Protection Pledges are a relatively straightforward mechanic, allowing civs to gain influence with city states at the cost of potentially angering aggressors. Unfortunately, however, while this systems benefits are enshrined in the city state influence mechanics, its costs are enforced exclusively by the behavior of the AI. The games mechanics do not require a civ to back up its pledge of protection with anything but words, and an aggressor who understands this has no reason to respect such a pledge or to become angry at the civ making it*. Absent the AIs arbitrary programming, there is no incentive to treat a protection pledge as a serious declaration of intent nor indeed to refrain from pledging to protect every city state on the map. Though the actual effects of protection pledges are admittedly minor, I feel that, as a matter of principle, such a system is highly problematic. Mechanics based around roleplaying and interaction with the AI are without question a valuable part of civ games, but when an action provides a direct material benefit, it needs to come at some cost, and that cost should be reflected in the games underlying rules rather than being imposed arbitrarily by irrational AI behavior. I think that the best way to improve this system would be to add direct consequences to a protection pledge. There are many possibilities, but my suggestion would be to make a protection pledges function as a one-sided defensive pacts. The possibility of being drawn into war (losing trade opportunities even if no troops are actually deployed) would force civs to think carefully about pledging protection to city states, and it would give potential aggressors reason to take pledges seriously. This stronger commitment would probably justify a larger influence boost than the current mechanic provides (+15 to resting point would allow any two of Consulates, Papal Primacy and Pledge to Protect to result in friendship). A simpler alternative would be to go in the opposite direction and remove the influence boost from protection pledges altogether. This would allow pledges to function exclusively as signals, effectively moving them out of the realm of underlying game mechanics and into the realm of player-AI diplomacy (much like denouncements or warmonger penalties). I dont think this solution is as satisfying, as I think protection pledges do have the potential to be an engaging mechanic, but it would be much easier to implement, and it would leave protection pledges with an unambiguous role in the game. *Technically speaking, protection pledges do have a small impact on city state aggression, increasing bullying resistance by 10 points per pledge. This can actually make bullying city states significantly harder if many players use protection pledges. However, it still comes at no direct cost to the pledging civ, and the impact of a single pledge is significantly small and indirect that its highly unlikely to cause tensions between a pledging civ and a potential aggressor (it also clearly wasnt the developers intention for it to do so, as the AI wont confront you about a protection pledge until after its succeeded in bullying the city state, meaning that the increased resistance didnt make a difference, or declared war, making the bullying mechanic irrelevant).