A little bit of both actually.
Also I am saying these generalizations cause if you play a couple worlds every now and then the Elite alliance, and the Ocean Alliance occur, because people think less players = better alliance which for the most part is true but not to the point where you have only 20 players in your alliance on a 150 cap world. The ocean thing I have seen happen in front of my eyes, an alliance literally refused to and dictated that anyone with them couldn't take cities outside of 2 oceans, this ended up with them founding dozens of cities over taking cities and soon all their enemies around them were 2x or 3x the size of them.
ronikastoun, as you can see I lost that city because I was getting constant pokes and attacks at my other city and spies, I didn't want to see if you were testing me or not, so I just dodged. I could have saved troops dodging what could have possibly been 100 LS.