1. I'm not a fan of the tribal population being the sole determinate of tribal area.
2. The game needs to some type of 'value' for goods...something of constant need and use.
I've got no problems with initial tribal area being determined by the size of your tribe. Well i do have a problem with it, actually, but it's not something i can't live with
what i'd like to see is the ability of players to further expand their tribal areas by 'ranking' their tribal totem.
5 ranks? 10 ranks? whatever, each rank increases the tribal radius by 5%
to rank a totem you'll need some resources, each rank taking more. lumber, nails, sand, granite, whatever. the lower ranks taking common resources (ie. granite, limestone, lumber, large metal plates), the upper ranks taking less common (sand, zync, specific wood types, bones).
as is currently the case, base totem is just that and requires no maintenance. once you rank a totem, you have to maintain it on a weekly basis, lest it derank and you lose whatever benefit you received from it previously.
what this does:
a) hopefully gets people out in the world
b) puts value on some resources (above and beyond crafting) since they are consumable...and always, some folks would be willing to trade for consumables. Also the rarer resources become valuable, sicne folks will need them.
c) gives a way to help swallowing inactive tribes. a tribe could not incroach on the tribal area of a equally ranked totem (a tribe would get a grace window to rank their totem to match their neighbor if they were being encroached upon), but would usurp the area of a lesser ranked tribe.
d) creates a consumable environment that hopefully isnt overly tedious, but consumption creates activity.
e) eventually, maybe certain architecture would be tied to a certain totem rank.