the Philosophy gambit to get Monarchy, but failed. I had hoped to get Monarchy a lot faster then the horrid self-research time. This also greatly delayed literature for more culture.
I completed one of the variant goals in 170 BC:

The first big failure occurs when I send my settler to the iron island. I have a feeling I was beat there by just one or two turns...

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