Limited Unit Stacking

Putmalk

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It's been a long time since I've put on my game designer hat on :king:, and I rarely believe this is an original idea, but figured I'd create a thread and chime in with my two cents anyway. My hope is this thread spawns a meaningful discussion about how a limited unit stacking gameplay mechanic could work, and have someone implement it (maybe Firaxis won't implement it, but maybe it could be modded in via DLL if Civ 7 has it, or if we have to make the changes to Civ 5 instead.

Problem Statement
I've been playing a lot of Civ 4 recently, and the game is more challenging and feels more fun than Civ 5 or Civ 6 does, mainly because the AI can take better advantage of unit stacking, as it's a simpler system for the AI to manage. However, Civ 5 / 6's combat system does have its own merits, making the terrain way more of a factor, and allowing human players to better strategize. I'll make a brief pros / cons of 1UPT, but this has been discussed to death so I will keep it rather brief. Feel free to skip this if you've read it all before.

Pros of 1UPTPros of Unit Stacking
Heavier emphasis on tacticsHeavier emphasis on strategy
Each individual unit is more impactfulAI is more effective at playing with stacking due to simplicity
Ranged units have an opportunity to thriveCan create and support more units without clogging up the game board
Sieges are possible: It's possible to meaningfully surround cities and prevent sufficient defense from within the cityMovement is less restricted

Okay so the above is a pretty small summary and there's probably a lot more points to discuss about the differences / benefits of 1UPT vs unit stacking. Let's get to the proposal instead.

Limited Unit Stacking by Combat Class
I propose a limited stacking system that divides units into classes and changes via technology. Here's how I might divide it:
  1. Melee Units (warriors, knights, infantry, tanks, destroyers, etc.)
  2. Ranged Units (archers, crossbowman, battleships, etc.)
  3. Siege Units (catapults, battering rams, trebuchets, etc.)
  4. Support Units (medics, observation balloons, etc.)
And I would have a progression in the game that represents how civilizations became more militarily complex over time. Note, I would tie these to either the tech or cultural tree so that you have to make a conscious choice to invest in better army comps over time in order to take advantage of it. This allows civs going for domination to prioritize these techs so they can further their domination goals:

Ancient / Classical Era: 1 Melee Unit, 1 Ranged Unit, 1 Siege Unit
Medieval / Renaissance Era: 2 Melee Units, 1 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Industrial / Modern Era: 3 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Atomic / Information Era: 4 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 2 Support Units
Future Era: 4 Melee Units, 3 Ranged Units, 2 Siege Units, 2 Support Units

Here are my design goals when deciding the above:
  1. Players should have to consciously tech into these army comps in order to take advantage of them (some investment to become stronger militarily). An alternative might be to gate these better comps behind a National Project (similar to Government Plaza buildings?)
  2. Players that invest in better army comps should have an advantage in battle. Players that choose not to should invest in better defenses to defend against civs that do, but should struggle to defend against comps unless they keep their defenses up to date.
  3. You should be able to field more melee units than ranged units. This is because Ranged units are much better than melee due to being able to hit units very far away, so limited their uses would be better.
  4. Siege units shouldn't be too stackable, because the number of city shots you can get might make it too easily to take down cities. Also, siege units should have a range of 1 always, so that you can at most take 6 shots at a city that's surrounded, and will need to invest in units to defend them.
Here's an example of potential systems that could interact with this stacking system:
  1. Government / Civic / Policy Card system
  2. World Wonder system
  3. Leader / Civ Bonuses
  4. Tech / Civic system
Here's an example of potential effects by the above systems:
  1. +1 Melee unit in stack
  2. +1 Ranged unit in stack
  3. +1 Support unit in stack
  4. Melee or ranged slots replaced with "Wildcard" slots (i.e. you can put a melee or ranged unit in the stack)
Anyways, this is just an idea, curious to hear comments. I think it would add some nice complexity to the game, but be easier for the AI to successfully launch sieges. It would also allow reduction of production costs for units, but still maintain the "spirit" of 1UPT. Obviously, there should still be unit support caps, and units should freely be able to move between stacks, as long as there's an available space for them to move.

I would also consider removing 1UPT for civilian units, as it adds a layer of frustration that I believe does not need to exist in the game.
 

Naokaukodem

Millenary King
Joined
Aug 8, 2003
Messages
3,619
Ancient / Classical Era: 1 Melee Unit, 1 Ranged Unit, 1 Siege Unit
Medieval / Renaissance Era: 2 Melee Units, 1 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Industrial / Modern Era: 3 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Atomic / Information Era: 4 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 2 Support Units
Future Era: 4 Melee Units, 3 Ranged Units, 2 Siege Units, 2 Support Units

I don't think it fits a model of simplicity developers ought to implement in the game... I think the number of units should stay the same during the whole game, like 1 each when unlocked.

Other than that, I would keep the light/heavy cavalry class distinction from Civ6, because it can be used to kill weak armies/give more power to your armies.
 

Putmalk

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Messages
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Location
New York
I don't think it fits a model of simplicity developers ought to implement in the game... I think the number of units should stay the same during the whole game, like 1 each when unlocked.

Other than that, I would keep the light/heavy cavalry class distinction from Civ6, because it can be used to kill weak armies/give more power to your armies.

I opted to have a limited number of siege units, and less ranged units than melee units, for balance purposes. Imagine a city surrounded on all 6 hexes, with 2 siege units per hex, the city's defenses would immediately crumble...I think it's a powerful bonus that should be delayed until late game. And also imagine the sheer number of ranged units attacking a city at once, since they're also stacked with melee units.

Re: heavy/light cavalry distinction: I don't think my system would prevent that at all, you could just stick them in Melee unit slots instead, and you would have a choice to fill them with any type of cavalry that you'd like.
 

Naokaukodem

Millenary King
Joined
Aug 8, 2003
Messages
3,619

Patine

Deity
Joined
Feb 14, 2011
Messages
9,050
It's been a long time since I've put on my game designer hat on :king:, and I rarely believe this is an original idea, but figured I'd create a thread and chime in with my two cents anyway. My hope is this thread spawns a meaningful discussion about how a limited unit stacking gameplay mechanic could work, and have someone implement it (maybe Firaxis won't implement it, but maybe it could be modded in via DLL if Civ 7 has it, or if we have to make the changes to Civ 5 instead.

Problem Statement
I've been playing a lot of Civ 4 recently, and the game is more challenging and feels more fun than Civ 5 or Civ 6 does, mainly because the AI can take better advantage of unit stacking, as it's a simpler system for the AI to manage. However, Civ 5 / 6's combat system does have its own merits, making the terrain way more of a factor, and allowing human players to better strategize. I'll make a brief pros / cons of 1UPT, but this has been discussed to death so I will keep it rather brief. Feel free to skip this if you've read it all before.

Pros of 1UPTPros of Unit Stacking
Heavier emphasis on tacticsHeavier emphasis on strategy
Each individual unit is more impactfulAI is more effective at playing with stacking due to simplicity
Ranged units have an opportunity to thriveCan create and support more units without clogging up the game board
Sieges are possible: It's possible to meaningfully surround cities and prevent sufficient defense from within the cityMovement is less restricted

Okay so the above is a pretty small summary and there's probably a lot more points to discuss about the differences / benefits of 1UPT vs unit stacking. Let's get to the proposal instead.

Limited Unit Stacking by Combat Class
I propose a limited stacking system that divides units into classes and changes via technology. Here's how I might divide it:
  1. Melee Units (warriors, knights, infantry, tanks, destroyers, etc.)
  2. Ranged Units (archers, crossbowman, battleships, etc.)
  3. Siege Units (catapults, battering rams, trebuchets, etc.)
  4. Support Units (medics, observation balloons, etc.)
And I would have a progression in the game that represents how civilizations became more militarily complex over time. Note, I would tie these to either the tech or cultural tree so that you have to make a conscious choice to invest in better army comps over time in order to take advantage of it. This allows civs going for domination to prioritize these techs so they can further their domination goals:

Ancient / Classical Era: 1 Melee Unit, 1 Ranged Unit, 1 Siege Unit
Medieval / Renaissance Era: 2 Melee Units, 1 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Industrial / Modern Era: 3 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 1 Support Unit
Atomic / Information Era: 4 Melee Units, 2 Ranged Units, 1 Siege Unit, 2 Support Units
Future Era: 4 Melee Units, 3 Ranged Units, 2 Siege Units, 2 Support Units

Here are my design goals when deciding the above:
  1. Players should have to consciously tech into these army comps in order to take advantage of them (some investment to become stronger militarily). An alternative might be to gate these better comps behind a National Project (similar to Government Plaza buildings?)
  2. Players that invest in better army comps should have an advantage in battle. Players that choose not to should invest in better defenses to defend against civs that do, but should struggle to defend against comps unless they keep their defenses up to date.
  3. You should be able to field more melee units than ranged units. This is because Ranged units are much better than melee due to being able to hit units very far away, so limited their uses would be better.
  4. Siege units shouldn't be too stackable, because the number of city shots you can get might make it too easily to take down cities. Also, siege units should have a range of 1 always, so that you can at most take 6 shots at a city that's surrounded, and will need to invest in units to defend them.
Here's an example of potential systems that could interact with this stacking system:
  1. Government / Civic / Policy Card system
  2. World Wonder system
  3. Leader / Civ Bonuses
  4. Tech / Civic system
Here's an example of potential effects by the above systems:
  1. +1 Melee unit in stack
  2. +1 Ranged unit in stack
  3. +1 Support unit in stack
  4. Melee or ranged slots replaced with "Wildcard" slots (i.e. you can put a melee or ranged unit in the stack)
Anyways, this is just an idea, curious to hear comments. I think it would add some nice complexity to the game, but be easier for the AI to successfully launch sieges. It would also allow reduction of production costs for units, but still maintain the "spirit" of 1UPT. Obviously, there should still be unit support caps, and units should freely be able to move between stacks, as long as there's an available space for them to move.

I would also consider removing 1UPT for civilian units, as it adds a layer of frustration that I believe does not need to exist in the game.
Personally, I've never felt stacks are a big problem. Having dealt with them from Civ2 MGE and ToT, with a number of available mods that prevent one-shot defender stack kills, and Civ3, and not having played Civ5, personally, the only issue I've ever come across is aircraft sitting in defending stacks causing issues. I'm not sure how Civ5 does the issue, but it's never bothered me in the forms I've played, and the 1UPT think is far too restrictive, annoying, and gamey for my optimal preference, and this limited stack scheme seems to have little but gameyness to add to the feel of play, either, as I would foresee.
 

DeckerdJames

Warlord
Joined
Nov 1, 2019
Messages
132
Maybe the Unit layer can be more abstracted from the hex grid as if the hex grid doesn't exist. Instead you produce larger units like companies, battalions, brigades, etc. Larger groups are assembled from smaller ones and can consist of whatever you want. They have movement points but not based on whole hexes. Instead a single hex might be 6 units across and a particular group might move at an 8.

It is basically a stack but it might span over multiple hexes but it doesn't have to fit to the hex grid exactly. You might see lots of little tanks, infantry, mounted depending on what you have, all under one banner. You move it around like a single unit but it shape shifts based on the terrain.

You can give it orders, like having it dig in. You would click that button and a preview mode would begin. You could scroll the mouse wheel through different kinds of formations based on how you want them to fortify. Which direction the front is. Multiple fronts. Spread out. Close ranks. Etc.

The strategy would be in how you make up the groups and what you use them for. You don't micro the individual parts of the army but you can split the army or group up at any time. Battles can take place over multiple turns or in a single turn if the is a great imbalance between the size or strength of opposing armies.

When you battle, your army and the opposing army might cover multiple hexes. You are presented with an appropriate number of melee strikes and range strikes based on the group makeup and the proximity of your army to the opposing army. To make choices each strike appears on the part of the army that has the strike capability as a little bubble. When you click the bubble and drag, it drags an arrow out to what you want to attack. You click all the available strike bubbles and drag all the arrows out. Then you can look at your plan which will appear as flat arrows where the melee attacks will occur and arcing arrows where the ranged attacks will occur. Make any adjustments and when satisfied you click the combat button and it will animate the battle round.

Also, perhaps there can be strike or move options to choose from on different parts of the army, so during a battle there is micro of parts of the army. Outside of battle it just looks like a big army you move around as a single unit, but it can look more scaled down to the terrain at the appropriate size.

So like a stack but as you assemble it, it gets bigger, but still moves as one army.
 
Last edited:

Patine

Deity
Joined
Feb 14, 2011
Messages
9,050
Maybe the Unit layer can be more abstracted from the hex grid as if the hex grid doesn't exist. Instead you produce larger units like companies, battalions, brigades, etc. Larger groups are assembled from smaller ones and can consist of whatever you want. They have movement points but not based on whole hexes. Instead a single hex might be 6 units across and a particular group might move at an 8.

It is basically a stack but it might span over multiple hexes but it doesn't have to fit to the hex grid exactly. You might see lots of little tanks, infantry, mounted depending on what you have, all under one banner. You move it around like a single unit but it shape shifts based on the terrain.

You can give it orders, like having it dig in. You would click that button and a preview mode would begin. You could scroll the mouse wheel through different kinds of formations based on how you want them to fortify. Which direction the front is. Multiple fronts. Spread out. Close ranks. Etc.

The strategy would be in how you make up the groups and what you use them for. You don't micro the individual parts of the army but you can split the army or group up at any time. Battles can take place over multiple turns or in a single turn if the is a great imbalance between the size or strength of opposing armies.

When you battle, your army and the opposing army might cover multiple hexes. You are presented with an appropriate number of melee strikes and range strikes based on the group makeup and the proximity of your army to the opposing army. To make choices each strike appears on the part of the army that has the strike capability as a little bubble. When you click the bubble and drag, it drags an arrow out to what you want to attack. You click all the available strike bubbles and drag all the arrows out. Then you can look at your plan which will appear as flat arrows where the melee attacks will occur and arcing arrows where the ranged attacks will occur. Make any adjustments and when satisfied you click the combat button and it will animate the battle round.

Also, perhaps there can be strike or move options to choose from on different parts of the army, so during a battle there is micro of parts of the army. Outside of battle it just looks like a big army you move around as a single unit, but it can look more scaled down to the terrain at the appropriate size.

So like a stack but as you assemble it, it gets bigger, but still moves as one army.
I still don't see any justification, other than the purest of blatant gameyness, for any such limits, given the scope and scale of most Civ-iteration game maps.
 

DeckerdJames

Warlord
Joined
Nov 1, 2019
Messages
132
I still don't see any justification, other than the purest of blatant gameyness, for any such limits, given the scope and scale of most Civ-iteration game maps.
I think the concept could work if it was implemented correctly and still feel strategic while relieving some of the micro intensity.
 

MatterSack

Chieftain
Joined
Oct 3, 2022
Messages
5
I think unlimited unit stacking would be fine as well tbh (and much, much simpler).

Stacking units comes with its own drawbacks, like those units exerting less map control and having to move at the speed of their slowest constituent in order to remain together.

Maybe if artillery/bombers/etc (or even other attacks too, to a lesser degree?) could damage every unit on a hex, stacks would be more of a risk and players would be better able to attack heavily-garrisoned cities.
 

poliet

Chieftain
Joined
Nov 3, 2022
Messages
1
I like the idea a lot and it reflects the current reality very well. However, I wouldn't put this to work at the beginning of the game.

Perhaps this could work after having researched "Military Science". I would suggest a max of 2 units to be able to stack into a so-called "Battalion".

A battalion acts as one new unit and will have distinct advantages/disadvantages:
- When combining two melee units it has a combined strength of +40% of the weaker unit (with a mininum of the strongest unit in the stack).
- Can move one tile per turn unless both units have been promoted with "Logistics" OR a great general is around. Then the unit can move at the pace of the slowest unit in the stack.
- When combining a ranged and melee unit, the ranged unit keeps their original attack strength without bonus; however, the meelee strength has the aforementioned 50% boost and without penalty when the unit is damaged, which makes it more difficut to take out the ranged unit.
- When combining two ranged units, ranged attacks have the +40% aforementioned boost, but melee strength remains at the original value.
- Stacking/unstacking ceases immediately the unit's attacking ability (like upgrade).
- Stacking three units with a 60% bonus can be an option for certain wonders, e.g. Pentagon
 
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