So I gave the new alpha version a really brief try tonight, despite being so short on time right now, I was just too anxious to see it...
Started playing a sandbox mode game with the Arcadian League and to crash test the new features, I decided to attempt a bold incursion into Sparta.
I was totally over-confident from my original Hegemony experience with them, approaching the matter with the traditional Macedonian carelessness of "I'll just wrestle them down with endless waves of cheap, expendable hoplites and peltasts until they surrender to my superior Borg tactics".
Needless to say, it was a total disaster... and how wonderful a disaster that was! After my initial attack failed, my recruitment pools were still nearly empty. This is madness! - I thought. This is Sparta! - they said. So I was forced to conclude that, for the time being, I have exhausted my resources. Once I realized this, I immediately felt a million times more excited about every battle I fought afterwards, knowing I have to play it clever now and actually pay attention to my losses - winning the field now makes a difference! When my other neighbours attacked me, it also didn't feel like a vain treadmilling anymore, beating them back was fun as it made them suffer!
I also love the way my victories increase the intimidation factor on the diplomatic screen, making diplomatic actions much cheaper. These changes are beyond fantastic, I can't just kick the strongest Greek faction off the Peloponnessos with my eyes closed now, I finally need to be careful and tactical and I love that! It feels like a real war now, as far as manpower managament goes!
Although I didn't make any conquests yet, I tried the road upgrading system and it seemed extremely useful, knowing what a pain it was to get some of my cities supplied while others were sitting on huge stockpiles of food back in the day. Great job!
Tried setting up camps to gather food too, but that didn't seem to work so I guess that's not activated yet. Looking forward to it though!
As for bugs, I know this is just an alpha so I expect there to be plenty, but I haven't come across anything gamebreaking so far.
For instance there's a minor one with the stockpiling of food, it doesn't let you increase the limit, as it automatically reverts back to the default whenever you change it. But this is a pretty obvious one so it may well be just a temporary restriction you put in, I wouldn't know. ;)
I also agree with GaGrin's post, especially with improving the accessibility of some crucial info and the concern on the home ground bonus. Glad to hear you're addressing both!
I do have a question though: You mentioned toning down the effectiveness of sieging without catapults. How will that work out for the scenarios or the sandbox mode where we're playing factions which don't have access to catapults? On one hand, if the city's defenders have been defeated outside the city, with the new recruitment system they can't recrew the garrison so fast which should make sieges easier, but won't we still suffer heavy losses ourselves without catapults?
Anyhow, I'll keep testing and post my results, but I'm mighty impressed with all the major changes so far, outstanding job taking an already awesome game to new heights of greatness!