Well here is my take on the situation with cities and outposts at the moment and my suggestions what could be done to improve things. I will mainly focus on the problems I have with the current razing mechanisms.
I think most of the ppl here who play the beta at the moment are annoyed by the ease with which outposts and wild resource improvements can be razed. Especially since even when we are told that an outpost has been razed (and in times of war we are told so frequently and up to 5 times per turn) we usually do not exactly know where that took place and it takes a lot of time and management that grows into a chore to rebuild. This lack of defensive aspect to our outpost leads us (or at least me) to play a very offensive game. I do not like to have to rebuild my outposts over and over again so I have to wipe out those annoying persts before they can destroy to much. Also there is no difference if that outpost has been mine for ages (e.g. 200 turns) or if it is newly built and at the very frontier of civilisation.
First of I like being able to raze cities. It can be very annoying to be stuck with a little village the AI built which we as the most intelligent one in the game (the human player) consider unsuitable. BUT. As it looks at the moment razing cities I take is fast becoming the far more attractive option, especially with the upcoming changes in the next beta. Since there is a permanent unrest penalty associated with cities I take (which I can get around but it takes a lot of mana) and it looks like in the next version captured settlements will not even provide me with a milita to defend them, razing often seems far less of a hassle than actually keeping the city affter all razing it frees up some prime real estate (at least if we razed all the buildings in the city before torching the actual citiy center) to build my own city after the war is done. AND it frees up my army to march on and burn the next city to the ground.
We strengthen the link betweeen outposts and cities and change the way razing works, and hopefully can get away with little additional management and a few additional choices a player can make also it could increase the immersion a bit.
Outpost are no longer simple wooden forts without population. They start out as such since their goal at the start is to provide strategic control over a location. But always such fortified positions have attracted traders and families so eventually small settlements developed. Europes castle-towns are what I am getting at here, or the roman castra with their civilian "suburbs".
Obviously an outpost should be less important then the city it is tied to. But equally obviously as a fortification it should not be undefended.
I propose a system of tiered outposts that start with the one we have at the moment but would develop over time and depending on the city they are linked to.
The outpost is basically what we have now. Except that I would allow it a single basic militia unit as a defender, to make outposts even the most basic ones not completely helpless and also to make it more attractive as a location to defend than just any old tile in the neighborhood.
The outpost has developed into a small motte and baily with 3 stationed units and possibly a small wall when they are implemented (depending on how they are implemented). Graphically it would be nice if at that level a small farming village or something like that would appear close to the outpost (but thats just me probably I just love watching tiles develop). Also it would be nice if the outpost would change the terrain surrounding it into our favored terrain.
The outpost is now a serious stone fortification with a small army defending it. Something like 5 militia units should stand ready to answer the call to arms in case of attack. Also (possibly linked to mounted warfare tech) the outpost now has a fast response troop that answer our call for help whenever we get attacked no further than 2 tiles away from the outpost.
The outpost is now a fully fledged Fortress town capable of fielding massive ammounts of milita 7 units. it has the best walls possible and in addition to all the stuff mentioned above it might now even add a small amount of money to our coffers. (+2 per turn) ....... I admit it I ran out of ideas for lvl 4 so if anyone has a suggestion do not hesitate.
How to provide the synergy between city and outpost?
Cities profit from outposts by being provided with resources, early warning of attacks and protection so it seems only fair they should get something back. In this case population since it is the main growth limiting factor in this game. I think the way this could work, without being much of a hassle for the player, is that a city automatically transfers part of it´s growth per turn to the outposts it controls which split it evenly. I did not do any calculations for this so the growth factors could be way off but let us assume each level of outpost takes 2^x*10 ppl and a city grows its outpost with half its own growth per turn, that means a city with a single outpost and a groth of 2 would need 40 turns to grow this outpost into a lvl 2 which sees reasonable. With two outposts it would take twice as long and so on. Also the way I envision it outposts always have to stay a lvl below the connected city so that they would only start to grow once a city had reached lvl 2 and no lvl 4 outposts without a lvl 5 city. This system would also allow us some buildings that would improve connected outposts further.
All well and good Schob. But how does that help with razing?
Well in my system outposts as well as towns would have a population value. and in my opinion a single unit should not be able to raze an entire city in a single turn. It should take some time to do it. Of course it would do some dmg every turn but to raze an entire city (even a smaller one is not a very easy or quick proposition. I do not want to get too bloody here but simply putting it to the torch does not really remove a city from the map. it hurts it but the people if left alive will for a good part stay and rebuild. So to make suer the city really burns and nothing is left in its place we have to take our time, same goes for outposts but less population = quicker razing. One way this could work is that we can reduce a cities population by our armies attack value each turn so a weak army or a single hero would take rather long to raze a city while a small lvl 1 outpost would still be razeable in 1 turn.
Well I think this has gotten long enough so let me know what you think and I am happy to iron out the finer points of this suggestion as we go.