I'm sorry guys, but you must be doing something wrong.
The game has problems, including that sometimes a Umbradroth or a squad of knights will attack your city at turn 20. And yes, the new AI will often cleanse the surrounding before you can get there (they start with move 3) And yes, monsters go a bit easier on AI than on us.
But, and it is a big BUT. This only happens sometimes. Most of the time, the game is quite easy to win. I personally play only on Riduculous AI with all settings large/dense. I play with restrictive home rules (.914, single city, single hero was my last one) I still win more games than not.
If you just can't start, maybe you should modify your pretender. There's at least three viable approaches: self-buffing hero, all out fire caster, and custom race tuned for army production (no ranged, vulnerable to magic, master scouts, master smiths, level 2, one-handed spears)
And this is for Ridiculous AI, where the enemy gets x2 growth/research/production, x3 hps + move 3 on the pretender, 150000 gold to start, free metal/crystal, etc...
Seriously, the game needs work, but it is far from unplayable. Try to understand the rules about what wakes monsters up, watch some videos, read some AAR.