Here’s a fun little suggestion to make the Chinese Civ more interesting in the future, as opposed to merely being a Fast Fortress of Doom.
As it turns out, the Ming Dynasty believed in training all elite soldiers to be able to do any military function as needed. In gameplay terms, what this implies is, well, that Arquebusiers can transform into Changdao Swordsmen, and so on.
In particular, I’d see certain Chinese units as capable of morphing from one unit type to another for a food/wood/gold cost, that’d also require a transition time / animation. This would make Chinese armies more interesting, especially in combination with the banner army mechanic. Chinese banner armies have the weakness of not being able to specify specifically what unit types you want, but allowing certain Chinese units to transition would instead allow China to, for an increased cost, produce a specific unit type.
The particular units I’d see as benefiting from transition commands would be:
Arquebusier / Changdao swordsmen. China lacks a musketeer type unit, but allowing Arq / Changdao combos to switch from Halberdier to Skirmisher would make the unit more interesting, especially once Old Han Reforms come in and give China a tendency toward Old Han Army. Arq / Changdao, in this case, would function as a permanent reserve to provide a flexible augment for an Old Han Army base depending on the enemy unit combo.
Steppe Rider / Keshik. Keshiks are actually quite limited by their inability to be built en mass, preventing China from building a pure Dragoon army. Likewise, while Steppe Riders resemble mini-Oprichniks, they can’t be built as pure unit types, limiting their ability to raid in the Commerce Age. Moreover, Chinese players have been begging for the option to build a European Army of skirmishers and dragoons. By allowing China to transition Steppe Riders into Keshiks and vice versa, China can now build a European Banner Army from the War Academy, or a pure Steppe Rider or Keshik Army from the Castle. This would significantly increase Chinese strategic diversity in the Feudal Age by allowing them to run Skirm / Dragoon (at a greater cost) in Feudal as well as pure Steppe Rider / Keshik armies for raiding or for a counter-cavalry supplement to Chuk masses.
The transition time and cost is intended to counter or prevent China from losing its banner army weakness, of course, and tactically speaking the need to spend up to 10 seconds to transition a banner army equipment should make it possible to counter a banner army. Likewise, both Chinese transition units are relatively “weak” units, although Changdao / Arquebusier is a Chinese standard unit in Fortress (alongside Imperial Army Flail / Meteor spam), so this shouldn’t create too many balance problems.
Likewise, the morphing mechanic can be introduced full-scale into a future civ, but Chinese might be a good place to beta test the validity of the tactic. If morphing is too strong, or gives China too much flexibility, China FF can be nerfed to compensate. China, anyways, is supposed to be more of a semi-FF civ than a pure FF civ.
You would, of course, require new models and animations for Arquebusiers and Changdao Swordsmen. Changdao Swordsmen and Arquebusiers would then carry both Changdao and Arquebuses, and would require time to discard their old weapons and draw their new ones. Keshiks and Steppe Riders could have the transition be justified by taking off and folding armor / putting on armor, then drawing a sword or bow. This would help represent the flexibility seen in Chinese armies.
Changdao Swordsmen and Arquebusiers could also be limited by the fact that according to Qi Jiguang’s diagrams, the Changdao drawn by Changdao Swordsmen were not their own Changdao, but that of a pair. Changdao and Arquebusiers, then, would require a paired up Changdao or Arquebusier in order to transition, helping weaken the prospect of “super Changdao-Arquebusiers” that can only be countered by artillery as opposed to skirms / hand cavalry.
Historically speaking, likewise, Changdao and Arquebusiers were also elite units of the Ming Army, so having them function as a flexible elite augment using the morph feature would help counterbalance their lower efficiency than Old Han Army late-game. Mongols, likewise, used both saber and bow, forming a sort of medium cavalry.
So it’d be more realistic (beyond being merely more interesting) for the Chinese to be able to transition Changdao / Arquebusiers and Steppes / Keshiks from one unit to another.
The expense of unit transitions would also help represent the historical Chinese logistics problems; with huge armies in the field, it became extremely challenging to supply them. A Chinese force would then constantly have to consider, do I keep the units flowing constantly, do I save up a reserve to transition Changdao-Arquebusiers / Keshiks-Steppes as needed, or do I force convert on build my Chinese banner armies, creating a less cost-efficient force for the benefit of a more focused counter? It makes Chinese more interesting than simply FF, which helps the civ a lot.