From: Cambridge, UK
The question for me on Kingdoms and important FS is "Can I keep it?" So, as RU, I may be able to make Poland, but can I build it up enough to hold it?
Except for maybe some of the central german states, I usually go with FS (of countries with corps markers). Hey, even if you add a few guys to the coutnry, you get a maintenance-free corps. In the case of Egypt, Sweden or some of the countries with fleets, they are monsters that can add ALOT to your forcepool.
Just my $.02.
(I just got the computer game and am working through the mechanics of doing what I want with the system. Yeah.)
I use a mental equation to try to figure out whether making a kingdom (or, a free state) is worth it. I'm using the term "Free State" (FS) below, but it mostly applies to kingdoms, too. I ignore the political points, but I probably shouldn't. It's just that in such a long game, 2 PP isn't really all that much.
Anyhow, you have to compare the money and manpower you would get against what the FS would get. For instance, if the country is a 4/2 ($4 money, 2 manpower), then I would be giving up "1 troop and $1" per quarter. The FS will get 2 Troops and $2. However, they will have to spend $1 of the $2, to pay for the corps counter.
HOWEVER, that corps counter is also a benefit that one receives for making a free state gets: I now have one more corps counter to play with.
On the other hand, there are drawbacks. Many of the FSs don't have corps counters. In those cases, a benefit to being a FS is that it can't be lost to the instability/fiasco zones as easily. But, I can't think of any others. So, rule of thumb: Never create a FS that doesn't have a corps counter, unless instability is a potential issue.
Even for those minors who DO have corps counters, there are other drawbacks:
1) The corps counters are generally smaller than home nations ones are. This means that a "slot" is taken up in a leaders limit count of corps counters. Generally, this means one will field a smaller army if one includes FSs. But, that's not always the case. Algeria is the same size as Austrian corps (except 4 cav instead of a 4 infantry). Etc.
2) FSs can have lower morale than major powers' factors. (Huge exception: Poland). This can tend to lower the overall morale rating of one's army. However, this can be mitigated against by having the FS corps be the ones to perform "dirty work", and let the major's own corps fight battles. By "dirty work", I mean cleaning out enemy depots, besieging a city that isn't time-critical to capture, guarding friendly depots, etc.
Then, one must evaluate against ones own nation. France doesn't really like having those 2 morale guys dragging down his army's morale. On the other hand, Turkey thinks of some minors as "elite forces".
Also, Turkey looks at many FSs as having bigger corps than it generally has (Turkey only has 3 corps with > 10 factors allowed. So, adding Egypt's two 20-factor corps is a HUGE change in army size. Plus, it wasn't paying for itself anyhow (remember the equation: 3 troops are generated for Turkey by Egypt, but at a net COST of $6!). Turkey is better off with Egypt as a FS, but building only 4 factors a turn.
On the other hand, GB has to do some serious evaluating before she turns Egypt into a FS. Yes, it's a cost drain, but GB has more money than she knows what to do with. Which is better: Having 2 more 20-factor corps with 4 built-in cav, but at only 2.8 morale? Or, an extra 3 actual British troops per turn? Tough to say.
Each nation has a different practice (as will each player, and it's partly dependent upon your situation on the map), but the basics stay the same: Each minor conquered delivers x troops per turn, plus (or minus) some dollar figure. Then, one must ask, "Which is better?"
One nice thing about this game is that you can downgrade FSs to conquered status. One must be careful, lest one lost it to instability, but Turkey should consider dropping Imetria down to conquered after the first war with Russia is complete (or, after that section of the map has had all of the Russian squatters destroyed).