So, the lategame has a glut of gold and food. Stone and wood are thankfully capped.
The biggest late game gold source is trade. However, there are a few effects this has.
- People dump tons of pop cap into trade units.
- Armies tend to be smaller than they could be.
- Battles are indecisive, even if one side experiences 100% losses.
From a historical point of view, battles were not supposed to be indecisive. Major battle losses crippled empires. They turned the tempo of wars. They actually meant something.
From a gameplay point of view, this is just as disturbing, because at some point micro loses to macro. Even worse is when the dominant strategy is to build cannon towers everywhere to deny land to an enemy, because you don’t have the troops necessary to do it… but since towers use no population… you can just spam them all day.
So, the solution to this is economic. First, there needs to be less gold. Second, there needs to be less food. And since trade is the obvious problem, I introduce to you a new type of trader. The caravan.
Caravans are special units. They take the form of a leader, followed by many donkeys or camels. The caravan has a few special abilities. They can attach a new pack animal, for the price of 100 food. The caravan itself can pick up a load of food, or pick up a load of gold. Caravans cost 500 food to make the base caravan, so its ALWAYS more efficient to upgrade the single caravan instead of making dozens of small caravans. Caravans also take up ONLY 1 pop.
So, how the caravan works is that it takes out 300 food, plus an additional 80 for each pack animal added to the caravan. Then, it drops that food off at the market, and becomes a gold laden caravan. When it returns to its home market, it drops off the gold. The gold laden caravan returns 150 gold plus 40 gold for each pack animal in the caravan.
If a gold laden caravan is killed, it drops gold pickups that can be collected. The pickup is worth 75 gold, plus 20 gold for each pack animal in the caravan.
So, what this does is twofold. First, it puts far more emphasis on farming. If your farmers are killed or your farms are burned, you can’t just spend gold to buy food. Second, it effectively increases everyone’s pop cap by 20-30 units. Third, it creates a scenario where raiding caravans to make a profit… is a good strategy. It creates a scenario where every player has a moving target they want to protect, and a moving target they want to kill.