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The pillaging offensive strategy

Discussion in 'Civ3 Strategy Articles' started by betazed, Sep 21, 2003.

  1. betazed

    betazed Seeking...

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    In most games when we as human players carry out a war we usually have a very specific objective. We may need to get a resource, or a lux or capture a wonder or a vantage point. When that objective is met we sue for peace as soon as possible and then move on to the next objective. That's the most common type or war. However, there is another type of war.

    This is the long drawn out war of attrition. These wars are most seen in Always War scenarios and in wars during the late modern ages when two titanic powers go for the final showdown to determine who should rule the earth. Since in this war the final outcome is the complete annihilation of one side, any strategy that can provide advantage is helpful. The pillaging offensive strategy excels in this second kind of war to the extent that it is truly game unbalancing.


    The specifics of the strategy

    For this to work you need an army. Load the army with your best defenders. If you have the pentagon, then even better. Load up four of your best defenders into the army. (Usually, rifles seems to be the least powerful defender with which I have this working. However, I see no reason why it should not work with muskets too, although I have never tried it with muskets). Take at least four cavalries and add them into the stack of defenders. Now make a beeline for your enemies capital. Never move the cavalry out of the defensive umbrella of the defensive army. After a potentially long march that can take upto a dozen or more turns your army should reach the enemy capital. While the army is marching rest assured the AI will not even touch it with a ten foot pole. To quote handy900 "It is amazing to see 12 infantry walk right past a rifle army and never fire a shot! It's like they can't even see it!". In my experience, the AI never attacks a defending army unless it has a very decent chance of winning, i.e. it too has an army, preferebly an army loaded with attacking units.

    Once you reach the capital the fun begins. In one turn you can pillage 1 + x squares with the army and x cavalries. The army pillages the square on which it is standing. Then Cav move #1 is to opponent square, pillage on move #2, then move #3 is back to the square where the army is. Be careful with hills, if you are moving from Flat to hills, your Cav's turn ends on move #1 to the hill (in opponents territory). If in mountains or hills already, Pillage with the Horse first (move 1), On move 2, move to the next hill or mountain (the Cav turn will end here - 1 square from where you just pillaged). Now move the army to catch up with the CAV. On Flat lands you can pillage alot faster, but pillaging mountains & hills cripples AI's production & often takes out luxs & resources.

    Once the capital is completely disconnected keep the units there so that the capital remains disconnected for as long as you want.

    Here is an image of the result you are looking for.




    Effects on the enemy

    The deleterious effect on the enemy is profound.
    (a) Since the capital is disconnected all trades with otehr civs for resources and luxes stop.
    (b) The capital, typically the most productive city by way of shields, and science is taken out of commission.
    (c) The capital's population crashes in a few short turns.
    (d) Lots of workers usually get trapped in the capital, since they never venture out as long as the cavalries are there, for fear of getting captured.

    Other options

    Also, this stategy can be used very effectively to deny a crucial resource permanently to the enemy. For example, let's say your enemy has two sources of oil. Send one army/cav combo to the capital. Then send two more such combinations at the two oil sources. Once the sources are disconnected and the capital is also disconnected the enemy is reduced to using cavalry as their potentially best attack unit. If this is a modern age war, from then on the game is won. So potentially for just three armies and a dozen cavalries you have stacked the game drastically for your favor.


    This strategy has been used to lethal effect by me and handy900. Originally I used only the armies. Hence the pillaging was a bit slow. This was bettered upon by handy900 who introduced the addition of the cavalries. {thanks also to him for the image above, which has been taken from his AW game}


    Any comments and ideas on this would be much appreciated.
     
  2. handy900

    handy900 Chieftain

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    This strategy works like a charm. Be sure to pillage on the way to the enemy capital as well as once you arrive. I don't pillage with the army because it slows down the marching too much. I just march the army. During the march use the move 1, 2, 3 explained above to pillage with cav on flat lands. It takes 2 cav to pillage a tile with rails. 1 cav for the rails, 1 cav for the roads & improvements.

    I've tried 2, 4 and 6 cav in an Always War game (which is loads of fun BTW). Six cav was too many, 2 was not eoungh. If you are in the hills, you pillage with a cav #1 on the first move, then move to the next hill on move 2. If you have 6 cav in the stack, 5 of them do nothing but just move that turn. If you have loads of extra cav that's fine, but usually there are better uses for the extra cav back on the battlefront. With only 2 cav I found I missed a lot of prime flat lands pillaging on the way to the capital.

    The reason there are only 3 cavs in the above image was I made a mistake & left 1 cav alone on a hill. Be careful, if you leave a cav exposed, the AI will go all out to kill it.
     
  3. Gengis Khan

    Gengis Khan Chieftain

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    While this is a great strategy & would cripple ANY & ALL AI opponents in no time flat(especially with multiple armies). I consider it somewhat exploitive, since the AI very rarely attacks the army(even when it has a stack of units next to it that could easily take it out) its basically a unit that can't be attacked & can pillage 9 tiles at a time(on all flat ground).

    The AI simply isn't intellegent enough to understand what it takes to kill that army so it just waits untill it has an attacking army of its own, even if it never gets one.

    All in all a great strategy, but a little too unbalancing for my taste.
     
  4. betazed

    betazed Seeking...

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    As I said in the first post it is a greatly unbalancing strategy.

    However, I do not think this is an exploit because you are not taking advantage of any bug or drawback of the game. All you are taking advantage of is AI's lack of strategic thinking. And every strategy that we use to win at Deity levels is possible because AI cannot think strategically.

    IMHO, if this is an exploit then so is the use of artillery which is also game unbalancing . The AI never makes enough and never uses them properly.
     
  5. Earp

    Earp Sheriff

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    This sounds like a good strategy to me. I do not see it as an exploit. If you are playing as the Chinese or Arabs, you can use your 3 move UU instead of cavalry and be able to employ this strategy earlier in the game.
     
  6. Krayzeenbk

    Krayzeenbk Rocket Constructor

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    A small stack of infantry with worker/fortress support works wonders too.
     
  7. Grille

    Grille panel insect

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    :goodjob:
    :)
    I like mass pillaging, especially if I don't have the capacity to start a full scale offensive war (probably against a much stronger neighbour), but want to really cripple my enemy.

    However, I don't rely on armies (infantry stack is also fine) and I use those cheap explorers for the pillaging. Explorers could be produced in no time (you can use your somewhat corruptive cities for that) and I would rather use my cavalry to attack elsewhere.

    An ideal path through enemy territory would be a zig-zag route (=optimizing numbers of tiles to be pillaged each turn).

    Here's some links to some posts I made about this issue (I prefer larger stacks of infantry now):

    A post...

    ...yet another...

    ...promise: last one.
     
  8. handy900

    handy900 Chieftain

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    Explorers! Of course! Why didn't I think of that! :wallbash:

    Thanks for the great idea Grille! And extra thanks for the links. :goodjob:

    Can't wait to try this tonight and especially on my next always war game.
     
  9. Grille

    Grille panel insect

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    Just don't forget to pillage the mountain tiles and such on your way. The nasty explorer doesn't break for anybody :evil: (1/3 movement cost for any tile).
     
  10. handy900

    handy900 Chieftain

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    Question for Grille or (anyone else),

    I would like to draw upon your experience using stacks of infantry instead of an ARMY.
    How big a stack of infantry do you use?

    I'm interested because I tried an experiment last night. I created a stack with 2 verteran infantry (4 HP each) Plus 6 drafted conscripts (2hp each). The toal of the stack was 20 hp's which is the same as an army of 4 elite infantry that is currently pillaging untouched in Korea's core. I was thinking if I sent an infantry stack with the same 20 points the AI would treat it the same as an Army. Wrong. The Ai made an attack. I guess the AI recognized the stack had conscripts. While the attack was not strong enough to kill any infantry, it did knock the two 4hp infantry down to 1hp.

    So...how may infantry do you send in lieu of an Army?
     
  11. betazed

    betazed Seeking...

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    In my experience irrespective of how many Infantry you send in a stack the AI will attack you. The AI understands that when attacking a stack it is really attacking one unit at a time. Hence, it has a decent chance of knocking out a unit. Hence it will attack. A strong AI with hundreds of units will take out a decently large infantry stack. If the AI has tanks then the stack probably does not have a chance.
     
  12. Grille

    Grille panel insect

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    You can't generally say how many infantry units are needed, it depends on many circumstances (mainly on the ai's capability to produce units with a dencent A-value, such as map size/number of cities, tech level, available resources). Well, the resource issue here might be easy to influence by a pillaging stack...

    Also, I think the ai likes to pick on weaker targets (which you could probably influence as well - avoid tiles in the open and such).

    Note that I do not use the somewhat related ping-pong exploit (=very obviously presenting a weak target, plus changing it spatial turnwise, thus letting the ai following a *ghost* and avoiding any attacks). But I do not garrison cities like mad either (cities that are currently not threatened directly). To be more precise: I may have only a musket or a riflemen in safe core cities (normally I don't leave any city undefended), while border cities (and pillaging stacks) have infantries in bigger numbers. This *could* let the ai ignore your stack while their units try to aim for a weaker target.
    Based on this, you can use even relative small stacks (say around 5 infs) in a specific game, while you'd need a much bigger stack or must have an army in another one. Note: you may even accept that the stack gets finally wiped out, as long as you've handicapped the ai enough. OTOH, if it would take you 3 dozens of infantry on a standart size map, you'd be probably better off capturing/razing cities right away (at least I think you'd be able to do so).

    When you actually have an unfilled army and want to mass-pillage, I would also recommend to fill it with infantry and send it out. In agreement with Betazed, if tanks finally begin to rule the battle field, a pure infantry stack is probably toast in no time.

    Overall, this a powerful tool: as often, you might not be able to *plan* to use it (well, maybe in an AW or XCC game), but there comes a time when you find this option very, very useful.
     
  13. handy900

    handy900 Chieftain

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    This has certainly been my experience in the limited (2 days) of trials so far.

    I think that was also part of the problem. I'm in an Always War game and Korea is building nothing but infantry. I only have 3 cities on the Korean continent very heavily fortified so the infantry stack (I tried one last night with 8 infantry veterans) was the easiest target avaialbe, hence they atttacked because as betazed noted, the AI's see themselves attacking one unit at a time.

    I did however manage to do quite a bit of damage :goodjob: with the 8 infantry stack, then I was able to send most of the explorers to a nearby army for safety. :lol:

    Grille, I must say the pillageing moves to warp speed when you use explorers! They are especially useful pillaging in hills & mountains where much of the enemy production comes from. Much better & cheaper than cavalry.

    Without the pillage idea from betazed & the explorer enhancement from grille I'd be much further behind in my current game.

    Thanks to you both! :beer:

    I'm anxious to start a new AW game after I finish this one. This time AWE. Maybe one day I can join the elit AWD club. That would be way cool :cool:
     
  14. handy900

    handy900 Chieftain

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    I agree that it's not an exploit.

    I also love artillery, and I'm glad the AI does not!

     
  15. Rik Meleet

    Rik Meleet Top predator Retired Moderator

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    Although you don't think it's an exploit; I am not comfortable using specific units (Defender army + many explorers) which the AI doesn't understand in this overwhelming way. The option to pillage was, in my view, never designed to be used this way. In my opinion pillaging is supposed to be used at a risk; you have a unit within striking distance of the enemy. The enemy "looses" a tile, but you might loose a unit; a fair risk. These tactics give you the profit, but not the cost. It strikes me as unfair.

    Against other human players I think it's an allowed tactic, but against the AI I consider it an exploit.

    Only in specific games I'd use it (like this RBCiv game) or games with other restrictions (AW is an example). But in normal games I wouldn't consider a victory in a game in which I played using this tactic a "Victory".
     
  16. Grille

    Grille panel insect

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    Hmm, in this regard,
    the ai does not understand much in general.

    If I would only define an exploit as method the ai civs do never use, I'd end up w/o offensive artillery assistance, palace pre-builds, settler factories, mass upgrades, upgrading & unit use in general (invading another continent and whatnot), useful (!!!) tile improving/management, UN vote "preparations", palace move/jump, FP placement... to name but a few.
    Also, I have never seen an ai trying to claim 66% territory for a domination victory (would I be allowed to claim territory in an overwhelming way?).
    Also, in a normal game (not AW games etc), you'd probably use this strategy when you're much weaker than your enemy. At least you're likely better off capturing enemy cities when you are able to so (in which case pillaging is bad).
     
  17. betazed

    betazed Seeking...

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    Now, with conquests this strategy becomes killer and maddeningly overpowering.

    Imagine what you can do with a 3 consquitador army. You can pillage 9 tiles in one turn!

    i.e. in a few turns you can pillage the entire AI empire to ancient ages. And you can keep doing it over and over again. Game over!

    Even with the above described combination of cavalry and a rifle army you can get better pillaging efficiency. Now the army can pillage as it moves since armies lose no movement point on pillaging.
     
  18. Mano3

    Mano3 Chieftain

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    handy900,

    Holy Cow! What did you do to get your military that big???
     
  19. ybbor

    ybbor Will not change his avata

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    another advantage when cutting off the capital is that coruption is increased in his/her whole empire (when palace is connected to a city, corruption is decreased)
     
  20. yurko

    yurko Chieftain

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    In fact, AI do attack the army with artillery. I tried this trick and my army with 4 Mech.Infantries was hit with Cruise missiles and Artillery couple of times. It did not help them though :)

    Fortunately, they did not have Bombers (they moved all of them to another area) as in Civ3C bombers can kill.
     

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