-------[ My thumbs up - scroll down if you're only curious about the suggestion]-------
Before I get on topic, let me briefly express my appreciation of this awesome game you've made. I'm the kind of gamer who tends to grow bored of today's games before the demo is over. Having been around the scene for 15 years, it feels like most games today are made to last you only a few days at best to make you go out and buy the next title without too much delay (for the same price, of course).
Not so with Hegemony, which is why I bought it. I could tell there was a lot of love and attention put into the making here. There's a polished sense of harmony in the way the game looks, plays and feels, much more so than in many high-budget titles.
Your communication also puts big companies to shame! I've seen more dev posts here in the past few days than many big title forums get in months (and even then it tends to be just a community rep who hardly has any bearing on the development itself). All in all, the quality and the attitude you present here deserves great success, I'm rooting for you guys, don't lose this spirit!
-------[Suggestion - Consequences of wasting your soldiers' lives]-------
Summed up in short:
- The food cost of recruitment could be made more explicit (to point out there actually is such a cost to it too)
- Increasing the initial food cost of recruitment would make units less expendable, and thus battles more meaningful (factions couldn't afford losing units so easily, as heavy, repeated losses would be harder to recover from, eventually putting the loser at risk of running out of food)
- Deny recruitment if the city doesn't have enough food to cover this cost (so factions can't field armies without regard to food reserves)
- Imposing a food cost on retraining lost units would be nice to consider (as a consequence of being a bad general, if you lose too many units, your food reserves will suffer and eventually, you may not get to recruit more until your economy/food reserves recover)
Explained in detail:
So on to my suggestion. I know this could be a matter of mindset, but when I play strategy games, I like it when the outcome of my battles has real consequences, giving me a sense of progression. Progression as in knowing that every army I defeat drains on the resources of my foes, bringing me that bit closer to victory, or at least sets my foes that much back in their progress - but either way, the outcome had a consequence, and the battle did matter because the losing side weakened as a result.
I know the infinite, non-accumulating nature of the gold and population supply in Hegemony doesn't lend itself well to that, as this concept works best with finite resources, or at least in a system where resources accumulate and as such, can become (even if just temporarily) depleted too.
So without upsetting the current game mechanics, I think this could be best handled by the food supply system as that's the only resource in the game which accumulates and also has serious consequences if you run out of it.
I noticed the game already imposes an implicit "food cost" on recruitment, so my idea is not really new - I'd just like that food cost to be more explicit and also the initial cost be somewhat higher so factions can't churn out infinite numbers of new units indefinitely, with little to no downtime. Because this makes even a major battle along my borders feel like a vain treadmilling, unless I invade them back right away before their clone tanks hatch with the next wave of expendable stormtroopers.
I said it should be more explicit because this food cost is not really obvious. For those who don't know what cost I'm talking about - when you create a new unit, the maximum amount of food it can carry is deducted from the city's food reserves as soon as the unit steps out of the city. But this isn't listed on the recruitment tooltip, so as one suggestion, I think it should be there next to the population and gold cost. Perhaps you could add a reference to it in the manual too.
Also, as part of making this cost more explicit, I think it'd be nice if the amount of food got deducted immediately upon beginning the recruitment, while denying the recruitment if you don't have enough food in the city - it wouldn't make sense to be able to recruit armies from cities which can hardly support themselves.
Of course I can see why this food cost is never mentioned anywhere - because it's so small it's really of no consequence, a peltast company "costs" 44 food, a hoplite brigade 80, even a phalangite squad (of which one is usually enough) is only 180, not to mention they can march away or fight with just a fraction of that if the full cost doesn't need to be paid first. So a city will always have enough food to recruit new units unless it's starved to death with zero food and no supply, but that's quite unnatural as the enemy is likely going through a lot of trouble cutting off supplies to keep it that way. And that should work too, but I'd like to see an additional way of starving someone out by simply killing many of their armies.
I think you shouldn't be able to throw away heaps upon heaps of soldiers, suffering defeat after defeat and still keep 'em coming, with your bad strategic choices costing so many lives, but having virtually no consequence on your military potential.
I loved how in the manual you point out certain game mechanics being in line with the historic ways, I thought striving for that was a really nice touch. And while I'm no historian, I doubt Philip or Alexander have made it as far as they did by throwing their armies to the slaughter, pulling out a new one every few weeks, hoping to wear down their enemies with sheer infinite manpower tipped with a slight advantage in the quality of their best. As far as I know, Alexander for instance, toured through Asia Minor with pretty much the same 40,000-50,000 guys. And when he did battle it out with the Persians, like at Guagamela, the consequences for the defeated Persians were pretty dire - they lost half of their empire. I mean, that's a pretty serious setback from one battle.
Now I don't ask for such landslide-scale battle consequences, but by increasing the initial food cost of recruitment, and potentially adding a food cost to refilling casualties, things could feel a lot more real, there would be a greater importance to good strategy. Tiny greek factions couldn't field endless armies of hoplites against you every other week (as that's not really realistic), or if they do, they'd run out of food, forcing them to stop their raids to recuperate and rebuild their supplies, which also opens up an opportunity to invade them if you keep them scouted to see how their food reserves are - reconnaissance would gain a new, meaningful purpose. Plus there'd be a real incentive to catch routing enemies, as building a whole new squad will cost them (and more than just refilling a damaged brigade).
Also, if food is the limiting factor, there's no need to artificially tone down AI aggressiveness, you'd only have to adjust the AI to take into account the new costs and use its military potential accordingly. I don't know how difficult it'd be to make the AI aware of such a new limits, but I realize this probably wouldn't be an overnight sort of change, so I'm not expecting anything, I just wanted to share these ideas as food for thought, see how you and others like it, or if anyone has a better solution to the same issue.
Oh and where I'm occasionally poking fun at things, don't take it negatively, was merely aiming for an entertaining read. ;)