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Poll: Should Defensive Pacts be nerfed?

Discussion in 'General Balance' started by ElliotS, Jun 26, 2020.

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Poll: Should Defensive Pacts be nerfed? (We can discuss solution, only vote on if this is a problem)

This poll will close on Jul 10, 2020 at 12:21 PM.
  1. Yes

    19 vote(s)
    79.2%
  2. No

    5 vote(s)
    20.8%
  1. ElliotS

    ElliotS Warmonger

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    There has been discussion in the AI diplomacy thread that defensive pacts can turn into problems when most of the map locks itself up in large defensive blocks. (Often without the player able to find anyone to partner with.)

    It has been said that there is very little counter-play available, which makes the option feel overpowered.

    Currently there is a long formula that leads to an average of 1 defensive pact wanted, with a potential of many more.

    I only see defensive pacts as a problem in those corner-cases where the AIs get real buddy-buddy and form large defensive coalitions.

    I will quote some of the arguments made below, but I felt breaking it out of the 18-19th page of a thread into it's own was justified.

    My personal solution is to limit defensive pacts to 1, unless the cold war resolution passes which would increase it to 2, or the freedom policy that gets votes for DPs is taken, which would take away the limit for the person who selected it.

    This would have no effect most games where defensive pacts are not a problem (Normally AIs want 1 pact.) but would remove the corner-case issues where aggression is totally stalled out by giant walls of AI solidarity.

    To be clear though, this is not the specific solution we're voting on, just my take on how to solve it.

    Spoiler Post Quotes(Context) :





     
  2. kawyua

    kawyua Warlord

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    I said this before but, the egregious part of defensive pacts is that there is no turn timer notification on defensive pacts. There IS a counterplay to defensive pacts which is declaring war right when a defensive pact ends, but as there is no notification, no ui that tells when it will end. so in the late game when i'm often facing defensive pact coalitions I have to reload 50 turns ago multiple times to see what exact turn that an ai did a defensive pact. The fact that this is correct play annoys me every single time i play domination. your solution is okay, i dont know, I just want some clarity.
     
  3. Tekamthi

    Tekamthi Prince

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    i think its worth mentioning that the large defensive blocks are much more common in 43-civ... i am undecided if this is a problem but the issue is very clear in these games
     
  4. Vhozite

    Vhozite Chieftain

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    I think better communication is something we all can agree on. Right I feel like I’m totally unaware that a DoW could potentially start a world war until my army is on someone’s doorstep and I see 1 or 2 extra names on the “are you sure you want to declare?” screen.

    Pretty sure I mentioned this in the other thread, but a notification when DP’s forms or ends similar to DoF would be nice. The game already tells you but the info is sort of hidden, which makes it tedious to monitor.
     
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  5. JamesNinelives

    JamesNinelives Emperor

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    I appreciate you making this thread, it makes a lot of sense to gather the discussion on this subject in one place. I think the poll would have been more useful if it had options like 'nerfed a little' or 'nerfed a lot' though. I would support one but not the other.
    My view is this tends to only be the case when a player neglects diplomacy in favour of other things. If nobody wants to be friends with you there's usually a reason for that. E.g. you're building all the wonders, allied all the city-states, claimed a lot of territory or been aggressive towards towards other civs. In some cases (e.g. Deity difficulty) you may not have the luxury of being able to win by playing nice, but I would argue that's a feature of picking the hardest setting to play on.

    Of course, it's not always obvious how to work that part of the system to get it to work in your favour. One option to help make this the case is what @kawyua said: make the expiration time of Defensive Pacts visible. This certainly weakens them and tbh I feel it makes part of the function a lot less useful. If I'm trying to protect a small nation with many enemies it's a bit cheap if they just wait on the borders for our treaty to run out, and hope I forget to visit Vienna to renew their lifeline. On the other hand, it's a lot less effort for the AI to check if a treaty is still valid every turn than it is for a player, and I would prefer this to more radical changes.

    Limiting the number of defensive pacts a civ is able to make has been talked about a lot. I think a hard limit of 1 under most circumstances is too severe, and while it will make starting wars easier it will also devalue investment in diplomatic relations. Perhaps more importantly, I think it will have the unintended consequence or making it harder for players to get defensive pacts than it is already. If part of the criticism of DPs is that the players rarely benefits from them; I don't see reducing how the number of DPs available is going to fix that.

    I agree that a civ being allied with everyone except you is silly; that's no fun for anyone. But one half of the world against the other, 2 against 3 or even 2 against 4 doesn't seem unrealistic. One DP at a time would make those kind of dynamics much rarer. Particularly for larger maps where the standard competition is 8 or 12 civs, it reduces the potential nuances in diplomatic play. Something that might reduce the extremes but keep the richness in the middle-ground would be a higher limit like 2, or 3. That still has little impact on smaller maps though - where 3 civs might be the entire rest of the world. So I would say that ideally the number of defensive pacts should scale with map size the way religions do. E.g 1 on smaller maps, 2 on standard, and 3 or 4 on larger maps.
    People seem to forget there are counter-plays for DPs. You can join an existing war, bribe someone to declare war against your target first, or agree to a joint war that a common enemy has offered you. In some cases you can just wait for the DP to expire - you don't need to check every turn, every 4 or 5 turns will do. If the civ you are targeting is doing something like conquering cities or building all the wonders, their good relations are going to break down over time. Plus, if the person you hate also hates you, they may declare war on you first. Sometimes they even give you opportunities to provoke them into doing so. Things won't always happen on your terms, but that's the nature of diplomacy.

    I'm not a stranger to the frustration of trying to attack someone who has lots of DPs and feeling that if you were in their position (i.e. winning) that would never be possible because it requires you to do things that upsets people (i.e. beat them at stuff). That's the nature of playing against an AI with numerical/yield advantages - they are going to win unless you do something to even the odds. The higher the difficult the harsher this contrast is going to be. IMO diplomatic relations are just a resource like any other though - each decision you make (should I settle here or there?) is a toss-up between different factors. Just like good city management, good troop management, and good economic management, if you want to win on the highest difficulty you have to excel at managing relationships. And like building a water mill so that your city can grow, building relationships with things like trade deals, careful use of denouncements and, yes, defensive pacts can be used to your advantage instead of your rival's.

    If you don't want to do that, adjust your settings so that you don't have to: a bigger map or fewer civs/city-states reduces border conflict, fewer civs means less disparity between wonders, more city-states relative to players means less fierce competition over them. Or simply try playing on a lower difficulty. I'm thinking about doing that myself for an entirely different reason at the moment (religion). I think there's a certain amount unwillingness to accept defeat in all of us. But the AI is always getting smarter, and what might have been manageable for players in the past is sometimes a struggle. That's OK. It can mean there's an inbalance, but it can also means that we are succeeding in our jobs at pushing the AI (and the mods) to constantly improve . And that's something to be proud of :).
     
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  6. Stalker0

    Stalker0 Baller Magnus

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    This may actually be the problem. Defensive Pacts should not just be a consequence of "friendliness". I may not like the civ that has a million wonders and a bunch of CS....but he is strong as heck and I certainly want to have a defensive pact with him over some dinky civ that can't do anything, no matter how "friendly" they may be. The fact that me playing to win is preventing any DP offers is part of the frustration.

    Joint Wars against the leader makes complete sense. Denying DPs to the leader does not, I would in fact expect the leader to get lots of DP offers from civs hoping to cash in on their power.
     
  7. RyesDaile

    RyesDaile Chieftain

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    I'm not sure what the answer is, but it does feel like some sort of adjustment needs to be made. The AI can go crazy with defensive pacts (4 plus civs) in certain games which certainly doesn't favor the human player. It also feels like they are harder to achieve for me unless I am focused on military and military score, which doesn't favor non-military play styles. I do like the idea that maybe they could be less about friendliness and more about the enemy of my enemy is a friend.
     
  8. Recursive

    Recursive Emperor

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    I believe part of the reason why it's so difficult for humans to achieve DPs are the bonuses to military production the AI gets on higher difficulties. AI tries to obtain the most valuable DPs available, and military strength plays into this significantly.
     
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  9. Gizmoman

    Gizmoman Chieftain

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    I honestly don't understand this post at all, DPs aren't removed when they trigger, so joining an existing war doesn't change anything, bribing someone is close to impossible, the AI refuse to declare war on anyone with a defensive pact going, same goes with joint war. In fact in my last 30ish games, the only time I've gotten someone to DoW a person with an active DP was when he suggested a joint war before DPs were unlocked and I chose to delay 10 turns, and during those 10 turns DPs were unlocked and signed.

    As for waiting them out, the AI instantly signs new DPs as soon as the old ones expire, sometimes with the same civs, sometimes with new civs. Yeah sometimes they fail to do it right on the turn they expire, it varies with which order the AI civs play in, but sitting around waiting for 50 ish turns hoping to catch an AI with 1 less DP isn't a 'counter' anymore than trying to cheese the AI into DoWing you.
    That's what's referred to as band-aids or exploits that people use to try and bypass a system that is clearly broken.

    And absolutely, if you want a counter-play, then go for tradition, just sit around doing a peaceful 4-5 city empire, you're absolutely safe from DPs at that point and you're probably going to win the game. But just as above, that's not dealing with the problem, that's ignoring the problem.

    Right, except the AIs at the bottom of the army-strength list still manages to get 2 DPs. So clearly it has nothing to do with value.
     
  10. Recursive

    Recursive Emperor

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    Part of the reason. Not the entire reason. :)

    And unless my code is buggy, AI should be selecting DPs in descending order of highest value to them, via GetNextBestDefensivePact.

    It determines the highest value DPs in a different function, DoRelationshipPairing. In general things that increase DoF value increase DP value as well. I've modified this function but haven't given it the highly thorough revision that I have for the approach calculation yet.
     
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  11. phantomaxl1207

    phantomaxl1207 King

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    I find DP's are oppressive for reasons others have listed. I often find I need to isolate an AI and defeat their Army before they declare a joint War on me with DP buddies.
     
  12. CrazyG

    CrazyG Deity

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    I think they are just way too common this patch. You get in a situation where in order to declare war, you must declare war on at least half of the world.
     
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  13. ElliotS

    ElliotS Warmonger

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    Thanks for the long response.

    I think splitting the options like that can pollute the results. If there is consensus on the fact that a nerf needs to happen, and the solution isn't clear, we can hold another poll.


    How would listing turn information make DPs less useful? AIs all know the information, it's only the player that doesn't. If you think that it's an exploit to declare on the turn it runs out, then you should have a chat with the AI who I have no doubt can flip from "No way we're fighting that war" to "Hell yeah let's go boi!" the instant a defensive pact stops existing and updates their threat values or whatever they use.

    At that point you should just say that defensive pacts should be able to be renewed a turn before they expire, because then neither play nor AI could take advantage of it.

    Regardless if you're in favor of "balancing" game mechanics via information obfuscation then I think you're in a tiny minority, and if you're not then the idea that allowing players to more easily know their timer would be a nerf makes no sense.

    See I don't know where you're coming from on either point. Recursive has stated that the average want for defensive pacts is 1, so limiting defensive pacts to one isn't just not "too severe" but in fact changes nothing the majority of the time, which I believe is fine and what we want.

    Defensive pacts are ONLY a problem in the corner cases where a huge coalition forms that totally stalls all aggression forever and basically locks everyone on whatever trajectory they were on for a non-conquest victory. This is a corner-case, and seemingly the only one that people have a problem with. That's the major thing that would be removed/nerfed via reducing the DP cap to 1. Not the average game with a want of 1 partner.

    I also think you're dead-wrong on the idea of it making it harder for players to acquire a DP. I think that AIs that normally would have made 2 DPs will be forced to only make 1, leaving 1 of those civs out in the cold. That means more consideration for lower-valued civs/players and a higher likelihood to see a DP offer.

    There is a major flaw in what you're saying here. It's not "one half of the world against the other" or even "2 against 3" because there isn't a great way to declare joint wars. In fact it's almost impossible to get an AI civ to declare war against a DP group together, and totally impossible to get "half the world" to declare a war against the other half. VP's diplomacy just isn't equipped or designed for that. You can only ask 1 AI at a time, and even if they want to they can't see other AI's willingness to join in and thus will be unwilling to agree to declare war on half the world with 1 ally.

    In my opinion the counter-play options are insufficient in many of the corner cases I seek to solve for. As of right now it seems like a majority of players agree with me in some capacity. Plenty of things we've nerfed have had theoretical counter-play options, but have been deemed to either be too strong for the counter-play options to beat, or to easy to pull off to require someone to counter-play them specifically. I would argue that this has elements of both sides of that.

    What you're saying isn't really an option though. If you're a warmonger there is no real way to make the world like you. People will and SHOULD use defensive pacts to deal with your aggression. It's just that sometimes that option is so powerful for so little cost that it's truly unbeatable. I don't see a need to say suck it up when a viable solution that would change little in most games where there is no problem is on the table.
     
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  14. ElliotS

    ElliotS Warmonger

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    I agree and would like to see turn timers on DPs, that doesn't really solve for when an AI gets 2-4 DPs. You better hope they signed them all at once, or you'll never get an opening.
     
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  15. usadefcon1

    usadefcon1 Warlord

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    My personal solution is 1 DP max in Medieval, then one more every other era... Not perfect but better then what we have now.
     
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  16. JamesNinelives

    JamesNinelives Emperor

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    @ElliotS Look, what I'm saying is that DPs work relatively well in my game and what I'm hearing at the moment is a few people wanting them to be nerfed (which is fine) and a couple of others using that as justification to push big changes on the basis that it's 'what people want'.

    I'm not opposed to change, but I am opposed to a couple of people dominating the conversation in a way which doesn't allow for nuance, which is what this feels like at the moment. There is already a consencus on some kind of change - there's no argument about that. What there is debate over is in what way, or to what degree DPs should be nerfed.

    I think you are misunderstanding my argument, and misrepresenting where the community stands and honestly it hurts to feel I have to set things straight.
    Why? What basis do you have to say that? I'm advocating for change just like you, I just want to be careful about how we do it.
    That's not exactly true, and honestly I think this is an example of why we should establish where things are at now before pushing particular changes. Recursive gave a forumula and when asked to clarify said the base limit in certain conditions is 1. That's very different from the base limit in most conditions being 1. Frankly I don't understand why you're not interested in my idea of having a limit that scales with map size, which would give us a more useful solution than the same thing for everyone.
    Do they? I'm not sure that's the case, but I would love to for it to be confirmed so that we can have an informed discussion.
    I do not follow your logic at all here. I agree with your assessment of the situation: AIs will be forced to only make one, leaving 1 of those civs out in the cold. Why would that favour the player? Seems as likely to hurt the player IMO.
    Of course you're not going to be able to get half of the world to suddenly do what you want when you want it, that's not how diplomacy works. I think we agree the system isn't set up for the player to be able to trigger world wars on a whim and IMO that's a feature. What I'm talking about is creating favourable circumstances for yourself. If you've never been in a 2 vs 3 fight or a 3 v 3 fight I have to assume that people aren't aware there are ways to set this up. No, it's quick or easy, but it's not impossible either and it's very rewarding when it does play out. I've talked about some of the ways in which you can do this stuff in discussion about the current beta. https://forums.civfanatics.com/thre...on-june-19th-6-19.659579/page-7#post-15811532
    Because it would change a hell of a lot in my games! You're solving your edge cases but creating new ones for me. That doesn't really seem fair. Especially when there are options available that would benefit different players more equally. And I seriously doubt that I'm the only one who plays on maps larger than Standard; I know at least 2 or 3 or other people in this community do. It annoys me when someone makes a 'most people agree with me' argument but ignore how it will affect people who don't.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
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  17. azum4roll

    azum4roll King

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    I don't find a problem with the current DPs.

    The only suggestions I have are shortening the duration of the DP (20 turns sounds right) and making the timer visible.
     
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  18. Recursive

    Recursive Emperor

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    AI does not get to see the turn timer on Defensive Pacts. They do notice when a DP is in effect or not, however.

    I wouldn't have an issue with making it visible. It's possible to do this already if you've met the civs prior to them making a DP, by checking every turn.

    I'm waiting on a new hotfix to begin a major rework of diplomacy-related things.
     
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  19. CrazyG

    CrazyG Deity

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    It's very easy to see how a human could more easily get a defensive pact from this. A simple example would be a game with 8 civs.
    Two AI form a DP.
    A different two AI form another defensive pact.
    Here, the next AI to seek a DP either gets one with the player, or the two remaining AI.
    The seventh civ can only form a DP with the player, or must go without one.

    You could increase the number allowed over time, through technologies, world congress, or maybe even a wonder. Either way, this means that I would have to declare war on at most 2 civs, instead of 5 in my current game, which is a very real balance problem.

    Writing this out actually made me like this idea a lot more than I initially did.l I thought about the above. I think several alliances would be a lot more interesting than the single ball of alliances with a few outcasts that I've seen twice this patch.
    I think you need to make an effort to better understand people's logic on this forum, before getting "hurt". His posts are frankly much more clear and easy to understand than yours (sorry but I cannot follow your first post about "counterplay" at all). If he misunderstands your argument, it's because you haven't said it well, and that is on you, not him.

    He literally created a poll to hear the community's voices and I don't think he claimed to represent the community at any point. that's an unfair accusation. The only person in this thread who has claimed to represent more than one voice is you.

    In particular these sentences from elliot
    "It's not "one half of the world against the other" or even "2 against 3" because there isn't a great way to declare joint wars. In fact it's almost impossible to get an AI civ to declare war against a DP group together, and totally impossible to get "half the world" to declare a war against the other half."

    To me, his meaning is very clear, and your response seems to be arguing a totally different thing.
    • There isn't a good way to declare joint wars (just a fact about the mod)
    • it's very hard to get the AI to agree to joint wars against a large DP group (can be explained by analyzing the AI's logic)
    • It's "totally impossible" to get "half the world"................. (I suppose he is wrong in that it's not literally 100% impossible, but his overall point is right)
    I think bullet point 1 is the best point made in favor of a DP cap, starting at 1, and increasing as techs get discovered. You could make a wonder or a social policy grant more too, could be a really interesting mechanic. the feature should AI friendly. It could also start at 2 or 3 on larger map sizes. FYI, I avoid playing big maps partially for this reason.
    Now perhaps you experience differs with points 2 and 3, and if does you should by all means share. But that isn't what you were counterarguing.

    I also like azumroll's suggestion of a shorter duration though.
     
  20. Recursive

    Recursive Emperor

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    I like this suggestion, now that you've highlighted how it would work. Teaching the AI to understand it wouldn't require much modification to existing logic.

    The consensus seems to be that DPs in their current form are too powerful, and limiting the number would be the easiest way to tackle this. The idea of smaller, more strategic alliances does appeal to me.

    However, changing this would likely require changing the Order NW - and UI work would be needed to clearly indicate the change to the player.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020

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