I just spent the better part of the evening reading the past 302 posts... This is probably the most constructive forum thread I've ever seen, though! It's stayed on topic for over 300 posts and has really evolved. By the time I actually post this there'll probably be a dozen new posts...
Anyways, I'd have to say that Camp #1 is my favorite, followed by Camp #3; and I don't like Camps #2 or #4.
There are really only a few things about Camp #3 that I don't like, actually:
• Universal auto-upgrade of equipment on tech research - this removes the decision to choose how well to equip your troops
• Distribution of goods is too limited based on what the computer thinks is expedient
On automatic upgrading - it's totally unintuitive and mildly broken as others have pointed out. One of the great things about Camps 1 and 3 is how intuitive they are, this is definitely a step backwards. I do understand the equipment upgrading is often a source of tedium and annoying micromanagement (like in Total War), but I think there are better solutions. The way I like is, in order to upgrade troops' equipment you can either trade their old equipment for new (assuming it's available wherever they're stationed - maybe it could even be shipped out to them via caravan), or recycle their current equipment. To do this they would have to be in a town capable of producing the new gear, their current equipment would be used plus some extra resources and other relevant costs. In order to prevent the "must somehow bring everyone home to upgrade every 10 turns" syndrome, it could be made significantly cheaper to upgrade in few large steps than in many incremental ones (eg. upgrading from Spear 1 to Spear 3 would be cheaper than from Spear 1 to 2 to 3).
Another related issue to this is customizability. in ALL 4X-ish games, the economy model is the foundation of everything. A sophisticated game economy makes possible much more variety in other aspects of the game. I don't want to be forced to equip my Dire Bear Riders and my lowly conscript spearmen with the same spear: I want my Dire Bear Riders to have the best spear I can produce, and I want to equip my conscript spearmen with cheap spears so I can churn them out en masse. Camp 3, it seems, would make that impossible - I would be forced to equip my 'cheap' conscripted spearmen with the same highly upgraded spears that I researched in order to make my powerful Dire Bear Riders. To make it easy for the player to see what quality of equipment a unit has, they can use a symbol system like Total War's (though it'd need to be expanded to represent all their equipment).
On distribution of goods - I want to be able to ship goods to places in anticipation of future needs. Maybe I have a blacksmith under construction and want a store of iron ready for when it is completed. Or maybe I have tons of iron in a city that's about to be overrun and I want to ship it off to another city so I don't lose it. Likewise, if I have a city with a blacksmith on my North, East, South and West borders and currently only my North and West borders are in danger, I want to be able to have, say, 70% of my iron going to the Northern city and 30% going to the Western one.
Camp #3 seems to me to be how Camp #1 should function in regular times. But I want the ability to wrest control out of the hands of the computer in peculiar or urgent situations. So yeah, I vote for Camp #1, but for it to be set up by default as Camp #3 (minus the whole auto-upgrade disaster).
Some other things I have on my mind:
Don't abstract away caravans! I think they would provide a wealth of richness and depth to strategy and ambience. They'll make the world feel alive and dynamic and provide all sorts of fun options including actual guerrilla warfare, functional blockades and all those nice things that you know you've always dreamed about! They also add strategy in other ways; to be most efficient you need to consider they layout of your nation and which cities to focus on doing what, and having defensible borders becomes more meaningful.
If for some reason you must abstract away caravans, please don't make diminishing returns based on distance traveled! Sending out 100 swords, and having only 70 arrive for no apparent reason would just be frustrating. It'd be like corruption in Civ 3 - I hated corruption. If caravans have a physical presence, then there is a preventable risk of losing their contents. There is no way to prevent loss of goods in an abstracted caravan system with diminishing returns / distance.
Another thing is I would like the ability to place my caravan routes. The computer should choose routes automatically, but I would like to modify them if I see fit For example if I'm engaged in a border dispute with a neighbor to my east, I don't want my caravans to run North-South along the road running along that border. I would much rather route them westwards and then north. This feature would become much more important if external trade is carried out via caravans (but there was a VERY long discussion between me and NTJedi on that a few months back, so I won't elaborate on that here...).
And the very last thing I'd like to mention is that the saying "If something needs to be automated, then you did it wrong" is wrong. It's just not true. Automation is very useful when there are features that you usually don't need but occasionally are extraordinarily helpful - and sometimes even for things we use all the time. An example is the simple "Go To" order. There was a time when you had to move units one square at a time, and remember exactly where you were headed turn after turn. Anyone who isn't grateful for not having to do that is either masochistic or in denial. More generally, waypoints are wonderful things. So are Rally Points.