My Dear Mr. Duk:
Birthday went well: more memory for my camera, a half dozen books on Ireland.
As for cities, haven't given it much thought. I surmise that Conquest's algortihm is not entirely random. It seems that two cities *never* appear directly adjacent to each other. Should we have such a restriction? Actually, I think a naturally occuring twin-cities metropolis would be an interesting wrinkle.
I believe Conquest also ensures that opponent starting positions are approximately comparable - that is, both starting islands usualy seem to have the same number of cities and are guaranted to have at least one port city (else how would you ever get off your home island).
One strategy is to scatter them at random somehow and then make a second pass to correct any anomolies (but if we allow adjacent cities and edge-of-the-world cities that might not be necessary). We could either scatter the cities totally at random, or continent by continent according to some randomized quota. Another variation is to ensure parity between hemispheres by alotting the same number of cities per quadrant.
Just a few thoughts to get you warmed up . Tally Ho!
Yours in haste,