I agree with @Hala’s sentiment. It seems if we try to figure out how to replicate morale’s past effects, we’re taking a guess at what our goal will look like and shoehorning an experiment into what should be a well-designed piece of the game.
As it stands, the math is a black box. Even knowing what it does, it’s practically impossible to understand why it does it. Its purpose is not clear.
Going back to the basics: the goal is to prevent larger empires for totally destroying smaller empires through sheer size. I wonder if morale as a feature needs to be rethought and/or replaced with something else.
Fleet Efficiency Penalty (and Bonus?)
Empires start with 100% fleet efficiency. They can attack as much as they want, but incur an efficiency penalty that lowers their fleets effectiveness in battle. This is expressed as a penalty in the battle formula itself.
Battles between similarly sized empires will not incur much of this penalty, but massive empires that target smaller empires will incur this overhead due to mobilizing a larger military force than is necessary.
The rationale here is that coordinating a massive military campaign against a small target is a waste of your military’s resources, and incurs unnecessary logistical costs. Empires will suffer from choosing targets that are significantly smaller than they are, given that their military would be better used against more appropriate and worthy opponents.
This efficiency penalty requires a cool down period for your military to restore its balance. So, instead of having to wait to regain morale, empires can choose to wait for their efficiency penalty to wear off.
They can always ignore it and keep attacking, but given that the penalty is part of the battle formula itself, slamming smaller targets will at some point become prohibitively wasteful as units become increasingly inefficient and worse at combat.
In other words: continually fighting downward actually makes your military less skilled.
On the flip-side, fighting upward (repeatedly attacking larger empires) could actually give your fleet an efficiency bonus. The rationale is that with limited manpower, a military would out of necessity learn to be more resourceful and efficient. As you fight larger empires, your military becomes more skilled.
I’ve never been a fan of morale/fleet-readiness. It always felt like an attempt at a battle-fatigue feature that made sense as a concept but never really felt right. Moving this effect directly into the battle formula makes more sense to me than simply using morale to determine eligible targets.