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Skirmishers reconsidered

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Strategy & Tips' started by vormuir, Jun 30, 2006.

  1. vormuir

    vormuir Prince

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    Skirmishers, Mali's UU.

    They replace archers, and are identical in every respect (25 hammers, +25% hill defense, +50% city defense) except for two: they have :strength: 4 instead of 3, and they get an extra 50% chance for a second first strike. (Like having Drill I.)

    There's general agreement that Skirmishers are an inferior UU. It's easy to see why.

    Compare them to, say, the War Chariot, Egypt's UU. They cost the same (25 hammers), but the War Chariot has :strength: 5, a double move, and a 30% withdrawal chance. And the War Chariot is available immediately, while Mali must research two technologies. (Cheap ones, to be sure, but still.)

    But ISTM the biggest grumble against the Skirmisher is that they're crappy offensive units. They can't take cities even as well as the lowly Quechua. Axemen cost more but give you far more killing power. A stack of Skirmishers is just not all that.

    A second complaint is that they require you to research Archery, a tech that many players prefer to bypass.

    Okay. So what's to like about Skirmishers?

    1) Believe it or not, Skirmishers take the prize for "biggest upgrade over the base unit". Skirmishers get a whopping 33% :strength: increase over Archers. Praetorians get the same over Swordsmen (8 vs. 6), but the Skirmisher also gets another 50% chance at a first strike.

    Think of it this way: a Skirmisher is like an Archer with Combat I, II, and III, plus Drill I.

    2) They are superb defensive units. A city full of Skirmishers can laugh at any attacking stack up to the appearance of catapults and macemen. With no promotions and no defenses, a Skirmisher starts with 6 city defense. A fortified Skirmisher with City Defender I in a 20% culture city gets a whopping 8.6 defense. Nothing can touch that but a well-promoted City Raider Swordsman or a War Elephant... and the elephant costs 60 hammers while the Skirmisher is just 25.

    Most players spend more time on aggression than on defense, so this tends to get neglected. Still: Skirmishers are great on defense.

    3) Skirmishers are cheap -- you can buy three for the cost of two Axemen. It's relatively easy to crank out a swarm of these little guys.

    4) Skirmishers require no resources... no horses, copper, iron, nothing. If you're stuck in one of those awful starting positions with no metal, you'll be desperately grateful to have them.

    5) Skirmishers are superb barbarian killers. They eat the early animals, warriors and Archers for lunch. Then barb Axemen can almost always be persuaded to attack Skirmishers in hills or forest, over rivers, etc. (Barbs are strangely dim about terrain modifiers.) Basically, a couple of well-positioned Skirmisher fogbusters mean that barbs cease to be anything but an amusing source of promotions.

    All that said, I would still agree that Skirmishers are not one of the great UUs. And they shouldn't be! Mali has Spiritual and Financial, which most agree are the two best traits. If Mansa Musa had a killer UU as well, nobody would ever play any other leader.

    Still, ISTM Skirmishers are better than they're usually given credit for.

    Thoughts?


    Doug M.
     
  2. majk-iii

    majk-iii Eeh?

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    I agree on all but the statement that it's a bad thing that you(inpersonal) would have to research archery, i sometimes skip that tech, but i was never under the impression that it is common... however; it's much faster to get than BW, which makes for a nice early battle against your first wictims warriors... and perhaps a few archers. (-if you're late, that is)
     
  3. Shevek

    Shevek Prince

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    I have always liked the Skirmisher. But that is because I prefer defensive play that early rather than aggressiv. An early unit with great defence and quite some shelf life, that just cannot be bad. And no resources needed, that is also really strong as it removes the luck factor.
    Overall, all your points are valid and show them as really good UU.
     
  4. Lord Chambers

    Lord Chambers King

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    What's that mean?
     
  5. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Emperor

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    It's nowhere near as good as that. Heck, i'd rather have an archer with just 2 of the above promotions for free than have a skirmisher. Having those promotions would open up more advanced and more powerful promotions. Having skirmishers doesn't.

    Having any defensive units at all is useless when playing against the AI. A simple warrior should do the job just fine, since if you're playing right, the AI shouldn't even get close to your cities anyway, and all wars should be fought in there territory, taking their cities, not defending yours.

    2 axemen cost 5 less hammers than 3 skirmishers, and are better at taking cities than 3 skirmishers. Besides, even a chariot is at least as good as a skirmisher (i'd say better), for the same price. And you don't hear people talking about how good chariots are compared to axemen.

    If that's the case, you won't be able to expand, with or without skirmishers. You'll be able to defend just fine with or without them. Skirmishers still make no difference in that case.

    Same for axemen, except that the promotions you gain are actually useful (city raider). Again, that's a reason NOT to build skirmishers.

    I've played Mansa Musa a lot and have come to the conclusion that even with skirmishers, archery is best completely ignored. I think you put too much emphasis on defense and too little on offense. The way to win is offense, not defense. Skirmishers are useless on offense. Archery is still a waste of otherwise good beakers.
     
  6. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Emperor

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    You must play on very low difficulty levels, or be talking about multiplayer. Playing single player at a high difficulty level, your opponents START with a bunch of archers, before even building their first city. At Deity, i think they also start with archery and don't make a single warrior for the whole game.
     
  7. ese-aSH

    ese-aSH Prince

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    lol your extreme (but right) zombie :o

    well, I often play with 'raging barbarians', and then defense cannot be ignored. I think skirmishers might also be useful in MP since your warmonger neighboor will probably prefer attacking another guy with archers than you.

    (at deity AI doesnt get archery as start, but AI always go for this tech very fast - in the 3 first tech, worst case --> found a religion, hunting, archery ;))
     
  8. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Emperor

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    If they don't start with archery, i'm certain they all start with hunting (and a bunch of other techs).

    Edit : now you made me go and check. I started a game and opened the worldbuilder. At Deity, all AIs start with the wheel, agriculture, hunting and archery. So there! :p
     
  9. vampy420

    vampy420 Chieftain

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    IRRC Diety start the AI gets 2 settler, 2 worker, 2 scout, 3 archer and all first tier techs - as well as the luxury of lower beaker/hammer cost.
     
  10. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Emperor

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    Not all first tier techs, but the techs that i listed above. If you don't believe me, start your own deity game, open the worldbuilder, and look it up for yourself.
     
  11. ese-aSH

    ese-aSH Prince

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    yeah i found something you didnt know for sure yet :goodjob: !
     
  12. Zombie69

    Zombie69 Emperor

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    There are many such things, don't worry!
     
  13. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Prince

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    I started a game as Mali, on a small map with raging barbarians, and ended up on an island by myself which comprised at least 30% of the total landmass. Add to that, Timbuktu was well inland, so I was beset by a continuous stream of raging hordes for all directions. I'll have to say here that Skirmisher's saved my butt. Building momentum with promotions and low losses, I was able to fog-bust all the major portions of the island before any axes showed up.

    On the other hand, I've never found any other good use for them 'cept as ass-against-the-line barb-busters.
     
  14. vormuir

    vormuir Prince

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    If you have an archer with two of those promotions, you'll need 5 more EP to gain a third, then another 7 to gain the fourth.


    Well, this is a valid point.

    OTOH, I have to say that I am sometimes on the defensive. Not often, but sometimes. I'm a Prince level player, win some, lose some. And it has occasionally happened that I've been dogpiled by aggressive neighbors. So, once in a while, my cities have come under serious attack.

    Also, there's MP. Some UUs that are handy in single-player are totally useless in MP (Quechua, your phone is ringing). On the other hand, ISTM the Skirmisher should do OK there.

    (BTW, ISTM means It Seems To Me.)


    If taking cities is the metric, it's hard to disagree. The skirmisher is briefly competitive in early-early war. Because Archery is cheaper than BW, a Malinese player can have 2-3 Skirmishers out there awfully quick. But after the first 40 turns or so, yeah, axes are just hugely better.


    Here I disagree. Chariots don't get defensive bonuses. This is why I rate the skirmisher ahead of the chariot as a barb killer. They both can kill weaker barb units easily. The chariot is faster and can get there quicker, the skirmisher will have a slightly better kill chance because of the first strike, it's about a wash. But against barb axes, the skirmisher's ability to rope-a-dope lifts it well above the chariot.

    Axemen are better still, as you point out. But skirmishers are cheaper, and can effectively keep barbs off your back while your axes are off kicking butt.


    Waldo
     
  15. futurehermit

    futurehermit Deity

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    sorry, but this is plain wrong. the war chariot requires animal husbandry (to reveal horses) and ah costs the same amount of beakers as hunting + archery.

    skirmishers are great in multiplayer (if you're playing against smart opponents). but in singleplayer they should be bypassed in most cases, which is kinda too bad.

    finally, i maintain that aggressive is superior to financial and spiritual. as zombie mentioned, aggression is the key to victory and free combat 1 + cheap barracks are just huge. combine it with a $$ trait (capac, tokugawa) or ag + the wheel starting techs (napoleon) and you're off to the races.
     
  16. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

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    Yes, it's so hard for me to strategize for Mansa in my current game (drew him by random) because I am so used to an Aggressive play. If you can capture lucrative lands from the enemy early (thereby weakening them as well), you can outdo the Financial bonus quite easily.
     
  17. Mutineer

    Mutineer Deity

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    Main advantage of skirmirshers in SP games is that they give you an option:
    You can delay researchign bronsworking is you have space to expand peacefully and you are not dependant on early connected cooper.
    It is a situational advantage, it's gives you flexibility and options.
    Personally I am fanatic of flexibility.
     
  18. futurehermit

    futurehermit Deity

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    i don't see why you would ever want to delay bronze since it gives you both chop and pop rushing AND reveals copper. that's just WAAAY too much benefit from one tech to hold off on it. no other ancient tech comes close to giving this much benefit.
     
  19. Strobe

    Strobe Warlord

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    I normally agree with you Mutineer but im not sure on this one. Due to slavery being tied with BW and it opening more useful techs I still think it wins out even if I want to expand for a while.

    There are always very specific examples like Hans gave where they would be useful though.
     
  20. Stolen Rutters

    Stolen Rutters Deity

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    edit- SP only... No experience with MP.

    Don't delay bronze. You still get slavery and chop, which can benefit you more than the axe even if you don't get copper closeby. You can spit out settlers much faster if you do have alot of space to build (with a few exceptions, I suppose).

    At monarch single player, I too have found that Skirmishers are only really useful on defense, since the AI starts with archer units and gets the tech to build more very early.

    I am now playing Monarch level and coincidentally finished my first true CS slingshot yesterday as Mali... I love monarch. I started without copper and had to send chariots to the closest copper city (kindly built exactly where I wanted it, by Otto von Bismarck), then rushed some axes real quick to assimilate :borg: Berlin (resistance is futile), end his reign, add a quarried marble, and double my income (many clam and fish). (Getting the Marble actually made the CS slingshot a possibility since I was already beelining for CoL to get the religion.) Now I'm planning to take Paris, home of the closest Iron resource, before they get axemen in great numbers. That should let me shoot for macemen and the game is mine! It seems like my second monarch victory will be in the bag if Paris falls in this next war.

    The skirmisher has its place, but I am becoming conviced that beelining to archery before bronzeworking has to be seriously evaluated against the flexibility you get from knowing where the copper is and being able to spit out units, including early workers and settlers, much faster with chop-and-pop than your production would normally allow otherwise.

    I personally don't chop much in my games, since I like growing forests outside of my inner ring (WoodsmanII axemen make excellent scouts and anti-barbarian Rangers), but I will use a chop or two for early settler or Oracle builds.

    My $0.02,
    SR

    v1.61, Terra, Standard size, standard speed, Mali, 11 civs, no save/reload permitted (I want to try MP one of these days).
     

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