If you ask me, we're ramshackle contraptions designed to hunt, gather, and perish early from preventable disease, and this society stuff all started going downhill the second we got into agriculture. When we were young, hale, and nomadic, roaming the steppes and plains? Those were our glory days. At least we can relive them via a recent video from a streamer called boesthius, who undertook the Civilisation 6 "no settle: domination challenge (opens in new tab)" to win a match of Civ without founding any cities of his own.
For me, that's already impossible, but boesthius decided to make life harder for himself by adding a few rules on top. Besides never settling cities, he also couldn't seize any more than three cities from each of his AI opponents, and he couldn't churn out any units beyond civilian units (like builders and traders) and siege units (like battering rams and siege towers), meaning he'd have to press gang enemy units into his service. He also played on zombie mode, because hey, why not?
And with that, he was off to the races on a small Pangea map, playing as Unifier Qin Shi Huang. It would've been more thematically appropriate to play Genghis Khan, though, since boesthius soon manoeuvred himself into position as head of a roving horde of archers, swordsmen, and the hungry, hungry undead. Boesthius used Huang's Thirty Six Stratagems ability to quickly amass an army of converted barbarians, and set his zombies to generating exponentially more of themselves by chomping on his enemies.
The whole video is worth watching. Boesthius made the challenge look easy, but it really wasn't, it required speed, knowledge of the game, and more than a little luck. It was so formidable, in fact, that the official Civ 6 YouTube account even commented "ok I'm not gonna lie this was extremely impressive" under the video, while the rest of the comments are split evenly between amazement at boesthius' feat and horror at his apparent masochism. In the video's intro, we see clips of a few of his previous attempts at an even tougher version of this challenge, all of which ended in ignominious defeat rather than glorious triumph.
So there you have it, apparently it's totally possible to win a game of civ without all that pesky 'city building' nonsense. All you need is one Chinese emperor, some amenable barbarians, a horde of undead, and a dream.