I was unable to beat Emperor difficulty. Sigh. I got overconfident. I thought because I had such an easy time on King, I was ready to move up. Maybe I was, seeing as how I had the technological lead in my last game, but considering the cultural punishment I was taking, I still have a lotto learn.
It occurs to me, though, that while I've talked a lot about difficulty levels and stretching the limits of my own abilities, I've neglected to say what it is I like about Civilization V in the first place.
The Civilization series has always had this split identity, where it's one half sim, where you build and manage a society, and the other half board-game, where you move your pieces around a grid in order to achieve victory. I've said before that Civilization IV is the series at it's most intricately sim-ish. Civilization V is the other side of the coin. It is the most well designed board game of the series.
It's hard to point to one particular aspect of the game that makes it so good. It's more the accumulated weight of a number of different choices. Having only one unit per tile is a big part of it - it makes unit positioning and tactical movement more important, but the elimination of the commerce slider and the invention of great people tile improvements also play a part, by making the layout of your empire more important as well. The balance of the tech tree also plays into it - the connection between each technology and what it unlocks is due more to gameplay necessities than any sort of rigorous simulation logic.
Which, believe it or not, is a compliment. Civilization V is the smoothest playing game of the series, the one it's easiest to slip into. I may have totally whiffed Emperor mode, but I think it's telling that this is the one Civ game that made confident enough to try.