blame the memory limits of 32 bit OSes
Wow. That's unfair. I run 32-bit and don't have any problems with the game, even on maximum settings.
As to the topic on hand:
I agree, FE fills up fast. You need to pioneer spam quickly in order to claim your turf. Increasing the monster difficulty on the low end, and decreasing the monster difficulty on the high end will balance that out I think...
Ideally, and imho, your empire should consist of 4-7 cities by mid game. Those cities shouldn't be easy to aquire. Afterall, we're carving a nation out of a cataclysm here. But I do think we should be allowed to carve out that nation eventually.
I really like the map-gen that I've been getting so far. I've seen in other threads and have experianced it myself that sometimes you get totally jipped for settlable land...needs a big of tweaking. However, overall it's pretty good with your empire able to settle 2-3 cities over the first 30-50 seasons. I like that. Shows that your empire is growing.
Also is important the get those city queues running. Too many queues and you have too much to do...too few queues and you're just hitting 'end-turn' all the time.
Overall, the most memorable TBS games I've experianced over the years resulted in an empire of 7-12 cities.