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Bring back Stacking Discussion

Discussion in 'CivBE - Ideas and Suggestions' started by Gort, May 1, 2015.

  1. Gort

    Gort Emperor

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    I would like to see unit stacking discouraged in future civ games, but not banned like it is in Civ 5 and BE. I'd use these rules:

    1. Units can stack infinitely

    2. When a stack is attacked the best defender fights

    3. The damage the best defender takes is also dealt to every other unit in the stack

    For example, you might have a spearman and an archer stacked together. A swordsman attacks them and the spearman defends. The spearman takes 30 damage in the combat, so the archer also takes 30 damage.

    I think this system would be better than 1 UPT, since:

    1. You wouldn't have any trouble while at peace, with units getting in each other's way all the time

    2. Overwhelming numbers can still be brought to bear in restricted terrain (so you can do things like concentrating your attack on a specific section of an enemy's frontline) but leave you vulnerable to counterattack, which is an interesting tactical choice to make

    -----

    All that said, I think 1 UPT could work, if they increased the tile-to-city ratio and eliminated cities as offensive combatants. There are plenty of games that make 1 UPT work better than the Civ games do:

     
  2. Verrucosus

    Verrucosus Warlord

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    Increasing the tile-to-city ratio would be hard to pull off. The only effective way to do it would be to increase the minimum distance between cities. Just increasing the number of tiles on the map would simply encourage players to build more cities in the long run, resulting in the same ratio.

    For future games, I would also prefer to discouraging stacking to banning them completely. However, the system of collateral damage that Gort proposes seems harsher than the one in Civ1 and Civ2 because it means that not only will all units sharing the defender's tile get killed when they don't have more hitpoints than a losing defender, but also that they will suffer damage even when the defender wins. Personally, I think that the collateral damage system from Alpha Centauri (collateral, but not fatal damage to other units in the losing defender's tile) should be discouraging enough, particularly when you consider that bribe immunity, a major benefit of stacking in the pre-Civ3-games, is no longer an issue.

    A slightly different approach from stacking penalties would be rules that encourage spreading. The old zones of control had that effect because they allowed a limited number of spread units to control a considerable amount of territory. The problem with zones of control is to teach the computer to use them efficiently.
     
  3. nimling

    nimling Prince

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    The difference is that those are wargames where the focus is on moving military units primarily, and simulating a specific time period.

    My preference would be simply for whole stacks to fight as one unit, rather than individual units. The particular mechanics for how that would work can vary, but it simplifies battles, and for a civilization-building game, it's probably better to keep combat relatively simple, without reducing the game to duplo-blocks simplicity. As a war game, Civilization has not been that strong, for many reasons... but of all the games, Civ 5 is by far the weakest game as a war game, because of 1UPT. Even the original did it better in my not so humble opinion.

    Of course, stuff like nukes, late-game artillery, and bombers can function as stack-killers, but only the first should be devastating on the scale of Civ4's siege.

    Nice point on bribing - that was my incentive to stack 2 units in earlier civs / AC. Also, a heavily armored AAA or ECM unit is effective for guarding my unarmored attack rovers in AC, especially once photon walls are a thing. Usually that's the point where I'd mop up an AI, but a human player would be much better.
     
  4. Barathor

    Barathor Emperor

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    I believe limited stacking would be the best for Civ games, without any tactical maps like other games (it really hurts the tempo of gameplay in games which don't focus on combat and war); all combat would still take place on the main map. Even something as small as 3 would have a large impact. Chokes don't become so... choking. There would be far less traffic jams and tedious shuffling.

    The carpet of doom shrinks down and can become more focused, if one chooses. Armies can hide in the fog of war a lot easier and can rush an enemy much faster out of it.

    The healthiest/strongest defender always defends. Ranged units would need to be weaker since stacked units can defend them and focusing fire on one tile becomes greater (though, perhaps even reduce unit ranges to only 1 -- this helps with the awkwardness of modern ranged attacks which don't arc over units like arrows do). Light collateral damage gets reintroduced for ranged units as a way to slightly discourage heavy stacking near ranged attackers. Also, cities would need to be stronger (keeping in mind that it's strength is already raised a certain amount by having a stack of ranged units inside it).

    Without getting into anything else that would need to be tweaked, a system like that could work if designed appropriately. There would be no need to rescale maps and turn everything upside down.
     
  5. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    Well, yes, the whole map-system would need to be redone, with cities forced to be settled further apart (like, 9 tiles or something), bigger city areas and more population to make up for that (with each pop having less impact), more unit movement, etc. etc.

    Probably not the most practical thing and, I'd argue, not something that would really fit the Civ-Series (as it would make cities feel like a really "distant" thing).

    With that said, I agree that "soft-stacking" would probably be a good thing. I strongly thing that such a system should not allow stacking of different types of units though. Add penalties for stacking (-10% Combat Strength and -20% ranged Combat Strength per Unit, or something like that) would probably be a rather easy solution to prevent too much stacking in combat, while at the same time allowing for easy army movement in secure areas.
     
  6. Gort

    Gort Emperor

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    One solution to this would be to have hexes sub-divided. So, what looks to a city like a single hex, worked by a single population unit is actually six hexes from the point of view of military units. Result is six times the hexes with no effect on cities.

    What's wrong with stacking different types of units? Guarding a catapult with a spearman is one of the most common-sense unit stacks a player could think of, why ban it?

    In general though, I like that we're debating different ways of solving the 1 UPT problem rather than debating whether it's a problem in the first place.
     
  7. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    Well, simply because I think having units exposed on a tile is a good thing, it does for example allow the use fast units to smash into the weak randed units if you manage to create a trap. If you have mixed armies, then that would not be possible. ^^ Imho guarding should place by shielding off other units on other tiles, but ranged units (and Air Strikes) should still be able to directly attack other ranged units. If you allow Stacking of Melee- and Ranged-Units, then attacking a city simply becomes a task of "ramming though" an army, while, if you keep them separated, the terrain still has a very big impact.

    I like the idea with the "double"-grid, but I think it's a bit complicated. If you fit a hex grid into another hex grid, then you create shared hexes at all corners. I'm not sure if that's really something that would be viable.
     
  8. gunnergoz

    gunnergoz Cat Herder

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    I would be all for the next Civilization game to have a strategic map with stacked counters and when a battle occurs, it shifts to a tactical map with 1 unit per hex. Age of Wonders III comes to mind as a good example of how this could work.
     
  9. Creamy Goodness

    Creamy Goodness Chieftain

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    The AI doesn't know how to play 1UPT.

    Until they can program an AI that knows what the it's doing with 1UPT to a somewhat acceptable degree, they need to go back to MUPT.

    For an overwhelmingly single-player game, an AI that is utterly incompetent with 1UPT is game-breaking when the devs insist on 1UPT. Just go back to MUPT and institute some sort of damage-sharing mechanic to balance out the strategy of employing Stacks of Doom by making them vulnerable to taking multi-unit damage from a tile strike upon them. Problem solved.
     
  10. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    Well, that is once again mostly a problem that comes from the very narrow terrain. Play the Civil War Scenario for BNW and you'll see a massive difference.
     
  11. Gort

    Gort Emperor

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    Yeah, you can heavily adjust the difficulty of Civ games by playing maps with very little water and flat terrain. I'm a fan of Great Plains in Civ 5.
     
  12. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    Also works great with the Skirmish-Mapscript (both, in Civ5 and BE), if you choose a flat tile as base-terrain. ^^
     
  13. Hail

    Hail Satan's minion

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    stack of doom is optimal if the best defender always defends.

    and yeah: what the OP is sugesting would return us to the good old civ2 days.

    I also think that civ is a strategy game and that the bigger stack should win most of the time. :D
     
  14. HorseshoeHermit

    HorseshoeHermit 20% accurate as usual, Morty

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    You can emulate these capabilities with the first-class stack mechanics in which Barathor, and myself, place our hopes. The tile could be broken down to work at a level where relative positioning is relevant, without actually making that level part of the game.
    And I don't mean simulating positioning and then masking it with an automation thing; I mean thinking through positioning, but then covering it up with some abstractions about the invariant tactical points.

    The positioning is not visibly under your control, and perhaps not explicitly, but an appropriate range of brigade dispositions could be at your command, instructing your stack how to engage. At this point we can design in a mathematical way, talking purely about pacing and risk and cost, and dress up whatever dynamic we figure is best for the game's goals in Human terms after the fact.

    Military units have some kind of support cost, and they have a constituency of actual manpower. They have a firepower from their weapons, veterancy from training and experience and maybe social conditioning, and favourable or unfavourable conditions (which would roll up individual excellence since our spans of time are so large). There are more than a handful of games that have taken up a Fatigue/Endurance split, with one worn down slowly and the other fast, both are fatal individually and necessary to Might together, and only one can be repaired by time alone. These can be called morale and wounds, or equipment and personnel, or fatigue and materiel, whatever you want, to feed off the previously listed attributes of a unit in an encounter.

    Feedback systems and whatever formulae we like can be used to make combat work however we want it to work. The freedom is there.

    You have an encounter in the field? The enemy can send up stacks and order them to Passive Harass, Passive because it uses their movement points to do something between turns, Harass meaning low-risk engagements; and if he actually has the military technology for skirmishing and lightly armored militia, this stack could be composed of such a thing, increasing the value of the attempt.
    The stack is ordered to have the disposition to fight defensively if it is actually engaged Actively, which, let's review: it could mean the unit reduces the scope of the encounter by a factor, slowing it and drawing it out, it could mean "baiting" tactics are ignored and shutdown by the stack, but that it doesn't respond to being surrounded; It could mean that the profit margin of all these cases is pushed up a little bit by any veterancy or generalship applied in the stack.
    A close alternative would be to Harass aggressively, maybe this is the closest to an attack as we understand in default: the stack is trying to inflict lasting damage in a small amount of time. In this stance, the enemy stack cannot move freely because they will be bludgeoned and blockaded promptly by the harasser's posture.

    And certainly I'm advocating damage to be traded between turns just automatically from being adjacent, according to the dispositions.

    The damned difficulty, I tell you, is one of map topology. The fact that every tile grid , as a metric space, has the taxicab metric, makes for two major breaks in strategic and tactical positioning:

    There are a number of paths proportional to the length, indeed a sector of shortest paths proportional to the square, to any tile from a given one, if that tile is at the direction of a point of the hex. Euclidean and elliptic space have -one- shortest path (except to the antipode), and they have absolute divergence proportional to absolute path length. With the 'hexicab' metric, the shortest path is not a line, it is the set of lines fitting in a parallelogram or in the extreme case, a rhombus. There are fifteen tiles across in a 30 tile trip, so in the middle of which I don't need to be worried about being diverted for seven tiles in one direction until I actually lose a single movement point from shortest-possible trip to the destination. Meanwhile there are six especially unlucky directions where, among the growing horizon of 6n destinations at distance n, there are always just 6 of them that cannot be diverted one step without costing two.
    As such, the idea of manipulating an engaging stack into -moving- into the location of an interposing skirmish platoon is utterly axed. Those kinds of tactics cannot exist, so we must watch strategy become something alien or, change the scope of the game.​



    As for how units work in the stack, we need some changes from Civ IV:
    "One unit loses" is exclusive of sufficient pacing controls. But the timing does something else terrible, and it's that having two units makes no one safer than having one unit. When you send Warriors out and meet Lions in the ancient era, that Warrior could die, and having another Warrior changes absolutely no odds. You're just throwing the linear amount of Might at that problem you need, given RNG.
    How about this, like Risk the game. Engaging with more units allows the attacker to control the terms of the engagement, exert more control to make it happen the way the commander wants, whatever the defensive tactics. And only aggression can use this. Suppose in Civ IV you still had a unit targeted by one unit attacker, but you didn't start from the strongest one, you rolled past ax+b points worth of Might, in the defenders from toughest to weakest, where x is the attackers in the stack, and engaged that next weaker one first. And the rest of the stack, though, had to carry out the whole attack recursively i nthis way, up to your weakest unit, rather than judging based on the outcome on the fly.
    Or rather, it's just like tossing a unit to weaken and consume the strong defender first, only without having matchups recalculated in between trying to do that, but with forcing you to "commit the forces", so to speak.

    The risk/reward is still wonked , but it does show that stack engagements, unit stats, and linear equations can be used. (And I'd prefer this wonked nonsense to "Let's fight really close together, but in a series of wholly independent duels". That's what the SoD is, terrible because there is no stack there, it's just a dozen units, a dozen rolls of the dice.)


    I have indeed worked out more than this in detail. You want horsemans to pick off archers? A stack with a mobile accoutrement could indeed attempt that, picking off support units... it would be an aggressive and high risk engagement, in which the reduction of permanent vitality of certain units is prized over inflicting other harm, in which the relative speed of the engagement is turned up , trading to oblivion faster for both sides, raising rewards but raising the influence of random factors and decisive blunders.
    You could defend by straight up fighting (with parity veterancy levels, whose weight would be raised in such a scenario), looking to maximally wound the enemy, fighting without any time-sensitive priorities. Many aggressive options still work, but cede the opening to the enemy stack. Total defense is a counter... but then you're not attacking.
    A special rule could go for cities: If you "flank" a city, you are considered to surround it, blockading the working plots. And a siege, now, is properly a low-exertion, low-intensity strangulation of a city, fighting defensively where time itself is killing your enemy.
    Do you see what I'm getting at?

    I believe the following: If this detail can't get into the game, then it still has to be thought out, because designing one level down is the only way to leave an agreeable abstraction behind if you wipe it away. And putting this detail, on the map, is beyond what anyone can do with a tiled game, stacks or no.
     

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