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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. sfnhltb

    sfnhltb Chieftain

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    These units are the answer. With two movement points, they can
    venture into enemy territory and reveal defensive forces, while their extra tile of sight reduces the chances that they
    themselves will be spotted; and if they are, the Flanking promotion increases their chances of survival.


    Doesn't the AI have the same visibility over their territory that the player has then? Seems odd that you can be inside AI territory and the unit not be seen by them.

    Also the Flanking promotion is for attacking siege units isn't it? How is that promoting a scouting units survival chances?

    You can defend a city “passively” or “actively”.

    Of course the choice is partly related to how far in the game you are - in the mid/late game you often find even once you take a city down you are still surrounded by enemy culture, which tends to favour passive city defense for any initial counterattack. If the nearby roads all turn neutral as they will do in early wars, then active defense becomes much easier and many of the risks are removed - you can attack approaching stacks with any and all units needed with equal mobility. If it is his territory still your counter-counter attacks are slower and easier for the enemy to deal with and you probably should revert to turtling (i.e. everything on one square again asap).

    Of course the siege unit for active defense will be the catapult until pretty late on - without the extra city attack bonus the trebuchets are expensive and relatively weak to use in that role, except when no other choice is present.

    3.2 PROMOTIONS

    The one extra thing I add to city attack stacks is one or two non-CR attackers - in case a stack comes up against units outside a city (often some reinforcements being sent from another city). Ideally at least one of these will be mounted, so the last attack that ends up on the defenders square can then jump back to the main stack. They can double up for mopping up nearly dead city defenders that killed some of your CR attackers, so they don't require an increase in overall stack size, you just end up with slightly less CR specialists. Of course these units can also help your active city defense force once the city is taken (or maybe they could be considered the same thing, just doing active defense before the city has even been attacked).

    So most of the units in a huge stack are likely to come away from a siege weapon’s attack without a scratch. Whereas if a siege unit attacks a small stack, they’ll all get damaged and may have to stop to heal.
    This is also why it’s a good idea to park your stack in one tile when attacking a city rather than spreading them out around it.


    Small stacks are best against siege weapons, if you have a stack of 7/8 or more, you maximise the damage a siege weapon can do. Having siege weapons hit everything would have probably made SoD a lot weaker tactic, but as it stands if you have stacks of 2-3 you will suffer limited damage from siege weapons.

    SoD tactics are to protect you against everything else - because of the mechanic that the best current defender is selected from a stack it means that attacks by mixed forces against a SoD are weak - two SoDs of equal size/tech/composition/promotions and the attacker loses badly (even absent fortify/terrain bonuses). The two threats a defending SoD has are a much bigger/better SoD, or a ton of suicide siege units followed by a similar size SoD attacking it.

    Of course the other weakness of a defensive SoD is strategic - you can only hold one square with it, meaning that it will have to attack/move some time to be useful.
     
  2. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Good points, I'll work some of this into the next revision, whenever I get around to it...
     
  3. tijup

    tijup Warlord

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    Isn't there a limit of units that a catapult could damage in one attack ?
    I know that it can't damage a unit which has 50hp left or less, but I was with the
    impression that it can't damage more than 5 or 6 units per attack. I may be wrong.
    (Sorry, can't check for now, since I'm at work)

    [edit]
    The answer is in Sisiutil's document. A catapult can damage only 8 units per attack.
    [/edit]
     
  4. DMO

    DMO Chieftain

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    Is there info regarding a stack of safety? Meaning , in which way you can build an unbeatable defesnive army?
     
  5. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    There really isn't any such thing, though you can build a stack that is, for the most part, impervious to the AI (humans in multi-player are quite another matter).

    Protecting your stack is a combination of composition and movement.

    Composition: Make sure you include units which have promotions which take advantage of defensive terrain (Guerilla, Woodsman). Also make sure you include at least one counter unit for each type of opposite unit (an Axeman or Maceman with Combat I/Shock, for example, as well as Spears or Pikes with Combat I/II/Formation to counter mounted units, etc.). And finally, make sure you have at least one unit with a medic promotion to heal injured units. Later in the game when your opponents have air units, you'll want to include units capable of intercepting air attacks (Machine Guns, Anti-Tank Infantry, SAM Infantry).

    Movement: Protecting your stack in enemy territory requires you to find the right balance between speed and using the terrain. The less time you spend out in the open, the better, so you want to move the stack in the most direct line possible to your target. At the same time, if defensive terrain (forest, jungle, hills) is on that path, take advantage of it. The tricky part comes if using a tile with a defensive bonus will delay your stack. It's a judgement call, usually based on the amount and type of opposition you're encountering.
     
  6. DMO

    DMO Chieftain

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    Interesting info, thanks for sharing.

    I have one more: when it comes to defending a city, one should resume to a special garrison made from defensive unit? Are there any other tricks for succesfully defending a city?
     
  7. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    The best way to defend a city, in my experience, is actively rather than passively. What I mean is that you want to attack the attackers before they get a chance to attack the city. Some tips:

    • Clear away any defensive terrain adjacent to the city--jungles, forests, get rid of it ASAP before the war starts. There may never be a war that threatens the city, but if there is, you'll be glad the enemy has no hiding places in your back yard.
    • Lay down roads near the city so your units have enhanced mobility (including escape routes) in your own territory.
    • If you're founding a city close to a border with a volatile enemy (Montezuma or Shaka, for example), place it on a hill for the defense bonus if possible.
    • A border city that is likely to come under attack can benefit from a wall and a castle (and cultural buildings too). The AI does attempt to use siege units to remove city defenses, but it rarely brings enough units to do it quickly. The higher the city's defense %, the more time you have to move more defensive units into position.
    • As with capturing cities, in Civ IV, the trick is to use lots of siege weapons. Throw a few Catapults at the enemy stack to weaken it.
    • Once the Cats do their work, my favourite mop-up units on city defense are mounted units. I like giving them Flanking promotions to increase their chances of survival. And they may cause damage (or even kill!) enemy siege weapons in the stack.
    • If you're playing as China, use Cho-Ko-Nus against an enemy stack as well--they're also excellent mop-up units (and deal out some collateral damage).
    • Just in case there are enemy units still alive after all this, be sure to have some City Garrison units and, if possible, counter units (anti-melee, anti-mounted, anti-gunpowder) fortified in the city.
    The big advantage of active defense is to minimize pillaging. By killing the enemy stack, you avoid losing mature cottages that took you many, many turns to nurture to maturity. Also, remember that killing enemy units within your own cultural borders does not add to your war weariness.
     
  8. Pangaea

    Pangaea Rock N Roller

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    Found this thread and document via Sisiutil's posts in the forum. Fantastic info, just brilliant. Have been reading this document for the last hour now, so many good tips, particularly about composition and promotion of stacks.

    A must-read :thumbsup: :goodjob:
     
  9. Chep

    Chep Emperor

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    I know I'm coming a bit late to the party, but I just started playing a couple of weeks ago and have some more questions:

    wouldn't it be better to use the great general on a non-mounted-unit for the Woodsman III+ MedicIII-Super-Duper-Healer?
    I usually choose this way and it almost makes your troops immune to collateral damage (since the AI usually attacks with 2-5 catas and then decides "ah , I'll wait another turn" but when my turn begins everybody's fully healed)
    the extra movement is usually not really needed for a medic in my experience.

    concerning city defense (vs AI) I usually let the computer take one of my frontier cities, while most of my units hide in the tile behind it, leaving only 2 units in town (this way the computer attacks with his catas and I get to kill a couple of them).
    Then my (usually CR-advanced) "would-be-defenders" attack the AI in "my frontier city". This way I can usually use my offensive army consisting of CR-attackers and trebs for defense while negating the AI most of their CR-advancements.
    Downside is that you lose a lot of buildings and population in these cities, but then most of my frontier cities are either recently conquered or newly founded anyway.
     
  10. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Not a problem.
    I've done this sometimes too, but the main problem with it is accumulating enough XPs to get Woodsman III, Combat I, and Medic III. By the time you get the unit to that level you could have had a Combat I/Medic III unit healing your troops for some time, especially since you'll probably give the unit the Leadership promotion to help it accumulate other promotions. Every attack the medic unit participates in puts it at risk. Yes, you could only have it fight sure-thing battles, but (a) at anything less than 100% odds, there's still a risk of losing the unit, and (b) 100% odds are very, very rare until you get Cats and Trebs--meaning, once again, a long delay to Medic III while the unit climbs the promotion ladder.

    I tend to only do it these days if one of my early exploring Warriors (who almost always get Woodsman promotions) earns the Leadership promotion through a random event--which is admittedly rare.
    As tactics go, that one's not bad, especially if you're facing a formidable AI stack. As with many things in Civ, it depends upon the circumstances. If you've had the city for several turns and have built up some buildings and population, you'll probably be loathe to lose them. Then again, you may be loathe to lose veteran units in a fight outside the city, too, especially if the enemy stack is on good defensive terrain.
     
  11. Chep

    Chep Emperor

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    It is true that it takes some time for them to get there, but then I usually either have a WoodsmanII-III -Warrior from the start (which also is my healer for the first war) or just use a "slightly weaker" attacker like a swordsman when my main attackers are maces - someone who can win vs a cata/treb (especially whittled down) as my healer and have him fight the "sure things" to level up the last woodsmen-promotions (sure, it does take the occasional reload :( ).

    And if you're Hyana your great Quechua start with Combat1 so all you need is 37 exp, 20 of which come from the general and the unit usually has around 10 before you promote it from earlier duty... (but I guess playing the Incas is frowned upon on higher difficulty settings?)

    actually a WoodsmanIII-CombatI-MedicI unit would be as effective as a "normal GG-Medic" (though not for sourrounding units) leaving me 2 more base-exp for the other units...hmm...

    Concerning the "here, have it"-city defence: these cities are usually used to grab me some resource or block the further expansion of my opponent. losing 3-4 buildings and 4-5 population are a good tradeoff for killing the enemies stack of doom (which usually is much bigger than my available forces).
    it is not viable if the city is recently conquered (at least if it was taken from the now attacking foe) or one of your "older", more important cities, sure. but here you usually had the time to build up a) some cultural defense which takes 2 or more turns to destroy (giving you time to attack from the safety of your city) and b) chopping all forest/hill-tiles adjacent to it^^
    but then I only play emperor, so it might be different on higher settings.
     
  12. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    If your strategy relies on reloading unlucky battles then it's not going to appeal to most people here.
     
  13. Chep

    Chep Emperor

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    I figured as much, but I'm still in my learning stage, so I allow myself some more leeway when my supersoldier dies at 98+%. (of course if you "force" the game to let you win at 70% odds or something its bollocks)

    but then only thinking about this led me to the conclusion that I can simulate a "GG-Healer" with a Wood3+C1+Medic1-Unit, which either allows for a super-healer with a GG or settling the GG in a city, thereby making it easier to "clone" this kind of unit. as said, it is especially useful for units that start with combat 1 or even medic.

    then you only need to bring your unit to 17 exp before the general to reach this insanely fast-healing unit (or some value lower than that and then have it level after adding the general, thereby healing faster but risking the general).
     
  14. DaviddesJ

    DaviddesJ Deity

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    I don't see how it's any different at 70% or 98%. It's not going to help you learn, it's just going to help you develop bad habits. Of course, you can play however you enjoy the game, but if you discuss strategy with people here, most of them are going to have a different perspective.
     
  15. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    I'm also not sure that the extra 15% healing is really that big of an advantage because you still have to wait 1, 2, or 3 whole turns for the unit to heal. I'm sure you might occasionally be able to heal a unit in 1 turn instead of 2, or 2 instead of 3, but for the most part it's going to be the same.

    What I end up doing in most games is get one of my exploring Warriors up to Woodsy II against barb animals; bring him home, promote him to an Axe; get the Axe up to Woodsy III against barb Warriors and Archers; then send him out with my first Stack o' Doom to provide the basic healing boost (and added protection in jungle and forest).

    Once I have horses I'll build a few Chariots and try to get one to Combat I/Medic I and at least 7 XPs against barbs and/or an AI civ enemy. I'll attach my first GG to this Chariot, give it Medic II and III and one more promotion which also ensures that I can build West Point later on.

    After that, the GG Chariot usually accompanies the stack; the Woodsy III unit often ends up being left behind with any seriously-wounded units, garrisoned in a recently-captured city, while the healthy units head off in a stack toward the next target.
     
  16. Chep

    Chep Emperor

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    15 (woodsman) + 25 (medic 3) + 5-10 (enemy/neutral territory) means that I usually heal in 1 or 2 rounds.
    since I play mostly monarch/emperor I usually have a slight tech advantage over my enemy and when fighting longbows/musketeers with riflemen healing a unit to 90% is usually enough after having broken the first few strong defenders.

    but yeah, I think I'll only keep doing this with quechuas since they only need 7 exp over the "barb 10" (which they get quite easily thanks to combat 1 and +100% vs archers).

    the reloads were mostly due to the fact that I wanted a super-soldier with 100+ exp - who at the same time is the healer, because all the promotions looked so cool.
    If I only have to get my unit to 17 exp before the GG...seems doable.
    For units without any base-promotions this is a lot harder since the healer would have to win about 16-18 fights after the attaching the general, true.
    I'm still not convinced that having 1 more move for the healer is that useful.
     
  17. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    No, not really. The healer typically moves with the stack. However, because mounted units can't fortify (except, of course, for some of the UUs), it makes it slightly less likely that your mounted medic will be chosen to defend the stack if it comes under attack.
     
  18. Thurhame

    Thurhame Chieftain

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    Agreed. This is why I NEVER waste a Great General on a healer unit.
     
  19. Hamilton321

    Hamilton321 Warlord

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    I rarely attach great generals to a unit, but then again I also prefer to fight very short wars and the healing and other benefits provided by great generals being attached to a unit are negligible in short wars, also it is more beneficial in my thinking to have a larger amount of moderately experienced troops than a limited number of highly experienced troops
     
  20. 6K Man

    6K Man Bureaucrat

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    I’ve been experimenting a lot with healers lately. Right now, I lean towards the Woodsman 3 (W3) healer as opposed to the Medic 2 (M2) healer. For 10xp, I’d rather have +15% healing in the healer’s tile than +10% healing in the healer’s tile and adjacent tiles.


    This does necessitate getting a (usually) Warrior to 10XP, which doesn’t always happen… but if you attach a GG to a 6XP warrior, you can then get W3/M1, which is +25% healing and pretty nice. Going the medic route first means you need (I think) 50 XP to get to W3/Medic 3, and that’s just an extra 15% healing per turn at the cost of 24XP, and that extra 15% only makes a difference for redlined units (Admittedly, you forgo the faster healing on tiles adjacent to your healer, which can be a nuisance in a situation where you have just taken a city and have a stack of units outside the city that have no moves left and need healing, and a smaller number of damaged 2-move units in the city as a temporary garrison)


    I tend to play on stupidly big maps and fight lots of long wars with large numbers of units. Speeding up the healing process can shorten wars a little, which helps with war weariness. And if you have a stack with 30+ wounded units, 1 healer can save a lot of unit-turns of inactivity.
     

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