That first AAR game got me thinking a bit. I was referring to diplomats quite a bit, just for the sake of the story but it did get me wondering how we could implement some diplomacy options for the Neutral Provinces.
We would probably want a more elaborate model for diplomacy with the AI factions and getting that in place and getting the AI to use it too would, I'm sure, be a whole other can of worms. So this is 'fake diplomacy', designed to add a few more options for dealing with the Neutrals. The options though are essentially linear and shouldn't require any AI input for now.
At the moment, the process of taking over a province has three distinct phases. 1. Defeat standing army. 2. Siege. 3. Bring loyalty up to the point where construction and/or training can take place.
Defeat standing army
At the moment, as I understand it, the standing army in a province is linked to the size of the province but I'm thinking that it should also depend upon how friendly the province is to your faction. We've already got a convenient way of doing this in the Social Model and the relative power of each Social Class in a province. Moreover, for each Faction, there's a social Class to go with it.
So this bit is easy. If you're invading a province where the dominant social class is aligned with your faction, then the size of the standing army in that province should be reduced, reflecting the fact that the province is likely to be favourably disposed towards you. Conversely if the dominant social class is far away from your faction then the standing army will increase. Example: Castillar: Gets a reduced standing army in provinces where Clerics are the dominant class, gets an increased standing army to deal with in provinces where Academics are the dominant class and other dominant classes don't affect the standing army at all. We can construct a whole matrix of modifers for Faction vs Dominant class here.
It might require some map tweaking but the way I'm picturing it, is that the first few neutral provinces around your home territories are friendly (and thus a little easier to deal with), then as you expand, you're going to come across provinces that are first neutral and then actively hostile towards your faction.
Note: We already have a strong historical background for Fringe provinces (obvious example Trentare but it would be consistent with the province descriptions if we had more). Fringe provinces are automatically hostile towards any faction.
No changes here for now I don’t think
Again, if the province you’re conquering is naturally aligned to your faction (see 1.), it could confer either a temporary increase in loyalty generation after the province is conquered. Or it could simply provide a modifer that reduces the amount of loyalty lost in the first place. Again – if your faction is opposed to the dominant social class in the province, the opposite effects take place, reflecting an extended period of guerilla warfare as the populace try and kick you out.
So how can Neutral Province alignment be changed to suit your needs? The answer to that is simple – by letting the player build infrastructure in neighbouring neutral provinces and let the population of those provinces evolve with time in the same way that one of your own provinces would. So with some judicious builds, it should be possible to ‘soften up’ provinces and so make them easier to conquer by force of arms. Bettter yet, the newly conquered province is then all set up and good to go. Infrastructure builds will also affect a new type of counter applied to each province – lets call it Resistance for the sake of argument although I’m sure we can come up with a better name. Simple model – each province starts off with 6 resistance counters. Building Tier 1 infrastructure (barracks, shrine, sigil) removes one counter, building Tier 2 infrastructure removes two. Note that ‘foreign’ infrastructure builds are 10% more expensive as you’re effectively operating at ‘arms reach’ through unfamiliar agencies.
Favour and Diplomatic Actions
The final element to tie all this together is the notion of Favour. Favour operates much like Influence, Espionage or Mana points, in that you accumulate them over time and then spend them on particular actions, in this case Diplomatic actions. You generate favour points by spending gold per turn in the same way that you generate Research Points. Effectively you devote a portion of your treasury to keeping everyone around you that little bit happier, greasing the odd palm, acting behind the scenes to fund some nobleman’s pet project, donating to good causes etc.
Very simple to start with, there are two Diplomatic Actions that I’m envisaging , although I’m sure that more could be added.
1. Make Petition. Spend so many Favour points to obtain the right to build 1 piece of infrastructure in a neutral province.
2. Make Alliance. Spend rather more Favour points and a hefty chunk of gold to either peacefully annexe the province or give you a chance of doing so. The amount of gold you spend will be directly related to the Resistance of the population and probably to province Alignment relative to yours. We could specify that Make Alliance only becomes available once Resistance has been reduced by a certain amount.
I *think* this all hangs together quite nicely. Spend gold to generate Favour. Spend Favour to bribe neutral provinces with infrastructure builds. Then either let the population drift into a more favourable social structure for an easier military invasion, or spend much more Favour and gold on a peaceful takeover. At the least it should make the deliberate development of an economic infrastructure that bit more compelling, as well as providing a gameplay alternative to permanent war. I’ve also tried to base it as much as possible on existing game mechanics for (hopefully!) ease of implementation.