Finally finished it after years of intermittent playing and I thought I'd throw out some random remarks/suggestions relevant to Gold but maybe also Rome.
1. First of all, great game guys. An ancient warfare supreme commander-like game but on an even larger scale, it really felt rewarding both on the strategic and tactical level. Good simulation of challenges involved with waging war on such a scale as well. Looking forward to Rome.
2. Ended the game with a 23006/29918 gold ratio (3900 from truces). Took (or made truce with) all of the map except for some Persian cities in the south-eastern corner. Gold felt largely inconsequential except maybe at the beginning of the game. Food, manpower, distance and supply lines were the true limiters when it comes to the size, composition and deployment of my army. Many, many mines went unused.
3. Difficulty/recruiting/food production were all on normal settings.
4. Finished all of the objective except for the "Persian Fleet" sub-objective because the Persians never build a single trireme in the entire game. Was glad to be spared the additional naval raids.
5. Most annoying faction: Athens. You know why. ;)
6. AI never used generals. A shame.
7. Sometimes naval riders would approach the shore to land troops but would instead just turn around and go back home. This would repeat at regular raiding intervals, always on the same spots.
8. Most difficult opponent. Danube/Balkan Tribes and Persia, basically any faction that uses swarms of strong cavalry.
9. Forts felt kinda useless. Only used a single fort for defensive purposes in the entire game. AI almost never garrisoned them as well. The troop/food/gold/supply-node expenditure just never seemed worth it for what you get. Maybe if they had an AoE effect that causes attrition damage (morale loss?) and works even when the fort is empty (they are manned "off screen" just like watch towers) would have made them more useful. Controlling all forts in a given region might give a small morale boost to all friendly troops in the same region or within the fort's AoE radius. This could make them worthwhile strategic assets and also worthy targets (since they can be mostly ignored).
10. Favourite unit: Old Siege Equipment. :P Just kidding, Phalangites + Cretan Archers ftw.
11. Would have loved a toggle that enables a unit to automatically capture or execute slaves in an area (unless there are enemies in the vicinity or the unit is engaged).
12. Units of factions I have a truce with would come into my territory to capture neutral sheep and would sometimes destroy watchtowers along the way.
13. Some automation options would've been nice.
a) Routed units automatically moving to a predetermined staging point (after they reform) and merging with the same general they had before.
b) Sheep spawned in controlled territory automatically coming under the player's (and AI factions') control. They are useful but annoying to manage and constantly capture and move. Maybe even have a "sheep pen/pasture" that can be captured and have a waypoint set so that the sheep automatically move to that spot upon spawning.
c) Basic AI reactivity. An optional "defensive mode" that would make your troops react to nearby enemies. Would avoid using cavalry squads to archers/peltasts due to inattention.
14. I know it's a problem with such a large map but I'd kill for pathfinding that would allow movement commands to be issue across the entire map or at least some easier way to set up waypoints (holding the shift key?). Moving routed phalangites and generals from around Pella to Persia was a big downer.
15. Favourite unit skill: Logistics. Makes life so much easier.
16. Shrines also felt useless-ish though not to the same extent as the forts. There were several spots on the map (mostly far east) where logistical and healing shrines were useful as staging points, winters resorts and as means of reinforcing troops during winter when there's no land supply route but overall I'd say they were 90% fluff and only 10% practical use. I did love the fluff part and the other historical tidbits though.
They might have been more useful if they provided their bonus to the entire region and, again, controlling all shrines in a region might provide a small empire-wide bonus. This might justify the expenditure of maintaining them (plentiful gold notwithstanding). Or if the bonuses were more relevant like higher population regeneration or lower unrest to a nearby city (things that are useful even when you move beyond that region)
17. Persian spearmen suffer from a "balance" issue imo. They take up 40 pop just like hoplites but are much weaker and thus there's no use getting them over the hoplites. As mentioned earlier, the gold difference is inconsequential (at least in the Philip campaign). Regular spearmen have size 30 but take up 20 pop so maybe Persian Spearmen should take up 30 pop instead of 40? As it is I don't feel they have a place. Not a big deal but I thought I'd mention it. I know they have high engineering but it matters not imo.
18. "Winter is coming" -A trireme oarsman saying.
19. While I've certainly experienced challenges, difficulties and even disasters (Craterus, give me back my hoplites!) the game didn't feel so much like a war. I was never in danger of losing, it was always only a matter of how hard it is to progress. This is because the enemies often raid you but never really attack you. By "attack" I mean make a concentrated, large scale effort to capture an hold your territory. The AI factions were only ever truly troublesome on defence. The raids, while annoying, were never really dangerous. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe being attacked by large forces would've made the game too frustrating. It also might be due to the normal difficulty I've been playing. The only larger attacks were made by Persians against Ephesus which were easily repelled by fully garrisoned city turrets since the AI brought no catapults.
It might, might have been nice if there were fewer raids but every several years some faction made a large scale attack against you to make it feel like there's really a war on and to make you feel threatened. It could be scripted with spawned troops if it's too difficult for the AI to organize it.
I'm not convinced this would necessarily be a good thing, just thinking aloud.
20. Favourite time of the year: Autumn. Because hungry, hungry phalangites. :)
Ok, I think 20's enough for now. Thanks for reading (or not :P).