Interesting continuing discussion here, about the annoying issue of champions never dying, when coupled with the AI's shabby, silly practice of constantly throwing defeated (ever weakening) champions back at the human player, again and again.
Champion immortality is fine. Heroes don't die in stories, why should they die here? The issue is that the AI sends them at you without regard. o o o
With a view towards preserving the flavor of the game, I tend to agree with seanw3's viewpoint expressed in his Reply #150, above. I like the conception, that these Champions (in addition to the Sovereign) are exceptional beings, possessed of magical power, who would tend to be immortal. After some consideration, I think the risk of capture (imprisonment and ransom) is the best way to mitigate the issues surrounding champion immortality.
First, some history, (Source: a couple of different articles in Wikipedia):
"Julius Caesar was captured by pirates near the island of Pharmacusa, and held until someone paid 50 talents to free him. In europe during the Middle Ages, ransom became an important custom of chivalric warfare. An important knight, especially nobility or royalty, was worth a significant sum of money if captured, but nothing if he was killed. For this reason, the practice of ransom contributed to the development of heraldry, which allowed knights to advertise their identities, and by implication their ransom value, and made them less likely to be killed out of hand. Examples include Richard the Lion Heart and Bertrand du Guesclin."
"The ransom of King John II of France was an incident during the Hundred Years War between France and England. Following the English capture of the French king during the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, John was held for ransom by the English crown. ... [King John II, after being surrounded in battle, surrendered to an English knight, who knew him. He was held in gentile captivity in England, for four years.] ... The Treaty of Bretigny, signed on 8 May 1360, ceded a third of western France -- mostly Aquitaine and Glascony -- to the English, and lowered the King's ransom to a still extortionate 3 million crowns."
Suggested mechanic for defeat/capture of champions. The first time a champion is defeated in battle, he always escapes to a friendly city. The second time a champion is defeated in battle, he has a 1-in-2 chance of escaping to a friendly city. The third time a champion is defeated in battle, he has a 1-in-3 chance of escaping to a friendly city. The fourth (or any later time) a champion in defeated in battle, he has only a 1-in-10 chance of escaping to a friendly city. Otherwise, in each case, the champion is captured, and available for ransom. (If prefered, to add a slight risk of death, subtract a 10% chance of permanent death, from the capture percentages, derived in the formulas above.) Sovereigns, being enormously powerful, magical beings, would always escape. Thus, the game mechanic of their being converted to the winner's side, in the event of an empire's surrender, would continue.
I think this is a simple, elegant mechanic for solving the issue. It reduces repeated (immortal) Champion kami-kazi attacks; and provides a potential source of some income to players who win significant battles. It would require some buffing of the computer AI, to handle ransoms in a non-stupid way ... maybe too much ? On the other hand, we know that Brad Wardell just loves to work on computer AI, so let him love working on this, until he gets it right !