I'm playing my first BNW game on a mid-level difficulty as Morocco. It's around turn 350, and I've fully completed the Piety and Patronage policy trees.
I've been having a hard time managing happiness all game. It usually hovers between -2 and 5. I build all the happiness buildings and try for the wonders (but I don't think I've been successful in getting any related to happiness). I don't understand how the AIs are able to have such huge empires - is it just their difficulty level bonus?
Throughout the game, I've been sandwiched between Iroquois and Ethiopia, both of which have outpaced me by ~20% total score continuously. Iroquois and I also shared a border with Mongolia, which was always weaker; when Iroquois decided it was time to conquer Mongolia I felt like I had to take it instead or else Iroquois would be way too close to my core cities. Same thing happened with Ethiopia and weaker Japan several hundred turns later - Ethiopia asked if I'd like to join it in war against Japan, and I felt that Japan's decline was a foregone conclusion, so I had to make sure as much of it ended up on my side as possible.
The problem with this strategy is that I'm now at -15 happiness. I haven't built any of my own cities in quite some time. I've tried trading with the AIs on basically whatever terms they ask to get more luxury resources and I've allied with as many city states as possible (although there are two nearby I'm not allied with, but now that my happiness is so low, I don't have a chance of getting enough gold to overtake Ethiopia in influence). What else can I do? Am I missing some big strategy?
Now that my happiness is hosed, my GPT is running around -20. I have the biggest army in the game, which I built up while by GPT was great. Now I'm wondering if I should donate a bunch of the older units to nearby city states to both help my GPT and gain influence with them. I have ~10 turns until I run out of gold.
How can I minimize the happiness impact of conquest? Is it better to annex a city and immediately construct a courthouse? (I've been puppetting all but one.) When would you want to raze a city? I've never done it.
Is there some way to gain happiness that I'm missing?
Is there ever a legitimate strategy where your empire is Unhappy or Very Unhappy, or is that always a sign that you're doing something wrong?
Thanks! Let me know if I've omitted some important details.