I posted my thoughts but here is a fleshed out idea to correct the imbalance that has IMO eaten away at what was the heart of Sparta....uncertainty of conflict. Create the Alter-Bonded.
1. Only a coal with at least 50 members can form an Alter-Bonded & that coal's Hege leads.
2. Only coals with less than 50 members can join though their size can increase after joining up to the Alter-Bonded limit.
3. The max number on coals in any Alter-Bonded is 7.
4. If any member coal reaches 100 members it is ejected from Alter-Bonded so there is a reason for member coals to control their size. They decide to remain small.
5. A coal cannot join both a Bond & Alter-Bonded.
6. Members cannot attack fellow member's cities, Pans or Caps.
7. Union chat works for the Alter-Bonded members.
8. A coal's Hege can pull their coal from the Alter-Bonded Union or the controlling Hege of the Alter-Bonded Union can dismiss a coal.
ADVANTAGES - to restore some lacking balance & more leveled conflict
1. New achievements geared only to Alter-Bonded members that will give added bonuses on Offense & Defense. Perhaps something also along the line of Cap disciplines that all Alter-Bonded members can contribute to developing specific upgrades for a shared benefit.
2. These bonuses, however they work, are lost when a member coal leaves or is dismissed from the Alter-Bonded Union. All the more reason for a coal not to blow it after helping develop these benefits..
3. Provide an Alter-Bonded Attack so members can join for attacks on Pans & Caps. This is a massive step in leveling the playing field so small coals can strike back. How safe is any large coal's Cap if several strong Alter- Bonded Unions with bonuses working coordinate their attacks? Big coal will retaliate & lots of dead troops will be the outcome but oh the glorious battles.
4. Allow Alter-Bonded members to send more resources than normal to each other & faster as if Allies or fellow coal members.
5. Any results a player achieves is counted towards their individual rewards, coal rewards & Alter-Bonded rewards.
6. I'm uncertain whether members should be able to reinforce each other's Cap & Pans. Needs discussion.
1. Will take time to gather achievements & bonuses to begin to equalize the playing field but I expect the goal in doing it will be enough for an improved outlook as they reach for the prize.
2. To fully use the advantages will require a lot of teamwork, cooperation, planning & execution. Members who make that difficult may be ejected to allow a member that better fits & works better with the entire group. Personalities matter.
4. Diplomacy will become a little stickier when an individual coal's Ally & At Peace status is in conflict with the plans of the Alter-Bonded actions. I don't see Alter-Bonded Unions having Diplomatic relations. Individual members can attack or have arrangements as they please. The Alter-Bonded is for mutual growth, protection & furthering member's goals. If a member has a special relationship or diplomatic status & sits out an Alter-Bonded action that's the member's choice. If done too often that member may find itself dismissed from the Union.
3. I'm sure strong coiners will try to take advantage of this too. In fact it may appeal to certain strong coiners. If & when such become known to the other Alter-Bonded Unions these Coiners Unions may become targeted by multiple Alter-Bonded Unions as they are seen as the cause for this need for equalization. If those coiners try to use their mains for help it may drag their main coals into conflict they don't want & possibly encourage another large coal or several to join with the Alter-Bonded Unions to take down a large competitor. Lots to calculate as Sparta once again becomes a very dangerous place for everyone as sides shift back & forth.
Just a thought that is worthy of discussion.
Keeping Sparta a strong interesting game isn't accomplished by making the strong stronger. It's done by keeping the vast majority of player within striking distance using whatever structure accomplishes it. Plarium needs profit & profit is best generated by conflict, lots of it.
We see Pan Massacres, Cap Events, Coal Events & so on all to get us to fight more. Working as well as you thought? I think many of the upgrades are to keep us interested & buying but it seems to also make a lot of players angry.
Get players back to having the ability to fight on fairly level ground & they will do so. They kill, get killed & are happy, revive & rebuild & are happy, purchase & are happy because it will be fun once again. Now the game is a stagnate mess that generates more boredom than excitement. I'm just a player & you the developers but you have been letting the reins slip through your fingers & you better grab them hard before they're lost. I've suggested & other players may have other ideas but the game doesn't need a little fairly meaningless improvement here & there. It needs something substantial. Regain the fun Sparta had in the beginning & the money follows. It's becoming a bloated dead horse. None of this will ever happen as it's too complicated, too many changes & not in step with the developer's vision. I don't think that vision has really helped the game but I'm just one player.