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The Vikings - Berserker Rage

Discussion in 'Civ3 Strategy Articles' started by Zwischenzug, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    I'm new at writing here, but I'm an old hand at Civ III (which I find to be the crown jewel of the Civilization series) and have followed this awesome forum for years. The Civ reviews by Ision, Zardnaar, and the others are one of the high-points and I often found them to be immensely insightful. However, I also disagree with some of the points they made in their reviews. They rate some Civs fairly poorly because they seem to have overlooked some exploits and synergies they offer. To balance their viewpoint with another one, to invite comment and discussion, and to give myself a repository for my own thoughts, I decided to post my own set of Civ reviews.

    To give you an understanding of where I'm coming from with my analyses, I will give you the settings I usually play: C3C, largest map size, roaming barbarians, 16 Civs, Emperor difficulty, culturally linked start locations, no respawn, Histograph, Space Ship, and Diplomatic as victory conditions, all other settings according to my mood. I like to play for ****s and giggles and I like long and epic games. I want to have fun and cool civilization development stories, I do not care about winning as fast as possible or high scores. That is the perspective I'm going to write from. This also means that I will try to bring out the best in each Civ and why I will not use a Tier system, as Ision and Co. did (that's good if you want to look at performance, but I want to look at versatility and fun).

    My viewpoint sometimes results in an unusual playstyle, but often one that results in a special "feel" when playing the Civ in question, which is often close to the actual history of a Civ. To emphasise how such unusual builds can work (at least up to Emperor difficulty, everything above I find boring as hell, it's just mechanics), I will probably include examplary game descriptions or uploads, at least occasionally or on demand.

    Accordingly, I will begin with a Civ that has been rated very, very poorly by Ision (3rd Tier, although not even properly reviewed): the Vikings.
     
  2. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    tl;dr - A monstrous warmongering Civ, but with a few twists to it, revolving around the Berserk UU.

    The Vikings are Militaristic and Seafaring, starting with Pottery and Warrior Code, and their UU is the Berserk, which replaces Lonbowmen with a 6.2.1 ampibious unit. And there you have it all - one of the most deadly warmongering Civs in the game. On Pangea maps the Vikings are fearsome, on Continent maps they are a terror, and on Archipelago maps they are bloody hell-spawn.

    But let's go point by point, first the traits, then the UU, around which the Viking play revolves much more than that of most other Civs. There's not much to say about Militaristic. In my opinion, it is the weakest of all the traits, since it only shines when warmongering (and even then, rather dimly), limiting your options. But if Militaristic feels just right for one Civ, it's certainly the Vikings. Seafaring is better, it even provides the chance to play the Vikings as something besides pure vicious warlords - if you manage to resist the latter, somehow (I will soon show you that this is not easy, even for a generally science oriented, trade reputation concious, let's-try-to-be-friends-with-all, anti-warmongering wuss like me). The higher commerce in coastal cities and the additional movement point for ships, coupled with the coastal start, can result in some really decent early trade and gold amassment (more so on Archipelago maps than on Pangea maps, of course, but even on the latter the trait is not entirely useless). That could be used for a peaceful playstyle, but with the Vikings, it actually augments the warmongering palystyle much better. So let's finally stop the pretence and take a look at...

    ...the Berserk! This UU, in and of itself, is madness. Together with the Viking traits, it is pure cataclysm. The fact that it replaces the Longbowman, of all possible units, still reduces me to incoherent giggle fits now and then. Let me tell you why. The Berserk is 6.2.1, so it is right up there with the strongest attack units of the entire Medieval Age, the Cavalry and its UU replacements. However, it comes significantly sooner, with Invention! If you beeline for it (which I strongly suggest, although the term "beeline" might be an overstatement, considering that it's only three techs), some of your opponents might actually not have finished ugrading from Spearmen when your Viking hordes descend upon them. But even if they have, the 1.3.1 Pikemen do not pose a much more difficult problem. Even the 2.4.1 Musketmen, which you will have to confront a little later, are no match for the 6-attack Berserk, when deployed in force. True, its movement is only 1, and one could easily make a point out of stating that Knights and, especially, the UUs that replace them, are still stronger (as a general rule, I would rate movement over attack any time myself), but 6 attack points are 6 attack points. At this early a date in the game, that is double that of the best defender - for dozens and dozens of turns, usually. Find me a UU that generates a similar disparity (I spare you the effort: the only one is the Ottoman Sipahi, and their window before the next stronger defender is much shorter, although their movement of course makes well up for that). So even when deployed on land, in the cover of a few Pikemen, the Berserk will tear through your enemies. The amphibious option of course renders all discussion about movement moot, especially on Continent and Archipelago maps.

    The downside of the Berserk is its cost, 70 shields is quite steep (although, to be honest, anything less would be completely broken). But here the Viking traits and the fact that the Berserk replaces Longbowmen come in. Ridiculously, since it replaces Longbowmen, you can upgrade Berserk from Archers (a unit you will produce in the Ancient Age as your mainstay). The cost of this is 150 gold per unit. That is also a steep cost, granted, but you will be one of the first at Invention (the AI does not often beeline for that with a high priority) and you can thus usually snatch Leonardo's Workshop even on Emperor and above. So now the upgrade is 75 gold. Still too much, you say? Well, you have been amassing gold from your Seafaring trait since round one, and used your early contacts from the same trait to trade technologies for even more gold whenever possbible - and, ideally, you didn't spend a single piece of it during the game so far. That is a pretty treasury you have there. Also, you will of course shut down all research after you reach Invention. You will not need it for the next 20-50 turns, as you will get techs from desperate peace treaties from here on. That gives you the possibility to upgrade a sizable Berserk army fairly quickly.

    And then you go forth and shred. It's that simple. Or rather, it can be more complex and even stronger, if you consider some additional perks. I already mentioned several times that Berserk replaces Longbowman, and why this is immense fun. But consider the implications fully: you still have Knights! That might be a strange and trivial realisation, but remember that most other awesome Medieval Age UUs replace Knight. Never forget that you can still build it with Vikings! Adding some Knights to the Berserk mix for specialised missions can augment your already formidable horde to absolute invincibility. Unit mix is key! When playing extremely UU focused, that is often forgotten - don't forget it with the Vikings! And the cherry on top of all of this is of course that you have the Militaristic trait - resulting in promotions and Military Leaders galore. The Military Leaders are quite wasted on Berserk, since the Armies won't fit in the ships you have available, but your Knights will thank you (seriously, do not forget about building some of them Knights!). Another, minor, accelerator of your play is that you have a good shot at conquering Knight's Templar from someone - again, something to put into your armies.

    It is occasionally leveled agains the Berserk that it doesn't upgrade. To which I reply: why would you ever want to upgrade this beast!? You would only upgrade away its greatest feature - the amphibious assault. Berserk have a high enough attack to stay a central component of every Viking army right up until Marines come along (if you fancy to go for Amphibious Assault at all).

    This is, of course, a rather one-minded playstyle. But as I pointed out, you can try to go for something more peace-oriented, and how much conquering you do is ultimately up to you. Furthermore, all this will require precise timing, but nothing approaching witchcraft. If you still turn your nose up at the Vikings, and say that they might prosper with a decent starting point and favourable map, but won't be able to salvage a crappy start, like the Maya or other builders might be able to, let me suggest to play with settings such as: huge world, 3 billion years old, 80% water, Archipelago, cold, dry, raging barbarians, 16 Civs - the most inhospitable surroundings you might imagine. Play these settings with Vikings. Don't be discouraged by most starts you draw. Only tundra, desert, and mountains in the first screen is probably something to throw, plains are awesome, grassland with bonus resources is probably too good to even have fun with the game. Seriously: your starts will look like crap by any other standard, but just try. The Vikings will dominate such maps like none other. The playstyle I just described is extremely self-sufficient (did I mention that Berserk do not even have a resource requirement?).

    You can probably salvage a significantly higher proportion of bad starts with the Vikings than with any other Civ. You can turn a few towns clinging to the cliffs of a barren wasteland into an empire spanning the world withing half an Age. Get into the Viking mindset and use it! I was never disappointed (even if the game ultimately crumbles, it is usually tremendous fun to play).
     
  3. Lanzelot

    Lanzelot Moderator Moderator

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    Well, it does not only shine when warmongering: the Militaristic trait also gives you half-priced harbors, which means lots of commerce in coastal towns, which can be used quite effectively for research games.
    However, I agree: in the case of the Vikings, this point is moot, because their Seafaring trait also gives you half-priced harbors... (Unfortunately these are not "cumulative"... :D) So that means, the "synergy effect" between Militaristic and Seafaring is very bad in terms of "achieving high commerce/research". The synergy effect between Militaristic and Scientific for example, is much better: half-priced harbors and half-priced libraries means you can turn your coastal cities into real research monsters early on! :goodjob:
     
  4. justanick

    justanick Chieftain

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    Unfortunatly berserkers do upgrade. Once the guerilla becomes available with replaceable parts and you have entered a golden age you can no longer build berserkers. This creates an incentive to delay researching the probably most useful tech of the industrial age. So here we have a second negative synergy effect. Usually you might have enough berserkers by then, but there might be 60 painfully long turns between replaceable parts and marines.

    I very much have to disagree on that. Fill an army with 3 berserkers and put those armies on galleones. You can take cities hold by rifleman or even infantry with that. Once the modern transport becomes available Armies filled with 4 berserkers can even destroy mechanized infantry.

    In the middle age it makes little difference whether you fill your armies with berserkers or knights. Both cost the same. Knights are faster and better on defence. Having one army of knights might be convenient. But as berserkes have 50% higher attack values they are much better suited to attack fortified cities. Knights are better for weaker targets. The additional movement point useable for attack is more important than. Both kind of armies are good. Knight's Templar however combine the low speed with of berserkers with reduced attack values. That does not seem like a good option. That makes only sense as an act of desperation when you would else not have enough berserkers for amphibios usage.
     
  5. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    Well spotted ;) But as you say, irrelevant in this particular context.


    Well, I never... I devised this strategy way (like, really, really way) back, and suspect that the upgrade was not possible in one of the older patches. I can only apologise :blush: I can only say in my defense that I never had real cause to produce new Berserk that late in the game, and thus probably never noticed.

    Well, that is true, but I question the usefulness of this strategy. Galleons are so far ahead of Berserk in the tech tree that you will already have conquered most of what you really want by then. And even if you hadn't, a Berserk army is still wasted, in my opinion. The benefits of armies are that they move around faster, heal in enemy territory, are seldom attacked by the AI (unless very low in HP), have the blitz ability, and give almost certain victories against other units. All of that is useless to a Berserk. You don't want to move on land if you can help it, you don't want to slouch through enemy territory to knock out resources, you are out of the AI's attack range in any case (aboard ship), and you don't need to blitz or have near 100% chances of victory. What's more important, you have Frigates as soon as you have Galleons - which means bombardment, which means that you rapidly stop losing Berserk in any case. With bombardment, even single Berserk outside armies can take Riflemen, and even Infantry, with relative ease. On top of that: if you have Galleons, you either already have Cavalry or will have them very soon - and the armies are certainly better invested there!

    Fortified cities will crumble under Knight armies in any case, no need for the additional attack value of Berserk. Put them into ships and let them do their thing. Furthermore, I often find myself unable to fill all the armies I generate with Knights (despite having emphasised to build some Knights in my original post, I will point out here that I often find myself producing significantly more Berserk than Knights). So yes, filling the them with Templars instead is an act of desperation in a way ^^
     
  6. justanick

    justanick Chieftain

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    Well, I thought you like to play bigger maps. On smaller ones it is likely to be true, especially if you reduce research after invention. You might however need galleones to attack enemies oversea, so this is an incentive to give research priority.

    Let us have a look at the facts first. Armies of knights have attack 6 at size 3, 6 at size 4 and 8 with size 4 and military academy. For berserkers the values are 9, 10 and 12. Musketmen fortified in a city on grassland has defence 7.4, on hills it is 9. The later means that an army of 3 knights will lose 6 HPs on average against Musketmen with 4 HP. As the army is worth 610(400+3x70) shield you donnot want to attack with few HP remaining. If the chances of losing should not exceed 10%(60 shield / 610 shields), than you need 9 HP remaining before attack. This means that you are lucky to use 2 out of 3 possible attacks of an army of 3 knights. For berserkers it is 7 HPs you need remaining and only 4 HP you will lose on average.

    I interpret this as berserker armies being slightly better against fortified cities. Early on knight armies do suffice, because the enemies are likely to be weak. Later the pentagon allows you to use 4 knights per army, which shifts the favour towards knights. In between berserker armies might be preferable. Than cavalry comes and makes knights obsolete. Maybe that may be the key argument to not put knights into armies, as the limited amount of armies is better used by cavalry instead. The berserker armies however remain very useful when galleons become available. I see no argument clearly favouring either choice. It depends on circumstances. I would properly favour berserkers of knights, but mostly due to flavour. Later armies would then be used by cavalry as for them the argument of higher speed applies without restrictions.

    Frigates are not so good at bombardement. To be decisive you need many of them. Against riflemen or even infantry you would better wait for destroyers or even better means.

    Actually that often is a proper usage of an army. Berserker armies however are used best in other ways, most importantly getting a foothold on a new continent.
     
  7. Zwischenzug

    Zwischenzug Chieftain

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    I follow your reasoning, but I still see Knight armies as stronger than Berserk armies. As you nicely calculated, Knight armies can take even the most hardy city without much sweat - and most cities aren't on hills. And you will soon have more than one of these Knight armies. In addition, I find the movement of 3 of Knight armies vastly superior to the 2 of Berserk armies. In my experience, additional movement points do not increase the usefulness of a unit linearly, but exponentially. 3 movement points are not 1.5 times as good as 2 movement points, they are maybe 2-2.5 times as good. The deeper penetration into enemy territory in surprise attacks, the more rapid access to their key resources, and the additional blitz turn all put the Knight army way ahead of the Berserk army for me.

    What I cannot dispute is the undeniable style of a Berserk army ;) But the few times I decided to make a Berserk army instead of a Knight army, I always found myself handicapped.


    True, but you should have a couple of really productive coastal cities as Viking, so you won't have any problems spamming enough of them.

    Indeed it is the proper use of an army. That is my point: you will get more flexibility and faster penetration out of a Knight army. Using a Berserk army for deep penetration raids on resources is an even more wasteful use of armies an Berserk than using them for conquest. Another point why I would personally prefer a Knight army over a Berserk army any day. But preferences can differ :)
     

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