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Skirmisher Line Review

Discussion in 'General Balance' started by Stalker0, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Stalker0

    Stalker0 Baller Magnus

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    I wanted to take a look at where I think the current Skirmisher line is at. Skirmishers have received numbers changes in the last few years, so where have they settled?

    I'm going to note the stats of the unit below, which includes its skirmisher doctrine bonus and the "normal" number of accuracy promotions for a unit of its era at best.

    I'll use the standard:
    A - Good Unit
    B - Decent Unit, a tweak could be done.
    C - Really bad.

    Skirmisher - A
    CS: 16.8
    RCS: 14

    The skirmisher is good for a few reasons. Stat wise, its superior to the c bow, it has impressive CS, able to stand up to a Formation I spearmen and horseman, and does alright against swordsman attacks.

    The other reason is tech tree. For players doing a mathematics rush (a common opener), this unit gives them a solid military unit that can keep their civ safe against more militaristic civs.

    Its a good unit with a good niche in the game, just depends on what you are going for with the tech tree.

    Heavy Skirmisher - B
    CS: 21
    RCS: 27

    On paper, the unit boasts an impressive RCS, but in reality it has a lot more counters than the Skirmisher face. Formation II pikes or Cover II longswords will be more common on the field and can tank the pain... but ultimately its the knight that puts the unit to bed. The knight is such a good solid stable unit at this phase in the game that it guides your desire for horses that way.

    I also find that most of my builds want chivalry before physics. Doesn't mean I want to skip physics, and there are some civs where I go that way first, but chivalry is the staple, and so knights tend to come out sooner than heavy skirmishers, and therefore be more relevant on the battlefield longer.

    Cuirassier - C
    CS: 32.2
    RCS: 43.2

    Holds the title for the most unpronounceable unit name for me:) Tech tree wise the unit is in a decent place, a strong warring player gets a lot of toys with this tech, so a decent incentive to use it.

    Stat wise, the main thing is that CS for the unit is starting to lag behind its fellow units even in open terrain. Even a tercio can do good damage to this unit, and once fusiliers come out (which is just around the corner), the unit struggles to avoid taking lots of damage while dealing effective damage.

    I generally find lancers a bit more durable and flexible, still able to handle cannons and field guns but with more terrain versatility.

    So ultimately I don't find a real niche for this unit.

    Calvary - A
    CS: 46.2
    RCS: 69.7

    I would argue that the Calvary is the apex of the skirmisher line. For one, its a nice spot in the tech tree, as military science is a major waring upgrade with the ability to crank out 3 promotion units. This also means that not only do you get the unit, but you may get the extra push of a promotion advantage over opponents going more north side of the tree.

    Two, at this point in the game, rough terrain is starting to fade quite a bit. A lot of forest and jungles have been removed by now, leaving a more open field on which to war, which gives it a wider range to use. Also railroads help skirmishers a lot with the ability to dart in and out. Calvary are a strong counter to the ironclad spam that is common at this point in the game, comparable to field guns in terms of damage to naval, and with the ability to cycle them in and out to avoid ranged naval fire.

    Stat wise, the cavalry is really good. It has an excellent attack against field guns but most importantly.... Gatling guns. Its one of the few units that can go toe to toe with massed g guns and come out on top if the terrain is favorable.

    The only real competition for cavalry is agribusiness, as people may want to trade in their horses.... so that depends on the civs abundance of pasture and farms.

    Light Tank - C
    RCS: 88.4
    CS: 72.8

    On paper, the light tank looks like a decent unit. Its a decent tech tree spot, and the fact it uses an alternate strategic resource compared to iron and oil should in theory mean it will always have a niche.

    But this is when experience comes in, and in my experience, light tanks die easily and often. The rise of artillery, both for the range and the ability to put splash damage as a given really dampers the skirmisher line in general. But aircraft are the nail in the coffin....if a light tank is ever resting on rough terrain....its dead. And even if its in open terrain, its still often dead. Its possible to focus so much ranged fire on a unit at this era of war, and the light tanks are expensive units with no terrain defense and not a high enough RCS to really hold out (compared to a tank that has an effective 116 CS on defense).

    The unit just doesn't have the durability to stand up to its modern contemporaries, and then once tanks come out and the melee line sees its resurgence, its hard for the light tank to compete.

    Lastly, the light tank is also decently expensive compared to machine guns and planes, and generally don't have as much value.

    Helicopter Gunship - C
    CS: 60 (90 vs tank)
    RCS: 97.5 (135 vs tank)

    On the one hand, the gunships combat effectiveness is pretty minimal. Even its anti-tank stats aren't that impressive when you consider the tanks defense bonus (modern armor is often 155 for context). So they really aren't a great counter for tanks like they look to be.

    Tech tree wise they are in a sad place, the simple truth is, once you have Advanced Ballistics, you just don't need mobile tactics most of the time, there are better areas to spend my science on until I'm ready to go deep in the tree.

    Then add in the Air Supremacy promotions, and fighters just wreck the pants of this unit.

    That said, the ability to hover off coastlines and hit naval units is useful, the units hover does give it some niches in scouting and pillaging (though of course the scout line do these pretty well as well).

    I generally find 1 or 2 gunships have a use, but beyond that I never go them.


    Thoughts on Improvements

    Heavy Skirmisher - No changes. Though the unit is a bit weak, I think its more that its simply time for Knights to shine. They aren't terrible units, and as upgrades from skirmishers they are serviceable.

    Cuirassier - Probably just a modest CS update (leave RCS alone). The unit does respectable damage its just a bit too fragile to warrant good use.

    Light Tank - I would consider giving it the same armor plating upgrade that other tanks get, the unit is just way too fragile at the moment, it needs durability to be at all competitive. I would also give it 5 speed at base. This thematically makes sense (the "lighter" tank should at least as fast as the heavy tank that follows it), and would give it a little more maneuverability and ability to get out of hot zones.

    Gunship - Remove the bonus vs helicopters for air supremacy upgrades...the upgrade is still solid (you get it for aircraft anyway), and that way helicopters aren't blown up just for existing. I would also increase their speed to 8, if the GDR can get that speed I think its fine for the helicopter to have it. I still think they will have limited use, but it would be something.
     
    Vhozite, vyyt, Delvemor and 1 other person like this.
  2. phantomaxl1207

    phantomaxl1207 King

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    I used to think Cavalry were bad, considering what other units they have to compete with, most notably Gatling Guns. Cavalry do have the stats compete in Industrial and are good units to use with newly acquired Military Academies. Like Cuirassiers, they suffer again when the new unit is introduced, Landships.

    Light Tanks don't hold up to ranged attacks for some reason. Their numbers look good, but are lacking in practice. They do need 5 movement.

    Helicopter Gunships are fun units to use with their hovering and base 6 movement. Combat wise, they don't leave much of an impact. Their anti-Tank bonuses should be the best, but aren't. Helicopters CS numbers look bad once you compare them to Light Tanks w/ Skirmisher Doctrine. I do like Mobile Tactics' placement on the Tech Tree, it's right after Radar. Though, I admit these units aren't as hold up as much as any other Information Era unit sadly.

    I would like to see the Helicopter promotions (2 Mobility upgrades and 2 anti-Tank bonuses) merged into 2 or 3 promotions. Or spiced up in some other way.


    I agree with your "Thoughts on Improvements" overall. And would welcome those changes. The Helicopter bonus for Jet Fighters should be tuned down from +150%.
     
    vyyt likes this.
  3. pineappledan

    pineappledan Deity

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    Calvary is the hill where Pontius Pilate crucified Jesus Christ, God made flesh, to take away the sins of the world.
    Cavalry is a group of soldiers fighting on horseback.
    Your first review pretty much summarizes my issues with the Skirmisher line, as they appear in base VP. You fail to even mention their sight or movement options in each era. You directly -- and exclusively -- compare them by their RCS/CS values in relation to composite bowmen and their ability to take hits from melee units. In the current setup, they have +2 movement and -1 range compared to a composite bowman; the result is they play like... A composite bowman with slightly different numbers and a strategic requirement. You fail to mention these differences because, practically speaking, they don't matter. Base VP currently has an entire unit line which is both wildly different and exactly the same as another unit line.

    Skirmishing is a war of weak formations in constant movement, so skirmishers should MOVE. Skirmishing is about picking off weak targets, scouting, and softening up an army, but doing virtually nothing in a pitched battle against hardened infantry or heavy cavalry. You should be building skirmishers to augment your scouting, to dart in on weak units. To project into zoning/flanking and pillaging opportunities, and then to pull them right back out, because a good hit will demolish them. The comparison to a Composite Bowman should be unhelpful because they should be doing different jobs.

    This is going to sound conceited, but as far as I'm concerned, I fixed the skirmisher line problem more than a year ago when I increased their movement to 5 and lowered their RCS to hit for not more than 17 damage on a same-era melee unit. I haven't touched baseline VP's lame skirmishers since.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
  4. Stalker0

    Stalker0 Baller Magnus

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    For context, here are the changes PAD is referring to:

    Skirmishers gain Cover 2
    Chariots have 4 Moves and movement Penalty
    Skirmisher/Heavy Skirmisher/Cuirassier/Cavalry have 5 moves and no movement penalty
    Light Tank has 4 moves and no movement penalty
    Helicopter has 6 moves and hover

    Skirmisher unit line's CS/RCS changed. Generally, CS is increased and RCS is greatly decreased
    Chariot Archer: 8 CS / 8 RCS
    Skirmisher: 12 CS / 7 RCS
    Heavy skirmisher: 18 CS / 14 RCS
    Cuirassier: 26 CS / 20 RCS
    Cavalry: 40 CS / 31 RCS
    Light tank: 58 CS / 58 RCS
    Helicopter gunship: 70 CS / 70 RCS

    My general thought on these changes as I did try them out a while ago when I first was trying out your unit tweaks (and the very successful formation changes that ultimately did make it to core). I think the general issue is that your change brings the same concern we have had about skirmishers for a long time, the rough terrain problem. Your skirmishers are nigh invincible in rough terrain, while being much weaker in general combat.

    My specific thoughts:
    1) Skirmisher: Basically a very highly mobile archer....the 5 move is really felt here. I think the two are both good units.
    2) Heavy Skirmisher: About as good as the current one. The 3 moves in rough is nice, but its a pretty weak attack at this point in the game.
    3) Cuirassier: Even weaker than the current version. 20 RCS is a pittance at this point, lancers are much stronger, I wouldn't spend my horses here.
    4) Cavalry: A good bit weaker, waste of horses.
    5) Light Tank: Garbage. Even with its current +40% bonus, the light tank isn't durable enough, your tank is paper, and doesn't get any movement to compensate.
    6) Gunship: The main thing is 70 RCS with +50 armored bonus actually gives it a decent attack against tanks, so potentially a good niche there. Overall I think this is a better unit.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    Vhozite and vyyt like this.
  5. pineappledan

    pineappledan Deity

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    light tanks and cuirassiers were weaker, and all skirmisher line units were given cover II since you tried my version (They use their RCS rating to defend from ranged attacks, so their low RCS was unintentionally making them critically vulnerable to other ranged units and cities)
     
  6. Stalker0

    Stalker0 Baller Magnus

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    Good to know, may want to update your front page notes with the changes, I just found them on turn 2 after you mentioned it. I just updated my post above with the cover change, if you know the cuirassier strength I'll adjust it as well for this discussion.
     
  7. andersw

    andersw Emperor

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    Unless I play Mongols they do feel a bit niche.
    However its a very fine line between something being niche and then suddenly too good.
    Prior to the rough terrain nerf they one of if not the best unit in the game.
    It has a lot more use on Pangea type maps.
    I often prio bottom part before upper so I generally have treb/heavy skirmishers long before knights and knights does not feel as gamebreaking for me (landsknechts fill that role and are less prone to overstepping in my hands).
    As it is I like having some for utility but I wouldnt see it as a core part of my army.

    The good:
    Skirmisher line work fine as long as its flat or for home defense in roaded lands.
    I find them strong (in limited quantities) considering its 100% risk free.
    They often allow me to select a target of several that I want to take out, ie a wider range of unit selection to snipe.
    They have a minor role for poking at ships when ranged units would be too much at risk or blocked by terrain.

    The bad:
    They fall out of fashion if its too hilly/forestry not only because of the lower CS in rough but also that rough terrain makes it harder to shuffle the blocker units around which are supposed to provide cover for the squishy line behind.
    Ie the issue is partly a product of the improved combat AI which makes me require a solid front line.
    Its ineffecient to build too many (unless mongolia) because of shuffling problems.
    When I get field guns with range 3 they feel obsolete and get relegated to be an emegergency unit which can help fast anywhere in my empire or keeping combat line safe from run around stuff.

    The maybe:
    Parthian tactics is strong and solves some issues but then no logistics.
    I can see some additional use as Inca, Iroquois or having Kilimanjaro which negates some of the maneuvre issues.
     
  8. azum4roll

    azum4roll Emperor

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    @Stalker0 can you check this out again? It's been changed since you last played it.
     
  9. Stalker0

    Stalker0 Baller Magnus

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    I'm actually giving PADs unit tweaks another go, to see if any of the changes there are to my liking, I can probably try this again after that. It should be noted that my review above was not to say the skimirsher concept is bad, I actually like the open terrain/rough terrain premise. For me its more unit tweaks than wholesale reinvention at this point.
     
  10. LifeOfBrian

    LifeOfBrian Prince

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    My only problems are with Light Tanks and Helicopter Gunships being too weak, before that I find the units good enough.
     
  11. Vhozite

    Vhozite Warlord

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    Edit: Just saw that Skirmsiher doctrine is -20% instead of -40% in rough terrain. Not as bad but i still stand by my initial point.

    TLDR: Line is bad. Too bad in rough terrain and not mobile enough in general. As is there is little reason to use them over archers, and your horses are better used on mounted melee.


    Personally I’ve found this line to be underwhelming for a long time and as a result I pretty much avoid them entirely. However I’ve been reading about the Mongols lately and it’s renewed my interest in this line. We’ve already discussed their fragility problems in later eras, so im going to focus on the earlier parts of the game.

    I think this has two closely related issues
    1. They are way too weak in rough terrain
    2. Base 4 movement isn’t enough mobility to safely hit and run even in perfect terrain

    I understand they are supposed to be less usable in rough terrain, but the current situation feels like we are double dipping on punishing them in that area. Without road/bridge/railroad support bad terrain already guts their mobility, which is the main reason you use them. Why do they also need an enormous (iirc) -20% CS debuff on top of that?

    I’ve also noticed that base 4 moves isn’t enough mobility. They either have to start or end their turn in range of a walled city, and they are completely incapable of moving and shooting at all in snow, marshes, and desert without roads. It creates situations where despite having 2x the mobility on paper, their effective range is basically the same as your standard archers. The difference is that standard ranged don’t require a strategic or lose a chunk of their CS on the wrong tiles, and they don’t need as much space to operate. At that point you’re better off just using archers and saving your horses for the far superior mounted melee. Playing with xp values in my own games I’ve noticed that mounted range needs the +1 move from Parthian tactics to be consistently useful. It makes them at least useable on bad tiles and enables them to safely harass cities. But again at that XP level I’d rather have a 3 range or indirect fire archer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2021
  12. doublex55

    doublex55 Prince

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    5 move seems reasonable to me. Removing the movement penalties does not seem ok to me though. I really don’t think skirmishes should be good at harassing cities tho, so maybe increase their penalty to cities, along with a general RCS nerf if needed.
     
  13. stii

    stii King

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    It is kind of awkward they are often best in rough terrain. Because you can mover onto a hill shoot then move back so the other side can't hit back.
     
  14. azum4roll

    azum4roll Emperor

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    It's because of the additive nature of CS bonus/penalty. With tier 3 promotions the rough -20% penalty matters way less than it looks like, while you're doing damage for free.
     
  15. andersw

    andersw Emperor

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    I've had this thread more in consideration in my recent games and yes I agree skirmishers are very niche.
    I build at most a handful usually 2-3 because they are good at assisting with defense.
    With one more move they could see a bit more use but there is also the thing with battle/siege lines and even if things are roaded up, skirmishers only see marginal use.
    Still not sure what the correct change is, 5move would help a bit but not sure the AI is able to use it.
     
  16. LifeOfBrian

    LifeOfBrian Prince

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  17. andersw

    andersw Emperor

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    Problem is they only hit the front line and are very terrain dependant.
    But yes in this case you managed to create an excellent choke where the roaded hills help you and at the same time prevents Swedens units to get very far.
    This is the sort of scenario where they have use.
    With a wider front I dont think they pull their weight.

    Also nice positioning by that Polish knight :)
     
  18. tothePAIN

    tothePAIN King

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    Skirmishes are defensive units to me. They're a little tough to use offensively. But with roads and railroads, and partisan tactics, you can cycle a lot of skirmishes and stop offensive pushes easily. They can also shift battle fronts pretty well.
     
  19. LifeOfBrian

    LifeOfBrian Prince

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    Andersw, the same principle has also worked in situations where I didn't have so many forested hills, but grasslands and plains instead, it just means it takes a bit longer because you have to grind it out against more incoming enemy units, which means more XP (and more great generals!), more yields from kills etc. before you actually get to taking the city. As for the wider front, I think on Deity the whole point of warfare against an AI is to ignore wider fronts and instead go for more narrow battlefields, allowing you to benefit from tactical superiority, until you snowball and start crushing the AI with sheer numbers. So to me skirmishers are essential in almost every game. So if anyone has a screenshot of a game where you'd think skirmishers aren't very useful, share it here and we can look at it.
     

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