Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Contest Submission: Design a City

Good evening, cannon fodders. 

Recently GM Cerberus posted a Design-A-City contest on the Illyriad forums. While my personal artistic skills are quite limited, the contest got me thinking about city skins that I would actually buy. What sorts of appearance changes would benefit a PvP fighter? Behold, my answer:

City Skins: Warrior Edition

War Wagon Camo

A war wagon is a powerful PvP assault tool, but it suffers from one major limitation: the 5 day exodus cooldown. During that time period, your opponents can harass the city from close range, pelting you with elite division attacks, small sieges, blockades, scouts, thieves, assassins, and other more creative inconveniences. Wouldn't it be better if you could get that war wagon through cooldown without your soon-to-be victims taking notice? Behold, I present the new War Wagon Camo skin. Aside from the faint red halo of an enemy city, your weaponized town takes on the appearance of a common impassable square, indistinguishable from all the other inaccessible tiles littering the map. 99.9% of players would probably never notice that a new dormant volcano or ruined tower has appeared within 15 squares of their main city cluster. In its legendary form, your city will take on the appearance of plain grass, blending seamlessly into a large meadow or open plains area until you are ready to strike.

Just a N00b

The Illyriad Communityhas a reflexive dislike of anyone attacking a helpless little n00b. How better to exploit their misplaced coddling tendencies than by disguising all your cities as tiny settlements? That's right, my sneaky malicious friends, what you need is the Just a N00b city skin. When an opponent looks at your alliance member page, you will appear as a rickety little n00b, or possibly the victim of some cruel revenge from a prior opponent. They probably won't even bother with your worthless little cities. Sure, they could read your population stat... sorry, it took me a few minutes to stop laughing at the thought of muggles reading things carefully. Be sneaky, be smart, look just like a n00b. As an added bonus, think of all the GC trolling opportunities if you are actually attacked. "Look, he is sieging my tiny little settlement! Oh, the inhumanity!"

Invisible Wall

One of the biggest problems that I have in wars is that worthwhile opponents know they shouldn't hit cities with direct attacks. The combination of a wall and crafted equipment is just too potent. So, how to entice otherwise responsible players into hurling their troops into the tree chipper? I present the Invisible Wall city skin. No matter how big your wall gets, the map will always display nothing. For 50 prestige, you can enjoy hours of cavalry hilarity by baiting your enemies into a trap.

Reverse Elf

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you place your cities, you end up with an opponent who puts you in a genuine headlock. One of the biggest challenges to siege warfare is that the attacker gets almost no information from inside the city. While you can raise their blood pressure by scattering around 50 elite cavalry attacks, making it look like their sieges will be broken, some of us prefer a more refined approach to map treachery. Therefore, I offer you the Reverse Elf city skin. The smaller your city gets, the bigger it appears to grow, giving you the appearance of massive prestige building. Watch your opponents despair as their blockades seem to have no effect on your runaway city growth. This skin also works great for creating the illusion of power where none actually exists.

There you have it, cannon fodders. Four city skins that I would happily pay 50 prestige to buy.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Thunderdome: Equinox Deathmatch

Greetings, fellow cannon fodders. It is time to die!

The Phalanx [300] are pleased to announce the official dates for the Vernal Equinox Deathmatch. This lethal Thunderdome event will begin at 00:01 server time, 20 March 2017. The laws of the deathmatch are quite simple:
  1. Each combatant is allowed ONE city in Thunderdome.
  2. No outside troops, diplomats, or hostile magic may enter Thunderdome.
  3. Caravans are free to enter and exit Thunderdome at any time.
  4. Cities may move starting now.
  5. Cities must reside within the arena box: [604|-2445] to [654|-2495].
  6. Cities must arrive before 00:01 server time, 20 March 2017.
  7. Combat is to the death.

Since we first announced the deathmatch in December, I have received many questions about the rules, regulations, enforcement, rewards, and legal technicalities of the Last Man Standing Event. I'd like to take a moment to clarify the official position of The Phalanx [300] on the equinox deathmatch.

The winner is the last player left alive. The End.

Aside from the seven rules outlined above, there are no other rules. We have established the event, the arena boundaries, and the non-interference rule. Those rules are upheld by the personal honor of the combatants. If you feel that someone has cheated, then you are free to address that insult in whatever manner you wish.

I'm not awarding medals, gold, items, or any other prizes. The only reward of the Last Man Standing event is the joy of unrestricted PvP glory.

Combatants, I suggest you put your battle city in motion as soon as possible. Desirable locations are first come, first served. If your exodus cooldown isn't finished on 20 March 2017, you're probably going to have a very short deathmatch.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Best Race for N00bs

Recently I put this question to the Thunderdome classroom:

If a new military player asked you what race to pick, what would you tell them?

No Country for Old Any Men

I would recommend strongly against humans. Many GC muggles will propose humans as some kind of balanced option, but nothing could be further from the truth. Humans have adequate t2 bows and t2 spears, but both units are highly expensive compared to their peers (elf sentinels and orc kobolds, respectively). Human infantry is also vanilla. Is that a bad thing? Yes. Like most military strategy games, Illyriad offers considerable advantages to specialization.

The featured human unit is meant to be cavalry. Yet when we look at the One Chart, we see that knights are only slightly more powerful than other t2 cavalry. Knights are also terribly slow compared to elven marshals. While it is true that human charioteers are slighly less expensive to produce--replacing a leather armor with a beer--the primary expense of t1 cavalry is actually the upkeep, not the build materials. Tier 1 cavalry will burn as much gold in a month as their full build cost (or two months if you use 50% upkeep reduction). The only way to sustain humans in their primary role is with a properly constructed gold farm, and that is really beyond the reach of new Illyriad players.

Additionally, human cavalry is a plains striker. If your alliance never gets sieged on plains, or rarely has to clear enemy plains cities, then that cavalry will sit for an eternity, burning up all the gold in your treasury. That's more than most new players are ready to handle.

I Am a Dwarf, and I'm Digging a Hole (of Upkeep)

Dwarves are often mistaken for all-purpose attackers. It is true that building stalwarts will generate an excellent level of attack points per hour. Building stalwarts will also generate a tremendous upkeep per hour. So again, a dwarf account really requires a fully built gold farm or consistent prestige sales to maintain. Stalwarts and halbardiers also compete for chain armor, which in turn competes with swords at the Blacksmith building. Having a resource constraint like that is not something that most new players are prepared to deal with.

Also, I believe there is a great muggle misunderstanding about the favored unit of dwarves. Stalwarts are a slightly upgraded infantry unit. The real military advantage of dwarves is the +33% speed boost to their siege engines. It's hard to overstate how important that becomes during long-distance sieges. Great, says the enthusiastic n00b, I want to be the guy running the sieges, getting all the glory in GC. It's dwarves for me!  Forget it. In four years of warfare, I have never seen any credible military alliance let a dwarf n00b run the main battle sieges. I have, however, seen multiple new dwarves come in, talk a lot of trash, burn up their gold building siege engines, and then never get assigned to lead a meaningful battle. Let's face it, there's a very good reason for that situation. When the whole alliance invests a million troops for 1-2 weeks round trip, they are not interested in letting a siege virgin stumble through all the n00b pitfalls with siege warfare (and there are unfortunately a lot of pitfalls that get sidestepped when running a good siege). You want someone like Tinkinator or OleBlackLord, who is going to run the siege with the precision of a Swiss watch.

So to summarize: the featured dwarf unit (stalwarts) suffers from production bottlenecks and high upkeep, and the actual featured dwarf unit (siege engines) is a specialized weapon reserved for experienced combatants in military alliances. Not recommended for n00bs.

There is No Bold like Kobold

Orcs are often the first race that GC recommends to military players. I would recommend them myself. It's very straightforward to become a kobold-producing machine. Kobolds are hilariously cheap to build. Every siege and tournament team will welcome the extra cannon fodder. The only danger with kobolds is that it can be very easy for an inexperienced player to build up way too many kobolds. Knights and stalwarts can cause searing gold burn problems, but they tend to get there slowly. Kobolds are meant to be built fast and killed quickly.

Orc fangs are the second best infantry unit in the game. Like kobolds, it can be easy to let the gold burn get out of control. However, unlike stalwarts, the orc fang is an adequate defensive unit, so you don't feel like you're wasting them on siege camp duty. Orc cavalry is average. The only really poor unit is orc ranged troops. Realistically, you will forget all about bows once you are cranking out 1500+ kobolds per day.

Orcs also have the best skinners in the game. At 5 hides vs. 40 hides, they are a bargain. Hunting helps to alleviate the boredom during peacetime, and can be a valuable source of both income and crafted items. I run a team of 330 and 100, which I would never do as a dwarf, elf, or human. The idea of losing over 12000 hides in a hunting accident makes my neck tingle. Losing 1500 hides? I'll roll the dice on that anytime.

I Can't Believe I'm Saying This, But...

Yeah, I'd recommend elves. I feel dirty even saying that, and not in the fun way. But Illyriad elves are quite obviously the devs' personal favorite race. Let's look at the two big reasons that influence my recommendation.

First, sentinels. An excellent defensive unit, sentinels are also a moderate attacker and the single cheapest unit to construct in Illyriad. Building them is a no-brainer. Because beer and bows are so plentiful and inexpensive, elves have the enviable advantage of being nearly self-sustaining for supplies. Like orc kobolds, the elf sentinel is welcome as cannon fodder in all siege camps and tournament battles. In fact, if you're blind sending to a tourney square, I'm hard pressed to imagine a better unit to send, since sentinels attack adequately and defend well (as long as you use the One Chart and good sense, of course).

Second, marshals. Elven marshals are the best cavalry unit in the game. They move at the high speed of t1 cavalry, but they strike with 90% the power of knights. Speed is just always an advantage in Illyriad. There is no real downside to marshals beyond the upkeep typical to all cavalry armies.

With the best cavalry (marshals) and one of the best defensive units (sentinels), elves have a great balance of attack and defense power. A military novice could build all sentinels and never go wrong. As one final bonus, it is straightforward to find standalone bow locations (6 wood, 5 iron, 4 iron/clay, 5 food forests) that are surrounded by plains. Elves also work great on standalone terraformed mountains. Defensible, powerful, inexpensive: it's just hard to argue with Illyriad elves.

Now I Need a Beer

I also need 999,999 other beers for that endless line of kobolds queuing up at the tavern. Tuck them in with a spear, and they'll be ready to die in the morning.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reader Question: Defensive Sword Commanders

Good afternoon, cannon fodders. I've been busy, so I will get back into action with an easy post. A couple weeks ago, a reader asked about an intentional omission in my guide for matching troops and commanders. His question, paraphrased for brevity, edited for clarity:

In the article PvP Commanders and Troops, I notice that [defensive t1 sword commanders] can lead spear and bow troops. Defensive sword troops are only shown being led by a [defensive t1 sword commander]. I am curious about a [defensive t1 bow commander] leading sword troops.

Strength Multiplies Strength

To answer, I will refer back to the simplified chart. You rarely use infantry to defend. The only terrains where it even makes sense are forests and buildings, because those tiles so strongly amplify infantry units. Because of that, by far the most likely attacker is enemy infantry. Therefore, your best shot using infantry to defend is the t1 infantry commander to level Interlocked Shields +15 (division defense vs infantry attacks).

I would not advise the bow commander for infantry troops. A 15% bonus to a weak stat is not going to produce a good result. If you want some bow defense for your defenders, then really what you want is a smaller bow army led by a t1 bow commander. They will cover your infantry much more effectively than trying to directly boost the infantry army's bow defense.

You will see the same principle applied in Jagblade's Guide to Equipment. I see no point to providing a strong bonus to a weak stat. (I am not the originator of that idea, by the way, I am simply re-stating it as a mathematical truth.) Crossing strong with weak just results in a slightly less weak stat. With commanders and equipment, you always want to multiply strong bonuses with strong stats. If you want to improve defense against another category, it is almost always better to mix in additional troops to counter that specific threat. The classic example is kobolds and sentinels. By themselves, the kobolds are a good defense against infantry and cavalry on most terrains, but they are easily shot to death. The defensive bows are basically just there to prevent them from getting perforated by attacking enemy archers. 

Other Approaches

In this particular instance, there are other valid philosophies. A very famous orc uses mostly defensive t1 bow commanders for his kobolds, because of the damage done by archers. I can argue the maffs, but there is no disputing his results. Another very common strategy is to always use defensive t1 cavalry commanders, because cavalry is by far the most common attacker.

It is also worth noting that the variation in defensive commanders is 10% vs. 15% in a single category, so the entire debate boils down to where you want that extra 5% defense. For my troops, I'd prefer it to be in their greatest strength for that particular military plan.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade