I was browsing the apolyton.net and the official civ4 forums and got a few ideas - one way is to concentrate, daniel-san!
In general you have to learn to be flexible and take the best possible advantage of each situation. For example, if you start with flood plains and a financial civ, you will be very well rewarded dropping cottages on those plains - or you could find yourself in an empty continent and want to farm it into a settler farm.
However, in my training I’ve been trying several gambits - for example you can practice with settler first (before anything else!), or try Roman rush to iron and rollover civs asap.
Try Keshiks with genghis khan, they are amazing. I found a game where I rolled over four civs with keshiks, before they built more than two cities. Pillage, raze, keep the capital city. It’s a difference since I normally play as a builder-civ.
Or try aztecs, incas, and do an early rush. it’s interesting. You learn how much military you need to cripple/kill a civ. Then when you play a builder you know exactly how much military you need.
One of my favorite gambits i’ve been practicing: (usually with Chinese first emperor Qin, but works with others)
The key is oracle rush to Bureaucracy - research up to code of laws and use oracle to get civil service. Also get a great scientist. I usually end up with it around 2000-1000 BC. With the Chinese you get an insane amount of research (specially if coastal city). You’ll end up a bit behind in number of cities, but that one city you have is worth three other cities. You can conquer, or found more cities, etc. Sometimes I also end up with Pyramids, so I can get Representative/Bureaucracy/Organized religion. Amazing city, gets up to size 12-13 with no unhappiness, and tons of gold + science beakers.
This is on Noble btw.
I’ll summarize it as best I can:
Start with warrior or worker assuming a land civ (no fishing resources, those are different). Scout around. Get a few techs to develop the resources in your area. You’ll want around 2 food resources and hopefully you have nice hills to mine.
Go for writing asap - grabbing pottery/wheels along the way if you don’t have mines say, and want to drop cots on flood plains. You’ll want to play along with the order of techs - sometimes it’s worth delaying production for a settler. Once you get writing, get library built.
Once you have library, create 2 scientist specialists. on normal speed that will take 100 / 6 turns = 17 turns.
Research code of laws. Start working on the oracle. Try to time it so you build it after the scientists. This is because you don’t want the oracles’ GP points. You don’t want a great profit, at least yet. This period gives you the most flexibility in tech research choices. You may want to say bronze working before code of laws, and chop the oracle up fast. Depends on how fast your production is compared to your tech research.
Repeat, rinse, and enjoy. If you want to war, you can now hook up some iron and mass macemen with their 8 attack and city raider promotions. Or you can go for metal casting for the forges, 25% production. Fun fun!
Flexibility is very important - there’s starts where this gambit doesn’t work very well. For example, start next to montezuma or izzy, you’ll probably have Beijing sacked two turns before oracle is completed.
However, I think it’s good to practice different approaches so you have the experience to know which one to approach given a specific start.