(concept) What could we do for our beloved Barbarians ?

Hinin

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Hello everyone,

After some discussions, I would like to use this thread to talk about ideas I have for barbarians : how they work now, what role do they play in a game, what we could do to make them more interesting, and some more wonky concepts. I think this thread can work as a gathering hub for such questions and ideas.

So, what are the barbarians ?

As you know, the barbarians (led by our beloved Crom, the Thunderer) are a omni-hostile faction that works thematically as the incarnation of chaos in a civ game (looters, hordes, revolutionary fighters etc). Although the concept itself is clearly biased (often used to represent cultures who doesn't conform to the agraro-sedentary ideals the game is based on), we are not here to debate the merits of such ideas, since barbarians, in term of gameplay, are useful to create an hostile force outside of the control of civilizations, and so without diplomatic consequences.

How do they appear ?

Currently, barbarians are spawned using five "gates" :
  • :c5war: Barbarian Encampments : An improvement on a tile appearing in "dark corners of the world" (meaning parts of the map that aren't seen by any civilization) ; it regularly spawns new units, whose type can change based on nearby strategic resources (ex. : Swordsmen if Iron, Horsemen if Horse)
  • :c5citystate: City-State "Horde" and "Revolt against its ally" missions : sometimes, a City State will be afflicted with this mission, which spawns waves of barbarian units at regular intervals
  • :c5razing: Barbarian City : When one of the two CState missions above ends in failure (there are still barbarian units within the CState territory when the mission ends), the City State is capture automatically, and becomes a Barbarian City which spawns barbarian units at a slow rate.
  • :c5angry: Very Unhappy Empires : In addition to the possibility of seeing a city separate itself from the empire (becoming a City State), barbarian units are spawned in waves regularly in the most unhappy cities
  • :trade: Whenever a barbarian plunders a Trade Route : spawn a new barbarian unit whose type depends on the Trade Unit plundered (naval or land unit)
How do barbarian units work ?

As you know, despite being the embodiement of chaos, barbarian units follow quite strict rules. They are the following (don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong, I can edit) :
  • Barbarian units doesn't enter a civ's territory until its second city or after a certain number of turns.
  • When ending their turn next to a city with lower CS than them, barbarian units have a chance to lose some health and reduce the city's health while taking some yields (even if they don't attack the city during the turn)
  • Barbarian units won't capture a city, even if they could (the only case being the failure of a horde quest, but that is an automatic conversion, and not the result of barbarian units' attacks).
  • When spawning, they gain unique promotions depending on the tiles they're on (+ can embark automatically if spawned adjacent to coast)
  • They technological level depends on the global tech level (meaning that of 75% of civilizations) : when reaching a unit upgrade, they automatically upgrade all their units in encampments, and spawn upgraded units afterwards.
  • As one unique faction, all barbarian units share vision.
What do I dislike with the current system ?
  • In the current system, barbarians quickly become very rarely seen outside of the occasional CS quest or very unhappy empire, and most of the time are immediatly eliminated. The only exception for this is when you discover some unknown island or continent (hence the problematic symbolism of barbarians I mentionned above). By the time of the Industrial era, they are almost never seen. => This is a consequence of the fact their main way of appearing, the barbarian encampments, quickly lose ground with new cities and authority civs tracking them.
  • The fact they cannot conquer cities means that, despite forming fearsome warbands sometimes, they are never more than a hindrance for their targets.
  • They lack moments when they really bring something interesting to gameplay (keeping the idea of them being mere annoyance, or early game pinatas for authority players or City-State quests).
  • They lack consistency : when adjacent to a weak city, they don't always take yields + the fact they gain the ability to embark from adjacent tiles and not tech level, contrary to other civs.
What do I propose ?

I'll separate my propositions in several levels, reflecting the level of transformation to game balance and feasibility :
  • Level 1 - Make the embark promotion dependent on tech level (so 75% of civs have Fishing) + make them always plunder a city when ending their turn next to it with more CS than it.
=> Simple, and made to ensure consistency, but no more
  • Level 2 - Allow barbarians to conquer cities, and make them defend them (with garrisons and walls if they time to rebuild) + give them the tools to do so (most notably by giving battering rams and increased spawn rate when within 5 tiles of a city)
=> Having Having a Barbarian Encampment near your city shouldn't be a mere annoyance, but an actual threat : your city represents a target, and so it become a priority for them (which means gathering warbands against it, and for you to having to deal with the Encampment quickly).
  • Level 3 - Increase the probability of having barbarian revolts in your empire (maybe some, rarely and with a warning, when you're simply unhappy, and much more frequent when very unhappy) + having events throughout the game that allows for barbarian power spike (for example if a large enough proportion of the world's cities are unhappy, or if several players have high war weariness), with either local or global crisis + give them true unique units, instead of the subpar variants currently present (barbarian archers and galleys come to mind)
=> Scenario examples :
- Sea People : If the economic output of a civilization is too high compared to the medium, and unhappiness is high for a lot of other civs, an important barbarian invasion will be spawned near that powerful civilization (topple the powerful scenario) : using the medium tech level, an army scaling with map size will be spawned near the civilization's border ; this army would have a Great General at its head and several siege weapons
- Insurrection : If a city is very unhappy for a long time (like 1.5 more unhappiness than happiness), it has a chance to enter insurrection : the city becomes a barbarian city while keeping all of its buildings, and spawn units around it regularly (including your civs unique units if available)
- Brutalization : If warmongering is too important, there is a chance of barbarian units appearing at random within all warmonger empires

=> Another possibility could be to make these crisis era-based : when a majority of the world reaches the second tech tier of an era, an event starts with varying effects.
Ex. : Bronze Age Collapse (Ancient) => Warlord Invasion / Slave Revolts (Classical) => Little Ice Age / Black Plague (Medieval) => Revolutionary Age / Great Dying (Renaissance) => National Scramble / Ideological Terrorism (Industrial) => Brutalization (Modern) => Proxy Wars (Atomic) => Hybrid Warfare (Information)

As always, thank you for reading. :)
 

Teholb

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I am quite curious to hear more of your thoughts on your Sea People proposal, as this would represent not only a nod to my favorite era, or rather the ending phases of it, but also a nice mechanic to slow the rise of an early great power (similar to other rubber banding mechanics, but more focused on the snowball than catching up stragglers). Additionally, it would punish any empire that strayed too far from the mean by neglecting their military.

Regarding Insurrection, I do worry that with the current state of Happiness re: Poverty, it may be a bit on the frustrating side. Also, if these were made to be explicitly tied to a tech or era, I feel like that would be a little less interesting than being triggered by actions the AI/player(s) have taken- kinda like Civ 6 and their dark age/golden age mechanic.
 

Rekk

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Look into the Barbarians Evolved Mod and Leugi's Barbarian Immersion Enhancements, both available in the Steam Workshop.
 

Hinin

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I am quite curious to hear more of your thoughts on your Sea People proposal, as this would represent not only a nod to my favorite era, or rather the ending phases of it, but also a nice mechanic to slow the rise of an early great power (similar to other rubber banding mechanics, but more focused on the snowball than catching up stragglers). Additionally, it would punish any empire that strayed too far from the mean by neglecting their military.

Regarding Insurrection, I do worry that with the current state of Happiness re: Poverty, it may be a bit on the frustrating side. Also, if these were made to be explicitly tied to a tech or era, I feel like that would be a little less interesting than being triggered by actions the AI/player(s) have taken- kinda like Civ 6 and their dark age/golden age mechanic.

I indeed think the concept of rubber-band crisis is one of the more interesting aspects of the level 3 ideas. Several things to keep in mind though :
  • The AI is already meant to be more agressive against you if you have a bad military. It is, in a way, Vox Populi's answer to this problem of having the barbarians being such a low level threat (that, and it makes sense thematically throughout the game).
  • Some civs are naturally geared toward having a very strong power spike at a certain era (I'm talking about you, Carthage), thus if we implemented such an idea (as a modmod, of course), it would require good enough conditions that some civs aren't immediatly punished for what they're supposed to be good at
  • The form it could take is still TBD : I talked about an invasion force, but its form would depend on the place (embarked army, skirmisher force etc)
Other rubber band ideas could be (among others) :
  • Liberation Movement - Against Civs with too many vassals or captured City-States
  • Religious Reaction / Anti-Revolutionary Uprising - Against Civs too many techs or policies ahead
  • Civil War - Against Civs with too many cities (compared to the medium number) and unhappiness
Look into the Barbarians Evolved Mod and Leugi's Barbarian Immersion Enhancements, both available in the Steam Workshop.

This could also be a way to spice things up. Here are some ideas I think we could keep :
  • Giving barbarians specific promotions and rename them throughout the eras (from Leugi's mod)
  • Allow barbarian encampments that are there for too long to become barbarian cities or hostile CStates
  • Add unique barbarian units (we have plenty of space for that), so that different biomes can have more different types of barbarian threats
 

Solic

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Jul 20, 2020
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I think at one point spies could also spawn partisans (barbarians), but I'm not sure if they can do so again currently? If spy AI would make them target the leader, you could get your sea people scenario that way.

I'm ambivalent on whether it would actually make things difficult for leaders though. At least warring civs frequently get some form of yields from killing barbs through orders/authority etc. and they could just gain those without any negative diplomacy effects. If they are not at war with different civs, I'd see this as a great boost to them instead of a penalty.
 

Rosete

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Jan 18, 2020
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I really like the idea to use barbarians as a mechanic to contain runaways. I like the sea people and brutalization scenario. The sea people scenario if tuned well can be a good "stat check" to make sure players maintain a good mix between economy and military. Similarly, brutalization is a nice challenge that "checks" warmongers if they can actually control the territories that they had conquered. I like these two scenarios a lot!!

I like the idea to allow barbarians to capture cities. It makes them an actual threat instead of a mild annoyance.

I dislike the insurrection scenario because it just punishes the player that's already behind and makes their comeback harder. It is already difficult enough in civ to climb back from a disadvantage, adding barbarian spawns on it would feel terrible.

I would like to add an idea to only allow barbarian camps to spawn scouting units that have a movement penalty. Once a barbarian scout spotted your land, only then will normal barbarian units start to spawn (but at an increased rate to simulate a raid). The barbarian scout should only have 1m/turn so that you can actually catch and kill them. It would force you to be much more vigilant in the early game and use your starting warrior to patrol your land. It is a concept in civ6 that I think will work great in civ5.
 

black213

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Mar 12, 2010
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This reminded me of a certain Civ4 mod which allowed barbarian cities to evolve into new civs if left alone for a long period of time. It was a real novelty for terra-like maps to have such 'natives' in the new world especially.
 
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