Welcome to the Epics, and glad you enjoyed the game. 1784 AD is a bit late for a domination win as compared to other games, but if you had fun, it's not about the scoreboard.
The saltpeter distribution was my doing as I customized the map. I intended to make it harder for the player to get cavalry, to slow down that all-powerful option at least a bit. Most players who wanted to seemed able to conquer the one on the home continent or buy some from the other continent soon enough, though. Early war can be restricted by iron placement (I placed that one iron, a little ways away from the player's start but still reachable for an alert player.) But by the gunpowder era, the world is developed enough that saltpeter is just about always available.
Communism is great for a large empire, as always. If available, Republic is still faster to research up to space; but with that off the table, Communism was the best government for any player that expanded out beyond their home end of that continent.
The handicap of not mining had its biggest effect in building ancient and middle ages wonders. Only a couple locations - the capital and the east end of the big lake - could make up to around 20 shields in medieval times. But even so, down here on Emperor difficulty, you could get most of them if you put your mind to it. In the late game, of course the specialists would give you all the shields you needed to build whatever you wanted.