To Novalith - your post, sir, is just a piece of elaborate rationalization and apologetic tirade designed to cover a simple fact - the AI does cheat and it is rightfully called cheating.
Can I prove my point? Of course I can. Every game comes with a set of rules (even asymmetric games that pit different forces against each other, like AI wars). These rules should be transparent, unambiguous and clearly understood by all participants prior starting the game. Any violation of such rules is cheating - no exceptions, no fancy talk about that.
What happens if I come to a chess tournament and in a attempt to smuggle an extra rook in an otherwise drawn endgame to achieve victory? I will be thrown out, probably banned, shamed and discredited as a player. I have just spoiled the competitive thrill of the intellectual battle by violating the rules, thus making such competition meaningless. Did I cheat? Oh yes, without a doubt. When a computer program does the same thing, is it cheating? Without a doubt.
Same goes for Civilization, Fallen enchantress, and any other game of similar nature. The manual describes the rules quite clearly - when hiring heroes, the hiring price must be paid, save for one faction that is allowed to hire for free. If the AI hires for free with other factions, it's cheating. When it insta-builds several objects at once, gets buildings and units for free - cheating. Also, the challenging level should be AI algorithms at its best, without cheating. If it's stated so, it should be so - expecially by a game from people like Brad who is so vocal about the "gamer's bill of rights".
It is true that it's probably impossible to build a competent AI for this type of games using the current technology. The AI needs bonuses and other helps to provide enjoyable challenge - but it should be done by a transparent way, by saying "this and this level means this and this bonus for the AI", not by secretly sneaking AI cheats in.
The other option is to build the game around what the AI can do - AI wars is a good example. The AI is given infinite resources, but is allowed to use them in a clearly defined manner (AI progress). That is the correct, clean and transparent way how to do it, I recommend the game to your attention.
Anyway, I believe that the instabuilds and other cheats seen so far are actually bugs, and that the devs will fix them given time and testing.
That's why IMO people like you are doing the game a disservice by trying to rationalize the bugs and convincing people to accept them, because "the AI cannot manage otherwise". You are clouding the subject instead of clarifying it.
Wow, I think we have a vast chasm of misunderstanding to cross. Let me see if I have gathered the points of your post correctly and try to respond appropriately. I will work from the bottom up.
1. You believe I am rationalizing bugs
1a. No I am not. The bugs this game has need to be fixed. It would appear that Frogboy is making an effort to do so. Anything we point out that the AI is doing that he did not intend it to do is acknowledged as a bug, not a cheat, and fixed.
2. The AI is limited by current technology and may need help. That help should be "transparent".
2a. Correct. I don't disagree that it needs bonuses. How transparent they are is up to the developer. If I know it builds faster but not that it builds 2.65 times as fast I am ok with that. If I am never told that it has an increased crit chance and it does, that isn't cool. However if that is what it was programmed to do I might be able to live with it. If the computer is programmed to occasionally rush a project on expert difficulty but when it does it rushes ALL projects for NO cost and that was NOT the intention of the programming then that is a bug, see 1a. Right now the higher difficulty levels state that sovereigns are buffed and that they receive economic bonuses. It does not state how much HP they get or if they hit harder. It does not state that they get x amount of gold extra per turn. I am ok with the vagueness, you apparently are not. That is just a difference of opinion. Frogboy stated that he could start a discussion on what exactly the AI does but doesn't want to spoil things for people.
3. You give the example of bringing extra pieces to a chess match as your human example and playing by different rules than the manual states as different examples of cheating.
3a. I would call your chess example cheating because that is a no-brainer. You knew the rules and chose to disobey them in explicitly state so. You are a cheater. As for the computer...well let me try explaining it a different way. I tell you I don't like your chili because it is nasty. Does that help? Nope. You know I don't like it but you cannot tell why. If I say it is too salty you can add less salt, too sweet then less brown sugar, too spicy less jalapenos. If I tell you that it is too plastic, and there is no plastic in it well then I am just wrong.
If you say "I don't like this game because the AI cheats" but what you mean by cheating isn't clearly defined then how are they supposed to fix the problem? If you say the AI is bugged, it is doing something it shouldn't (like amassing 20000 gold by turn 25) then they look for the bug. If you say the bonuses the AI get are not transparent, or shouldn't be there at all then they can modify them, or make the tooltips more verbose, or make a post stating everything the AI does on each difficulty and provide you with clarity. If you say that you hate how the AI plays by different rules then the AI can be reprogrammed or the rules can be changed. Perhaps some of the things that may have been changed to save on processor power could instead be made a toggle.
You can label any issue you have with the AI as cheating if that is what you chose to do. What I was stating in my post is that to simply say it cheats clouds the issue. How you saw my wanting people to explain there issues in a clearer fashion as "muddying the water." I honestly do not know. I suppose that at least in your case I failed to explain my intentions clearly. I shall see if maybe I can edit it to be clearer
You also seem to imply that I think the game is perfect and that I believe people should not post their problems or opinions if they have them. Again that is not the case. I didn't say that just simply asked for clarity. If you did not intend your post to project that implication than perhaps it is me reading too much into your tone.