Is not a vague term, either with counters or without counters. I'm not advocating here for one way or another of design. But in this game, sometimes I find different sub-optimal or meaningful choices, that aren't really choices cause there's one better. Of course i'm in favour of asymmetrical design and situational choices (like sea maps) but..
I have written before, clear strategies and choices that let you boom/turtle/rush (and midways). Civs designs that feels different but balanced. Synergies.
Maybe I would explain myself better with the mercenary camp example:
Ok, we add a neutral mercenaries camps in the middle of the map, between players, a "resource" that should worth taking. Why is worth?
· Cause is only a barrack more near the enemy? Cause it's a "free" building that only cost unit time capturing them? It's worth spending time capturing (instead of working) when you can have a safer barracks?
· Cause it trains mercenaries? What happen to the civs that doesn't have mercenaries? (are the mercenaries civ bounded, or map bounded?)
- Why mercenaries are worth? Cause a cheaper price? Cause are better fighting? Cause (if map bounded) fills unit roles gap that the civ doesn't have (so some mercenaries in some maps are more useful for some civs?)?
If mercenary camps are added right now, maybe the mercenary "trait" should be changed a little bit to make them more attractive, cause then with the current stats I think that there's a lot of problem that I write up there that aren't resolved. Sure, mercs are now more viable with the new techs, but a merc camp in the middle of the ground are only useful for seleucids and ptolomies, and add nothing for civs that doesn't have mercs. For example, like Delenda Est, mercenaries could be limited population that doesn't cost space population.
But BTW, chaning a small element leads you to balance the thing with the global picture and the general design:
-Why spend or not ore in mercs. -> Where I can spend it-> It's ore a plentiful resource or a scarce one -> You can mine it safe or not-> Map design and resources distribution and gathering
-Why spend population in mercs -> They can work, They can work better? How perform in battle-> Other military roles -> Differences between soldiers (and between C/s, mercs and champs)
But adding mercenaries just like this, I think that doesn't add deep choices.
Hope I explained myself and I have give some idea behind the cohesive design gameplay. Sure everyone of them. But if you look the original design, there're a lot of ideas that myself I find random, like adding and adding instead of thinking, like capturing women or horses for corralling. Maybe i'm too influenced by a somewhat competitive and mid ground between Aoe 3 and 2...
And finally, I'm' only here to discuss, not to complain. I don't have skills to contribute myself, so work done, it's work appreciated.
I have to edit, cause I misclick the post button, and I didn't end it.