Mobility is King

Is that good?

By on February 7, 2012 2:50:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Aiel117

Join Date 05/2006
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I'm a long time lurker and avid supporter of the Fallen Enchantress redo of Elemental.  Like many have said before, it's a huge step up from War of Magic.

One thing I noticed that may not have been mentioned enough: mobility is king.  Cloudwalk is a great example, but I'd like to ignore that for this post and focus on # of squares a unit can move a turn.  Cloudwalk is its own thing because it costs 80 mana and abuse of it assumes that you have sufficient mana, that you have only one stack that can accomplish tasks, and that there are few interesting objectives that don't border your kingdom.

To the point: I'm not sure if high mobility is strictly a good thing or a bad thing overall, but it is certainly something to consider in the balance between champions and other units, balance between computers and players, and overall game flow.  Even if I had a stack of 9 units with crazy damage and tanking potential, I would still prefer the lone champion with moderate damage and little tanking potential if the champion can move 5 or 6 while the big stack only moves 2 spaces.

The benefit of mobility is manifold.

1) There's the freebies to collect

2) There's the fact that you can fight multiple battles in one turn

3) There's the element of surprise

4) Defending multiple locations with the same stack

5) The difficulty in mounting a significant defensive force for cities and the ease of riding into and capturing an unprepared town

My late game heroes moving 8 squares a turn can crush a town or two, defeat an NPC's wandering stack, pick up a quest, kill a wandering monster, and not break a sweat during one turn.  It's mobility that makes a group of champions go from awesome to overpowered.

I noticed that there was a balance change recently that movement bonuses from similar items went from not stacking to stacking.  So 3 people with a compass gave +3 instead of just +1.  I like that no item is "wasted", but that's also a tremendous advantage.  The most useful things in the game are mounts, compass magic item, movement boots, scout class with +1 movement and +1 sight, fast advantage, movement spell, and cloudwalk.

Making a suggestion about what to do is a little harder.  Mobility makes the game fun, and I get frustrated with heroes that only move 2 squares.  Here are a couple of options, though:

1) Reduce the amount of ways to get additional movement

2) Make all bonuses to movement affect the army or just as easy to acquire for trained units, so that there is no mobility reason to have only heroes

3) Make some +movement items only affect the tactical map

4) Reduce the value of mobility by increasing the "cost" of each battle (more hit points lost, end of turn, etc, so that fighting 5 battles in one turn is never a good idea/possible)

5) Increase the defense of a town so that there is no reason to blitz it with a small force

6) Add in zone of control on the strategic map and add in more choke points

7) Greatly increase the cost of non-open terrain movement (forest, hills, mountains, and especially mountainsides)

8) Have some movement bonuses dependent on control of the land.  So you might get +1 movement in lands you control, +0 in neutral, -1 or -2 in foreign controlled lands

9) Have item weight impose a movement penalty so the knights in full plate with two hand swords don't run as fast the thieves in leather with daggers

10) In addition to the above, the "base" movement should be increased to 3.  Then, +1 movement would only give a 33% increase in utility instead of a 50% at the start of the game

Essentially, I would like to see the boring movement choices like crossing your own territory reduced and create actual movement choices in interesting situations like picking between either crushing an NPC stack or making a risky strike at their town while leaving your own kingdom undefended.  I want to be able to add in additional units to my stack mid game and late game without crippling my ability to move around the map.

I'll report back in after the next patches balance changes, but I suspect that mobility will remain king.

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crass_monkey
February 7, 2012 4:08:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

maybe a good way to balance this would to have a base movement value for heroes, and then have items equipment give percentage bonuses to movement speed. just shooting ideas

 

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February 7, 2012 4:25:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree. Max movement ( unless a hero ) of most units in tactical combat should be 2, unless a very special reason exists to be quicker, and the overland map should have the same... stacking of movement is bad.

 Of course, there should still be room to create those mounted scouts armed with nothing but bows that raze the countryside left and right of your all-conquering armies and drive the enemy to tears.

 

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February 7, 2012 5:36:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Excellent post. You raise a number of good points.

 

One significant thing to consider (you note it in point 3 - surprise) is that this mobility makes another player's actions nearly impossible to predict. For example, in other strategic games, like chess, or Civ, limited (or prescribed) mobility makes it possible to look at the units available to both you and your opponent and plan your own future actions based on what you can see. It's possible to pull off surprise, but it requires planning and skill.

But when an 8-move champ stack can dance all over the map wreaking destruction, how do I know how to plan for that or react? I either have to target that stack specifically and try to match the mobility to chase, be strong enough everywhere to defend (currently not possible, as trained units so weak vs champs), or just give up on defense altogether and try to kill their cities first.

Moreover, this kind of micro-managing of movement on a square-by-square, terrain-by-terrain, opportunity-by-opportunity basis is something that a human player is going to be able to excel at, and the AI is unlikely to be able to match.

 

As far as design goes, I think "(2) fight multiple battles in one turn" is something that needs to be fixed, not just considered. One way would be a hard cap on the number of battles per season for an army (say, 2), another would be to give the army the strategic equivalent of initiative, and I think your suggestion to give even successful battles a higher cost would be the best solution.

 

Also, minor point, but one of those 'doesn't make sense' things: compasses and 'master scout' skills ought not to stack. I can see how one compass makes a person better able to navigate terrain, maps, etc. But two doesn't give twice the effect in real life. For similar reasons, a champ's "master scout" skill could help the army navigate, but two master scouts won't give double the effect (either they'll agree with each other, and be redundant, or they'll disagree and actually cancel each other out).

 

[edit] just figured out a potential exploit to the armies having an unlimited number of attacks: with a couple of high-initiative spellcasters, you could start a battle, fire off spells, then 'escape', all before the enemy reacts. rinse and repeat, until a once-dangerous foe is shredded. I haven't tried this, but I can't see any reason it wouldn't work, given sufficient mana. So, not a tactic to allow early-game champs to take on uber-level monsters, but if confronted with an enemy army that was too strong later-game, potentially gamebreaking.

 

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February 7, 2012 7:32:04 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Master Scout is on the Assassin Tree, so at least you're giving up something for having it.

XP split on champions should prevent this from being as big as a problem in future, until the end game.

 

 

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February 7, 2012 8:27:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Both tactical movement and strategic movement need to be reigned in. I disagree with starting units at 3 moves. It should take some time to explore the land - I have no problems with this. Movement should be very difficult to adjust, and many items and abilities that stack should not stack with each other or with related abilities. Scout master and compass are good examples - they both are results of the same thing and should not stack with each other.

I am more of a mindset to have items grant 'pathing' of a sort. So the compass and/or scout master reduce movement costs in forests by one. Units should move a maximum of 4 on the overworld map, typical moves being 2 and 3. Tactical moves should have similar restrictions. Your unencumbered mounted units could reach the archers in the first turn if they aren't properly defended, or skirt around behind them by the second.

I really like your suggestion to have strategic movement restricted while in enemy borders!

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February 7, 2012 9:39:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would like to add that champions should require a trait to use a mount. There is no reason as it stands to not just put every champion you have on a horse or wolf.

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February 7, 2012 10:10:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

my biggest problem with movement is trained units just slow your entire army down because it's not easy to get them as many movements in speed.

that and the small map size of tactical battles makes heroes with a large move pool very powerful.

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February 7, 2012 12:42:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think attacking should cost a movement point.  That is all.

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February 7, 2012 2:16:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The way I would do it: 

Base movement is 2

Horseback or a special "equipment pack" shoudl enable a third point (such as scouts and mounted units).  (Max 3)  If you have both you just get 3.

And finally that air spell should be able to give the stack a movement bonus. (Max 4 for all mounted with spell).

Flying units should get 4 but not be increased to 5 if they have the air spell on the, so 4 would be the absolute limit.

GET RID OF QUICKNESS AND ALL SPEED ARTIFACTS AND DON'T GIVE A BONUS FOR A MOUNT IF YOU ARE ALREADY TRAVELLING 3 per turn.   For faster than 3 you need to fly or be using wind magic.

Therefore no heroes or creatures should be able to move faster than 4, unless they are on a road.

 

And I would make the roads improve travel time by 133% instead of 100% (with no bonus at all for flyers or magic enhanced), such that mounted units or scouts on road could move 7 Spaces per turn but nobody goes faster than that even on a road.

 

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February 7, 2012 7:24:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My 2¢:

  • Attacking should cost movement
  • Movement traits should not stack
  • Create Mountaineer, Woodsman, Web-Footed traits to mitigate movement cost in hills, forest and swamp instead of a ubiquitous scout movement increase trait.  Have scout increase sight range only.
  • Make mountainsides cost the same movement (2) as hills
  • Level heroes less so you don't wind up with every trait there is on every hero.  You want fast, you don't get strong.  Or get traits every 2 or 3 levels.
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February 7, 2012 7:32:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DsRaider,
I would like to add that champions should require a trait to use a mount. There is no reason as it stands to not just put every champion you have on a horse or wolf.

I think this is a terrible idea.  

I don't think it adds much to gameplay except making horses slightly less useful and it's terrible from an immersion perspective as well.  These are the best and most capable people in the world and they need extra special training to ride a horse?  More so than Joe Peasant, who I conscript into my cavalry, and who does not need a special trait?

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February 8, 2012 12:14:24 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Why nerf Champions movements when you can create high mobility units like this?

Turn 65. 6 Spearmen with 10 movement and 135 damage total.

My Hero Stack of 3 is only 2 movemennt, 47 attack 10 defense and 132 hp.

High Speed Units

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February 8, 2012 12:22:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Here are my 10 movement spearmen in tactical combat vs Earth Shrills.

Only one unit took damage and I am about to clear the encounter. Notice that the spearmen can move clear across the field.

High Movement Units in Tactical Combat

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February 8, 2012 10:56:32 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Movement is especially good as AIs don't seem to utilise it to the same degree, and monsters also tend to have low movement making "run and gun" (or spell) a valid way to take down monsters that would otherwise be far out of your league.

I recommend it for dealing with early game bone ogres - until nerfed anyhow.

 

But yes - I think higher base movement, with fewer bonuses to movement combined with more movement-penalizing terrain would be worth investigating.

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February 8, 2012 1:04:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Stackable compass - Somewhat ridiculous. I get that with a compass and the implied mapmaking/reading skill, you can potentially get somewhere faster. Having any more than ONE compass doesn't mean you get there EVEN faster. Compasses should not stack. Doesn't make any sense.

Mounted is fine, I think. Faster, but reasonably so.

Attacks per turn : do not limit them. Rather, impose penalties to fighting capacity after the first battle. After one battle, reduce combat abilities by 20 % (example, of course - could be adjusted to reflect the difficulty of said battle, although that would be kind of hard to do). 20 % more after a second battle. It might not sound like a lot, but add to that the potential losses from said battles, and you get a severely crippled army after even only 2 battles...

As Iralie said, it's the quantity and availability of movement bonuses that breaks the system. In many other games, movement-enhancing items or abilities are highly sought after, and quite hard to get. If they ARE easy to get, they aren't readily accessible on every single corner... Make them more rare, non-stackable, and cripple armies for attacking repeatedly. I'm not sure I have the knowledge necessary to tackle the issue of magic-enhanced movement, though, but I figure perhaps raising the cost of such magic, given its high benefits, would solve part of the problem. Or make the cost proportional to the power of the army.

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February 8, 2012 1:11:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My problem is that playing on a large map requires a different scale of movement than a small map. It really comes down to this. 

I would say not losing movement on an attack is a balance issue we will see addressed at some point. 

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February 8, 2012 1:36:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Compass shouldn't exist period. It simply is too good and to be balanced would have to be ridiculously expensive. Tactical and Strategic movement should also be two very different things.

Quoting seanw3,
My problem is that playing on a large map requires a different scale of movement than a small map. It really comes down to this.

No in fact it doesn't. Whats the point of large maps if they play exactly the same as small ones? The idea that geography shouldn't matter and you should be able to zoom around and personally protect an empire that ecompasses half the world is rediculous and frankly broken. It's also horribly unbalanced. If your empire is twice the size of other people's then it's a no brainer that you should have to have twice the troops to defend it. This is a fallacy of mind numbing epicness. What better way to prevent steamrolling then to force players to actually defend their territory instead of running around with one big uber stack.

If you want to stroll around with only 1 real army and focus on questing or build a few tall cities thats fine and a legitimate way to play. However don't expect to be able conquer and protect a large empire with only 1 army. Allowing a player to do this would be stupid, they would have increased revenue for every city but not expenses. This is part of the reason steamrolling and getting to a game winning critical mass is so easy, because currently movement is to good!  Strategy is the key.  Taking is easy, holding is the hard part.

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February 8, 2012 1:52:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DsRaider,
Compass shouldn't exist period. It simply is too good and to be balanced would have to be ridiculously expensive. Tactical and Strategic movement should also be two very different things.


Quoting seanw3, reply 16My problem is that playing on a large map requires a different scale of movement than a small map. It really comes down to this.

No in fact it doesn't. Whats the point of large maps if they play exactly the same as small ones? The idea that geography shouldn't matter and you should be able to zoom around and personally protect an empire that ecompasses half the world is rediculous and frankly broken. It's also horribly unbalanced. If your empire is twice the size of other people's then it's a no brainer that you should have to have twice the troops to defend it. This is a fallacy of mind numbing epicness. What better way to prevent steamrolling then to force players to actually defend their territory instead of running around with one big uber stack.

If you want to stroll around with only 1 real army and focus on questing or build a few tall cities thats fine and a legitimate way to play. However don't expect to be able conquer and protect a large empire with only 1 army. Allowing a player to do this would be stupid, they would have increased revenue for every city but not expenses. This is part of the reason steamrolling and getting to a game winning critical mass is so easy, because currently movement is to good!  Strategy is the key.  Taking is easy, holding is the hard part.

Excellent post.  +1

I think the compass's movement bonus should be limited to only forests/hills.  It makes the compass less powerful overall, much less powerful for empire protection (as you'll likely have roads which would make the compass not work), and it makes logical sense.  In wide open spaces or on roads you travel via dead reckoning more than by cardinal direction (following the road or land marks).  However in woods or areas with significant hills, compasses become significantly more important as visibility is impaired.  

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February 8, 2012 2:57:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DsRaider,
No in fact it doesn't. Whats the point of large maps if they play exactly the same as small ones?

 

I am not saying the exact same movement on every scale. My point was brief, leading you to assume I meant that it should be equal. I actually meant that given the possible sizes of larger maps, it makes sense to add some scale to movement. I am not suggesting an equal level of mobility. As you say, this would make the difference in sizes irrelevant. But there is a certain point where a large map is insurmountable. Even if when I accept that a large empire demands longer movement times, only two moves per turn with a regular army would take me upwards of 30 turns to attack an enemy faction. Supply lines would be a joke. I would literally spend most of my time moving hundreds of armies one to two moves per turn. That is not fun. That is tedious. 

I am a veteran of the immense map size. I like playing on very large maps. I like having very large armies. I don't mind a little tedium here and there. But, changing the standard movement to 3 from 2 would greatly reduce the massive wait times that are ahead of you and I. Just being able to get through forests and over hills at double the pace would cut travel times in half. That would be a proportional change, making large maps much more viable. I also happen to think the default movement for smaller maps should be 1. 

Otherwise we will be spending half the game building an army. The AI will not be able to this. We will attack as a massive horde. That AI will not be able to do this. We will have scout units and interception forces in the vast wilds between nations. The AI will not be able to do this. That is really what it comes down to. How fun will the AI be in a larger map?

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February 9, 2012 2:43:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Remzer,

Attacks per turn : do not limit them. Rather, impose penalties to fighting capacity after the first battle. After one battle, reduce combat abilities by 20 % (example, of course - could be adjusted to reflect the difficulty of said battle, although that would be kind of hard to do). 20 % more after a second battle. It might not sound like a lot, but add to that the potential losses from said battles, and you get a severely crippled army after even only 2 battles...

That's some bullcrappery. Not only is this rediculous in that the AI can somehow place multiple stacks on the same tiles, but this creates the potential for cheesing off the enemy by building -1- unit attacking the most dangerous stack and losing with it, then hitting them with your own most powerful stack. Even if you didn't attribute this loss to attacks on the other persons turn, you could litter your side of the map with single unit armies baiting the computer to attack your threat.

On top of this, what about caravans and settlers? Do you not attack these because you would -for some insane reason- have your army fatigued in the next more important battle. This idea is silly. If the computer is completely unable to damage your stack of doom for every attack it makes, there is an issue with balance that has nothing to do with being able to attack multiple times.

 

Quoting seanw3,

Otherwise we will be spending half the game building an army. The AI will not be able to this. We will attack as a massive horde. That AI will not be able to do this. We will have scout units and interception forces in the vast wilds between nations. The AI will not be able to do this. That is really what it comes down to. How fun will the AI be in a larger map?

This is -exactly- what the computer is best at! It loves pumping out hordes of useless units! The idea of increasing movement by mapsize is ludicrous. Civilization (the game) has never done this and people still play huge maps! Civilization (the reality) has never had godlike beings intervene and give people stronger legs or better machines when troops travel further across the globe.

Map size changes the scope of the game. DsRaider summarized this fairly well. Even one point of speed increase for units based on map size is a bad idea.

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February 9, 2012 2:53:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,
I am not saying the exact same movement on every scale. My point was brief, leading you to assume I meant that it should be equal. I actually meant that given the possible sizes of larger maps, it makes sense to add some scale to movement. I am not suggesting an equal level of mobility. As you say, this would make the difference in sizes irrelevant. But there is a certain point where a large map is insurmountable. Even if when I accept that a large empire demands longer movement times, only two moves per turn with a regular army would take me upwards of 30 turns to attack an enemy faction. Supply lines would be a joke. I would literally spend most of my time moving hundreds of armies one to two moves per turn. That is not fun. That is tedious.

I think thats the point where other transport options (airships, teleportation gates, ...) are useful.

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February 9, 2012 3:19:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting CdrRogdan,

Quoting Remzer, reply 15
Map size changes the scope of the game. DsRaider summarized this fairly well. Even one point of speed increase for units based on map size is a bad idea.

I agree, but on the other hand there are problems to defend and therefore micromanage huge territories. The game should encourage players to concentrate on front lines.

I would love to see a concept of "secure backcountry" (or more martially and from the other point of view "scorched earth") implemented. Calculate the center of any kingdom/empire based on population and draw a circle around that point. Within that area, significantly reduce monster spawn (or their aggression), reduce enemies movements, their attacks and defences while giving bonuses to defenders. Balance a lower limit for influence (read territory) which has to be met so that an secure backland effect comes into play on and you are set for early and late games.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorched_earth

 

 

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February 9, 2012 3:26:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Woah!

Firstly I can't believe people don't use high mobility.  It generally comes with high initiative and makes excellent first strike units, I can take down a force with close to 100% more power with special wargs riders.  With hardly a scratch.

The game handles adds in a broken way, absolutely.  No duplicate item should add more than once to a stack.  No doubt.  Kill it.  Kill it with fire. 

It should ALWAYS add to the single unit, but only once per item per stack (I think this is where the programming was lazy, as if it doesn't add to the stack, it probably doesn't add to the unit)

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February 9, 2012 3:30:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Use 

Quoting puntarenas,

I agree, but on the other hand there are problems to defend and therefore micromanage huge territories. The game should encourage players to concentrate on front lines.
 

Merchants? Roads?

 

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February 9, 2012 3:35:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Blight0r,

Merchants? Roads?

 

...and still have an eye on your huge empire to catch Napoleon on his forced march to moscow. I would prefer to have backland some kind of secured areas so we could concentrate on front lines, which nevertheless get vast on larger maps.

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