Problems with the Captain Meta (and how to fix it by giving Light and Heavy actual roles)

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Brandis.

Subforum Moderator
Blah blah blah captain = bad, fun = wrong, and don't treat anything with RNG as serious. Now that I've said this, you don't need to. You're welcome.

Anyways, now that Captain is separate from the other modes (and somehow still has players?), the goal should be to get it into a good balance state prior to full release, the final influx of new players.

Games like Conqueror's Blade, Blood of Steel, and Tiger Knight demonstrate that there's interest in this type of game, but no one's been able to do it right. Bannerlord has the best engine of the four, but critically lower developer attention.

Here's my best take on how to fix the meta:


History of Monoclass Metas

To my recollection, here's a history of the captain metas:
  • Cavalry -- Just pick 6 cav, put them on charge and afk win against full pikes
  • Archer Heavy -- 4-5 archers with 1-2 unfortunate shield players pushing up to give their archers better angles/time to kill enemies, but dying in the process because they wouldn't point their shields in the right direction
  • Shock Rush -- Started with a 1-2 cav variation to deal with archers, then people stopped picking archers, so it went to 5-6 shock and 0-1 shield
  • Shock and Kite -- Full kite comps with 4 archers 2 cav (or something close) were playable against teams that lacked coordination with Inf Rush, but if you're better coordinated, you'd also win Shock vs Shock
  • Cav Rambo -- 4-6 cav and 0-2 spears/pikes, where players would park their cav on a slope guarded by inf (or not) and go solo the enemy players and their bots for the next 10 minutes and then finish the enemy off with all their cav when morale was close to running out. (The lack of commas in that sentence represents how dreary rambo is.)
  • Current: Inf Rush -- (Probably) With cav nerfed and spears/pikes more competent, cav Rambo is probably dead, so Inf Rush will be the best comp again. Like before, a well coordinated team with archers or a good team on Rambo will probably be able to beat a less coordinated team, but between equal teams, Inf Rush will be meta.
In summary, one monoclass comp with 4-6 of the same troop has always been meta, with 0-2 troops of the "counter" used to give it more of an advantage in mirrors. This isn't great.

To address this, these statements are self-evident: (well that's the most useless sentence I've ever written)
  1. There should be multiple viable comps and playstyles
  2. Comps and playstyles should not be monoclass
  3. Comps and playstyles should not hard counter each other
The first two points are quite obvious. You shouldn't know what comp you're playing before you even launch the game. There should be multiple comps for each faction and against each faction, but they shouldn't be monoclass. Monoclass vs monoclass has simplistic decision making and isn't very nuanced.

On the third: it's a common request that one class hard counters another. For example, it's been suggested on here quite a bit that cav should mow down archers with impunity, and then infantry delete cav with similar impunity. It's also been proposed that Skirmishers need to "counter" something to be relevant. That's not what we should look for. Some classes will always have the advantage against others, and if both players play equally well, then the the "countering" class should end up with the advantage. But if the "countered" player positions better and has better perks for the matchup, then they should end up with the advantage.

(On a tangent, Rock-Paper-Scissors balance doesn't work if rock has the agency to choose who it fights, when it fights, and where it fights, but paper and scissors do not. People suggesting this conveniently ignore the massive agency advantage that cav has.)

This idea extends to full comps, where one team shouldn't have an insurmountable advantage that the other might as well just AFK in spawn and wait for the next round. The outcome should be decided in game, not in the class selection screen.


Each Class Should Have Unique Utility

In other games (and Skirmish to an extent), you want to use different classes because they perform roles that other classes cannot. The most prolific example is the "trinity" of tank, damage, and support. They each have a role that covers each others weaknesses. Back to Captain, you should *want* different classes in your comp. You should be weaker if you're running a monoclass, not stronger. This means that the various roles or jobs must be sufficiently different and seek to accomplish different things.

Therefore, the goal should be to determine some unique utilities that each class can do, and push them in that direction.

Another reason why we need distinct roles is because at the moment, Light and Heavy share the same role, or at least a very similar one. This leads to one being almost always better than the other. Why would you take Rangers if Fians are better? Why take Fians if Rangers are better? Light and Heavy classes do practically the same thing, so if one is 1% better, you'd always take that and not the other.

This means at the moment, 3 of the 7 classes in every faction have no purpose because there's another class that does the same thing, just better, that you could pick instead. Additionally, some Heavy Infantry is superior than its factions Shock, meaning 4 of 7 are dead. Add in Skirmishers, and 5 of 7 classes are either horrible or redundant depending on faction.

Here's what I think each class role should be:

  • Light Infantry: Survivability, Mobility
  • Heavy Infantry: Survivability, Tank
    --
  • Shock Infantry: Damage, Melee
  • Skirmishers: Damage, Mid-range
  • Light Archers: Damage, Long-range continuous
  • Heavy Archers: Damage, All-range burst
    --
  • Light Cavalry: Utility, Melee damage
  • Heavy Cavalry: Utility, Survivability
  • Horse Archers: Utility, Ranged damage

Here's a summary of the changes:

Light vs Heavy Infantry: Light Infantry should have high movement speed so they can flee in kite builds and not get caught, as well as be the ones chasing down kite builds themselves. They should have access to shield/spear/jav perks to deal with different enemy threats. Heavy Infantry should take part in more defensive comps with slower movement speed but more HP and reduced weapon damage.

Light vs Heavy Archers: Light Archers should have high mobility (faster than every non-mounted troop apart from Shock), lots of arrows, but low damage per shot. Heavy Archers should be the opposite: low mobility, small quiver sizes, but high damage per shot. Light Archers should also be bad in melee while Heavy Archers are decent. This gives them two distinct roles and reasons to take one or the other.

Light vs Heavy Cavalry: Light Cavalry should be damage dealing glass cannons with couch lances, while Heavy Cavalry are beefy utility to disrupt archers/infantry, but low damage (lose couch lances). Again, this gives them separate roles, and prevents Heavy Cav from being categorically superior.

As for Shock, Skirmishers, and Horse Archers, they already have clear roles, and will just need balancing.


Suggested Changes

Movement Speed should be changed to give Light Archers the ability to kite more easily, as well as make classes feel more distinct from each other. The current speeds are leftover from skirmish, so at the very least that should get looked into. Here's my take:
  • Light Infantry speed increased by 3.
  • Heavy Infantry speed decreased by 4.
  • Shock Infantry speed increased by 3.
  • Skirmishers speed increased by 1.
  • Light Archers speed increased by 10.
  • Heavy Archers speed increased by 5.

(Shock + Light Infantry)
Battania Savage: 87
Sturgia Berserker: 86
Vlandia Peasant Levy : 85
Battania Clan Warrior: 85
Khuzait Rabble: 84

(Light Archers)
Vlandia Arbelist: 84
Sturgia Hunter: 84
Khuzait Steppe Bow: 84
Empire Archer Militia: 84
Battania Ranger: 84
Aserai Archer: 84

(Shock + Skirmishers)
Vlandia Voulgier: 84
Empire Menavlion Inf.: 84
Aserai Guard: 84
Sturgia Brigand: 84
Empire Recruit: 84
Battania Wildling: 84
Aserai Skirmisher: 84
Sturgia Warrior: 82
Aserai Tribal Warrior: 82

(Heavy Archers)
Empire Palatine Guard: 79
Aserai Veteran: 79
Vlandia Sharpshooter: 78
Khuzait Khan's Guard: 78
Battania Fiann: 78

(Heavy Infantry)
Vlandia Sergeant: 76
Sturgia Varyag: 76
Khuzait Spear Infantry: 76
Empire Legionary: 76
Battania Oathbound: 76

The Hit Points for Infantry should also be increased. This increases TTK and shifts Infantry value somewhat from damage to tankiness. Like everything here, this would need to be tested and balanced appropriately.
  • Light Infantry +10 HP
  • Heavy Infantry +20 HP
  • Shock Infantry +10 HP

The Weapons (default and perks) of various units should be adjusted. (I could go through individually for every class but that would take a lot of time.)
  • Heavy Infantry, one lower tier of weapons
  • Light Archers, quiver sizes are already large, but some could use 1-2 more arrows per quiver, and all should have the Extra Arrows perk
  • Heavy Archers, quiver sizes reduced to 19-23, arrow damage significantly increased, and most if not all should lose the Extra Arrows perk
  • Light Cavalry, swap weapons with their Heavy Cavalry counterparts, giving them access to couch lances and shields at the same time. The Nomad should have access to the glaive (with no shield as an option). The Courser should have the glaive option again (in addition to lance+shield)
  • Heavy Cavalry, get the crappy weapons that Light Cavalry has. To describe it once more, Light Cav's role should be slayers capable of hard hitting charges, while Heavy Cav should be an armored support unit that doesn't get as many kills put provides high utility.

Army Size for Heavy Cavalry should be increased to account for the significant damage nerf:
  • Heavy Cavalry, +2
Obviously, there are many more changes and balancing that could (and should) be done, but I wanted to suggest some of the main changes that would make each class usable by giving it specific utility. At the moment, on a good number of maps that Inf Rush is meta, you simply pick the strongest of Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry, and Shock, and then spam that. The other two are completely useless, and if they were buffed, they'd become the new strongest and the other two would become useless and redundant. It's a bad cycle, and each class should bring something different to a comp.

New Composition Archetypes

These changes should lead to three main comp directions, with plenty of favored troops in each:
  • Rush -- Light Infantry, Shock, Skirmishers, Light Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry
  • Kite -- Light Infantry, Skirmishers, Light Archers, Heavy Cavalry, Horse Archers
  • Turtle -- Heavy Infantry, Skirmishers, Heavy Archers, Heavy Cavalry
Rush is the most common comp, but this reworked version does not use Heavy Infantry because they are too slow, and instead uses Light Infantry. It adds Skirmishers and Light Cavalry as options both with clear niches: if you expect the enemy won't have many shields, Skirmishers will deal high damage. If you expect the enemy won't have many spears or will be generally fragile, then you'd take Light Cavalry.

Kite is well known: run away, do damage, run away, keep doing damage, when you're about to run out of morale then all-in your troops and finish the round against the weakened opponent. The reworked Light Infantry should fit in this comp because it can keep up and protect Light Archers, while Heavy Infantry would be too slow to do so. Skirmishers fit in if you expect the enemy to use hard cover most of the time, meaning Light Archers won't have a long time to shoot all of their arrows, and you'd want the higher burst damage of javs when the enemy is exposed.

Turtle/Defensive is a known playstyle, but doesn't really have a name: camp one flag, threaten another with players or cav to avoid losing too much morale, and then camp on the final flag. Reworked Heavy Archers fit this style well, trading the endless pewpew of Light Archers for higher burst damage. Skirmishers like the timing as well, as you force enemies to come into range of their javs.

Essentially, the goal is to create a dynamic where you have to ask:
  • What threats (shock, javs, arrows, cav) will the enemy have?
  • What defenses (shields, spears, cover) will the enemy have?
  • How much time will be spent at long-range, medium-range, and close-range?
  • What comps and classes work well with this map?
  • What comps and classes work well with our faction against their faction?
There should be different answers to each of these questions. If the answer is "all pick infantry" or "all go rambo cav" then captain design has failed.

As a final note, there will always be a meta, with some comps seen as better than others, but there's a huge difference between a healthy meta and an unhealthy one. I've posted at length on what a healthy meta looks like in the past, but to be brief, every troop should be viable on some map, for some audience, ideally with new and veteran players having a variety of strong choices for each faction matchup and on every map.

For what an unhealthy meta looks like, just look at the history of Captain.
 
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TheCrusader5

Grandmaster Knight
M&BWBWF&SNWVC
In my opinion the best way to improve the mode is increase the scale the reason why certain classes are bad is that the time to kill is really fast and the unit amount is low. This makes archers less impactful (in their intended use not kiting endlessly) and makes Rambo more impactful. If they made the troop count to 400 on each side instead of around 100 it allows more diversity in composition. The only negative is performance.
 
These changes to the mode will be a gigantic step in the right direction. That archers will be able to kite again, to some extent, is a must and have to come back. Also all inf, light to heavy should have their own range perks, that will give an extra dimension to the battle, but not be near as impactful as the archers and skirmish classes ofc. The current new archer perk that makes +damage to mounts have potential. But as long as the AI can't hit a moving target its pretty useless.
 

Spottswoode

Veteran
I like it man, and like that you have light archers and light inf at the same speed in your actual numbers breakdown, I think that is where it needs to be. So people can't run the whole "perpetual kiting" argument against this if they actually read the details. As soon as an Archer fires he stops anyways so the real true speed of a kiting Archer is slower than the light infantry. Great write up

I would love to see heavy cav charges so each horse does multiple knockdowns... This would become one of their biggest assets as they charge into infantry to slow the charge down... And would give that weight to the charge they are so sorely missing
 

Brandis.

Subforum Moderator
In my opinion the best way to improve the mode is increase the scale the reason why certain classes are bad is that the time to kill is really fast and the unit amount is low. This makes archers less impactful (in their intended use not kiting endlessly) and makes Rambo more impactful. If they made the troop count to 400 on each side instead of around 100 it allows more diversity in composition. The only negative is performance.
I'm overall against archers kiting endlessly, but a lot of people want that style, so I figure it's fine provided it's not something you go every round. If you pick cav and fast inf, you should be able to shut down archer kite builds and be favored to win unless you badly misplay. Another thing to note, is that hypothetically, the best way to kite on archers is to send your archers running, and then go rambo enemy captains to slow them down, so there is a skill element involved to it.

TTK is a huge problem, but I think increasing infantry HP and lowering heavy infantry damage should nudge it over one or two hit thresholds, which would make battle speed between infantry groups a bit better.

Larger unit sizes is a good point that I overlooked. It would help minimize rambo and increase TTK, although there are a few problems if it got too large, such as being unable to position around allies because their lines are too wide, or random battles taking forever if you had 4x troops. Maybe something smaller like a 20%-30% increase would be good.

I like it man, and like that you have light archers and light inf at the same speed in your actual numbers breakdown, I think that is where it needs to be. So people can't run the whole "perpetual kiting" argument against this if they actually read the details. As soon as an Archer fires he stops anyways so the real true speed of a kiting Archer is slower than the light infantry. Great write up

I would love to see heavy cav charges so each horse does multiple knockdowns... This would become one of their biggest assets as they charge into infantry to slow the charge down... And would give that weight to the charge they are so sorely missing

Thanks, yeah that's the idea. If you're running mostly light archers and your opponent has too many heavy infantry (or shock) they won't be able to catch you easily, but if they take light infantry and skirmishers, then they'll be able to catch up. And there's always cav of course.

I should say that I didn't individually look at the numbers, I just increased or decreased each class type (like all heavy inf) by the same amount in a spreadsheet. So I haven't even read through the whole list lol, there's probably some tweaks that should be done.

On cav knockdowns: I don't think heavy cav needs more knockdowns to be honest. When you run through a group of infantry as cav, a lot of the infantry breaks off to target your cav, letting your allied infantry hit them more easily. That doesn't show up in the kill-feed but it's a pretty big debuff. That said, it would be cool if one faction had access to a more-knockdowns perk, but I think if all heavy cav got more knockdowns infantry wouldn't have as much fun playing because their guys would be CCd too much.
 

Cek

Squire
I like your ideas as you are thinking on balancing every class and give them a specific role, instead of just making archers OP and thinking everything will balace itself alone.

I agree with you on Infantry and Archer changes.

Light vs Heavy Cavalry: Light Cavalry should be damage dealing glass cannons with couch lances, while Heavy Cavalry are beefy utility to disrupt archers/infantry, but low damage (lose couch lances). Again, this gives them separate roles, and prevents Heavy Cav from being categorically superior.
I would probably increase the hp/armor of Heavy cavalry but reduce their speed and manouver (they will keep their current weapons), making them usefull to distrupt enemy infantry line being the first one to charge and be the "tank" if they stay in the melee fight, but making them struggle against a kiting composition, so more usefull if you are expecting the opponent to choose an infantry heavy composition.
While the light cavalry will be the agile support with their higher speed as they can act as scout/flag-controller and better on slowing down multiple light armoured kiting infantry/archers, while still keeping them not good on prolonged melee fight to not overlap with heavy cav.

I think that only exchanging their weapon still keep heavy cavalry all around better than light cavalry, they will lose their one-hit weapon but they still have better survavibility and comparable speed, so ramboing heavy cav player could still reach opponent less protected units with ease.

Probably in the end i just say the same thing you said but with different words.

In the end i also think that giving the player more control over the AI will also improve this mode a lot, as many current AI exploting tactics could be fixed with some basic commands, while also increasing the skillcap as your decision could matter more.
 

Spottswoode

Veteran
I'm overall against archers kiting endlessly, but a lot of people want that style, so I figure it's fine provided it's not something you go every round. If you pick cav and fast inf, you should be able to shut down archer kite builds and be favored to win unless you badly misplay. Another thing to note, is that hypothetically, the best way to kite on archers is to send your archers running, and then go rambo enemy captains to slow them down, so there is a skill element involved to it.

TTK is a huge problem, but I think increasing infantry HP and lowering heavy infantry damage should nudge it over one or two hit thresholds, which would make battle speed between infantry groups a bit better.

Larger unit sizes is a good point that I overlooked. It would help minimize rambo and increase TTK, although there are a few problems if it got too large, such as being unable to position around allies because their lines are too wide, or random battles taking forever if you had 4x troops. Maybe something smaller like a 20%-30% increase would be good.



Thanks, yeah that's the idea. If you're running mostly light archers and your opponent has too many heavy infantry (or shock) they won't be able to catch you easily, but if they take light infantry and skirmishers, then they'll be able to catch up. And there's always cav of course.

I should say that I didn't individually look at the numbers, I just increased or decreased each class type (like all heavy inf) by the same amount in a spreadsheet. So I haven't even read through the whole list lol, there's probably some tweaks that should be done.

On cav knockdowns: I don't think heavy cav needs more knockdowns to be honest. When you run through a group of infantry as cav, a lot of the infantry breaks off to target your cav, letting your allied infantry hit them more easily. That doesn't show up in the kill-feed but it's a pretty big debuff. That said, it would be cool if one faction had access to a more-knockdowns perk, but I think if all heavy cav got more knockdowns infantry wouldn't have as much fun playing because their guys would be CCd too much.
For making the numbers up on the fly they are honestly pretty damn good.

I figured after most cav knockdowns into groups of infantry the cav are going to get caught up and take a few hits.. limiting the cavalry to only a handful of big knockdown charges before they are very low on HP But I see what you mean, it could get out of hand flattening out infantry over and over again
 

AxiosXiphos

Sergeant Knight
M&BWBWF&SNWVC
I strongly agree with the majority of points here - and don't disagree with any. I'd like to add that maps remain a huge concern. I can prove this very easily. Before reading the next senetence; everyone say your favourite map out loud.

..

..

..

..

..

I can pretty much gurantee you its Ruins of Jawwali (the open desert map). It's simply because open maps are much better for this game mode. Closed maps offer huge advantages to melee classes and massive nerfs to ranged one - making the army composition even more one dimensional. I keep saying that what Captains mode needs is just one of the SP battle maps with a few more bits of scatter terrain. Something truly large and open so players can really get into the nitty gritty of using unit formations.
 

Spottswoode

Veteran
I strongly agree with the majority of points here - and don't disagree with any. I'd like to add that maps remain a huge concern. I can prove this very easily. Before reading the next senetence; everyone say your favourite map out loud.

..

..

..

..

..

I can pretty much gurantee you its Ruins of Jawwali (the open desert map). It's simply because open maps are much better for this game mode. Closed maps offer huge advantages to melee classes and massive nerfs to ranged one - making the army composition even more one dimensional. I keep saying that what Captains mode needs is just one of the SP battle maps with a few more bits of scatter terrain. Something truly large and open so players can really get into the nitty gritty of using unit formations.
100%

I thought they teased an open field map a few months ago, got a lot of interest and praise at the time... Since then they mentioned bringing the city map back with some adjustments.. such decisions stump me lol.

But yeah like you said, plenty of nice wide open sp maps to choose from and they would go a long way right now to keeping the player base interested.

I get that they want to have these very purposefully crafted maps for the modes (and they have accounted really well for multiple and equal access to the flagged locations).. but I think simple maps with some hills / valleys / forests to take advantage of the terrain scattered around the map would work pretty well
 

AxiosXiphos

Sergeant Knight
M&BWBWF&SNWVC
You know what else I'd love to see? Just a random Trebuchet or ballista on an objective point. I don't think it would be very effective; but it would be great fun to let players lob big boulders around the map.
 

Kapr Kral

Sergeant
WBNWVC
As someone that avidly played Captain mode in the beta, I would really love to see such sweeping changes implemented into the game mode. Hell, Captain mode seems like the one mode that is properly suited for the often criticized class system that Taleworlds is so devoted to and yet Captain mode is still a mess.
 

Zarthas

Knight
I'm not going to pretend that I don't have a visceral reaction to more glaives begin in-game on horseback, but the concept of glass-cannon Light Cavalry would work nicely for balance. Personally I'd love to see Light Cavalry armed with more high-damage one-handed long weapons, axe, sword, mace etc and shields.
 

XDaron

Sergeant Knight
I predict that next patches tw will increase the number of light cav units in a attempt to make it more viable, but this will never make light cav play in a distinctive manner from heavy cav, this is why changes to equipment like swapping weapon tiers between the two classes are necessary

making heavy troops somewhat weak against light archers is interesting, but do you think shield wall movement restriction should remain the way it is now?
 
I predict that next patches tw will increase the number of light cav units in a attempt to make it more viable, but this will never make light cav play in a distinctive manner from heavy cav, this is why changes to equipment like swapping weapon tiers between the two classes are necessary

making heavy troops somewhat weak against light archers is interesting, but do you think shield wall movement restriction should remain the way it is now?
We need to move away from thinking infantry is a counter to archers. I mean, if infantry will catch archers then they will kill them very very easy with no real units lost, as they should do. And that's why archers must have some movement speed that allows the inf / archers fight to be fair. I believe even if inf were slower then archers, they would be able to catch them in a 1v1. I can do it, so others could do it too. Would it be easy? nope, but again, infantry is not the 1-1 counter to archers and archers need to be a viable unit in tournaments too.
 

Brandis.

Subforum Moderator
I predict that next patches tw will increase the number of light cav units in a attempt to make it more viable, but this will never make light cav play in a distinctive manner from heavy cav, this is why changes to equipment like swapping weapon tiers between the two classes are necessary

making heavy troops somewhat weak against light archers is interesting, but do you think shield wall movement restriction should remain the way it is now?
Eh yeah, if they increase the number of light cav then we'll just be in the next binary situation where one is better than the other. At the moment light cav have pretty crappy weapons, so the main way they're effective is just confusing the AI and then eventually poking them to death.

Shield wall movement should definitely stay slower than walking.
 
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