RE: Minor Kingdoms
When I run into a minor kingdom I want a chance to be surprised at what I find.
Thus, I agree with an earlier poster that minor kingdoms should be able to build units, buildings and expand by conquest (not by using pioneer units). I also suggest;
- Give each minor kingdom a personality - Peaceful (would not expand through conquest), Defensive (follows the swiss policy of neutrality through strength) and Imperialistic (seeks to expand through conquest).
- Give each minor kingdom a leader - sometimes (25%) one of above average skill - a reknown warror, a skilled mage. To make the tactical battles interesting.
- Give each minor kingdom a population - it may be human, but it may be populated by one of the other races or darklings.
- Give each a random research strategy.
I would differentiate the schools of magic more in a way that forces the player to make choices and really make magic a viable route to victory.
If you are moving the magic books to the tech tree then each element its own tech tree and more unique spells.
Fire Magic > Fire Magic Studies (building: Guild of Fire Mages) > Fire Magic Focus (building: Tower of Fire Mages) > Fire Mastery
Allow the player to research Fire Magic Studies - this would allow the player to build a Guild of Fire Mages which would give the player a 25% bonus when researching fire magic spells and the subsequent Fire Magic Focus -which allows one to construct a University of Fire that gives another 25% bonus to researching fire magic spells.
Fire Magic Focus > Fire Crafting (allows player to craft magical items embuded with fire magic - ring of protection vs fire)
Add more strategic and tactical spells that are different from each other - not the typical x points of damage based on intelligence.
1. Strategic: Fire Storm (as suggested by another poster) that burns down buildings in a targeted city tile. You don't have to enter a city to battle its defenders, just rain fire down on it to force them to come out to fight you.
2. Tactical: Forest Fire that burns down trees on the tactical map opening more of the map to movement.
3. Tactical: Heat Armor: Heats Metal Armor worn by selected unit. Useless against units wearing non-metal armor.
4. Tactical: Smoke: Reduces attack range of units to 1 tile thus rendering archer units and long distance magic attacks useless.
5. Tactical: Counter Water Casting - Disrupts Water Element spell cast during ememy's turn. If a water spell is not cast, its a wasted casting.
6. Tactical: Consume Hedgworks - Defensive Hedgeworks on battlefield are consumed by fire (unless protected by magic).