Disclaimer: this is only talking about design. Not balance.
Both the cause and the result of all design problems of this civ. Let’s look at how unique this unit is:
- Higher melee and charge ability - this I would say is a nice and interesting unique trait for a unique unit, and somewhat fits the lore.
- Ranged but no melee counter to cavalry - this is also fair enough. If you have high melee as a musketeer, you cannot also have a high melee multiplier against cavalry. One way to balance this out is a smaller melee multiplier like janissary, but a ranged counter instead is also nice.
- Ability to gain longer range - this one somewhat complements with the ranged counter, because cavalry close in really fast and you need more shots to be an effective counter. Okay.
########## BUT ##########
- Higher ROF but lower base ranged damage - now how does this conceptually synergize with the previous ones? I feel it is there for the sake of being there. It can still be the foot-dragoon with a normal ROF and slightly tweaked damage.
- Ability to gain ranged defense - another totally out-of-place trait. They were a cavalry counter at range but cannot trade with dragoons (BTW, in the very beginning they could). Now you want to counter heavy cavalry as intended? You do worse on that because no melee defense anymore. It suddenly turns from a foot dragoon into a musketeer that can outshoot every other musketeer.
- Just an honorable mention that in the very beginning, it also had shorter range (10) but then outrange everyone else at the maximum of 17 through the upgrades. Again, why did they even need it?
Another hidden reason behind the awkwardness of this unit is the placement of dragoons. Dragoon could soft-trade with musketeer well at range, though they do not counter each other unless in melee, because the former has high speed and ranged defense, while the latter has high base damage and high pop-wise hp. Now should you let caroleans counter dragoons (at range) as well?
No - what do you use to counter dragoons then?
Yes - it then puts dragoons in a bad position.
Don’t get me wrong. I like innovative units and new mechanics. I don’t like hybrid units. I don’t especially like hybrid regular units. Ironically if you look at the DLC civs and all the crazy natives/mercenaries added later, carolean is still one of the weirdest. See some other unique musketeers:
- Nizam: well this is another strange hybrid unit but okay it is limited.
- Regular: longer range, less cost effective. Simple as it is. This is how you make a unique unit.
- Soldado: a 2-pop musketeer costing 1.5 and functioning as 1.5 musketeers (though it could also gain some really gimmicky traits through some cards but none affects its role).
- Gascenya: lower hp, and a unique ability to boost DPS when closer to the target (they used to be op as well because they also had longer range, which was, again, unfitting to its design — why does a close-in unit need longer range?).
- Sentinel: lest cost effective, bonus when defending, construct defense buildings, all meeting its design as a defensive unit.
- Irish brigadier, royal musketeer and other KoTM musketeer natives: all musketeers doing musketeer things.
- Armoured pistoleer: a meat shield with a special ability that enhances its meat shield status. Do I need to give it another long-range sniping ability? No.
These are all units with one clear purpose. Either the normal musketeer stuff, or has a single unique purpose and all unique traits to fit that purpose. They don’t need to be good at everything.
It makes no conceptual sense to design a melee-focused unit that ALSO has longer range and AlSO good at HR. These traits are often exclusive in most unit designs.
Edit: because someone interprets this as a criticism to new mercenaries, I have to emphasize again these are used as POSITIVE EXAMPLES.
The problem of carolean is not only its weird counters and roles, but how many unrelated traits are stuffed into it.
All the following problems stem from this design. The fact that this unit alone has already been tweaked so many times speaks for itself.
Swedes was the only civ that completely lacks certain unit functions, (excluding artillery here). All civs lacking musketeers have a strong melee infantry. Aztecs as a civ without cavalry on paper has all cavalry equivalents. Just to mention, the compensations some Native American civs get for the lack of artillery also cause problems more or less.
Swedes lacked a dragoon and an effective skirmisher completely, and this leads to caroleans. Caroleans were a counter-everything unit in the beginning, then a ranged musketeer but cannot counter dragoons (that’s why the crossbowman is added back) but also could be buffed to beat other musketeers with all the aforementioned unique traits.
Mercenaries were not useful before DE, not even for the “mercenary civ” (Germans), but Swedes can mass mercenaries because they have a lackluster roster. That’s fair. What they really lacked were skirmishers, ranged light cavalry and strong melee infantry (though a lot of civs can do without the last one), so they have access to jaegers, black riders and landsknechts. But why do they also keep getting super musketeers as well? Swedes spamming super mercenaries in the late game has been a thing for really long.
Now that hakka is a proper dragoon (which I’d say is a great change), all of these need to be seriously re-considered. There is no need to give them so many compensations for an incomplete unit roster any more.
BTW, when the light cavalry hakka gained a counter against all cavalry to deal with dragoons (again, the same old problem), they become OP as well.
Free advanced arsenal
it took me huge efforts to accept why it is “okay” to give Japanese a free advanced arsenal, but I still cannot see the point for Swedes. They don’t lack any upgrade tech. They have really good improvement cards and some buffing their units in all strange ways than simple stats buffs.
Funny thing is this is barely noticed in most 1v1 supremacy because you mostly won’t have the resources to research advanced arsenal techs. Maybe it encourages you to stay in age 2 longer? No need. They can boom really fast. They have even better units to mass in the later ages.
And a lot others
They also have a myriad of improvements on the underused mechanics of the game (still not useful though): they got mortar that can attack units, they got a semi “melee ability” for artillery, they even got a better trample mode. Does any of these relate to the previous aspects of civ? No. No one even ever notice them.
Here I bring up the same point again: the problem is stuffing so many and somewhat non-synchronizing unique traits. This is the core design problem of not only carolean as one unit, but also the whole civ.
I still hold the conspiracy that there were no specific update plans at AOE3DE’s release. All DLCs and updates were planned because the game wasn’t a DOA like AOE1DE (and look how they treated it). So Swedes is kinda designed as “the compilation of what the game has not implemented yet”.
Things to fix
So my suggestions on reworking of the civ are:
- Turn carolean into a more musketeer-like unit with one or two unique traits (like ranged counter cavalry and high melee, that’s enough).
- Turn some of the improvements on arsenal, trample, mortar, etc. into universal. It has been done with mortars which is great.
- Carefully re-visit the mercenary contracts they have.
Not talking about balance here. Balance-wise, there was a period where Swedes were weak because their start is nerfed (and nothing more). That is a cover-up of the design problem. Any civ can be made balanced or weak in 1v1 supremacy if you hit their start or eco really hard. You can balance a blend civ, an uninspired civ, or a poorly design civ, but the design problem is still there.