Let units remain usefull
At present, when more advanced units become available, the earlier units become obsolete. You won't build them anymore as they can't compete with the more advanced units. So from the 8 or so units available per race, only about 2 will remain useful in armies once a single city of a race is able to build the advanced units. What use are spearmen and swordsmen once pikemen and paladins are available? And actually, the starting units from captured races are also obsolete once your most advanced race can build advanced units. Maybe pikemen are even obsolete once paladins are available.
So? What's the big deal?
Maybe not a big deal. It doesn't actually destroy the game or something. But it reduces flavour, removes variation in unit buildup from the game for no really good reason. With the undead which cannot capture races, you'll have very little variation in you final armies. And all kinds of early units which have some special flavour won't be constructed anymore. Even the elves won't build archers after the starting game which just feels wrong.
- Let all units start at basic level 1
- Expand the experience bonus of military buildings so that the first one will promote units to level 2, the next one to level 3, the next one to level 4 and so on.
- This means that advanced units of course will never be build at level 1 as you need advanced military buildings to be even able to construct them.
- Let all normal race units have the same level cap, say level 10 or 12 or something
- Let advanced military buildings give a low experience boost per turn that you station the units in a city. Maybe allow units faster training for a gold/mana fee. That way, you can create a special purpose offensive army with high level units and let the rest train slowly in your cities.
- Place altars of battle terrain features around the map where you can train units further for gold/mana beyond a certain level.
- Maybe some higher levels are only attainable through combat.
- A warlord can train units to a higher level.
Create variation in units due to difference in weaponry, armor, attibute bonuses, movement speed, flying, special saving throw bonusus, mundane resistance, special elemental resistance, upkeep, all kinds of special abilities like throwing, teleporting, merging, aura's. But every unit can gain the same max level.
All units don't have to be exactly similar in power at a certain level. Level 8 spearmen can be a little weaker than level 8 pikemen because pikemen have negate first strike/charge, better damage due to higher strength, slightly higher hitpoints due to better constitution, better armor and for balance a higher upkeep and construction cost. But maybe the level 8 pikeman cannot beat the level 10 spearman or two level 8 spearmen.
Improve the spellbooks of casters as they gain levels, so a level 8 grey mage can do different stuff than a level 4 grey mage.
Allow units that enter a city access to upgrade their weapons/armor with the special resources available to that city. It's weird that you cannot provide your best level 10 elite paladins with adamantine weapons once the material becomes available in your empire.
For more streamlined gameplay: Allow resources to be spread around an empire connected with roads/shipyards. That way, you don't have to micromanage and build all your units in the few resource cities.
Enjoy a varied army of level 8 units which all add something different to your army instead of a more bland army of 12 paladins and a hero.
Riot control. Why pay multiple gold or a mana upkeep to suppress the blasphemous heathens who clearly don't value their lives enough to obey my enlightened command when I can turn their own brothers against them with a few pieces of bread?
I'm sorry, let me rephrase that.
Peacekeeping. Lower end units can be built to reduce unrest at reduced start up and upkeep cost than higher end units, which will primarily be used for the purpose of offense.
Now, if your beef is that the wandering offensive armies are too bland in their make-up, then, conceptually, I agree, but mechanically, I don't see a problem, particularly once personal playstyle is thrown into the mix and then compounded with situational cases, and the fact that, conceptually, nothing is going to prevent a particular player from choosing to use a less-optimized army makeup and probably still be able to overcome (even handily) his/her opposition.
Toss in the fact that you're a wizard. What's the difference between a Paladin and a Spearman? Well, a lot. What's the difference between a Paladin and Spearman who has (several) Tier 1 buffs cast on him? The Spearman unit can do about three to four times as much damage and dies a lot faster, which is okay because he'll also explode and damage the things around him if you decide to go that (hilarious) route. Granted, nothing stops you from putting the same buffs on the Paladin, except that the Spearman can be raised much more quickly and maintained for less in the face of sneak attacks.
From my browsing, advanced units already start higher level than basic units. I could be wrong.
The idea of some military buildings doing an xp/turn is interesting. My concern would stem from how that would affect races that don't to access to those buildings, and I'd have to support those buildings being deep in the building tree. It also steps on Armsmaster a little, though the fact that Armsmaster is inherently mobile makes an undeniable difference in logistics. MoM did xp/turn for all units, and it rarely mattered; out of the box Magicians would still easily annihilate elite-class Swordsman with a flick of their wrists, and green Elven Lords only feared veteran spearmen if their had poor rolls and/or a very apathetic master.
I want to say there was a brief idea of some units getting unit abilities as they leveled up, but that was weeks ago. Reply hazy, ask someone who is around more often.
I'm against empire-wide sharing of resources across all cities attached by trade routes. Perhaps as an option for those who really, really want it, but I don't see myself ever using it, as that takes away some of the strategic choice of city placement and/or the benefit of terraforming and mineral-changing spells.
That said, I'm onboard upgrading units with newer resources available. I, too, always wondered why, upon the acquisition of this fabulous cache of +3 Mithril Swords of Stabbing, I could not equip a loyal, long-lived, highly-decorated unit of elite Lords who had proven instrumental in the overthrow of Honeyvale, quelled the rebellious traitors of Peaceglen, traveled with and protected Valana in her quests to clear the Western Forest, and almost single-handedly defended the strategic outpost of Silvermount long enough to develop a township to mine the materials to create aforementioned Swords, but instead gave them to Guy With Spear #39. On the other hand, I guess that would make a lucky, early position that has that resource seem less special.
Archmage of the Outer Ring
ideally all units would be useful to some degree late game, based on playstyle of course. the cost should reflect its power, and for that you can't have them be at the same level when built. the key to this is utility of units, both on the strategic map and the tactical one. being able to have multiple races means that races that synergize with each other should result in a cost for having them relative to how well they synergize. magic from sorcerer lords being independent of races adds another variable to balance, and increases options for workable diversity. this is all stuff that has been talked about and generally agreed upon, the problem is that there is a great need for playtesting to naildown needed balancing, which is hard to do when the game isn't quite finished yet. the best we can do is find out what does what and report back, and hope that we find all possible strategies for things so as to get them properly balanced. unfortunately i am quite busy now that the game is out with predeployment workups, and will be incognito during the final testing period and probably final release so i won't be much help in such regards.