How much damage can you actually do in the first 50 turns of the game?
A LOT OF DAMAGE. How about owning 5+ cities and 2 of them opposing forces capitals?
Just in case you haven't done this yet -
I was quite surprised at the vulnerability of all the starter towns within the first 50+ turns of the game. So much so, it became apparent the only way to protect your town is to keep the sovereign in it. Because random placement is always a crap shoot, you'll sometimes have multiple opponents within striking distance of your primary city very quickly. With a solid early game sovereign, you can become near indestructible by mid game through pure commander rush tactics against the AI. In multi-player, the unmanned city falls, will probably panic the player and force him to porcupine/turtle tactics attempting to reclaim the lost city while you run rampant.
The RTS formula works very well here simply because of the "Commander" running around the field d-gunning everything. (Commander reference from Total Annihilation) Granted you aren't moving lots and lots of little units like a zerg rush, but you are moving some pretty substantial units early in the game. Summons and sentinels.
Expand explosively, always take the champion option early for the city upgrades and keep researching civics / magic to expand your summoning and keep the people fed.
Once you have 4+ cities under your command, not costing you a dime in pioneer funds and actually producing money, you're rolling. Consider turning up the war machine. Conquest victory isn't far away.
My sovereign of choice for this has an Earth/Summon blend for magic. The AI doesn't always pick the best locations for the cities and lowering/raising the land early helps a ton.
This has been a really good time in Beta 3C. Keeps you moving quick, keeps you on your toes, everyone hates you early making it as it should be. You vs the world.
Give it a shot. (lord help us all if you play around with the magic trees and pull teleport instead of raise/lower land. It's like cheating)