Discussion in 'Strategy Section' started by amateurgamer88, Feb 15, 2019.
Yes they are.
Thanks for the kind words! I do what I can but real life can keep me quite busy most times.
Thanks for the clarification! I played 3rd and 4th UC so some units were changed up (Dromon is a UU in that mod). I was worried I might be horribly confused as I haven't played Vanilla in quite awhile.
oh really? my bad then
Unit Composition III
Classical Era vs. Classical Era
Classical Era can see some interesting compositions depending on the map. To make matters easier, we will be looking at either a land heavy map (like Pangaea) or a water heavy map (like Archipelago). We will also assume that both sides have all units unlocked during this era and all cities have Walls.
Land heavy map:
As I mentioned in my last unit composition post, Skirmishers are very powerful during this era. If you have Horses, then Skirmishers are definitely a must have for any composition. Their mobility along with the hit and run tactics can keep them alive while hurting your opponent quite a bit. If an AI settles a city on flat terrain and there's a Hill or Forest adjacent to it, a Skirmisher can actually attack the city with impunity from both the city and any ranged units inside. In situations where you don't have Horses or very limited supply, then you do have the Composite Bowmen. I'm not sure how other people feel about the Composite Bowmen but it's useful if the terrain works for you. Open terrain with meat shields defending these units or Hills lets Composite Bowmen support other units. Since cities will likely have Walls at this point, both Skirmishers and Composite Bowmen will have limited contributions when it comes to whittling down the health of a city. However, both units are really there for mowing down enemy units steadily so your forces can march onward to the cities.
Since I mentioned meat shields, what are our options? If we have Iron, then Swordsmen are certainly the way to go. Spearmen have basically become obsolete at this point since they are fairly weak overall. Spearmen just lack the survivability while the unit they counter, the Horseman, isn't going to charge them head on unless the AI has such an overwhelming advantage in units. Swordsmen are quite strong and don't go down too easily to ranged units if in rough terrain. This doesn't mean that they can survive without support though so sending Swordsmen forward by themselves isn't recommended. One problem the Swordsman has is lack of mobility so, while this unit works well with Composite Bowmen, it's not always a great unit to use alongside Skirmishers. Luckily, there is a slow unit that will need escorts and that's where Swordsmen come in. More on this a bit later.
What units works really well with Skirmishers? The Horsemen, despite being a unit unlocked during the Ancient Era, actually still can be quite useful until Medieval Era. Their mobility compliments with the hit and run tactics of Skirmishers. Horsemen has the main focus of flanking the enemy units. If they can get to enemy ranged units, then it's really going to hurt the AI's ability to push back your attack. The ability to move after attacking (assuming you don't get stuck due to ZoC) means that Horsemen can get to safety or even act as baits, though their lack of defensive bonuses makes them not ideal in the bait role. Another function of Horsemen is pillaging enemy tiles like Roads to greatly hinder the enemy ability to make any counterattacks. Pillage a single Road in the Desert can slow enemy reinforcements drastically. Pillaged tiles increases War Weariness while hurting the enemy in other ways like starvation or losing yields like Production and Gold. Overall, the Horsemen serve a disruption role where they disrupt the enemy forces by attacking weak flanks and disrupt the enemy's ability to wage war.
Now, what was that slow unit that needs escorts? Once Skirmishers are unlocked, the Catapult is also unlocked and this unit is extremely squishy. They don't take melee hits very well and can easily be knocked out of commission by even Spearmen. Therefore, they need escorts to keep them safe while they do what they excel at which is knocking down the health of cities. Note that I said that they don't take melee hits very well. Catapults actually start with the Cover I promotion since they can take ranged attacks fairly well. If you go for Cover II as their first promotion, then city bombardment and ranged attacks will literally tickle them. Another drawback Catapults have is their limited movement in enemy territory. They will only move a tile each turn so you will have to escort them some distance before they can attack a city. Once they get close and have sufficient protection, then they will speed up the fall of the city.
While the unit composition can differ depending on your resources, your army will require a good balance. First, you need ranged units like Skirmishers and/or Composite Bowmen. These units are there to eliminate enemy units so you can reach the city you wish to take. Which unit you focus more depends heavily on the terrain as the 2 range of the Composite Bowmen can sometimes be more useful. Next, you need meat shields to protect your support in the form of Swordsmen. Don't go overboard with Swordsmen but have enough so you can rotate the wounded ones to keep the siege going. Afterwards, Horsemen, if you have Horses, help you protect your flank while disrupt your enemies. Good use of Horsemen can actually make the enemy main opposition collapse. Finally, you need Catapults, usually 2 is enough, to take down the city once you get them sufficient protection while also ridding most of the enemy units.
Requested from one of the viewers, I have some screenshots below to explain blockades to the best of my abilities. One is normal view while the other two screenshots are in strategic view. I find strategic view easier to explain with. Blockades are very powerful so you will enjoy taking advantage of this as it greatly speeds up the fall of cities by preventing the city from healing up.
First, we have the screenshot below. As you can see, you don't have to necessarily surround the city with just your units. You can have allied CS units or units from other civs (hostile towards the same enemy as you) also contributing so no tiles adjacent to the city is empty or controlled by an enemy unit or neutral unit (Open Borders can see other AI's units getting in your way sometimes). Once blockaded, you'll see that symbol under the city name.
Secondly, we have the map below in strategic view. There are two mountains to the north of Taghaza and they contribute to the blockade. As a result, you only need to occupy the four remaining tiles to complete the blockade. Sadly, I didn't have a save while I was sieging this city. Now, we actually only need three units to complete the blockade. First, we need two land units on top of the Sheep and Iron. Then, we just needed a naval unit like the damaged ship you see (I honestly can't remember which is Destroyer and which is Battleship from the Icon ). It doesn't matter where that ship is (its current location or the Fish tile) as it will "control" the adjacent tile as well to complete the blockade.
Finally, we have a third scenario as seen below. You might think that it's easy to surround the city, right? The issue is that Lake where embarked units cannot blockade. Before, I believed that cities such as the one below cannot ever be blockaded. Now, I wonder about one situation that will require confirmation. I wonder if certain units that hover on Lake tiles like the Zeppelin and Helicopter Gunship can blockade. Once I get confirmation from others here or encounter it in one of my games, I will update this section. Until then, we'll assume that cities with an adjacent Lake cannot be blockaded.
Water heavy map:
Classical Era gives the first glimpse of naval warfare and it can be tricky or very easy depending on a number of factors. While human players will take into account of the terrain, the AI settles cities without taking it into account as much. Therefore, how naval combat will take place can differ greatly from game to game. Here, I will discuss four scenarios: Island cities, cities with many adjacent Coast tiles, cities with few adjacent Coast tiles and naval engagements. These four scenarios will require different approaches.
Island cities are cities that are surrounded by only Coast tiles. These cities are arguably hardest to defend so, if you have a strong navy, these cities are easiest to take out of all three scenarios. Unlike a landlocked city, you don't need to completely surround a city to blockade it. A naval unit will "occupy" its tile and those tiles adjacent to it. Therefore, you only need two ships (correct me if I'm wrong please) to blockade a city. However, it's more ideal to completely surround a city since that will prevent the city from producing anymore units if it already has one land and one naval unit. It also cuts off enemy reinforcements while the blockade prevents the city and the units within from healing up each turn.
Depending on the map generation, these cities can be challenging at times. Sometimes, there are Ocean tile two tiles away from the Island city. As a result, it can be tricky getting all the Dromons attack the city. The limited movement of Dromon means that the unit's positioning is very vital as engagements with Trireme can ruin the day of any Dromon. Meanwhile, Triremes face a challenge where it ends its turn after attacking. This means that a Trireme attacking a city will leave it exposed and, as a result, reduces the times it can attack a city. With extra exposure, a Trireme takes longer to heal since it has to return to friendly territory as it cannot heal in hostile or neutral Coast tiles unless it has lots of promotions that gives it the ability to.
Cities with many adjacent Coast Tiles:
When I say many adjacent Coast Tiles, I'm talking about 3 to 5 Coast tile. These cities, like island cities, are generally not recommended for settled cities unless you have no choice and/or confident in your ability to dominate the coast with your navy. How does attacking these cities differ from island cities then? Let's see the statement below:
While the above statement generally applies to island cities as well, it applies more with cities with many adjacent Coast tiles. Why? Naval units alone cannot blockade these cities unless it has 5 adjacent Coast tiles and a Mountain tile as its only land tile (not sure if Blockades with Mountains work the same for Inca though). In most cases, the inability to blockade means that Triremes can try but their efforts would be wasted as they will take fire while the city can repair over time. Dromons are vital in this aspect due to their additional damage will allow you to eventually whittle the health of the city. Still, I find these can be slow and grueling fights as neither of these units are really designed to take a city quickly. Dromons, unlike Catapults, don't get Cover I promotion so, once they are targeted, then they have to withdraw to friendly territory. Therefore, numerous turns passes before they can return to the battlefield.
Since these cities have at least one adjacent land tile, there might be a narrow land connection between it and a larger island or continent. There might even be another land, non-mountain tile two tiles that you can use to attack with a Catapult. Therefore, certain circumstances allow you to combine your army and army to their best ability. Chances are your Dromon already cleared the land tiles so your Catapult and a melee unit and disembark and support the siege by helping with blockades or some extra damage. However, land units contributions are still limited in these situations and it's not always possible. Given the circumstances, just find what gives you the most advantage in combat because, with every edge you take advantage of, you can shift the war more in your favor while even speeding up the war to ensure that your momentum can keep going.
Cities with few adjacent Coast Tiles:
By few, I'm taking about one or two Coast tiles adjacent to the city. These will be extremely tough to take with your Classical naval units. Here, I generally find a strong army support by a navy works best. The reason? One or two Coast tiles really limits what you can do and, lacking a strong army, a blockade is impossible. If you've ever settled a city exposed to only one Coast tiles, you probably noticed how much easier it is to defend against naval attacks. Humans might do better moving units around so Dromons can take shots. Unfortunately, only a handful of Dromons can do damage and the city can easily recover from those. Here, you might require a more amphibious approach where you escort land units to disembark and attack on land and sea. As you can imagine, these get pretty messy and require a good balance between army and navy, not an easy feat for those who aren't familiar with it.
Naval battles will change drastically later on but, at this stage, your options are limited by two main factors. First, Triremes and Dromons cannot end their turn in Ocean tiles. That makes narrow Coasts even harder to do naval combat due to the natural choke points that form. Secondly, the movement of these units aren't very helpful either. A Dromon, in order to attack every turn, must be within city bombardment range and any enemy units with 2 range. Great Lighthouse does give them an extra movement but the inability to stay in Ocean tiles more often than not see that extra movement wasted. Certain circumstances will say otherwise but the extra movements are much useful later on.
Below are two situations where a naval engagement is foolish. When settling coastal cities, these locations are what you search for. The screenshot with Yaroslavl is an ideal situation to defend against naval attacks. Not only will your naval units have to deal with many land units that can be stationed around the gulf but your enemy can also station some naval units safely behind the city to further complicate matters. The second screenshot with St. Petersburg is more likely to happen in your games where you just make sure the city has only one adjacent Coast tile. If you can also limit the Coast two tiles away from the city to one as well, that will greatly improve the defense of the city against naval sieges. During the Classical Era, you shouldn't even consider attacking these two cities as your odds are heavily against you and it's just not worth it.
Naval engagements have their own challenges and tactics compared to sieges. First, naval units of this era must end their turn in Coast tiles. Therefore, that really limits where they can be positioned during wars. However, this also means that certain deployment can happen to greatly complicate how combat works. If you look at the amateur paint drawing below, you'll see the naval unit's vision range of 2 highlighted. If a Coast tile is visible and there are not other naval units there, then your ship can cross the Ocean tile to reach that Coast tile. As long as you have enough movements to not end your turn on that Ocean tile, your ship can reach the reachable location. How is this useful? Depending on the map generation, you might have lots or very few of these single tile Ocean tiles. Essentially, knowing where they're at can make a huge difference in deploying your ships as the Coast tiles are normally one tile wide and logistics can become very tricky.
Now, what I'm about to explain might be niche but it's a nice to know information as there might be a few small situations where it can be useful. It's much more useful when it comes to exploration but naval engagements can go in your favor if you can outmaneuver the enemy. During a time when naval units are stuck on Coast tiles, this trick can result in some interesting developments. The order you perform this is quite important. First, you have the naval unit 1 moving as indicated in the screenshot. Now, this might not work and you might have to cross in the opposite direction of the arrow. Effectively, you want your naval unit 1 to be on the Ocean tile just left of the naval unit 2. That will reveal the tile with the Fish and, by revealing it and there are no units there, then naval unit 2 can cross two Ocean tiles that isn't possible if you only had one unit. It's a fun thing that you can try out. To my knowledge, the AI isn't capable of doing this unless all the stars align. Still, it's just more of a fun thing and you choose if you want to use this in your game or not.
With Triremes and Dromons needing to finish turn in Coast tile, their movements will decide on the outcome of many naval engagements. Triremes have 4 Movements and Dromons have Triremes have 3 Movements. Triremes can hit Dromons very hard so Dromons need friendly Triremes to act as screens. Screens are easier setup when the Coast tiles are usually 1 tile wide. However, this can also see a grind heavy approach where, at most, two units can be engaged in combat each turn along a long stretch of coast. Effectively, you have a Trireme engaging in melee while a Dromon fire off a shot if it's right behind the Trireme. These grueling combats can be rather painful so, if you can use the methods above to cross Ocean tiles and widen the front, you can see a lot more strategy in play.
There will be situations where you might have wider Coast tiles to work with and those can complicate the engagements more. Yet, the ZoC can still limit what you can do. Against AI, it's usually better to position friend ships at wider Coast tiles while forcing AI navy to operate in the narrow stretch. This will allow your ships more options while limiting your opponents. After you whittle down the enemy numbers, then you can use your numerical advantage to make a push on enemy cities or, if you face well defended cities, hold position until a peace deal is signed.
There will also be rare cases where you can get large lakes where naval engagements can be very interesting as you have a lot of space to work with like the screenshot below. While not all of those tiles are Coast tiles, there are two fronts and plenty of room to outflank enemy naval units. I haven't seen such a map for quite awhile but they do exist. Therefore, map generation can play a big role in how naval engagements will happen and knowing all the available tools can make a big deal.
One other thing to take into account during combat is a canal city. Salzburg in the screenshot is a canal city as it connects the 'lake' with the ocean. Not only can naval units move through coastal cities but they can also move onto Forts and Citadels. Therefore, you can have Forts and Citadels acting as canal too (though I'm not sure if they give defensive bonuses or not). One example of how canal cities/forts/citadels can be useful can be related to Salzburg in the screenshot below. Since my naval units within the 'lake' cannot reach the Coast tiles surrounding the continent as Portugal, Austrian naval units can heal on the other side and I cannot hit them unless I take Salzburg.
To be Continued...
You don't take cities with bare swordsmen? Promote them to city breakers, they are amazing.
I find that, although you need a few Triremes to establish naval supremacy, you need Dromons to project that offensively. Taking walled cities with Triremes is difficult, and counterfire can hurt.
Even when Spears become obsolete, you can find a use for them in just taking up space, whether that's defensively speaking (want to ZoC a tile) or offensively speaking, take up tiles to blockade a city (which can be pretty important to a Siege...). Blockading cities is a big part of Classical Era warfare for me, moreso if your force is melee-dominated.
I think it's usually better to just promote Siege on Catapults rather than Cover. Catapults are not meatshields.
Horsemen are great at dealing with Archers/Warriors (sometimes you get an AI that just spams these rather than make a true force) efficiently. It's surprising to me sometimes how much I fight Warriors/Archers in my games.
Skirmishers I think truly excel at defense, since you very rarely have to put the Skirmisher itself at risk in a defensive war, and Skirmishers with Road support is just awesome. Situations where I have found them useful on the offense have been at picking down reinforcements/strays-you don't want a pesky Spear or Horse to mess up your formation or blockade, and that's where Skirmishers excel at, just driving off small parties.
Those are my thoughts and experiences on Classical Era warfare, adding to what you wrote.
The issue, at least for my games, is that getting to the city can be the tougher factor. If the Swordsmen are city breakers, they won't do as well clearing the way to the city. I generally like some ranged support as those can make things easier and faster in the long run. Healing up Swordsmen afterwards take time and, on higher difficulties, the time can give the AI time to recover.
I agree that Dromons are quite vital. One problem is they get attacked as well due to only 3 movements so their contribution can be limited. In addition, certain maps can make them harder to use like a single tile wide Coast.
I used to use Spears quite a bit but, since trying out Horsemen, I find Spears not as worthwhile as a mobile force can be more dangerous regardless if the terrain is open or rough. If people have options for Swordsmen, I'd go for them as they can survive much better. And you are right about blockading cities. However, those Spears don't last long enough to maintain a blockade for long, at least in my games.
I said Cover II as a possibility. I never go for it and I actually normally promote Field over Siege. I find the damage of Catapult adequate and it's mostly clearing a way to the cities that offer the most resistance. Maybe you can explain to me why you go Siege over Field?
Horsemen also do well against Spears where they just run circle around the enemy unit. You are right about Horsemen destroying Archers/Warriors. That's what makes Horsemen rush so powerful, especially when your opponent lacks walls.
Defensively, Skirmishers can do wonders as they do make really good use of Road. As for offensively, I like to use them to scout a bit while just chipping away at enemies. Rough terrain sees them really hard to take down and I use that to eventually break through enemy lines. Regardless of small parties or large forces, Skirmishers can strike where they're needed and, with lots of wounded units, the AI doesn't always make great decisions.
I do appreciate the thoughts and experiences! Like I said, this should be a community thing and people can share their ideas. I can only share my play style but there are others that may work better. Thanks!
I never did mess around with mounted units much until moving up to immortal difficulty. Just recently, I had to go through the hell of fighting a run away russia in the medieval era spamming heavy skirmishers with mt kilamanjaro on a continent with hills just everywhere. It was awful, she had already ripped apart two civs with her skirmisher spam. I thought I could fight them with pikes and comp bows like I usually do but they were annihilated. Eventually did manage to break her by swarming the skirmishers with knights and my own skirmishers once I got the techs (and actual tactics! Landing a flanking force to stall reinforcements to the front lines, pillage caravans and roads) but it was pretty close. God bless mounted units.
By the way, I've never managed to get a city blockaded. I've heard that all you have to do is surround the city with units but that never worked for me. Maybe simething to cover in this guide as well? Ahahaha...
Mounted units are no joke for sure! They are just very powerful but they aren't the best defensively. It does sound like a nightmare indeed and I know how that feels. I had Songhai with that Natural Wonder so hills and rivers were my mounted units' best friends. Once you see their strengths, they are unbelievably powerful. Melee units do have their place but it's more terrain specific.
As for blockades, it's literally surround the city with units. I'll add some screenshots here once I find an old game and the time. It's very powerful for sure and you'll find yourself taking cities a lot faster! Like mounted units, you'll fall in love with it!
Thanks those screenshots are super helpful. You know, I never looked for a sieged icon, I had always thought that there was a -20% city combat strength modifier that I would be able to see (someone told me so in yt comments). Do you have to wait a turn for the status effect to apply? That might be why I always screwed it up. Very useful tip with the naval blockades too! You know I reckon you could pull that off with embarked units in super niche scenarioes.
Didn't get a chance to play today, I'll try out all these tips tomorrow maybe
No problem! Feel free to ask questions! That's how I learned to play as there are lots of helpful people on this forum. The blockade icon has a slight delay but it will show up when you attack as seen below (see screenshot below). I generally wait until the icon comes up so I know I'm getting the extra 20% bonus. And embarked units can't blockade so you need naval units in order to do so. That's what makes Lakes such a pain to deal with when it's adjacent to a city.
I just shoot at Cities more often than Units with my Catapults (I tend to keep them back and out of the way until the Siege starts, otherwise they're in danger and clog up space Ranged/Melee should be using), so I feel that it's getting me more bang for my buck. Siege I-II ---> Volley is my standard path.
I haven't actually experimented much with Field. I just go Field when I get a siege unit as a City-State gift, or in cases like if I'm playing Ottomans (already have Volley, so go Field for Logistics).
I believe that Field II also unlocks Volley. Does Siege I and II make that big of a difference here? Field just seems to have so much more versatility for me whether I want to take down cities or multiple units.
Well, Siege I-II means you'll have +30% vs. Cities compared to Field I-II, taking into account that Siege gives +10% CS as opposed to Field giving +5% CS. You lose +10% vs. Wounded Units and have +10% more than Field vs. full health units (again, taking into account the base CS% differences of both paths). I feel like that's a clear tilt towards Siege for me. The big advantage of Field is Logistics, though, but early on, I think Siege wins by a longshot.
Siege also allows for extra range, which is very helpful (can hit cities earlier, can use more safe spots for your siege units). A mix of siege and field is good to have, too. Use your logistic cannon near the city, and a couple of extra range cannons farther away. This is easier to protect and gets the job done.
Unit Composition IV
Medieval Era vs. Classical Era
Medieval Era offers a new set of challenges compared to Classical Era, both on land and sea. If you can be the first to enter Medieval Era, then you can have a number of important advantages. Let's see below what sort of advantages you can unlock.
This technology is usually pursued by somewhat peaceful civ or those who can greatly benefit from the technology. For Tradition civs, the University of Sankore is a vital part of your kit so Education is generally what you pursue as the first tech in Medieval. However, this approach is only encouraged when you know that your neighbors aren't going to threaten you. If you are on very good terms with neighbors or have easily defensible positions against attacks, then Education is the way to go. The University and Oxford University are both stellar for any civs regardless of what victory you are pursuing. If you are leading in technology, then this tech can help you widen the gap more. If you are behind (but confident in your ability to defend yourself), then this tech can help you close the gap so you can eventually find a good opportunity to strike. This tech, like Writing in Classical Era, is designed for the long term while making you rather vulnerable in the short term, moreso than when you're in Classical Era (as we'll see why below).
This technology is similar in Education where it makes you vulnerable but, if you survive, then you'll be much further ahead. One thing that makes Theology different from Education is the fact that it focuses on Faith and not Science. Hagia Sophia and Borobudur are both valuable acquisitions for civs that want to dominate in the religious competition. A free Prophet can result in faster enhancement while more uses from Missionaries guarantees a Reformation. Then, there's also the Grand Temple that makes all Temples provide more yields to further strengthen you religious game. Another difference between Theology and Education is the timing of their impact. Depending on what you pick for enhancements and Reformation, you can get a boost immediately or a boost later in the game. However, these boosts aren't to be underestimated. One thing to note is that Follower beliefs and Reformation beliefs also benefit those who fully adopted a religion so beware who you spread your religion to if you don't want a more dangerous neighbor. For example, your neighbor will be tougher to defeat if you picked Defender of the Faith and that neighbor adopted your religion.
If there's a defining war focused tech in the Medieval era, then Chivalry has to be number one on the list. First, this tech unlocks a very powerful unit, the Knight. If Horsemen were dangerous in the Classical Era, then the Knight is a threat with very little counters when it's first unlocked. If you researched this tech before any of your neighbors, then you will have a rather large military spike that AIs will struggle to have an answer to. The various units like Composite Bowmen and Swordsmen are nothing compared to this unit that boasts a CS of 25 and has 4 Movements. High mobility and strong CS makes this unit a huge threat to any composition. If you planned ahead and got a couple Horsemen for upgrades prior to finishing researching Chivalry, then your next war will be considerably easier, especially if you opponent is still stuck in the Classical era. Time the Knights well and there will be no equals in wars.
Next, Chivalry also unlocks the Castle. You might wonder why a defensive building matters here. One thing you have to realize is that, when your cities are tougher to take, they require less units to defend. As a result, you can spare more units on the front line with an enemy and those extra units, if used properly can help you crush the enemy resistance far faster. Before the AI unlocks the Trebuchet, a city with Castle will be a nightmare to take. If you have settled in a good location, then that city might as well be close to impossible until maybe Industrial era. Ensuring that your front line cities are well fortified will make wars easier so something like a very wide front is ill advised unless you are very confident with your ability to fight your neighbors.
Then, we have the Alhambra. If you went Authority, then this is a must have Wonder since it provides your units built and to be built in the city a free Drill I promotion. Free promotions are so powerful as they allow you to access better promotions sooner like Blitz and Stalwart. This is why it's important to get those Horsemen built sooner since now you can change the capital's production to the Alhambra to help immediately and in future wars.
So far, the three items above are all very strong. Then, we have the Stables that's a bit weird for its timing. You hopefully are ready for war a few turns after researching Chivalry as this gives you a big edge against the enemy. Stables can give cities with lots of pasture improved resources a decent amount of Production but that should be for the future, not when the tech was unlocked. Still, it can be a rather strong building in certain circumstances. However, it's just not an immediate help to your civ and that doesn't make it good for your upcoming wars where you timed to take advantage of Knights.
This tech, while not defining as Chivalry, is still quite powerful as it provides you two extremely powerful units. First, it provides the Heavy Skirmisher which are not to be underestimated. Like Skirmishers when they first become available in the Classical Era, Heavy Skirmishers are certainly a great threat against enemies who have yet to reach the Medieval Era. Unlike Skirmishers, Heavy Skirmishers have practically no counters against units in the previous era. While Spearmen can potentially ruin a Skirmisher's day and a Horsemen can force a Skirmisher to withdraw to fight another day, Heavy Skirmishers face no such threat until the enemy entered Medieval Era.
Then, you have the Trebuchets which will destroy cities that only have Walls. Since your enemy still hasn't reached Medieval Era, then none of its cities have Castles. With a handful of Trebuchets, you can make quick work of cities as they'll take chunks out of the city health. While Trebuchets still can't take melee hits very well, the effort to escort them is still well worth it. By having Heavy Skirmishers clear out enemy units between you and cities, the Trebuchets will then put a quick end to the war by doing what they do best. Physics, in my opinion, is a close second when it comes to its impact on war compared to Chivalry. More often than not, I'd go Chivalry first because I'd rather not fight wars where the enemy has Knights and I don't.
I don't know about other players but I usually put Steel at a lower priority than Chivalry and Physics (unless UU are involved). It's true that Steel does unlock the Armory and that extra promotion can be a big deal. It's also it unlocks the Landsknechts for Authority civ while unlocking Pikemen and Longswordsmen for everyone. However, it takes time to build Armory and get units from those units when you need to make use of the window of opportunity when you are just more powerful than your enemy. In addition, the Landsknechts, as nice as it is, cannot be compared to the Alhambra that will benefit both short term and long term. Therefore, authority civs should prioritize Chivalry as opposed to Steel. This isn't a bad tech but it doesn't provide the same sort of benefits as Chivalry and Physics when you are ahead in tech.
Classical Era vs. Medieval Era
If your neighbor unlocks this while you're still in Classical Era, then you need to act quickly. Education unlocks University for the AI and that can give them an even bigger tech lead. If your neighbor gets further and further ahead, then your future will get tougher and tougher as your neighbor will become that much more dangerous. If that neighbor also went for Tradition, then this AI will go for University of Sankore to get a further boost. Here, we have a couple of responses to this neighbor.
First, we can go for Chivalry to unlock Knights and use war to cripple this neighbor. This will make the neighbor weaker and you stronger. Secondly, you can go for Education as well so you can get Universities and not lag too far behind in tech. You aim to eventually find an opportunity to pass this neighbor. Finally, you can also go the religious route to create a very powerful religion and, in the meantime, use TR, spies and other methods to catch up in tech eventually. Of course, the last two methods requires you to be friendly with your neighbor and, from my experience, the leaders are usually relatively peaceful (Morocco, India, Brazil) unless some warmonger has already snowballed.
We'll assume that you have gotten your own religion because it's such a powerful tool and can be the difference between a win and loss on higher difficulties. We'll also assume that the neighbor also has a religion which's why the AI went for this tech. This could be a problem if that neighbor chooses to go after the Wonders available since it can give the AI a spike in religious strength with either an enhancement of the religion or just spam Missionaries more to convert everything to its religion. For those who experienced an aggressive religious neighbor, they know that it can cause problems and force you to waste faith on Inquisitors and/or Missionaries that you otherwise wouldn't use. While it's not an immediate threat like a upcoming war, it's a different war altogether that you don't want to neglect about.
If you discovered that your neighbor got Chivalry and you aren't close to Medieval era, then you should prepare for a gruesome war unless you are on very good terms with that neighbor. For AIs on higher difficulties, they can mass quite a bit few Knights and they will be an absolute pain to deal with. The Knights great mobility and high CS make them tanks of the Medieval Era. However, this doesn't mean that you can't beat an AI when you're at such a disadvantage. You just have to hope that the AI is busy with another neighbor so you won't feel the full brunt of the attack. Of course, it always seem like that we are the only one at war with a dangerous neighbor so we'll assume that's the case.
When facing Knights, we have tools at our disposal that, while pale against a Knights in a 1 versus 1, can allow us to put a decent resistance to buy time so we'll have Knights of our own. First, the Composite Bowmen is a critical piece to your army composition if they can stay somewhere safe like city or behind friendly units. Now, you might think that Composite Bowmen don't have enough RCS to threaten a Knight. That's true but the purchase of these ranged units isn't just their firepower. Their Medic I and II promotions will be so critical, especially if you went for the Pantheon, Goddess of Protection. The extra survivability will make a huge difference in how long you can delay the enemy.
Secondly, you need mobile units of your own. While Horsemen do pale against Knights, they are useful in picking off badly wounded Knights and withdraw to a safe location to heal up and repeat. Skirmishers also do this pretty well and, if you use your roads properly, they can actually keep them at full health so they can contribute to the entire war. Basically, these units have a guerrilla warfare. For this to happen, you will need meat shields whose purpose is slowing or halting enemy advances until you get your own Knights, Here, good terrain and choke points can make a huge difference. Finally, you, if your city is coastal, can actually support with Dromon to further weaken the enemy offensive.
Many might be wondering why I'm discussing defensive measures when the thread is about offensive wars. I can assure you that, if you are lagging in tech and face Knights that you haven't unlocked, pushing forward is suicide. Those Knights will easily dispatch your forces in an "even" battlefield and there's little you can do to defeat them unless you have UU or UA that can give you a massive boost in combat (like the Iroquois Mohawk Warrior in an area filled with Forests and/or Jungle). The purpose of the defensive measures is to whittle the enemy down so you have less enemy units to deal with when you finally do march towards enemy cities. Assuming that you went Authority, you'd have gain plenty of Science from kills to get the necessary techs to actually challenge your neighbors. If there's one thing I learned, it's that we use every advantage we have to win. If that means fighting defensive early on to weaken the enemy before making a big push, then I'll do it without hesitation.
While facing off against a neighbor possessing Chivalry is quite terrifying, you should be more worried against an AI with Physics. Why? Those Trebuchets will make short work of your cities that Knights, despite their capabilities, cannot compare. Heavy Skirmishers will also ruin your meat shields very quickly and as a result quickly dispatch your front line. For those who have fought against mounted ranged units, they know that kiting is a very frustrating thing to deal with. Lacking the necessary units to fight Heavy Skirmishers while cities are falling quickly, you will be tempted to go very aggressive as a defensive mentality will only work in favor of the enemy. Proper city placements can mitigate this to a certain degree but, as the pattern seems to suggest, it's rarely a good idea to fall behind in important technologies.
What compositions can help you here? A mobile core might be your only hope along with good uses of Roads. You need Skirmishers to whittle down enemy forces with some support from Composite Bowmen. While it seems obvious that attacking Trebuchet with Horsemen is a no brainer, you must realize that the AI is pretty good so those opportunities won't appear unless you literally punch a hole in the enemy front line. In addition, a trade is never a good idea when the AI can generally produce units faster and can afford to lose one unit when it clearly has an edge. Front line units like Spearmen and Swordsmen will do poorly unless the terrain really helps them like a good choke point where they can't be attacked easily by enemy ranged units.
I don't think I've ever seen an AI beeline this tech unless it has a UU or UB that's unlocked by Steel. Therefore, I don't know what to know about this tech until I get to UU or UB since those have different scenarios behind them. If you do encounter this, do note that the strategy with Chivalry and Physics still apply but you'll facing a weaker threat due to limited mobility of the units.
To be continued...
If I go Fealty, going for Castles/Chivalry can also be good for that reason too (though I think your Culture has to be pretty strong for you to reach that policy before the tech). I don't usually go for Steel first unless for UU reasons as well (I just realized though there are two Tercio UUs and no Pike UUs, other than Landscknecht...)
I sometimes find myself in scenarios where, even though the majority of my army might not be Horse based, building Knights is easier and more beneficial than upgrading my existing army.
Isn't Polynesia's unique unit a pikeman?
Yep, but it's available at Chivalry instead of Steel IIRC
Right, forgot that one. I was thinking of Pike UUs I would go to Steel for so that's why it didn't come to mind.
Sometimes I feel like maybe Impi should go back to being a Pike UU. It feels thematically odd for it to replace Tercio. But the timing of it for war is incredible.
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