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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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    Interesting discussion.

    I myself am not fond of the Cover promotion, and only slightly less reluctant to hand out Shock promotions. I give the latter to a handful of units to defend against melee unit counter-attacks. You're unlikely to get attacked by archery units (though it does sometimes happen, the AI being what it is). So the only real reason to grab Cover promotions is for offense. And I think there are better choices.

    The reason is the long term. I plan to have my best City Raiders with me for a very long time, graduating from Axes/Swords to Maces, Rifles, Infantry, and perhaps even Mech Infantry if the game goes that long. Right around the time they graduate from swinging metal balls at people to taking pot-shots at them, the Cover promotion starts to become useless. Worse, it makes later, more universally useful promotions more expensive.

    Thus, I'd rather stick to City Raider promotions and once I've collected the full set, Combat. I may throw in a Pinch promotion in the gunpowder era.
     
  2. cabert

    cabert Big mouth

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    I can't remember when I used a cover promotion.
    For warriors defending vs barb archers, I prefer an environnemental promotion (guerilla or woodsman). I won't attack anyway, so I may just get the bonus vs everyone ;).
    For better units, they defend efficiently vs archers and longbows even without cover, so there is no point. On attack, the cover promotion usually leads to another type of unit selected for defending :mad:.
    The only situation where I ever think of using them is for "early" gunpowder units attacking cities full of LB. Even then I rarely do so, because the time when the LB will become rifles isn't that far away.
    I can think of another situation where it may be worth it : facing an army of CBs. It happened only once to me, and my elephants didn't need anything else than combat to win. I think mounted units don't get cover anyway, so I had no choice whatsoever.

    Shock is different. I use it sometimes for defensive units or for mounted units in highly mobile stacks (= no antimelee unit available).
     
  3. Perugia

    Perugia Prince

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    I agree with Sisiutil that cover and shock promotions are incompatible with the long term. But I do think they have a specialist role mainly in defending when in open terrain where they complement formation. I don't need them when approaching the AI cities from hills & forests but some just got to be approached across open ground.

    However I always think to myself do I really want to scupper the future upgrade of this unit once the AI foot units upgrade to gunpowder types.

    Because such units have no future value I will often eventually sacrifice them when taking a well defended city such as one with plenty of longbows on a hill instead of catapults.

    Or I'll just end up using them as military prescence or gift them to the AI which I'd rather not have to.
     
  4. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    The thing is, I'm not all that fond of upgrading units unless I'm going for a particular upgrade on a particular line of attack for a particular age. Every time you upgrade a unit, it goes back to 10XP, so it's only really worth it to plan for the long haul on units you plan to upgrade with Warlords or if you're somehow strapped for XP on fresh units.

    Barracks + West Point + 2 MIs already gives you 11XP in and of itself, and that's not counting the +4 potential XP you get from the right civics if you can spring them.

    This is even more relevant since you can't get Pinch promotion anyway until after gunpowder, and I find that I rather want to make units that have that upgrade first thing rather than having to slog through lots of combats to add it unto an upgraded City Raider 3 Rifleman (who went back to 10 XP).

    So, if I'm thinking of attacking a Civ that's primarily using Archers for defense (which is virtually all the AIs depending on when you catch them), then Cover is an excellent promotion to be working with, IMO.
     
  5. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    There are few things more powerful in this game than a stack of City Raider III Rifles and Grenadiers, promotions they can't get without being upgraded. The assured victories are worth a couple of lost XPs. They'll usually get 95% odds or better following even only a couple of collateral damage attacks, so I don't miss the extra promotions too terribly.

    Even so, hanging on to the XPs is usually not a problem with a little planning. I tend to have several CR III Swords and Macemen. Once one of them reaches 10 XPs I usually stop using it in combat unless absolutely necessary, preferring to use a less experienced CR unit and build it up to 10 XPs.
     
  6. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Actually I find a stack of Combat II Pinch Riflemen and Grenadiers somewhat more useful. They're more than likely to attack Gunpowder units defending cities anyways, and if they're not, the extra Combat promotions still help.

    City Raider Rifles and Grenadiers tend to be primadonnas, IMX, requiring a nice large healthy stack to get them into position to do anything useful. They're not at all good at holding ground once they're inside the cities. Forget about making breakaway stacks or killing random pillaging Cavalry with those things. Rather than spend the effort to maintain and upgrade these units, I would rather create and upgrade CR3 Cannon. Now those are worth taking along and using (since you'll hardly ever use them to attack anything other than a city).

    As far as upgrading goes, aside from the loss in terms of what you can promote to specialization, there's also the question of gold, and I can't seem to bring myself to upgrade Swordsmen or Macemen into Rifles rather than making a couple fresh ones myself.

    Perhaps the most damning problem I have with City Raider promotions on Swords and Rifles and Macemen is that they don't do anything if you're not waging war and taking cities, and I don't like the feeling of wasting my time making such units. It's okay to make a few if you're imminently going to invade, I guess, but even then I find that I'm thinking about garrison work and holding ground already.
     
  7. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Yes, I've played a few games where I've gotten to the Gunpowder era relatively peacefully and found myself without any CR veterans. Sometimes I've mass-produced CR Macemen just before finishing Rifling (when they become unavailable). Other times I've settled for building Grens and Rifles fresh, and you're right, they do a perfectly respectable job provided they're coupled with enough CR siege units. And you make a good point, that they can do double duty, unlike CR units, of both taking ground and holding it.

    Earlier in the game, though, I like my CR units, especially because I never seem to have enough siege units. Catapults drop like flies and Trebs are darned expensive. So the CR units have to finish the job. And if I have a number of them, which I often do, and the gold, why not upgrade them? You're right, though, then they need to be accompanied by several additional units for protection, both of the stack and of the newly-captured cities.

    Perhaps in an upcoming ALC I'll purposely try your tactics and see how things turn out.
     
  8. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    The thing I do is that I build a lot of Catas and use the more experienced ones more carefully, so that I don't lose them. If I have Trebs, I use those for attacking first, and CR2 Catas for finishing off already damaged units. A CR2-3 Cata is hardly worse than a CR3 Swordsman when attacking cities, especially when you take collateral damage into account.

    And it isn't called upon to defend your stack as often. And you can use it for extra bombardment while you whittle down city defenses. Because of all these benefits, I find that I almost always prefer to use a siege unit for attacking a city-based unit rather than a Swordsman or Maceman. If you're only intending to attack a city with it, why not a Cata?

    If you treat your "elite" Catas as gingerly as you do your CR3 Swordsmen, then you'll probably find that they, too easily make it to CR3 and even CR3CombatI before you upgrade them to Cannon.

    Having a stack of like 7 CR3 Cannon is the best feeling in the world :) It feels like... ...victory!
     
  9. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Interesting--it's usually Trebs that I nurse along and eventually promote to Cannon (especially since that's a much cheaper upgrade, and the Trebs cost more to build). Catapults I usually just treat as fodder.
     
  10. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Catas are hardier when they're attacked, so they're more likely to survive. Plus, I like to use Trebs to attack cities when they're still tough, since the Trebs are more likely to do damage in that case. Firstlining a bunch of siege weaponry doesn't do a whole lot for their survival, to say the least.

    Finally, I'm also likely to have cheap Catas from a previous war, if I had any, so those are further along en route to CR3. Throwing away an 8XP CR2 Cata makes no sense to preserve a new 5XP Treb. Better to use the Treb and nurse the Cata until it hits CR3 and then into Cannon.

    Although the Treb is more expensive, I think it's worth the price for "cracking" the hardier initial phases of city attack. I usually find the Catas too weak, relatively, in that role to justify even their modest cost. Once the units are moderately damaged, the Catas go in for further collaterals. To put it shortly, I save the Trebs for cracking cities.
     
  11. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    I can't ever remember letting the AI attack my catapults or trebuchets.

    If I'm expecting to lose a battle, I'd much rather send in a catapult rather than a trebuchet, it does much more collateral damage per unit cost. The trebuchets only attack when I expect to win. Thus they get experience, the catapults don't.

    If you got experience for just bombarding, that would be a different matter. Like you, I often have a bunch of old catapults lying around. Unlike you, they hardly ever have much experience, because they are the ones that did nothing but take down city defenses.
     
  12. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Now THAT's strange. I don't let any unit lie around for any reason at all. If I have a bunch of old Catas lying around (and I usually do), I send them in with the Trebs. I expect to win, of course, but the Trebs still do the brunt of the grunt work with cities, since they're more likely to win the tougher battles.

    Once the percentages start going up, that's when the Catas start in. Not a whole lot left for Swordsmen after they're done, but sometimes there's two or three left to mop up.

    Why leave Catas at home, or waste them attacking at poor percentages?
     
  13. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    Now that's really strange. What do you do when you're not at war? You just always immediately attack someone else?
     
  14. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Depends. If I'm Tokugawa, heck yes! ;)

    Just kidding.

    The thing is, if you're going to be using Trebs, then why leave the partially blooded Catas at home? If you're thinking about defensive counterbattery, wouldn't it be better to just make more, should the need arise? They're pretty cheap, after all. If you're brining them in for battering down city walls, oughtn't you prioritize their XP before the Swordsmen?
     
  15. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    I don't leave catapults at home. You invented that idea.

    Nope. You can take down city defenses just as well with unpromoted catapults as with promoted ones. You just need a few more. But the difference between having promoted swordsmen and unpromoted ones is the difference between winning and losing.

    You might be able to attack a badly injured defender with a catapult when you are almost sure to win. But, you'll only get 1 XP anyway for that battle that you're almost sure to win, so it's not a significant factor in accumulating highly promoted units. And I rarely attack with my catapults in 50-50 battles, which is where the most XPs come from. I attack when I'm very unlikely to win, for the collateral damage, but then I'm dead. Or if I have a chance to attack with a catapult at 50% odds, I'd much rather attack with a swordsman at 80% odds, and not lose the catapult.
     
  16. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    Hmm... Interesting.

    The thing is, 1 XP is 1 XP. If I'm going for an almost sure battle with a Swordsman, he'd net about the same XP anyway. Why prioritize the Swordsman? If the Cata has a 50/50, then half of them make it with a lot of XP, easily on the way to CR3 for the Cannon upgrade.

    If you're going to suicide the Cata anyway, oughtn't it make much more sense to save it until it has a better chance of survival, even going so far as to allow it to attack only after the Swordsman has?

    I confess that I don't get it. On the one hand, you seem to be advocating suiciding the Catas, but on the other hand, you seem also to be treating them with kid gloves.
     
  17. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    No. The catapults are cheap and expendable. I also often build them in cities without barracks. There's no sense in investing effort in getting XPs for them if they are likely to die anyway.

    Yes, I see that.
     
  18. Roxlimn

    Roxlimn Deity

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    But that's the whole point. I can see where you COULD do it that way, but you don't HAVE to, and I feel that it's not the most expedient. Rather than waste hammers growing suicide catas that don't really do much, doesn't it make more sense to suicide Trebs that are more effective at it?

    Then you grow the XP of those Catas which you already have that are already experienced. Why waste it all?
     
  19. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    That's fine. I never said what you are doing is wrong. (Except for the part where you are always at war with someone---I think that's a little much.) So if you understand how and why I might do what I'm doing, then I don't see what you're arguing about.
     
  20. cabert

    cabert Big mouth

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    you're wandering quite far off topic, but it's an interesting discussion that could bring good ideas provided it's a made a bit clearer.
    Some issues I see there :
    1) - who should get the XPs?
    2) - how do you make it happen (I mean to give the units you want to promote the XPs it takes)?
    3) - what happens to outdated units?

    For 1, I'm not one saying the catapults die, so they don't need promotions. But it's true that I can put unpromoted catapults to good use, while unpromoted melee units are worth a lot less.
    I confess I'm a bit irrationnal on the XP distribution, I don't put much effort in trying to promote a specific type of units. Why? because I settle most GG, and the later produced units are more promoted than the veterans :lol:. Off course, a few CR3 melee are always worth an effort. More so than siege. And promoting mounted units higher than the "natural" flow feels like a waste (same reason as before, I'll build better troops later, when the GGs give me loads of XP right out of barracks).
    So, with my way of playing, I should try to promote my melee units to CR3 prior to the rest... It's not exactly what I do, but it makes sense.

    For 2, I have some kind of religion : retreaters (mounted and siege) fight the low odds. Off course they still die more often than they retreat, but sometimes they win the low odds fight and get massive XPs :).
    If I have to choose between sacrifying a treb and sacrifying a catapult, I will go catapult first : more colateral damage, less hammers wasted.
    After the low odds fight, I will look at the units available which ones need 2 XP to be promoted to attack first, which ones need only one to attack then. Those needing more than that will do the mop up duty.
    I will send the units needing 2 XPs until the odds are above 98%. Most will win and gain a promotion and fast healing :). After that, I send those needing 1 XP hoping for 99+% odds. Same as before, they should win and earn a promotion and fast healing. After that I try to use the units so that they face units they have a bonus against if possible, regardless of XPs.

    For 3, outdated units have 3 missions in my games :
    - city garrison for happiness (I'll upgrade them if the city is threatened)
    - medics/stack defense or colateral damage taking (a bit random, but at least if my stack gets hurt, the outdated units can die defending
    - suicide attacking (mostly in defensive situations=fighting at home to avoid WW)
    This is enough to justify no disbanding and only very selective upgrading.
     

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