If anything has been used to exhaustion in strategy games it’s the way in which you recruit units. In games like Total War, Civ, and pretty much any other of their kind, building units involves setting a “build project” in a city followed by a period of time that must elapse. When the unit is complete, it then stands around indefinitely demanding maintenance whether a war is on or not. In essence, an army is always standing.
I think a lot of us would agree that this method has gotten a bit stale, so I’ve come up with a different way (and as a minor plus, more historical way) to create and maintain an army. Rather than having the bulk of your army standing at all times, you declare a “Call to Arms” when you need your citizens to go attack another nation, defend their own, or pursue some other such crusade.
Now before I begin, let me just say that there will still be a role for the previous method of designing and training soldiers, but these “professional” soldiers wouldn’t generally be the bulk of your army in an all out war. You will still train full time soldiers who will be your “professionals” and demand maintenance full time. They are the guys that go adventuring with your sovereign and such.
However, most of your soldiers in dire circumstances like war will come from a Call to Arms. When a war is declared, either by you against a foe, a foe against you, or a foe against your ally, a box would open with some details and an option to declare a call to arms. When a call is made, your citizens will grab what weapons are available and appear outside your city as units, at which point they can be sent to the front to join ranks with your professionals. A Call to Arms can be called at any time, but certain circumstances will increase the number of your citizens willing arm themselves and fight for you.
For instance, if you declare war against a sovereign who you have been at peace with for decades, have robust trade with, and who’s name is “Cromwell the Generous,” your modifier toward your Call to Arms will be severely negative, and a smaller army will be called to fight the war (you have declared an unjust war and your lesser nobles resist fighting it for you.) On the other hand, if you declare war, or are attacked, by your arch villain “Golgoth, Eater of Souls and Slayer of Peasants,” everyone from your highest nobles to lowest of plebeians will be willing to rush to your cause. You can declare a Call to Arms cold turkey without any war declaration, but you won’t get too much out of it. Your most successful calls would come the moment that a war has been declared.
If you’ve encouraged other civilizations to like you, it is literally more difficult for them to call up an army against you, rather they would have to primarily use their professionals at the sovereign’s personal command. This makes a genuine “peaceful” approach to playing the game much, much more plausible and meaningful. Rather than being insulated by a mere “score” that you’ve been cultivating to discourage enemies from attacking you, your diplomatic exploits would have an effect on a successful campaign against you.
This also brings up some interesting spell ideas to artificially increase your Call to Arms score if you want to go to war without a very compelling reason. For instance you might have a spell called “Just Cause” by which you gain a higher Call to Arms score when declaring war on an evil civilization. Another might be “Causes Bellum” which raises your score less than Just Cause, but it works on anyone.
When the war is over, your citizen soldiers go home and tend to their shops or fields once again. While they are at war, your economy and happiness take a hit depending on how many have gone to the front, and the penalty deepens as time goes on. If your army is utterly defeated while away, then that segment of your population is gone until it can re-grow.
I’ll be posting some greater detail as to how a Call to Arms system might work.