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What it means to compare the UUs....

Discussion in 'Civ3 Strategy Articles' started by occam, Sep 3, 2005.

  1. occam

    occam Chieftain

    Jun 25, 2005
    Fellow Civ Addicts,

    I wish to pose a request....

    I love poring over the Strategy Articles to learn more from the wisest heads among us and in particular I like articles comparing the different Civs and of course their UUs. But the discussions start to bog down a bit there. Less introspective critics want to bump their favorite units. More canny critics might challenge the assumptions/criteria of the rankings, or even having rankings. Etc. Not that these critics don't have valid points! But it got me to thinking...

    What does it mean to "compare the UUs"?

    -- the role of navy
    How valuable are ships? Ans: context is everything! Therefore, every would-be ranker has to make a context assumption about world size and composition... even if that assumption is just to try to think "on average." IMHO, 20% of the debate on the UU threads would disappear if everyone began their UU post with: "my context assumption is to _blank_." You can replace blank with "on average," or by "in their best role," or more revealingly, "in the games I like to set up." People who claim to be ignoring context could be ignored as cretins, like if they didn't mention which version of Civ they were comparing under. (This problem applies in much less extreme form to the land units.... don't you think that anyone who ranks Egypt highly but doesn't play swampy starts needs to disclose that?)

    -- how to rank the various improvements
    Although some UUs have weird attributes like slaving or fatal bombard that are tough to compare, most have a simpler bonus.... like +1 to speed, attack, HP, def, etc. Some other standard bonuses seem to be lowered resource requirements, cheaper to produce, or lowered technology requirements. Perhaps any ranker could state up front what GENERAL order they feel these fall into... I bet most people would mostly agree with the teirs ranked by people who have similar general rankings, but would learn more from the slight differences. Personally, I would rank them: speed, HP, cheaper, Attack, lower resources, lower tech, Defense. I have a dream that I should be able to learn something from any article by someone with whatever ranking, if only to learn how the general ranking affects specific comparisions. But I am finding I can't learn much at all if the general ranking is kept hidden. Disclose it! We could also have some fun discussion about units like the bowman (sic), does it compare better as a spear with more offense, or an archer with more defense, or perhaps there is a third category of flexible units.

    -- the role of exploits
    The Hwarch'a is hands-down the most broken UU. Fatal bombard is without risk. Therefore there is a production investment of shields which allows you to conduct war with no losses -- a certain stacksize of them (possibly mixed with other artillery of course) is more powerful than ANY unit, not just UUs. However, some people find the artillery dominance distasting of exploit. Add in a second, unrelated exploit of the AI failing to attack units in the field that are defended by a (damaged) army and you have stack immunity. All of which makes this one a tough unit to compare.

    -- GAs, synergy, etc.
    There are certain UU intangibles, too. The timing of the Golden Age is a tricky thing. A despotic GA is bad, but HOW bad? What if you play that Civ so much you don't mind the despotic GA? The synergy with the cultural traits (what industrious nation desires to have hordes of non-industrious slaves?) is another that is tough to agree upon, let alone weigh into the comparision. One risk here is that sometimes a UU ranking is used in ranking Civs, double weighting some of this type of intangible.


    To sum up:
    I am humbly suggesting that the only way to offer a meaningful ranking of UUs is to disclose many other settings at the same time.


    Thanks for reading,

    PS: A question I find interesting, but so static I leave it out of the main post...

    -- Who is the opponent?
    I assume all rankings mean "when using this unit against the AI." It is so weird to me to call a UU the best when you mean best at beating the computer, but I suppose that really is the implied meaning from the comparision. The Man-o-War is the perfect example... there are some maps that let it completely dominate since the comp can't understand that another Civ owns the seas and that all strategic planning must assume that. But clever humans can easily neutralize that some by knowing that all sea activities are high risk during a certain era; just that knowledge makes the UU lose value. I suppose that this is an indirect complaint about the AI, that all the UUs SHOULD have a "neutralizability" rating, but the AI is stuck on zero for all of them. The panzer would be then be an interesting unit to discuss.
  2. Theoden

    Theoden Chieftain GOTM Staff

    Sep 17, 2003
    Excellent article.

    This advice counts when comparing most things. Other factors will have to equal for a meaningful comparison. This is important to remember if you want more specific discussions about UU's.

    However, sometimes you also need general advice. The thing is that there has to be a delicate balance between the two, and I agree that we need more specific advice.

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