From: NE Pa, USA
Another thing I do that gives me a HUGE advantage over the AI, is on the first turn, assuming my capital city is a port, I build 4 cargoships and keep enough of a force from my initial forces, that I can populate them (usually with a train and 3 rifle, and then two more units of 3 rifle) and I sent these off on turn 2. They cannot land on turn 2 but starting with turn 3, I can drop the units off and them immediately pick them up. I thus go along the coast of unoccupied territory and land LOTS of places.
Then comes autoexplore starting in turn 4 and, that makes a huge difference. I sometimes get whole continents that the AI is nowhere's near to.
However, there ARE limits to this as if I do not get a city that is my own people then I can't really build a force to defend these areas, and if an AI has a land route to such an area it ultimately overruns it, again assuming I do not find a city with my own people.
I tried playing with auto-explore turned off, but that tends to slow the game down considerably, and it probably hurts the AI more than it helps it. Would be best if autoexplore only occured relative to hexes that have, say, 50% supply but, that is something that is beyond the rulevars (that I can think of off hand).
I have played with no railroads also and, with this you can't use your trains initially and that really slows down your exploration but, it hurts the AI more than it hurts you. Usually the AI will take a while before it starts building railroads.
But, it does make the game interesting.