in the design team of Travian: Kingdoms, we are currently running a little thought experiment and would like to collect your input regarding the matter as well.
What if we merged alliances and kingdoms so that there was only one diplomatic entity in the game, while giving the duke role more power and its own tributes?
Personally, I think the combination of kingdoms, alliances and treaties all on top of each other creates quite a lot of complexity, that can be really hard to understand and follow, especially for new players and governors in general, but doesn't really do all that much for the game in the end. Alliances are more or less just there to make a sum of treasures generate victory points. Maybe this "intermediate step" is not really necessary though. A clean and easy to understand basic structure would allow for a clear focus of future gameplay improvements.
In the same process, I can imagine that we could strengthen the cooperative, right now kingdom-specific, features in the game. For example by making dukes more important and differ more from governors by allowing them to collect their own tributes. They would then give a share to the king who would only collect from his dukes (making the tribute collection a lot less stressful). Basically we could position dukes closer to the king's role, so that they could even replace an abdicating king without too much trouble. I think that this change could make the player teams during a round much more stable, and thereby improve the team feeling and make more players feel (more) involved in what's happening in the game in general.
Another aspect that could benefit from this change is diplomacy itself. For example, given a clear diplomatic structure within the kingdom, we could easily add more meaning and mechanical depth to wars and pacts without running into trouble when it comes to displaying all the information in a clear way. If there is just one group each player belongs to, the strategic map could be way more accessible and hold more immediately useful information to begin with.
Those are just a few of my initial ideas to get the discussion started. What are your thoughts and feelings regarding this possibility?