With regards to UK29 - none of the first 3 accounts to settle were Egyptians, it was a Hun, Teuton and Roman. It takes a lot of adaptation to make use of the extra resources and I think a lot of Egyptians underestimated this.
Not much to adapt in early game. Play it like you would have as a simming Gaul or Roman. Additional resource from hero just meant things got done faster.
I think the difference in settling was due to difference gold usage and travel time to settle. Playing solo, I was about 22 hours late than Blaze to send settlers and additional 23.5 hour travel time to cropper.
I used 350 gold in the first week on npc, inst-build and ah. I had raided about 10%-15% of the top raider.
Probably the biggest difference was most gold users went for Teut or Huns. Maybe if there is another server like this we will get better stats.
Of course playing with a team helps as you can push top players to get the important croppers.
I think they have a little too much of an early advantage which could be lowered a little by removing or cutting in half the extra hero resource bonus and allowing waterworks in only the capital.
The early game advantage from hero helps them keep up with tribes that can raid. Though waterworks should get some nerfs. Something like 100% for cap and 50% for other villages.