Some First Impressions

Discussion in 'EMPIRE (by Crazy Monkey Studios)' started by mercviper, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. mercviper

    mercviper New Member

    I really like the game so far, but I don't know if I'll keep playing once I get all the achievements.

    Before I even looked at them, I played 2 games, a 50 point one and a 295 point one. If I knew 300 was the last milestone I probably would've tried extra hard to reach it haha. The next game went to ~275 because I goofed on 3 combats in a row, but I think I'll break 300 this time.

    Combat is simple, but addicting. I enjoy the deckbuilding that is involved, and my strategy usually revolves around getting a lot of redraws to cycle through the deck to get to what I need. Along those lines, is Archer Halt bugged? I'm not sure that's the actual name since I don't have my iPad in front of me, but it's the one that halts archers for +3 redraws. I only ask this because it seems odd to me that I can use this for the redraws even when I don't have any archers in my army, unlike the archer movement one which gives +2 redraws and shifts archers up/down.

    Other things of note:

    -Scrolling around the map is cool, but I often find myself reflexively pinching to zoom out and then being sad that I can't.
    -Meteor seems pretty OP. It's very versatile as both a sniper and a targeted Valor. And it's oh so satisfying to fry 3+ archers that got bunched together.
    -I haven't tried an all Archer army yet, but that's because I've had a lot of success with a smaller army of Cavalry. The extra movement offered allows me to get to the enemy encampment really early for those times when my army is outmatched and kinda cheese the victory.
  2. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    You got 295 on your second game? Haha... what? Maybe you got just amazing cards or something.

    Anyway, yeah, Archers aren't powerful enough yet. There's a BIG patch coming which will change how archers operate (making them able to fire forward), and make monsters a bit tougher (new 5hp Super Soldiers will exist). We're just at the beginning of balance.

    That's actually intended!
  3. mercviper

    mercviper New Member

    Okay, finished game 6. Final Score: 559.

    If you're interested in scores for games 3-5, it was like ~280, ~90,~230 respectively. The ~90 week game came from me trying to get the siege + isolationist achievement, but apparently I attacked a spawn point before 80 weeks was up because the 80 week one didn't pop up. /sadface

    Anyway, after I broke 300 I switched my strategy up to have 2 academies to rack up more points since I felt I was keeping up okay. But that + using a full army + not leap frogging cities as often gradually filled my deck with strife cards. I think at the end I had a 90 card deck with at least 50 strife cards in it lol. If I decide to break 300 again I'm definitely going with keeps as the 3rd tier choice no matter how safe I'm feeling.

    More thoughts:

    -Resurrect is a great late game card. It only costs 1 command point, and currently gives permanent (not temporary) returns on the resurrected unit. This means that though you get a strife card or two, you can save a ton on materials by ressing your troops
    -Mines: I'm not sure how useful these are late game, or early game for that matter. I measured out the time one of my mines took to decay and it seemed like it only lasted long enough to barely break even (started construction of the mine on week 166 and it depleted by week 183). If that's the case it really isn't worth it to mine something unless you have a surplus of material, and even that's questionable. I'll probably test it again my next playthrough.
    -Late game army was 3 archers/cavalry each. Ended up with mixed results. I think it wouldn't be so bad if you could set formations at the beginning, but with random formations you really need to get lucky with your mobility cards or you're bound to lose units.
    -Explore the map. A lot. Knowing when spawn points pop up and attacking them immediately means that your first fight with them is of less consequence to you because if you lose you get round 2 defending your home turf, usually with them having a depleted army as well*. Additionally, if you win, you wipe out the incoming army that they surely sent out to fight you.

    *I didn't exactly keep close tabs on it because I was constantly facing 3+ spawn points and invasions, but it certainly felt like each spawn point has localized armies. E.g. if you wipe out most of the defending force while losing an assault, then you face a smaller army when that particular spawn's assault army reaches your base. I could also be completely wrong about this and just ran into brand new spawns on their first week with 2 unit armies in the middle of massive army counts.
    keithburgun and Nachtfischer like this.
  4. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Wow! Congrats on your incredible score. You're #1 on the leaderboards. So wait, on your 559 run, what made you so strong exactly? Like what was your basic strategy? In other words, what needs to be nerfed? :D
  5. mercviper

    mercviper New Member

    Haha. Well let me shoot myself in the foot for you.

    My basic strategy relied a lot on Archer Halt giving me +3 redraws to cycle through the deck, in addition to using a light cavalry army of 2-3 units. This means that Archer Halt doesn't stop my army since I don't have archers. Not that halting the army is necessarily a bad thing. It's actually an important move option so you can keep an odd number of spaces between your units and the enemy's, but it does give me pause when deciding to use a full Army Halt card as opposed to Archer Halt. It's probably more along the lines that using Archer Halt gets me more redraws for my army and not stopping means I don't have to rely only movement cards to go on the offensive since I don't use archers. I still have to use movement to correct spacing between enemies or to avoid archer fire, but that's about it and I can have fewer movement cards because of it.

    I've played a lot of Dominion in the past, which is like the granddaddy of all deckbuilders, and my favorite strategy there is making an engine that will cycle through my deck until I reach a terminator card. Empire is pretty different in that all the engine cards make it so that there's a finite amount of cards you can cycle through since the redraw mechanic only replaces cards in hand, as opposed to replenishing cards via multiple full draws. So the basic strategy for an engine deck in 1 copy of a terminator card to end your chain, while the rest of the cards cycle through the deck with bonuses until you draw the terminator.

    Obviously, you can't do that in Empire since there's a finite amount of the deck you can redraw. However, using that as a basis, if the majority of cards I choose give +redraw, then I can usually cycle through 10-15 cards of the deck per turn to find what I need. A couple more if I land the right spells/tactics via Improvisation but that's not really reliable. Given that knowledge, I try to keep about 1/3 of the deck limited to spells/tactics/grit/valor that I actually want to play, and in proper portions too. That means roughly 1 Command/Swift Action per Meteor/Bounty/whatever 2 cost spell I want to play, 2 Move Cavalry/Friendly, and 1 Grit/Valor for every ~9 +redraw cards, less +redraw if you want more than 1 card in play at a time. Improvisations are also really good as +redraw, but you probably don't want more than 1-2 for every 15 cards in your deck. That leaves Army/Archer Halt as the best cards since Archer Shift cannot be played without archers.*

    The basic strategy here is to avoid losing units. Strife cards hurt. I mean they really, really hurt. Any dead card in your deck clogs your engine and eventually breaks it, which is why I died because inevitably I would hit runs of 10+ strife cards in a row. The other reason is because even though losses are limited to 2 units, you can easily be fighting 4 front simultaneously and every lost unit makes the immediate later fights harder. As for actual tactics...

    Important things to know for combat with Cavalry:
    -In the same line as other cavalry or above/below a cavalry line, stay an odd number of spaces away. It's all about getting that first hit.
    -In the same line as warriors, avoid unless you've done 1 of three things. 1) dealt 1 damage to the warrior 2)pulled a grit 3)pulled a valor.
    -If you're going to fight the warrior anyway, try to stay an odd # spaces away if in the same line, even # spaces away if above/below in line.
    -Avoid archer kill zones, but laugh in the face of their puny melee and lack of side attacks.
    -Avoid anything with a cavalry behind it. If you don't have a grit in hand, then the backup cavalry will get revenge for whatever friend you killed.

    You'll notice I mention avoid a lot. That's because the more turns you get before engaging in combat, the more cards you get to cycle through in your deck to create a better situation. Halt cards are really good for that at the beginning. You normally have 2 turns to find a solution to bad positions and halts can give you an additional turn for that at zero command point cost.

    Another thing to consider is if you get the cards to beeline straight to their encampment for a base race. Enemy units take ~8 turns to reach your encampment and another ~3-4 turns to kill it if you've done decent damage to their front line. I think the most I've seen is 11 hit points on the enemy encampment so you only need ~4-5 turns with 1 unit, less with more or additional valor draws.

    I think that's about it. I didn't mean for this to be so long-winded but eh, I already wrote it up lol.

    *I mentioned it before but it's really weird to me that I can play Archer Halt w/o archers while Archer Shift is limited to having 1 live archer. Making just that change would be a huge nerf to my current strategy reducing deck cycling to ~8-12 cards at best, but I don't know what other considerations you made before this.
  6. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Please, by all means, always be long-winded. Really great, helpful stuff here.

    So, others feel free to correct me but in terms of translating this into some patch notes, basically we have to nerf / change Archer Halt. Maybe we could change it to "All Advance", and it gives you 3 redraws but advances everyone, or something like that.

    Yeahh, but you could always just get 1 archer to do keep doing it! :D I agree it's weird.

    Do you think we should make any nerfs/changes in terms of unit combat?
  7. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    Suggestion: Archer Halt gives 1 redraw per archer you have?
    Kdansky likes this.
  8. mercviper

    mercviper New Member

    I would say, yes, the core of my strat uses Archer Halt and its unique +3 redraws to cycle through a large portion of the deck. All Advance sounds pretty good since it even though you get +3 redraw you have fewer turns to prepare for combat, and it offsets the even/odd spacing. It may end up being super strong too but who knows.

    I think you're underestimating how important that requirement is, but that's what playtesting is for. Having to keep a single archer alive is actually pretty hard because they can't take any hits, even with Grit. There's also the fact you're spending more command points repositioning your archer instead of moving other units. With that change alone to Archer Halt I would probably drop the card unless I had an archer focused army, and then it'd be a tough choice between it and Archer Shift. Keep in mind that in the strategy I've been using, losing that sole archer would be the equivalent of turning 40% of my deck into strife cards.

    I feel that archers need a little help, but I don't know how, or if they really do. Maybe allow them to attack in all melee directions for 1 damage, or allowing them to shift up/down 2. Limiting melee to only forward really hinders safe zones for them. Like I said earlier about enemy archers, get in any of the 3 lanes around them and they're a joke, even more with grit. The same applies when I have my own archers. They need a lot of support to clear the path in front of them or at least the lanes above and below them. I think the problem is that if you can provide enough support to clear that path for the archers safely, then you probably have enough power with those units + an additional warrior/cavalry to clear the rows the archer would hit as well.

    If you're looking more to nerf things, then maybe for cavalry, instead of cavalry move being like


    you could make it more like


    where C is where the cavalry starts. I use the diagonal movements a lot to break apart clumps of enemies, while at the same time getting in the middle of a group and taking out 4-6 units.

    I'm not sure what your goals are in terms of what you want people building for army composition, but I feel one issue is that whatever you build towards at the beginning, you're pretty much locked in for the rest of the game. Unless you stick to generic movement cards, by the time you start affording multiple archers (with the 2nd tier building), you've probably accumulated cavalry/warrior movement cards. So if you switch units up you're going to end up with dead cards, making it hard to suddenly switch up unit comp past a certain point. I think a pretty cool idea would be that if you choose a cavalry/archer tier upgrade, at the upgrade stage of that city you gain a new choice of converting a movement card into a movement card for that specific unit. e.g. making an Archer Shift card into a Cavalry Move.

    P.S. I used meteor on an adjacent enemy while I had grit in my hand (to reduce 1 damage) and ended up killing my own dude. Intended?

    This sounds pretty good too. I would also try really hard to make a 6 archer army work too haha.
  9. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Well, that's not exactly what we want either. Heh


    That actually could be cool.

    A super-amazing point. Will think about this a bit. Might not be able to fix it for 1.1, but certainly for 1.2.
  10. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    This could be partly fixed by having some cards that affect two different unit types.
  11. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    I agree, yeah, that's what I was thinking. Or maybe that they do something to opposing forces. Like: "Move one soldier forward or backward", and it applies to friendly or non friendly? Maybe there's a bit of a metaphor-jump there that's hard to swallow since it's not "magical", how are you moving their unit exactly?

    I just am kinda at max capacity for the first patch so far I think... we'll see.
  12. Yojimbo252

    Yojimbo252 New Member

    The problem at the moment, in my opinion, is that the units don't feel quite balanced. Archers are underpowered and once you have a Training Ground there's not much reason to choose Inf over Cav. So all Cav armies I think tend to be the best option at the moment. The fact that particular buildings offer a discount to one particular troop type encourages specialisation which I don't think is a good thing.

    In terms of suggestions this might be a little out there but I'd like more of a rock paper scissors feeling:

    Warriors -> Cavalry -> Archers -> Warriors

    To achieve this tweak the stats such that:

    Warriors: 2 Damage, 2 HP
    Cavalry: 2 Damage, 2 HP (-1 Damage vs Warriors)
    Archers: 2 Damage, 1 HP (-1 Damage vs Cavalry)

    Also adjust the Archer attack zone such that:


    X = 2 damage (before modifiers)
    Y = 1 damage (before modifiers)
    O = no attack

    Another suggestion is to not have buildings that offer discounts for specific troop types as that encourages specialisation over and above that already encouraged by certain cards. Just have a single building that offers a 20 cost reduction (or something to that effect) across the board to allow the player to have a mixture of troop types (combined arms) without them feeling penalised.

    If someone still wants to specialise in a particular troop type with cards to back it up they can, but they run the risk that every so often they may come up against an opposing army composed primary of the counter troop type in which case they'll find it tough going.

    One other suggestion. What about allowing a player to set their initial formation before battle, prior to seeing the opposing army? This would reduce the situations where you're stuck with an archer unit in front of a warrior or cavalry which can cause some frustration.


    ps. Whatever changes are decided you'll need to do a complete stats wipe because there's no way I'll beat a score of 559 ;)
  13. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    The 'frustration' of needing to rescue your units from a bad starting position is the reason why the battle system even functions against an opponent who doesn't have cards; you have a limited number of actions before contact and need to decide whether to use them offensively or for saving badly placed units. Setting starting positions is like getting to play a bunch of cards for free before the battle starts.

    And on the same note, I would rather see Archers fixed by tweaking the cards to make them easier to rescue than by nerfing the other units.
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  14. Yojimbo252

    Yojimbo252 New Member

    I appreciate trying to reorganise your units is part of the current system and yes you do have to spend actions to perform that. I'm not trying to change the game because I want to get something for free. The reason I mention it is if the game is pitching itself out there on a "Civ" level, a certain portion of those players interested in that genre wouldn't expect to see formations of archers stuck in front of melee troops at the start of the battle. It doesn't feel right and from an 'aesthetics' point of view if I can use that term in this context, it doesn't lend itself to the period by providing a sense of 'realism'.

    On the other changes I'm just looking for ways to get that rock paper scissors feel in the troop types. I don't have that feeling at the moment but if that can be introduced, it really adds to the options and tension that new hybrid troops types (eg. Horse Archers or Light Spearmen) might add.
  15. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    RPS for troop types is something I thought about for awhile earlier in development but ultimately it doesn't really make a lot of sense vs. the AI. Or rather, it doesn't really give us much in the way of strategic depth. Basically if the monsters are pumping out random monster types, then you just need to have a balanced army all the time, which is actually kind of flat.

    So instead the goal with the unit designs is more like, you need to respond a bit to the cards you're getting with your army construction. And with version 1.1, it will also have to do with the resources you're getting. If you're getting more gems, it's better to make archers.
  16. Yojimbo252

    Yojimbo252 New Member

    Warning lengthy response...

    Firstly I don't think how the AI generates monsters has much baring on the RPS discussion. If I charge my Cav head on into an Infantry wall I ought to be punished for it. But if I use my Cav more intelligently by engaging more fragile troops like Archers or using them to outflank the enemy and attacking the enemy's base I ought to be rewarded. How the enemy got there and whether their makeup happened to be decided randomly isn't so important. The question is does the game provide me with a good sense of realism in how the troop types interact with each other. (eg. Do Cavalry really behave like Cavalry in that their effectiveness is reduced when trying to run into organised formations of Infantry?)

    I raised the point more because the relationship between the troop types 'historically' isn't quite there yet. Currently Archers can 1 shot pretty much anything. They have a more powerful attack than any melee unit. 'Historically' Archers attacks weren't that devastating, generally speaking as I know someone is going to throw particular exceptions at me like Agincourt. They could inflict a moderate amount of damage (and disruption) at range without risk to themselves but the real damage was inflicted by infantry closing to melee and cavalry charges.

    They don't feel like Archers to me, they are probably a closer representation of an early gunpower unit whose volleys can rip through anything, only limited by the attack pattern determining which units they can snipe. I'd like to see them have a greater coverage of fire but slightly less damage so they are used to soften up units before engaging in melee with Warriors/Cav rather than simply being able to 1 shot them if they just happen to be in a certain position relative to the Archer.

    These are the sort of changes that will encourage more combined arms tactics.

    I also disagree that incorporating a RPS theme into your troop types would lead to players always having a balanced army. I mean what is a balanced army exactly? 3 Warriors / 2 Archers / 1 Cav? Or 2 Warriors / 3 Archers / 1 Cav? Or 2 of each? There's plenty of combinations that players can mess around with and it's only going to grow if/when you start introducing more troop types.

    There's nothing stopping a player from specialising in a particular troop type if they want to tune their deck to optimise that troop type but at least there would be a downside when facing an AI army that was composed primarily of the counter troop type. Currently there is no downside because no troop type has any particular advantage or disadvantage against any other. So you may find players (like myself) simply picking whatever is currently 'the best' troop type, getting the discount buildings for those, accumulating cards that focus on supporting that troop type and pretty much build nothing else.

    Now I'm not going to go so far as to say the troop types are too generic and could be anything as that would be unfair. I can see how you've made the Archers fragile but with greater range, Warriors more resilient, Cavalry with certain action cards that provide them greater mobility. What I'm proposing is simply an extension to that to reinforce the notion that each troop type is a close representation of what they were historically and the interrelationship between them.

    Why can't it be both? Why not make a player weigh up the advantages of specialisation to optimise the cards they're holding vs employing a more balanced army to have a wider choice of counters?

    Are you suggesting Archers will be better than Warriors and Cavalry but will be more expensive? If so I'm not sure I like the sound of that as it seems like you're trying to split the game's base units into tiers.

    If you were to say Warriors / Cavalry / Archers are your Tier 1 units and are roughly equivalent from a cost and effectiveness point of view and players can 'tech up' to Tier 2 where they can produce Heavy Infantry / Knights / Longbows (as examples) that are more effective and offer more bang for your buck that would be a great direction to take the game.

    I hope I don't come across as critical of the game, far from it as I really like it and see loads of potential otherwise I wouldn't be putting this much effort into my feedback. But I think some of these fundamentals just need tweaking before you end up going too far down a particular path and find you've painted yourself into a corner.
  17. Kdansky

    Kdansky Well-Known Member

    After playing some more and getting to grips with the system, I must say that I think Cavalry is by far the best unit.

    * Many more attack spaces as a Warrior, and thrice as many in the important "in front" zone, and on top of that nobody else can fight back against the diagonal attacks.
    * Better movement card. 2 Squares doesn't allow you to fix even/odd placement, but the generic "move one non-diagonal" card solves that. The Warrior special (move to base line) is really bad.
    * Survives one attack if you have a Grit, and don't face an Archer. Nearly as good as a Warrior.
    * Doesn't get killed instantly unlike an Archer.
    * Just as screwed against an Archer as a Warrior on the wrong spot if you don't have Grit, and with Grit, the Warrior is nearly dead and can't retaliate either.

    A single well-placed Cavalry can take out three enemies on one turn, and if you run away with all your other guys, that's enough to break through and kill their camp.

    On top of that, their building is the easiest to have around, and with three cities you can make do with one Shaman's Lodge, and two Barracks for both cheap units and spell selection.

    Warrior seems okay (but worse), Archer is just crap due to his annoying attack pattern that leaves him wide open, tiny HP pool and high cost on top of it. Enemy Cavalry is also the hardest to deal with, unless you have a ton of Archers (which will then promptly die to Cavalry anyway). I'd suggest buffing the Warrior's HP to 4 or even 5.

    I think adding new units would be neat, especially on the enemy side.

    Ogre with 6 HP, 1 damage on his three front squares (like Cavalry) and sides.
    Catapult that fires Meteor a few spaces ahead, but has 1 HP and no melee at all.

    Stuff like that.
    Yojimbo252 likes this.
  18. Yojimbo252

    Yojimbo252 New Member

    I agree with your assessment. I build Cavalry and nothing else as Cavalry is essentially the best unit.

    I tend to run with just 1 Barracks and 2 Shaman's lodges as I don't usually need to replace losses that often as I've got a decent number of Resurrects in my deck.
    Kdansky likes this.
  19. Seven

    Seven New Member

    I like the game, but I sort of feel that the game needs a bit more control over the placement of the initial units. That and the fact that you have no reason to use anything but Cavalry is kind of frustrating.
  20. Kdansky

    Kdansky Well-Known Member

    Also somewhat counterintuitive: Having 2-3 Cavalry units is far better than having 6. With the right cards you can clear the board just as well with 3 as with 6, but you are much less likely to lose one or two, keeping the deck free of strife cards. I just got a decent 78-point run, where I had three decent cities at the 60-point mark, and then managed to get my whole army killed in one go, and never managed to recover. But I still won three out of four battles with just one or two Cavalry, against up to 10 enemies.

    My review would be: Very good game, needs a bit more balancing.
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