Hard is still not too hard imo, but that has more to do with ai not considering how broken OP champions can get.
As long as you can get your adventuring party rolling, you don't really need gildar, cities, research, troops, etc. Just destroy civilizations with 2 swords and 2 minds. Of course, if you're not able to get rolling due to poor champion options nearby your sovereign or a poor set of monsters to fight, then you will lose. It's more a gamble than anything else.
This will all change once things are balanced and AI is accurately able to assess your threat level.