I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Dragons of Atlantis. It's the first Facebook game I've played for more than a month, and the first I've really been tempted to spend money on (though I've resisted). And there are things about the design that I really admire, but also things I hate. I've even fantasized about going to work for Kabam, to teach them some basic truths about wargame design that they apparently lack.
It's a Travian-style game, but with better graphics, and, at least for me, a more interesting backdrop. You start with a single city, and build buildings that produce resources -- good, stone, wood, and metal -- that you use to build more buildings and troops -- as well as other buildings that improve your tech or increase your troop production capabilities. The basic algorithm is a triangular/doubling one; each upgrade of a building increases its production as a triangular number, but building time for the structure doubles. (Google triangular number if you don't know what I'm talking about here.) This is minimalist, interesting design, and a fundamentally sound approach.
Once you have sufficient infrastructure, you farm nearby wildernesses and anthropus camps (NPC defenders) to gain "dragon eggs" that allow you to build new outposts with more production capability -- army production more important than resources , for complexities I'm not going to go into -- and "dragon armor" that allows you other capabilities.
I admire the call to monetization; you can increase all your buildings to level 9 for free, but to raise special, more powerful troops from your outposts, you must raise some to level 10. To do that, you need a resource that (rarely) drops from the daily reward, but can always be bought.
However, combat sucks. Almost all battles result in either total victory, or total defeat, and building an army is a long, laborious process. You can spent weeks building a large battle dragon army, to see it wiped out in an instant. This is a "rage-quit" moment; not good design.
There is a complicated battle resolution system under the hood (not well messaged to players, but parsed by them and you can find blog posts explicating it). Despite its complexities, it mostly results in all-or-nothing battles. The result is that players mostly avoid battle (you can "hide" so that none of your troops defend in attack), and if bullied by a more powerful player, your only choices are to warp someplace where they can't find you, or whine piteously.
It's clear from some aspects of the design is that this is not what was initially intended; you can leave troops to defend a "wilderness" or an outpost, but in practice, doing so is foolish, since you can be overwhelmed by an attacker, and it's better simply to "hide." Evidently, the initial designer imagined some kind of positional warfare, but the actual player incentives make that absurd.
It's hard to get any sense of the disposition of power from the overall map; the cities and outposts of other players are shown, as are the wilderness you own, but there's no sense of organic territory ownership, and "attacking" means taking a wilderness of minor value, or denying use of an outpost to a player for some time, or stealing some resources from a city where the defender has (unless they think they can beat you) hidden, because that is the only logical strategy.
In the real world, few battles result in overwhelming victory or loss. In most cases, attackers, even if quite superior, suffer losses, and the loss entailed may deter attack. You could easily imagine a game of defended hardpoints, partial losses and retreats, surrender with the preservation of most force, and visual definition of territory held that would make for an interesting game of positional warfare. This isn't it.
In other words, the things that make wargames interesting -- maneuver, strategy, diplomacy -- are almost entirely lacking here; it's a builder with a broken wargame attached.
It's a pity. There's a lot to like here, but it doesn't quite deliver.