Just thought I'd speculate about Charlescomm the side a little. We've learned a good bit about them, now
Just the stats:
Cities: 1, level 5
Golems: ~700, city defence, probably primarily low level.
Archons, last known: ~600, field work, probably ranging from levels 1 to 8 or 9. Scattered throughout erfworld, with about 20% of their forces guarding the the area around Charlie's city. These are likely also used for scouting and other, smaller missions.
Two major sources, mercenary work and telecommunications, as well as one level 5 city. No idea how high this income is.
Upkeep for 600 archons: 200-500 shmuckers, scaling with level. Assuming that, on average, archons are around level 4, that would give us an average upkeep of around 300 shmuckers per archon, for a total archon upkeep of around 180k. The consumption of provisions, as well as the fact that a large chunk of these are staying in the city might cut this down to around 150k.
Payment for magic kingdom casters: No idea how high these costs would be.
Golem upkeep: Being magically animated, I don't think golems require upkeep.
That's what we know so far, I think. Now, for the things we don't know.
Warning, hardcore speculation ahead.
First, le archons.
I put the average archon level between 4 and 5 for a couple of reasons. Primarily the fact that the majority of these archons must have been alive for a long, long time. Charlie pops one a turn, 1.5 a turn at times. That means that the oldest archon must be at least 400-600 turns old. This is assuming no archons have died. Assuming that, against all expectations, support units doing mercenary work take casualties when doing mercenary work, we can bump that estimate up to, say, 500-700 turns. Let's say 600, roundabouts. If we assume that archons spend just half their time employed, that makes 300 turns' worth of employment. And if we take our queue from Jillan's mercenary work, we can assume that mercenaries, once employed, are generally very active.
That means that, on average, an Archons will have 150 turns' worth of employment. Of course, experience needed to level increases exponentially, and it'll take much more effor to get 2 units to level 5 than it does to get one unit to level 10. But I think that Charlie will generally be clever enough to direct experience in the direction of the lower-level, rather than the higher-level archons. Some might end up at levels 6 or 7 while others, particularly the newer ones, bump around at levels 2 and 3. Some will be even higher-level, particularly those with leadership, while the really fresh archons won't have leveled at all.
Of course, Archons seem to be more support-focused than combat-focused, and would probably have difficulty getting as many kills as a combat unit of equivalent strength. On the other hand, archons with leadership will gain experience for winning battles that they lead, and could "claim" the killing blow for themselves or other archons. Plus, while they seem to prefer tricky tactics, they are perfectly capable of killing via shockamancy, the environment, and ultimately attacking.
I think 150k is a pretty conservative estimate for Charlie's upkeep. It's also a luuuudicrously large sum given that he has to pay it every freakin' turn. We don't really have a good way to judge exactly how much it is, but we know a few things. Jillan got 40k from razing Jitterati's cities. I think I remember her commenting that this would be enough to sustain her side for 8-10 turns. That would put her upkeep at 5 k. While her side isn't huge yet, she does have an alliance with the Western Giants to honor, as well as spending for fliers, casters and warlords.
We also know that wiping out Carpool would cost Translyvito a quarter of a million shmuckers. That's 250k, 1.7 times as much as Charlie spends each turn on units alone. From context, we can infer that this sum is very difficult to spare. From that in turn we can probably assume that it's significantly more than Translyvito makes in one turn.
Interestingly, we know that the bounty for 25 archons (25x5k for 125k) is the kind of sum that would be necessary to promote Tramemnis to heir. From Benjamin's discussion with the Don when Slately asks for the loan we can deduce that this sum would basically empty Translyvito's treasury to a good degree.
Of course, Translyvito has spent money boosting up FAQ and its 3 cities and units, but at the current point in time, Charlescomm spends more every turn than Translyvito has cash reserves. I think that's significant.
If we assume that Translyvito will retain about 3 turns' worth of expenses as a minimum cash reserve (which is probably wise in such volatile times), we get about 40-50k in expenses for them. Looking at their size and their force composition, I'd say that seems about right, particularly in comparison with FAQ during its assault on Jitterati. FAQ was still growing at that time, and I think that pegging Translyvito at 8-10 times FAQ's size at the time fits pretty well.
Ultimately, that gives us the result that Charlie's upkeep is about triple that of Translyvito, which I think is a pretty good benchmark for a major side. It'd probably be 2.5 times that of Jetstone and 4-5 times Haggar's upkeep.
Of course, the reason that Charlie can grow so much larger than the other sides lies in the fact that he doesn't depend on cities for income. His units work for their keep, constantly. That allows him to circumvent the limiting factor that is decreasing city income. The more city-levels you have, the less income you'll get from each additional city-level. As such, there is an upper limit to the amount of units a conventional side can sustain. Not so for Charlie.
The first question is how high his income would be.
We know that, after TBFGK, Charlie lost a lot of business with royal sides involved with the battle and the RCC. Since Charlie operates globally, the loss of these sides would present 5 or 6 out of dozens, or even hundreds. These sides are, however, very close to home, for him, and would probably make up a good chunk of his customer base, since they're most familiar with him, they're the market he started with. However, as far as we can tell, the loss of business didn't effect him negatively. He has been spending a good amount of resources supporting Jillan (Kingsworld cost him at least 120k shmuckers, in addition to what he payed for another caster, for one), and he's also very free with his bounties (offering a significant cash reward for Archon-killing). From that we can presume that, even with the loss of a large customer base, he's still doing fairly well financially. Charlie is the type to have very large cash reserves to fall back upon, but I feel that such a profit-oriented character wouldn't be spending this much money if he wasn't sure that this kind of spending was sustainable. As such, I'm gonna assume that his income outstripped his expenditures by at least one third before GK, and still outstrips it signficantly post-GK. Expenditures of 150k, income of, say, 180k.
From what we know he has three methods of income. FIrst, a level-5 city.
I'm gonna put this at around 3-4 thousand shmuckers per turn, though I have nothing to really support that.
Secondly, his thinkagram service. He can use the Arkendish to communicate with anyone on Erf, and his aid in transmitting information is available for a fee. Parson speculates that his role as a telecommunications giant actually earns him more income than his mercenary business, which is extremely interesting. His income has to be at least 180k shmuckers. "Over half" of that would be around 100k. I'm gonna assume that charlie's income isn't vastly greater than his expenditures. He probably has cash reserves, but I don't think he makes much more than he spends on his Archons. We know that Charlie charges 2,500 shmuckers for a two-way thinkagram. If a one-way is, say, 1500, then Charlie would only need arould between 40 and 66 thinkagrams per turn. Of course, with such high prices, he's going to have some trouble finding customers, but given that his services are apparently available to any warlord on Erf, I think his market is large enough that he could get the numbers. Assuming 200 sides on erfworld (about as many nations as there are in the world today), he'd only need them to request an average of one thinkagram every 4 turns, assuming most requests are 2-way. The more sides there are, and the greater the need for rapid communications, the greater his income from this sector would be. Of course, the corrolary of that is that, in the short term, it's very hard for him to expand his income in this sector. He has unlimited supply, the limiting factor is total global demand. This will fluctuate regionally, but since he works globally, I think his income here will be pretty static. He can encourage the formation of new sides in the long term and discourage the use of MK thinkamancers by making himself seem more reliable, but I think that, however high his income from telecommunications is, he's reached his limit.
As a side note, as far as we know, his ability to use the Arkendish for Thinkagrams or communication is nullified when he's busy linking casters. The two days he spent linked to Vanna would, therefore, have cost him about one-and-a-half to two days' worth of communications, the equivalent of anything between 150k and 200k shmuckers. Quite pricey, particularly considering the fact that it might have been for nought.
The other half of his income (perhaps slightly less than half) comes from mercenary work.
This is probably the bit we know the least about. We know that, at the time of TBFGK, he had about 480 archons in the field. How much income would he gain from this? At most 100k per turn, if our previous estimates are correct. Given that his archons in and around his capital site are often also working, at least to some degree, we'd have around 500 archons active in mercenary roles. From our estimates above, (50% employment rate, average upkeep of around 300, less provisions and rations), he'd have to charge 400 shmuckers per turn per archon. That would be more than the individual upkeep of the archon in question, with extra fees based on extra services, but would mean that he's losing money on his standing army! Does that make sense?
I think it does, to a degree. Charlie isn't only about profits, he's also about influence. Archons are excellent vectors for Charlie's influence. They're mobile, loyal and very, very versatile. Textbook force multipliers, and he has them all over the world. Sure, they also act as a source of income for Charlescomm, but I think, beyond that, they quite simply give Charlie power. That's what units in Erf are about, really, to grant their controller power. Shmuckers support that aim, but aren't a goal in and of themselves.
Given that profits from mercenary industries probably have limiting factors as well (only gonna be so many sides willing to hire archons), a mercenary archon force is only going to be self-sustaining up to a point. But, as we've, I think, established, it isn't about creating a self-sustaining force, for Charlie, it's about having influence. Charlie loses money on his standing army, but he gains security, power and control all over the world.
Of course, 400 shmuckers does seem a bit of a bargain for such a strong force multiplier, but I think lower prices, coupled with penalties for losing archons encourage frequent use of Charlie's mercenary services. That gives him much more influence on global current events, it gets people more familiar with his side, builds up trust and earns his archons more experience, since they'll be acting more. So I think that a price tag of 4-500 shmuckers per turn would be in character.
The fact that Charlie still (presumably) has a surplus in his income means that he could continue to produce units.. 30-50 k shmuckers will be enouther to support 100-200 archons, tending towards the 200, since these archons will be capable of mercenary work as well. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the 66 turns since TBFGK, charlie would have popped another hundred archons to deal with the GK threat. That would even his cashflow out signficantly, particularly since he'd also be recalling at least some of his archons from distant lands, but it'd probably leave him with at least a small surplus.
So what does that tell us about deployment? If he recalled 30 higher-level archons from mercenary work, popped another hundred archons and kept the 120 archons he already had in his city, that'd leave him with a standing army of up to 250. A lot of these would be lower-level, though Charlie could replace some higher-level field archons with freshly-popped level 1s. Of course, he might not have popped the full hundred, since that would require the services of a Turnamancer, which, while feasible, would probably be quite expensive. So let's assume a force of 200.
What does that mean for GK? We know that Archons CAN fight. We've seen them do so very effectively. But at the same time, considering their other abilities, they don't seem like optimal combat units. Charlie would have needed 28 Archons to reliably take GK at its very lowest point, and we can assume they would have taken considerable casualties there. We're currently seeing how effective they are at hitting and eliminating individual targets, but also that, despite their tactics and coordination, they die fairly quickly in direct combat.
Using them for their support abilities seems to be the name of the Archon game. Communications, scouting, advice, as well as their wide variety of specials that give commanders so many more options than they would've had otherwise, and make their usual options that much more effective.
My point, I suppose, is that, as I've stated a couple of times already, Archons are more effective when used as force mulitpliers for combat-centric troops, to misdirect the enemy, lead their allies, provide information and eliminate high-value targets. As such, while a force of 200 Archons sounds formidable, said Archons would be most effective when supporting an equally formidable conventional army. As it is, though, while a pure-archon force isn't optimal, numbers, specials and their high mobility make it very possible for them to be used in precision strikes against certain hexes or cities (Such as Charlie's threat to eliminate Haggar's capital if they didn't comply).
Still, this weakness in direct combat might be why Charlie hasn't launched a decapitation strike at GK yet. Maybe 200 archons, a third of his entire army, wouldn't be enough to take GK and kill Stanley. And that, in turn, opens up an interesting perspective. Charlie's at his best when supporting allies. The corrolary being that he's at his weakest when working alone. Charlie's force is made up of precisely one unit (two if you count the golems). And while that unit has great variety, it is not not efficient in direct combat. That's a tactical flaw. But this tactical flaw plagues his entire side. His entire side is weak on a strategic scale if you face it directly. When alone, he can't commit to direct combat on a large scale, and, since he relies on units to provide a large chunk of his income, a singificant portion of his army won't be available for combat operations at any given time. He's bad at recouping losses due to his low production and, while he is big, that size ultimately translates into political influence more than it does into combat prowess.
I think that's why he's so intent on GK not discovering his role in the battle for Jetstone. He's afraid of facing them head-on. And that's why he's so determined to see GK fall in general: It has motive to move against him, it has the strength to move against him, its goal is to eliminate his allies, forcing him to face them directly, and it's led by a man whose mind is at least a match for Charlie's. Charlie's opposition to GK isn't an ideological one, or motivated by revenge, it's self-preservation. He's threatened. And I think that, for such an old, powerful side, that's a really interesting realization.
I feel that I rambled on for a bit back there, but I kinda got into it. This is a lot longer than I thought it would be when I started writing, and large chunks of it are conjencture with minimal ties to what we know, but that's half the fun. I think the picture as I painted it is both consisent with the facts that we know and with characters' trends and behaviors. I haven't touched on Charlie's interference with natural allies, I was considering him more as a conventional side without touching on the Arkendish's special tactics. Though if you'd like to touch on those, please do. I just wanted to work out a rough picture of Erfwold's favorite telecommunications giant.
Comments, discussions and corrections welcome.