I'm the most experienced player, Joe has played once, but Katie, Wood, and Will were new.
We got our territories assigned by everyone else (see procedure described earlier). Despite my frequent warnings and offers to take their assignments back, they all insisted on assigning me territory that formed a cohesive state in the SW. I don't know if they thought I was trying to trick them with my warnings or what, but the game was good as won for me right then and there.
Either because his initial setup was poor or because he had no long term strategy, Joe got squished trying to form up between 3 other players in the rich farmer area in the NW. His other holdings were scattered and never reinforced, and he was devastated by the first winter, which destroyed a state with three buildings on it. His total after the first year was FOUR points!!! Ouch!
Will played the best game with a weak setup, letting others do the dirty work of breaking Joe down then grabbing up the remains. He formed a powerful NW state rich in farmland, but also had well placed interests in the SE as well.
Wood tried to form a state in the center of the board, but I think he was pretty much squished between everyone else.
Katie had the benefit of having her back to a bunch of empty territories in the NE. We were worried that she would lose interest in this male oriented conquest game, and on top of that she acted very cute, charming, and clueless, so everyone left her alone. We even appointed her to be the "goddess of war", running cubes through the tower, but when we finally realized how powerful she had become, she ruthlessly turned and crushed anyone in her way (apologizing sweetly as she attacked, of course).
It was very easy for me to eliminated the isolated holdings that I faced and form an invincible state in the SW. The main problems I faced was that the farmland was quite poor and I really didn't have any holdings outside of this area. Nevertheless, I was already buying buildings on the first turn, and even before the 1st year was out it was no longer necessary for me to do any attacking. However, I realized I could not win without some sort of holding elsewhere, so I built up an isolated NE territory that was squeezed between Katie and Wood. I threw a palace there just before the 1st winter, and scored a massive lead over everyone else after the 1st year.
The second year saw me as a marked man, of course (I encouraged it as well). Joe, pretty much out of the game, threw all his energy into smashing my border armies and devastating any territory he get access to. Will had his hands full consolidating his NW holdings, so by the time his ferocious assault on me began, it was too late in the game. Katie and Wood (gf and bf, of course) trashed each other in the NE.
The strategy I used was to use buildings to steer these juggernauts away from my real worry, which was getting grain. I evacuated my isolated NE territory with the palace and moved the army adjacent rich farmland. I evacuated a SW area with a palace as well, which steered Joe away from the critical farmland I weakly held. Will's powerful counterstrike pierced deep into my territory, but didn't get to my building territories. I did not oppose it directly, but built up next to it, then counter-attacked and seized building territories he had weakened by his attack.
What really won me the game, though my palace in the NE. I had plopped it in a relatively quiet border zone between Katie and Wood. When I abandoned it, it sparked a ferocious war between Katie and Wood. When Katie seized it, Wood launched a massive offensive to seize the incredibly rich buildings Katie had built in her safe zone. It was a true bloodbath, and both of them totally ignored my army sitting in worthless territory. Just before the 2nd winter, I seized a building-rich territory from Wood's exhausted forces, which won 5 points with a mere 3 man attack.
The winter was ferocious: a grain loss of SIX. Nevertheless, most folks did well... except me. I lost my single most valuable territory (3 buildings) despite a garrison of FIVE men. This provided a little suspense, but I still won with 46 points, Katie with 43, Will and Wood duking it out with 37 and 32, and hapless Joe with 15.
Will, Wood, and Katie all did a wonderful job creating a powerful state, placing buildings, then protecting them. The decisive factor, however, was that I had that single NE territory far removed from my empire. Everyone else abandoned their isolated territories, so their building activity ended up being redundant and didn't affect their score. I kept mine non-threatening and under the radar, using last minute surprise moves to secure huge points for stuff outside of my "empire".