Why is Ethiopia #4?
One of my favorite aspects of Civ 5 is the religion mechanic and Ethiopia is arguably the best choice to fully explore it (The Celts must rely on unmodified forests, ugh). The Stele gives a strong faith boost right away and, combined with shrines and temples, you might be able to still get a strong religion without relying on faith pantheons and faith natural/world wonders. Or you could throw those into the mix too and really go wild. The unique ability is a strong defensive bonus and you get a unique unit that presents a more optimistic impression of the Italian conquest. These elements combine for a very strong start that is resistant to enemy aggression. It probably isn't a coincidence that the AI Ethiopia always seems to be a powerhouse when they show up in my games as other civilizations.
The leader is Haile Selassie, Time magazine Person of the Year for 1935, symbol of noble but doomed opposition in the face of tyranny and trivia question answer.
Then I told the class about Gandhi's love of nuclear missiles.
Playing on Prince difficulty I was able to peacefully spread my religion almost everywhere. It was ridiculous, the other civilizations with religions were hard-pressed to even keep their Holy Cities. This, combined with the tithe belief led to sickening amounts of income and an eventual diplomatic victory. Is it just a coincidence that some of the most fun games happened on the lower difficulties, while winning on high levels requires a strict adherence to an optimal development path that tends to be largely forgettable? Nah, can't be. I must play on at least Immortal every time or people I've never met and couldn't possibly care less about will be disappointed in me.
I *heart* these.