Before I start what will be a long post, I want to talk about the R word: Realism. Whenever I use this word people shout me down and say "fun is more important than realism," and they're right. Units that run out of breath half way through the battle may be more realistic, but they are not more fun.
But when my swordsmen stab your guy in the back i expect him to die because i stabbed him in the back, not do even better because he is wearing chainmail. This is intuitive. Inuitive is a better thing to aim for then realistic. But in this case we would make the system intuitive BECAUSE it would be realistic. If a intuitive approach is one that a player reads about, sees in films and imagines happening in real life, then by making our game model more like films and real life, won't we make intuitive approaches more viable? The most popular, mainstream and intuitive military strategy games at the moment are the brilliant Total War series, which model military combat more realistically then almost any other type of game.
Like I said before, I think the ONE BIG ATTACK VALUE is a bad way to go. But a game where every other attack misses isn't very fun either. It would be better to simply half the number of attacks and at least make the game more satisfying. So we need to add depth without lots of misses. And I think I know the way to do it.
At the moment a spearman has 8 attack. There are also three of them, so the game displays this at 24 Attack. But this is not the same as a Sov with 24 attack.
When a unit of 3 spearmen attacks a unit with 5 defence what the game actually does is 8-5, and then multiplies the result by three, ie: 9 damage. Whereas a sov with 24 attack just subtracts 5 from 24 and does 19 damage (there are also random elements, but that's broadly how it works). What this means is that our Sovs (and our monsters as well) work in an almost entirely different combat system to our units. That's why we've never been able to get a good balance between characters and units.
The "multiple roll" system is a good one. It moderates randomisation. It's how Warhammer, or total war or any other game works. It's intuitive and realistic. 3 Spearmen = 3 attacks = 3 dice. 5 arrows = 5 dice. What I'd do would be to make characters and monsters behave more like units. I'd give a standard spearman an attack value of about 10, and an elite infantryman an attack value of say 20. A sov by contrast might have an attack value of 15, increasing to maybe 40 by the end game (I'd also rename the attack stat as "damage" to make the system clearer, because that's what it really is). After all, a sov with a sword is not 5x as strong as an ordinary schmuck.
"But Seth-dude," you scream. "How will a sov with a measly 15 attack ever compete with 5 guys with 10 attack?" And the answer is simple. Give the characters more attacks too. That's what warhammer or total war do. You'd start with two and then gain more with traits up to a max of maybe 5 or so. Sovs, monsters and units would then be covered by broadly the same combat system and it would be easier to balance. Skilled swordsmen, mighty monsters and powerful catapults would have high "damage" stats but low numbers of attacks. Units ouwld have large numbers of attacks. Because defence is subtracted from each attack roll individually, you'd then have a situation where units did more damage against lightly or unarmoured foes and other units, but might struggle (or be unable) to pierce the hide of a dragon. Whereas a hero with high damage values and low attacks would be much slower at mowing down darkligns than an army, but do much more damage with each stroke of the blade. You'd struggle to increase the damage values of you basic soldiers, but when you did give them +1 attack, it would make a lot of difference, because that would be multiplies by 10 for all the guys in the unit.
So that, to me, is the most obvious way to balance the game. Give the Sovs and monsters multiples attack rolls like the units, brig every unit type into the same combat system, and then there is never any need for anyone to have a damage value greater than 40 or so. As for the strategy, spearmen and cavalry stuff, i'll talk about that tomorrow when I'm exhausted from writing this.