TL;DR: The Mangonel is too strong compared to the Nest of Bees, and could use a nerf in general. Thus, nerf Mango HP so it is 2-shot by Springalds, instead of 3-shot.
I was browsing the unit statistics over at the wonderful aoe4world.com, and came accross the pages for the Nest of Bees and the Mangonel. Now, as a China main, I’ve always felt since release that Mangonels were stronger, and scarier, than Nest of Bees. So I thought I’d do a direct comparison between the two here.
|Mangonel||Nest of Bees|
|Cost||600 (400 W, 200 G)||600 (300 W, 300 G)|
|HP||240 (288 w/ Siege Works)||200 (240 w/ Siege Works)|
|(Ranged) Armor||8 (11 w/ Siege Works)||8 (11 w/ Siege Works)|
|Attack||3 attacks of 12||8 attacks of 10|
|Attack Speed||6.75 seconds||5.5 seconds|
|Move Speed||0.75 (0.9 w/ Greased Axles)||0.81 (0.97 w/ Greased Axles)|
|Range||9||8 (9.6 w/ Pyrotechnics)|
So, on paper, the Nest of Bees and the Mangonel seem to be sidegrades of each other. They cost the same, the Mango has more HP and Range, while the NOB deals more damage, moves faster, and reloads faster. The Mango has an Imp upgrade to reduce it’s reload time by 25%, while the NOB has an upgrade to reduce its cost by 25% (and Pyrotechnics, of course). But because of various factors, in practice, the Mangonel performs much better than the Nest of Bees.
First, let’s talk about defense. The increased mangonel HP actually makes a huge difference, as Springalds will 3-shot Mangonels, but 2-shot Nest of Bees. This wasn’t really an issue when clocktower supervision was still a thing, as clockwork NOB were also 3 shot, but China can no longer rely solely on the clocktower for siege, a lot of its NOB are now 2-shot. This is compounded that, in Castle, NOB have one less range, meaning that they have to expose themselves to cav and springalds more. Thus, overall, NOB are much more vulnerable compared to Mangonels.
Next, let’s talk damage. On paper, the Mango does 36 total damage per attack, while the NOB does 80. It would seem that the NOB is much better in this regard. But due to how it attacks, the damage doesn’t necessarily translate. In testing I did with my friend a few weeks ago, we found that against a clumped up group of MAA, it took four volleys from both a Mango and a NOB to kill the clump. Furthermore, because the NOB attacks over a short duration, it is much easier to mitigate its damage through micro compared to the Mangonel, which does its attack in one big burst. A player is given much more reaction time to dodge at least some of the NOB’s attack. These factors often mean that the NOB kills armies slower than the Mangonel can.
So, at this point, I’m sure many of you are expecting me to call for buffs to the NOB. Which, some would say, could cause a return to the toxic China siege deathball. But rather, I think the NOB is in a good spot. It does a decent amount of damage, but it’s damage can be mitigated with good micro. And it has to expose itself in order to do that damage. In many games, it’s not a NOB deathball that we see - it’s a Mangonel deathball.
Thus, the Mangonel should be nerfed. I propose that Mangonel HP be reduced so that, at least without Siege Works, the unit is 2-shot by Springalds. This will provide easier counterplay to Mangonels, which are dominant in the meta right now, and make the Nest of Bees more appealing as a unique unit.
I want to end off by noting two persistent bugs with the Nest of Bees, which are really annoying and I hope the devs can address soon.
The first is that Nest of Bees still cannot fire when they are standing on a river crossing, like on Danube River or Mongolian Heights. Some have said that this is an intended mechanic - wet gunpowder - except no other gunpowder unit has this issue. It’s also ugly design for my units to just stop working at a certain part of the map.
The second is that Chemistry still does not apply properly to the Nest of Bees, and the apparent reason is hilarious. Chinese is supposed to get Chemistry for free immediately upon hitting Imperial, which should boost the NOB attack from 8x10 to 8x12. Right now, it remains at 8x10. And the reason why is because, when they decided to buff NOB damage from 8x8 to 8x10, they did so not by increasing the unit’s attack directly, but by just having Chinese automatically get Chemistry in Castle. There’s no other gunpowder unit in Castle, so no other unit is affected. But, if you pay attention, you can see that when the clocktower is built, 32 tax gold is already on the structure - the exact amount of tax you get when you research an upgrade.
This is made even more apparent in the PUP, where, because of the UI improvements they made, the NOB’s attack is listed as 8x(8+2). I think the devs secretly put Chemistry on the Clocktower and had it automatically research when China hit Castle. For some reason they thought this was a better solution than just increasing the base value.
I would ask that the devs fix these bugs, and consider my suggestion to nerf Mangonel HP.