Identical starting cards, and all starting in one place? Better get to your turn based choices then!
During the game:
Getting the colonist: Simple and straightforward; when you pick up your cards if you can’t play a colonist you have really missed a chance! Getting that tool and wheat to play that colonist opens up your warehouse and gets you expanding further across the board. If it’s not this card, you have to buy another card type and play it!
Look for short supply: At the start, the seeding of provinces is semi random, and as such you should take a quick look – what’s gone in Britain or Syria, or in other words, what is the furthest away and in short supply. Other players will build their quickly and may well Prefect it more than other regions! Being there, and being there first, will pay.
Let others Prefect for you: It’s another simple one, but if others are playing Prefect for the regions you are in then you are getting things outside of your turn. They are a bit more varied, so make sure you have one major area to build / trade from, but this is always going to help you to expand quicker and score more points.
Spreading out!: Building lots of cities is great, but it’s almost always better to spread them more. If you are only producing in two regions it’s going to take time to keep re-activating those regions due to the way the Prefect rules work. Spreading across 4+ regions is going to give you more time to allow others to re-activate all regions.
Efficient trading: You can only trade to TYPES; if you buy one and sell one, that means you need to really have a decent number of the sold good to make it worth your while. If you are the main producer of a good, you can really use this to your advantage. Secondly, trade for a few turns ahead – trade to get the city and the colonist, or the city and the card, but not just one (leaving you needing to trade again later).
The better merchant: The basic merchant gives you 3 coins, but buying the card from the board offers you that chance to trade with 5 coins. It might not be your card you need though – watch out for the chance to use your Diplomat to copy the better Merchant rather than buying an expensive one from the board.
Watch out for the cards: The normal end game is the cards; watch out if you are about to put someone in the position to finish out the game and gain that 7 point bonus. Also, watch out if you are about to make a great card, a very cheap card!
Timing the end game: This is a point optimisation but it’s hard for other people to predict the optimal move, and their optimal move may not be the same as the best move to block you. However, towards the end of the game you have cast your scoring structure and you are entrenched on the board. You need to therefore be very careful in these last few turns to points maximise based on when the end is coming. Buying to run out of goods at the end (and not one turn short or long) is tricky. If you can do this well, it might swing 10 points in a c. 100 point game.