With all this talk about pioneers and city spam, I cannot help to think about how they worked at this in the game "Sins of a Solar Empire". Which funnily also bring a big Stardock stamp in your face when you open the game
It works like this: Each location in where you can have a "city", will usually be guarded by "monsters" (ok its space pirates, but you get the idea, imagine they have tentacles or something), this is pretty similar to FE with monsters dotted around the landscape.
When you have blasted these "poor, defenseless" pirate/monsters, and bring a unit to settle this new city, the city will incur a negative income until you have spent an amount of resources to build up the infrastructure... (Reminds me of some other game... but lets keep it to the stardock game )
This help alleviate the feeling of having to spam each city now and ignoring improvements until after every damn corner have your logo on it. Since if you do this, you will have a massive penalty to gold income, in this concept you have to spend some gildar/resources to build up your cities to atleast reach an equilibrium of income before its really a good idea to expand further (well you can keep 2-3 cities with a negative income if you are an aggressive expansionist, but you get the idea).
If a similar concept was included into FE, it might be a negative gildar income at city level 1, it won't hit outposts, so you won't kill the interest and resource grabbing in the early game.
hey I might be even more inclined to put down and outpost instead?
also it might make prestige slightly more valuable, I probably still will largely ignore it, but hey, atleast I feel there is a difference.
I usually ignore prestige, cause I either need massive amounts lategame, or I hit the city-cap pretty quickly early-game.