Cool, I was just clarifying my view on my participation in the game. I like the chance to at least make an army before I get smashed by someone who made a bigger one
But, as you may have seen in the other game, a lot of the game really is how you do the diplo. For better or worse. You need borders, you need allies, and you need targets. How that all gets sorted out is often not about how good you are at diplo, just about if you bother with more than one line PMs like 'Hey, NAP-3?'.
Not very interesting, nor useful.
Then again there are (R)AND games where there is ZERO diplo and no one even knows who is playing which nation, so it's geared to be more of a SP style game, but where the AI is actually other players. I'm not recommending that for a learning game though, because there will be no feedback to you from anyone.
As to CBM...
Seems 1.6 is the last version which is just 'balance', from there it has gone and done a bit more than just 'balance' (but that depends on who you ask). In any case, Vanilla is fine, but there are some glaring issues which CBM does smooth over. Not a big deal to me either way. I like CBM for how it makes different Pretender chasis more competative (otherwise you have games where everyone is a Prince of Death or Oracle), and for how it spruces up some nations who are clearly 'underpowered', but some of the rest of it is just 'different' because that's how the creator/contributors thought things should be.
Now, that's not bad in and of itself, and clearly many people really enjoy using CBM over Vanilla, so I don't much care one way or the other. I don't know that there is an advantage to Vanilla for noobs, the game has so much content already, and the mod isn't changing any game mechanics.
A completely modless game is certainly 'easy' for people to set up, but on the other hand, part of learning to play dominions, is learning how to use different mods (especially for SP, some like Better Independents, and Wise Wizards really help the AI by making it impossible for it to do some of the dumb things it otherwise does).