PERSIA! Out of nowhere! Snipes Baghdad from the Arabs! I would say this is a War of Christmas with the color schemes, and Persia’s Red-and-Gold really is the best in the game, but I think we all know what this is—who is the best Caliphate!
Ayyubid: “Why are we the best? Because we have the most Y’s, of course! Yyyyyy! We have Suez Canal city and Mt. Sinai for awesome faith!”
Abbasid: “We are best! We have all city names that people actually recognize!”
…until, of course, the Persian Immortals show up. This is pretty historically accurate, though, given the Abbasid’s swept the Caliphate away from the Umayyad with a power base in Persia. This kind of power play is just what Darius and crew need to come back into contention. Four-city/tradition/turtle until artillery works fine in single player, but somebody like Yakutsk, Vietnam, Australia, or the Inuit is going to snowball before then.
Israel’s army still is not good, but it is not abjectly awful anymore, and key outposts like Gaza and Jericho seem safe for the moment.