Now, I'm not a developer by any means, so I'll try to suggest ideas that can, from my humble understanding, be implemented to the current system we have.
- First of all, I'd like for groups of units to be managed properly on the battlefield, meaning, no more 1 on 1 duels while the rest of the squad watches, that's just incredibly annoying. The current dice system we have is ok, but I think at least the animations should be changed. Seeing all the troops from 2 squads of troops fighting each other simultaneously would be really nice to look at, at least.
- Another good suggestion I saw around the forums, is the idea of being able to attatch 2 units together, that is, a champion and normal soldiers. They'd act as bodyguards, increasing the health of the champion and may also compensate for his/her lack of attack if he/she happens to be weak in melee combat.
Another good thing, would be able to split, say, a party into 4 individual soldiers, or the other way around. Make a 8 soldier regiment (whatever it's called in the game) out of 2 parties. Of course, the units would have to be exactly the same, to make things simple. We already have the unit groups working, so let's add some freedom to it, by being able to form bigger groups, or separating them into small ones freely.
- Now, in general terms, add a bigger tactic element to the battles by adding basic bonuses like higher damage when flanking or attacking from behind, or stuff like formations. You could say this type of combat we have right now works for fights between small parties (as in, heroes only), but it's too simplistic for battles between armies. A "protect" system could be nice too, allow me to explain:
[ ] [ ] [X] [X] [X]
[ ] [ ] [C] [S] [X]
[ ] [ ] [X] [X] [X]
Say, if you have a champion (C) stationed in a tile, and right next to it you have a small squad of spearmen (S) or whatever set to "protect" the champion, every enemy unit attacking the champion that comes from one of the (X) tiles, would have to attack the spearmen first. So, if you wanted to attack the champion, you'd have to come from the side, and flank him, to avoid having to confront the spearmen. That alone would make positioning of units MUCH more important and relevant. It would also give fast units like cavalry a much more active role, as well as giving "defensive" units like spearmen more importance. Of course, this "protect" function would have to be activated beforehand, it wouldn't be automatic.
This could apply to archers too. Say, archers are protecting a certain unit. Now, their AOP (area of protection) is much bigger, so they can protect units from afar, BUT, of course, they can't actually "block" the attacking units like melee defenders can, instead, they just shoot from a distance while the protected unit and the attacker fight.
- Regarding positioning and movements of units in general, Elemental could use a "hexagon treatment" like Civ 5 got. Right now, squares can lead to very annoying situations like:
[ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
[ ] [ ] [X] [S] [X]
[ ] [ ] [S] [C] [S]
Again, C is the champion and S are spearmen/whatever friendly troop. What annoys me is that, even though the spearmen are forming a pseudo-wall around the champion, enemies coming from X tiles can attack the champion freely, even though there are 2 huge stacks of troops next to them. Hexagons would fix this (my "protect" idea would also, but not so well), but then again, asking for such a overhaul of the maps would be too much to ask. And besides, I've already heard Brad hates hexagons, so ignore this last request. The issue still remains though, but I guess it can't be helped.
Another thing that could be added to avoid imbalancing the protection system would be, giving the protector a "protection rate". Meaning, after you set the unit to defend someone, it has X chance of "blocking" (say, 90% or 80%) an enemy troop from attacking the protegee. After doing so, this rating goes down (to, say, 50% or 40%) until it's the protector gets in position again. This already means a unit won't be able to protect another one forever (read: until it dies), since once the protection rate runs out, the protegee is open to attack.
This protection rate would also be reduced when the unit moves away from the one being defended, but not completly. That way, you can move the protector around to cover different sides, introducing yet again, unit placement into the matter.
- While we're talking about spearmen and cavalry, why not add a few bonuses and weaknesses to certain weapons/items troops have? I know we have the whole piercing/blunt/cutting damage system, but it's not very... deep, so to say. Or at least, it's not as notorious as it is in other games. (For example, in Mount & Blade, cutting weapons are much faster and do higher damage, BUT, their damage rating gets decreased much more when they attack an armoured opponent, while blunt or piercing weapons are much slower and do less damage, but they pretty much ignore armor completly).
Something like a charge attack for cavalry would make it much more useful. This would basically be an attack that has to be done when the cavalry unit is 1 or 2 squares away from the enemy (since they need to gain momentum) and it gets an extra attack bonus, or maybe it could push the enemy one square away or something like that. The equivalent for melee units, would be a shield bash attack (they would require a shield, of course). Spearmen could get a defense bonus, or maybe only when they are being attacked head on from the front. Now, these habilities would be given by certain pieces of equipment (like, say, a regular horse won't allow you to charge, but an armored horse with stirrups would.) or by other factors (For example, spears/pikes would only give you the defense bonus if your unit has 8 soldiers or more).
- Flanking NEEDS to be implemented somehow, and I will keep repeating this. Special habilities for different units would make different troop types more versatile.
With the current system, you just need to make 1 type of troop with high attack and defense and spam the hell out of it. Or even better, just spam longbowmen. The game doesn't reward mixing unit types or anything, and that's awful. Sorry to be so harsh, but it's so exploitable it makes me sick. ESPECIALLY once this game gets multiplayer.
- Now, when I mentioned unit speed in the sub-title, I was refering to the way the game handles turns. Personally, I don't think it should be "First attacker, then defender". In fact, turns shouldn't be determined by side, but by each unit individually. And how to determine which unit is supposed to move first? Well, their speed stat/rating. So, let's say side KINGDOM has 2 cavalry units, a hero on foot and 2 archers, and side EMPIRE has 2 units of heavy infantry, a catapult and a mounted hero with a SHORTSWORD OF MIGHTY SPEED. Now, the turn order would be something like this:
Mounted hero (E) -> Cavalry (K) -> Archers (K) -> Hero (K) - > Heavy infantry (E) -> Catapult (E).
Now, this order is mantained until a unit gets their speed buffed/debuffed. This system gives fast units an advantage that doesn't really overpower them (like the hability to attack FOREVER if you have a shortsword equipped), and it doesn't put the defender in a terrible disadvantage like the current system does. Now, this doesn't mean units would get only 1 move per "round" (round as in, everytime this turn cycle gets completed). The speed difference may be so big between some units, the fast one will get 2 or 3 moves before the slow one can make 1 move. Making it exagerated, it'd be something like this, with 3 units only:
fast unit -> fast unit -> normal unit -> fast unit -> normal unit -> slow unit.
Like I said, I do not know how possible to implement these ideas are (if implementable at all, due to the current system), and obviously, some people may argue that some of these are bad ideas, but I think they would make the tactical combat much more fun and fair. I mean, these are really basic things. In a square grid based combat system, things like flanking shouldn't be too hard to implement, and seriously, it's something INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT, at least from how I see it. Same goes for making different troop types useful in their own way.
Also, I think several threads compiling different sets of suggestions should be made (like, a thread that has all the combat related suggestions, a thread with all the magic related suggestions, etc). I'd do it myself, but I haven't been here too long so I doubt I'd be able to do it properly.