I do like MA, nice mix of magic and national troops, and yes, I agree, making research harder is pretty much necessary.
I am liking the idea of King of the Hill style gameplay. One throne, hold for an unknown number of turns. I’d aim for either 3, 6 or 12 turns, that way it is easier to track the time left based on the time of season - capture throne in late Summer, win in late Autumn, Winter or Summer, depending on timeframe. There are a couple of scenarios that could play out which I don’t like.
One is what happens to an army defending the throne when it has nowhere to go. We all know what happens, and suddenly that player is going to have a bad time. Having large armies, and large incomes might mitigate that if I find a map that has a nice land-locked location suitable for a single throne. Alternately, going pairs might be helpful too. Because of this, I’m avoiding islands as possible throne sites, tempting as they are. It also gives too much of an advantage to flying/air magic nations.
Secondly, a fortress filled with summons that don’t need supplies will be difficult to siege down the defenses. Particularly problematic if the fortress is insta-built with ritual like 3 Red Seconds or Wizards Tower, or the event that fires when unrest between 10 and 100.
But otherwise, that is my thoughts for the next game - King of the Hill, one throne only, hold 6 turns. And based on numbers, either teams of two, or singles, Middle Age with increased income, supplies, dependent on map I think, having just done a run, and even at 200% increase, money was absolutely rolling in, which makes it too easy to build forts. Difficult research and maybe a slight buff to special site frequency (50). No underwater nations.
Give it a few more days to see who else is interested, then I think work out a map, and go from there? In many ways, this style is a bit of a testbed, bit like QTDoom, so anyone playing has to be prepared for gameplay that might end up being unfair.