Mounted unit balance: Competing design philosophies

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Yertyl

Veteran
So, I wanted to open this discussion because in both game design and discussions here I see a clash of two differing philosophies around mounted units:

1. Mounted units are straight up better than non-mounted units
  • they are faster on both the battlefield and strategic map
  • in battle, they seem to be straight up better than their non-mounted counterpart (both ranged and melee) in every situation
  • They get an explicit advantage in auto-resolve
  • Upgrading (to) a mounted unit is a lot more expensive for the player, and the player is severely limited by the number of available warhorses
  • as far as I can tell, this is historically more accurate
but at the same time
2. Mounted units are equivalent to non-mounted units
  • Unit limit and upkeep is the same as for regular units
  • AI can create them for the same price as regular units and is not limited by available warhorses
  • Some AI factions just field more mounted units without any apparent disadvantages to compensate, and are thus both faster and better in auto-resolve.
I feel like the mix of these philosophies results in a lot of back and forth in the form of "(cavalry unit)/(faction with cavalry units) is OP" "Yes but they are supposed to be". So might I propose that we go all the way into one of those directions?
Make mounted units the equivalent of 1.5 non-mounted units in both upkeep and unit limit.
You can e.g. have 60 infantry or 40 cavalry units.
I think in most respects, they already are, and this would solve a lot of problems in my eyes. Namely that your strength as a player indirectly depends on how close you are on the map to cheap warhorses, some weird exploits (have the AI auto-upgrade mounted units, then take the unit back), and most importantly army composition and faction balance.
What do you think? Are there downsides I am overlooking?
 
Make mounted units the equivalent of 1.5 non-mounted units in both upkeep and unit limit.
So you're suggesting this, right? In terms of upkeep I do agree that it needs to be higher, but I'm not sure what to say about the unit limit thing, I wouldn't say it makes sense to do that. Would you (the player) occupy 1.5/20 space in your party at the start of the game? Would companions do the same if they had a horse? But infantry can already mount horses while they're moving on the campaign map (for movement speed bonus), yet they wouldn't occupy 1.5 space would they. Also cavalrymen become just regular infantry during a siege, and I don't know how I feel about that either, I feel that would be a huge nerf to cavalry in a way that doesn't make the most sense to me. No, I think we already have a good limiter for the player to not make a full party of cavalry so easily, by him having to buy horses for upgrades.

The second limiter that makes sense to me is indeed upping the upkeep, that would be desirable as well imo, to make infantry a more viable option per total. Upping the cavalry upkeep should also hit the kuzait for example a little more economically than the other lords, so even if not a big nerf, still a nerf to the kuzait. As for AI having to buy horses, for example to remove such exploits like you mentioned, that does make sense to me, not sure if TW will do that though. Maybe later in development when they implement more features to do in times of peace and they increase peace time we could have that so that AI has time to restock on horses and also the markets are not constantly lacking horses because of constant wars between AI.
 
I think there is huge difference between heavy cavalry and light cavalry from survival perspective for example playing Sturgian and having perhaps 1/3 of army of mounted brigands I let them be mounted only if enemy is mostly with light units but if many units opposition has are heavy I rather dismount them for though being T5 unit it seems like horse armor is too weak or even their riders armor is not that great. If their horse is killed they are killed in no time too.

When I have some druzhiniks I am not forced to dismount them for their horses are well protected as well as riders. I do not understand why brigands need warhorse being practically if not light then medium cavalry but expensive as heavy.

It is not just about Sturgia ofc, even playing Khuzaits made me often not ugprading horse archers to T5 for not much survival is added for warhorse upgrade though at least their horse has better armor in comparison to Sturgian.

So imo warhorses should be needed just for true heavy cavalry while light / medium cavalry shouldbe fine with regular horses and also protection of horse - horse harness should be really balanced according to their expenses.
 
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vonbalt

Sergeant Knight
WBNWVCM&B
Making cavalry wages more expensive and they consuming more food would greatly help this (warhorses historically needed to be feed grain, they couldn't keep top battle readiness with just grass)

Also infantry AI really needs to be improved, they are very bad at melee and don't use the advantage of formations at all that should be teamwork, currently if you want the best performance possible for infantry just tell them to charge and forget them, stationary/slowly advancing units fight much worse than madrush suicide guys for some reason.
 
@Yertyl Have you tried using Cavalry units in battle in the single player campaign? It seems like there's 2 conflicting ideas because there are two completely different things going on.

1: In live combat Cavalry is very weak, they miss their attacks often, ride mindlessly into enemies and die easily to even low tier units because their armor a(and damage calculations) aren't effective. This is upsetting to players because we want Cavalry in MOUNT and blade to be powerful and useful.

2:In auto calc battles Cav gets an advantage. Cav also increases movement speed on the map. These things cause an AI vrs AI imbalance where more Cav is a strait up advantage for some factions. This is upsetting to players because we want the faction to be more or less even until we help or hurt them. Further more, players do no like the Khuzaits constantly showing up with hundreds of t2 horse archers.

These are two separate problems that need to be fixed separate.

As far as should Cav be stronger then Inf? Of course on 1 V 1 basis in open field combat a man on a horse should beat out and equally tiered man on foot!
 

froggyluv

Grandmaster Knight
NW
1: In live combat Cavalry is very weak, they miss their attacks often, ride mindlessly into enemies and die easily to even low tier units because their armor a(and damage calculations) aren't effective. This is upsetting to players because we want Cavalry in MOUNT and blade to be powerful and useful.

2:In auto calc battles Cav gets an advantage. Cav also increases movement speed on the map. These things cause an AI vrs AI imbalance where more Cav is a strait up advantage for some factions. This is upsetting to players because we want the faction to be more or less even until we help or hurt them. Further more, players do no like the Khuzaits constantly showing up with hundreds of t2 horse archers.

This is a huge problem and really makes the game feel totally disjointed
 

black_bulldog

Knight at Arms
WBWF&SVC
@Yertyl Have you tried using Cavalry units in battle in the single player campaign? It seems like there's 2 conflicting ideas because there are two completely different things going on.

1: In live combat Cavalry is very weak, they miss their attacks often, ride mindlessly into enemies and die easily to even low tier units because their armor a(and damage calculations) aren't effective. This is upsetting to players because we want Cavalry in MOUNT and blade to be powerful and useful.

2:In auto calc battles Cav gets an advantage. Cav also increases movement speed on the map. These things cause an AI vrs AI imbalance where more Cav is a strait up advantage for some factions. This is upsetting to players because we want the faction to be more or less even until we help or hurt them. Further more, players do no like the Khuzaits constantly showing up with hundreds of t2 horse archers.

These are two separate problems that need to be fixed separate.

As far as should Cav be stronger then Inf? Of course on 1 V 1 basis in open field combat a man on a horse should beat out and equally tiered man on foot!
Yep and it makes cavalry op for the ai, but a burden for the player which is beyond stupid. As much as I hated how op Swadian Knights in WB were at least I didn't feel like they were a waste of my time and money. There are so many core issues like this that really need attention by TW but I doubt they'll ever get reworked because I don't think they even see an issue.
 

Yertyl

Veteran
@Yertyl Have you tried using Cavalry units in battle in the single player campaign? It seems like there's 2 conflicting ideas because there are two completely different things going on.

1: In live combat Cavalry is very weak, they miss their attacks often, ride mindlessly into enemies and die easily to even low tier units because their armor a(and damage calculations) aren't effective. This is upsetting to players because we want Cavalry in MOUNT and blade to be powerful and useful.

2:In auto calc battles Cav gets an advantage. Cav also increases movement speed on the map. These things cause an AI vrs AI imbalance where more Cav is a strait up advantage for some factions. This is upsetting to players because we want the faction to be more or less even until we help or hurt them. Further more, players do no like the Khuzaits constantly showing up with hundreds of t2 horse archers.

These are two separate problems that need to be fixed separate.

As far as should Cav be stronger then Inf? Of course on 1 V 1 basis in open field combat a man on a horse should beat out and equally tiered man on foot!
I am not sure what you mean. Quite obviously I have used various groups with various amounts of cavalry in SP campaign. And also in battle tests, which I assume you have seen in this thread.
There is almost no situation in which a mounted unit is not better than its non-mounted counterpart. In an even fight, melee cavalry often decidedly beats spear infantry, despite spear infantry being a supposed counter. Horse archers dominate absolutely everything. A rider is faster, more flexible and better protected (in the game) compared to an infantryman, and should the situation ever arise in which that is not the case, they can still either stop or dismount, to be on the same level as a non-mounted unit. There is a reason nobody ever uses that option though.
Vlandian knights beat vlandian spearmen even dismounted, not to mention on their horses (same with sturgian melee/cav). Horse archers wipe the floor with absolutely everything, including normal archers. Currently, neither ranged units nor cavalry have any significant disadvantage compared to melee/infantry units -- they specifically do not have significantly weaker armor in general -- while having a huge advantage through their range/mobility. So I am not sure compared to what cavalry is "very weak".

EDIT: I would also be happy if melee cavalry did more damage to archers, but at the same time they should be more vulnerable than they currently are. Both kinds of mounted units are however definitely not weak in the current state of the game. It's not like infantry would do a better charge.
 
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Berzerker Jay

I support an increase to upkeep of mounted units, but I don't know about counting them as 1.5 units. I could see increasing food consumption, owing to feed for the horses, but I strongly dislike the idea of having them count as 1.5 units. They should be more expensive, but I'd rather the wage be on the basis of the unit rather than applying a straight 50% increase. Not all mounted units are equal, and by a long shot.

That said, I don't find the mounted units absolutely better than their infantry counterparts. In general they do tend that way, but there are trade-offs. Also as a player I can outmaneuver horsemen because of their speed. In my last battle I went solo instead of leading a formation, and I ran ahead with my bow and just noticed that I caught the eye of several horsemen. I continued running ahead and as the horsemen neared, I just used a quick deke before continuing the same way I had been going. They went way past me after narrowly missing me with their lances, and my own cavalry followed up on them while I continued to their archer's flank.
 

Midnitewolf

Sergeant
I think the first thing that should be done is remove the mounted speed bonuses from the game. Before someone says that isn't realistic I would contend that mounted or on foot that an armies speed is constrained by the speed of its logistics train. Basically your army is going to travel no faster than your slowest wagon full of food and other supplies. Also in a mounted unit you have to feed not only your soldiers but also carry feed for your horses meaning even more wagons. Finally even if you don't acknowledge that wagons are being used in the supply train, the amount of weight carried by your Sumpter Horse and Mules would be much higher due to the extra feed needed for the horses in a mounted troop as compared to an infantry troop. My point here obviously is that an mounted army wouldn't necessarily be faster on the march than a infantry army because both require supplies and can only travel as fast as its supplies can travel.

So remove the speed bonuses for mounted troops which will eliminate the advantage a mounted army has over a foot army as far as the campaign map goes. This will prevent mounted armies such as the Khuzait's from always being able to escape or run down enemy armies at will and should remove some of the factional imbalances and snowballing we see in game.

Then readjust the value of each unit in simulation. Instead of making cavalry outright superior to infantry make it more of a rock, paper, scissors situation where Infantry beats cavalry, cavalry beats archers, archers beats horse archers and horse archers beat infantry. I mean as far as simulation goes we are talking balance here, not necessarily realism and all that is needed is balanced outcomes from AI battles no matter which factions are involved. This solution also still allows a superior army to still beat a weaker one but given absolute equal numbers and quality of troops the outcome should be nearly 50/50 no matter the faction. This should then balance out the rest of the AI related game anyway as far as power on a troop vs troop level goes anyway. It would not address factors such as map location or how easy/hard it is to recruit and upgrade specific troops into their armies. I mean the Khuzaits will always have more horse archers as long as they can recruit horse archers at Tier 2 while other factions have to wait until Tier 4 or 5 or never get horse archers but at least you have narrowed balance down to just map location and/or the individual troop type availability in campaign or simulation.

The rest leaves just balancing the player battle experience which is where individual unit power would come more into play.
 

Yertyl

Veteran
I support an increase to upkeep of mounted units, but I don't know about counting them as 1.5 units. I could see increasing food consumption, owing to feed for the horses, but I strongly dislike the idea of having them count as 1.5 units. They should be more expensive, but I'd rather the wage be on the basis of the unit rather than applying a straight 50% increase. Not all mounted units are equal, and by a long shot.

That said, I don't find the mounted units absolutely better than their infantry counterparts. In general they do tend that way, but there are trade-offs. Also as a player I can outmaneuver horsemen because of their speed. In my last battle I went solo instead of leading a formation, and I ran ahead with my bow and just noticed that I caught the eye of several horsemen. I continued running ahead and as the horsemen neared, I just used a quick deke before continuing the same way I had been going. They went way past me after narrowly missing me with their lances, and my own cavalry followed up on them while I continued to their archer's flank.
Just an increase in gold and food upkeep (the second effectively also being a gold limit) would not do much in my eyes. It's pretty easy to keep your gold in the positive, and you could still have the snowball of
Win using your superior forces -> sell more loot -> win using superior forces -> etc

And currently mounted units are absolutely superior to their non-mounted counterparts -- see e.g. my test results here. Riders slaughter even spear infantry, which makes spear infantry weaker than any other unit type, and mounted archers absolutely steamroll the same number of archers, with results like 294 to 27 kills. It's not even remotely close.
And apart from that, cavalry is still a lot faster, which gives you more tactical options, and makes them much harder to kill -- in addition to horses usually being killed before the riders, which gives them a lot of effective additional HP.

And concerning the "as the player I can beat them"-argument...I do not see how that does not also apply to any other unit type. I can e.g. also dodge archer arrows much more easily than the AI does, but that does not mean archers are weak. It's about how strong a unit is compared to other units of the same tier, and currently, infantry is basically superfluous, melee cavalry and archers are both strong, and horse archers are pretty much invincible in an equal matchup.

At least horse archers will definitely beat archers at a 2:3 disadvantage in numbers, in addition to all the other benefits they have (mostly speed), so I fail to see how an increase in upkeep to match that power would be unfair.
 

Yertyl

Veteran
I just did another custom battle test to demonstrate the problem. All Khuzait troops, 100 vs 100 with F6 from the start. Listed are the kills on each side, winner in bold
Spear Infantry vs Archers: 76 - 91
Spear Infantry vs Lancers: 66 - 97
Spear Infantry vs Horse Archers: 0 - 97

Archers vs Lancers: 63 - 100
Archers vs Horse Archers: 9 - 101

Lancers vs Horse Archers: 27 - 79

Specifically for Khuzait Horse archers and lancers, for some reason the HA really like to switch to their swords and not use their bows, which means, that occasionally, the lancers will even win. This does not apply to other horse archers vs cavalry matchups though: For example, Khuzait horse archers will wipe Imperial heavy horsemen 80 - 11 and Battanian Scouts 90 - 8.

So infantry loses to everything, archers win against infantry but lose against mounted units, lancers win against anything but horse archers (but they're relatively close wins), and horse archers wipe the floor with absolutely anything, usually killing more than 10 times as many units as they lose.

Currently, the units that give you the most tactical options (ranged and mounted) also are the strongest in a fight without tactics. This is pretty obviously not great for balance. So while melee cavalry could be buffed a little, mounted (and ranged) units in general are just the much better option in every way.
 

Berzerker Jay

Okay, can anyone pose a logical argument for why cavalry should be at par or worse than infantry?

I mean, like I already said, there are trade-offs. I've also played full cavalry games, and had to deal with that in the actual direct combat my troops are constantly swarmed because cavalry charges in and then away, if it can get away. My current playthrough is almost entirely infantry, only about a half dozen cavalry, and I am winning just the same, only once my wave of infantry hits it's basically game over for the other side.

But why should cavalry be nerfed? Especially, why should we do such gamey things to cavalry such as counting them as extra units?

Cavalry was a major advantage in battle, for a number of reasons. The only problem I have with it in the game is that it should be more costly. You seem to have further objectives with regards to cavalry. Just wait until you see an all-archer army. Will you have archers count as two units? I have to say I would hate the game if it were like this. I would mod it to fix this.
 

black_bulldog

Knight at Arms
WBWF&SVC
I just did another custom battle test to demonstrate the problem. All Khuzait troops, 100 vs 100 with F6 from the start. Listed are the kills on each side, winner in bold
Spear Infantry vs Archers: 76 - 91
Spear Infantry vs Lancers: 66 - 97
Spear Infantry vs Horse Archers: 0 - 97

Archers vs Lancers: 63 - 100
Archers vs Horse Archers: 9 - 101

Lancers vs Horse Archers: 27 - 79

Specifically for Khuzait Horse archers and lancers, for some reason the HA really like to switch to their swords and not use their bows, which means, that occasionally, the lancers will even win. This does not apply to other horse archers vs cavalry matchups though: For example, Khuzait horse archers will wipe Imperial heavy horsemen 80 - 11 and Battanian Scouts 90 - 8.

So infantry loses to everything, archers win against infantry but lose against mounted units, lancers win against anything but horse archers (but they're relatively close wins), and horse archers wipe the floor with absolutely anything, usually killing more than 10 times as many units as they lose.

Currently, the units that give you the most tactical options (ranged and mounted) also are the strongest in a fight without tactics. This is pretty obviously not great for balance. So while melee cavalry could be buffed a little, mounted (and ranged) units in general are just the much better option in every way.
Everything is "perfectly balanced" as the Spiffing Brit would say. :roll:
 

Berzerker Jay

If you compared real troops from history the same way, do you not think you'd find horse-archers have such an advantage over spearmen?

How exactly do spearmen gain the opportunity to attack horse archers...?

Is this really not working as it should? Are we suggesting spearmen should for some reason be able to kill horse archers by means of teleportation?

Are we ignoring that this is why army composition matters? A horde of infantry needs to be protected, and if you expect to be slow-moving and heavy against horse-archers, well...do the math.
 

MostBlunted

On probation
Are we ignoring that this is why army composition matters? A horde of infantry needs to be protected, and if you expect to be slow-moving and heavy against horse-archers, well...do the math.
Sure, the problem is that an army of horse archers only will beat every balanced army which is stupid in my opinion.

But that´s nothing new sadly.
 

Berzerker Jay

Sure, the problem is that an army of horse archers only will beat every balanced army which is stupid in my opinion.

But that´s nothing new sadly.
They're pretty formidable. I immediately target them when I see them on the field.

We do realize why, though, right? You have the mounts, which grant incredible evasive capability, and then you have the bow which allows them to engage their targets at range.

For an archer on foot to compete, you'll need organization. That mounted advantage is great in the game and in history.

I have played a horse-archer army, however. I found the main Khuzait horse-archers frustratingly slow to do damage, and started replacing them with Khan's Guard units as much as I was able. The Khan's Guard, of course, was much more effective, and they pretty much rendered the regular horse-archer units just filler, but look at their stats. If you take a number of other noble-line troops at top-tier, they're going to be about as effective. I actually prefer the Faris and Fian units, myself.
 

Berzerker Jay

Speaking of which, a battle between Fian Champions and Khan's Guards would likely show much different.
 

Yertyl

Veteran
If you compared real troops from history the same way, do you not think you'd find horse-archers have such an advantage over spearmen?

How exactly do spearmen gain the opportunity to attack horse archers...?

Is this really not working as it should? Are we suggesting spearmen should for some reason be able to kill horse archers by means of teleportation?

Are we ignoring that this is why army composition matters? A horde of infantry needs to be protected, and if you expect to be slow-moving and heavy against horse-archers, well...do the math.
No, but this is exactly why I proposed the original 1,5 units per mounted unit upkeep.

So you could either have 30 infantrymen or 20 horse archers -- in which case there would at least be some situation (sieges mostly) in which you would prefer the former. 20 infantry vs 20 horse archers on the other hand is just a complete no-brainer

Speaking of which, a battle between Fian Champions and Khan's Guards would likely show much different.
Just tested this in another 100 100 and...
Battanian Hero -- Khuzait Horse archers: 15 - 100
Battanian Hero -- Imperial Bucellarii: 5 - 93

Yeah, HA currently are that good. They are basically untouchable while still doing consistent damage.
 
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Berzerker Jay

No, but this is exactly why I proposed the original 1,5 units per mounted unit upkeep.

So you could either have 30 infantrymen or 20 horse archers -- in which case there would at least be some situation (sieges mostly) in which you would prefer the former. 20 infantry vs 20 horse archers on the other hand is just a complete no-brainer


Just tested this in another 100 100 and...
Battanian Hero -- Khuzait Horse archers: 15 - 100
Battanian Hero -- Imperial Bucellarii: 5 - 93

Yeah, HA currently are that good.
Battanian Heroes can be upgraded two more times, to Fians and then to Fian Champions. Why did you choose to have them represent archers against top-tier horse archers? Granted the Khuzait Horse Archer only has one upgrade left until top-tier. Shouldn't your representations of this be equal in tier? Doesn't this misrepresent it?

I still don't see 1.5 units as having been rationalized here. It sounds like an annoying game-mechanic meant only to nerf cavalry, and only in order to make a horseman equivalent to an infantryman. If we follow the reasoning that the cavalry is more powerful so it should count as more people, then why aren't we applying that across the board? Why not have each tier upgrade increase the number of units a unit counts as? Maybe you can help me follow the logic? I see how you see it as solving your proposed problem, but I don't see how it's a logical solution or how it logically improves the game.
 
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