Let's talk about China

Hello everyone! I’m u60cf28, a China main who was 1400-1450 elo before the most recent patch, and now hover in between 1350 and 1400 elo. I’ve played about 800 games at this point, and I think 90% of them have been with China. And since we’re about two and half weeks out since the patch, I thought it would be a reasonable time to discuss China; its current playstyle and balance. As most people know, China got hit with the hardest nerfs last patch, with both siege being nerfed in general and Chinese siege being hit particularly hard. In this post, I plan on putting forth my ideas for what changes need to come to China in the next patch, as well as provide a space for others to discuss.

This post will have three sections. Feel free to skip any section, as this post will be a bit long:
Section 1: The case for China buffs

Section 2: Possible China buffs and changes

Section 3: Conclusion; My preferred changes

Thank you all for your attention

Section 1: The case for China buffs
The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. - Lao Tzu

I think the most convincing case that China needs buffs can be found in the winrate data on AOE4 world. As of the writing of this post, here are the following winrates and pickrates of China at what I think are the most relevant elos:

Elo Winrate Pickrate
>1600 39.9% 4.7%
>1400 43.8% 6.2%
>1200 45.4% 6.4%

A side note on this methodology: I believe that an RTS should primarily be balanced around its most highly skilled subset of players - that being high elo 1v1 players. This is because the skill ceiling in RTS is so high that only the top of the top can fully utilize and exploit the various strengths of their civs. Balance rarely affects the games of most players below a certain elo; any imbalance in the lower elos can usually be overcome through better macro, micro, or gamesense. That being said, to focus only on >1600 would both greatly reduce the sample size, and possibly ignore bad design that overly affects the lower levels. That’s why I’ve picked these three elo catagories: >1600 (best of the best), >1400 (approx. top 1000), and >1200 (where players are generally competent enough for balance to begin to affect their games)

A quick comparison with the other civs makes it clear that China is indeed the weakest civ in the game right now. Now, there will always be a weakest civ, and there is nothing inherently wrong with China being the weakest, but the winrate is still too low. I looked at pre-patch winrate data and the civ with the lowest winrate then, Abbasid, still had higher winrates than China does now in all three elo categories. The pickrate is also a concern. China has by far the lowest pickrate of any civ in the game - and also lower than pre-patch Abbasid. This low pickrate means two things: one; Chinese winrates are inflated, as the only people picking Chinese are likely diehard China mains like myself, who play mainly China and have the most experience with the civ. And two: any possible “hidden strategy” out there for China is likely to remain undiscovered, as there simply aren’t enough people playing the civ to discover it.

The low pickrate also seems to correspond with China’s tournament performance - basically nonexistent. Now, I don’t have the statistics (and if anyone does feel free to provide them), but I’ve watched a good amount of the N4C qualifiers, and I think I’ve only seen China picked, like, 4 times total. The civ is clearly not in a healthy state, and the pros know it.

One last note on team games - I know that the stereotype is that China is/was oppressively strong in team games, much more than in 1v1. But the statistics simply don’t support that. Looking at both pre and post patch winrates in team games , China is either the worst or second worst in all but >1600 team games (after the Fire Lancer Nerf). And if you look at those 1600 elo team games, you can see that the sample size of such games are tiny - less than 20. So I really can’t seem to find any evidence supporting the idea that China’s much stronger in team games than 1v1.

Section 2: Possible buff ideas for China
To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle. - Confucius

An important note concerning this section: There are a lot of possible buffs listed here. I in no way intend for all or even a majority of them to be applied, especially not all in the same patch. In Section 3 I give a plausible balance patch.

Also, please note that there are only two buffs to China siege listed in these ideas (and both of them are relatively minor). I do not intend at all to undo the effects of last patch in general; I believe that the siege meta should not return, and these changes are in no way intended to restore Chinese siege to its pre-patch strength

Ideas:

Dynasty Landmarks cost 25% less
This is by far the number one buff I want for China. Basically all of China’s unique civ bonuses are locked behind building a second landmark per age, which makes them terribly inaccessible in most games. Even pre-patch I rarely saw pros going past the Song Dynasty, especially after the Fire Lancer got nerfed. Yuan and Ming both definitely need to be more accessible. And reducing the cost of Song Dynasty opens up more options for China. For example, right now the Zhuge Nu ram push hits too slow, considering the investment into Song and rams and that Zhuge nu have an effective feudal counter now in the form of the horseman, necessitating spears. Often by the time the Zhuge Nu ram can come in the enemy is already near castle, and both MAA and Lancers will shred Zhuge nu. This buff creates more room for China to experiment and actually use their civ bonuses

Imperial Legacy - If all seven Chinese landmarks are built (and none are destroyed), gain access to all Chinese dynasty bonuses
A cool idea I had to compensate for China’s lost lategame strength last patch. The combination of Yuan and Ming will make Chinese infantry very potent. Counterplay exists, as the opponent can just blow up one landmark to get rid of the bonus

Imperial Official supervision production bonus returned from +150% to +200%
For those who don’t know, last patch the devs “accidentally” nerfed the IO supervision from +200% to +150%. They claimed that this was balance work they were testing for a future patch and that it was not intended to be in this patch. Regardless of their intentions, I think this change was terrible and it should be returned to its original bonus.

China gains early Crossbowmen in Age 2. Possibly locked behind Song Dynasty
A historically accurate way to help cover for China’s traditional weakness to both early Knight aggression and fast castle MAA/Lancer aggression. China ideally wants to boom, but right now any boom gets shut down super hard by maa/lancer, especially from Mongols and Delhi right now.

China starts with one less villager but with an Imperial Official. Starts with 50 less starting food
A way to accelerate the slow Chinese early game, and what I believe is the best way of implementing the old “China starts with more villagers” idea from the beta. An IO supervising a resource dropoff is equivalent to an additional vill if there are 5 workers on that dropoff, and will be worth more than a vill if there are 6 or more. The decreased starting food is to compensate for the food savings of the IO; I think -50 food would be the best balance, though this does mean that China essentially starts with +50 food. -100 starting food would also be possible
An important point of comparison is the Mongol Ovoo - which, for 150 wood, grants the Mongols 2.5 more vills from Dark age permanently. A starting IO would not provide that, but it would do something similar for China, which is why I think one needs to be careful when considering this buff

Fire Lancer: Bonus damage vs ranged is returned
Let me be clear that I approved of the fire lancer changes, and that I’m glad both landmark sniping and repeated AOE charges are no longer possible. That being said, I disagree with the devs that Fire Lancers should essentially be useless in combat against all units. I think that fire lancers should be, like the horseman, effective counters to archers and crossbowmen, and this buff is to help return them to that state. This buff I believe in no way makes landmark sniping more viable, nor makes them as oppressive as they were with the AOE charge, especially with their now increased cost.

Landmark Buffs

Barbican of the Sun:
Small Buff: Vision increased to match that of an outpost
The Barbican is a glorified outpost anyway, might as well give it the vision of one
Large Buff: In castle/imperial age, can pay 400 stone to upgrade the Barbican to a normal keep. Boiling Oil and Emplacements still need to be separately researched
This idea is to make the Barbican remain relevant past the Feudal Age, as it really is just a glorified outpost right now. Now, you can buy a keep for half off, assuming of course that the Barbican is still in a relevant position for defense and that the nearby resources aren’t going to mine out soon.

Imperial Academy can now also train Imperial Officials, and acts as a tax drop-off point
One of the most annoying parts of playing China is that you have to waste vill training time to make an IO, which is especially annoying if you’re in Song Dynasty and thus not taking full advantage of the decreased vill production time. This buff is to alleviate that, and make killing China’s IO’s less of a setback for the China player. The tax dropoff is to encourage smarter base building, and increase the efficacy of tax collection

Imperial Palace now also increases the max number of Imperial Officials from 4 to 5, and acts as a tax drop-off point
The Imperial Palace itself is terribly underwhelming, and you only ever get it for Yuan Dynasty. This change makes it give an actual economic benefit by itself, and like above, the tax change also helps with increasing the efficacy of tax collection.

Astronomical Clocktower: Can now be supervised. Clockwork HP bonus reduced from 50% to 30%
While I, like many others, thought the clocktower did need to be nerfed, removing its ability to be supervised was probably the worst possible way of going about it. Despite being a siege civ, I as China am now regularly out-sieged by Abbasid and Mongol in castle age, thanks to their ability to build siege on the field, and I am also unable to beat HRE or Rus siege in Imperial nowadays. I think a straight nerf to the hp bonus would have been much, much, cleaner and better in terms of nerfing the Clocktower. Since the movespeed and bombard nerfs remain, and the hp is reduced, I do not believe that this change would recreate the siege meta.

Spirit Way
Small Buff: Now also unlocks previous dynasty buildings
A quality of life buff, because it is annoying as hell when I’m in Yuan Dynasty and my villages are burnt down by a raid
Large Buff: Discount now applies to all Chinese unique units. Discount reduced from -30% to -20% cost
Most importantly, this would now discount the Palace Guard and Nest of Bees. However, it is important to note that the new discount is only the same as the French keep discount. That being said, this change is a bit dangerous, and possibly overpowered

Great Wall Gatehouse now also doubles the heath of Stone Wall Towers
Before people knee-jerk react and think this will make stone wall tower rushes stronger, please note that this does not affect stone wall towers in feudal or castle at all, which is where the rushes are the most problematic. Rather, this makes Chinese towers actually relevant in Imperial, as stone wall towers in general are invalidated by Bombards.

Section 3: Conclusion
The empire, long divided, must unite - Romance of the the Three Kingdoms.

So what would I do, if I was in charge of the balance team? Personally: these would be my preferred set of changes:
Landmark Discount
IO Supervision (re)buff
Fire Lancer Buff
Barbican Small Buff
Imperial Academy Buff
Imperial Palace Buff
Clocktower Buff/Nerf
Spirit Way Small Buff
Great Wall Gatehouse Buff

I believe that these set of changes would return China to its pre-patch stats as a mid-tier, lategame focused civ, while not allowing siege to be as oppressive as it was prepatch. Rather, these changes give China more flexibility and adaptability in terms of their gameplan, and make their civ bonuses much more accessible. One last point to note is that I do believe the grenadier might need to be nerfed if, with these changes, getting Ming Dynasty becomes routine in most long China games. It is probably the only overpowered thing left in China’s arsenal, tho it is currently limited by the price of Ming Dynasty. If I were the balance team, I would note that we would be keeping an eye on the grenadier and making adjustments if necessary, along with further adjustments to China’s balance.

Feel free to comment your thoughts and own ideas for China changes below. I will try to respond to as many as I can.

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I gotta say, these are the kind of threads this forums need.
These are really great suggestions, hopefully the devs will consider them. These are reasonable buffs that would improve the civ making it competitive without making it too strong.

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I read through your post and I think it’s a pretty fair assessment of China. I don’t believe any of the buffs you suggest would dramatically improve their win-rate but it would improve it hopefully to the 50% range.

That Spirit Way buff would be such a nice QOL change and I wouldn’t feel pressured to build 3x villages before thinking about switching dynasties.

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Thanks for the support! Yeah, it would be great if a dev could see this thread and some of these ideas could actually make it in

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Yup, thanks for the support

I definitely like the idea of starting with an IO and deducting some starting food to compensate. Also love the idea of having the Imperial palace have the ability to make IOs (TC que time is critical).

One thing I notice that makes china extremely inefficient is taxes generated FARRRRRR from the TC, aka a boar or a large stone/gold mine, docks in general…; something that you’d never be able to get all the gold from unless you made a TC specifically for that one location and have an IO idle for 15s over and over and over until all the taxes are collected.

I have two suggestions for this issue. First idea is to allow the accumulated tax to directly pay for subsequent upgrades! Then later say a Imperial Ming Dynasty upgrade that auto collects tax from all locations on some set interval, say like up to 40 gold collect per location every 30 seconds. And this wouldn’t be OP because you could not possible fit all 100+ villager population dropping off at locations inside the double tax aura. So lets be funny and said you manage to fit 40 villagers to drop off in the double tax aura and you have a total of 110 villagers; if we say every 15 seconds each villager does a drop; then you’d generate 40*2+70 tax every 15 seconds which turns out to 600 gold/min! 600 is great! but not broken! Plus my example supposed you can fit 40+ villagers dropping off resources inside the double tax zone. Heck all that is still weaker than Abbasid Gold Age 3 which gives 30% eco boost among other things ( 30% of 100 villager is 30…30 villagers at base gathering rate generates 1,200 resources per min!!..so what’s 600??)

This is also on the top of my list for China.

I’d also like to see the IO have a separate hotkey and not included as a villager.

Hello there! Thanks for taking a lot of time to write about Chinese. I have done so in the past aswell and yet the devs still decided to nerf Chinese into the ground despite me and many others giving extensive feedback on numerous Chinese issues.

Hopefully the devs will decide to correct their current balance path or we won’t see Chinese play in competitive anymore.

I think this is a reasonable change. The number might need tweaking of course. But the Chinese “civ bonus” is simply being able to invest ressources into something. Meanwhile other civs simply get more ressources upfront. Currently its not worth it to build anything but the Song Dynasty Landmarks. This is a core problem in Chinese civ design and in design in general. See Age IV gather rate techs, which are almost never going to pay off in a real game.

Many other players recommended this and it sounds reasonable. The Crossbowmen could be a slightly weaker Crossbowmen just like other factions have weaker Knights. You wouldn’t build them unless you face armored units in Age 2 and since Crossbowmen do not beat anything but Armored units I see no problem with this. Chinese is already a defensive civ, this fits their playstyle.

This is a good idea. I have already proven that the Barbican of the sun is straight up a worse Kremlin. Just like almost all Landmarks are not just terrible on their own, those which are similiar are also worse than similar Landmarks of other factions.

Source: Barbican of the Sun and Spirit way are just a worse version of Kremlin and High Armory

This Landmark is another terrible Landmark and this buff is reasonable.

And interesting idea. Due to its big vision Radius you would benefit from building this in the middle ofthe map, which is also where you end up building barracks, stables and siege workshops later on. Currently there is no way from getting any Tax since you would have to build a Town Center nearby. Nobody does that, its a waste of ressources.

I have suggested to allow Imperial Officials to drop off Tax at Keeps to allow players to claim tax from buildigns at the frontline. But using this Landmark as a drop-off point would also work.

I guess a nerf is in order if Chinese gets buff in other places. But why don’t we grant a flat HP bonus instead? This would make it easier to balance stuff like Springalds vs Bombards.

Interesting fact: The Nest of Bees starts with 200 hitpoints, 60 less hitpoints than a Mangonel. This means it gets 2 shot by a Springald, meaning Nest of Bees, which is already a terrible unit since the stress test, is not even worth building from siege workshops. You have to build it from the Clocktower for it to be useful at all.

I have never understood this strange limitation to lose access to previous buildings. It makes no sense at all. I already told the dev to give players access to previously unlocked buildings in the stress test.

I suggested the exact same thing. Base building is too difficult, depending on the map it can be straight up impossible to get enough worth out of it.

This Landmark has 0 effect on buildings build at the frontline so Chinese is punished for having reinforcing buildings at the front, however this is needed to win the game. So Chinese gets nothing from their Age IV Landmark.

I don’t like this idea. Instead, the current buff to infantry ontop of walls should be reduces from 50% to like 25% or 20% but affect all infantry on walls on the entire map.

This does sound too powerful. I would rather have Chinese be a civ that doesn’t straight up die in Age 2 or fall apart in Age 3 due to having the terrible Nest of Bees instead of Mangonels.

Chinese doesn’t make it to Age IV anyway since they simply lose before they get there. I would rather have a fair game in the vast majority of games rather than let Chinese win in the 0,000000000001% of games where they can pull this off.

Overall very similar suggestions to mine. So lets hope the devs stop nerfing civs into the ground and instead listen to the community suggestions a bit more.

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I stay with your proposal number 1, number 3 and number 6.

Neither can the civ be buffed excessively due to the fact that there are others that are about to be nerfed, but with those 3 points it is more than enough for China to be a mid tier + civ.

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Would be good change but thing to consider is that china needs 2 landmarks to gain similar bonus that other civs get with 1 landmark and this is still 75% more expensive also china only receives 1x bonus while other civs can get 3x bonuses.

This I do approve but it would still be too expensive to get with 25% reduction and most games will not be achievable and only helps in VERY late game and doesn’t solve early, mid game issues.

Never should’ve happened.

They already do in form of zhuge nu but these deal only good dmg to light units.

Not exactly sure about that. Less food at start with IO. While its equal to 6 villagers it still doesn’t really speed early game at all cuz there is no taxes gathered and its just supervising and is equal to 6 villagers. If it was 6 villagers + IO - 50 or 100 Food then I would agree but loss of 1 villager at start is too big. Don’t compare IO to ovoo. Its nowhere near as good.

The issue with FL isn’t that they cant be utilized to do raiding etc but the cost to get them is too expensive. Even with return of dmg to ranged units they would still be same ■■■■ unit and they were hardly used in 1v1 / pro games (TG’s they were spammed as cannon fodder unit)

Raidin unit needs to be fast and FL is one of the slowest horses in game and too expensive to get and this wont solve it.

I support small buff. Its vision range is less than attack range.

Late game upgrades are irrelevant and do nothing. Just go around it. Unless it comes with anti siege artillery upgrade its just pointless buff.

Doesn’t solve the problem of taxes cannot be properly utilized longer the game goes. 5th IO is nice buff but still player ain’t gonna sent IO to collect tax from building thats 20-50 tiles away from palace or TC. So the drop off is pointless and hardly beneficial.

It should be supervised because in fact that china can only create clockwork units from tower is already big drawback of this landmark. Larger the map is longer it takes to reinforce front lines. Which was NEVER considered when ppl complained about clockwork.

Clockwork had production of 3.5 with 50% HP + distance needed to siege travel to fight. Meanwhile other civs just make siege workshop on field or just simply make siege units on field. With additional nerf to sieges movespeed this already received huge nerf and it takes longer to reinforce and move siege around the map.

They should revert targeted nerfs to clockwork and leave it as it was and see how things go. Instead of nerffing consider creating counterplay to them like they buffed horse torches but give horsement imperial age anti siege upgrade.

Small buff should be baseline.

Large buff is far worse than keeps from french. French can just make more keeps and it has larger area to place buildings.
Spiritway can fit 9-12 buildings and no one is going to start putting barracks, archery range, siegeworkshops or clockwork to that small circle. Not that it would be worse but not really a “large” buff.

Pointless buff? These do nothing at imperial age and not really worth the investment other than getting some vision. Siege just tears them down and they dont get any value out. Would still stay as ■■■■ landmark and worthless.

Nah. Only thing that would save china would be the clockwork change (small help from dynasty cost reduction) and even then it would be way worse than before. It would be improvement what we currently have but it would still be far inferior to other civs and isn’t good enough to bring civ back

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One thing I want to note is that there is a very useless Tang Dynasty bonus that gives scout LOS. What we can do is keep the 150% on IO but Tang gives IO boost because the early game is when IO management is really critical. Tang dynasty bonus would add IO giving +50% effectiveness. (eg. 150% → 225%, resources boost from 20% to 30%). This makes the transition to the Song dynasty an actual trade-off for booming power.

Honestly, just reduce it further to 20-25% and make it ALL siege units from any sources. So that China isn’t stupidly dependent on 1 landmark building for production of all their siege. This would just make landmark supervision irrelevant. Honestly forcing them to invest in more siege workshops isn’t a bad call.

Revise the Zhuge Nu to a crossbow replacement. Increase food cost back from 20 to 60, change the damage from 4/5/6 → 2/3/4, give it bonus damage vs heavy armor unit (+5/7/9). At the moment, Zhuge Nu just is a better version of an Archer that obliterates other archers in feudal and then practically be useless late game. This will make the unit less of an anti-light and more of an anti-heavy and weak vs light. 13x3 may sound insane but each volley gets reduced by armor. A standard 5 armors heavy will only take 8x3 = 24. Imp crossbow does 26 damage - 5 = 21 damage.

I think the Zhuge Nu was meant as a counter for Feudal infantry units (i.e. spears, archers). Making them a crossbow replacement could potentially be too powerful too early, as they could counter both Feudal and Castle age units (i.e. Knights and MAA), with no need for tech switch.

I dont think China needs too many buffs. It is still a very good late game civilization. It has just slow early game. Reducing dynasty costs and giving one IO free at start will fix everything. (Except for bugs, e.g Bug with Nested Bees in water)

China will never be good until they change there landmarks to be in line with the other civs in this game.
Case closed

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Spring balance needs to nerf basically every civ advantage to be into a nuisance. Fundamental of a good RTS is well executed strategy over everything. All the gimmicks like delhi sacred sites Mongol ovoo HRE gold generation French uber knights etc etc need be reigned in.

If youu look at the statistics for >1100 elo and up and win rate over game length you’ll notice all the civs basically converge at the 30min time length which is right around the time every civ is comfortably in mid castle very early imp fighting mostly with the common units: mag, springs, maa, knights, Xbox, spears.

So while I hope they buff early China I hope it’d in conjunction with other civ changes.

“very good late game civ” you mean when they get away with 35min booming and hit ming dynasty? Not viable way to play other than in low elo leagues.

China is by far worst civ in early and mid game as of rn so yeah they need lot of things changes and fixed. Not necessary buff exactly but like tax system needs to be worth through whole game and not like now where player loses thousands of golds per game

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China needs to be about cheap early mele units like spears and archer.
There late game power in gunpowder units not just siege units. Palace guards need a buff also.
Early cheap mele buffs (spears, archers etc)
Early landmarks need buffed.
Tax collector buffs(not having to return to the town hall)
Late game buff to gunpowder units (grenadier cost to much)
Late game landmarks buffs (Wall gateway landmark should effect ALL allies walls on map)

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In other civilizations, special units are units stronger than the original units and are a kind of reward, but in Chinese civilization, this is not realized, and it will make players feel frustrated.

In the 1v1 game, it is difficult for the Chinese to change to other dynasties except the Song Dynasty, which means that many of their special units will not appear in 1v1 at all. In my opinion, I would rather let the notorious fire lancer replace the Chinese ones Light cavalry, making it a kind of light cavalry with charge damage, at least it’s a stable enhancement, not like it is now: FL is not used at all in 1v1; FL is almost unstoppable in teamfights extreme state.

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Don’t go crazy trying to buff China too much. The civilization is designed to have inferior Landmarks and good dynasties. The 25% discount, the FL bonus against ranged units and 200% return to the imperial officer + the nerf of the best civs (Delhi and Mongols) + the bug fixes, is more than enough.

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Nope its not. This is just the current status and it must get changes ASAP.

The Chinese civ feature is the ability to spend ressources to gain bonuses, however unlike French/Rus/Mongols they do not gain free ressources. This puts them behind in total ressources first of all. If Chinese wants to get ahead, they have to be left alone and invest into Dynasties, hoping they can survive long enough for the investment to pay off.

Thats not a civ bonus, thats forcing you into a defensive playstyle because otherwise Chinese is strictly inferiour to Rus/French or Mongols. Go ahead and try to do the same like other civs, you won’t succeed.

Chinese need buffs desperately, they are obsolete in terms of competitive gameplay.

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