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The Stack o' Doom: Effective Composition and Use of Offensive Military Stacks

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by Sisiutil, Sep 12, 2006.

  1. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    The Stack o’ Doom:
    Effective Composition And Use Of The Offensive Military Stack In Civilization IV


    A Civilization IV strategy article by Sisiutil

    Version 2.0 - January 2nd, 2009

    Attached, in PDF format.

    Comments and constructive criticism are encouraged and welcome!
     

    Attached Files:

  2. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Chieftain

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    When you have high-combat-value units attacking low-combat-value units, Combat promotions are often about as good as City Raider, and a lot more flexible. A common case where this applies is swordsmen vs archers.

    CR2 swordsman vs CG2 archer in city, fortified, with 20% cultural defense
    6 vs 3*(1+0.45+0.50+0.25+0.20-0.55) = 6 vs 5.55 = 1.08 to 1

    Combat-2 swordsman vs CG2 archer in city, fortified, with 20% cultural defense
    6*1.2 vs 3*(1+0.45+0.50+0.25+0.20-0.10) = 7.2 vs 6.9 = 1.04 to 1
     
  3. MrCynical

    MrCynical Chieftain

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    A few general nitpicks, and also some more detail on changes with Warlords:

    There are a number of mentions in the pillaging section (particularly section 2.3.1) of sticking to forest and jungle tiles. In the ancient to classical eras these aren't going to have any improvements except maybe a road (which there's rarely much point in pillaging on its own). While these tiles are more defensible, sticking to them doesn't help in the main objective of pillaging. For that reason I also wouldn't recommend the woodsmen promotions for a pillaging stack.

    In section 2.3.2 you highly prioritise roads as a pillaging target. Except maybe in my very first rush I usually find the enemy empire has such an extensive road net that (barring bottlenecks due to terrain) pillaging roads in general is slow and unproductive. This may be a quirk of the high difficulty levels I play at.

    In section 3.1.1 I'd query that war elephants are good city defenders. While they have a high base stength they don't get defensive bonuses, so most of the contemporary units are better at defending cities. On terrain other than cities they are rather better defenders relative to the other units available, as the defensive bonus is a smaller component of te overall strength for a defending unit.

    In 3.1.2 I'd emphasize that in many ways the trebuchet is a direct city attacker in its own right, not just a supporting bombardment/suicide unit. With strength 4 and 100% vs. cities they match the basic maceman under most circumstances, and are better vs. crossbowmen. They often have a well over 50% chance of winning vs. contemporary city defenders once you've bombarded away the city defense (especially if you give them city raider promotions). Even if they lose you do collateral damage (and as I've said they often will win outright), and they have a chance to retreat. With warlords the trebuchet has really become the city attacker of choice, not the maceman. For this reason I would always give city raider promotions to trebuchets, not barrage.

    In section 3.3 it is worth mentioning in warlords that you can merge a great general into a city which gives +2 xp to all units built there, allowing easy access to level 3. Also in warlords barracks only give 3xp, not 4. There is however the stable city improvment, which gives an additional +2 xp to mounted units, and is available very early, allowing level 3 mounted units to be easily built, though not other types.
     
  4. HectorSpector

    HectorSpector Chieftain

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    SoDs are so untactical, I wish they would rid the game of them somehow.

    What they need to do is allow siege units to barrage stacks from within a city, and have a much higher chance to withdraw. Stacks of a certain size should be visible from a greater distance too, ideally proportional to the number of units in the stack.
     
  5. Cort Haus

    Cort Haus Chieftain

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    Cats aren't rendered completely obsolete by Trebs. Cats attack stacks in the field with a strength of 5 compared to the Treb's 4, where the city attack bonus doesn't apply. They're also a lot cheaper. So I'd include cats in the list of defensive units for the city-busters.
     
  6. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Good points above about Trebuchets. I don't have Warlords yet; I should probably remove all references to it from the article, leaving it referring only to vanilla Civ IV, until after I have some experience with it.
     
  7. CynicalMagician

    CynicalMagician Chieftain

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    Give the total realism mod a try. It makes it so stacks of 14+ units are 'crowded' and thus suffer -25% strength, lose first strikes, and some other negative modifiers. In practice it means there's lots more smaller armies manuevering around and combat in the field.
     
  8. HectorSpector

    HectorSpector Chieftain

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    That's more like it.
     
  9. lilnev

    lilnev Chieftain

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    Overall a great primer on offensive tactics. I would point to a couple of things:

    First, you recommend leaving city raiders outside of the captured city to heal. This will significantly slow the healing process (5% in enemy terrain +10% medic vs. 15% in revolting city +10% medic). If you've brought along the proper city defenders, it shouldn't be a problem to move your raiders into the city to heal.

    Second, you recommend using your weaker units first when it comes to step 3 of storming a city. Because the combat system is significantly non-linear, in particular with a discontinuity as your strength passes theirs (just barely stronger has quite a good chance to win, just barely weaker has quite a poor chance), it often makes sense to match up a stronger attacker with a strong (but not quite as strong) defender so that you gain the benefit of that discontinuity. If my best attacker would still be an underdog, then yes I'll send a weaker man in to die for the cause.

    Also, do you consider mounted units to be good city storming units? A Knight with Combat I/II has strength 12 vs. a Maceman with CR I/II with strength 11.6, and the Knight avoids first strikes. He is more expensive, and the CR III promotion will put the Maceman ahead, but I still find Knights useful against Longbows. And even more so against Crossbows or Samurai, though those are far less common.

    Anyway, great article.

    peace,
    lilnev
     
  10. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Chieftain

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    A Maceman with CR2 does not have strength 11.6. That's not how combat works. The City Raider promotions reduce the strength of the defender, rather than increasing the strength of the attacker. This makes a big difference.
     
  11. uberfish

    uberfish Immortal

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    Knights are indeed strong against longbows and very useful for picking off stray enemy units in the field. The only problem is pikes are a better counter to knights than crossbows are to macemen, and the AI builds more pikes than it does crossbows.
     
  12. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Revised version posted. Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
     
  13. lilnev

    lilnev Chieftain

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    Right, I knew that....
    Suppose the defender is a Longbow, City Defender I (plus his innate +25%), fortified +25%, no hills or cultural defence. Knight */** fights at 12 vs. 10.2 (6*1.7), no first strike. Mace CR I/II fights at 8 vs. 7.5 (6*1.25), with first strike.
    Though I concede the point that Pikemen are a pain, and more common than Crossbows.

    peace,
    lilnev
     
  14. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Chieftain

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    Right. Note that 8 vs 7.5 is significantly worse than 11.6 vs 10.2 would have been.
     
  15. pigswill

    pigswill fly (one day)

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    No cultural defence is a huge assumption; 20% or 40% are more common defence values. If defence is subtracted from attackers chance then knight goes from 12 v10.2 to 9.6 v10.2, mace goes from 8 v 7.5 to 6.4 v 7.5 (at 20% defence); if added to defenders chance then it becomes 12 v 12.3 for knights and 8 v 9 for maces; either way the odds suddenly becomly tilted towards the defender (and it obviously gets worse at 40%, 50%(walls), 60%).
     
  16. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Chieftain

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    If you have macemen or knights, then you usually have catapults too, so you will generally bombard the defenses before attacking.
     
  17. aelf

    aelf Noctis Lucis Caelum

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    Maybe it's worth noting that France defies the conventions set for a pillaging stack here. If you're playing France, your pillaging stacks consist of Musketeers and maybe some knights. An assortment of suitable promotions for the Musketeers (CombatI + Pinch/CombatI + Shock/CombatII + Formation/CombatI + GuerillaI) would render such a stack unassailable without numerous units or siege weapons.
     
  18. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Good point. I didn't address the various UUs, many of which are formidable enough to warrant a change in stack composition, as you have so ably asserted. I may deal with this in a future revision.
     
  19. Phrederick

    Phrederick Chieftain

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    Some constructive criticism:

    I would say that a crossbow should be mentioned as an anti-melee pillage-stack defender; especially if you use an outdated cavalry as a pillager, because then it is the best anti-crossbow.

    Flanking only provides a chance to withdraw when attacking, not while defending. Although it opens up sentry, it would be worth noting that if the unit doesn't have enough experience to get sentry out of the gate, flanking isn't necessarily the best promotion. Although barracks + stable do give enough experience... Also, I usually would give the pillaging unit the medic promotion. I guess it's just a difference in style. I don't think sentry is all that useful, because it's hard to predict whether the ai will use that unit you see to attack your stack, and because there isn't much you can do to prevent it.

    Also, Axemen have +50% vs melee (at least I thought they did?), and you have it as +25%.

    As others have said, woodsman really isn't a useful promotion, unless the stack is badly wounded and needs to hole up and heal.

    You should note that when pillaging metals, there is often a defender fortified there. Without a strong pillaging stack, I avoid confronting them and their +25% fortify bonus.

    Even though you don't have Warlords, you should still mention trebuchets as city attackers.

    I wouldn't say that axes/maces are the best anti-melee stack defenders, because what melee will they be defending against? Axes/maces. Crossbows are much better. I would combine that fourth paragraph under Stack Defenders on page 9 with the first, and mention that the melee commonly defended against are axes/maces.
     
  20. Mango

    Mango Tasty Fruit

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    Crossbows are the most underrated unit in the game IMO. The problem is Longbows are better city defenders and most people only use archery units for city defense. Stick some crossbows in your attacking stacks and give them melee promotions. They will wipe out melee counter attackers.
     

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