I'm a bit on the fence on this one. A bit like Battledawn, it depends on how it is implemented.

The goal should first of all be to increase game fun and not restrict players too much in how they like to play the game. If players like to build a sprawling empire, why not let them? A better goal could be to make multiple expansion tactics be competitive so that players can play the way they like to play and still be successful. So if you like to build a few huge cities and highly optimized troops, then that should be a possible successful strategy. And if you like to build a huge sprawling empire which spams a large quantity of units, then that should also be possible. At present, fast expansion has no real downside, so it's a bit forced to play that way if you want to play 'optimal'.

I don't like the possible outcome of the 'fame-mechanic' sketched by Battledawm where a peaceful builder type of player is forced to go to war to gain fame in order to peacefully expand the empire further. It doesn't sound like a logical game mechanic at all. It's as if people like to live in an empire of a warmonger above the empire of a peaceful builder. Maybe that's true for orcs, but it's not the way I envision elves.


1) Looking at it from a fantasy perspective, how would an all-powerful wizard control a large medieval empire? Of course, normal communication is slow in a medieval empire, making control difficult and making it more difficult to stop uprisings in far corners of the empire. However, we're an all-powerful wizard, so keeping control of all the far corners of the empire through magical communication should be possible.

In basis, cities have an unrest penalty dependent on the distance to the capital.

Solutions 1 for unrest:
The wizard can create a magical relay (spell effect) in cities which makes instantaneous communication with the wizard tower in the capital possible. This removes the distance penalty to unrest. The relay however, has a magical upkeep dependent on the distance to the capital.

Gameplay effect: Extremely fast expansion will cost you mana per turn. You need to grow these cities a little and create the first mana producing buildings in the city in order to break even in mana. Once the wizard expands wider and wider, the costs of the magical relay increases meaning that cities need to build medium tier mana-producing buildings before they break even.
It also means that the mana production of an empire grows slower than linear with the number of cities in the empire.

In order to not punish a wizard who starts on a small island too much, you could count distance through water tiles at a lower value.

2) Looking at the fantasy aspect a bit more, one could also imagine that people living in a world with deadly magical beasts and undead and powerful wizards and warriors would value a safe place to live. So if a wizard is able to protect his/her people then it should be easier to maintain control in a large sprawling empire.

Solution 2 for unrest:
The wizard gains 'protection points' for keeping his/her people safe. Keeping people safe, means that no enemy or wandering monster unit remains inside your city borders for more than 1 turn. If you can achieve that for 5 consecutive turns, then you gather 1 protection point (or 0,2 points per turn). You also gain 1 protection point if you defeat an army inside your borders without losing any of your troops. When you lose battles, cities, large groups of units (Pyrrhic victories) or leave enemy armies inside your borders, then you lose protection points.

If you have more protection points, then people in your empire are more at peace and less communication with the borders of your empire is needed and the communication relay becomes cheaper.

Gameplay effect: Expanding beyond your ability to effectively defend yourself will cost you as you can't build a protection score. So building roads and maintaining advanced garrisoned troops to react to enemies will be valuable in your expansion.

I think, both gameplay effects combined will let the player think a bit about the best way to expand. The player can choose to suffer a little in early mana production and get a larger more sprawling empire in return. Or the player can build the cities a bit larger, build some roads and create advanced troops so that the wizard gets a higher protection value and the cities have a higher mana production before expansion. There's a choice and it's not evidently clear what's the optimal path to victory.