Since you're getting a boxed copy, I'll just give you a heads up that you might experience some difficulty with the CD key (due to our ex-publisher printing it wrong). Take a look at this post
for more information.
While there is no crafting in the game, you can trade resources, livestock and siege equipment at dozens of NPC towns as well as visit small villages in Army View mode and set up camps for gathering resources on the world map.
As for city building, each race has their own way of building - humans build on plots, elves build in trees and orcs build pretty much where they want.