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[a25] Merc Cav (Carthage + replay)


Dizaka
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Merc cav OP.

10 min mark:  1 players resigned and 104 kills/21 deaths (Border - see first screenshot).

15:40 min mark:  2 players resigned and 206 kills/85 deaths (Border+Pocket - see 2nd screenshot).

Pocket activity:  On standby.  I was border (blue) and pocket was Acanthis.  Only received 100 stone and 200 metal by pocket initially.

 

Carthage OP due to Mercs who can be available in <5 min and massed within 7/8 min.  Because they only cost metal all you need to do is mine metal for mercs.  Replay attached.

Note:  Strategy credit to @ValihrAnt

@BreakfastBurrito_007@chrstgtr@Yekaterina@LetswaveaBook@alre@Player of 0AD@Lion.Kanzen@badosu@Jofursloft

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Edited by Dizaka
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I was waiting for this, lol. 

Recently I was doing tests and I discovered that without any blacksmith or stable upgrades for any party, these cavalry nearly beat skiritai commandos from sparta which take longer to train and are much more expensive. They also easily overcome 111 HP spartan spearmen still with no upgrades, in the 10 vs 10 I did, there were 3 half health cavalry remaining.

Narrowly beating spearmen (even without the +11 hp from sparta) as a cavalry unit should be something only done by well upgraded champion melee cavalry.

One of the main problems are that rank 2 units only need 1 or 2 favorable fights to advance to rank 3, where they become much more powerful. With swordcav in rank 2, it is very easy to rank up simply by killing archers or women. (this can be in minute 9, before most people are p2)

I dont see many other mercenaries being very op, but then again the alpha is not so old, and we are discovering swordcav as a separate category to be op as well. The OPness of these units is perhaps more pronounced from the intersection of mercs and swordcav OPness. Keep in mind that if we nerf swordcav and mercs, these units will suffer a lot, perhaps too much.

3 balancing options come to mind, depending on how op other mercs are found to be versus swordcav as an isolated op merc:

  1. reduce the rate at which mercenaries gain experience, so that spears will rank up faster in a longer engagement and the tide will turn for the spears after some initial losses. I think this will effect OP mercs units more than non OP mercs, because non-OP mercs do not take engagements versus their number 1 counter.
  2. If (1) is found to be a problem for other mercs that were not op, then we can add back the 10 metal cost from CS swordcav back to the swordcav template for mercs. If this is too big a nerf it could be changed to 5 metal. In CS swordcav, the 10 metal supposedly accounted for the sword.
  3. This might help the general cav balance as well: perhaps instead of nerfing mercenary experience rate, we could give a bonus to experience gained by spearmen when engaging cavalry units.

***Perhaps a moderate combination of 1 and 3, for example: -25% experience rate in general for mercs, and +{25-50}% experience rate for spearmen when fighting cavalry. I like this one because it does some to nerf general cavalry and may help us in the champions department too. Also it is extra careful not to hurt mercs overall.

I dislike option 2 because this still allows them to be very op militarily, it just might take slightly longer to get them.

@Dizaka which do you think is better between these two. Others: what do you think of these solutions? or do you think these units are OP despite evidence from Dizaka?

 

 

Edited by BreakfastBurrito_007
*** new compromise idea.
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6 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

 

  1. reduce the rate at which mercenaries gain experience, so that spears will rank up faster in a longer engagement and the tide will turn for the spears after some initial losses. I think this will effect OP mercs units more than non OP mercs, because non-OP mercs do not take engagements versus their number 1 counter.
  2.  
  3. This might help the general cav balance as well: perhaps instead of nerfing mercenary experience rate, we could give a bonus to experience gained by spearmen when engaging cavalry units.

@Dizaka which do you think is better between these two. Others: what do you think of these solutions? or do you think these units are OP despite evidence from Dizaka?

 

 

I think 1 and 3 seem reasonable, together.  I'd modify 1 to have two seperate merc upgrades.  One that deals with being auto-ranked r2.  The other upgrade that deals with the speed of ranking up faster.  Both cost metal and one requires the other - so that they can't be researched in parallel (Blacksmith).

I'd modify 1 so as not only do you get a bonus for engaging them, but you can upgrade to get a bigger bonus for engaging mercs (Blacksmith).

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3 minutes ago, Dizaka said:

I think 1 and 3 seem reasonable, together.  I'd modify 1 to have two seperate merc upgrades.  One that deals with being auto-ranked r2.  The other upgrade that deals with the speed of ranking up faster.  Both cost metal and one requires the other - so that they can't be researched in parallel (Blacksmith).

I'd modify 1 so as not only do you get a bonus for engaging them, but you can upgrade to get a bigger bonus for engaging mercs (Blacksmith).

Once you get these new upgrades, are they the same unit as they are now? I feel that there should be no way to nullify (3). Also, keep in mind that (1) was not a bonus for engaging mercs, but a nerf to the general experience rate of mercs.

This might be good, but blacksmiths are cheap and, and one can get other important upgrades in the meantime. 

@Dizaka 

6 minutes ago, Dizaka said:

I'd modify 1 so as not only do you get a bonus for engaging them, but you can upgrade to get a bigger bonus for engaging mercs (Blacksmith).

would this upgrade be for all units? or just spearmen? I feel it if it is only spears, then it is a bit too specific, and would feel designed to counter only 1 strategy.

Perhaps it should be for all (non-merc) units, be moderately expensive, and take 1:30, so it can not be an instant reaction. In a way, I like adding some of these well-thought upgrades, to act as a kind of mind-game, and-or upgrade war. If carthage gains other good strategies in a26, training a few mercs to trick your enemy into getting the anti-merc upgrades could be an option for them to slow down your enemy while you try to go p3 to get eles or rams or catapults.

Do you think a combo of (1) and (3) (with no additional upgrades) is fair to the unit? and do the additional upgrades benefit gameplay beyond the balance issue of this particular unit? I think, if these upgrades can benefit gameplay balance and strategy for and against all mercs then they should be added.

One thing is for sure, and that is this unit should not be guaranteed to win engagements in even numbers as it is in a25 especially around minutes 7-12. Obviously it should still be a powerful unit, just not one that can ignore counters.

 

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2 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

Once you get these new upgrades, are they the same unit as they are now? I feel that there should be no way to nullify (3). Also, keep in mind that (1) was not a bonus for engaging mercs, but a nerf to the general experience rate of mercs.

This might be good, but blacksmiths are cheap and, and one can get other important upgrades in the meantime.

I'm not sure.  The reason for this idea was at least to prevent 5 min r2 mercs from being available.  Currently, they are.

  

2 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

would this upgrade be for all units? or just spearmen? I feel it if it is only spears, then it is a bit too specific, and would feel designed to counter only 1 strategy.

Perhaps it should be for all (non-merc) units, be moderately expensive, and take 1:30, so it can not be an instant reaction. In a way, I like adding some of these well-thought upgrades, to act as a kind of mind-game, and-or upgrade war. If carthage gains other good strategies in a26, training a few mercs to trick your enemy into getting the anti-merc upgrades could be an option for them to slow down your enemy while you try to go p3 to get eles or rams or catapults.

Do you think a combo of (1) and (3) (with no additional upgrades) is fair to the unit? and do the additional upgrades benefit gameplay beyond the balance issue of this particular unit? I think, if these upgrades can benefit gameplay balance and strategy for and against all mercs then they should be added.

One thing is for sure, and that is this unit should not be guaranteed to win engagements in even numbers as it is in a25 especially around minutes 7-12. Obviously it should still be a powerful unit, just not one that can ignore counters.

 

It could be for all units, or just spearmen (vs merc cav).  There's also the possibility of researching a "merc slayer" ability and and "champion slayer" ability.  Not sure on exact solution however, as it really depends on individual preferences however there is an issue that needs addressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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48 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:
  • reduce the rate at which mercenaries gain experience, so that spears will rank up faster in a longer engagement and the tide will turn for the spears after some initial losses. I think this will effect OP mercs units more than non OP mercs, because non-OP mercs do not take engagements versus their number 1 counter.

The problem I mostly encountered with sword cav is that in order to survive I must have at least 20+ soldiers in the rushed woodline. The more the sword cavs, the more units I need to counter them (if 20 sword cavs mixed sword and jav attack me I need to have like 30 units to defend).

This becomes a serious problem when it comes to 1v1 matches. Except from subalpine, india and savanna biome, in the other biomes I need to keep active 3-4 woodlines when I pass 150 pop (otherwise I exhaust the woodline too fast) and obv I cannot keep an army of 30+ soldiers to defend every woodline. The extreme rapidity with which the cavs move allows to the enemy to kill any group of less than 20 units in your territory, and if you move reinforcements the cavs can run away easily. This becomes really annoying because rushing with sword+jav cavs is so easy, while defending it is so hard.  

I think that the solution you propose is not really a solution because in this kind of fights most of the units basically don't even survive to the rush (while a lot of sword cav merch arrive to r3). 

I think a solution could be eliminating the auto-ranking r2 and making it an upgrade which can be researched in P3 or that requires other previous upgrades (something similar to a bonus that was present in the previous alphas and that allowed to mace barracks to train automatically r2 pikes). And, obviously, nerfing cavs in general. 

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5 minutes ago, Jofursloft said:

The problem I mostly encountered with sword cav is that in order to survive I must have at least 20+ soldiers in the rushed woodline. The more the sword cavs, the more units I need to counter them (if 20 sword cavs mixed sword and jav attack me I need to have like 30 units to defend).

This becomes a serious problem when it comes to 1v1 matches. Except from subalpine, india and savanna biome, in the other biomes I need to keep active 3-4 woodlines when I pass 150 pop (otherwise I exhaust the woodline too fast) and obv I cannot keep an army of 30+ soldiers to defend every woodline. The extreme rapidity with which the cavs move allows to the enemy to kill any group of less than 20 units in your territory, and if you move reinforcements the cavs can run away easily. This becomes really annoying because rushing with sword+jav cavs is so easy, while defending it is so hard.  

I think that the solution you propose is not really a solution because in this kind of fights most of the units basically don't even survive to the rush (while a lot of sword cav merch arrive to r3). 

I think a solution could be eliminating the auto-ranking r2 and making it an upgrade which can be researched in P3 or that requires other previous upgrades (something similar to a bonus that was present in the previous alphas and that allowed to mace barracks to train automatically r2 pikes). And, obviously, nerfing cavs in general. 

Interestingly, for Mauryas elephant archers this was sort of fixed by raising the population cost of elephant archers from 1 to 2.  I'm really torn on the different ideas (population one I think is extreme).

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1 hour ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

One of the main problems are that rank 2 units only need 1 or 2 favorable fights to advance to rank 3, where they become much more powerful. With swordcav in rank 2, it is very easy to rank up simply by killing archers or women. (this can be in minute 9, before most people are p2)

Something I would add to this story is that a rank 2 unit needs as much xp to promote as a rank 1 unit needs. Since the rank 2 unit has better stats, it has an easier time to get this xp.

39 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

If carthage gains other good strategies in a26, training a few mercs to trick your enemy into getting the anti-merc upgrades could be an option for them to slow down your enemy while you try to go p3 to get eles or rams or catapults.

Carthage has a technology that looks very potent to me, colonization. It reduces the cost and build time of civic structures both by 25%(CC, houses & temples) and cost 250w, 250m. That technology nearly pays for itself if you place 1 CC.

 

I also like to share my experience with mercs in 1v1s.

Cl2488, has done some strategies with Carthage where he went up with 40 pop and then went for the merc cavalry. That is a decent strategy, though Cl2488 showed himself to be vulnarable to infantry rushes. If the carthaginian player gets 10 sword cavalry, the biggest trouble for your defense is that they can jump at the fields and disrupt your farming. CCs deal lower damage in A25 and women have short LOS, so you can not always see the cavalry coming. Also the CC fits only 20 women, so if you have 5 or more fields, that are some vulnerabilities for you. If you split your army to different wood lines to keep a better view of your territory, then the separated infantry gets slaughtered. Defending with CS cavalry does not help either, as the cheaper mercs defeat your more expensive cavalry 1-on-1 and there is always a chance that the mercs slip though and find some easy damage. CS cavalry can be used as moving outpost.

There are also other factions with cavalry mercenaries: Macedon, Kushites and Seleucids (and Ptolemies). For these factions a similar merc cavalry rush seems unimpressive. I have played several 1v1s with Seleucids and probably more than most high rated players. My take on the situation is that with these factions a merc rush only works if your opponent makes mistakes. So only Carthage seems problematic.

My take on mercenaries are:

Ranged infantry: They cost only 60 resources and train faster which is nice. Though it is an advantage, it is not a major advantage.

Melee infantry: They are half-way to skiritai (rank 2) for only 60 metal, so that is a good deal.

Javelin cavalry: They aren't bad, but Javelin cavalry requires the most micro of any unit. Their vulnerabilities prevent it from being a go-to unit.

Spear cavalry (Seleucids): This is a special case as it requires a colony, and you would very gladly build one. It provides a dropsite for resources and 20 population (houses are expensive), territory expansion, on top of that it gives some protection and finally it can train both women and mercenaries. So for 160 wood, 160 stone and 160 metal you gain a lot. The merc spear cavalry has as much pierce armor as the regular sword cavalry and +25% HP, while its DPS is 23% lower. I tend to think about it as having the strength of a CS sword cavalry, but the cost of a mercenary (and a bonus vs. cavalry). As with the Javelin cavalry, a rush with these units is only institutionally good. One of the examples where it shines is against Carthage, as the archer is the weakest ranged unit to defend against them and the unit (in combination with the colonies) provides a good defense against the Carthaginian mercs. if we excludes Ptolemies, Seleucids have the second best mercenary rush.

So in conclusion, the other mercenaries are nice to have, but they are not as deadly as the sword cav mercs. I think this just comes down to the fact that basic sword cav have more pierce armor and have a damage output that is 55% higher than spear cavalry. On top of that, It deals hack damage which is advantageous in a number of situations. How can you expect that to be balanced?

Another possible (but dubious) solution could be to give most factions their spear cav in the stable in p1 and give that spear cav and extra multiplier against mercenaries.

 

3 minutes ago, Dizaka said:

Did it again.

I am not against cavalry rushes being lethal, as we also see that bowtech never got his eco rolling. Carthages mercs cavalry seem problematic, especially if the Carthaginian player targets someone who is especially vulnarable (either by a skill difference, or because he has been rushing/rushed).

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49 minutes ago, LetswaveaBook said:

Something I would add to this story is that a rank 2 unit needs as much xp to promote as a rank 1 unit needs. Since the rank 2 unit has better stats, it has an easier time to get this xp.

Maybe ranking up should be exponentially more difficult?

 

49 minutes ago, LetswaveaBook said:

I am not against cavalry rushes being lethal, as we also see that bowtech never got his eco rolling. Carthages mercs cavalry seem problematic, especially if the Carthaginian player targets someone who is especially vulnarable (either by a skill difference, or because he has been rushing/rushed).

I'm also not against cavalry rush.  I'm for them.  However, I think p2 + 2 iberian merc camps + 15 merc cav around 7/8 min is rediculously overpowering.

  

49 minutes ago, LetswaveaBook said:

Cl2488, has done some strategies with Carthage where he went up with 40 pop and then went for the merc cavalry. That is a decent strategy, though Cl2488 showed himself to be vulnarable to infantry rushes. If the carthaginian player gets 10 sword cavalry, the biggest trouble for your defense is that they can jump at the fields and disrupt your farming. CCs deal lower damage in A25 and women have short LOS, so you can not always see the cavalry coming. Also the CC fits only 20 women, so if you have 5 or more fields, that are some vulnerabilities for you. If you split your army to different wood lines to keep a better view of your territory, then the separated infantry gets slaughtered. Defending with CS cavalry does not help either, as the cheaper mercs defeat your more expensive cavalry 1-on-1 and there is always a chance that the mercs slip though and find some easy damage. CS cavalry can be used as moving outpost.

So anyone who rushes, the best counter, is a counter rush instead of defending.  Agreed.  In general, what I've noticed, if you're the first to run back to defend you are going to be losing.

With the Carth Merc Cav rush all you need is metal.  Once you have 40 units, all you need to do is put 24 on metal, 11 on wood, and 5 on at least one farm.  That's all you need.  My opinion is that that is way too inexpensive for what the strategy yields.

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Good discussion guys! I Am glad we are recognizing the problem and discussing ways to fix it.

2 hours ago, Jofursloft said:

while a lot of sword cav merch arrive to r3). 

(1) from my original fix idea is designed to give mercenaries a disadvantage in ranking up during a fight

(2) is designed to give spearmen an advantage versus cavalry in ranking up during a fight

My thinking is, during the first seconds of the fight, these things do not matter, and it seems this is when spears most easily counter swordcav merc, but when the swordcav reach rank 3 before the spears reach rank 2, the battle accelerates in favor of the cavalry. The goal would be to have the battle accelerate the other way around. This way, a small number of spears will not stop the cavalry when they are against (20 skirm, 2-3 spear vs 10 cav) but will be stopped by (10 spear, 10 skirm).

I think the end result of this would be that 10 spears would beat 10 of these units pretty easily.

This gives another question: how many spears should one have to make to counter these units?  There are civs which do not have spears until p2 (aka the danger zone). 

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9 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

auto-ranking

you mean garrison to generate xp, or the "starting at r2" upgrade?

Promotion techs sound like a great idea besides this balancing discussion and may be a great new mechanic. (On that note, I think the rank 3 upgrade, if it is to exist, should add a little metal cost to the unit, and maybe training time)

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Just FYI, I'm not against carthagians having sword cav that can rush.  However, imo, they are beyond rushing and within 7 minutes you are going for the kill and will likely at least knock out 1 player, maybe 2 if you aren't countered.

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Another game ... was basically a 2v4.  anarch disconnected.  Azazel_Bass extremely newbie.  Guerrin helped by providing skrim cav support.

Going fast p2 and then all in with Merc Cav basically guarantees a win.  A game vs sfxxfx and SPACECOMMANDER normally would be longer and closer as they play well, except when vs an OP unit.

 

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2 minutes ago, BreakfastBurrito_007 said:

@Dizaka your KD in this one is not as good. Did someone counter you at all?

or did they all attack you to try to stop it?

I had to balance attacks between 3 players.  So my army was split so it took bigger losses.  By balancing on 3 players I was able to keep at least 2 low, 1 medium, the last one was not really touched (black).

Also, for some reason more spear that game.

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Another one.

Was bordering ricsand.  Rushed ricsand and immediately Rauls popped up in my base.  Rauls rushed me as pocket from other side.  So being carthage occupied 2 best players on the other team vs 1 player.  Similar result, more stress due to being bigger target.

Currently not lost a game with carthage using this strategy.

 

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1 hour ago, Dizaka said:

Another one.

Was bordering ricsand.  Rushed ricsand and immediately Rauls popped up in my base.  Rauls rushed me as pocket from other side.  So being carthage occupied 2 best players on the other team vs 1 player.  Similar result, more stress due to being bigger target.

Currently not lost a game with carthage using this strategy.

 

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Also the whole enemy team knew what to expect, because it has been done before so many times. 

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- nerf sword cav slightly. even CS is OP

- raise cost of melee mercs, ranged units have a very low increase in value with rank, melee units are much better when they rank up instead

- consider reducing stats increases for cav, as they rank up easier than melee infantry. compare to ranged units, that don't have any stat upgrade

- consider making mercenaries not making experience. this would make them more expendable and different from CS. more a game experience proposal than a balancing one.

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17 hours ago, Jofursloft said:

The problem I mostly encountered with sword cav is that in order to survive I must have at least 20+ soldiers in the rushed woodline. The more the sword cavs, the more units I need to counter them (if 20 sword cavs mixed sword and jav attack me I need to have like 30 units to defend).

This becomes a serious problem when it comes to 1v1 matches. Except from subalpine, india and savanna biome, in the other biomes I need to keep active 3-4 woodlines when I pass 150 pop (otherwise I exhaust the woodline too fast) and obv I cannot keep an army of 30+ soldiers to defend every woodline. The extreme rapidity with which the cavs move allows to the enemy to kill any group of less than 20 units in your territory, and if you move reinforcements the cavs can run away easily. This becomes really annoying because rushing with sword+jav cavs is so easy, while defending it is so hard.  

Reminded me of something that I had thought about a while ago and it would be a roundabout way of solving the issue. Give every civ a Military Colony (I do also think that a general reduction of territory and cost for the CC and Colony would be beneficial, but that's going a bit off topic). Allows a player to defend important areas, the aggressor to utilize their map control to secure important resources/strategic areas. Keep in mind that in close, aggressive games affording even a colony can be tough and it would still only protect one area. And then instead of nerfing aggressive strategies, expand on them.

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7 minutes ago, maroder said:

That would definitely make it easier to defend your territory, but is also contrary to the efforts to differentiate the civs.

What if the mercenary buildings behaved like colonies maybe?  This could add to the mercenary mechanic of the game.

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