Archive

Archive for November, 2009

Good UB – Bad UB #5: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

There are no just good or just bad unique buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in an game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.

Bad

Pavilion
Unique building for the Chinese; Replaces Theatre
+3 culture
+25% culture
+1 per 10% culture rate
Can turn 2 citizens into artists
+1 from dye
Stele
Unique building for the Ethiopian; Replaces Monument
+1 culture
+25% culture
+1 for Charismatic leaders
Obsolete with Astronomy

Both the Stele and the Pavillon provide a bonus of +25% culture. The first argument against this building in multiplayer is that cultural victory is only in very rare circumstances an option (sometimes in an Ironman or on very specific, only once in a CCC or so played settings in the Special Event there). The second and main is that there any many other civs that provide you with a bonus that is more important in order to win by getting those three legendary culture cities. One of many examples would be a building that provides an additional +2 letting you having a GreatPerson-city grow higher to pump out those additinal Great Artist you need for the culture victory.

In any case there is no use for those two unique buildings outside a game where you know from the start that you want to achieve a culture victory and even there – as said and without having done the math for all possible situations – it probably wouldn´t save you many turns (a city full with wonders that bring a lot of culture might get a little faster to legendary status) anyway since most of the culture comes from Great Artists.

Never of any use in multiplayer. Not entirely sure about something like a Solo Game or a game on Islands in single player where you just want to get three cities to legendary culture as fast as possible – but what kind of settings would that be ?!

Good

Rathaus
Unique building for Holy Roman Empire; Replaces Courthouse
+2 Espionage
-75% maintenance
Can turn 1 citizen into Spy
Required to build Forbidden Palace
Available for free on modern and later starts

Ikhanda
Unique building for the Zulus; Replaces Barracks
-20% maintenance
+2 with Nationhood
+3 EXP for new land units
Required to build Heroic Epic

Both the Ikhanda and the Rathaus reduce maintenance cost, one by 20%, the other by 25%. That´s a gain of 50% / 40% on an opponent without those buildings. This is a huge advantage which has to always be reflected on the actual, absolute maintenance costs during a game on specific settings. In a game where you build four cities till mid-game and mabye an overall of 6-8 late game, while not being able to solely focus on research (for example a teamer 3v3 Renaissance) maintenance costs in relation to overall GNP are much more negligible then for example in an Ironman, where having 20 and many more cities at some point is normal procedure. The other big factor is the difficulty the game is played on. the higher that is, the bigger the maintenance costs get, while the overall GNP stays the same. Already on Noble in an Ironman, but especially above on Monarch etc. maintenance costs play a significant role. Being able to have 50% / 40% less maintenance cost then your opponent can mean a huge difference in saved commerce.

As a last note I´d like to point out that the Ikhanda is more expensive then normal barracks. The difference is rather insignificant for normal game play though (on fast game speed 40hammer to 33hammer).

For Good UB – Bad UB part #1 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #2 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #3 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #4 click here


How to read the Power Graph in Demographics

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Power Graph

The following text is about the power graph, which is incorporated into the Demograpics screen, which can be opened ingame by pushing “F9” or the icon in top right corner belonging to it (2nd from the right). When interpreted correctly, the power graph provides a lot of information based on which decisions can be made, both short and long term. The power graph can help in deciding when an attack might be promising and when focusing on defense might be the way to go.

Population

For every two population points a player gets 1000 soldier points for the power graph.

1pop = 0 soldiers
2pop= 1000
3pop= 1000
4pop= 2000
5pop= 2000
6pop= 3000

4 cities with average 5 population equals 10000 points in soldiers. The value here in comparison with the value from the amount of units one on average has with rising population is negligible.

Technologies

2000 soldiers – Sailing, Hunting, Mining, Animal Husbandry
4000 soldiers- Wheel, Alphabet, Astronomy, Metal Casting, Compass, Construction, Steel, Radio, Satellites
5000 soldiers- Composites, Stealth
6000 soldiers- Mathematics, Chemistry, Combustion, Archery
8000 soldiers- Guilds, Fission, Flight, Bronze Working, Machinery, Assembly Line
10000 soldiers- Horseback Riding, Iron Working, Artillery, Industrialism, Rocketry, Advanced Flight, Laser
12000 soldiers- Gunpowder, Rifling, Military Science

Overall the values here are not too significant, most of the time opposing parties should have a pretty similar value here anyway.

City Improvements / Wonders

1000 soldiers- Trading Post, Shale Plant, Totem Pole
2000 soldiers- Walls, Dry Dock, Forge, Factory, Stable, Mint, Assembly Plant, Industrial Park, Levee, Dike
3000 soldiers- Dun, Barracks, Ikhanda, Citadel
4000 soldiers- Mt. Rushmore, Red Cross, Iron works, Ger, Statue of Zeus
6000 soldiers- Military Acadamy
8000 soldiers- Heroic Epic, Chichen Itza, Scotland Yard, West Point
10000 soldiers- Great Wall, Cristo Redentor, Moai Statues

Units

0000 soldiers – Scouts, Workers, Missionaries, Spies
1000 soldiers – Warrior, Quechua
2000 soldiers – Spearman, Archer, Chariot, Galley, Airship
3000 soldiers – Axeman, Swordsman, Jaguar Warrior, Gallic Warrior, Phalanx, Impi, War Chariot, Immortal, Horse Archer, Catapult, Trireme, Caravel, Holkan, Carrack
4000 soldiers – Praetorian, Pikeman, Longbowman, Crossbowman, Keshik, Galleon, Numidian Cavalry, Hwacha, Trebuchet, Skirmisher, Vulture, Dog Soldier, Bowman, Privateer
5000 soldiers – Cho-Ko-Nu, Maceman, War Elephant, Landsknecht, East Indiaman
6000 soldiers – Samurai, Musketman, Knight, Frigate, Ironclad, Transport, Ballista Elephant, Ship of the Line
7000 soldiers – Berserker
8000 soldiers – Musketeer, Camel Archer, Cannon, Destroyer, Submarine, Janissary, Oromo Warrior, Attack Submarine, Cataphract
9000 soldiers – Cuirassier
10000 soldiers – Rifleman, Grenadier, Machine Gun, Carrier, Conquistador, Stealth Destroyer, Guided Missile
12000 soldiers – Redcoat, Cavalry, Battleship
14000 soldiers – Missile Cruiser
15000 soldiers – Cossack, Fighter, Jet Fighter, Bomber
16000 soldiers – Infantry, Anti Tank
18000 soldiers – Marine, Paratrooper
20000 soldiers – SAM Infantry, Gunship, Artillery, Stealth Bomber
22000 soldiers – Navy SEAL
25000 soldiers – Tank
30000 soldiers – Panzer, Mechanized Infantry, Mobile SAM, Tactical Nuke
32000 soldiers – Mobile Artillery
40000 soldiers – Modern Armor, ICBM

In the end buildings, wonders and technologies won´t make any significant difference in the power graph. Neither will population, though there you can get some difference if you for example have a city or more less then your opponent and slave everything down. In this case you can probably have, depending on the era, up to around 10-15 pop less (Renaissance for example). Still not really significant.

So after all, it is the units that count, that make up for the power value in demographics.

A few picked out units, that have “interesting” values:

  • Skirmisher (4000): worth twice as much as archer (2000), worth 1000 more then axe (3000), sword (3000) or horse archer (3000) ! Remember that when you are Mali or when Mali is strong in power and you´ve seen a lot of skirmishers. Also in ancient you can see very well whether someone is spamming skirmishers early, because the number 1 power will be significantly higher then the rest at that early point
  • Chariot (2000): Normal chariots have the same soldier points as archers; an early chariot stack won´t show strong in demographics
  • Horse Archers (3000): surprisingly low score. Impis have 3000, too and they cost 20 hammers, while HA cost 33.
  • Elephant (5000):  Ele cost 40 hammers, HA cost 33 hammers. You produce them comparably fast – for 165 hammers you get 5 HA, for 160 you get 4 Ele. The 5 HA have a power of 15000, the 4 Ele of 20000. For 160 Hammer you get 8 impis, those are worth 24000 in soldiers.
  • Musketeers cost 47 Hammer, but have a power of 8000. Knights cost 54 hammers, but have a power of 6000.
  • Tanks (25000) and Panzer (30000) both cost 84 hammers.

In the end the answer to the whether something shows “strong” in power or not is a question of the ratio of hammers/soldier points.

  • Impis / War Chariots / Immortals show very clearly! (20 hammers to 3000 soldier point)
  • Skirmisher show most extreme
  • Horse Archer don´t show
  • Elephants don´t show more then swords or axes
  • French Musceteers show strong in comparison to the most commong unit of Renaissace, the Knight.

Conclusion

In any game you need to know what your opponent is building. When you know he is doing HA, you know how many cities he has and what population they have you can evaluate his power. Same if you know he is doing catapults (3000 for 33 hammers = doesn´t show) and ele.

All in all the power graph actually shows who has the most army or in other words, the higher the power value, the more army someone has.

Average unit value in an era

This is a stretch, but I´ll try to name a value representative for an “average unit” in each era.

  • Ancient: 3000, from Construction on around 4000.
  • Classical: 3000 early on; closer to 4000 mid game; closer to 5000 late game.
  • Medieval: 3000 for units used in a rush (Impi, War Chariot, Horse Archer, Praetorian (4000)), 5000 early/mid game; closer to 6000 with Knights.
  • Renaissance: 6000, 6500 in a 3v3 with France in each team early on; 7000 and constantly rising from cuirrasiers (9000!) on.
  • Industrial:  12000 for land, 5000 for sea units
  • Modern: 25000 (Navy Seal 22000, Tank 25000, Panzer 30000)
  • Future: around 30000-40000. The more Gunships (22000) the smaller the value, the more Modern Armour (40000) the higher. Ships rank far behind, for example Missile Cruiser (14000)

How to count opposing power in a teamer

A simple mathematical operation allows to determine the total power of the opposing team in for example a 3v3 teamer. First of all gather the power of yourself and all your teammates. Add those values together and divide it by the amount of players in the team to receive the average team power. Substract from that value the average world power. If you receive a negative value, you are behind in power, if you receive a positive one, you are ahead. How much ahead or behind determines the value you receive.

*UPDATE* December, 1st 09 *UPDATE*
I received some feedback (thx Shizanu) regarding the influence of population and technologies in an Ironman / ffa. There you can have ten or twelve high pop cities around the time you research guilds and those together with the technologies you already got make up a big portion of your power value. If then you start slaving (and losing pop) Knights for example, the changes are not too dramatic in the graph hence it can be tough to detect by just looking at demographics.

Point being – in the mid/later part of an Ironman / ffa where everybody plants lots and lots of cities, the influece of population and technology on the power graph is much more significant (and distorting) then in a teamer game. Pay attention to that when trying to get information from demogaphics in this area in such a game, especially when trying to determine when an opponent is building an army.

Good UB – Bad UB #4: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

November 23, 2009 4 comments

There are no just good or just bad buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in an game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.

Bad

Forum
Unique building for Rome; Replaces Market
+25% gold
Can turn 2 citizens into merchant
+1 from fur, ivory, silk, whale
+25% Great Person birth rate

This is a market that provides a 25% bonus for the birth of Great People. While this sounds like a significant bonus at first, it really is not in any strategy that circles around or involves a focus on getting Great People. That is because any such strategy takes advantage of all or a combination of the Philosphical Trait (+100% on GPs), of the Pacifism Civic (+100%), of the National Epic (+100%) and of the Golden Age (+100%). An additional 25% are insignifanct – they do not result in any additional Great People, even over the course of a long game like an Ironman.

Also take into account that the market is a very low priority, but expensive building (100hammer on quick game speed) that only finds some use (mostly for its additional happiness) in Ironman games.  Whenever Great People play a role, much more significant bonuses are available without the additional big investment of 100hammer.

Good

Baray
Unique building for Khmer; Replaces Aqueduct
+1 food
+2 health
Available for free on Renaissance and later starts

The baray is an aqueduct that provides an additional food to the city that builds it and especially that gets it for free in Renaissance and later then that era starts. The key aspect is the “free on Renaissance and later starts”. Mainly in Renaissance and Industrial games the baray is equivalent to a bonus on buildup, quite similar to an Expansive or an Imperialistic trait. Initial cities grow (and regrow after slaving [or drafting]) faster, new cities get going better.

A simple practical example – imagine you planted your first city in a Renaissance start game, it is size two. You work two 3-food tiles (for example a flood plain and an unimproved corn), that is a surplus of four food. The baray does 25% of that just like that. You probably slave down those cities at first to size 1 for workers for example. Even if you improve a tile (which you probably don´t do till a couple of turns into the game since you are probably chopping forests at first) the baray still provides a significant increase of the food your city accumulates. Overall Khmer´s cities grow sligthly, but significantly enough to matter faster.

Also, the baray makes Khmer the number one pick in OneCityChallenge (OCC) Renaissance (and probably Industrial) games. You grow faster initially (faster initial research allowing to gain an advantage from the start) and in the end can most often grow your city one size bigger then non-Khmer opponents.

The baray is one of the few unique buildings – next to the Dike (hammers), the Feitoria (commerce) and the Madrasa (culture) – that provides an absolute, not percentual bonus on economical aspects where usually none exists.

For Good UB – Bad UB part #1 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #2 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #3 click here


Anti-Choke: Dealing with warriors and archers in Ancient

November 20, 2009 1 comment

Reason for sending warriors/archers

During the early stages of an ancient start game, especially during a teamer warriors and archers are send to the opponent in order to slow down his build-up (= “choke”) or sometimes steal worker or even kill him. Of course the warriors and archers can be followed up by chariots, axes and more. If metal isn´t hooked till then, it´s not necessarily game over, but it´s probably looking grim. I´ll try to focus on how to deal with the first couple of units you get early into your land in a 1 vs 1 situation.

warriorslowingdown

The defending player has one worker and warrior each. He cannot hook his corn without at least another unit, preferably an archer if he does not want to give the player who send a warrior to him odds around 50% on winning the game or at least stealing the worker.

What you are trying to achieve when warriors/archers are in your land

Playing well with a couple of units in your land that block off some tiles or form a bigger choke is one of the greater challenges in multiplayer civilization. Your goal is to try to keep up in build-up in relation to your opponent who send or is sending you those units. Remember he spend early hammers on building them, so you probably have a small build-up advantage at first which he is trying to overturn in his favour with slowing you down while not being slowed by any units himself since your are busy dealing with his stuff in your land.

Overall you first don´t want to invest more hammers into getting rid of opposing units then the opponent invested to build them. Killing a chariot with 2 archers, losing one, is a gain of 4 hammers. Second you don´t want to get slowed down in setting up your empire (hooking ressources, expanding …)

1. The first warrior
First thing you need to consider is a potential warriorstart of the opposing team. As long as the starting technologies of one civilization on the other team include Hunting, it´s a scoutstart.
List of civilizations that have Hunting as a starting technology:

  • Ethiopia
  • Aztec
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Holy Rome
  • Celtics
  • Khmer
  • Mongolia
  • Persia
  • Russia
  • Vikings
  • Zulu

I recommend printing or writing a list of those if you play ancient start on Team_Battleground regularly or plan on doing so – here is my old one, which by now I don´t need anymore 😉

scoutstartlist
If you are facing a warriorstart and you yourself start with a scout – you are behind turn 0. Warriorstart vs. Scoutstart is one of the most unbalancing factors in an ancient start teamer game. In that case get some units early, don`t go worker first unless you know what you are doing ;). Try not to let the other team build up without any opposing unis in their land after just having send their 5 initial warriors. Even if you get choked or slowed down, try to send at least a unit or two to do the most basic choking job. Especially the first unit you send counts – see also the above picture for an exemplary reason for that. One unit send means opponent having two build at least two units to be able to work his land freely.

2. Determining what will be thrown at you
Scout your opponent, especially the fatcross (=the 20 tiles a city could potentially work) of the capital.

  • Did he plant his capital on a tile (plains hill, plains marble/stone elephant) giving him 2 hammer instead of 1 ?
  • Does he have a 3-hammer-tile to work ?
  • Is he Expansive, is he Aggressive ?
  • Does he have a civ with an early ancient unique unit ?
  • What are his habits (knowing his playing style required here) ?

All those are factors that can help you predict or at least take into consideration what your opponent will do, helping you to plan better what you yourself  should be doing. An expansive leader with a 2 hammer plant (and a 2 hammer tile to work) will almost always build a worker first. An aggressive leader with a 2 hammer plant and a 3 hammer tile to work will most probably send you one or two 2-turn warriors first, before starting production of his first worker. Another indicator might be the unique uint available to your opponent. IF he is Inca, he will try sending Quechuas early, if he is Mali, he will probably not send more then one warrior, if that at all and instead get a worker and only then spam out skirmishers. If someone is Maya or Natives, he might save money from turn 0n and upgrade his first warrior to a Holkan/Dog Soldier.

While no factor alone can provide you wiht certain information by itself, with some experience you start making better and better predictions about your opponent´s behaviour.

3. Don´t die to a warrior
Whatever you do, whether you go worker first, whether you send out your first and maybe even second warrior, keep in mind your own safety. It is solely a question of skill (with the very, very rare exceptions from the rule) whether you die to a warrior or not.

Checklist:

  • How long would you need to build a warrior in case of emergency ?
  • In an ancient start Team_Battleground 5v5, are you on the 3-people or 2-people-side ? If the first, front or middle ?
  • Does the opposing team have a warrior or scout start ?
  • In what way can a warrior move in on you – what´s the minimum amount of turns you will spot it before.

I recommend the article on vision range at this point. There are three basic situations in regard to how many turns of warning you have on an approaching warrior, namely one, two or three unless you have spotted the unit before for example with your initial scout or a warrior you build and send out yourself.

In most games you know turn 0 towards which direction the front is (where the opponent can come from). Check what can happen. How many turns warning will you have in worst case scenario ? Do you have a cornre, which would unguarded give you only 1 turn warning ? Maybe send the scout up there as a sentry. If you feel your land provides you with less then 3 turns warning, preproduce a wrarior for one turn – put enough hammers into it, so that you can finish it in 2 turns if needed and only then build your worker. Don´t just blindly go worker first. Also don´t just blindly send away your own warriors not keeping in mind possible ways your opponent might move in on you. Especially if you don´t have hundreds of games of experience, better be safe then sorry (earning you a place in the Hall of Shame of the league 😉 ).

A pretty high level trick (that requires some practice and experience) is to keep the mouse over a warrior in city production screen while the end of the turn approaches, changing the production to a warrior at last second in case an opposing warrior suddenly appears, effectively giving you one more turn of production. Of course for that you cannot go into the city to change produciton, but keep the city bar clicked.

Keeping the city bar open with the mouse over a warrior in order to respond faster to a suddenly appearing unit.

4. Blocking off tiles
In many games you will get warriors and archers into your land. Don´t panic – so far your opponent put early production into building those units, while you potentially made a worker. You are ahead for the time being. The goal is to keep that advantage or not lose too much of it.

Don´t take unnecessary risks by hitting his units with odds of 50 or 60 percent – when a loss results in you being slowed down a lot. Focus on getting your workers to work. Block of tiles so that you can work a food or especially chop a forest, while the opponent has to move around your city + a unit standing next to it in order to be able to hit the tile where the worker is standing on. Build up normally, just spread a couple of archers into your build order. Don´t try to control everything, focus on hooking one food, on being able to consistently chop and on getting metal. Opposing archers and warriors will have a very hard time trying to hit out your archers from forests, especially when you get more units to cover consistently,while his support routes are much longer.

If possible, don´t let the opponent sit on strategic spots. Hill metal is akey target here, another one being forested hills. The last one you cannot always prevent though and on average 2 axes should be able to clear out an archer there.

Most important, try not getting slowed down too much – just get those additional units in order to move and work with your workers and protect a settler for a second city for metal. If your opponent build a couple of warroirs and archers very early and you build a couple more then him, but a little later in the game, the buildup situation should be about the same. Remember that it´s better to manoveur around those units then taking unnecessary risks – though sometimes the situation can be so, that you have no other choice. For example, when the opponent has metal in his capital´s fatcross and will follow those warriors and archers up with axes soon.

5. Odds
When playing under choke, you need to know what you on average require in order to kill a unit sitting in your land on which you probably have bad odds with your first hit.

As a rule of thumb, having around 10% twice should take care of a unit. Meaning if your first archer has 9.9% on an opposing archer, two identical archers should take care of the situation. Don´t count on killing with less then those ~10% twice unless in special circumstances.

In general, try taking advantage of situations where your opponent gives you “good” odds while moving around your land. If he for some reasons moves on a flat tile for example, giving you 40 or 50 percent already with the first unit (example 2 archer vs a protective archer, 2 warrior vs an aggressive warrior etc.) – consider the situation, but in many situations it might be better taking a little risk here, then letting him slow you down more turns until you can hook metal and take a “sure” kill.

A Top7 of Unique Units

November 16, 2009 11 comments

It´s time for a good old list of “Top of Something” – in this case Unique Units (= UU) in Civilization 4: Beyond The Sword multiplayer. First of all, while the exact order might be subjective (and more for fun then serve a purpose 😉 ), I hope the arguments for why a specific unit is good at achieving something are logical and convincing.

There is some tendency towards early era units, but then again there are more of those in the game.

Remember, evaluating a unit´s strength has always to be connected to the game settings it´s supposed to be used in. So Jaguars don´t shine on Highlands nor do they so in a game where choking one opponent at the cost of your buildup will not win you the game since you are playing 7 other players at the same time.

7. Jaguar

jaguar

Unique unit for Aztec; Replaces Swordsman+10% city attack
Starts with Woodsman I
era actually used in: Ancient, some Classical

Jaguars are great for choking the opponent and controlling the area around your land. They have 2 moves on tiles that give them a lot of defense bonus and can be build so soon, that only the threat of them potentially coming makes getting and hooking metal the top priority for the players facing them – sometimes at the cost of hooking food or getting a better position for a second city.

6. Skirmisher

skirmisherUnique unit for Mali; Replaces Archer1-2 First Strikes
+50% city defense
+25% hills defense
era actually used in: Ancient

Skirmisher can be build without any ressource while making a choke with warriors and archers against the player building them basically impossible. On the other hand they can slow down or completely choke even more then one player during an ancient start teamer. That is because they have great odds on archers and warriors, especially flat both in offense and defense – so no additional action is required to have the dominating unit in terms of strength on the playing field during the early phase of the game while an opponent requires metal in order to fight them without getting slowed down too much – and even then it´s often a costly endevour freeing your land from skirmishes.

5. War Chariot

warchariotUnique unit for Egypt; Replaces ChariotImmune to First Strikes
Doesn’t receive defensive bonuses
Can withdraw from combat (10% chance)
+100% attack vs. Axemen
era actually used in: Ancient, Classical

War chariots have two moves and cost 20 hammers (quick speed) just like normal chariots, but have a strength of 5. That is an increase of base strength of 25%. Only the cataphract and the praetorian can keep up with that and the last one is more expensive then the unit it is based on, the swordsman (26 to 30 hammers). Unlike chariots warchariots can be build for a much longer period of time, adding to mass and the ability of 2 moves a decent strength which can combat even spears in 2 vs 1. Also warchariots come with animal husbandry, a very early researched technology, allowing for a kill or at least certain choking of a player who is left without metal at this point.

4. Panzer

panzerUnique unit for Germany; Replaces Tank
Doesn’t receive defensive bonuses
+50% vs. armored units
Starts with Blitz
era actually used in: Modern

Modern is all about fast moving stacks – especially including the ability to move quick around the opponent´s land. The unit for that is the tank, since it is the strongest available 2-mover in this era. You do build other stuff, but the tank is the unit of choice most of the time. The Panzer is a tank that additionaly gets an unreal bonus against tanks. ‘nough said.

3. Cataphract

cataphractUnique unit for Byzantium; Replaces Knight
Can flank attack catapults and trebuchets
Doesn’t receive defensive bonuses
era actually used in: Medieval, Renaissance

Knights dominate late medieval, early Renaissance and the Cataphract gets a bonus of 25% on the base strength of a normal Knight. That leaves it virtually without a counterunit. Both Elephants and Pikeman being the counter units to Knights don´t nearly have as good odds in defense or especially offense (pikeman) as other counter units with their favorite “prey” in other eras – and they both do not have 2 moves nor are the unit you preferably are building in late medieval, early Renaissance. Add to that a strategy that involves building tripple promoted cataphracts that have access to anti melee (= shock) or anti-horse (= formation) promotion and you get a unit that is so unbalanced compared to what else is available at its time like probably no other in the game.

2. Impi

impiUnique unit for Zulus; Replaces Spearman
+100% vs. Mounted Units
Starts with Mobility
era actually used in: Ancient, Classical, Medieval

Impis are spears with 2 moves. What doesn´t sound too spectacular at first is one of the most feared units in multiplayer civilization. For ancient that means that there is a unit out there, that can arrive in your land before you have planted a second city in order to get metal. It can be build with bronze from bronzeworking, which is almost always the first technology you research, it moves twice (almost) no matter what the terrain is and it gets defense bonus from terrain (forest etc.). Impis can take out or significantly slow down two or sometimes even three players – the presence of Zulu alone makes a difference in the way a team facing them has to plan out their game. After the early game harrassment Impis still can be used in surprise attacks due to their mobility promotion, but also during a bigger attack with sheer mass. That´s true for both ancient and classical, where the Impi is the best possible unique unit in most setups. In medieval they still are able to harass an opponent in many situations and afterwards in big masses are a pretty decent counterunit to Knights since 2 of them kill 1 Knight, even 1 Cataphract most of the time.

1. Fast Worker

fastworkerUnique unit for India; Replaces Worker
Can improve tiles
move range: 3
era actually used in: all eras

The fast worker is the dominating unit of later eras from Renaissance upwards. In modern and future it is a game defining factor, maybe even the biggest for those eras. Without it many super fast rush strategies wouldn´t be possible. That is due to its ability to save turns early on while chopping forest (move on it AND chop in 1 turn) and due to being able to move on forests/hills AND road them the same turn. Modern and Future start teamer without fast workers would look entirely different. In general in all eras fast workers are the best build up advantage you can get. An imperialistic India cannot be beat in its expansion, the difference to normal workers getting ridiculous in later eras. Also the fast worker shines in all game types multiplayer civilization has to offer, from solo games like duels, CTONS and Ironman games to teamers.

Honorable mentioning: (Aggressive) Praetorians

praetorianUnique unit for Rome; Replaces Swordsman
Strength 8 instead of 6.

Praetorians in “normal” status are good, sometimes great. They can be used nicely both in offense and defense. Early send out praetorians can slow down the opponent significantly, too. They require ironworking AND iron though and cost a (for early ancient) pretty painful 30 hammers, while an aggressive axeman with shock promotion has very good odds on them and requires only 23 hammers to be build. Still a great unit, useable throughout the entire game of an ancient or classical start game and even very playable in some medieval start strategies.

With restricted leaders the praetorian is not aggressive (both Roman leader don´t have the aggressive trait) hence has no easy (if any) access to shock promotion when spawning. Now with an aggressive leader the obstacles of setting up a running empire and only then becoming a threat are pretty much the same, but if that happens – there is no counter unit. Aggressive praetorians are the strongest possible unit regarding base strength civ has to offer in an ancient and most parts of a classical start. Even then though sitll not the best unit to have – just the strongest 😉

Categories: multiplayer, strategy Tags: , ,

The Art of Attacking in Civilization Multiplayer

November 15, 2009 2 comments

The Art of Attacking

Civ Multiplayer is different to Single Player in many aspects. One of those aspects is the concept of city elimination thresholds. In most teamer and CTON type games the city elimination threshold is set to 2, meaning if a player loses two cities, he is entirely eliminated from the game. In other formats – such as the duel played in the CCC – the elimination threshold is even set to 1 city. This results in very exciting and care demanding play.

Now Civ is a game designed in a way which makes it easier for the defender – there are bonuses for defensive terrain (+75% for most units on forested hill tiles, +50% for forest or djungle tiles, +25% for hill tiles). And of course there is the whole concept of culture which makes the task for the defender easier (culture defense bonus for cities and slower movement for enemy units through the defender’s culture). The city elimination concept in Multiplayer is there for one specific reason: To balance out the extreme advantages for the defender a little bit and of course to shorten the game duration.

Any attack should follow a plan. Much like in Chess it is better to have a bad attack plan than none. City elimination thresholds play a big role in choosing a good attack plan. But of course there are a lot more things to take into account when attacking. I’ll try to put a spotlight on some of them.

A. Terrain

Terrain defense bonuses are one major factor in choosing attack targets. In general all units which are able to defend profit from the bonus, but there are exceptions: Mounted and Armoured Units don’t get the bonus (with the exception of the Persian Immortal UU and the Spanish Conquistador UU). If you attack a unit which receives terrain defense bonus you should therefore do it either on flat tiles (no bonus) or, if you can’t hit on flat but have to hit, on hill tiles (lowest terrain defense bonus).

A special case in that regard are all units of archer type. These units receive an additional +25% on hills and are therefore hard to kill on defensive terrain. That is one reason why cities should be placed on hills if possible (meaning if the player doesn’t lose out on food or viable strategic resources by doing so): The Archer in such a city gains +50% for city defense, +25% for being on a hill, and +25% for the terrain defense bonus itself. That results in a +100% defense bonus before cultural bonuses kick in: The Archer has good chances of killing a strength 6 Swordsman then (the defense bonuses get subtracted from the attacker’s strength, resulting in a strength 3 Swordsman attacking).

The consequences for your attack plan are clear: If possible, always target cities on flat terrain, as the units in there are much easier to kill (the Archer in the example has 50 percentage points less defense bonuses). And if you are in enemy land, use the terrain defense bonus to your advantage by moving your units on it.

B. Culture

The impact of terrain on attacking is rather straightforward. Culture on the other hand affects attacking in several ways. First of all there is the culture bonus cities have: The first culture expansion at 5 culture points (quick speed) yields 20% bonus, the second expansion at 50 culture points yields 40% bonus, the third culture expansion at 250 culture points yields 60% bonus, and the fourth adds 80% bonus to a city. The 80% bonus is – at least on quick speed and with games limited to 120 turns – only possible with culture bombing with a Great Artist. We will get to that later at the advanced attacking strategies, because a Great Artist can be an excellent tool of attacking.

Just like with terrain defense bonuses all units who can defend get the bonus, and the same exceptions apply. The culture defense bonus can be eliminated however, through bombarding the city with siege units. Depending on the siege unit the bombard command takes away a certain percentage of the defense bonus of the city until zero bonus is reached. Note that the construction of walls or a castle in a city lessens this bombard percentage (at least for Catapults and Trebuchets, Cannons, Artillery and Mobile Artillery are not effected by it).

The consequence for the attack plan is clear: If possible, attack cities with low cultural defense bonus (best case: a freshly founded city) and with no walls/castles in it.

Culture however affects attacking in another way: Once the attacker enters enemy culture he cannot use roads any longer (the only exception are units with the Commando promotion), and thus the defender has one big advantage: Mobility. The goal for the attacker therefore is to avoid that effect of culture as long as possible. This can be achieved by various ways: 1) Attacking cities with 0 or only the 1st cultural expansion instead of culturally more developed cities, 2) intelligent use of roads, 3) choosing the correct route to move into enemy terrain. Point 1) is obvious, but points 2) and 3) need some explanation.

B.1. The use of roads in your attack

Short and simple: Intelligent roading is one of THE keys to successful attacking. Of course roading can only be used in a later stage of the game when the initial buildup phase is over – using valuable worker turns for roading is simply not worth delaying the improvement of tiles most times. Let’s assume you are in the middle of an ancient teamer, and you have 2 workers you can spare for roading. Also you have a stack of 10 Swordsmen, 5 Axemen and 2 Spears. You are ahead in power and you want to attack your neighbour, whose culture is 6 tiles distant from your culture (see illustration in picture 1).

picture1_final

Now obviously you could just move your units until they reach your neighbour. But that’s not optimal, because your units will only advance 1 tile per turn, meaning it will take 6 turns until they reach enemy culture. A road cuts the necessary movement points for travelling a tile by ½ (the railroad – available in the later eras from Industrial onwards – cuts this to 1/10). This means your stack of units (which all have only 1 movement point and thus are often called “slow stack” compared to the 2 movement points of mounted and armoured units) can travel 2 tiles instead of one when they use a road. This means your units reach enemy culture in 3 turns instead of 6 – a significant advantage because those are 3 turns less your enemy can use for building defense units. When roading you have to make sure your enemy only gets to know it on the latest possible point of time, ideally the instant you move into his terrain. Surprise is everything. And of course, you should road in a way that ensures optimal movement, meaning your workers should always construct the road ahead of your units. The use of roading to its full effect is connected with the ideal way to move in too. Therefore we’ll take a look at that now.

B.2. The ideal way to move into enemy culture

The goal is: Moving into the enemy’s domain in a way that he sees it at the latest possible moment. The way the culture of a city expands is pretty unique, and can be exploited for our purpose. Take a look at that situation:

picture2_final

Here we have a city with the 2nd culture expansion, as it is the case most commonly with capitals early in the game. Please note the little nooks to the upper left and right, and the lower left and right. If you have not read the article about unit visibility yet, you might want to do that now ;). Culture basically confers visibility of all tiles adjacent to a culturally controlled tile (with a few exceptions). Let’s take a look on how this city looks for the defender:

picture3_final

He can see all tiles adjacent to tiles he culturally owns, including the nooks. But he cannot see the tile diagonally next to the nook (just look at the city borders on the right side, on the left side the diagonal tile is covered by fog of war and thus it’s harder to see that the player can’t see it). We can exploit that for attacking. The moment a unit enters the nook the enemy can see it. At that moment however the unit is only 1 tile away from the city already. Combined with the turn timer used in MP games this has lead to a lot of kills in ancient games: The unit enters the tile next to the nook without being seen. Next turn, with 00:00 left on the timer (basically just an instant before the turn shifts) the unit moves into the nook. After the 8 second delay the unit moves in front of the city, and can attack it next turn. Compared to moving into the enemy’s terrain from another tile than the nooks you have gained a full turn – because the enemy would see you the turn you step on a tile adjacent to his culture (and you need 2 turns more to travel to his city).

Now we can combine this attack pattern with roading. Remember you had those 2 workers and your stack of units? Well, you now have roaded and moved your units to a spot one tile away from the nook. Next turn your workers road into the nook with 4 or 3 seconds left on the turn timer (depending on how fast you can select your stack again and move).

picture4_final

The road is constructed, and you move your units over it into enemy terrain – basically right in front of the city without him seeing you! The turn shifts, and after the 8 seconds delay you can hit the city – and kill maybe. This works with every level of cultural expansion, but of course it is most effective with low levels – because the enemy has less time to react. This attack pattern is most devastating in a specific situation: The direct hit.

C. Attack Patterns

C.1. The direct hit

We have seen that we can reduce travel time of units drastically through intelligent roading. Now we will go one step further and add units with 2 movement points to the picture. Let’s assume the same situation as before, only now you have a stack of 15 Horse Archers instead of the “slow stack”. You road as before, and you move your units. And now you’ll find out that you can hit the city directly without waiting another turn!

picture5_final

The reason for it is simple: Between your stack’s initial starting point and the city itself are 2 tiles (excluding the city). Your units have 2 movement points. Normally this wouldn’t suffice for hitting the city instantly. But with roading the starting point and the nook your units now only need half a movement point for crossing the nook (half movement points are not displayed, therefore it still shows full 2 movement points), leaving 1 ½ movement points for the rest – enough for hitting the city. You don’t have to do calculations in game though because there is a simple rule:

Whenever a city culturally controls only 1 tile next to it, it is vulnerable to a direct hit over that tile.

The only exception to this: The enemy is able to use Gunships, because those have 4 movement points. Then the city is vulnerable in most cases, at least if it’s a city at the front. But luckily Gunships cannot capture a city – that’s where the Commando promotion comes into play (see C.5.).

The direct hit is an important attack pattern in every game type and every era (it becomes a dominating one in the later eras, especially Modern and Future). There is no other way of defending a direct hit than putting a lot of units into the city, and to try getting the vulnerable tile under cultural control again as fast as possible. It’s important to know about it – either to seize the opportunity of a cheap kill or to defend against it.

C.2. The fork

This attack pattern (also called “double hit position”) needs some knowledge about the lay of the enemy land. It works best when you know where he planted his cities, so proper scouting is always a good idea. The core element of this attack are units with 2 movement points (so called “Two-movers”). Now look at the land of your opponent. Some players are not that good in planting their cities in a way which is best for defense, and sometimes, even with excellent players, the land does not yield other choices too. Certainly you can spot a tile in his land where you could target two cities at the same time, if your units were standing on it.

picture6_final

That spot is ideal for attacking – because the defender doesn’t know which city you attack, he can either a) leave insufficient garrison in both cities or b) give one city up to defend the other. Either way will lead to a city kill if the player does not get support from elsewhere.

C.3. The trans-sibiric railroad

This attack pattern is of rather limited use, but when applicable, of devastating nature. The basic component is roading again. Sometimes the land of the enemy has a long, stretched, rather oval shape. There are unused margins at the top or bottom of the map (hence the name: there is often ice or tundra at the edges of the map, making the road/railroad a trans-sibiric one indeed). The idea now is that you don’t road and attack the enemy’s front city – where he has most likely concentrated all his units – but rather go for his back cities (in teamer games those are next to another teammate most of the times and thus sparsely garrisoned). The downside of course is you need a rather long road for this, and chances are higher the enemy can spot your units or your road. Again, it works best with 2-movers because they travel faster. If you achieve roading and entering the back, a city kill is guaranteed most of the times.

C.4. The double woodsman

This is not really an attack pattern in the sense of a strategic use of game mechanics, but just a nifty little trick. It’s in the same category than using the Commando promotion (see C.5). The Woodsman II promotion enables double movement on forest or djungle tiles (including hills with that terrain on them). This basically results in a 2-mover unit where you don’t expect it at first glance. Especially in ancient games defending often hangs on a thread – the expected arrival of a unit in enemy land is often tied to the production of a defending unit just in time, because production is short in the early stages of an ancient game. A Woodsman II promoted unit disturbs the calculation drastically, often to the point where the defender is 1 turn short of producing the saving defensive unit just because the Woodsman II unit moved faster than he had calculated. So, if you have a warrior with 5 XP (or 4 XP with the charismatic trait) in an ancient game – don’t promote blindly, but weigh your options and check if you can’t do something with a Woody!

C.5. The Commando

Using the Commando promotion is an advanced attack option in the later eras. The Commando promotion is enabled if a unit has the Combat IV promotion and is eligible for another promotion (so basically it’s enabled at 26 XP for non-aggressive and non-charismatic leaders/ at 17 XP for aggressive leaders / at 13 XP for aggressive and charismatic leaders). The Commando promotion allows the unit to use the roads/railroads in enemy terrain. This is used a lot in Modern and Future era games – you can either direct hit a city with Gunships and then use the Commando unit to kill the empty city (of course the Commando needs enemy roads leading to the city for that) or you can aim for the back cities which often are empty or only garrisoned with 1 or 2 units. To see how this works I’d suggest creating a Commando unit and toy around with it in Single Player mode using WorldBuilder. A Commando in action:

picture7_final

D. Advanced Attacking: The Culture Bomb

Earlier I have talked about expanding the culture of a city and thus increasing the defense bonus with a Great Artist. But the Great Artist can also be used as a great offensive weapon. To see how this works let’s have a look at a situation of a Modern Era game:

Modern Era Teamers are played with three leader/civilization combinations (using the unrestricted leaders option in the game menu) mostly: Gandhi of India, Brennus or Boudica of Germany, and Montezuma of America. Here we see the land of a player who plays Brennus of Germany. Unfortunately he has planted his cities in a bad way (note the big chunk of land between those cities). And even greater bad luck is that he has the Gandhi player of his opponent team against him. What happens:

1) The Gandhi player roads with Fast Workers (the best UU in the game btw) towards his enemy. He has a Settler and some units with him – and a Great Artist (remember Gandhi is philosophical!).

picture8_final

2) Next turn, the Gandhi player plants his city and creates a Great Work in the new city with his Great Artist – this leads to 4,000 culture points immediately applied to the surrounding area of the city. As a result the two German cities are cut off from each other and from support.

picture9_final

3) The Gandhi player roads and kills one city (most of the times even both) at his leisure.

picture10_final

This is a perfect example of the offensive use of a Great Artist. This pattern is applicable in any era, but especially in Medieval upwards. It combines the basic attack ideas: 1) gaining land and thus lessening the value of enemy cultural defense, 2) extended options for roading and thus faster unit movement, 3) enabling attack patterns like the fork because support is harder for the enemy.

Good UB – Bad UB #3: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

November 14, 2009 7 comments

There are no just good or just bad buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in an game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.

Bad

Mint
Unique building for the Malinese; Replaces Forge
mint+1 unhealth
+25% hammer
+10% gold
Can turn 1 citizen into Engineer
+1 from Gems, Gold, Silver

This is just plain useless. Usually every building has a scenario during which it helps. Those that have more scenarios or help a lot in a specific often occuring scenario are good Unique Buildings. This is a forge that additionaly gives your city +10% gold. In almost all sitiuations you want to keep the research rate as high as possible. Now if you run 80 or 90 percent research, that´s 10% bonus on 10 or 20 percent of your overall GNP – besides maybe for a massively cottaged capital that´s basically nothing, an insignificant amount at least.

If you ran 100% wealth for a few turns to save money and maximize the use of the Mint, you´d still be receiving way less bonus then you would on research with only a library in cities, which gives +25% science. Saving money on 100% wealth to maximize bonuses if anytime is effective with markets, grocers and banks build. Those together though give a bonus of +100% gold – so the 10% of the Mint doesn´t play any role either.

A forge is a forge even if you call it a Mint and give it some kind of weird castle thing as a picture. Or what´s going on in that art 😛 ?

Good

Ger
Unique building for Mongolia; Replaces Stable
ger

+4 XP for new Mounted Units

 

This building finds its uses from ancient to industrial – it´s almost never a game breaker, but especially in clan games in planned out strategies it can play a nice role.

In earlier eras – whenever you´d have build stables anyway, you´ll be happy about the 2 additional experience points bringing you one fight closer to the next promotion level – which can potentially make the difference during an attack with Kehiks, the Mongolian horse archer or with Elephants.

It gets really interesting when you start combining the Ger with Vassalage and/or Theocracy and/or the Charismatic trait. Either two of those combined with barracks and the Ger result in tripple promoted mounted units. That can be Horse Archers or Elephants (Medieval), Knights (Renaissance) or Cavalry (Industrial). A charismatic Mongolian can build tripple promoted cavalry without having to leave Bureaucracy for Vassalage.

 

For Good UB – Bad UB part #1 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #2 click here