Scaling up your Empire: Provinces
One of the common issues for strategy games is moving from a small nation with a handful of things to do per turn to a bigger one with dozens of decisions to make. What was fun and thrilling in the early game, like deciding if you want to build a cattle ranch or a sawmill becomes more mundane. And yet, sometimes for specific reasons, you still want to check, as the wise ruler you are, what’s going on in a precise location.
Many games try to create tools for this reduction in micro-management. But most if not all adopt a ‘forced approach’, where at some point the game tries very hard to make you do things in a very specific way. In Empires we decided that you can eat your cake and sell it too … with Provinces!
Provinces are a grouping of regions, the basic geographical unit in the game. You can create a province when you have at least 51% of the regions belonging to the same provincial area. These are fixed on purpose, because they are grouped logically and historically. Plus, there are a few perks attached to them, like a regional unit. For example, the Sicilia province is made of 5 regions, the ones making up Sicily plus Melita (Malta). In our case, having 3 of these 5 regions allows you to create the province.
At this point many of you will think: “I don’t want to create a province and have my precious regions handled by the AI”. And some might add say, “by the stupid AI”
So let’s talk about eating your cake, and selling it. Twice! First, we adopted a reverse approach to how other games try to reduce micro-management. Creating a province provides bonuses. Not creating provinces mean you don’t get bonuses, but you don’t suffer any penalty. If you don’t want to create any province, then that’s fine, have it your way. But you’ll want to create them, believe us.
One of the reasons is that when regions are handled at the province level there is no mandatory automation. A region, as part of a province, can still be accessed and have all his population reshuffled to your liking, and you can order the buildings it should construct as before. But should you don’t want to do that, then you can use the Province panel to decide what the governor AI should do. For population and for buildings (one set of options for each), you can decide that the focus should be on a job (like producing more money, or constructing extra agriculture buildings). You can also decide to have the governor try to balance production with the needs. Here, the not-that-stupid AI will take into consideration the need at the region level, for each region, and at the national level. So for example if you have a severe lack of money, then clicking on balancing will result in more population than usual put into the money-making job.
The AI will also check your upkeep, so as not to overbuild structures that you would have trouble maintaining. It is even capable of checking which of the regions have particular bonuses and have them focus on something specifically. If you look at this screenshot, I have requested a balancing of production for Sicilia. And yet you see we are far from having the population split evenly within each region. For example, Melita has a lot of people in infrastructure. If you checked Melita specifically, you would see that the region is the one with the biggest Infrastructure bonus within the whole province!
So all in all, we believe these AI governors do quite a decent job. We will be honest (sometime it pays off ), the AI is not equal to a veteran player who can fine tune everything each turn. But it plays like a competent opponent…
As you see, Province management has never been so easy. You can automate in different ways, including handling everything manually. But there is more. There are province-specific bonuses.
A Province pools some of its resources and then redistributes them either equally (for food), or where it is needed (for infrastructure). So for food, it means that regions with poor land (like a mountain or an underdeveloped forest region) will benefit from the food sent by other regions, within the province, helping them grow. Also, if you have large body of troops, it might be difficult sometimes to sustain them from a single region. With a province, supply will arrive from several regions, easing the logistic challenge of feeding your army.
As for infrastructure, all regions can help the process of creating new buildings, so you end up with your structures built much faster, in a more focused way. And again, you might use this trick to funnel infrastructure from powerful regions to a poor one, helping it develop much faster.
Recruitment is also handled at the provincial level. Each province has a provincial palace, and this is the place where all units are recruited. And each province has its own special ‘provincial unit’ that you would not have access too otherwise. For example the Africa province (centered around Carthago) would provide African War Elephants, to any nation holding it. Or Crete will allow the famous Cretan slingers…
All in all, we have tried with provinces to provide you the tools so that your games scale up well when your empire grows, while staying as discreet and unobtrusive as possible, for people who like to micro-manage. We hope that you’ll come to appreciate our Province system as much as we do!