After seeing some harsh words flung about the forums earlier today about the balance and strategy involved with empire-building, I decided to take some time to lay out all of the main elements involved, and try to come up with a somewhat objective discussion topic on the subject.
Any discussion about the state of Cities and Outposts in FE must begin with Pioneers. The Pioneer is quite possibly the single most produced unit in the game.
What is the Pioneers job?
- To begin construction on a new settlement (city) or outpost. This includes a wide variety of skills from carpentry, masonry, and construction to design and planning, through implementation and coordination, to completion.
- To transport production materials and seed population or workers safely to its destination through harsh environments.
A job which requires a lot of skill sets and some serious initiative. Interestingly, Pioneers require fewer materials to train than even a common club wielding thug (32 vs 48, granted the weak trait gives -8) and receive the same salary (1 gildar per turn each.)
What do cities give to the faction?
- Gives population, which in turn gives research, production, gildar (through taxes)
- Adds a production queue, which allows the city to specialize based (somewhat) upon the city's foundational fertility and productivity and natural resource collection
- Adds to the faction's influence on the map, which allows among other things control over natural resources; influence grows over time
- Cities offer training opportunities and a defensive boni to stationed units, both of which increase the viability of the faction's military in regards to protecting and expanding it's natural resource holdings
In what ways are cities limited?
- Must be founded on fertile, productive land
- Must be founded at least 8 tiles from the nearest city
- Besides the first city, requires a pioneer to be founded
- Growth of each city limited by total number of cities controlled (faction prestige / total number of cities)
What do outposts give to the faction?
- Adds to the faction's influence on the map, which allows among other things control over natural resources; influence static
In what ways are outposts limited?
- Requires a pioneer to be built
The only real thing that appears unbalanced here is the relative cost of the pioneer unit. It seems to me that a job which requires that much knowledge and labor should require a lot more training and pay. I don't know what the exact number of materials ought to be for training, but intuition tells me somewhere in the 100 range might work well. As for the wages, some where in the 2.0 - 3.0 range would seem about right. The player should feel the burn early in the game, and from the mid-game on the temporary gildar hit would generally be no more than a nuisance, unless the player tried to simultaneously have multiple pioneers in play.
As a side effect of building population through many cities perhaps a small faction wide unrest per population per city penalty could be introduced. It seems like a larger population spread out over a wide area should be more difficult to control. Maybe this could introduce ways to limit population in a city, like a Family Planning Center improvement