Promotion Tree Balance Brainstorm

Unit promotions are currently...


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ma_kuh

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Current and past VP Congress sessions have seen a number of attempts to better-balance unit promotion trees. The activity around this system suggests there's more we can do, but consistently the suggested changes have been met with resistance, usually from all sides. I want to workshop a new tack with the community to improve its chances of passing.

The Problem:
There are grievances with the current balance of promotions. Some promotions often feel too mandatory for the performance of a unit class, and stifle use of other options.
Additionally, Human players can maintain high-level units too easily, which means they disproportionately benefit from stacked high-level units.

The Solution:
We can lessen the impact of high-level units without directly reducing the power level of any one promotion. To do this, I propose we restructure the promo trees to have significantly fewer leaf promotions, and more promotion "branches" that split from the main tree. This will subtly reduce promotion stacking by putting more XP distance between T4 promos.

I'll use Archers as an example to demonstrate the 2 Stem - 3.5 Branch structure (please note, details and numbers are not final).

Spoiler Archer example :

Code:
                         ┌─ Precision I ──── Precision II ──── Coup De Grace
                         │
        ┌─ Accuracy I ───┼─ Accuracy II ──── Accuracy III ──── Firing Doctrine
        │                │
        │                ├─ Sentry ───────── Sharpshooter ──── Range
        │                │
        │                └─ Cover I ──────── Cover II
        │
Archer ─┼─ Air Defense I ─  Air Defense II ─ Air Defense III
        │
        │                ┌─ Medic I ──────── Medic II
        │                │
        │                ├─ Ranger ───────── Snapshot ──────── Mobility
        │                │
        └─ Barrage I ────┼─ Barrage II ───── Barrage III ───── Logistics
                         │
                         └─ Infiltrators I ─ Infiltrators II ─ March
There are a few prototype promotions to help fill out the example. I borrowed some names from X-COM perks, but they're by no means set in stone. They primarily exist to give some thematic stepping stones to some of the powerful T4 promotions.
  • New:
    • "Sharpshooter": +15% CS when attacking unmounted, unarmored melee, ranged, and gunpowder units.
      • The intent is that it doesn't work on mounted, armored, siege, or naval/city, but works on all the bio units. Range archers should be for picking off infantry forces. By committing to this branch, the unit forgoes more general-purpose CS increases that apply in more situations. This creates a specific niche for Range.
    • "Snapshot": Can move after attacking. +10% CS.
      • This is paired with a removal of "Can move after attacking" from Logistics. The thematic tie-together for the Mobility line becomes repositioning, and the ability to navigate forests and hills as well as mounted units.
    • "Ranger": +10% CS if not adjacent to any friendly units. +10% CS.
      • Split off the friendly-units component of Infiltrators and add it to the mobility line.
  • Changed:
    • Accuracy I: +15% while attacking.
      • The first step in the Firing stem changes up to be a little more general purpose so it flows naturally into Accuracy II (unchanged) and Precision. Also, by putting the bonus only on attacking, it solidifies this branch as the Offense stem, and means that getting on top of a Range Archer is more rewarded because they don't have a free +30% on defense from stem promotions.
    • Precision I-II: +10% CS vs. less than 50% HP. +10% CS.
      • Borrowed from the Siege line, this branch replaces Barrage as the unit-finisher line, ultimately leading to Coup De Grace as usual. I hope this also helps clear up any confusion over whether Accuracy or Barraging helps hit more or fewer units... but I'm not holding my breath. :D
    • Barrage I-III: +10% CS when attacking. +15% CS when defending against melee.
      • Barrage cedes the anti-wounded bonuses to Precision, and takes up a new niche as the Defensive stem, shifting the defensive balance on Barrage Archers to be (relatively) weaker when defending against ranged, but stronger against melee.
    • Logistics: -30% CS when attacking. Can attack twice.
      • Loses "Can move after attacking". Again, nerfs have not been popular, but with a 2-move archer anyway, it's not like you're using this, right? Better to leave this ability for another promotion to reinforce a niche.
    • Infiltrators I-II: +10% Outside Friendly Terrain. +10% when attacking Wounded Units.
      • Reduced in power to match branch promotions. Appears earlier in the tree. This one's admittedly a bit of a stretch, if you have suggestion for the March branch, I'm all ears. The idea here is that it enables a sort of attrition style where trading blows is in your favor, keeping the march healing going while peppering away at wounded foes. Also keeps an aggressive avenue in the Barrage stem.


Although the Archer sample is pretty detailed, the main thing I wanted to discuss was the approach and structure of the tree. Do you agree that the 2 Stem - 3.5 Branch structure is worth pursuing? Does it have too many branches? Not enough? Ideally this would slowly be applied to every promotion tree, but I figure starting with a few that share promotions is a safer bet. (For instance, the changes to the Archer tree would be paired with changes to Skirmishers and Siege, since their promotions would also be affected.)

I don't have the expertise to try this out in a modmod first, but that might ultimately be the right direction, especially if this doesn't get enough traction for the Congress.
 
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Changing Logistics and Infiltrators will affect land ranged, siege, mounted ranged, naval ranged and submarines. AKA all ranged units.
 
I think the problem is....your analysis is flawed right at its initial premise: "High-level units make combat too easy."


I don't think the vast majority of the community agrees with that premise, and certainly doesn't want their high level promotions adjusted for it. We have seen this consistent trend FOR YEARS, in polls, in discussions, and now in congress proposals. Attempts to change the promotions have failed time and time again.

So instead of trying to come up with solutions, we should simply ask..... does the community actually think there is a problem?
 
The general consensus is that "there is a problem, but I don't want to change it and ruin my fun".
 
The general consensus is that "there is a problem, but I don't want to change it and ruin my fun".
I don't think this has ever been polled, so I don't think anyone can say there is a general consensus other than "don't take away the big promotions"
 
Yeah, so I'm interested in digging into that. I'll switch this to a poll then, and see if people dropping by for Congress votes want to chime in here.

It's entirely possible the premise isn't sound. I've mainly been going based on the anecdotal voices that consistently voice a vague sense of "there's a problem" but as you rightly point out, the only changes we've been able to pass are buffs.

My goal is ultimately to promote and propose a reframing of the promotion branches that lets them coexist more easily without polluting each others' power unduly. I think there's no getting around a level 10 unit being a powerhouse, and arguably that should be your reward, but what I hope people realize about an approach like the one I've laid out is that it does not impact the level 1-5 power spike of picking up Range, or City Assault, or Blitz, it just helps smooth out the follow-up spike and gives enemy units an opportunity to catch up to level 5 and fight a little more fairly after this spike.
 
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I think the problem is....your analysis is flawed right at its initial premise: "High-level units make combat too easy."


I don't think the vast majority of the community agrees with that premise, and certainly doesn't want their high level promotions adjusted for it.
Don't the community agree with that, though? That, for example, additional range is OP?
 
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Yeah, so I'm interested in digging into that. I'll switch this to a poll then, and see if people dropping by for Congress votes want to chime in here.

It's entirely possible the premise isn't sound. I've mainly been going based on the anecdotal voices that consistently voice a vague sense of "there's a problem" but as you rightly point out, the only changes we've been able to pass are buffs.

My goal is ultimately to promote and propose a reframing of the promotion branches that lets them coexist more easily without polluting each others' power unduly. I think there's no getting around a level 10 unit being a powerhouse, and arguably that should be your reward, but what I hope people realize about an approach like the one I've laid out is that it does not impact the level 1-5 power spike of picking up Range, or City Assault, or Blitz, it just helps smooth out the follow-up spike and gives enemy units an opportunity to catch up to level 5 fight a little more fairly after this spike.
I thought of a skill point system, where you get 1 skill point per level up and either take a stem promotion (which has infinite levels and gives unconditional stats) for free, or buy a situational promotion with skill points. It's just going to be hell to implement.
 
I don't think this has ever been polled, so I don't think anyone can say there is a general consensus other than "don't take away the big promotions"
Most glaring example is probably the failure to remove logistics from the Hwatcha.
There are also a good amount who are very happy with infinite barb exp bug.
So yes op broken stuff is popular.
 
It would be interesting to know the difficulty level the players are using. If those who are happy with the infinite barb bug or with strong promotions also prefer lower difficulties, then maybe a solution would be making the amount of xp you can get from barbs or the amount of xp needed for promotions depend on the difficulty level.

I for my part play on emperor/immortal and I'd agree to a nerf of some of the high-level promotions.
 
It would be interesting to know the difficulty level the players are using. If those who are happy with the infinite barb bug or with strong promotions also prefer lower difficulties, then maybe a solution would be making the amount of xp you can get from barbs or the amount of xp needed for promotions depend on the difficulty level.

I for my part play on emperor/immortal and I'd agree to a nerf of some of the high-level promotions.
There is a proposal to turn on infinite barb exp as an option (default = off).
 
my opinion is that combat becomes trivial when authority > raging barbs with inf exp(options) > late game >flanking with melee added wonders Statue of Zeus/Allhambra/himeji castle if (defending) crusader spirit/goddess protection/orders combined with Oil and aluminium monopoly and a warlike civ (japan would be probably the best) ive done the above without the natural wonder. Tanks like one hitting infantry when flanking etc if you add marathon into your gonna end up with level 15+ units. im also seeing siege units knocking 50% of cities in one hit, Bombers etc causing massive amounts of damage.

ive also been on the opposite end where ive been on the low end of exp and a authority-based civ and been smashed to pieces by a technological equal AI, the exp system could be tweaked further to allow more defensive system for non authority civs such as making defensive promotions much easier to obtain like reduce damage in rough/open tiles in own territory rather than other civs. if i can find warfare very trivial later on with a warlike civ and if inversely i find late game warfare if i have chosen peaceful policy choices very difficult to defend i often loose a lot of unexperienced units and often cities and it hampers the peaceful victory.

making it a bit more balanced (AI does make some wierd choices and often run away) but if i think it could be more balanced i can support the proposal
 
If the problem is units stacking too many promotions, a possible solution could be an option to diminish XP rate after a certain level is reached. I never got a level 10-15 unit and never tried to. I try to preserve all my units and to maximize damage to the enemy but I never tried to maximize XP gained for a single unit. Now just because someone does something extreme and is unhappy with the result doesn't mean it's an actual problem for most players.
 
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XP rate already scales down with level, if you compare % of level up per XP. I don't think you would need to get crazy with more code, just increase the threshold for higher levels, if that's the problem. But I think the main problem is that there's no consensus on what, if anything, is the problem in the first place.

I know for my part I feel like there are several promotions that are numerically superior to other choices of their tier, and to choose other options "for fun" is intentionally handicapping yourself. I would like for these promotions to not be so obviously correct, and for there to be meaningful trade-offs to follow one build over another. I expect I will find myself in the minority on this issue.
 
If the problem is units stacking too many promotions, a possible solution could be an option to diminish XP rate after a certain level is reached. I never got a level 10-15 unit and never tried to. I try to preserve all my units and to maximize damage to the enemy but I never tried to maximize XP gained for a single unit. Now just because someone does something extreme and is unhappy with the result doesn't mean it's an actual problem for most players.
The issue is not necessarily about level 10-15 units, imo it's already on level 5 that units are getting OP (with the combination range + indirect fire). And of course, trying to preserve all their units is what most of the players do, and it's a part of the problem (as some people see it) that this strategy is so successful.
 
I know for my part I feel like there are several promotions that are numerically superior to other choices of their tier, and to choose other options "for fun" is intentionally handicapping yourself. I would like for these promotions to not be so obviously correct, and for there to be meaningful trade-offs to follow one build over another. I expect I will find myself in the minority on this issue.
I don't get it. I just have roughly half of my ranged/siege units trying to get Range, and the other half trying to get Barrage, and I use those units accordingly. A few of them can also have Indirect Fire. That's it. Is that the problem people are talking about?

Edit: Btw I would still support your idea if it was a proposal.
 
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Looking just a Logistics versus Coup De Grace, the numbers don't lie:

Including Barrage I-III:
Coup De Grace: +30% CS, +30% vs. <50%, +30% CS vs. <50%.
Logistics: +30% CS, +30% vs. <50%, -30% CS, x2 hits.

For simplicity, let's say this is base CS 30 attacking defending CS 30.
CDG has a net +90% CS in its optimal case, for a total damage of 48.
Logistics has a net +30% CS, for a total damage of 35, which hits twice for 70.

These are both tier 4 promotions, but one's damage capacity is 45% more. That just doesn't seem fair. You can make the argument there's not a balance issue here, because maybe all this means is that picking CDG first is a trap, but I'm not a fan of trap options. It's lazy design.


And I think the problem with Indirect Fire specifically is that once paired with Range, it starts to really accelerate dealing with cities. I don't think that's really a problem, but would rather Siege units be entitled to that, rather than Ranged and Siege.
 
Looking just a Logistics versus Coup De Grace, the numbers don't lie:

Including Barrage I-III:
Coup De Grace: +30% CS, +30% vs. <50%, +30% CS vs. <50%.
Logistics: +30% CS, +30% vs. <50%, -30% CS, x2 hits.

For simplicity, let's say this is base CS 30 attacking defending CS 30.
CDG has a net +90% CS in its optimal case, for a total damage of 48.
Logistics has a net +30% CS, for a total damage of 35, which hits twice for 70.

These are both tier 4 promotions, but one's damage capacity is 45% more. That just doesn't seem fair. You can make the argument there's not a balance issue here, because maybe all this means is that picking CDG first is a trap, but I'm not a fan of trap options. It's lazy design.


And I think the problem with Indirect Fire specifically is that once paired with Range, it starts to really accelerate dealing with cities. I don't think that's really a problem, but would rather Siege units be entitled to that, rather than Ranged and Siege.
The logistics one also gains double the XP, but at the cost of 1 movement point.
 
Yeah, there's definitely some nuance to the comparison. I glossed over it for simplicity, but you trade the 1 movement point for +30-45% overall damage, while also picking up the ability to move after attacking for -27% damage as well. So you gain flexibility, you reduce overkill damage, and you get double XP.

I think the only time CDG outshines Logistics is when the target is 40-50 HP (at even CS values), and you need to take 1 step to make the shot.
 
I proposed removing the XP on second attack (before the congress), but it was voted down. And even then, Logistics is still too good on ranged ships and skirmishers compared to other promotions.
 
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