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A Flop5 of Unique Units

After I had some fun with the Top 7 List of Unique Units now a Flop 5 of those. Thanks to Moineau for the idea 😉

The idea is to evaluate in what possible scenarios each unique unit can be of help and how much so. Those that have the fewest scenarios where you want to have them are the weakest, the floppiest :P. That does not mean that each of those units is generally useless. Actually all unique units have a place in a possible scneario in a game, unlike some unique buildings which basically have zero positive effect.

Don´t nail me on the exact order. It was much tougher then with the Top list and it really got pretty random. The order is solely for fun, it would be impossible to nail those units down since they are rarely picked or used in multiplayer games with picked civs (for good reason), so which is better or worse exactly is sheer speculation.  For the record, the two units that dogged this list the closest were the Numidian Cavalry and the Oromo Warrior, especially the last one could be on the list just as well, just in itself it´s a pretty nice unit, only it doesn´t have any setup where you would want to pick Ethiopia and produce single move units.

5. Camel Archer

Unique unit for Arabia; Replaces Knight
Immune to first strikes
Doesn’t receive defensive bonuses
Can withdraw from combat (15% chance)
Flank attack versus Catapults and Trebuchet

The Camel is a Knight wiht 15% retreat chance that can be build without horse or iron. The 15% are negligible in normal battle situations, that´s every 7th Knight that would retreat. In longer games you have horse and iron anyway (or are in bad shape..). There are only two scenarios where the camel archer does something better then a normal Knight.

One being that you do a 2-city-rush in a Renaissance start teamer game, where you can be sure to be able to produce Knights from the start without having to plant and hook iron and horse. In a competetive game this though is a strategy that only rarely can work and most of the time will cost you your entirely buidup for the rest of the game. The opponent can have iron or at least copper in near distance on balanced ressources, it´s very likely that he wil get one into his first two cities. Also he can be traded a metal pretty easily by his team mates once his explorer sees that his neighbour is Arabia. The most promising 2-city-rush is the India with horse and iron in first two cities since India can chop forests a lot faster giving it much higher production early on, Arabia 2-city-rush basically can only work against weaker opponents.

The second way of putting Arabia to use is the Industrial Start camel archer upgrade strategy. Usually in an Industrial start you cannot build Knights anymore. This is not true for Arabia though which can build its camels as long as it does not hook iron and horse. Camels are cheaper then cavalry and can be spammed our in quite big masses very fast. A possible strategy in industrial is to pick a Spiritual/Aggressive Bycantine and use Nationhood to the fullest (drafting!!), while staying on the three initial cities. The unhappiness is countered by building Hippodromes (read about Hippodrome here) and putting the culture slider up. All three players safe money and the Arab upgrades all his Camels to Cavalry. Third player gets as many Knights as possible and front players (preferably the Bycantine with his slow stack) gets some Trebuchets and Catapults as well (builds them, next to drafting Rifles). If it works, a player is dead, but in any case the buildup of the team doing tihs is totally and entirely gone. All is farms, no tech build up, no expansion done. I´ve seen more then one game where a kill occured and still the other team won 2v3 with superior producing capabilities for the next 30 or 40 turns.

4. Carrack

Unique unit for Portugal; Replaces Caravel
Cargo Space: 2
Can explore rival territory w/o triggering war

The Carrack has the problem that there aren´t many scenarios for earlier era multiplayer where water plays a big role. Even from such potential scenarios not all would fit the abilities of the carrack. If in a medieval game you have land and water connection between opponets, investing hammers into producing boats might result in losing the land battle. Also Optics, the pre-requisite tech lies on a technological path that has a low priority. Both Compass and especially Optics don´t have insignificant costs to get them early, also to get them instead of other techs first. Also the carrack would shine most if it came very early on a ancient or classical setup where each player assumes he is safe till galeons (Astronomy) and just builds up without any defense units. Then it still is a costly endevour to invest 40 hammers for each 2 units one wants to boat. Finally opponents always have the possibility to build caravels themselves and attack potentially loaded Carracks.

Main argument for the Carrack is the potential surprise factor of getting units into opponent´s land at a time or sometimes place he wouldn´t expect. There can´t be any strategy around this since if it became clear that investing the hammers would result in a “good” attack via boating, people would tech Optics themselves and counter the Carracks with Caravels, fighting for sea control. Carracks only can work if someone is unaware of what might happen or just ignores it. The threat of potentially something happening is actually the biggest argument for the Carrack. Don´t research Optics, don´t build Carracks, just hope your opponent is afraid of them and takes unnecessary counter measures instead at the cost of buildup.

3. Ballista Elephant

Unique unit for Khmer; Replaces War Elephant
+50% vs. Mounted units
Doesn’t receive defensive bonuses
Targets Mounted units first in combat outside cities

The Ballista Elephant works only a little bit in defense. In offense it has no additional bonus and it still moves only one tile unlike the prefered stacks of medieval and Renaissance (Knights!) mostly do. So no bonus in offense. In defense it also doesn´t really shine since first of all players rarely attack with mixed stacks of 2-mover and 1-movers hence the bonus of hitting the mounted units first has not many scenarios where it can trigger.Second not in all defense situations can you hit the opposing units, sometimes you have to take the hit. Then the Elephant you build for additional defensive value doesn´t get any defense bonus from being in a city.

2. Conquistador

Unique unit for Spain; Replaces Cuirassier
Can flank attack cannons
Can withdraw from combat (15% chance); +50% vs. Melee Units
Immune to first strikes
Gets defense bonus from tiles/cities

The Conquistador is a Cuirassier that gets +50% vs. Melee Units and profits from defense bonus. The first problem with cuirrasiers is that they are not buildable from the beginning of any era start (mid Renaissance, not anymore in Industrial). The second problem is that they don´t stay for long. Rifles and Cavalry come very quick in the tech path. Next in a normal team game when you attak with Cuirassiers opponents defend with Knights, Cuirassiers and Muscets and catapults, not anymore with pikes, if they did ever. So the bonus against melee units doesn´t applay. The “gets defense part” can be useful here or there, but is rarely useful. So this little bit of usefulness is countered by the sort time you get it and by the fact that cuirassiers only are on the scene for a short period of time.

Main idea for a strategy would be maybe in an Ironman where you research Military Tradition with a priority while building a big stack of Knights and saving money, then upgrading all your Knights to Conquistadors which can attack an opponent whose pikes will be useless against the melee bonus, potentially plowing through his land since he doesn´t have any counter unit at this point. This would be only possible with a tech lead at least against the player you are attacking. Massive Cuirassier upgrading is an option in many Ironman/ffa games, Cuirassiers really would shine in such a scenario.

1. Vulture

Unique unit for Sumeria; Replaces Axeman
+25% vs. Melee Units

The Vulture sits on the throne of the King of Flop for only one reason. It has 33% with same promotions flat both in defense and offense against a normal axe. Same bad ratio applies to other battles involving defense or other offense bonuses.The situations where you have to fight versus Axes having only metal occur very often in average ancient start games. Usually you´d build an axe yourself and would have an equal unit taking promotions aside. With the Vulture you simply get less for your hammers in comparison to your opponent.

Though I don´t want to let it be unmentioned that there are two aspecs about the Vulture which are very nice in one specific situation. The main being that with copper in the fatcross you can build the Vulture, a 6-strength-unit while usually you´d have gotten “only” an axe with 5-strength. The difference then gets a meaning if your opponent has no metal and has to defend with archers against which Vultures have better odds then axes. Also in case of horse, the Vulture has generally better odds to survive a battle, still not a good idea though to play solely with Vultures against Chariots ;).

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  1. Spyro
    December 11, 2009 at 19:26

    To the defense bonus you are getting for conquistadors: Though, it makes it not significantly better.
    You have to consider if you are attacking with 2-mover units you either do so in order to be able to attack a selected city faster and/or to double, tripple or quadripple (hope it’s the right word) cities. Just to make that clear I will simplify to just 10 conquistadors attacking. Though, in reality you will attack with 30+ conquistadors at least. Let’s say you are attacking an opponent with those 10 conquistadors. Opponent has a mixture of cataplults, cuirassiers and muskets 15 in total. Preferable you would try to double or tripple his cities. The only chance to not loose 1 city minimum, he has to attack your conquistadors. Assuming, Opponent has some hills and even some forests left which allow you to double his cities the defence bonus gain of the conquistador may get you a huge advantage executing an attack, since he can’t defend nor attack in order to defend…
    Though, it’s pretty much just theoratical since most players will have all forests chopped at that point and blocking most hills with pikes/muskets and the enemy’s land should fit to be able to use this tactic

  2. Dece
    December 15, 2009 at 13:42

    [edited by admin: Facts please, not claims.]

    ..in late ancient game attacks a stack of vultures is much better than a stack of axes (together with catas,swords,eles, has, etc.) because it would cause more damage when hitting the units in the city (archers, eles, has, catas even longbows)

    I strongly disagree about the Balista ele … I like it very much and you cannot attack khmer with a slow stack containing eles or even a few double move units to cut his roads cause he will take them out instantly. Even in medi they rock in defense taking out knights even if you have pikes in your stack.

    Actually elephants are one of the most unbalanced units around at their time, having good odds on almost anything (including UUs, including aggresive praets!) that you can throw against them.
    Add to that being able to take out the mounted units out of a stack and you have a great UU!

    • December 15, 2009 at 15:55

      The vultures with which you want to attack later on still suck against defending axes in the city – or why exactly wouldn´t there be any of those anymore if you are attacking with vultures? The main point being that early on you are at a serious disadvantage with your cripple axes against normal ones. The advantage you describe matters only once it actually comes to your vultures fighting non-axes and till then you are still at a significant disadvatage. Also I´d much rather be building elephants, ha or even swords in the later part of an ancient start game.

      As I wrote there aren´t that many scenarios where you attack with a mixed stack of 1- and 2-movers. There is basically no such scenario in competetive multiplayer if you leave flanking strike damage on (which can be turned off with the GameMonitorMod).

      Not to mention that I would be very glad if your Ballista Elephants hit my token couple of HA or chariots I take with me in order to keep my Praetorians or city raider swords (ancient) or my Samurai and Cho-Ko-Nu for example (Medieval) safe from them.

      P.S. Just to make it clear. As I wrote, unlike some UBs every Uinque Unit has its uses. Just some have fewer scenarios then others. The Vulture (and in very special circumstances the Ballista) are basically the only unique units though that even have situations where they are worse then the unit they are substituting. Of course the Jaguar having those scenarios as well, but in general being an entirely different kind of unit which you from the start use different to a normal sword, not stacking 20 of them and going for a kill.

  3. Dece
    December 16, 2009 at 13:04

    The normal elephants would hit your spears first then your praets. Plus I will take out your has and chars WITHOUT ANY SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO MY ELES, I might even get another promotion on them.

    Elephants are a very powerful unit in itself, having an improved elephant can only ADD TO IT’S VALUE!

    I hope I made my point clear.

    • December 16, 2009 at 13:30

      So you hit my slow stack that has horseback units in it and kill some chariots getting a promotion next turn (remember you had super odds, probably got 1exp for the fight). I cata and kill you then.

      If I come with a 2-mover only stack, the Ballista has no advantage at all.

      Again: Mixed stacks of 1 and 2 movers are rare, at least bigger stacks; if flanking is NOT disabled, why would I even try going in with catapults with a big stack in a medi or reni game?

      And once more, all UUs do something, I´m not judging the Elephant here, but the additional advantage the Ballista ability provides. And that ability does something in only very few, very specific scenarios.

  4. Penny
    December 19, 2009 at 19:39

    Nice Top 5, but I wouldn’t have choosen those ones :p

    I, too, think Ballista are good, surely you do not pick them for classical or medi, but they’re very useful against a mix 2mover stack attack of Musketeer + Knights, sometimes you just cannot hit that stack jumping from hills to hills, Khmer UU can do that ! And so, considering you want the UB starting renaissance you ARE using Ballistas in competitive games.

    I’d like to make a special mention to Keshik, perhaps I’m not playing ancient enough, but it merely is a HA with some flexibility, seems a bit wasteful to me.
    NAVY Seals too, we pick them out of despair in Modern, but the use is very limited, it’s all about tanks in most cases.
    Oromo deserve the mention like you said, they get both pinch and formation without any kinda of effort (5xp is enough) but 1-mover are just non-existent in Ren so no luck for them !

    • December 19, 2009 at 19:47

      You are right. The argument of Musceteer/Knight stacks is the most valid one. It makes the Ballista not deserve to be in that list when Oromo Warriors aren´t in. It´s still only an ability that helps you in a situation where things aren´t looking too good anyway. Stuff that helps you win is good,stuff that makes you lose less, not that much.

      The Navy Seal is a good catch. Its 1-2 additional first strikes are not entirely insignificant, but surely nothing respectable.

  5. MLL
    February 1, 2010 at 04:13

    Sorry but every one of the 5 uus you mentioned is pretty good. I just don’t agree that any of them are flops and all have particular uses.

    Camel archers are the best rushing unit in all of ren. The reason for this is not just because you don’t need horse and iron, but because you save worker turns which otherwise would need to hook horse/iron in which you can be hooking more foods or roading, meaning overall a much more deadly rush. It translates to more knights, second only to india.

    Carracks are outstanding in any era where galleons are not immediately available. This is not just because they carry units, but because they pose the *threat* of carrying units. Try not loading every single carrack with units, forcing the enemy to take shots on carracks on the shore at 33% that they normally wouldn’t, just for the threat of it having units on board. The threat forces the enemy to keep a great deal more units in their back cities in defense as compared to the units that you must to supply to provide the threat (which in some games could be *zero* units, so long as you at some points have some loaded to keep the enemy honest).

    Ballista elephants are the absolute best defensive unit in the game for any time you have engineering. The problem more lies in the lack of reliable elephant resources, but since we are evaluating the unit and not the availability of the resource, I would say it’s a fallacy to call the unit a flop. Ballista elephants eliminate the possibility of a stack of knights or HA moving in with a larger stack then breaking off for a quick double move, which is a common threat. That’s not to mention that knights in particular are really the only unit with enough power to take down a city, persay.

    Conqs aren’t my favorite unit, but certainly not useless. They provide a quick method of defending any city on the map with their great defensive bonus combined with extra moves, which is especially good with castles/walls against enemy knights.

    Vultures only require copper for a 6 power unit, and are less costly. This makes them one of the best units for attacking cities early on. They can’t kill axes, but that’s fine because if they were instead axemen of your own those axes would have crap odds on archers. Overall the probabilities are superior for attacking a city with axes and archers, and far superior for attacking someone who doesn’t have metal yet.

    • February 1, 2010 at 14:05

      Well, I disagree 🙂

      – Conquistadors have no scenario besides the fictional one Imentioned.
      – Vultures are horrible once your opponent has metal, which is basically always in a game on higher level, like a clan match.
      – Ballistas have been discussed here and probably shouldn´t be on the list.
      – Carracks don´t have a single scenario in current civ mp. If they did, you´d still hve to build (hammers!) them first and then could only send 2 units in each and still could be attacked by opposing Caravels. They look good on paper, but they haven´t been build once in a CCC in the last year or so. The idea of picking Portugal in medieval for example doesn´t work, because the resources you invest into carracks, you will miss later on when getting attacked via land. Also without sea control, it doesn´t help you being able to transport units and Carracks don´t have any advantage over Caravels while fighting.
      – Camel Archers cannot rush anything in a Renaissance game on a balanced resources start. There are very, very few cases where being able to build Camel ARchers would enable you to pressure your opponent more then you could have before. People used to pick Arabia in Renaissance till it basically got proven that those kinds of rushes don´t work there.

  6. MLL
    February 1, 2010 at 04:19

    Imo, the list of flops are:

    oromo warriors
    hwachas (after catapults couldn’t kill anymore)
    numidian cavalry
    bowmen (not quite as useless but really not that great – you are screwed if you have no resources anyway).

    • February 1, 2010 at 14:06

      Hwachas and Bowmen are good, solid units, that you can do much more with then the ones on the FLop list. Especially Bowmen are very good for giving you an easy way of getting rid of warriors, preventing an opponent from getting a mix of htose and archers onto tiles. Numids and Oromo, as said in the article, could just as well been on the list.

  7. Gitbliss
    February 2, 2010 at 14:15

    Vultures suck IMO… an axe that loses from normal axes 😛

    Carracks are great on the other hand, given the right circumstances, which don’t appear often but when they do they shine….namely ancient or classical, medi island teamers.

    Balistas are not bad at all as they eliminate the threat of mixed stacks with mounted units..not minor IMO.

    Conquistadors I don’t know what to make of them, they only appear in Reny, the 50% vs melle bonus is mostly irrelevant, the fortify bonus can prove nice though.

    Camel archers the 15% withdraw is not irrelevant…with flanking 2 the withdraw % goes up to 45% instead of 30%…many more units will survive.

    The Oromo I personnaly like…having a musket that owns all other muskets is enough for me.

    • February 2, 2010 at 14:27

      Remeber GM, always put the units into the context of settings.

      15% withdrawl on Camel Archers means (only) every 7th unit will survive without additional Flanking promos and only when attacking. Those on the other hand you basically cannot use or otherwise your odds on opposing units in a a setup like Ren 3v3 become too bad.

      Carracks don´t have a setup and if they did the possible counters to them would be used more. Though sure, you can come up with a scenario where they can be very benefitial – none exists at the moment though in the mp world.

      Conquistadors look great on paper, but don´t work in the reality of settings. Too short life span, no real use for the +50% against melee, no real use for the defense bonus, though that of course can come in handy here or there, but isn´t an advantage for sure, just sometimes can be.

      Oromo have great attributes, BUT don´t have two moves – that makes them suck since in the period you could use them, in a teamer you need two-movers and in a solo game like an Ironman, you don´t attack with muscets since the time frame around Gunpowder is very rarely a good point to attack.

      All in all, of course ALL UUs have their uses here or there, what counts is the overall number of scenarios where you actually want to have them and where they help you win.

  8. Gitbliss
    February 2, 2010 at 14:38

    You are calculating withdraw chances wrong. You have 45% on each seperate attack instead of 30% that is 33% more not just 15% more. So every 3rd unit will survive not every 7th.

    In a large stack that means all opponent catapults dead.

    Oromos don’t have 2 moves but neither do ottoman muskets. Also the defensive value is not to be underestimated…You will need many more muskateers to take a city with fortified Oromos than Ottoman or normal muskets.

    • February 2, 2010 at 15:45

      That is only true if you give your Camel Archer Flanking I and II. Then it has 27% on Knights with Combat I and II and 23% on French Muscets with Combat I, II and Formation. The units you might save through withdrawl (witout killing opposing units) you will loseagain on the much lower odds.

      Additionaly Flanking is – for good reason – disabled nowadays in medi to indu games.

      As for Ottomans – they are picked solely for their UB and starting techs in Ironman games – not picked at all in Ren teamer.

  9. MLL
    February 2, 2010 at 14:59

    oromo warriors are worthless because the primary unit in medi/ren during that time is the knight, to which first strikes do nothing at all.

  10. Gitbliss
    February 2, 2010 at 17:00

    Last ccc out in our whole land we only had 1 horse resource for 3 players. What UU’s would you like to have in this situation?

    • February 2, 2010 at 17:07

      Well, then you used the wrong settings or played it wrong or got incredible unlucky which happens once in 100 or 200 games. With balanced resources whether Inland_Sea or Green_Wheel, it´s very unlikely that at least two out of three players cannot plant horse AND iron wihtin their first three cities. In a couple hundred Ren games I´ve seen weird and unfair (especialy Inland_Sea, bad map..) resource placement, but never one where not at least two players (all three with solid land shape) could get their iron/horse very quick – and you need only 2 of each till Military Tradition.

      Vote against noob Inland_Sea in CCCAC :p

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