Morale is a heavily under-utilised facet of warfare in strategy and tactical games. Even for those games which attempt to factor it in (e.g. total war series) it's poorly implemented.
In the pre-industrial age it was Morale more often than not that was the deciding factor once battle was joined. This is a broad generalisation of course but generally speaking armies did not fight to the death - one side broke and ran first. This is still true today but arguably to a lessened extent due to industrialised weaponry.
What's out there?
What morale systems are out there?
The Total War system allows for morale to be modified by buildings present when a unit is created, and for the commander present on a battlefield to affect it as well. TW also tracks morale in progress and has tactical modifiers such as flanks secured vs exposed, too many losses etc. When troops run out of morale they break and run.
However total war handles feedback to the player about morale on the battlefield poorly. There is no real indication of when your troops are about to break, and no really good way of communicating what's affecting morale in either the strategic or tactical vectors. Selecting an individual unit would display at most one line of text about one factor that was affecting morale, and no indicator bar or anything similar was present.
The Gettysburg System is much better, and it's the example I will hold up until someone thinks of a better one. In Sid Meier's Gettysburg morale was the main element of play and was very well indicated. Each unit had a series of flags displayed indicating how much total morale it had. For a green unit this base value was two, trained had three, veteran four and crack units had five. These would act as a morale status bar, and change slowly to red from left to right as morale was consumed.
When something was positively effecting morale such as the unit's General within the correct range for his skill/experience level, an extra flag would appear. Other things which affected morale positively were other units to the flanks, other units behind and from memory being dug-in had a positive. Hovering the mouse over these flags should display what they were there for, quickly teaching the player how to boost and maintain morale.
Things which consumed morale were forced double-speed marching (in this way in Gettysburg morale doubled as Endurance, an idea I don't particularly like), losses, nearby units breaking, being outflanked etc. When all of a unit's flags were coloured red, it broke and ran. If surrounded when that happened it would generally surrender.
The really cool part was that temporary flag-boosting things could take you well past your unit's original number of flags. For example a Veteran unit which had friendly units flanking it and an artillery battery directly behind, with the general in range could have seven flags. If this unit got up to 6.5 flags red you knew you couldn't move the battery, the general or the flanking units or they'd break and run. This meant morale was a deep tactical element and I count that a success.
Other systems... what else was out there? Pirates! had an interesting system but no more advanced than Gettysburg and I can't think of any game that did it better. Does anyone else have a good example? I can't think of a single 'RTS' or even turn based strategy title that did this really well.
Gettysburg's big downfall was of course it had very little in the way of actual strategy. It was a strictly tactical game - you didn't build or equip units and you arrived at the battlefield with your pieces dictated from the outset. It was a wonderful tactical game but really it only brushed on strategy when you decided when you would commit your reserves.
What would be great is some combination of Gettysburg's tactical morale effects and display (modernised of course - screens are bigger now and interfaces have moved on) with Total War's strategic ability to increase the base morale of a unit at creation time with buildings and other factors.
I think some system similar to the gettysburg flags but shown per unit so you can highlight several units. I'm sure you could show 2-8 little morale bars over a single unit on today's huge monitors and still have a hundred units on the screen. (mmm, 2560x1600). Of course a selected unit can show more details and hovering over each little bar should tell you why it's there - e.g. flanking, general's presence, losses inflicted on enemy etc.
Maybe you can make each 'bar' a little symbol instead for why it's there, like a little tree for cover, a helmet for general, double horizontal lines for friendly troops behind, double vertical for flanking... Some way of telling at a glance how good your whole army's morale is would absolutely rock, and being able to just cast your eye down the line and see all the effects would give me a nerdgasm.
In the strategic game it should be clear at all times what the base morale of any unit you tell a city to create will be, as well as the effects which a given building can have on morale.
Some examples of the tactical effects on morale are below. +X means a number of flags or bars is added to the total morale available to a unit, -X means this number of flags is consumed. Any unit with all flags or bars consumed breaks and runs. As you can see in the case of an organised army with flanking and rear units this can lead to a cascade effect leading to a complete rout - which is higly realistic.
+1 General in range (can be +2 and/or wider range for better generals)
+1 Friendly unit on my flank(s)
+1 Friendly unit behind
+1 Dug in
+1 In cover (e.g. trees or rocks)
+1 On a hill facing down
+1 Hero present and in range for morale boost
-1 Have taken significant losses (say 15%)
-2 Have taken serious losses (Say 30%)
-3 Have taken massive losses (Say 50%)
-4 Have taken horrible losses (Say 75%)
-1 Being attacked on the flank or by an enfilade ranged attack
-1 Being charged by cavalry
-2 Being charged by Bear cavalry
-2 Attacked from the rear
-2 Cut off from the rest of the army
-1 A frightening weapon, creature or magical effect is being used on us
-2 An especially frightening weapon, creature or magical effect etc
The positive effects can come and go as whatever causes them arrives or leaves, whereas the negatives can consume morale which then recovers slowly over time. So being charged by cavalry and then bear cavalry would be bad, but less so if there's five minutes of standing on a hill looking mean in between.
This introduces yet another variable of course being the regeneration rate for morale. Should this be a percentage of total (I would say yes to avoid penalising more experienced units) and can it be effected by the presence of heroes and generals? Why not!
Things which can permanently increase the morale of a unit at creation or upgrade:
+1 Shrine present
+2 Temple present
+3 Cathedral present
(working on the theory that religion makes you fear death less)
+1 Basic training
+2 Intermediate training
+3 Advanced or heavy training
+1 Some experience
+2 Moderate experience
+3 Veteran unit
+1 Channeler was present during training
+1 a Hero was present during training
+1 Channeler's morale effect (can be a skill pick or something?)
Summoned and created creatures
Of course a big plus here is that you can give magical creatures a great advantage without touching a single other stat. For example, one advantage of undead units could be that they have no concept of morale and always fight to the destruction (since they are already dead). Another could be they're terrifying and anyone facing them suffers -1 morale. So you could make undead units relatively weak in terms of attack, defence, hitpoints, yet they will remain deadly. To continue this example, this will make players facing undead adopt a strategy of doing maximum damage while conserving morale (tight formation, defensive tactics, keep the general and any heroes close to troops, best troops on the flanks etc).
In this way Morale can be a strategic element for Magic in Elemental.
Edit found an older post with some more morale ideas: https://forums.elementalgame.com/329500
edit2: added effect of experience on permanent morale