In my honest opinion, I think Russia fights just fine right now by using other units and spam to cover up weaknesses. If strets do somehow get 20 range or half pop, that’d just be even better. I feel like Russia would definitely crawl towards being a better civ to fight face-to-face with, without having to change that much from the civ.
If I see mass infantry, I honestly don’t even think about making 50 strelet to overwhelm them or compete. It just won’t happen. First thing I do is go to my artillery range and load up horse cannons. I know because plenty of times I’ve maxed out my strelets’ stats, and put them against mass skrims and musks, and I find myself draining because I have to constantly train more strelets to sustain any kind of numerical advantage (which never works). Only if strelets outnumber 1.5-2x the number, you’ll win. And half of them sit there because of crappy range.
The DPS won’t be fast enough to kill other civ’s strong units, so I just compensate with a crap ton of cannons and stack some anti-cav (halberds and cav archers are GREAT). The cannons definitely make up for DPS, and they keep strelets in the fight (if you kill their units quickly, their total DPS drops and your strelets survive longer).
I’ve fought a decent/good French player in FFA, with fully upgraded France, and as tough as it was, I could manage due to keeping my artillery in check and keeping his down. He had to drop his score spamming gendarmes once in a while to make a push against strelets, halberds, horse cannon, and cav archers, but he eventually wore his economy out.
And if I see myself in a mass strelet versus mass skirm battle, I don’t hesitate either and make cossack, even like 10. It takes a skirm (33 ranged atk) like, 22 shots to kill 1 cossack (570 HP, 0.30 ranged resist), so I always sprinkle cossacks to tank for my strelets. And if they have goons, I make my strelets fire upon the goons and sprinkle cav archers and halberds. The enemy usually don’t know how to react with so much variety.
Surprising, I’ve found halberdiers to be a great tank for strelets against goons. Although they have no ranged resistance, they have 340 HP for a good cost (probably one of the most efficient HP per resource units you can get for Russians, after strelets).
If a goon has 52 ranged attack, it takes 7 shots to kill a Russian halberdier.
Compare to 6 shots to kill a 300HP musk, and 6 shots to kill a strelet with their low HP and ranged resist. (And goons make 109 damage on cossacks, and the full 156 on cav archers, so don’t even bother thinking about using cav as tanks.)
Goons run away from strelet and try to kite, but if I have 5 horse cannons sitting there and if they have like 30 goons, they always feel bold try to shoot them down with goons. People are really that crazy (or lazy, or know it takes too long to make and move culverins), so they charge into my halberdiers and I get them every time.
I think Russia is fine, but it’s one of those things where if Russia could get a buff for one of its weakest points, it just makes playing Russia that much more enjoyable and more viable.