Can we drop the dick-measuring, please? It's getting grating.
To address your points regarding Charlescomm, Kreistor, I think you're seriously overestimating Charlie's adaptability.
Frankly, the way Charlie's "change" is described suggests less a man making sound strategic decisions and more one who is letting his insecurities begin to govern his thinking. I believe Olive's betrayal, his attunement, or both changed him in ramping up his paranoia:
Although he succumbed to some of the effects of her magic, the defendant’s father ultimately resisted her control.
Control, not attack. His mind was under threat.
"He withdrew into himself."
Spoken by Olive so not strictly trustworthy, but I suspect her testimony has at least a grain of truth to it.
For all his cunning, Charlie is a very conservative player. He prioritizes non-territorial means of power acquisition, hence weakening any incentive at conquest by a rival. His units - at least by the Summer Updates - are exclusively either mindless (golems) or high-value units ideal for mercenary work (archons), and even those are kept at arm's length. Casters, who are by nature inquisitive, are hired from the Magic Kingdom rather than kept around. He is, in effect, the closest a Ruler can get to a powergamer who prioritizes absolute defense over practically everything else.
All of this taken together strikes me as not merely being a body of methods to improve efficiency, but also an entire way of life fundamentally rooted in acting out one unit's deep-seated paranoia.
If there's a consistent theme in Erfworld about tactics and strategy, it's that even the supposedly "finest" minds are limited by their character. Ansom was unimaginative and easily provoked into preserving his dignity. Wanda makes stupid decisions because of her affection for Jillian. Even Parson, who apparently has the ultimate potential as a warlord, makes colossal, near-lethal blunders due to his alien ignorance but also his own emotional concerns. Charlie is certainly much brighter than most of his rivals, but this is tempered by a crippling inability to develop trust. No one likes
Charlie, and I suspect the more they learn about him the less inclined they are to like him.
Nowadays, he's still sticking to the same approach: don't expose yourself to any risk, keep all your pawns at arm's length. And it's costing him: he's been resorting to straight-up extortion to get some Royals to do what he wants and is desperately trying to convince the others that he's on their side. While I can see sound arguments for diversifying and modifying one's defenses, I can also see a Charlie who, under dire threat, would withdraw further into his trusted means of defense. It's classic introvert behavior. True, he may have known the value of Natural Allies from previous experience, but lessons can be erased. People do absolutely stupid things, knowing better, because their character won't allow it.
Frankly, there's a much more thematically appropriate means of taking Charlescomm than "combined Air, land, and tunnel assault": deprive Charlie of customers, of Sides he can throw in Parson's path or pit against one another. Archons and golems are expensive to maintain turn after turn, as is a Level 5 city. Cut off his money supply and starve him out.
Balerion wrote:Going back to his own way of planning during book 1, what is the goal here? So far as I can tell, the only goal he has is "hear what the Thinkamancers have to say from a position of safety". To accomplish that goal, he pulls of a clever tactical trick to get soldiers into the MK. For solving the immediate problem, it is a neat, elegant solution. From any perspective thinking more than 10 turns out, it is also one of the worst possible decisions Parson could have made.
You're forgetting the fact that segments of the MK are already actively hostile towards Parson - there's already been a possible assassination attempt on him there. And since the Thinkamancers apparently will only consent to talking to him in the MK, he's got to go back sometime. Threatening anyone who attacks
him is no different than the MK's existing system of responding with force to people who violate neutrality.
Part of this also depends on just what the Thinkamancers have to offer about understanding Erfworld. Frankly, Charlie has already violated things similar to MK neurality, such as having wiretapping capabilities on Thinkagrams and sending a Carny to engage a unit in the MK. Parson's merely taking the step of denying Charlie direct control of a space which he controlled indirectly.
"If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless." - Hemingway