Strategic balance changes I'd like to see

Regarding early game variety with respect to commitment

I thought a lot recently about this theme and also made some Threads regarding some specific aspects of that. Age 2 has a lot of strategic variety, but in current gameplay most people playing the game can’t really utilize this to it’s full extend.

Macro, Raiding and Ressource management are vastly superior to everything else in the game. So Even if you know all the theoretical Tactical aspects of the game, if you are just too “slow” you basically can’t play a strategy game. You do your thing, your simple strat and look how it plays out against the opponent.
That’s why we have these rushing buildorders everywhere cause they solve this issue for you, you just have to execute them and they solve that issue for you. Everybody who flawlessly executes a rushing buildorder, has perfect macro and ressource management during this. And he sets up for good raiding potential with it.
We now have some other builds featuring militia or man-at-arms, that are more specified in herassing the opponent than doing actual damage. These builds mostly drive from the perspective of getting to castle age faster which is a huge power spike as both xbows and knights just destroy feudal units and are also way better raiding units than their feudal age counterparts. But the principle is the same, even if the goal of raiding the opponent eco is delayed.

This leads to the general situation that in most games both players just chose one of the rushing buildorders and try to make as many damage to the opponent’s eco as possible. Which is kinda fine, but it would be interesting if there were also some “defensive” buildorders that focus more on fighting off these rushes. The problem with this is ofc that before the opponent makes the production buildings you often have no clue what he is going for except for his civ choice. You can estimate that franks will go scouts in most cases and saracens will go archers. The best thing you can do currently is something like heras “nothing” build, try to figure out what the opponent is doing and then adapt from there. It’s fine, but this gameplay has 2 general flaws: A) your macro and ressource management is suboptimal B) You don’t commit to your strategic choice.
Cause all the rushing builds have that element of commitment to them, they need to pay of in economic damage. The nothing build does not. If the opponent doesn’t attack you you can just opt in either attacking him yourself or going up to castle with it.
And I also think that’s that maybe the thing the “walls are op” shouters are referring too. That walls aren’t enough commitment. Maybe walls are quite weak and quite easy to break also in feudal with maa / archer. But the overall investment is quite low for just being fully walled. That leaves the rusher in a state where he needs to make eco damage as he commited way more to the opening strategy than the defender and would fall back behind seriously if he doesn’t.

So that’s the first principle Idea for strategic balance changes:
Make defensive openers stronger, but enforce higher commitment to them. Maybe make palisades cost 5 W, but increase their HP to 250 / 400 HP. Increase Stone wall cost to 7 S but increase their HP to 1200 (+300) / 1800 (+0) / 2400 (+600) (Fortified 3000 / 4000 (+1000)).

This alone wouldn’t actually work though as with this change infantry rushing builds would dominate. Especially drush FC would possibly be way too strong as it would just buy enough time for the Walls to go up (as the build isn’t as ressource tight as the flush builds). Also with higher HP palisade walls could generally hold longer against feudal agression. To balance that out it would be needed to increase the research time of Castle age a bit. Castle age is currently the biggest powerspike in the game as it enables a lot of different strategic tools aswell a unit powerspike in xbows and knights that is basically unmatched in the game. by delaying that powerspike a bit it would naturally give feudal aggression a bit more time to pay off.

Third (regarding my statement of commitment earlier on) I would like to see counter units better, but with more commitment to them aswell. I think the pure existance of a “nothing” build is problematic in that respect as the game thrives by finding the fine balance between optimisation (macro/ressource management) and overcommitment/greedyness. So if you expecting the opponent to make certain choices like going scouts and opting for making the counter units you should be punished for “overcommiting” to that strat. But you should be revarded going for it if the opponents indeed choses to open scouts. Currently the “nothing” build doesn’t punishes you if you but the counter play also doesn’t gives as much payback as it should. Which is fine in terms of game balance, but a problem for strategic balance as you can use the same build for different strategic objectives.
Which can leave the rushing player in the bad situation of feeling overly punished for commitment to a strategic choice and the defencice player not being immediately punished for being indecisive.

One solition could be that both counter units in skirm and pikeman need to be initially researched (comparably low cost, but including some gold (for spearman almost instant research)). And also more separated in their food/wood ratio. Like the skirm costing 40 W 20 F and the pike 20 W 40 F or something like this. In the exchange the counter units could use some little buffs like the skirm dealing more damage (against archers (and spears)) or the spearman moving a little bit faster. So they are then indeed a bit better in performing their duty in “countering”. But at the expense of having more to commit for that play. Probably even learning special build orders for a pike or skirm openers that couldn’t be adapted into going up or making other types of units instead that easily.

I think the main “critique” on defensive/greedy openers is their current lack of commitment to the strategic “choice” and I think that’s absolutely legit. I think also defensively minded players should work on buildorders and be less “flexible” than they are currently. Not that they are too strong, but the flexibility of playing defensive is a bit too high. I think an adaption to “more commitment, but also better in countering” can only benefit the gameplay and also enable more “counter-counter” play, revarding agressive players more for not overcommitting (and/or adapting/changing strategy) when countered.

Regarding the lategame situation of Gold becoming scarce

Gold becomes scarce too quickly and suddenly. This makes the trash units at some point in the game almost suddenly “OP”. Especially the currently strongest trash units in Hussar and Halberdier. Hussar mainly because of it’s raiding potential, but Halberdiers because they are currently the least “counterable” of the trash units.
It would be better for the gameplay if Gold would become scarce way slower and less suddenly, so there would be a smoother transition. I think there are a lot of ways to do this, but here some ideas:
A) Relics generate more Gold
B) The Market price is less volatile at the edges, instead of an almost linear price progession over the exchanged amount it could be changed into a negative exponential dependency. Maning if the market price is at 50 exchange something for gold only reduces the market price by half the amount as it does when echanging at a price of 100. Also, in general the market price change could be just divided by the amount of players (so in 1v1 the change would be 1/2 as it is currently and in a 2v2 it would be 1/4 as it is atm). Additional to this the market could slowly bounce back to a price of 100, leading to stabilzing a natural balance of the price instead of having hard caps at 20 / 9999. The correct amount of these backbouncing need to be tested though, as too less and it wouldn’t be felt by the players and too much and we would never have gold problems for EG cav archer civs that don’t lose a lot of them usually.
C) Some infinite Gold mines on the neutra Golds that need to be fight about
D) Other sources of Gold like the Trade Workshops in aftermath (but maybe a bit more sophisticated and less powerful)
(Be free to add whatever else could work)

It’s important to state that most maps don’t need “more” gold. Gold is one of the most valueable ressources and you should be careful with spending it. It’s about that the swap between “gold units OP” into “trash OP” in the lategame i way too hard. It would be benefitial for gameplay if there would be a smoother transition between gold heavy lategame battles and trash wars.

It’s possible that this change would shift the civ balance a bit away from archer/knight civs to cav archer/infantry civs a bit. But I think that is OK regarding the current state of these civs in general acknowledgement (and winrates). Probably cav civs would suffer the most from it and cav archers profit the most.

Especially the idea of adding something like the trade workshops (but less powerful, again !) is a great solution to this, as it encourages the players to take more initiative. More agressive builds will naturally be buffed a bit there cause even if they are pushed back they could still get a lot of value by taking control of these ressource sites.
I generally like the idea of giving more ways to find value for commiting to proactive gameplay instead of constantly nerfing reactive/greedy gameplay. It’s still a strategy game and in such a, the reactive/greedy type, if perfectly executed needs to be superior cause otherwise everybody with only a small advantage would always snowball that to a V. So better if the commitment of the proactive player isn’t punished as hard - he get’s some value even if he is pushed back by the more reactive player and depending on the damage he dealt in the process the sum of the dealt damage, map control etc. is more likely to be on the positive side then. He would esepecially be revarded for reading the situation right and not overcommiting in this scenario.

PS: I used a lot of Ideas of other Players in this thread. Like if walls cost more they should have more HP or the idea of changing the ratio of wood/food on counters or The idea of market price being pushed back to 100 g. Sorry if I didn’t linked these ideas, but feel free to link your corresponding posts and threads here, so everybody can see what your thoughts behind these ideas were (some of the reasonings were quite different to this post, but I like the Ideas (some I actually changed my mind a bit, after looking at them from a different perspective) as they would indeed have a nice positive impact in gameplay, at least imo).

Wouldn’t that also buff Mayans? though I suppose their team bonus could be nerfed

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Yeah right, that bonus should be adjusted then.

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put neutral markets in all maps

creates a win more situation, bad idea

wtf why? its your personal preference to see less counter units? conversely we have things like aoe4 where everyone can train every counter unit and max them out, meaning there is much less punishing (for late choices) of the player and actually more rewarding (for good choices)

its my general issue with aoe2, it punishes far too easily (bad sheep, laming, bad boar, bad map, not seeing a mango shot, not seeing a demo ship, not seeing idle vils, not seeing bad pathing) you’re basically fighting against a bad engine, instead of the engine supporting you

and now you want to make it even harder? that is pure personal preference and definitely not good for the game as a whole

what?? personal preference again… many argue that skirms are the best trash unit due to the power of focussed attacks (all of them can attack, as opposed to halbs needing to reach their target, bumping, pathing, choke points, almost every ranged unit doing extra damage to them)

personal preference… this niche sub culture that looks down on full wallers (who make up the vast majority of players) implying you either only watch games or make up a tiny % of the actual player base.

your idea 100% boosts quick walling/small wallers and punishes full wallers…

absolutely personal preference and heavily swings the game in favour of the already strong civs, and handicaps the slower civs, again goes against majority of the player base.

Goodness there is so much things that just ain’t right here.

It’s like saying that something is wrong in a FPS because even if you have perfect knowledge of how all the guns work, if you can’t aim or move fast enough it’s useless. So yes there are skills that will be more helpful than others when playing a game but that doesn’t mean there is a problem, especially when those skills are essential anyway. Having a perfect build order doesn’t prevent you from throwing later in the game or lose because of lack of game knowledge.

In this case, “everybody” refers to a select few players that one here has ever faced anyway

M@a rush single handedly makes tons of civ that would have no business opening fast archers do so anyway, and many BOs have defensive parts (ie. scouts into skirms vs archer civs). The whole point of drush is to buy you time to set up defenses, which is, surprisingly, defensive.

As long as the cost fits what it gives, fair enough

Stone walls are already a steady investment while being unkillable without siege weapons so I think they are fine as they are.

Ok I don’t get it anymore. Just why? I don’t see how nerfing them short term and buffing them will solve anything. If anything, it will make it harder for two players that are attacking each other to add counter units rather than more offensive units. Usually I would say that the problem here is that a bunch of skirms/spears are more expensive than houses for purely defensive purposes but hey, they finally got around nerfing those so maybe it will be fine against infantry/scouts and once they get around making an half finished house killable by archers it will be fine on this front too.

Uh what? It takes so long for a game to devolve into a trash war there is no way this is true.


I think what you need is to add in the “Quick Play” the feature

I think what you need is to have in “Quick Play” the feature to set the game speeds you agree on playing at and get matched with players that share a same speed.

For your suggestions:

increasing the cost and strength of walls will probably not help, as either (1) rushes are in your base before the walls are up, or (2) you are walled on time but so far behing your opponent that he will destroy you with siege way before you get your economy rolling, or (3) turn every map into Black Forest lategame slugfest

Isnt it already the case? If I go archers and you go pikes, you are skrewed… If I went scouts, you are safe and are rewarded as long as you didnt invest more than me (pikes are poor at raiding eco).

You didnt really force to commit more on counter units. Resources tweaking changes nothing, you are just buffing the units.

I think there are build orders, just not that popular. I often hear pro players saying stuff like “on range skirm with upgrades beat two ranges archers”. Build orders are probably harder to find because you cannot do much with skirmishers except beating archers & pikes…

Just give a civ without real eco bonus “skirms deal +2 damage to villagers” and you may see a lot of skirm/pike openers for this civ.

  • You need to plan the switch beforehand. and go to 1 gold unit + 1 trash unit early on…
  • In most map there are neutral golds. in every RTS, if you get map control, you get these resources and have a big advantage over your opponent. Because he will be out of gold and you not.
  • Maybe we need more neutral golds, but it will reward early aggression and map control… Very bad for defensive players. Defensive play is based on the idea “I will develop economically better and hence get the strongest army before my gold runs out”

Yes, exactly !

It’s that the switch from lategame, gold-intensive comps to trash wars is to suddenly. I think it would be better for the game if the “switch” wouldn’t be as hard.
Especially the basically total lack of gold in trash wars scenarios is bad cause it leands to very stale game situations that often only cna be broken by hussar raids. If somebody gets the advantage in these lategam situations it should be easier to add some siege for closing the game.

build orders are mostly made by high level players. and high level players dont really need a pure defensive build. they scout well, so they see whats coming - or at least what could be coming out of 2 or 3 different possibilities. and then they try to adapt on that. when you look for a general defensive build that protects from everything, then the way is early palisades into stone walls. but theres a good reason why this strategy should not be made too strong
other possibility: early palisades - engage your vils near to all weak points of your wall, so they can stop melee units from breaking through - mine stone or build archery ranges so you are ready to create skirms or build towers if you see archers