Interesting game, pretty much replicates the feeling of macro decisions in Civilization with micro decisions like combat, having multiple cities and actual map cut. This is like playing with one city only. I actually preferred this small game over the huge management of too many cities in real civilization game, but I did miss the combat and having some map where one could see the territory controlled. In this game you just win over time if you produce more military then your enemy, no tactics involved just macro funding of army.
I believe mountain start is the best, because large amounts of gold allows you to purchase almost everything you could lack and allows you to speed things up. The civilization bonuses are too small and largely insignificant so any can win, one can choose whichever one favors best, but sadly the flavor gets lost past early ancient times because not only do they visually look the same, also upgrade effects overscale civilization bonus effects and they all play the same.