Finally, caravans in detail. Caravans (to me) will always be a blatant abstraction on a time-scale that is impossible to use caravans on realistic terms (as far as speed). Yes, I understand military movement is under the same concern, but military movement is a game element that is Integral and has to be abstracted somewhat, since military action is extremely important while caravans are the unsung heroes that just aren't important in games of this scale. How many WWII games have a core of "Merchant Marine" units, and how many simply have supply available across the entire Ocean without any distance cost/triviality? The only way such games remove access by sea is through naval blockade (if they even allow that). I know Making History doesn't involve merchant marines (or caravans). I know Total War doesn't have caravans. Merchant Marines = Caravans (of the sea).
One game I know that DOES have merchant marines/caravans used (somewhat) effectively (as a player-controlled unit) is Age of Empires (at least III). They have a Trading Cog. It is not necessary!!! It adds added benefit!!! Unrealistic? maybe. It represents merchant vessels that conduct commerce between cities. its a controllable abstraction of "Trading Routes" of civilization ... however unlike in civilization, the amount of your investment affects the amount of pay-off, and these are the first things to be destroyed during Naval Warfare (destroying all that investment). The pay-off of the Trading Cog is high enough to make it a costly(though still cheap), buildable, and player-controlled unit. Also, it AUTOMATICALLY automates itself to go back-n-forth between City A and City B if it was built in City A and you send it to City B. You don't have to find a way to Automate it, it automatically does it because the automation is a "non-choice". In order to STOP the automation you can click on it and choose a new direction/location. Its not required to access resources (even though its an RTS so some people might auto-expect that), its not required for any normally needed activity. Its only used for EXTRA.
I don't see caravans as something that are needed for elemental, from a Trading Cog perspective. However I don't mind an abstraction with limited mechanical usage.
I see there can be two ways to handle caravan movement and quantity. One way is to automatically create (free) caravans directly proportional to HOW MUCH your city is using global resources NOT produced inside the city. Say one caravan for every 100 *total* goods produced *per turn* not produced inside the city. This includes food. Caravans are spread along all the roads going into your city, hopefully dispersed depending on where the majority of the surplus is coming from (say, a caravan will be much more likely to be on the road between your giant farming city and your giant Marble Mining city). So, you could have 3 caravans travelling between City A and City B, and no caravans travelling between City A and various outposts. Second way- you could simply have one caravan on each City-City connection and each City-outpost connection. This could lead to more than caravan on roads with many destinations, but always only one caravan on a road-segment with only 2 endpoints.
Handling "Caravan Destruction- an aspect of pillaging." One way you could handle caravan destruction is with the following example. Say there is one caravan that travels between City A and City B. As long as this caravan is alive (and there is no road destruction or siege), the two cities gain constant access to global resources. If Horseman Bandit "Fred" destroys the caravan on its way to City B, then City B loses all access to all global resources for the next 1 turn. The Caravan is immediately recreated at the walls of City B.
Handling Roads ... There are two ways to do this. One is to treat the city as if under siege (meaning no access to global resources), and the other way is to not provide the "connected discount". This alternative is hinted at previously, when I said that connected cities (or cities that produced the resource) would be able to use food and equipment at a lower rate (say 80 vs 100, or 3 vs 4). If your city has no roads (and no stone) then your 100 stone building is going to cost 100 stone (instead of 80), and if you have no food, then your houses are going to consume 4 net food as opposed to 3 net food. This is unlike a seige. In a seige if you had no food, all production speeds would halt to 0, and you wouldn't be able to build anything else.
Further notes on a Seige. The Seige would work on an exponential scale depending on how self-sustaining your City was (measuring only food). If your City produced 50% of used food, then everything will cost twice as many materials, and everything would take twice as long to build. If your city produced 10% of used food then everything would cost ten times as many materials and everything would take ten times as long to make. If your city produced 1% of used food, then everything would cost 100 times more materials and take 100 times as long to make. If your city produced 0% of the food, then it would cost infinitely more materials (cannot purchase anything new), and would take an infinite period of time to make (production is halted). This represents the Starvation of the citizens without actually having to decrease the population. Alternatively, they could decide that purchasing prices are the same and siege only effects the TIME it takes to produce items ... however I think that would nerf siege, and that increased prices reflect how hard it is to ship something into a city under seige (or inversely the ability for people/citizens to destroy private property in order to build what is required).