Sorry to start this thread and not return for a while. Please allow me now to state my case against the Ballista Elephant in a systematic fashion.
Now, of course, no
UU is truly crappy when compared to the base unit which it replaces. They are all
improvements over the standard units. However, when comparing UUs to each other, I feel that certain judgments can be made such that some UUs are essentially better than others.
Obviously, better is a pretty loaded word, and I can already hear some of you starting to chant the mantra: Every UU is useful and powerful in certain situations.
. True enough. But certain situations are more common than others, and accordingly, those UUs which are useful in a wider range of circumstances than others can, I think, fairly be labeled as being superior UUs.
To put some meat into this discussion, I have made my own detailed analysis of all 34 of the games UUs. I have classified them according to 7 groupings, which will be explained, and have provided my comments on each. In making the classifications, I have not attempted to list every characteristic, which would defeat the purpose of grouping similar UUs, but rather what I feel are the most salient features of each. Lets begin:
I. Strength Bonus
Byzantine Empire = Cataphract (replaces Knight)
12 strength (base of 10) 20% increase
Egypt = War Chariot (Chariot)
5 strength (base of 4) 25% increase
Mali = Skirmisher (Archer)
4 strength (base of 3) 33% increase
Rome = Praetorian (Swordsman)
8 strength (base of 6) 33% increase
Sumeria = Vulture (Axeman)
6 strength (base of 5) 20% increase
Netherlands = East Indiaman (Galleon)
6 strength (base of 4) 50% increase
Perhaps the most straight-forward of advantages, the strength bonus is also arguably the most versatile across a wide range of situations. These units have a significant
edge over the base units they replace, and this edge carries over to all combat situations, regardless of offense/defense, terrain, opposing unit class, or opposing stack composition. It is no surprise that some of the most highly regarded of the UUs are found in this class, including the mighty Praetorian, about which nothing more be said that hasnt already been said 1000 times. I have a suspicion that, in time, the Cataphract and Vulture will also be regarded as top-notch UUs (Ive personally had some of my best BtS games aggressively using these two).
II. Movement Bonus
France = Musketeer (Musketman)
2 movement points (base of 1)
India = Fast Worker (Worker)
3 movement points (base of 2)
Mongolia = Keshik (Horse Archer)
Ignores terrain movment costs, i.e. all non-road movement = 1 movement point
Zulu = Impi (Spearman)
2 movement points also starts with Mobility promotion
Unlike the first group of UUs, whose unique status confers a direct
combat advantage, the UUs in this group possess an indirect
edge in warfare. In essence, their increased mobility allows their controller to have a strategic advantage by being able to choose the field of battle or even avoid battle entirely (a godsend to pillagers). Like the first group of UUs, this edge applies in all combat situations, regardless of terrain or opposition. Leveraging these units power requires a bit more of a subtle touch than the first group demands, yet their inherent flexibility is undeniable.
III. Free Promotions (including extra First Strikes)
America = Navy SEAL (Marine)
March and 1 or 2 First Strikes
Ethiopia = Oromo Warrior (Musketman)
Drill I and II and 1 First Strike
Japan = Samurai (Maceman)
Drill I and 2 First Strikes
Vikings = Berserker (Maceman)
We are now beginning to get into the realm of more specialized roles. More specifically, March is of little use in static defense, Amphibious is not much help in the middle of an arid land mass, while Drill and extra First Strikes have different effects, dependent upon opposition tech level (extra First strikes will allow backward units to cause some
damage to superior enemies, while when facing inferior opposition, their major bonus is a preservation of combat strength). However, these UUs still have an edge regardless of the unit class of their opposition, or dominant unit class in an enemy stack. Of this group, I only have recent experience with the Oromo Warrior, but it definitely made grabbing my continent much easier.
IV. Combat Bonus vs. Specific Unit Classes
Babylon = Bowman (Archer)
+50% vs. Melee
Carthage = Numidian Cavalry (Horse Archer)
+50% vs. Melee
England = Redcoat (Rifleman)
+25% vs. Gunpowder
Germany = Panzer (Tank)
+50% vs. Armored
Greece = Phalanx (Axeman)
+100% defense vs. Chariot
Holy Roman Empire = Landsknecht (Pikeman)
+100% vs. Melee
Inca = Quechua (Warrior)
+100% vs. Archery
Korea = Hwacha (Catapult)
+50% vs. Melee
Native Americans = Dog Soldier (Axeman)
+100% vs. Melee (base of +50% vs. Melee)
Ottoman Empire = Janissary (Musketman)
+25% vs. Archery, Mounted, and Melee
Persia = Immortal (Chariot)
+50% vs. Archery
Russia = Cossack (Cavalry)
+50% vs. Mounted
Spain = Conquistador (Cuirassier)
+50% vs. Melee
These UUs get, on average, a much higher percentage combat boost than the UUs in the first group. The strategic drawback, of course, is that their advantages are only in effect against certain unit classes of opposition. However, this is mitigated by the fact that these boni are applied regardless of terrain, offensive/defensive positioning, or opposing stack composition (except for the Phalanx, although its defensive bonus completely neutralizes its natural counter). Many of the most highly regarded UUs (at least at CivFanatics, from what Ive seen) are in this group, including the Redcoat and the Immortal. Strangely enough, my personal favorite is the Landsknecht, although Ive admittedly only had one game as Charlemagne.
V. Reduced or Eliminated Resource Requirements
Arabia = Camel Archer (Knight)
Requires no resources (base unit needs Horses and Iron)
Aztec = Jaguar (Swordsman)
Requires no resources (base unit needs Iron)
Celtia = Gallic Warrior (Swordsman)
Can be built with either Copper or Iron (base unit requires Iron)
Maya = Holkan (Spearman)
Requires no resources (base unit requires Copper or Iron)
This groups primary advantage is entirely dependent upon the resource distribution in the particular game you are playing. In one sense, it can be seen as a binary-type bonus, i.e. you either dont have the required resources for the base unit and the UU is of the highest importance, or you do have the resource, and the UU is (relatively) worthless. However, in between the world of black and white, there is an ocean of gray. Say that in your game, theres only Horse resource on your entire continent, and its in the inner radius of a newly founded city of a most powerful Montezuma. If youre playing as Saladin, this is of some interest, but only one of many factors to be taken into consideration. If youre playing as anyone else, you better believe that one of your most important foreign policy goals will center around controlling those Horses until you unlock the secrets of Engineering (or Construction, if you have Ivory). Of the group, Ive had a lot of fun with the Gallic Warrior, but most of that was due to the free Guerrilla I promotion and playing as Boudica. Ive no experience with the others in this group.
VI. Powerful Special Unique Abilities
China = Cho-Ko-Nu (Crossbowman)
Causes collateral damage
Portugal = Carrack (Caravel)
Can carry 2 military units (including Settlers and Workers)
Now, just because these two UUs are in the sixth grouping doesnt mean that they are not each very good UUs. To the contrary, its merely a result of them not being like any of the other UUs. The Cho-Ko-Nu is the only non-Siege, non-promoted land unit in the game that causes collateral damage. The Portuguese are the only civ that can cross oceans to grab land before the discovery of Astronomy. Neither of these are insignificant advantages, although the Carrack is a little less useful on a Pangaea map. Ive loved the Cho-Ko-Nus all-around usefulness, whether on attack or defense, for two years now, and Im sure that once I get used to Joao II, Ill have a lot of fun with the Portuguese as well.
VII. Special Unique Ability
Khmer Empire = Ballista Elephant (War Elephant)
Targets any Mounted units first in combat outside cities
. What have we here? The Ballista Elephant.
Since its a UU, it must be stronger than the base unit, right?
Well then, I bet it moves faster.
I know it has a free Combat I promotion or something.
Huh. Well, there must be some type of units it especially tears up, then.
No Ivory to build it, right?
Damn, can these pachyderms fly or something?
is what I am talking about. Look at all the other groups Ive laid out, and then compare them to the last group. And then I want you to look me in the eye and tell me its not true that the Ballista Elephant is the crappiest UU in the game. Its OK if you cant say it, then I wont think any less of you