Recently, longswords and two-handed swordsman were buffed with +1 melee armor. However, after a few games, I felt that the militia lines are still quite underwhelming, especially during Castle and early Imperial Age. After multiple (arguably) unsuccessful attempts at buffing the militia line to viability by the Dev Team (Arson and Supplies), crossbows and knights are still the dominant units in Castle Age.
I have concluded that the biggest reason for this is that the militia line has low survivability compared to archers and knights. Specifically, the range of archers and the speed of knights both allows retreat from unfavorable engagement. However, swordsman are slow and attacks in melee. If a engagement goes sour, the swordsman are pretty much lost. Along with the fact that swordsman cannot counter either grouped archers or knights cost effectively (ensuring that these engagements will go sour), it is no wonder that swordsman are seldom seen after early Feudal. This also explains why Arson and Supplies does not buff swordsman into viability, as Arson only improves building attack (does not help if your swordsman cannot live long enough to reach enemy building) and Supplies only reduces infantry cost (losing infantry with 3/4 the food cost is still resource lost, which is not as useful as a knight running around enemy base or archers harassing across the wood-line with minimal risks).
**With this in mind, I would propose the following changes (tested in scenario editor, but tweaking may be necessary): **
Man-at-Arms: 50 (+5) HP, 7 (+1) Attack, 1 (+1) Normal Armor, 1 Pierce Armor
Longswordsman: 60 HP, 10 (+1) Attack, 2 (+1) Normal Armor, 2 (+1) Pierce Armor
Two Handed Swordsman: 70 (+10) HP, 12 Attack, 2 (+1) Normal Armor, 2 (+1) Pierce Armor
Champion: 85 (+15) HP, 13 Attack, 3 (+1) Normal Armor, 2 (+1) Pierce Armor
The idea here is to make swordsman more resistant to archers while also being able to trade with knights in a cost effective manner. In particular, buffs on the armor and hitpoints are intended to improve survivability, compensating for their lack of range and speed.
Looking at past discussions on buffing the swordsman line, I would like to further address concerns of imbalances potentially introduced:
Would Supplies make the buffed swordsman overpowered?
Admittedly, this buffs are made without considering Supplies. If it does make swordsman OP, Supplies can be moved to Castle or Imperial Age with a cost adjustment. (Personally, I never did like the Supplies tech, as it makes balancing infantry UU quite difficult. If possible, Supplies should be changed to do something else, maybe a hitpoint increase.)
Why is the Man-at-Arms also buffed?
The Man-at-Arms buff is to ensure that it can (barely) defeat a FU scout cavalry in late Feudal Age. This gives the player a purpose to use Man-at-Arms during late Feudal. This also encourages the massing of Man-at-Arms during the transition to Castle Age and then upgrading to longswordsman, sort of like the archer to crossbow upgrade.
If swordsman can be knights cost effectively, is pikeman useless?
No. There are two major differences. First, pikeman is a trash unit. Whereas swordsman cost gold, pikeman does not. Second, pikeman are faster and deals high bonus damage against knights, whereas swordsman relies on higher hitpoints and armor to cost effectively beat knights. Thus, pikeman are a lot more dangerous to knights if not targeted right away.
Is the increase in pierce armor too much? Shouldn’t crossbows counter swordsman?
While the pierce armor allows swordsman to survive longer against archers, it is still slow and vulnerable to shoot-and-scoot by a group of archers. In particular, if we look at the current Malian swordsman, most players would say that Castle longswords is “feasible” (and then proceeds to crank out archers or knights anyway). One of the other infantry that has 2 pierce armor in Castle Age is the Teutonic Knight, and (while not a perfect comparison) nobody will say that Teutonic Knights beat archers. So no, 2 Pierce Armor does not a Huskarl make.
Is the swordsman too strong against the knight?
No. While a swordsman should beat knights cost effectively, a knight can still avoid engagements. In addition, knights still beat swordsman pop-efficiently.
But the Goths/Japanese/Bulgarian/Malay/… have bonuses that would make swordsman overpowered?
Once the swordsman buff is finalized, we can then change the civilization bonuses/technologies accordingly. Having an agreed starting point for future patches/updates is important.
Infantry Unique Units
Again, once the swordsman buff is finalized, the infantry unique units can then be adjusted accordingly. (Furthermore, changing Supplies will make this process much easier.)
But swordsman already counter eagle warriors. Do they not already have a use?
While swordsman does counter eagle warriors (if they can catch up to them), this is only applicable to 3 civilizations. It would be preferable if they could have more uses, giving the players more options (and use swordsman instead of knights when playing as Vikings…).