I'm a little late to this party, but as the thread remains open there is one thing I'd mention -- not an AtG issue specifically, but one endemic to strategy games: the information interface.
Half of what's necessary for good strategy is the ability to perceive the critical patterns within information that covers a wide swath of time and space (otherwise it would be tactics or operations). These include patterns of force configurations in space (how are the enemy's resources deployed now?), and patterns of force movement over time (how has the enemy tended to behave?).
But to be able to see those patterns, the player needs access to the relevant data. Not enough information and choices become guesses; too much information and it gets too hard to see signal amid the noise. (Better too much than too little for a strategy game, though.)
To make things even more fun, it's not just what data you show the player, it's how you organize it. Master of Orion 3
remains an unfortunate example of making it too hard to find the information you need, and even the wonderful MoO2 could leave you cycling through several screens looking for something instead of doing what's fun, which is forming and executing clever plans.
So my concern for AtG as a strategy game is how much information about the state and history of the game world will be available to players (including AI players!), and how effectively that information will be presented to human players.
My vague thinking on this suggests the following guidelines (which are open for debate):
- players should never have to drill down more than two screens for any information
- screens should be rich in information (represented either numerically or graphically or both)
- screens should not be cluttered regardless of screen resolution
- larger screen resolutions should allow more information per screen
- screens and their sub-screens should be organized logically
- screens and sub-screens should have rich links between them
- it should always be obvious how to navigate back to a higher-level screen
The fact that some of these goals contradict each other should offer a clue as to how hard it is to do good interface design.
But to sum up, the challenge in playing a strategy game should never be in finding the information you need in the data you have, but in using the same kinds of information held by every player to devise and execute a better strategic plan.
That leaves room for spycraft and incomplete/inconsistent knowledge while keeping the playing field fair and rewarding skillful perception and planning.
Given the level of transparency so far, I'm hopeful that tester feedback -- once the early versions of AtG become available -- will help the information interface of the game shine as brightly as the other important bits.