Just started up a new game in 1.09q.
This problem is not specific to 1.09q but its been bothering me for quite awhile. Basically, heal is overpowered. In my new game I wasn't even trying to go for a steamroll strategy early, but I ended up being able to wipe out the two nearest rivals within the first 100 turns.
Basic strategy, beeline to heal and arcane weaponry grab some spears for you 3-4 champions and your sov. If you have these combos and your rivals don't your army is essentially unstoppable early game.
Heal- Heals 10 damage per turn, I'm playing tarth and my sov has 5 action points per turn, thus I can cast it three times. Imbue another champion and that bring the total up to 5 times per turn. Thus I can heal up to 50 damage per turn, only limited by my total mana stores which are right now near 200 (Sov has attunement) thus I can cast heal up to 25 times before my mana runs out.
My stacks total hit points are in the 100 range, thus this one spell bumps my stacks hit points on any given turn to 150 and over the course of a battle to over 350. For a roughly 350% increase. If I have this spell early game and my enemy doesn't, or doesn't have a caster in his stack there is no possible way that he can realistically beat me. I was able to take over Capitar and Resoln both using just this spell.
Arcane Weaponry- Adds five to attack for basically a cost of 1 mana. In early games attacks are around 5-15 range. Thus you can at most double and at least multiply attacks by 1.33 for the cost of 1 mana. Combine this with heal mentioned above and if you've been able to nab these two prior to a rival then your stack is essentially unstoppable early game. I have yet to loose a battle for an enemy capital while employing this strategy.
If I'm able to capture two enemy capitals simply because I happened to stumble upon a champion that produced 1 Arcane research in turn number 5 something is out of wack. Doesn't really mater that I may have expended some mana to do it. Now that I have 3 resource rich cities, each with 1-2 shards that mana loss will be made up very quickly, and I'll be unstoppable for the rest of the game.
1) Move heal to be a strategic spell rather than tactical. Allows you to heal your forces after a battle back to full strength in exchange for mana, but doesn't essentially grant you unlimited hit points during any battle in the early game.
2)Scale heal according to intelligence and spell level, say (Int - 10) * .5, thus at early levels with Int near 15 you're getting 2.5 points of healing. Not great buts its enough to perhaps save one champion from death, a worthwhile use of mana. At later levels it starts to power up again, but hit points and damage also scale making the increases less of an issue. I think this should be implemented regardless of other solutions adopted, all spells should scale with int. Int scaling ensures that early spells can remain relevant in late game, but also ensures that they're properly scaled in the early game and not overpowered.
3) Preferred solution. Limit the number of spells you can cast per strategic turn. Their are multiple ways to accomplish this but I'll throw out my idea. I love the global mana reserve, I think its a great change to game and adds a lot of strategic thinking about when and where to employ spells and enchantments. However, it has the drawback mentioned above. With a mana store high enough I am able to cast some spells an a practically unlimited amount of time in combat. This needs to be cut back, preferably in some way that scales as the game progresses and champions level up. Well we've already mentioned something that has precisely this property: intelligence. Keep the the global mana store but link the amount that each channeler can use per strategic turn to their intelligence. AoW used a similar system but linked it to another skill called 'Channeling' that you could improve upon level up. If a hero wishes to cast a more powerful spell let them cast it over multiple turns. If you want to cast an extremely powerful spell let your champions combine their channeling abilities in some way in order to cast it quicker.
Suggestions- Arcane weaponry
1)Increase mana cost and upkeep. Make it costly enough that although I may want to cast it on one character in my stack, putting it on every soldier would be impractical. Cost in the range of 20 mana with 2 upkeep per turn would be sufficient. For this cost range I'd be more likely to just put it on one soldier to get me through a couple tough battles, Casting on an entire stack would be impractical. Additionally this brings up another point: there should NEVER be a spell that has a casting cost that is the same as its upkeep cost. If casting cost = upkeep there is no thinking needed about whether or not you your maintain the spell. The answer is always dispell once the period of usefulness has passed! About to go into battle? Cast arcane weapon on everyone. Battle finished? Dispel all arcane weapons, if you need them again just cast it again next turn. If the casting cost is much higher than than upkeep this becomes a real decision. I just won the battle and I have three soldiers with arcane weapons. My mana production is hurting because of the upkeep, but there is an enemy army 5 turns away from that stack. Do I dispell to start building up mana again to cast my direct damage spells? If I dispell and that stack moves for my army I'll have to spend much more than the upkeep I would have had to pay to re-enchant those weapons. With casting costs higher than upkeep costs this becomes a real choice. Right now there's only one right answer.
2) Scale spells with intelligence and spell level. Same as above for heal. Make arcane weapons something along the lines of
= (int-10) * (.5 + .25 * (current spell level/2-1))
thus at spell level 1 with between 10-15 int you get a bonus of from around 1 to 2.5. Still makes you a little more powerful but not +50% attack
at spell level four you get
= (int-10) * .75 with 15 - 20 int this works out to between 4-7 increase, thus it still scales with available weapons.
at spell level six you get
= (int - 10) x 1 with 20-25 int you get from 10-15 increase, still scaling with available weapons.
It would be helpful if something along these lines were incorporated for all spells. Thus you can ensure that the average percentage bonus they give to attack, heal, etc is balanced with the HP, attack, defense that you would find for the average unit at a given point in the game.
Same with direct damage spells.
Making all spells scale with int and spell level ensures the following (number are just examples). In general as the game progresses heal cast by an average caster (assume most points spent in int) with heal approximately 10% of the average units hits points for 10 mana. However a later spell like 'Greater heal' will heal approximately 20% of a units hit points for 20 mana. Arcane arrow will be approximately as powerful as a 1.5 x a bow at any given tech level of the game. However a later spell, say a level three fire spell 'Fire Blast', will be approximately 2 x the strength of a bow at any given tech level of the game.
This gives some guidance as to balance for various spell levels. I.e. in general any level 1 buff spell should give 10% buffs at any give tech level, a level 2 buff should give 15%, etc. A level one direct damage spell should be in the range of 1.5 x tech level weaponry at all times throughout the game for 10 mana, a level 3 dd spell should be 2 x for 20 mana, etc. Ensures that there is some scaling of all spells and that all your spells remains somewhat useful. You can spend higher mana for a big punch or lower mana for a small punch, but the small punch is still a valuable piece of your arsenal.
Back to the arcane weapon example. Say there are three spells in the game that are variants of arcane weaponry. Arcane weapon, Greater Arcane Weapons, and Blade of the Titans. One is level 1, one is level 3, and one is level 6. Arcane weapons scales to give on average 10% bonus to your troops at any given level. Greater Arcane weapon will give on average a 20% boost, and Blade of the Titans will give the average weapon at the current tech level a 30% boost. Mana costs are 10, 20, and 30, upkeeps are 2, 4, and 6. Thus in an army there might be reason to use all three. Give sword of the Titans to one powerful champion, give Greater Arcane weapon to a couple others, buff everyone else with just regular Arcane weapon. Attack.