I’ve shrugged off my duty for telling people to knock it off for long enough. There’s an overabundance of reasons why trying to evaluate civilization strength via winrate is a bad idea even assuming you take all the relevant variables into account for accurately assessing said winrate. There’s a lot of things that play into civilization winrate, that if taken into account, will (in the eyes of the impartial) convince you that the balance is actually very close to ideal and there’s not a lot that needs your immediate balance thread.
Failing to properly take these things into account will, in all likelihood, assure that most people ignore your thread because it’s not worth explaining to you all that’s about to follow here, and if your changes were actually to survive the ringer, would actually be an absolute nightmare for the game as a whole. Here goes.
One absolutely massive factor (and definitely the most prevalent) towards the winrate of every civ is what maps are available, and more importantly, are picked. Certain civs will simply become the meta option on certain, less typical maps, and that can oftentimes create a lingering impact on both playrate and winrate.
Further, having a map or map type be less picked or less readily available means that such civilizations that thrive on those settings simply will not play as often, or win as often, since they’ll be playing outside of their element.
Franks - 55.29 winrate (1650+)
Portuguese - 44.54 winrate (1650+)
The stats indicate that the Franks, who have strong knights, a good early economy, and a powerful lategame push with cheaper castles securing map and giving them access to their extremely versatile Throwing Axemen have too much, and should be nerfed, whereas the Portuguese, who lack a strong early economy bonus and any real midgame powerspikes, are in need of a buff.
The stats, as always, tell us actually nothing besides how often they win, which is up to a lot of things. The first thing on the list is map selection and map availability. Arabia (an open land map with no water to control) is always available and one of the most popular maps, bar none. What’s important about Arabia is that it actually accounts for 75% of the civilization win/loss records.
So if a civ is particularly good on Arabia, it’ll tend to do well in overall win-loss. If a civ is terrible on arabia… well, you have the Portuguese, who are, at 1650+, the worst civ on Arabia with a 40% winrate. Mind you, that’s 75% of all their records, and they’re only sitting at 44% winrate with that in mind. Remove the arabia results from the account, and their low winrate becomes much more respectable. Likewise for Franks, who have an exceptionally good (54.5%) winrate on Arabia, their overall winrate will be heavily skewed by these results, and indicate that they’re a powerhouse while in reality, get Franks on a water map and you’ll find they lack Bracer and Shipwright, so you’d better win in Castle age. Map changes everything.
Now, some here argue that Arabia should be the map we balance around, and therefore a low % rate overall, heavily influenced by Arabia, is still telling of a civ’s overall potential. Whether or not you agree with that premise, Maps influence winrate, and unless we want to make every civilization more similar to ensure they all play nice on the most popular map, it’s bunk.
Some civs see more play than others. Some civs have very distinct bonuses that you need to utilize properly to benefit from them. Truth be told, outside of a very select few civilizations, most dark ages, and even feudal ages to a degree, play out the exact same way. Those few civilizations that are clearly different in their early execution are likely to throw off more general players, especially those that play many different civs often, or random often.
Popularity plays a big part in that. The more played a civ is, the more likely someone is to be aware of, and be able to adapt to, the little quirks inherent in the civ that they are playing. A civ that sees a very low amount of play and also has a very different start is going to suffer as a result of having a lesser amount of adaptation time committed towards playing to their civilization strengths and making use of the bonuses they are provided.
Both of these civilizations share a commonality, an atypical start. Mayans start with an extra villager, and thus need to research Loom immediately or have idle time with queueing villagers when they start out, whereas Malay ascends through the ages faster, meaning less time to accumulate resources, but as a tradeoff, a higher villager count. Both of these will surprise an unprepared player, but the Mayans have two major things going for them. Firstly, this happens right at the beginning of the game, so it’s something that you’re likely to correct immediately even if you didn’t catch it on the loading screen, but further, the Mayans are a far more popular civilization. Mayans get played almost three times as much as the Malay, and as such the Malay start is less practiced, and more detrimental to not account for.
Given how the Malay have no early economy bonus beside this, failing to utilize this bonus properly can not only be detrimental, it’s giving away the only bonus the Malay has over a standard civ. Combine that with the fact that the Malay are not generally a very strong civ on open maps (the Arabia thing from point one) while the Mayans are literally the best civ on Arabia, bar none, it’s easy to see how their average winrate can fall so low. That doesn’t make the Malay a weak civilization. That can simply mean the average player of the Malay civ fails to utilize their bonus to a degree that is efficient, and generally evaluating the winrate of the civ without accounting for such a variable leaves said evaluation lacking.
Do you count all these winrates equally, do you weigh them based on what you play (or what you think the majority of people play) and what constitutes “too good” in any of these categories. If a civ is 57% in empire wars but 48% in Random map and 49% in Team games, do we nerf the 57% empire wars stat at the cost of what are already (possibly) lackluster stats in the other categories?
For the record, at 1650+, every single civilization falls between 46% winrate and 53% winrate in Team Random Map. Do you want to distort this balance for the sake of improving one civilization in RM, or nerfing a civ in RM that pushes too high in your estimation of winrate?
It’s in our nature to assume that what does well in overall games must be a strong pick in drafts. Realistically speaking, drafting of civs is all about matchups, and knowing what a civ is good at both doing - and dealing with. That’s why Vietnamese gets drafted a ton in tournaments even though they have a very poor winrate in RM. They’re used as a counterpick in drafts to deal with certain problem matchups, which is a thing for a lot of the civilizations you might expect would be bad, generally. Portuguese oftentimes gets used as anti-Viking on water (with dubious results) but also for their Feitoria + survive strategy which has taken plenty of games at the top of the top tier.
Buffing a civilization with a losing RM record but a strong drafting record might make sense from a casual perspective, but it makes a much bigger difference at the top level where bonuses are most efficiently capitalized on. I generally do not think the Vietnamese are very good, but when I see them in 8/10 drafts and played in 7/10 drafts, I temper my own distaste for the civilization with the expectation that they are probably utilizing those bonuses and timings better than I am, and that the weaknesses I feel are not so exploitable when in more capable hands.
Winrates tell us very little about the competitive viability of civilizations, and therefore buffing them or nerfing them purely off this metric is risking a lot to trust a number.
- Small sample size
Most civilizations barely have a thousand games, grand total, under their belt. That sounds like a lot, until you realize there’s 39 civilizations to play, and you’re more likely to play against one of the more popular civs, many civilization matchups may very well have ten or less games between them on any map at all. On average, every civilization will have played every other civilization ~25 times, which doesn’t really take into account the extreme low play rates or extremely high play rates of some civilizations, which as I’ve mentioned before, can distort civilization strength by itself.
- Long adaptation time to new changes and development of new strategies.
It took months for people to figure out and implement the early upgrades Malay build for Arena that has solidified them at the top of the clown tier list. It took years for players to invent and perfect the Incan trush. It practically didn’t exist in a meaningful way until DE, and they had been around, with the villager blacksmith upgrades, for ~ 7 years. When a balance change occurs, and you wait a month, not only have the percentages not settled, I’d like to remind you that sometimes, the full impact of balance changes and releases take a long time to feel out.
- Noise in the data.
Some things simply won’t be accounted for when you look at something like win/loss. For example, do you know what happens when a 1650+ plays someone who is <1650 rated and wins? Loses? Do you count a win above 1650, a loss, or both? Do you count both equally?
Here’s an example where a data spreadsheet, with win-loss data showing how much of a difference it makes how you answer that question. What happens here is that the spreadsheet sees a win for a player above a certain rating, but the person who lost (people with higher rating tend to win more often, surprise and shock ensues) wasn’t at that rating, so the loss was ignored and the net winrate of the entire sample went up, thus inflating the results. If you consider a higher ranked player to be more likely to pick a meta civ (which is a stretch, but a reasonable one, I think) one may easily infer that as a small variable in the sample.
So, as an summation of what I cared to explore as important variables, Win% doesn’t account for:
- Map selection and the available maps
- Civilization popularity and familiarity
- Various modes and the other metrics from which to judge a civilization’s success
- Competitive viability as a drafting tool, not just as a generalist civilization
- A list of various other things that cast serious doubt on the usefulness and accuracy of the metric.
Please stop doing this.
- Signed cordially, Everyone.