Disclaimer Note: I understand this would ruin many civilizations but this is just a thought experiment. A unit that counters both archers and cavalry might need to be quite costly to be balanced somewhat. This topic might be somewhat controversial. But if you have any other ideas to break the archers and knights meta do suggest them.
Would this unit break the knights and archers meta? Do you have some ideas how to break these meta units? Be of note, the meta won’t be totally broken, since this unit would be a unique unit for a civ.
High pierce armor infantry unit. A skirmisher/spearman hybrid unit. Can switch between melee and ranged mode. In melee mode, it has large bonus damage vs cavalry, turning itself into a spearman unit. In ranged mode it turns into a skirmisher, high damage vs archers, but low damage vs anything else. Cost effective vs cavalry and archers, denying these meta units. 15 gold and 35 food, cheap cost-effective unit. Available in the feudal age from the barracks.
Big weakness, receives +15 bonus damage from the militia line. Low melee armor.
They will still lose to a knight in 1v1, but will do lots of damage to them just like a spearman.
Can be upgraded further in castle age, and imperial age.
Knights and archers naturally dominate the battlefield compared to infantry. Knights have speed, archers have range. And there is a rock-paper-scissor between infantry archers and cavalry :
infantry can counter cavalry (spearmen) and itself (militia)
archers can counter infantry (archer, horse archer & hand cannon) and itself (skirmisher)
cavalry can counter archers (scout & knight) and itself (camel)
Only some unique units hard-counter the opposite, namely the cataphract, huscarl and genoese xbow. And it’s more subtle than a mere rock-paper-scissor with archers being general DPS dealers so long that there is a meat shield to protect them, knights being great for brute force and the militia being good vs all trash units.
The solution to break the knight & archer meta ? Make the militia-line more viable as a general unit, notably as a meat shield which is what they are used for (they have neither speed nor range). Which is what balance patches carefully try to make, like with the brand new gambesons tech.
Very simple way would be to nerf the baseline version of knights and archers and add more techs to make them stronger. Like crossbow upgrade giving just 1 extra range and 5 hp but some other upgrade which gives the extra attack. Likewise for knights, they could start weaker like with -15 hp and -2 attack and get an upgrade which gives them those benefits. This way, the crossbow-knight players cant do a lot of damage for very little investment in early castle age while those units can still be useful in later stages.
In addition to this, you could also add cost reducing upgrades - something that reduces wood cost of archer units and food cost of knights. So lets say archers and ca have +5 base wood cost and knights have +10 base food cost compared to now and have to get this new tech to reduce their costs.
So basically crossbows having 4+2 attack, 5+2 range and need that extra upgrade to be as useful as now. And Knights having 85 hp, 8 attack on hitting castle age, but need a more expensive upgrade just to reach where they are now.
Similar to supplies/gambeson, this can also help a lot with civ balancing.
Conceptually interesting but then again it would depend on how the switch happens, its base stats etc. Balancing with this type of unit can be more problematic. Either the unit will almost never be used or will suddenly become the new meta depending on its stats.
Some random and independent ideas for the options:
Camels (eg with xbows): I would add 1 PA, but take away some hp or damage to make Gurjaras and hindustanis not as oppressive as old Indians pre nerf.
Eagles (eg with xbows): I think we cannot really buff them without nerfing them. Maybe slightly increasing the training speed in feudal ?
Scorpions and LSwords: I see them as a possible combination because Scorpions are potentially the best backline unit in term of DPS, but need a frontline that kill cavalry which they are so weak against. LSword may be buffed against cavalry so that knights cannot dive to kill scorpions and leave without damage. LSwords with Gambeson should be tanky enough to not melt to xbows (they still get countered by them as intended of course) like pikes do, while scorpions get the job done. Maybe we can further decrease the upgrade costs of infantry, add a tech to decrease the minimum range of scorpions from 2 to 1, and increase the projectile speed of scorpions. The problem of scorpions is also their speed and clunkiness, so when playing LS + scorpions, both sides may end up training quite a few mangonels.
Cav archers (eg with knights/camels/eagles): we could decrease the cost of Thumb ring, which they need to be effective. The problem of cav archers compared to every other option, is that they are way faster than archers, so if you go archers->cavArchers, your army does not move at the same speed, which is akward. So your best bet is probably to trade all of your archers against your opponent’s archers during aging up to castle age. We could have cav archers (without BL and husbandry until late castle age/early imperial) as a " backup option" when you arrive to the next age with very few archers. If you have decent cavArchers, it is then better to research TR and go cavarchers than researching Xbows and go xbows.
EArcher (eg with knights) and BElephants (eg. with xbows) redesign: decrease the food cost, and have either other gold melee units (knights/camels/LSwords) or gold ranged units (xbows, CavArchers, scorpions) deal more bonus damage to them so that they beat them easier than their counterpart. Which means: either xbows have a way harder time killing BElephants than killing knights but knights have an easy time beating them, or knights lose very hard against BElephants, but xbows kill them easier than they kill knights.
-Archer-line have +1 minimun range.
-Knights lose -1 Pierce armor (Chavalier upgrade give +1 PA to maintain the imp balance
-Gunpowder units are affected by balistic (Portugese UT should be change for another thing)
-HC lose some -5 bonus vs infantry and gain +5 bonus vs cavalry and camel
hmm, my experience is different. in team games i rarely see skirms, elite skirms, spears or pikes. maybe halbs in a game that goes late. whereas each player makes at least one of those in 1v1s. if a game goes late in 1v1 you will always see light cav/hussar (unless meso) whereas I am yet to see hussars in team games.
similar for siege, it’s rare to see siege units in team games before imp unless one team is already way ahead.
generally infantry was rare in both until the recent patch, with the notable exception of maa openings in 1v1 which are super common
yes, battle elephants are pretty rare in 1v1s (outside of malay push on hideout etc), elephant archers you see occasionally
war wagons however dominated in 1v1 for a while. I kinda agree that you see unique units more in TGs than 1v1s, but that’s mostly because TGs tend to last longer. 1v1s often end way before a large enough number of castles are up.
I have seen Skirms used at a competitive level in a 3v3 vs AM Gamerlegion targeted the Pocket hard. Maybe it is questionable to focus the pocket after when the flanks where the main threat but they where allowed to mix in Skirms with no consequences.