Some ideas addressing the Xbow Knight Meta

Hey folks! New to the forum but I’ve been lurking for a while.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been complaining about Crossbow and Knight being too dominant compared to other strategies and offered ideas to fix this; Some are pretty cool but I fear they can be a bit TOO disruptive, with some cases involving adding entire new unit lines to the game. In my humble opinion, that defeats the purpose of the challenge, since it’ll just skew the meta around the new shiny unit instead of working with the awesome units the game already gives us.

That being said, I would like to throw my hat into the ring and toss a couple of tweaking ideas out there: my goal here is to disrupt the dominance of the Knights and Crossbows without taking away what makes them fun. I personally think they are worth a shot, but they might have holes I don’t see in them so any feedback is welcome.

Idea 1 - Reducing the Knight and xBow’s secondary strengths

One thing I think pushes these units a bit over the edge are some their less obvious strengths - that is, Knights being incredibly tanky compared to infantry and archers being far smoother to micro than their skirm counterparts. If we could level up that playing field a bit, I bet they’d be less prevalent in all levels of play.

First order of business, sadly, is to greatly restrict or outright remove Gambesons. It sucks to undo a recent dev change like this, but the reason why should be clear as the idea expands.

The next step is to move some of the Knight’s HP to the militia line, enough that a 1 on 1 fight is equal or near equal in resources. I understand that it’s historically accurate to make knights tanky, but game design-wise, making your tank the fastest units comes with a serious imbalance that ends up corrected in a rather unelegant way by giving spear line ridiculous anti-cav damage. I believe cav should focus on speed and their ability to disengage bad matchups, To make up for this health loss, they get +1 PA for the entire line, making them roughly the same against Archers and CA.

In addition to that, the spearmen line gets less bonus damage, but faster movement speed, both changes starting up from pikemen and increasing on halberdier. I believe even a relatively small bonus shift (~20%) should make Pikes better at guarding an area while also not completely running over the new, weakened knight line. Camels also get slightly less bonus damage, but no bonus to make up for it other than being less vulnerable to pikes.

With these changes, knights should be less unstoppable, but still retain their hit and run abilities that reward map control and clever flanks, with the only big power shift coming to knights vs. militia line. So what about crossbows?

In my opinion, the biggest advantage the archer line has is that they’re much better to micro than skirmishers, which comparatively take forever to train and to fire shots. An easy way to address this is to increase their train speed slightly and increase their firing animation greatly, but keeping the fire rate (the delay between attacks) the same. This not only makes them much better at chasing down archer masses, but also at kiting pikemen, which will be stronger thanks to their new buffs.

And finally, the last change to help fight crossbows is buffing a bit of a forgotten unit: the Light Cav. By giving them one more pierce armor with the upgrade, they become more of a threat against low to mid number of archers and they are no longer steamrolled by pikes, which should make them a viable Castle Age play and add some variety to Castle Age unit comps.

Some secondary effects of this change:

Trash infantry + siege is now better on paper, but have a bit more counterplay, since faster pikes will leave the siege unguarded if you don’t micro. I believe this will boost popularity for Inf+Siege civs like Slavs and Celts without making them too annoying to play against.

Hussar raids are now even more dangerous because of the extra PA. This could be a problem but I believe it can still be countered by leaving a handful of pikes/halbs in your base since they chase better now.

Militia line (and especially militia line + skirms) is now hard to conter if you don’t have good siege. This is why I believe gambesons needs to go and possibly goths may need a nerf.

Trash wars will be affected, but I believe it just means skirmishers will need some micro to beat out halbs. An extra point of bonus damage against pikemen/halbs might be needed.

This is it for the first idea.

The second idea is a bit wilder, and it concerns buffing the one unit that counters both knights and crossbows: The Cav Archer!

In my opinion, the big weakness of Cav Archers is that they’re the only non-uu archer which you can’t mass in Feudal, making the Cav Archer strat very weak at early Castle Age. To fix that, we can take a page from the Gurjaras and make a new feudal age unit: the Bow Scout, available to all non-meso civs, even if they don’t have CA.

The Bow Scout is the feudal version of the Cav Archer, moving slower than their Castle Age upgrade and with less attack, but keeping the range. They should have stats so that they slgihtly beat an archer but slightly lose to scouts, making them a bit of a middle point between the two. Ideally a player going for a Bow Scout build would trade raw raid power for more flexibility, allowing them to wall up and defend against aggressive players or spread them out and harass villagers against defensive players, but having trouble steamrolling an oponent they’re beating even if they age up first.

More importantly, however, this fixes the big weakness of the Cav Archer, allowing you to mass them before you advance and get to Castle Age with a respectable number and (hopefully) turning them into a real, practical Castle Age strategy, focused on map control and K/D ratio to stall as you prepare a deathball push.

To make up for this big advantage, the Castle Age Cavalry Archers (and by extent, their upgrade) now get -1 damage, but +1 bonus damage against Heavy Cavalry and Foot Archers, solidifying them as an “anti-meta” unit. They’ll still have their usual weaknesses, such as Skirms and Camels, but they’ll have one significant new blind spot: If your opponent can get some longswords with Gambesons going, they should tank the Cav Archer’s arrows really well, allowing them to chew through the CA player’s buildings basically unimpeded.

Some secondary effects of this change:

Though Meso civs don’t get a new toy to play with, they should be eating well with this new meta, since the eagle line is a great counter to CA play at all stages of the game.

Cavalry Archer UUs would be further separated from their generic version, being less effective at fighting Cavs or Archers, but more effective at raiding and fighting longswords. I believe this is a good change since it’s rare to see Cumans or Mongols making regular CAs.

There’s a slight chance that we see more Steppe Lancer play since they’re cheaper, fast and have high pierce armor to challenge the CAs. That’s a win in my book!

Civs which lack good CA counters, such as Burgundians, might need to get Gambesons to shore up this weakness; ironically, this is the opposite from the first idea’s problem.

This should be it for the second idea.

Thanks for reading!

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