The idea of limiting the amount of turns allowed in tactical battles has come up in other threads. The point of this post is to explain how exactly it would work, and how it would greatly boost the strategic depth of Elemental and reduce blobbing as well. Basically after a set amount of actions in a tactical battle the combat would end and both armies would return to the strategic map. The attacking army would also lose any action points it has left. The whole emphasis on blobbing, producing as many units as possible and tactics leaves a lot of players thinking that strategy has been ignored in Elemental, the largest army doesn't always win. Even if this system doesn't make it into the main game allowing us to mod this in for all the armchair generals out their would be very cool.
Here are a bunch(but not all) of examples how this system would add strategic depth.
Scenario A: You engage your enemy in battle but because both your armies are so large combat ends after the time limit. You end your turn because your army is out of action points. Your enemy starts his turn. He looks at his army and thinks he has a good chance to win so attacks you. Combat begins again this time however one player loses. Thus combat is more epic because it lasts more then one strategic turn.
Scenario B: You have a large army and you attack another player. However your enemy knows he is outmatched so he holds back and only really engages with his heavy slow units, and thus takes only minimal casualties before the turn limit ends. Thus the combat ends and you return to the strategic map. Your army is still right beside his but are out of action points and can't attack. Since you have no other nearby armies you end your turn. Your enemy now attempts to retreat because he knows he is outmatched. Since he only lost his heavies his army is faster then yours and he races away. You could attempt to split army and chase the enemy with your own fast units but that obviously is very risky. Thus while every combat will lead to casualties the lose of a single fight won't mean game over for a player because he can manage to retreat some troops.
Scenario C: You attack a enemy city. The walls prevent you from getting most your units into the fight so the the time limit ends. This ends up happening several times as you slowly kill off the enemies units over multiple turns. However the delay allows them to send reinforcements to the city. You see them coming and retreat.
Scenario D: You send your army out to take a town. He has only a small army between you and his town. His main army is several turns away. He engages you with his army anyway. He however dances his units round in tactical combat and doesn't really fight and thus only takes minimal casualties. He manages to pull this off 3 times. The sacrifice of his army delays you for several turns and his main army manages to make it to the town.
Scenario E: You have an army composed mostly of slow armored units. A smaller army of fast mounted units attacks you. You rush across the field to engage them. However they run past your heavies and attack the vulnerable archers and channelers behind them. After taking some casualties they use their speed to avoid you til the time runs out. They end their turn. You engage the horsemen butstill only manage to kill a few of them because they are so fast. Your turn ends. The wounded surviving horsemen retreat.
As you can see simply adding a turn limit to tactical combat makes a huge difference even if nothing else is changed. The do or die, no retreat, all in system in Elemental right skews the game towards heavy units and blobbing. It also makes it almost impossible to recover from a single lose. Of course the AI would need to be improved a bit. Mostly it would have to know when to stall on the tactical level. The turn limit could be disabled for certain PvE battles if necessary.
You could also make it so both the attacking army and the defending army loose their next turn. This would make delaying easier and allow for the turn limit to be increased because armies would only really have to survive once. Another cool thing that would add strategic depth is flanking, ie if you attack an army from behind your units get a free movement at the start of combat.