As before i'm trying to include the strategic value of supply lines, with an empire in which the shape matters— without including any micro drudgery or mysterious processes that only the AI understands and/or controls.
Attempt #3: Explicit Supply Lines
The player builds the supply lines— not as cargo ships you have to move around, but the routes supplies (fuel, ammo, production resources, whatever) can follow.
* Supplies flow between colonies in adjacent systems (via invisible, instant local shipping).
* To allow supplies to flow between non-adjacet colonies, additional Distribution Hubs can be placed in uncolonized systems:
— * Distribution Hub Outposts (DHO) are cheaper than colonies, but do not grow or produce anything.
— * or possibly Mobile Distribution Hubs (MDH) are large slow ships which if arraigned in a chain can quickly extend the reach of a supply line.
* Supplies do no flow between colonies unless they are connected via supply lines. Players can use their allies supply line systems if they are adjacent.
* Supply lines are indicated by coloring the SLs with the empire's color. (see V.3 demo with colonies in adjacent systems.
* Blockades can occur in a producing system, or by destroying Distribution Hubs (mobile or fixed).
Since the supply lines are explicitly created, the player has some strategic options: a single well-defended supply backbone through his empire, or a redundant web of supply lines.
Supply lines become more obvious and concrete entities without the micro of simulating/controling actual cargo ships.
"The player builds the supply lines"
-I think that this is likely going to become tedious with larger empires. Suppose I start a game with 200 or more stars in a spiral galaxy. I've taken out/over 8 other empires and I have one to go. Do I just forget about making supply lines, or will I lose if I do that? Either it is important enough to still cripple me at the end, or if it's not important then I shouldn't be stuck with it earlier.
"* Supplies flow between colonies in adjacent systems (via invisible, instant local shipping)."
-By this, I assume you mean that two system with a starlane between them don't need shipping lines. But wouldn't that mean that supply lines would only have to be built in systems that are not controlled to connect controlled parts of the galaxy? How does this interact with blockades? If I have two colones, one in system A and another in system B. Then my enemy colonizes a planet in system B. Do I still have free/instant shipping? What if I have no ships in the system and he has 200?
I'd like to add that any sort of centralization of resources or storing of resources seems implausible. Any sufficiently advanced civilization is going to send products from where they are made as directly to where they are needed as it possible. There will not be a continuous stream of resources from frontier planets to the capitol followed by a parallel stream going back to their second nearest neighbour: it will go there directly.
Contrasting that, though, I agree that the population distribution of a civilization should be incorporated into resource distribution.
So here is an amendment that I suggest:
A breakdown of solar systems into three types (as was already suggested) Safe, Uncertain, and Dangerous. Goods travel in packets on (invisible) freighters/merchantmen. If they're lost, the entire freighter/merchantman is lost, but the goods are quantized in this way so that huge swings are not noticable, yet continual losses due to risky behaviour have an effect.
The math works like this: travelling through Safe systems means each freighter has 0% chance to "get lost."
travelling through an uncertain system means a 3% chance to get lost. Another sequential uncertain system means a 4.5% chance, a third uncertain would be 6.75% and so on.
Dangerous system would be:
1st - 6%
2nd - 12%
3rd - 24%
4th - 48%
In other words, on average you are going to lose 1/2 your freighters if your enemy sets up fleets along your supply lines. Going into a safe system would drop your chance of losing a freighter to zero, and it would start over. The math is simplistic. I roughly sketch out a division as follows:
Colonized system (no enemy ships)
Colonized system (friendly and enemy ships)
Uncolonized system (friendly ships present)
Colonized system (neutral ships present?)
Uncolonized system (no enemy ships)
Uncolonized system (friendly and enemy ships)
Colonized system (enemy ships present)
Uncolonized system (enemy ships present)
This is totally automated, all you have to do is colonize wisely and leave your ships out to defend your lines of transport. no micromanagement at all!
The math is also pretty simple. It might not be easy to calculate in your head but it sure isn't hard to program. All it requies is a loop with a counter that resets when it hits a safe spot.
So if you went:
You chance to lose a given freighter would be:
It can be exact numbers as I've done, or it can be cropped, or it can be rounded. The numbers change only slightly. What I've done is for uncertain systems, the first one has a chance of 3% and a 1.5x multiplier ever after, and the Dangerous systems start at 6% and have a 2x multiplier.
Obviously those numbers need tweaking. But heck, if you're sending your freighters through 8 systems that you don't control, you should expect to lose 9 out of 10!
Oh I forgot to mention, the logic behind my choosing this is that the population distribution of your empire is IMPORTANT, but whether it is star shaped, linear, like an hourglass, etc, doesn't matter. You can be the spine of the galaxy and as long as you're connected you're a-okay. Note that if you are just a single line of star systems you are still more vulnerable than in a star formation - your enemy can take over one system and divide your empire in half. That means you immediately lose 6% of your freighters passing though. If you're distributed in a circle/star shape, you will be more resilient to that effect.