It is difficult to find much discussion or debate on the merits of the playing as the natives in MP. Few choose to play as these factions, partly down to there completely different play style from the Europeans and partly due to them relying on DLC. They also lack many of the staple units that other players have come to rely on, like Line, Platoon firing, artillery and 125 range skirmishers. Many of those that do play them often simply pick 20 units of melee infantry, charge and hope for the best.
However the Natives can be a tactically interesting faction(s) which reward aggressive play and frequently is a very solid counter to many of the traditional strong builds (ala rifle spam) or simply annoying (mortar camping).
This thread is intended as a discussion on all things related to playing as the Natives. I will post some ramblings based on my own experience to get the thread started.
Let's start with meat of many Natives builds. The Natives possess a wide range of Melee of units in Empire and knowing when to commit them and when to hold them off is often what will make or break most Native army's.
- As in the case of previous Total War games, Melee without spears/pikes can be rather flexible in regards to it movement. All it takes is the order to charge and the unit will immediately face the enemy and begin its run. Since all the Natives primary melee units come with the good stamina perk they are free to be deployed on the far flanks with relative ease. They can cross the battlefield, engage them enemy and still make it into the centre in relatively good shape.
- Melee units should be deployed in deeper formations that you would normally put line infantry in. 4-6 ranks deep should be enough. The reason for this is that they will often be the target of cavalry charges and will need to be able to hold (more on that later).
- Avoid charging stationary Line/Guard units head on. This goes doubly if their in a square. Charging head first will result in increased casualties from shots going in and from throwing themselves at the bayonets. There is a couple of methods to achieve this:
1) Flanking - As previously mentioned good stamina melee units work very well deployed on the wide flanks which can give them lots of opportunities later on.
2) Harassing/taunting - Using musketmen at 90 range or simply waiting just out of range of a unit of line will entice them to march into range. As soon as they start moving, Charge. The time they waste stopping, bringing their muskets up to fire and unleashing a volley you'll of made it half way across the ground.
- Charging through stakes emplacements with melee infantry will heavily reduce the incoming fire you take from the enemies fire base as much of it will deflect off the stakes. While this is not always something to be relied on aggressively moving your cavalry close to the enemies skirmishers (but still out of range) can prompt them to lay stakes, giving you a helpful shield when you commit your forces. This is especially useful in 4v4 battles on Finland where players often stake off most of the battlefield.
- Sometimes you need to pin. There will be times when an especially nasty unit shows its face and risks moving to support an ongoing conflict somewhere else. At times like these throwing your melee unit head first into a unit of coldstream guards can work. Yes, it will get chewed up but with good enough morale (more on that later) it will hold the expensive unit in place while your army trashs him elsewhere.
- Musketmen will often make up the backbone of your fireline. These are one of the best 90 range skirmisher units money can buy. Due to there numbers and cost they will beat, pound for pound, most enemy skirmishers in a firefight, especially riflemen (although beware of trying it against grenzers).
- Spreading the damage out in a horde army is important. If one unit takes too much heat, it breaks and that could damage the whole force. Musketmen are cheap and expendable, remember this, they should be used to absorb the inevitable enemy rifle/skirmish barrage pre-fight letting your melee go in relatively unharmed.
- As a general rule of thumb, shoot into melee combat. The chances are whatever it is your fighting costs a lot more than what's in combat with it. If they lose a unit of guards and you lose a unit of warriors, then it's a very good trade. Firing into combat also causes a significant morale debuff greatly increasing your odds of causing a rout.
- Musketmen, much like US long rifles, can pivot there muskets to face an enemy without turning the whole unit around effectively giving them 360 degrees firing arcs. Often a unit of cavalry will try to charge the rear of a line of muskets only to find to its horror them all patiently swivelling there aim and blasting the incoming cavalry to pieces.
- Remember you can throw axes. Several native units are capable of throwing axes before mixing it up in melee and medicine men are common in most native armies. Axe throwers can all stand on top of one another without any risk of friendly fire due to there arc, this can make them great unit for concentrating damage on a single enemy unit. If an enemy is already engaged in melee combat with one of your units consider throwing axes into the combat causing the previous mentioned morale debuff or when fighting ....
- Shoot the squares. When an enemy guard unit forms a square this is not an invitation to pile more soldiers into the combat only to be shot apart by the enemy's second line. Only do it when A) Your winning massively anyway B) You have no other choice C) Against standard line squares you can do it if you need a faster victory on that sector of the battlefield, forget it against guards though. Generally leaving one unit in combat with the square while others throw axes/fire muskets/shoot arrows the square to pieces. Most of the natives better cavalry also come with either a bow or a musket, the firepower squares put out is trivial and totally non-existent when in melee. Stopping your cavalry to pop off a few volleys can be very effective.
- Surprise! The enemy will rarely be able to work out the exact location of your skirmishers until your on top of him, leaving him not enough time to reposition his army. Use what ever distractions you can to your advantage.
- Archers. As with axes it is important to remember arrows arc over there targets making friendly fire relatively minimal allowing for easier focusing of fire. I do not myself make much use of archer units when playing as the natives so I will refrain from commenting to much but it is suffice to say that if you want to play a more stand up and shoot focused build then archers (especially the unique archers) are where some serious consideration would take place.
- One of the biggest strengths of the natives over say Marathas is in it's all-round flexible cavalry.
- Most of the unique faction cavalry are excellent. Ojibwa Horse Warriors, Creek Horse Riders, Onondaga Fire Keepers, Comanche Mounted warriors and the entire Pueblo factions 3 unique horse units do well. All these units possess the decent morale, combat stats and carry a missile weapon for aid in cracking squares.
- Stay away from the lancers. 4 Morale will only backfire as soon as something goes wrong. Theirs to many light dragoons, range 125 and accurate quicklime shots around these days for these units to hang around long.
- Chief's bodyguard are also an excellent unit. Amazing cheap and come with the morale boosting stats and unlike there European counterparts these come in full 45 man units.
Support Units and Combined Arms
- High Morale is essential for these armies to work. Without you'll be picked apart by cavalry, canister shotted to pieces, counter charged by blackwatch and generally made to run away like a little girl. Medicine men should be taken for there morale boosting properties. They can hang just behind the main advance as your strategic reserve, providing axe throwing support and the morale bubble to your troops. The also provide a useful counter charge unit against any cavalry that might sneak behind your lines. I use 3 medicine men in my own build each deployed with my 3 main blobs. One on the right flank, one on the left and one holding the centre.
- Keep a large frontage. You will outnumber most players and your central aim is always to envelope them.
- The cavalry protects the melee and the melee protects the cavalry. This is a vital concept that I cannot stress enough. While the enemy cavalry is in play you need to keep your own cavalry nearby your melee for support. If he sends heavy cavalry/elephants at your melee, counter charge with your own cavalry to break up the charge and then pile supporting melee units into the combat. Likewise if your enemy is using light dragoons, throw your melee forward first absorbing the initial shots and then chase the light dragoons down with your good stamina cavalry before they reload for another volley.
- Petun wolf warriors cause fear. These get a special mention all to themselves because the fear radius I am led to believe extends quite far. Against units which start with low morale (like light dragoons) the mere presence of this unit near by can greatly increase your odds of causing a fast rout.
- Never give up. You'll often be the one taking huge loses early on with the Natives but as the game drags on, melee combat ensues things will (hopefully) start swinging back in your favour. It's important to remember that few armies can match the mobility of the Natives without the good stamina perk. Once a non-cavalry unit is stuck on the flank it often wont effect the battle if you press your attack fast enough. Sometimes things will go wrong, its at these times it an be useful to use your numerical advantage to stretch your enemies micro to breaking point. If you think your losing on the left flank then it can be good idea to start a skirmisher war in the centre and attack on the right, hopefully this will stretch your enemies micro to the limit causing him to make mistakes for you to capitalise on.
Countering the Counters
Although any balanced army can fight and win against the natives certain players feel the need to go out there way to selecting an army to counter them. Sometimes you'll pick the Natives and you'll see the other player pause for a minute.... before promptly changing to another faction like Sweden/Poland. These are certain unit combinations and supposedly tailored anti-natives lists you may have to fight against.
- Properly used and placed canister shot. A good player with canister shot is dangerous and will break up you advance unless you plan for it. Each situation calls for a unique creative response. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply march into 90 range and unleash a barrage of musket fire. More often it's better to try attacking perpendicular to the cannons making them have an awkward shot killing there own troops. Other times its best to wait just at the extreme range of canister shot, let it fire, then surge forward before it gets a chance to load another volley. Of course if you ever get a chance to knock it out with cavalry take it, but kamikaze attack runs are simply wasteful.
- Elephants and Marathas. Elephants are the best hard counter to melee infantry in the game. The terror, shock and damage they can do is immense. You must either blast these with well timed musketmen volleys or counter charge with your cavalry to pin them in combat. Likewise Siphais has to be treated in similar ways. The rest of the Marathas list is easier to deal with, there cavalry is almost universally worst than the natives and the entire army lacks the good stamina perk which as the battle drags you'll notice them start to tire immensely and any Sikh warriors trapped on the far flanks are essentially out of the game. As your the only one with 90 range units be sure to harass and pick the ground on which you fight. Missile cavalry can also greatly aid harassment and will frustrate the Marathas player. Against Marathas I would replace all medicine men units with extra war chiefs bodyguards.
- Sweden/Poland. Both of these factions will probably go rather cavalry heavy or in Poland's case at least packing lancers. Again much the same story as Marathas, your best off replacing all your medicine men units with extra war chiefs bodyguards again to help with all the counter charges and dragoon chasing. If you catch the light dragoons they'll get slaughtered and if you can keep the enemy heavy cavalry in combat for a melee unit to arrive they also get overrun.
- The line spammer. Some realise that most typical rifle heavy armies aren't as effective as usual against the Natives because they simply shrug the initial volley of loses off and keep on coming. However, some players sometimes take this to mean ditching all skirmishers and bulking up on more line and cavalry. The best counter to this is simply harassing the hell out of them at 90 range with a handful of musketmen and choosing the ground you wish to fight on. If they leap forward to try to get in range of the muskets either fall back and repeat or swarm forward quickly with your melee and hack them to pieces before they can properly set up a firing range.
As with all good posts on this forum I will finish it off with a replay on grassy flat lands which supports some of my ramblings.
- 4 Light Dragoons
- 4 Regiments of Horse
- 1 General Bodyguard
- 4 Line
- 3 Swiss
- 4 Rifle.
The battle is an example of:
- Light dragoon baiting with melee.
- Counter charging and piling melee into a Cav fight.
- Attacking on multiple fronts (keep an eye on the left), making the player make critical mistakes.
- Harassing and then charging moving forward line.
- Blasting squares with hot lead, axes and arrows.
- Supporting Medicine Men.