At the moment China lacks good military options until Castle Age, so it’s forced to turtle up while most other civs have Feudal Age access to strong armored units like the Knights, or even Dark Age access to Horsemen and Man-at-Arms. In contrast, until Castle Age China has a tier 1.5 unit in the Zhuge Nu, that requires additional investment and is really only strong against light units.
Taking this in consideration, should the Zhuge Nu be reworked to give Chinese a chance in the early(-ish) game, and if so how should it be reworked?
A unique Crossbow unit would go against the “lore”, as repeater crossbows were historically weak and couldn’t penetrate armor.
Maybe a faster movement speed would help, as it is currently slower than Archers (1.13 compared to 1.25 tiles/second), while also having smaller range (4.5 vs 5 tiles). Having the same speed as an Archer or even the same speed as the Palace Guard (1.38) might help give Chinese some harassment options in pre-Castle, and a viable option against Longbowmen with their 7 range.
That would be great against the early Knights and Man-at-Arms. But it would go against historical accuracy, as repeater crossbows lacked the strength necessary to pierce armor, and it was more of a spray-and-pray weapon with a relatively low range.
The current Chukonu is not very good to use, not much different from ordinary archers, but it takes huge resources to produce. I do not agree to let Chukonu have armor-piercing capabilities that are inconsistent with reality, but I hope to increase their rate of fire to better deal with light armored troops.
They should get limited ability to penetrate armor. Of course not +20 like crossbows, but at least give it a +1 or +2. Either that, or reduce its ridiculous three-resources-cost to be lower(it’s even bugged at this point, wood cost is not affected by Spiritual Way). Otherwise I don’t see any reason to use it.
Of course irl it can’t penetrate armor, but this is for gameplay sake. Besides, in real history I don’t think regular crossbow are that great against armor either, since crossbow bolts are small and lightweight; while a big drawweight bow when paired with heavy arrows can function like a javelin to penetrate armor at close range. If we stick to all historical accuracy there are so many more things that are wrong.
Zhuge nu beat archers resource for resource and perform the same or better against every unit but spearmen. The issue is ranged units main power is when they are massed and zhuge nu are hard to mass. The cost of investing into song dynasty, a second TC, and the resulting increase in villager production makes archers more cost effective in a real games. For this reason I think the move for early military with china is fast castling into crossbow, pikemen, siege. An inherently risky strategy.
Overall China have a great identity with top tier siege, an S tier castle age timing, good boom options, and flexible game enders like fire lancers but for this potential to be fully unlocked they need an across the board buff so that players have more incentives to learn to play them. I’ve spent a huge amount of time drilling build orders with china over the last two weeks and know way more about them than my other main civ (Dehli) but despite this I’m still more comfortable with my Dehli builds and feel they are overall as powerful or more powerful than the builds I’m using for china. Having this massive lack of return on learning time is currently China’s main weakness.
Light melee cav, archers durring an all in, heavy units that would reduce an archers damage to 2 or less, when pop efficiency is a consideration, with spirit way, or when the zhuge nu have a +1 attack upgrade and the unit they are attacking does not have the corresponding +1 armor upgrade.
By the way its not just the Zhuge Nu which needs changes. I made a post about the other unique units for Chinese. Man At Arms and Nest of Bees are also in a terrible spot. See here:
The problem of the Zhuge Nu is twofold.
Its role overlaps with the Archer but the Archer does its job better. Dealing damage at long range and is strong against Spearmen. Zhuge Nu has better DPS but its range is terrible, therefore it loses to Archers and its more vulnerable than Archers. It also costs much more.
In general, units which cost gold are stronger than units which do not cost gold. Best example for this are Men at Arms, which beat Archers, Horsemen and Spearmen in direct combat.
Therefore, Zhuge Nu should be stronger Archers, but they are not.
I would recommend something like this:
Zhuge Nu get 0.5 more range than Archers, which would put them at 5.5 range and 0.5 less range than Longbows
Zhuge Nu get additional ranged armor and slightly more HP to make them beat Archers in direct combat
But this doesn’t fix the issue of Zhuge Nu being useless against armored units. Therefore, I suggest an uprade in Age 3 which adds bonus damage against armored units.
They should not counter armored units, but having an uprade which adds +2 or +3 damage against armored units only would help them deal atleast some damage.
Man At Arms are supposed to be countered by Knights, but they can still do alright vs Knights. The Zhuge Nu should be the same against Men at Arms atleast.
Zhuge Nu also cost gold, therefore they should not be useless against armored units in Age 3 after you research an upgrade. They should have slightly more HP which will make them survive a little longer against Knigths and Men At Arms, but still not counter them.
Also keep in mind Zhuge Nu is bugged (just another one of the many bugs Chinese units have) and their wood cost is not reduced by the Spirit Way Landmark.
But they’re slower and with less range. If they’re microed the archers hard counter the Zhuge Nu. Right?
That’d be an early knight with armor upgrades I reckon. But the Zhuge Nu has a slightly lower attack speed, so even if they do 3 damage instead of 2, the archers are really not that far behind. And they still have all the other bonuses + they’re cheaper to make.
I feel like the Chinese have way better options when pop efficiency is considered. And spirit way is sweet, but again now we’re lategame Chinese and we probably already won the game.
Just to clear things up, the Zhuge Nu costs 1.5x more than an Archer, but has 3x the dps. Also by shooting 3 projectiles, each attack upgrade scales 3x. Zhuge Nu is not as bad as an Archer, it is way stronger and it even breaks even with Horsemen. The problem is the fact it’s slower in movement speed than an Archer while also having a smaller range. So it can only ever counter Spearmen. It also has zero harass potential because it’s extremely easy to catch, due to being as slow as a heavy armored Man-At-Arms.