From: London, UK
Great Points and excellent historical example in the First Punic War. Moreover, I think you are spot on all three points. The experience level for sailors may be too hard to code -- or perhaps not-- but the thought process is correct and if it is doable should be investigated as an option.
We don't do an adequate job of maintenance costings... once something is built it is almost free. Historically, armies and navies were limited to certain sizes due to economic and manning limitations. for the most part, these don't exist in EiA. I think it would be rational to decrease the costs, for example, of fleet construction and increase the cost of maintenance.
Armies should probably have a higher maintenance cost, but this would involve some thought as to how to handle various unit types. It seems that both on land and sea the designers of EiA made a choice -- conscious or otherwise -- to roll maintenance costs into construction costs, which exposes us to the problems you noted. It would not be hard to design a mechanism to take into account national limits of maintenance... say pay double maintenance costs/halve available manpower for units beyond a certain threshold, quadruple maintenance costs beyond a second threshold/quarter available man power etc or something like this.
Per the Blockade Box, you are right on. I know that some sailor types (Del, I believe) are ardent supporters of this reduced maintenance cost, but they are, frankly incorrect. I have significant amount of source material that demonstrates the extreme costs of blockades, and both of the cases I have researched (GB in 1798 outside Toulon and the US outside Tripoli in 1804) are in the relatively less tempestuous waters of the Mediterranean. These increased costs would also capture losses to storms at sea, in my opinion.
Anyway, I think you are on the right track. Mind you that the EiA Playing community tends to be very very conservative, even in the face of actual facts that show the pre-existing rules are contrary to history. They claim things like game balance etc. I think they are mistaken here, as when anyone gets ahead there is enough power extant in the other 6 powers to stop them, barring perhaps GB at sea.
I really am a proponent of the reduced naval construction costs for this reason more than any other: it would make the game more dynamic and fun. Too often now it ends up as everybody beating up on France and then waiting. They don't go after GB because of the time and expense. Britain can be defeated at sea as shown by the US Navy and the French in the Indian Ocean. All it takes is recruiting the merchant marine sailors, spending money on ships, time at sea, and a thirst for victory. Or so is my opinion after 16 plus commissioned years in the naval service.
If a new recruit may join in this educational discussion...
First, to add to the classical era evidence: do I recall correctly that, over the course of the First Punic War, the Romans invented having a fleet (copying a Carthaginian trireme that washed ashore after a storm), lost that fleet, built another fleet, lost it, and finally won the naval war for Sicily with their third fleet? Carthage's navy was just bled dry and ended up with less experienced crews than the Romans.
Which leads to a really difficult to code idea: Austria and Prussia have penalties because their fleets do not have a seagoing tradition, no experience. There is no way in the game to improve on that, no matter how many ships they build or how many battles they <cough> win. Britain has an advantage in combats due to experience, no matter how many fleets they lose. So, could a fleet counter accrue "experience points" by spending time at sea? There are many games that can deal with the arithmetic of keeping track of "this corps has 2 veteran pts with xp = 10, and you just added 5 new pts with xp = 0, so the corps is now average xp = 2.9", and that's really not much different than the shifting morale of an EiA corps as casualties are taken. This would cover the training issue of the large French fleets sitting at anchor unused in 1814...even outnumbering the British fleet, they would have been butchered due to lack of experience at sea. And it would allow for those fleets without high experience to eventually get it, and those with it to lose it in a major fleet loss.
Now, how to deal with some fleets having an experience bonus and some not, I'm not sure...if British fleets are stacked with Austrian, don't the bonus and penalty offset each other?
Second, I have believed for years that EiA made a serious error in understating unit maintenance. On land, it leads to massive armies that were never seen historically, because all the money goes to building new units. At sea, the same effect is possible if ships are built instead of troops. The only real limitation on strengths come from the limited counter mix, and even that can be circumvented through piling infantry/militia as massive garrisons on every town, and leaving ships in ports instead of in fleet counters.
If a more "accurate" cost of maintaining corps, fleets, even garrisons were implemented, the sizes of armies would have an ultimate limit. Once an army approached the size where all the money went to maintenance, no more army could be built...and building more would mean failing to meet the maintenance cost (risking bankruptcy). The same is true for navies. And while it would be prohibitively painful to try to account maintenance on a basis of troop strength rather than number of corps, in a computer game it should be no more difficult than a corps basis. "France has 126 infantry in corps and 44 more in garrisons for 170 infantry at $0.1/quarter maintenance = $17, moving on to artillery." And many of the cost differentials that are used to push building more infantry than cavalry, say, are not really historical. As HanBarca mentioned above from another game, the ingredients for a cavalry regiment, while more than those for an infantry force of the same manpower, is not four times as great. But the maintenance very well may be (salaries are higher, replacement horses are bought more often, fodder is needed, and a whole lot of leather goods have to be kept up). It will be this factor (if you don't constrain horse production) that limits cavalry force size.
Finally (yay, he's almost done!), EiA was just bizarre in giving a maintenance cost penalty for being at sea, but not for being in a blockade box. The British fleet had been beaten to trash by 1814 (and was very happy with their new French-built fleet, thank you very much) by the long years of blockading. Those ships were always being rebuilt and restored, at a significant fraction of construction cost. An accurate representation would actually have ships being "half-sunk" or some such term randomly every month on blockade or at sea, returning to port to be restored, and leaving only part of the "paper strength" available for blockade on any given day. This is probably more trouble than most players want to deal with (though I don't really care how hard the computer has to work), so a simpler alternative is to pay more maintenance for blockading ships and represent the restoration costs that way.
How's that for a first submission...at least three controversial suggestions in one shot.