Warmongering 101 – A Tactical Primer

Tired of being picked on by the AI? Do your spearman fall defending cities that just built a temple? Do you play Persia because you’d rather command Immortals than fight them? If any of this sounds like you, then read on fellow civ’er; it’s time to put away the building blocks and go whack somebody.

This article offers help to newer players building their tactical “playbook” and better use some of the more advanced articles in the War Academy. This article’s scope is limited to ground combat “Tactics”; there is no big picture “Strategic” help here. Unique Units are excluded to emphasize tactics that can be applied regardless of the tribe. Tactics are presented in conceptual, not formulaic terms. Links to War Academy[/URL] articles are given that further develop specific topics. The article is divided into parts: [list=1][*]Game Mechanics[*]One-dimensional tactics[*]Combined Arms[*]Defense through Offense[/list]
Part 1: Game Mechanics for new players

Each unit has military value, though military use of non-combat units is beyond the scope of this article. Ground combat units’ power is expressed as a numerical Attack/Defense/Movement (A/D/M) value, and bombard units have Bombard/Rate of Fire/Movement (B/R/M) values. Comparing the 2/1/1 Archer and the 1/2/1 Spearman, we see the Archer’s attack value is equivalent to the Spearman’s defense value; these two are an “even” match – before considering terrain. All terrain gives some bonus value to the defending unit. For more on the CivIII Combat System, see Combat System Explained by Valant2. Once you understand these basics, go to the Civ3 References and Guides page[/URL] and familiarize yourself with a Combat Calculator. If you want a good unit reference to keep next to the keyboard, LoneWolf5050 put together some nice Adobe Acrobat reference files available from the same page (one each for Civ3, PTW, and C3C).

Advice from “Corporal Punishment”

As new players learn the mechanics of the game they meet their Military Advisor, who tells them if the military is “Strong” or “Weak” compared to an AI Civ. This is based on the players number and mix of units compared to the AI’s. Is it good advice? Not always. It is important to know that your Military Advisor “thinks” like the AI; who tend to:[list][*]Value offensive units more than defensive units.
[*]Value quantity over quality.
[*]Place a relatively low value on bombard units.
[*]Recognize Veteran units are more valuable than Regulars.
[*]Disregard the speed of fast units; the AI regards a horseman as no more ‘powerful’ than an archer.[/list]Though I won’t go into the math here, three veteran Archers are given more than twice the basic combat value of two regular spearmen under the AIs algorithm. For the math, see Study of Inner Workings of Military Advisor by ProPain.

While there are many ways to use this understanding, I offer some early-game pointers for new players:[list][*]Once the first few cities are founded, build a barracks in a town with good shield potential and have that city build units (and little else) in the early game.
[*]Warriors, left as warriors, have limited military value.
[*]Don’t rely on Spearmen alone to defend your empire. There is something to be said for a good defense provided by good offense. (More on this later)
[*]Build more offensive than defensive units; even if your best option is archers, and even if you don’t plan to go to war (yet). The AI will be more respectful if you have a “strong” military, and you’ll have something to counterattack with if the AI do come after you. [/list]
Part 2: One-dimensional tactics

Each age has a unit that is potentially dominant; one that attacks well and defends as well (or nearly as well) as its contemporary defender.

Ancient Age: Swordsmen and Spears both defend at 2
Middle Age: Knights and Pikes defend at 3
Industrial Age: Tanks defend at 8, Infantry at 10
Modern Age: Modern Armor defend at 16, Mech Infantry at 18.

These units are all capable of one-dimensional warfare. The campaigns involve simple, straight ahead attacks that get-in-the-AI’s-face and charge. Essentially we’re talking about building a good quantity of a specific unit, putting the units together in a single, simple “Stack of Doom” and invading somebody in a straightforward campaign using just that one type of unit.

Advantages: The campaigns are simple, and can be very effective when the attacker outclasses the defender. Players need to remember to use terrain to advantage (see “combat system”) and keep the stack together. Avoid chasing “stray” isolated AI units, this usually gets your own units isolated and picked off.

Disadvantages: One-dimensional campaigns are can stall, even after success. Attrition is the biggest reason such a campaign may stall. As the offensive presses deeper into enemy territory, units are lost in combat and others are left behind to secure what has been conquered. It is important to recognize this point if it comes; if your offensive stalls, it’s time to re-group or cease hostilities and consolidate new holdings. Such campaigns can also be extremely costly if the enemy’s defenders are as strong as your attackers (examples:Swords v. Pikemen, Knights v. Muskets).

How much is “enough”?

Attack with insufficient strength, and one-dimensional campaigns stall quickly. On the other hand, assembling an overwhelming force may delay the start of a campaign to the point that an opportunity is missed. A stack of Cavalry that may have faced musketmen a few turns ago could face riflemen if invading a scientific civ that just got Nationalism. Key to waging successful one-dimensional campaigns is to recognize when it is successful, and when it is at risk of stalling. More key points:[list]
[*]Concentrate forces. Four swords attacking two spears in one location have a better chance of success than two pairs of swords attacking one spear each in two locations.
[*]Focus on the objective. Don’t “chase strays”, or engage the enemy in ways that do not support the objective.
[*]City defenders can heal between turns; attackers in enemy territory generally cannot.[*]Attackers must continue to capture territory. Taking casualties without taking territory spells the beginning of the end. [*]Repeated unsuccessful attacks on a city without taking it can spell disaster. If a second attack fails, it is time to stop playing and reconsider your position.[/list]
Some Early-Game Gambits using One-dimensional Tactics:

The Archer Rush: Simply build a stack of archers and go whack somebody. When successful, an archer rush can an effective means of grabbing a resource or simply grabbing some territory. The biggest drawback is that a failed archer rush can leave you militarily weak and vulnerable to counterattack. This tactic gets increasingly risky at higher difficulty levels.

The Warrior-to-Swordsman Gambit: This takes planning, and some gold. Since Warriors upgrade to Swordsmen, you can build warriors before you have iron connected, move the warriors to a city with a barracks, upgrade them to Swordsmen, and then simply whack somebody. When done well this is an extremely powerful early game tactic. It can fail dismally if you build nothing but warriors, learn Iron Working, and find you have no Iron. At higher difficulty levels the AI will demand tribute early and often, making it harder to accumulate the cash needed for the upgrades.

The Onslaught of Horsemen: Horsemen may be employed using one-dimensional tactics. Speed kills. Horsemen can attack cities from across the border at the beginning of a war, and the Horsemen’s retreat ability helps keep losses lower. An advantage to using horsemen in ancient conquests is the upgrade path. A large number of horsemen upgraded to knights in the early middle ages can be a formidable force.

Part 3: Combined Arms – the human players’ edge

Combined Arms is a real world military doctrine that uses different types of units or weapon systems to fight in a coordinated manner. Classic combined arms involves the use of Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry. In Civ Warfare, Combined Arms concepts can be applied to give the human player an edge in force preservation; improving your kill ratio. Combined arms campaigns are fought more slowly and methodically; but can be just as decisive. Attackers win more often when fighting defenders that are weakened by bombardment. Combined arms warfare in CivIII will generally use combinations of units that meet these needs:[list][*] Units that defend well.
[*] Units that attack well.
[*] Units that bombard.[/list]A note on “lobbing things at the enemy”.

You don’t have to fight many Civ battles to see an AI catapult lob a rock at one of your units as it attacks an AI city. While there is nothing wrong with using bombard units as part of a city’s defense, this does not reflect the full potential of bombard units, and it is not really a good application of combined arms. Let’s get one thing straight about bombardment units: Although they have defensive value, their classic role is as siege weapons.

Ancient Age Unit Mixes: Using ‘classic’ combined arms, a combined arms stack would include Spearmen, Catapults, and Horsemen. Archers are a unit well worth including in a stack, as are Swordsmen. Invasion tactics using combined arms are straightforward.

[*]Move the units together in a single stack next to a target city.
[*]Bombard the city.
[*]If you brought fast units (that can retreat) attack with these next (depending on the success of the bombardment).
[*]Attack with your highest attack value footsoldiers available, and finish the defenders. Use Swordsmen (if available) then Archers.
[/list]The concept is simple. By “reducing” the target (weakening the defenders) you take fewer casualties and have a greater chance for success. By following the bombardment with attacks by fast units, you increase the chances that your swordsmen or archers will attack redlined defenders.

Variation: If your goal is to raze the target city rather than capture it, attack the last defender with a fast unit, so the unit that finishes the job can retreat to the safety of the stack after sacking the city. (You did count defenders when bombarding, didn’t you?)

Reinforcing the stack: Some combat losses will occur; fast units may be able to “catch up” to the stack uncovered, but slow units must move more deliberately. High attack/low defense units (archers/swordsmen) are easy prey if isolated. Consider a safe “rally point” to assemble a mix of defensive and offensive units that move to the front together. When assembling reinforcements, consider the archer/longbow defensive free shot in C3C.

The “Poor Man’s Army”: The most important strategic resource in is Iron. If you don’t have it, you need to “acquire it”. A combined arms stack of Spearmen, Archers, and Catapults is the “poor man’s army” you can raise to go out and take it. If you look for the units that require no strategic resources you will find the components of the poor man’s army in other eras.

A note on medeival warfare: Consider the cost of a Knight (70 shields) compared to the cost of a Catapult (20s) or Trebuchet (30s), Medeival Infantry (40s), Longbow (40s), and Pikeman (30s). While Knights are worth including in a Middle Ages combined arms stack, it is worth noting that you can build 2 units for the same 70 shields.

Part 4: Defense through Offense; Zone Defense and Skirmishing

There is truth to the adage “the best defense is a good offense”. If an AI sends archers against a city defended only by spearmen, your city just became a punching bag. You can only wait and hope the spearmen hold. On the other hand, if you have 3 archers and one spearman in that city, there is a good chance you can kill some of the AI archers before that first attack on your city. This is “defense through offense” in a basic form. Learning defense through offense is critical to survive an attack by an enemy that is either numerically or technologically superior.

Consider Combined Arms in this scenario. If you have some Catapults in that town, you can knock a few hit points off the AI archers before your archers attack. Concentrated firepower is key to using bombarding units; whether in the offense or defense. The defensive value of bombardment units grows as the game progresses. Zagnut wrote an excellent article on How To Use Artillery Defensively

Zone Defense: A city’s garrison should not be the only defense available to that city; nearby cities should be able to reinforce a city under seige. This is one reason that the city-tile-tile-city placement is popular among many players; a city under seige can be reinforced by the garrisons of more than one nearby town. Bombard units can often be placed in such a way that they can help defend 2 or more cities. Whether you pull from the center to the front, or shift units among the border cities; visualize troop movements within your borders so you can reinforce a city at a moment’s notice. Fast units can be brought to the aid of a beseiged city quickly, and can be used to reduce the enemy’s stacks before they can even close with your cities.

Skirmishing: This simple tactic can be brutally effective against slow moving enemy troops. The concept is simple: Use fast units (Horsemen, Knights, Cavalry) to attack enemy units within your borders, and retreat to the safety of your city on the same turn. If attacking an enemy stack just outside your border, do not attack that last enemy unit. This will leave your unit exposed outside your borders, where it can be easily killed. Ideally, you’ll have a barracks in that border town, and all of the tiles within your cultural borders will be roaded. If the enemy comes within range of your bombarding units, then you can apply combined arms with skirmishing.

In Closing

Though most of the tactics are discussed using ancient age units, you will find that the principles can generally be applied with units from any era. I hope that the information provided helps newer players select their tactics wisely depending on their situation. Good Luck!

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