(Just for fun) How to more faithfully represent early modern warfare in an RTS

This is not suggesting changes to AOE3.

The peculiarities of early modern warfare, compared to previous ages, include:
(1) Huge imbalance across regions, especially after 18th century. The West developed so rapidly that they outclassed other parts of the world.
(2) Decline of armour. In any earlier time setting, one could legitimately use the “heavier = stronger” principle for unit (visual) designs, but not in early modern ages. It looks weird if a cavalry becomes stronger while losing armour. That’s why European civs start with a Napoleonic hussar as the standard cavalry, and the fully armoured knight who is supposed to be a very early unit and quickly become obsolete is an Age 4 super unit. Also the defense stats of AOE3 is purely gameplay-based and has no relation to how the unit looks.

Here are some ways to make a balanced traditional RTS (which is to say, without more complex mechanics like squad-based control or morale, etc.) while still maintaining these real-life characteristics:
(1) Gunpowder: no they are not the same “damage type” as arrows or javelins. Gunpowder weapons could deal similar damage values, but they pierce armour. That gives them an edge against archaic units at range. Also, the arquebus should be a less powerful version of the musket, unlike the long range rifle equivalent in AOE3 (which is understandable because before bayonets arquebusiers assume a “skirmish” formation, but that is not the same kind of “skirmish” as the rifle-wielding sharpshooters in 19th century).
(2) Armour: archaic, armoured units are heavier which means they have better defense but lower hp. So they can be very effective in melee when used properly, but still falls to modern armies at range because gunpowder weapons can pierce armour. On the contrary, unarmoured modern units have lower defense, but higher hp reflecting better morale and training.
(3) Formation: similar to AOE3, skirmishing units have better ranged defense. Switching to loose formation also gives better ranged defense but makes the unit more vulnerable to charges. Lance-wielding cavalry have better charge bonuses but less effective in melee.
(4) Another thing that is usually overlooked by most RTS: the availability of units. A medieval knight may have much better equipments than an average Napoleonic hussar. A longbowman may beat a musketeer. But the former takes much longer training time to become proficient while the latter could be “mass produced” with standard drills. That’s a main advantage of modern armies compared to feudal armies. So archaic units takes longer to train, while modern units have more technological requirements and cost more.


Maybe a bit off topic, and idk if you know, but I always wondered, even considering that training an archer takes longer, isnt it worth it on the battlefield to have atleast a few longbow regiments, seeing how much faster they can shoot than an arquebush or musket? If you get pretty close it would be devestating for the enemy line both in deaths as morale

Also on the main topic, I would still say that armored units should have higher armor and hp, but that the “modern” units with gunpowder weapons ignore the armor first of all and secondly deal more base damage then lets say an arrow, but to compensate have less hp. Morale could be a totally different mechanic, that if too many units die in a certain radius the units will retreat to the nearest military point which is outside the radius where they lost morale.

And in terms of economy, as I have thought about how an AoE game could look from like 1789-1918 factories should have to be manned by villagers, wether enemy units can enter the factories to kill them or you have to destroy the factory first, as if its a garrisoned building is a second question, although the former seems prefered against laming.

I’m not an expert on this, but I once read that the wound caused by musket balls is much more lethal than arrows.
The other thing is that drawing a bow requires much more muscle strength than firearms so a soldier quickly gets tired after a few rounds.

There was a whole debate on arquebus vs longbows in 17 century England. I haven’t got time to read it but it may give insights on what the actual practitioners were thinking of during the transition.