This post may well be unhelpful at this point but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and would like to write it down so I can forget about it.
I think it would make life easy if the late awakening, society, industrial and space stages all had a single set of mechanics. That way we only need to build one system and we can spend the effort on deepening it. Here is a suggestion for that.
Each population center is a node, and population centers which are neighbors are connected by an edge. This is how Crusader Kings 2, Stellaris and The Total War games are structured, at an abstract level.
Trade can be calculated using something like a gravity trade model. Each population center can have multiple pops in it which can each have cultural traits. Cultural traits can spread between pops inside a city and can spread along edges to neighboring cities. These are things we have been talking about quite a lot.
What I think will make things pretty easy is this. At several points ten population centers get merged together to form one new, larger, population center. So hamlets get merged into villages -> towns -> cities -> conurbations -> states -> planets -> star systems -> star sectors. When centers are merged the pops inside them are merged with the cultural traits of the pops being averaged out.
What this means is that the trade model, for example, once built will work for all these stages. The culture model also will work all the way through without modification. It makes one single framework from which all the other mechanics can hang. It means the game can scale easily from having 100 tribes fighting over 10 square miles to having massive star empires duking it out over the galactic core without needing more than one set of trade, culture and control mechanics.
It also means the map will stay a reasonable size / complexity all the way through. So you start knowing about the 30 closest villages and by the time you have discovered 300 villages and the game has become unmanageably complex there is a merge and you are back to worrying about 30 towns, which is reasonable. For example Stellaris has this problem with there being too many planets to control in the late game and basically gets you to merge them into a sector, but doesn’t go all the way.
Another advantage is that it makes a simple algorithm for generating the population centers. For each area divide it in to 10 areas and call the divide function again. That way we can layout planets very easily, only generating detail in areas the player can see.
One question I have about doing things this way is about control. If you control 4/10 villages when they are merged into a town do you get no control of the town? Can you get partial control of the town? Do you get full control of the town? Do you get a 40% chance of being in control of the town? Clearly quite a lot of factions will need to be lost along the way (as you might have lots of neighboring factions in villages but when you are a state they are all subsumed). I think this can be sorted out though.
Anyway all feedback welcome. As I say I imagine it’s not particularly helpful at the moment as we are a long way off working on this but I wanted to write it down in case it’s useful and then I don’t need to keep thinking about it!