I have an idea to potentially give players more to work towards in the game.
It might be interesting to have a system wherein the strongest players in an area (large zones on the map) have the option to 'claim' that zone as theirs. Basically, say the top 3-5 players in a zone are presented with this option. (Top players could be judged by a combination of resources, army size, and successful battles).
Now, claiming ownership over a region would primarily only have the 'vanity' benefit. Basically, you're claiming to just be that awesome - but it is also inviting attack. Only one player can claim ownership at a time. So, it basically paints a big target on that player. Now, to make it worthwhile, it might also confer some sort of passive benefit. Perhaps that player receives an improve economic standing (reduced cost, etc.) with merchants or something along those lines.
Also, in order to encourage people to contest his/her position - successful attacks on the 'self-proclaimed' ruler might return greater than average rewards.
Also, in order to further enhance the 'vanity' aspect of it - there could be a persist board which lists the top 10 'self-proclaimed rulers': basically, the 10 who have held a region for the single longest period of time.
Now, in order to prevent abuse: you could claim ownership at any time when it is not being claimed by someone else - however, time when you are 'logged off' does not count. Also, in order to claim the right you have to actually have your stronghold within that zone. Lastly, after abandoning a claim - you cannot reclaim it for 1 week.
"He uttered the word of curse, crush him with our Orcish iron!"