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A Flop5 of Unique Units

December 8, 2009 18 comments

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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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 😉

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