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Splitting our civs in groups - Fixing the balancing problem


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On 6/5/2019 at 5:23 PM, Wijitmaker said:

Yeah, it all kind of started with Michael's dream to convert 0 A.D. into his dream game he was calling "Age of the Aegean".  I think the Hellenes were the first generic civ that was broken apart and split into multiple civs.  

When you look at RTS games 15 years ago (I'm not sure what is out there these days) you usually find that they are either many civs/races that are slightly different from one another (Age of Kings), or few civs/races that are drastically different from one another (StarCraft).  

Each Civ was supposed to have a general theme and favor a certain playing style...

  • Romans - Generic all purpose, Strength in siege
  • Hellenes - Generic all purpose, Strong fortifications
  • Persians - Cannon Fodder, Cheap infantry, Cavalry strong
  • Celts - Aggressive and Offensive, Cheap/weak structures
  • Carthaginians - Economy is based on metal/gold because of mercenaries, biggest variety of units, strong navy
  • Iberians - Defensive, Small numbers, Tactical

New civs were created and I'm not sure how they fit in or how they are distinct but I would encourage there to be a distinction to give players a reason to use them.  For me - 0 A.D. was always a game first and wasn't ever intended to be a historical simulator.  That was for games like Total War.

This is a helpful distinction

"Many Civilizations, slightly different; few Civilizations, very different."

Here's how I might suggest integrating different Civilizations. Every smaller Civilization has a larger category, for example, the "culture" mechanic already exists. "Hele" being Macedonian, Spartan, Athenian, etc. Within each such cultural group, use the phrase "Many Civilizations, slightly different". But when comparing to other cultures, such as the Persians, use the phrase "Fewer Civilizations, very different."

There is another way, which is much more powerful long term as the number of mechanics and Civilizations multiplies so balancing becomes exponentially complex(balancing civs is at least an n2 problem). The bonuses that each Civilization, including build tree, are specified in a rating system. Example:
 

  • Cost Abilities
    • 10% decrease in Infantry Cost:  10 points
    • 20% decrease in Infantry Cost:  25 points
  • Build Tree Abilities
    • Spearmen Available in Village Phase: 5 points
    • Swordsmen Available in Village Phase:  7points
    • Champion Class Available in Town Phase: 10 points

This way every Civilization will have a point rating. Ideally, unit stats will then be calculated algorithimically based on these bonuses. If time is spent on giving a cardinal(numerical) rating to every possible civilization statistic, we would have a powerful rating system to specify which civilizations are stronger or weaker. If we algorithimicaly generate the stat files, the players could even specify in a pregame option whether they want "realistic" or "playable" civilizations. Eg the "Nuba" minifaction in Delenda Est wont realistically be able to withstand the might of the Roman Imperial Army. But it might be fun to pretend that it can :-)

Edited by myou5e
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Personally, I'm against the idea of combining civs and against the idea of civ brackets/tiers.   I think we are all thinking about this is the wrong way.  We don't need to be thinking about

Balancing civs is trivial, just have a unit type, let's say jav cav, be OP enough and make it available to all civs and you are done. The above is a solution but it goes to show that balancing

I'm going to try and flesh out the above proposition more, I think it's a worthwhile idea.

4 hours ago, badosu said:

but I would like to keep it possible for players in the same tier to be have a decent matchup with wildly different civilizations.

Exactly. The issue with balancing very similar factions (the so-called "Celtic" group of European barbarians factions for example) will probably result in strong imbalance between the groups instead.

I don't see the need to make historical groups for a purely gameplay motive, eg balancing the civs.

I agree that balancing 78 matchups is too difficult. But at least it should be balanced between different kind of factions, as a representative sample of the reality (eg the players won't care at all of the historical groups online).

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5 hours ago, badosu said:

I don't know if it's feasible though

My opinion/argument is that it is impossible, unless we:

  1. Effectively reduce the # of civs (e.g Celt, Greek, Roman, Kushites), by making the different "sub-civs" very similar.
  2. Effectively make all civs very similar. We can't get AoE2 level of variety because our tech tree/unit tree is much too small.

@Genava55 seems to side with #1.

I'd rather take the 3rd option I'm presenting in the OP.

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To be precise, I am personally against the idea to build groups based on history and general strategical guidelines and to stick with those to balance the civs.

I understand that the civs belongs to the same conceptual groups due to their design, because in the way we design a faction we are constrained by historical evidences.

So it is logical that the Iberians, the Britons and the Gauls have several similarities in their strategies. Because historically they had. It is logical that Macedonians, Seleucids and Ptolemies have several similarities as well.

But I am against the idea to balance the civs only with their similar counterparts. If the Iberians, the Britons and the Gauls are only balanced in regard to each other, then it will probably result to unbalance when players of those civs will face other civs from other groups. Because let's face it, it would be the case regularly.

So I suggest those grouping should be different according to their goals. I agree to group the civs between them according to their similarities and history when it is done with the purpose to draw the general kind of strategies and gameplay. Like in Wijitmaker proposal with thematic group.

But when it is grouping in the purpose of balancing the civs, it should be mixed groups. Because it is not directly the civs that are unbalanced but some general strategies that are far better than others.

As I said, I agree with your observation that 78 matchups to balance is too much. I agree with your idea to balance the civs only in their own group. I simply don't see the relevance to balance a civ only against a similar civ.

 

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9 hours ago, badosu said:

providing more realism and avoiding anachronistic or even impossible stuff in (e.g. mauryan bolt siege

Maurya's had ranged siege equipment, described as "moveable machines" and "immoveable machines", that made use of "string" to "shoot" [arrows? stones?] at the enemy forts or parapets to "destroy" them. Described in Kautilya's Arthashastra. 

 

Even before the Maurya Empire, Ajatashatru, King of the Haryanka dynasty of Magadha, apparently used catapults against the Licchavis according to Jain literature. 

It is probably historically inaccurate to depict them without ranged siege... We just don't have good visual refs for now.

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Yeah, I was originally going to talk about catapults but I did a little research before and discovered the 'catapults' from the Magadha dynasty, didn't find reference about bolt shooters so that's why I referenced them, thanks for the info!

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5 hours ago, Genava55 said:

ButI am against the idea to balance the civs only with their similar counterparts. If the Iberians, the Britons and the Gauls are only balanced in regard to each other, then it will probably result to unbalance when players of those civs will face other civs from other groups. Because let's face it, it would be the case regularly.
 

And it is not like those civs only fought each other.

Gauls fought with Romans and Greeks, it would be unauthentic to balance them with only Britons and Iberians mind.

Edited by Ultimate Aurelian
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6 hours ago, Genava55 said:

To be precise, I am personally against the idea to build groups based on history and general strategical guidelines and to stick with those to balance the civs.

I understand that the civs belongs to the same conceptual groups due to their design, because in the way we design a faction we are constrained by historical evidences.

So it is logical that the Iberians, the Britons and the Gauls have several similarities in their strategies. Because historically they had. It is logical that Macedonians, Seleucids and Ptolemies have several similarities as well.

But I am against the idea to balance the civs only with their similar counterparts. If the Iberians, the Britons and the Gauls are only balanced in regard to each other, then it will probably result to unbalance when players of those civs will face other civs from other groups. Because let's face it, it would be the case regularly.

So I suggest those grouping should be different according to their goals. I agree to group the civs between them according to their similarities and history when it is done with the purpose to draw the general kind of strategies and gameplay. Like in Wijitmaker proposal with thematic group.

But when it is grouping in the purpose of balancing the civs, it should be mixed groups. Because it is not directly the civs that are unbalanced but some general strategies that are far better than others.

As I said, I agree with your observation that 78 matchups to balance is too much. I agree with your idea to balance the civs only in their own group. I simply don't see the relevance to balance a civ only against a similar civ.

 

The number of naive matchups between civilizations is Sumi(n-1)i, where n=number of civilizations.

  • with 3 civs, 2 + 1 = 3 matchups
  • with 4 civs, 3 + 2 + 1 = 6 matchups
  • with 5 civs, 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10 matchups
  • with 13 civs(v24) = 78 Matchups

However If you match up similar factions internally, then test only that "general faction" against the others. You will reduce this number significantly.

  • Celts(brit, gaul): 2 Matchups
  • Greeks(athen, mace, spart): 3 Matchups
  • Successor(sele + ptol):  1 Matchups
  • I'm not sure if we can group the following, so we may need to treat them separately: Carthaginian, Iberian, Kushites, Mauryans, Romans, Persians

Because we can group some civs together, we have reduced the number of global matchups considerably. 6 Independent Civs, Plus 3 general cultures. That means 9 global matchups. 9 Global matchups results in 36 possible combinations, then we add the internal culture matchups, 36+2+3+1=42.

So practically speaking we only need to worry about 42 possible matchups, not 72. If we can categorize two of the independent civs i mentioned together, there will only be 8 global matchups, and total will reduce to 34.

Edited by myou5e
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Unfortunately it seems to me that we will not have a different gameplay for each civilization while the units collect res and attack at the same time.
Gaul/brit for example could be a civilization with light, fast and cheap infantry, it would gain in quantity, however it is impossible now cuz as it also affects spam/res.
 

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Hello,

Stop shouting everywhere is not balancing. This group idea is really modly.

if you think some civilization is weaker, start to think at new games features, a new unit to give a strenght in a domain for example. A hero, a building, a new idea in a tech or building tree can give power to a civilisation 

At worst, if a civilisation is slighlty weaker, it will play lass, no problem, it will be taken only by lovers of this civilisation or the pros to blance a game in search of challenge.

Perfect balance does not exist, the meta will take over

Do people agree ?

 

:) 

 

 

 

,

 

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16 minutes ago, myou5e said:

The number of naive matchups between civilizations is Sumi(n-1)i, where n=number of civilizations.

  • with 3 civs, 2 + 1 = 3 matchups
  • with 4 civs, 3 + 2 + 1 = 6 matchups
  • with 5 civs, 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10 matchups
  • with 13 civs(v24) = 78 Matchups

However If you match up similar factions internally, then test only that "general faction" against the others. You will reduce this number significantly.

  • Celts(brit, gaul): 2 Matchups
  • Greeks(athen, mace, spart): 3 Matchups
  • Successor(sele + ptol):  1 Matchups
  • I'm not sure if we can group the following, so we may need to treat them separately: Carthaginian, Iberian, Kushites, Mauryans, Romans, Persians

Because we can group some civs together, we have reduced the number of global matchups considerably. 6 Independent Civs, Plus 3 general cultures. That means 9 global matchups. 9 Global matchups results in 36 possible combinations, then we add the internal culture matchups, 36+2+3+1=42.

So practically speaking we only need to worry about 42 possible matchups, not 72. If we can categorize two of the independent civs i mentioned together, there will only be 8 global matchups, and total will reduce to 34.

That's a very different approach than the original proposal in this thread but it could be a good idea in theory.

First we group the civs by strategical themes which gives 6 or 7 groups, then we balance the civs within the groups and finally the groups between them.

However, how do you balance groups between them (not within)? Simply by a statistical analysis of the matches online and with back-and-forth changes?

Edited by Genava55
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3 minutes ago, borg- said:

Malheureusement, il me semble que nous n'aurons pas un gameplay différent pour chaque civilisation tant que les unités collectent des res et attaquent en même temps.
La Gaule / britannique par exemple pourrait être une civilisation avec une infanterie légère, rapide et bon marché, elle gagnerait en quantité, mais c'est impossible maintenant car elle affecte également le spam / res.
 

Its still a base of the game lol

For the next civ, why not a civ nomad without citizen-soldier ? only cavalry citizen, some light infantery, inscreased looting, hunt and some building on cart lol ? a lot of women and slaves for wood, berries

2 units killed = 1 free slaves on camp

But the hunt no farms :( ???

a civ who puts the pressure on or dies afterwards 

 

--just want to write.. but it seems very complicated without fields afterwards... go sleep lol--

 

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32 minutes ago, Dakara said:

Its still a base of the game lol

For the next civ, why not a civ nomad without citizen-soldier ? only cavalry citizen, some light infantery, inscreased looting, hunt and some building on cart lol ? a lot of women and slaves for wood, berries

2 units killed = 1 free slaves on camp

But the hunt no farms :( ???

a civ who puts the pressure on or dies afterwards 

 

--just want to write.. but it seems very complicated without fields afterwards... go sleep lol--

 

This looks pretty good but for nomad civ. The challenge is to do this with today's civilizations. It would be interesting to make a topic just for discussions on how to differentiate civilizations, so we can apply that to a24.

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Personally, I'm against the idea of combining civs and against the idea of civ brackets/tiers.

 

I think we are all thinking about this is the wrong way.  We don't need to be thinking about the factions as a group.  In fact, that's the one aspect of this game we should be ignoring.  

Scenario

Think of a matchup between Britons and Seleucids.  Each faction is quite different from one another.  However in this matchup, it is not very important to compare the two civilizations in terms of historical accuracy.  We should be comparing them based on the environment.  Each culture developed a style of warfare that best suited their environment In a heavy wooded map, the more flexible Britons have an advantage over the large and clumsy formations of the Seleucids, but in an grassland, the tables flip. Now the powerful Seleucid formations and cavalry would shred the Britons.

Conclusion

We need to be thinking more about the environment that we put the civilizations in.  More deliberate map design, with areas that all factions can excel in. Currently, our maps are based on locales, which is hindering balance by favoring the native culture.  Thinking about the scenario above, imagine a map with both heavily wooded areas, and open areas/ pathways.  Now the question doesn't become which faction is better, it becomes a question of how well can each player utilize the map!  How well can they force engagements on terrain that favors them?  Obviously we would still need to keep an eye on the exact stats of techs and units for each faction, but if we build the maps right, we can still allow these unique matchups that make this game great!  Open areas for the more formation focused civs, wooded areas/rough terrain for more flexible civs.  Flat areas for cavalry civs, and terrain height for ranged based civs. Most RTS titles focus on how well you can micro your economy and armies, but map utilization is rather minor.  Players usually play "on" the map instead of "with it!" This is what could give 0AD an identity and make it unique from other RTS titles!  As an added bonus, it would allow for more factions to be added without making balancing a nightmare!

Addendum

Now, we still need to consider the factions as individuals.  I'm of the opinion that we should make sure that each one feels unique.  We don't need Starcraft-ien levels of unique, but think AOEIII WOL mod levels of unique.  Each faction should have a preferred playstyle and a preferred unit roster, and it's out goal as balancers to make sure to emphasize these preferences.   Spartans should be a infantry heavy faction, Carthage should play defensively, Kush can build tall, and the Seleucids can build wide.  By emphasizing these preferences, players can really get a feel for the differences of each faction, and they can find the one that matches their playstyle.  This can be done through more unique techs, faction bonuses, and possibly with re-thought rosters.

 

Combining all these thoughts would make this game a great game of tactical skill.  The player must not only take advantage of their civ's unique strengths and understand their weaknesses, but use the map and the environment to help make sure they fight on their terms.

Edited by Phalanx
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For what it's worth, here are my 2 cents:

Balancing has many aspects, and some of them can be reduced to number-crunching. Not all of them, but some. This being so, that could be done with a script.
I'd like to quote an idea that @Wijitmaker had and that it would be really worth pursuing:

On 7/2/2020 at 12:13 PM, Wijitmaker said:

I always dreamed of having an entity editor that would be like a massive table that unified all of the entity xmls in one single view for easy editing and graphical assistance in helping your eye see the highs and lows of values across all entities.  Kind of a massive spreadsheet.  We had plans to make a crude simulation tool as well.  No graphics, but it would run a theoretical battle between X number of unit A vs. X number of unit B.  It would quickly crunch the outcome of which unit A or B would come out on top.  These were just tools that were going to assist with balancing.

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10 hours ago, Dakara said:

Its still a base of the game lol

For the next civ, why not a civ nomad without citizen-soldier ? only cavalry citizen, some light infantery, inscreased looting, hunt and some building on cart lol ? a lot of women and slaves for wood, berries

2 units killed = 1 free slaves on camp

But the hunt no farms :( ???

a civ who puts the pressure on or dies afterwards 

 

--just want to write.. but it seems very complicated without fields afterwards... go sleep lol--

 

The Scythians, for example, should likely not have farms, they should rely on animal corral. Ancient authors seem to have said this about them.

9 hours ago, m7600 said:

For what it's worth, here are my 2 cents:

Balancing has many aspects, and some of them can be reduced to number-crunching. Not all of them, but some. This being so, that could be done with a script.
I'd like to quote an idea that @Wijitmaker had and that it would be really worth pursuing:

This is a really cool idea. I would love to see this.

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9 hours ago, Phalanx said:

Personally, I'm against the idea of combining civs and against the idea of civ brackets/tiers.

 

I think we are all thinking about this is the wrong way.  We don't need to be thinking about the factions as a group.  In fact, that's the one aspect of this game we should be ignoring.  

Scenario

Think of a matchup between Britons and Seleucids.  Each faction is quite different from one another.  However in this matchup, it is not very important to compare the two civilizations in terms of historical accuracy.  We should be comparing them based on the environment.  Each culture developed a style of warfare that best suited their environment In a heavy wooded map, the more flexible Britons have an advantage over the large and clumsy formations of the Seleucids, but in an grassland, the tables flip. Now the powerful Seleucid formations and cavalry would shred the Britons.

Conclusion

We need to be thinking more about the environment that we put the civilizations in.  More deliberate map design, with areas that all factions can excel in. Currently, our maps are based on locales, which is hindering balance by favoring the native culture.  Thinking about the scenario above, imagine a map with both heavily wooded areas, and open areas/ pathways.  Now the question doesn't become which faction is better, it becomes a question of how well can each player utilize the map!  How well can they force engagements on terrain that favors them?  Obviously we would still need to keep an eye on the exact stats of techs and units for each faction, but if we build the maps right, we can still allow these unique matchups that make this game great!  Open areas for the more formation focused civs, wooded areas/rough terrain for more flexible civs.  Flat areas for cavalry civs, and terrain height for ranged based civs. Most RTS titles focus on how well you can micro your economy and armies, but map utilization is rather minor.  Players usually play "on" the map instead of "with it!" This is what could give 0AD an identity and make it unique from other RTS titles!  As an added bonus, it would allow for more factions to be added without making balancing a nightmare!

Addendum

Now, we still need to consider the factions as individuals.  I'm of the opinion that we should make sure that each one feels unique.  We don't need Starcraft-ien levels of unique, but think AOEIII WOL mod levels of unique.  Each faction should have a preferred playstyle and a preferred unit roster, and it's out goal as balancers to make sure to emphasize these preferences.   Spartans should be a infantry heavy faction, Carthage should play defensively, Kush can build tall, and the Seleucids can build wide.  By emphasizing these preferences, players can really get a feel for the differences of each faction, and they can find the one that matches their playstyle.  This can be done through more unique techs, faction bonuses, and possibly with re-thought rosters.

 

Combining all these thoughts would make this game a great game of tactical skill.  The player must not only take advantage of their civ's unique strengths and understand their weaknesses, but use the map and the environment to help make sure they fight on their terms.

You are right in connecting the environment to balance. To some extent more game mechanics need to be built into the game to make this possible. For example, chariots and horses need to be able to charge, but they should be hindered, or break formation, or lose health, when attempting to charge through a forest. Stealth tactics, where units can become invisible in some areas, are also a feature that would help play to the environment.

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Balancing civs is trivial, just have a unit type, let's say jav cav, be OP enough and make it available to all civs and you are done. ;)


The above is a solution but it goes to show that balancing civs may well be undesirable or far from the only goal. So when is balancing even relevant and who is even qualified to talk about imbalance. Just recently I saw a match-up on yt where a much better player beat a weaker player and the conclusion of the commenter was civ a stronger than b. In my opinion the game would have ended the same even if you doubled the gathering rate of b by a factor of two and reduced build and train time by half.


Except for pro players which can constantly play a good game a good run vs bad run is far more relevant than whether civs are balanced or not. I mean what's the point in talking about balance when you struggle to even reach pop cap 25 minutes into a sandbox game? So let's assume we have two players both able to reach 300 pop in well less than 20 minutes, one knows to dance the other not. Balancing civs is still irrelevant.

 

My point is unless you are one of the few who know to use and abuse the game at it's limit you shouldn't care. What do those 2 or 3 dozen players which can be counted as pro players need for the game to be interesting for them as well? A few none identical civs which each supports multiple strategies at roughly the same level will do just fine. If for a release a certain civ is considered game breaking just ban the civ by convention from rated games or tournament rules and be done with. For rated games enforcing mirror match-ups on balanced maps might be another way.

 

Going back to the original topic, why force tiers in the first place? If we check the earlier linked video those tiers appear naturally. So the act of introducing official tears with support in the code can be considered an act of over-engineering.


The release cycle is also a reason why you guys face such pressure regarding balancing. If it goes wrong it will be wrong for the next 2 years or so. Let me delve a little into what I consider wrong about the release policy as it may be called.

 

Alpha means it builds and runs for the most part. Basically what trunc should be at any point. Just any snapshot after minimal testing is worthy the label alpha. In my opinion a reasonable version scheme would be a major of 0 to indicate the intent of further enhancing the engine and getting rid of some major issues. Then the minor for the next release would be 24 and patch level 0.

 

So the next release would be 0.24.0. There can be an alpha/beta release thereof. If so feature freeze trunc and publish the binaries and source release and give user and packagers time of like 2 weeks to report release blockers. If appropriate tag the release and create a release branch. Then do a patch release once it's evident that game balance is screwed. Other than balancing changes apart from the obvious bug and security fixes there can also be changes to art or even new maps could be added. A patch release just mustn't break mods.


To sum up, there only needs to be a subset of civs that can be used for pro players in competition, which can just as well be empirically determined after the release and balance issues should they crop up should not be cemented for such a long time.

 

Well, I spoke a lot in little detail about a rather complex topic but hope it a least shows a different possible take worth discussing.

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How about not trying to balance the civilizations, but changing the score by a factor? Eg. Britons score factor will be 0.8 in an advantageous environment, but will be 1.2 in an environment that disadvantages them, and will be 1 in an environment where they have neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. 

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On 8/4/2020 at 6:03 PM, Dakara said:

if you think some civilization is weaker, start to think at new games features, a new unit to give a strenght in a domain for example. A hero, a building, a new idea in a tech or building tree can give power to a civilisation 

I'm not sure about the upcoming update but new game features might arrive sometime in the future, let's hope so. However in my opinion, some civs should have all their ground units ranked. For instance, some civ archers should be better than others, some civ Calvary should be better, some war elephants should be better trained, some cavalry and chariots units should be faster or heavier than others, some civ infantry units such as spearmen should be more tactical than others. It could go like; Romans have aggressive sieges, Kushites have +? accurate archers, Mauryans the Elephants, Gauls have land superiority, etc. I'm not implying that the civs mentioned earlier have such tactical traits, I just want to give an example for better comprehension. It seems there are civs that are too strong gaping the others at light speed. Every civ must have a trait that makes it "strongest" among other civ units. Also, I believe that "artillery" didn't arrive at our doorsteps from the Greeks and that it was of practice elsewhere before. 

Edited by Abdominin
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2 hours ago, Abdominin said:

However in my opinion, some civs should have all their ground units ranked. For instance, some civ archers should be better than others, some civ Calvary should be better, some war elephants should be better trained, some cavalry and chariots units should be faster or heavier than others, some civ infantry units such as spearmen should be more tactical than others.

It's hard to not agree. One initial idea was that even if they start with the same stats, the units from different types could be improved with specific civilization technologies. That remains a bit but it had progressively disappeared through the last releases.

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