I don't think the current system is bad, it's the higher number with difficulty that constricts your options. Fixing the rate w.r.t. difficulty will help.
On the woes front, I think "removing X, use woes" is really too much faith in woes (something that we haven't seen in-game) - they're not a fix-all, and I do think the game can use a different regular pressure to bandits. Perhaps increasing crime causes losses in resource income, kicking in from 20% - that may be worth trying. Increases in difficulty then affects just bandit spawn-rates, and not crime-rates.
Going with Mick's idea on the bandits thing, what if we revamped how bandits are spawned? Right now it's just a global number and bandits appear periodically based on the number, always on new tiles that are coming into the game (aside from the dead forest spawns, which are a different matter). What if, instead:
1. There was no global "bandit spawn counter."
2. Instead there was a "percent chance of bandit spawn" on each tile on the map. This starts at 0% and counts up every turn for every tile.
3. Every time a military unit is produced, the bandit spawn counter is reduced a certain amount in a certain radius.
4. If the percent chance gets high enough that a bandit spawns on a tile, then all the tiles within a certain radius of the tile that just got the bandit revert to 0% chance of a bandit for now.
There's a good chance that would be a #$^$& to balance, though...
Definitely suspect this is going to be a #$^$& to balance, and not all that intuitive either. I like the location-based mechanism though.
Taking both the suggestion and the desire to see a mini-woe out of it, would it be more intuitive to:
- suppress the spawn rate based on the presence
of military units (so they pop up where you are not actively protecting, and actively encourages more military without being able to directly specify where
that protection is).
- When bandits spawn, have a chance to spawn multiple of them at once based on nearby tiles (emulating a mini-woe, so that woes don't have the burden of creating bandit-threat).
- Set chance to zero afterwards as before?
More bandits at once will naturally make them a bigger influence, and the presence of military set-up will encourage them to spawn near the back-edges of the map.
= = =
With crime, what do people think of this simplification/alternative formulation:
- When there's a military unit in/next to a town, crime goes down (fast).
- When there's no military unit in town, crime goes up (slow).
What this does is to:
- free a town from having to make a military building at all.
- but it also places higher crime pressure against the current habit of setting up protected resources towns in the back. Encourages placement of military buildings at the back
of all of your towns, which will change as you expand deeper and makes relative arrangement of towns a larger factor.
- Give players an interactive/dynamic control over crime by altering military flow-paths, as they act like patrols. Players are free to build all-resource towns in the back if they periodically place tokens/ruins to suppress crime there. Or, they can build it at the front, in the line of fire. Or, they build military buildings in every town.
I think it's more intuitive to say that the continual presence of police forces encourage on-time payment of taxes/spawning of bandits, than the creation of said force. Depends on how you think of crime in the game.