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Thread: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

  1. #1

    Default Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    This thread http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...-strategic-map makes extremely good points about the importance of light units on the strategic level. In summary, light units are essential for scouting, foraging, embarking on and defending against raids, and screening the advance of heavy units. If these traits were implemented, players would see more reason to incorporate light units into their armies rather than fielding stacks of 10 Peltestai Makedones and 9 Hetairoi. Understandably, writing the code to simulate these strategic mechanics would be difficult to implement. Thus in the meantime here are some battlefield changes that would make light units more viable on the tactical level. These suggestions attempt to reconcile historical realism/utility with gameplay balance.

    As an aside, in the following points, "light units" refer to units with the Skirmish Mode ability. Thus some heavily armored units like the Leginu would be considered light infantry while some barely armored units that throw javelins before charge such as Ambaktoi would be considered heavy units.

    1. Speed: Drastically increase the speed of light units and slightly decrease the speed of heavy units. Right now light units in general have too little of a speed advantage against heavy units. For example, the well-armored Hetairoi can flee from the supposedly nimble Hippoakontistai despite both originating from the same geographical area and thus owning similar mounts. True, the elite Hetairoi could probably afford the best horses compared to the poor Hippoakontistai, but that extra 50lbs surely affects the horse's speed? Realism aside, gameplay-wise increasing the speed gap between heavy and light units would make skirmishing tactics actually possible. Light units in this scenario can actually throw their payload, retreat, and throw again whereas right now they can only unleash one volley before having to retreat all the way back to friendly lines. Furthermore faster light units would allow for an entirely new feasible army composition: skirmisher armies, which have some historical basis. The armies of Leusitane and Numidia historically fielded skirmisher-heavy armies that boggled those of heavier factions, but if the player in EBII tries to replicate this, he'll be in for a hard time.

    2. Stamina: No heavy units should have the "hardy" attribute. All light units should have the "very hardy" attribute. The "hardy" attribute should be reserved for exceptions such as elite medium infantry or levy light units that have poor conditioning. Again, this has a historical basis. Wearing dozens of lbs of armor will tire out even the hardiest warrior. Additionally, most skirmishers come from the peasantry who were used to back-breaking labor. It would make sense that should all they be carrying were a bundle of javelins, they would be able to sprint vast distances. Gameplay-wise this would enable skirmishers to operate larger distances while limiting heavy units to melee engagements. Even better this would encourage the use of heavy unit reserves since units tire out quicker. For example, if the player doesn't want his exhausted Hypaspitai to be chopped up by some Principes, he should pull them back and replace them with some fresh Thureophoroi.

    3. Mass: Heavy infantry should have drastically increased mass. Light infantry should have even less mass. Historically, cavalry charges inflict casualties on infantry through generating fear and disorder, then either trampling them or smacking them in the head while riding past them. This would be impossible against the massed infantry formations of heavy units. Yet, in EBII, cavalry with high charge bonuses can charge straight on a well-formed line of infantry and literally fling them into the air. I've seen a unit of 160 Thureophoroi reduced to 130 men instantly from a Aswar I Mad charge, then deteriorate to 100 in the next couple of seconds as the cavalry expend its charge bonus. Increasing the mass attribute of heavy infantry would prevent this from happening. Likewise, light infantry don't suffer casualties as quickly as they should given the characteristics of a cavalry charge. Yes, a unit of akontistai would lose 50% of their men to a Hetairoi charge in 5 seconds. Yes, I'm saying it should be 80%. Light infantry have very loose formations and low morale. Plenty of room for cavalry to stampede through and very little bravery to resist them. This would have the indirect effect of increasing the value of light cavalry. Light cavalry can stifle the charge of heavy cavalry, saving their foot companions from instant death. On the topic of infantry vs infantry the extreme mass difference would allow the heavy infantry's sole advantage - melee combat - to shine. Not only will they push light infantry back with alarming speed, but the pushing will dent the enemy battle lines if they risk deploying light infantry in the frontlines.

    4. Armor vs defense skill: Light infantry should have drastically increased defense skill and slightly lowered armor. Shield should be increased across the board. Consider a duel between a naked Gaul and a heavily armored Roman. The Roman knows a single stab wound would finish the Gaul. However, the Gaul knows that he is butt naked and can dodge like Mayweather. Stabbing an unencumbered foe while being weighed down by 50 lbs of armor is no easy task. At the same time though, all the freedom of movement in the world won't significantly increase your odds of breaching an armored enemy. Still, the advantage should go to the heavy infantry. If a unit of light infantry is ever forced to fight against heavy infantry, the light infantry should suffer the consequences... but the light infantry can freely retreat and throw javelins anytime it wishes.

    With all these suggestions in mind, imagine how much complex the interactions between heavy and light units would be. The player could deploy some Peltenai on the frontlines, increasing his battle formation's width, but risk them being pushed back by enemy Triarii and sowing panic in surrounding units. The player could race the AI in a bid to capture a hill, sending his Peltenai first to hold off the AI's Principes. Sure, the Peltenai would suffer monstrous casualties, but they will have bought enough time for the rest of the army to secure the high ground. The player could even exploit an obscure weakness of cataphracts by making it impossible for them to retreat against light cavalry: the player could throw in some Lonchophoroi Hippeis against Skuda Azdata. Sure, the Scythian nobles will grind down the hellenes in the long run, but they cannot retreat due to the hellenes' much higher speed, buying time for the hellenes' allies to swoop in and surround the nobles. Finally, here's a scary thought: use light infantry as if they were horse archers. With their much higher speed and stamina, light infantry could run circles around heavy infantry and throw javelins into their backs.

    Leusitane has entered the chat

    I'm no historian so I'm most likely wrong about most of my theories regarding light units. If I am, please consider my points anyways for the sake of gameplay. Light unit warfare is an underrepresented part of most RTS games, and it would be great to experience it in the context of EBII.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    Furthermore faster light units would allow for an entirely new feasible army composition: skirmisher armies, which have some historical basis. The armies of Leusitane and Numidia historically fielded skirmisher-heavy armies that boggled those of heavier factions, but if the player in EBII tries to replicate this, he'll be in for a hard time.
    I can say for my experience with Numidia, and it was an absolute disaster. Then I found out how reliable (and overall actually good) Igallidans are, with some padding from the Mauriam cavalry (morale is as as the Numidian skirmishers, but they actually melee pretty well), can actually massacre more balanced armies at the price of some gnarly losses. I had a few bridge battles against the Ptolemai with phalanxes, and my cavalry army just broke through. Guaranteed, it works mostly by routing the enemy with constant flanking and formation breaking. A well led/confident army would probably push the cavalry out, but I can say, it does work. Specially in Iberia, with much worse spearmen.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    It's true. Currently, heavier units are better than lighter ones on a linear scale of increasing battlefield effectiveness with their level of equipment. There is admittedly an opportunity cost of forming armies out of heavier units in their literally higher minai cost. This cost disparity probably has to remain. In theory, the most realistic recruitment system might not even have fixed unit prices. Since that's probably impossible, it has to be tied to some constant, and using the literal cost of the equipment for each unit is possibly the best.

    Taking this to be true, now let me suggest this. Since lighter units have to always be cheaper than heavier units according to the parameters of the game, does their effectiveness on the battlefield have to have some directly proportional relationship to their cost? By that philosophy, the game is correctly balanced as it is currently - this is also consistent with principles of game design. But what if it weren't historically accurate for there to be a directly proportional relationship between the cost of a unit and its battlefield effectiveness, or a linear relationship between equipment and performance?

    I think these are the questions that need to be explored to get at the proper resolution of this question, and potentially other questions about the EB II combat system. For my part, I don't necessarily know enough. It would be great for the historians to weigh in. I do think that, drawing from well-known instances of warfare in classical history, the right tactics and strategy could usually make an effective fighting force from a fairly wide range of unit types. However, there were also limits to what more lightly-equipped forces could achieve. But again, I don't know enough

  4. #4
    Rosbjerg's Avatar Tiro
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    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    But what if it weren't historically accurate for there to be a directly proportional relationship between the cost of a unit and its battlefield effectiveness, or a linear relationship between equipment and performance?
    Then I suspect we would've seen the Mediterranean powers gravitate towards lighter troops rather than heavier - from Alexander to the Ceasars, we saw an increasing reliance on heavy infantry - and by the sheer amounts of wars they fought, if it had been an ultimately ineffective strategy from a cost/benefit pov, it wouldn't have gone the way it had.

    So I'd argue that things are balanced quite perfectly as they are now. In that, you can field a large amount of cheat, mobile and light troops, but ultimately will not be as effective pound for pound as heavy troops - and those heavy troops operate better when supported by light troops.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    It's true. Currently, heavier units are better than lighter ones on a linear scale of increasing battlefield effectiveness with their level of equipment. There is admittedly an opportunity cost of forming armies out of heavier units in their literally higher minai cost. This cost disparity probably has to remain. In theory, the most realistic recruitment system might not even have fixed unit prices. Since that's probably impossible, it has to be tied to some constant, and using the literal cost of the equipment for each unit is possibly the best.
    Have in mind that availability is also a very important factor in campaigns. A pool of 3 is much better than a pool of 2, that is much better than a pool of 1.

    Then I suspect we would've seen the Mediterranean powers gravitate towards lighter troops rather than heavier - from Alexander to the Ceasars, we saw an increasing reliance on heavy infantry - and by the sheer amounts of wars they fought, if it had been an ultimately ineffective strategy from a cost/benefit pov, it wouldn't have gone the way it had.
    Worth keeping in mind that light infantry is generally not meant for pitched battles, that's the only kind of battle you get in Total War. So heavy infantry will always have a very clear advantage in this kind of game -- because this is precisely the kind of battle they excel at.

  6. #6
    QuintusSertorius's Avatar EBII Hod Carrier
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    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    This thread http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showt...-strategic-map makes extremely good points about the importance of light units on the strategic level. In summary, light units are essential for scouting, foraging, embarking on and defending against raids, and screening the advance of heavy units. If these traits were implemented, players would see more reason to incorporate light units into their armies rather than fielding stacks of 10 Peltestai Makedones and 9 Hetairoi. Understandably, writing the code to simulate these strategic mechanics would be difficult to implement. Thus in the meantime here are some battlefield changes that would make light units more viable on the tactical level. These suggestions attempt to reconcile historical realism/utility with gameplay balance.

    As an aside, in the following points, "light units" refer to units with the Skirmish Mode ability. Thus some heavily armored units like the Leginu would be considered light infantry while some barely armored units that throw javelins before charge such as Ambaktoi would be considered heavy units.
    Unfortunately, a lot of these suggestions are counter to the intent of the current battle model, which is aimed with realism in mind, not gameplay.

    They also seem to be predicated on the flawed assumption you'd want to put light infantry against heavy in direct, frontal melee. Different unit types have different roles, the purpose of lights is to drive off opposing lights and act as flankers.

    You're also not taking into account availability or cost of units.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    1. Speed: Drastically increase the speed of light units and slightly decrease the speed of heavy units. Right now light units in general have too little of a speed advantage against heavy units. For example, the well-armored Hetairoi can flee from the supposedly nimble Hippoakontistai despite both originating from the same geographical area and thus owning similar mounts. True, the elite Hetairoi could probably afford the best horses compared to the poor Hippoakontistai, but that extra 50lbs surely affects the horse's speed? Realism aside, gameplay-wise increasing the speed gap between heavy and light units would make skirmishing tactics actually possible. Light units in this scenario can actually throw their payload, retreat, and throw again whereas right now they can only unleash one volley before having to retreat all the way back to friendly lines. Furthermore faster light units would allow for an entirely new feasible army composition: skirmisher armies, which have some historical basis. The armies of Leusitane and Numidia historically fielded skirmisher-heavy armies that boggled those of heavier factions, but if the player in EBII tries to replicate this, he'll be in for a hard time.
    The speed of heavy infantry, 0.83 is based on a reasonable marching pace for someone heavily encumbered. Phalanxes are slower, for obvious reasons, their formation making it hard to walk fast. Proper skirmishers have speed of at least 1, going up to 1.3 for some of the most fleet of foot. That is definitely noticeable on the battle map.

    On cavalry, Hetairoi are slower than Hippakontistai, by quite a lot. Not only when you look at their move_speed_mod in the EDU, but my experience of using them again and again is that heavy cavalry can't catch light cavalry if the latter are kiting or running away. In a longer battle, the stamina difference begins to really tell, as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    2. Stamina: No heavy units should have the "hardy" attribute. All light units should have the "very hardy" attribute. The "hardy" attribute should be reserved for exceptions such as elite medium infantry or levy light units that have poor conditioning. Again, this has a historical basis. Wearing dozens of lbs of armor will tire out even the hardiest warrior. Additionally, most skirmishers come from the peasantry who were used to back-breaking labor. It would make sense that should all they be carrying were a bundle of javelins, they would be able to sprint vast distances. Gameplay-wise this would enable skirmishers to operate larger distances while limiting heavy units to melee engagements. Even better this would encourage the use of heavy unit reserves since units tire out quicker. For example, if the player doesn't want his exhausted Hypaspitai to be chopped up by some Principes, he should pull them back and replace them with some fresh Thureophoroi.
    Only elite heavy infantry units an professionals have hardy. No infantry have very_hardy for a good reason: they'd never tire. Which is not only unrealistic, but would remove the tactical element of having to shepherd the energy of your troops.

    Of cavalry, only light cavalry get hardy, and steppe lights who we know would have had a string of ponies get very_hardy. Same as with infantry, very_hardy is basically tireless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    3. Mass: Heavy infantry should have drastically increased mass. Light infantry should have even less mass. Historically, cavalry charges inflict casualties on infantry through generating fear and disorder, then either trampling them or smacking them in the head while riding past them. This would be impossible against the massed infantry formations of heavy units. Yet, in EBII, cavalry with high charge bonuses can charge straight on a well-formed line of infantry and literally fling them into the air. I've seen a unit of 160 Thureophoroi reduced to 130 men instantly from a Aswar I Mad charge, then deteriorate to 100 in the next couple of seconds as the cavalry expend its charge bonus. Increasing the mass attribute of heavy infantry would prevent this from happening. Likewise, light infantry don't suffer casualties as quickly as they should given the characteristics of a cavalry charge. Yes, a unit of akontistai would lose 50% of their men to a Hetairoi charge in 5 seconds. Yes, I'm saying it should be 80%. Light infantry have very loose formations and low morale. Plenty of room for cavalry to stampede through and very little bravery to resist them. This would have the indirect effect of increasing the value of light cavalry. Light cavalry can stifle the charge of heavy cavalry, saving their foot companions from instant death. On the topic of infantry vs infantry the extreme mass difference would allow the heavy infantry's sole advantage - melee combat - to shine. Not only will they push light infantry back with alarming speed, but the pushing will dent the enemy battle lines if they risk deploying light infantry in the frontlines.
    Infantry mass is deliberately capped at 1.3, because more than that and they'd start infiltrating phalanxes in the press, which is unrealistic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shoebopp View Post
    4. Armor vs defense skill: Light infantry should have drastically increased defense skill and slightly lowered armor. Shield should be increased across the board. Consider a duel between a naked Gaul and a heavily armored Roman. The Roman knows a single stab wound would finish the Gaul. However, the Gaul knows that he is butt naked and can dodge like Mayweather. Stabbing an unencumbered foe while being weighed down by 50 lbs of armor is no easy task. At the same time though, all the freedom of movement in the world won't significantly increase your odds of breaching an armored enemy. Still, the advantage should go to the heavy infantry. If a unit of light infantry is ever forced to fight against heavy infantry, the light infantry should suffer the consequences... but the light infantry can freely retreat and throw javelins anytime it wishes.
    Armour stats are based on what is there, not gameplay balance or any other consideration. Defensive skill is based on unit quality and the impact of their shield choice.

    We already doubled infantry shield stats to reflect their greater importance in this era, compared to the medieval one.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    In terms of the Total War engine, an all-skirmish army is going to be as unrealistic as an all-heavies army. The units are nailed to their tactical function quite rigidly. You can't have a unit capable of switching between being thureophoroi and euzonoi, for an example. Same unit of Iberians can't be skirmishing or closing their ranks and act as close-order spearmen depending on what's the field of the battle. They either are skirmishers or they aren't. The all-light armies of the period have to be recreated by mixing skirmishers and light/medium shock troops. The mod already has quite hard hitting and melee-capable skirmisher units in it (peltenai and the likes), but this is as good as it's going to be given the limitations of the game.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; May 25, 2020 at 09:11 AM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  8. #8

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    Ah, I guess my suggestions were too extreme. I wonder though if the EBII team is considering implementing the features that the linked post mentions. Those won't require a complete overhaul of battlefield balance, and also gives non-battlefield reasons to field light units

  9. #9

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    The main issue is that total war games real time battles are meant to emulate a very, very specific kind of battle. The set pieces battle. Both armies agree to fight in a given place, in a given time, with a victory to achieve a more or less political statement of superiority of an army/realm over the defeated foe. Skirmisher were, generally, terrible at this kind of battle, and employed out of necessity (you already have the men at hand, might as well make some use of them) in these situations rather than due to their tactical superiority. If the army had professional skirmishers, as in, professional, drilled, and equipped soldiers CURRENTLY fighting as skirmishers, in these situations, they would most likely change their gear to something heavier to ensure survivability. Similarly, there were situations in which men would willingly go for a slim panoply (think of the English knights in the battle of Agincourt). But more often than not, specially in the ancient world, the folks who were fighting as skirmishers were hardly trained and even hardlier equipped.

    So what kind of battles were skirmishers good at? Well, they were very good at the ones that involved as little fighting as possible. Namely... skirmishes. A group patrolling an area (usually without knowing the exact location of the opponent) would inevitably meet a patrol of their foe (or brigands, or from the same army, etc, but let's assume both sides can recognize each other at a glance). In that kind of situation, the old shepherd with a bundle of javelins and a knife would, in fact, stand a pretty decent chance against the aristocrat hoplite (assuming they were sent on patrol duty, I guess?), and if things went poorly or the group arrived at the conclusion it wouldn't be worth it, would have an easier time fleeing as well (at least wouldn't have to drop the panoply along the way). Alternatively, both sides could engage in combat until one completely perished or fled, just ineffectively throw ranged weapons (proper or improvised) alongside insults in hopes to scare them off, or a combination of either while sending someone to warn the main camp (or advanced camp) of the encounter and return with reinforcements.

    The enlarged force could now either defeat or drive off the enemy patrol, least they had the same idea of asking for reinforcements. Then when both sides are equal sized again, both go ask for more reinforcements. Before you know, you have an actual goddamn battle with the main camps moving to intercept the fight. And if you think this kind of tickle-down warfare would make for a terrible looking battle in a Total War map... you are correct.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    Well, one can use all-skirmish forces with successes.

    But the catch is... It's going to work only in the areas favoring this kind of troops. If the bigger part of the battle map are hills and forests and half of the time the enemy can't detect my units or has to be charging uphill then I can be policing those stratmap areas with an all-light forces.

    It's also going to be in the long term tedious, with having to always pay the attention to what the stratmap says to never accept a battle if the battlefield is unfavorable. Otherwise I'll have to withdraw and flee all the troops.

    So... Quite realistic? Skirmishers wouldn't stand and fight seeing cavalry and heavies coming after them in the plain field.



    I agree that skirmishing units should have some campaign map importance. Making resupply or even the enemy army detection easier.


    I remember an old Slytherine Chariots of War game. It wasn't good, but it was making a good use of skirmishers. They weren't of much use in battles... But they were the only way of knowing the enemy composition and deployment ahead of the engagement.
    Last edited by Satapatiš; May 26, 2020 at 07:50 AM.
    Furthermore, I believe that Rome must be destroyed.




  11. #11

    Default Re: Suggestions to make light infantry/cavalry more viable

    Following Satapatis.

    Would a large increase in wooded areas on the strat map help then? I have no idea how the strat map works so this may be really hard to implement. However areas which were much more reliant on lighter infantry (western and northern europe?) could have far less farm land and more woodland. From my hazy memory this would seem to match a lot of Britain at least. Bratain had larger forests through the middle ages if i remember rightly.

    If farming income is tied to arable land in a province this might be a complete non starter on balance of provinces income. Even if it wasn't it is probably far to large a job for limited pay off.

    I am also expecting someone to post and tell me that my idea of barbarian lands covered in forest is entirely inaccurate and the type of thing EBII is trying to educate us about!!!

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