I'm not looking for a return to tile by tile engineers either. I want the tech points now (build roads to cities, build roads to outposts) to instead be three levels: path, road, and enchanted road. +1, +2, +4 to movement on them, available when the proper civ tech is researched.
When available, I can think of two ways to do the actual building.
1) let me select "build roads" as a button in the strategic UI, and let me plop down roads for 1g, 2g, or 4g and 1crystal per tile. Click click click, my roads in place, where I want it.
2) "Build road" as a choice in the build queue of all cities. You click it, you draw what you want on the map, and it enters the build queue of the anchoring city, with a gold and mat (and crystal) cost to the building city.
What I do NOT want is a computer to decide for me what's strategically important enough to have fast access to. If I want a road to a shard, it's my strategy and business, not the AIs. If I forgot to do that, and lose the shard, that should also be my option.
"Keep yer government AI hands off my strategic choice!"
I'm liking your line of thinking. May I fine-tune?:
To avoid micromanagement of the road system, I perfer a 'source'/'sink' approach:
Have three available levels of road: Path, Road, Highway
Be able to build a PATH through a city queue. When the build is complete, the UI asks you were your 'end' (or 'sink') destination to be. The start ('source') location must be the city where the PATH is being built. The end location must be another city or outpost that you control. The build produces a PATH along the most efficient route, granting +1 movement to units traveling along it.
You may select the PATH, as you would an outpost, and there will be an upgrade button on it. Upgrading puts the PATH back into the queue of the source city, which then upgrades the PATH into a ROAD once complete, granting +2 movement bonus while traveling along its trajectory. This upgrade could be made available with the 'construction' tech.
You may again select the ROAD and upgrade, this time turning into a HIGHWAY, granting +3 movement while traveling along its trajectory. This upgrade can be made available through tech in the military tree....perhaps something like 'mobilization' (if it's a little harder to get than 'construction')
In addition, there can be two more city enchantment spells available that focus on further upgrading all the roads connected to the source city where the enchantment is placed. Naturally this enchantment requires the essence to cast.
Ride like the Wind: Air Spell (perhaps lvl2), granting an additional +1 movement for travel along all roads SOURCED from the enchanted city.
The Golden Road: Earth Spell (perhaps lvl4), granting x2 movement for travel along all roads SOURCED from the enchanted city.
(Yes, this means that if you had a city with highways sourced that has 'ride like the wind' AND 'the golden road', units travelling along those roads would gain an additional +8 movment. It just takes a lot longer to get the this point!!!)
About the only thing this approach does not cover is connecting two outposts together with a road. However, outposts generally should be connected to a city anyways, and I don't think there will be many cases where such a road would be beneficial.
In addition, since 2 additional city enchantments are made available, I recommend re-jigging how much essence is naturally available in the world. This is a game of magic. Of the games I've played, it feels dismal that only 1 or 2 of my cities ever get essence. Now, I'm not saying that every city built should have access to essence naturally...but I do think every city should at least be able to gain access to a minimum of +1 essence somehow through artificial means. (and I'm not talking about making every city a conclave...that should be extra).
One approach I thought of in another thread was to extend the 'scrying pool' to all factions. HOWEVER, Procipinee gets special bonus to her 'scrying pools'. First, she gets them available to her for building right away (whereas all the other nations would have to research a tech first) and second her 'scrying pools' would output +1 essence at first, but when the tech is obtained, they would upgrade to +2.
This would allow for all factions to be able to eventually artifically create at least +1 essence in all their cities. If they go the route of conclave, they can get +2. If they are on a natural +2 essence tile, then they're up to +4 now. If they're playing Procipinee, and have the 'scrying pool tech', then they'll be at a glorious +6!! Trully a power haven for one of the most powerful magic users in all the world.
Now, is there much difference between +4 and +6 such that Procipinee has an advantage in this area? Possibly....not such at the moment...but I think it's definately worth considering. However, I think this would dynamically change the game for the better as a great deal more mana and magic will be made available for the sovereigns to utilize....and that's what, imo, this game is all about.