Friday, September 15, 2017

Eleven Cities Ruined the Game

Good evening, cannon fodders.

Eleven cities ruined the PvP game. Yes, really. There has been no bigger shift in Illyriad PvP since the introduction of exodus on 29 September 2011. I'm sure many muggles didn't even notice a change in server behavior, because the biggest shift happened in the apex alliances. Trust me, when the 10 city cap was lifted on 23 February 2015, that represented a seismic shift in the way the game was played. Two and a half years later, we are still feeling the aftershocks of that feature implementation. Today we will examine why.
 

Eleven Cities?


On 23 February 2015, the Illyriad devs lifted the 10 city cap. Overnight, the maximum number of cities went from 10 to theoretically 40. Why was that such a culture shock? For starters, in old school Illyriad, the first 9 cities were easy to attain from a population standpoint. You could even reach that level with all 5 food cities. The 233550 population requirement for 10 cities pushed people towards 7 food towns, but you could still reach that tenth and final city with a mix of 5, 6, and 7 food cities.

One undesirable consequence of the 11+ update is that it opened up a huge gap between new and existing players. It is entirely reasonable for every Illyriad player to reach 9 cities if they so desire. 10 cities used to take some work, which is why it was a celebrated push within the community, and even supported with the Famine Management discovery in your capital. The opportunities to reach 11+ cities are asymmetrically weighted towards the big, old alliances who control excellent city locations in high food areas. In my personal opinion, this is a highly negative development. In old school Illyriad, new players could see that anyone could easily reach 9 cities, and that celebrated tenth town was only 1/9 better than 9. Now, they look at 20, 30, 40 city players and can see that the gameplay gap is absolutely enormous.

Location, Location, Location


Because the population requirement climbs for each additional city, the 11+ update really pushed people towards only 7 food cities. There is no other effective way to push towards 20-30 cities. The update also made water sov far more important, since coastal and river water is the primary source of closely clustered high-food sovereignty tiles. Who controls those locations? In Elgea, it's predominantly the big, old alliances (BOAs).

The altered importance of location caused many behavioral changes. The BOAs started hoarding their dead accounts, even moreso than usual. After the update, you could see the spike in same-alliance holding sieges. These are non-destructive sieges generated by quickly jumping out and back into an alliance, to lock an inactive alliance member in place. With a holding siege on one city, that entire dead account is prevented from entering the server's automatic deletion cycle for inactive accounts. That's a big deal, because holding sieges create a museum effect, allowing a BOA to lock up dozens of desirable locations on the map. These cities are farmed out internally at the alliance's convenience, but in the meantime, those dead cities are blocking all other players from taking the valuable locations.

This particular practice has led alliances like Loki to begin attacking indefinite holding sieges within their sphere of influence. To many this seems like unprovoked cruelty to weaker alliances, depriving them of their own alliance property. However, a strong argument can also be made that by breaking indefinite holding sieges, those dead accounts are being released into the automatic deletion cycle, clearing space on the map for active players who are still actually playing the game.

Another phenomenon directly attributed to 11+ is the terraforming craze. Before 2015, terraforming was an occasional thing. Now, tiny accounts are churned endlessly on a weekly basis. How healthy can it be to have people engaged in a constant cycle of creating baby accounts and then immediately teleporting and abandoning them? That might fluff up the game stats on number of players, but these aren't actually players at all. At what point does that process cross the line of healthy use of game mechanics and enter the realm of exploits?

All About the Benjamins


At this point, a smart player would ask, why did the Illyriad devs raise the city cap? Two words: prestige sales. The only way to capture a city in Illyriad is by destroying at least 75% of its population. Even if a big player is merely absorbing their alt, they will have to rebuild 3/4 of the city's population if they want to keep capturing more. Often they must rebuild considerably more than 3/4, because the original city wasn't a 31000 population behemoth that will support the ever-increasing population threshold. If you want to build a 20-40 city account in any sensible timeframe, then you have to buy prestige.

We can see that the feature makes business sense for Illyriad Games Ltd.. The game map is filled with hundreds of accounts in the 9-10 city range. Raising the cap encouraged all remaining active 10-city players to start spending money on the game again. However, this update also created an immediate gap between players who spend meaningful amounts of prestige, and those who do not. The pay-to-win phenomenon will eventually appear in all commercially viable free-to-play titles, but that was a pronounced culture shift for the Illyriad Community (TM).

I also believe that the prestige cycle has taken on a different form than originally envisioned, to the great detriment of the overall game. The BOAs probably aren't buying prestige themselves. Wait, what? If they aren't buying prestige, then how are they building these enormous 20-40 city accounts?

All That Glitters


The update on 14 October 2014 introduced the ability to construct Prestige Items and sell them in the Illyriad trade hubs. Sales of gold for prestige had often happened in the form of sitter arrangements and alliance jumpers, but this update formalized prestige into a physical item that could be sold for gold.

Gold, I believe, is the main construction fuel of the mega-accounts. Unto itself, this isn't a bad phenomenon. Players can now effectively spend $3 USD to get 20-25M gold. As gold is useful for troops, diplomats, sovereignty, and various market purchases, this could be described as a overall good thing.

Where I personally object to the process is that it really encourages the BOAs to keep dead big accounts on life support. Many departing players will hand over their passwords to their friends. These accounts, often in the 8-10 city range, will then get converted into high-tax gold farms. Their sole purpose is to generate large sums of free gold and supplies for the main alliance accounts.

Let me be clear: it is my opinion that massive gold farm accounts are adding nothing to the game. Those accounts represent players who have left Illyriad. They are not played by people's wives, or by players who log in only occasionally to socialize and reset sitter rights. That is a sham. These accounts are occupying map space across the Illyriad world, doing nothing but enriching their multi-accounting owners.

Real traders, have you noticed a trend in the markets? For the last few years, the price of military supplies has gone down. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Kodabear has revived the yearly tournament, so shouldn't demand for supplies have increased? The markets have steadily declined because the BOAs were the main purchasers of military supplies, and almost all of their materiel is now produced internally via farms.

Real crafters, don't you think it's strange that the 22 February 2015 update introduced a 5x power update to crafted items, but since then, the price for crafted equipment and rare materials has fallen steadily? How is that possible? The power of that gear is higher than ever before, but prices sank? It's because the BOA gold farms are often filled with crafting centers. Your work is no longer really required.

Miners, herbalists, have you ever wondered who is holding the permanent valuable resources? If it's a very low growth account, chances are very strong that it's just a zombie account supporting a BOA player. Many times you won't even see harvesters going out to the plots. They sit idle until the main account needs some more rare material crafted into items.

Hunters, have you ever wondered about that nearby player who never shows any growth, just hunting and then harvesting the kills? BOA permasat, almost guaranteed. One look at the growth chart, and you can tell the difference between a main and a farm. Even the sov and city structures will give it away (and maybe that would make an interesting future article).

My intention here is not to write a manifesto against multi-accounting gold farming. Permasats are a fact of life in most MMO strategy games. What I want to highlight is that the 11+ update really kicked that process into high gear in Illyriad. Previously, you could supply a 9-10 city tournament account with a single 9 city alt. When you go to 20, 30, 40 cities, there is no way to supply all that except by collecting even more dead accounts to permasit. Even the alliances who don't play tournaments still need the permasats to supply gold to buy prestige, and the raw construction materials to actually prestige build the captured cities to completion.

The BOAs alone were uniquely positioned to receive the best gold farms. By operating zombie accounts and the occasional museum alliance, they are severely distorting the game simply by being big and old. A revitalized community would favor the alliances who are filled with active players, not the ones operating spreadsheets full of permasats. That hoarding of life support accounts is tilting all tournament results towards the BOAs. More importantly for the muggles, all those zombie accounts are suffocating the trade, the free markets, and crafting.

Fear and Loathing


So why is this topic even worthy of Warmongering in Illyriad? Because the 11+ update produced a crushing effect on PvP. Back in the day, big players hated losing city 10. It was painful to lose that town after the 10th city process: reconfigure all cities for high population, capture the 10th, and then restore all 10 cities to normal functioning status.

On today's battlefield, big players have repeated that process to 15, 20, 30 cities. If you point a credible siege in their direction, their first instinct is usually to flee via exodus rather than risk losing that town. Alliances with big accounts want to surrender as quickly as possible to limit city damage. The most visible recent example was the vCrow war. Despite having maybe 200-250 troop-producing cities that were mostly surrounded by plains, their alliance chose to concede the entire Broken Lands continent rather than face losing more cities. I believe the pain of permanently losing cities in the 11-30 range was a major influence on that decision.

Not all players will fear losing their 11th and subsequent cities. Unfortunately, I am forced to conclude that the morale of very large accounts will always be in question, because so much effort was invested into attaining 11-30 cities. What's the point of fighting wars where the biggest--and therefore the most glorious--opponents are inclined to drop their colors and surrender at the mere threat of losing a couple cities? It seems clear to me that the 11+ update opened a huge psychological gap between giant 11-40 city tournament accounts and the battle-hardened 9 city PvP accounts. If the big accounts are so brittle, then doesn't that just push the BOAs to be even more paranoid than ever before? I believe more people should explore and enjoy military PvP in this game, but once you cross into that 11+ city zone, the stakes just get excruciatingly high, which generates more hostility and reluctance towards PvP.

Breaking the Cycle


So what is to be done about this situation? Clearly the devs can't roll back the 11+ update, and I wouldn't want them to. The problems that we really need to fix involve keeping dead and nearly-dead accounts in the game for far too long. Specifically, there are some loopholes around accounts that badly need to be changed to make the game base healthier. To the Illyriad devs, I would personally recommend:
  1. Teleport functions like an instant exodus. No tiles change values.
  2. Holding sieges only affect the target city, not the whole account.
  3. Accounts past 90 days inactivity receive the visible (Abandoned) attribute, regardless of holding sieges.
  4. The (Abandoned) attribute immediately halts food production and deletes all sov.
  5. Accounts auto-delete at 105 days inactivity, regardless of holding sieges.
That would at least clear up the abuse of terraforming and the BOA ability to lock up dozens of map locations with a single token siege that costs nothing.

I cannot recommend that the devs crack down on the active permasat accounts. That doesn't make any economic sense for them. As long as people are buying prestige to trade for gold, then allowing the permasat gold farms to distort the markets makes good business sense for Illyriad Games Ltd., even if it is slowly rotting away the muggle community. I would, however, encourage the devs to post weekly stats on gold generation and consumption, so that people can see how much the gold farms are actually slanting the overall Illyriad economy in aggregate.

I would likewise suggest that players become more supportive of brush wars and breaking holding sieges, but such a shift is quite improbable.

Always remember, for muggles and true cannon fodders alike, that crossing the threshold of 11 cities requires massive structural changes to your account. Those changes will inevitably make PvP more painful and less appealing. Grow with caution.

One More Thing


Watch out for those zombie accounts.


May I join your museum brains? Er, alliance.

 
Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Server Gets Mouthy

Greetings, cannon fodders.

Did you notice that the server felt different today? The Illyriad devs have successfully released the 06 September 2017 update. The most obvious difference is the conversion of many volcanoes into Hellmouths. At present, people have found two varieties of Hellmouth: Woe and Anguish.


Oh look, it's a Jack 'o Cano!

Additionally, a new Herald post has been made, introducing the new Kerberos faction. This faction seems distinct from The Tower and their newly active hub of Omen. Multiple new units have been introduced of type Underworlder:

  Hellmaw
  Behemoth
  Hunter
  Deathrunner
  Firesinger
  Demon
  Imp
  Impaler

It remains to be seen if traditional crafted equipment works against these new units. The Undead and Monstrous type items will probably have no effect, but standard terrain and defense boost items should function normally.

No doubt new announcements are on the way, quite likely the dev tournament that GM Cerberus mentioned a few months ago. Obviously this is the update that was foreshadowed in ominous System messages over the course of several weeks.

Stay tuned, cannon fodders!


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Picking Siege Targets

Good evening, cannon fodders.

I often write about PvP techniques from the first person perspective. If you want to accomplish ______, then you approach that with _______. For muggles in particular, all my articles like City Placement are given as instructions. Today I am going to talk about siege tactics, so you can see why some of those rules exist.

As a primer, you should go back and read Tink's great article on Siege 101.


Strategy vs. Tactics


Do you know the difference between strategy and tactics? Many players don't. Strategy is how you set the overarching series of objectives in a PvP campaign. Examples of strategies include:
  • Target leadership players first.
  • Aim for the cannon fodders first.
  • Clear regions sequentially.
  • Assault the perimeter.
  • Prioritize cavalry players with good sov.
  • Emphasize defensive tactics to cover a withdrawal.
  • Create psychological pressure with diplomats and mini-blockades.
  • Spread the pain by targeting multiple players, one city each.
  • Focus the pain by targeting a single player, multiple cities.

Tactics are how you actually set about accomplishing those objectives.
  • Siege outlying cities.
  • Siege cities with bad terrain.
  • Deploy a siege train.
  • Launch dozens of diversionary attacks.
  • Deploy stacked elite divisions.
  • Use a trap siege to pin a city.
  • Execute a Buzzsaw maneuver.
  • Reinforced with equipped armies.

I am not going into the details of siege strategy. That depends a great deal on how a particular alliance approaches war. It's important to understand that when you plan a campaign, your strategy and tactics go back and forth in iterations. Tactics can expand or limit viable targets; strategy can rule out tactically desirable targets, or target tactically difficult cities.

Juicy Targets


From a tactical perspective, there are a few things you look for in city targets.
  • Isolation.
  • Pinned.
  • One bad tile for the siege.
  • Preferrably another bad tile for the blockade.
  • City tile is easily cleared.
  • Reasonable proximity.
  • Fat population, preferrably legendary.

Isolation


A single city alone, for example an Iceheart mining town, can make for a much easier target. As long as the terrain-appropriate clearing troops can't reach that city within 36 hours, it should be a straightforward siege. The weight of an alliance siege force from multiple players will crush the local defenders.

There is a frequent misunderstanding about isolation. People assume that it only means a city off by itself, far from the alliance core. That's certainly true. We also look at the activity levels of surrounding friendly accounts (a bit of strategy) to decide if there could reasonably be more clearing troops or reinforcements in nearby towns. An active player with towns in the midst of 100 inactive towns can be more isolated than several faraway cities that are in close range of confederate clearing troops.

Siege Tile


You want to put sieges on tiles that favor the defenders. In approximate order of preference, I like to siege from:
  • Buildings
  • Mountains
  • Forest
  • Large Hill
  • Small Hill / Lake / Loch
  • Plains / Fresh Water

If you want to understand the reason for that ordering, then I suggest you spend some time on the One Chart to Rule Them All. These are the tiles where it's easiest for the defenders to neutralize cavalry (+spear, -cav). Forest has the disadvantage that it is vulnerable to infantry attacks, but infantry is so slow that you are generally safe unless you are within 300 squares of a lot of dwarves or other sword cities. I don't really favor large hill because you can suffer some nasty bow attacks from sentinels and trueshots, and that will chew up your kobolds.

Pinned


You don't want the target city to exodus away and escape. If a player has more than 9 cities, then destroyed cities are 10x more difficult to replace than an exodus. Cities can be pinned in place for a number of reasons: running research (especially delayed by t2 saboteurs), reinforcements, armies afield, another city in exodus.

One of my favorite destroyed cities in a war was RudyJr. He sent a feint from Northmarch all the way into the Long White. The sending city was isolated and had bad tiles. When we saw his army launch, we quickly calculated that we could have a siege there before his army made a round trip. That silly feint cost him the entire city.

A note to muggles under fire: don't pin your vulnerable cities.

Blockade Tile


You also want the blockade to have a good landing tile. If you are trapping a city in advance of a surprise siege, then you might end up holding the blockade for 1-2 days. The blockade is crucial because it's what stops the city from running away if it isn't already pinned by internal factors.

The blockade is also necessary to limit prestige building. Prestige building can stretch out a siege, allowing more time for clearing troops to reach the siege camps. A fast siege is especially important when the siege tile is a lame one, like a lake or small hill. More importantly, if the enemy player can reasonably destroy the blockades, then they can specifically prestige build the wall before your clearing troops arrive. This opens to door for equipped reinforcements, and also defensive maneuvers like the Ram Auger. Having a high level wall can cause considerable excess casualties.

Easily Cleared City Tile


For the same reason, you want the city tile to be easily cleared. Plains is best, although you can also target a forest if your siege team is infantry (most are, for flexibility). What you absolutely don't want is a situation where your raze force--just the troops included in the siege army itself--must face a potential battle where the raze attempt might get stopped by the city's internal defenders.

It is much easier to clear a city that is already emptied of the home defenders. Reinforcements are much less flexible, and cannot dodge incoming clearing attempts. If the defender is skilled, razing a city with a very large home defensive force can be a major challenge that requires specialized tactics.

Reasonable Proximity


It takes a long time to march reinforcements and siege armies across the map. Targeting nearby cities can go much faster. Proximity also makes high-speed blockade maneuvers much more likely to succeed, which in turn makes it much easier to trap the city and destroy it with a siege.

Fat Population


The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The more population is contained in the upper buildings levels, the easier it is to destroy a city down to raze population. A legendary city is a great target, but overbuilt cities are even better, especially if they rely on 0% taxes and a Geomancer's Retreat for extra size. Those cities are brittle as glass when the siege engines start firing.

Don't Be a Target


If your cities meet any of the Juicy Target criteria, you are starting each conflict with one foot in the grave. Always remember, sieges are alliance vs. alliance battles. By correcting your city deficiencies now, you aren't just helping yourself, you are helping everyone on your team who will defend you in an unexpected conflict.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Friday, September 1, 2017

All Muggles Must Die

Valar mug-hulis, cannon fodders.

All muggles must die.

It seems harsh, doesn't it? Maybe even a little cruel. But your personal feelings don't really matter--Illyriad has entered a new era. The harvesters of carebear tears have descended in force upon the server, and it is entirely likely that the muggle style of gameplay is near an end.

Glory vs. Grief


I would define three main types of PvP strategy gamers:
  • Defenders
  • Glory seekers
  • Harvesters of carebear tears

Defenders are easy to understand. They make strong fortresses and alliance cores for the purpose of mutual defense. Defenders tend not to seek out conflicts, but they have carefully prepared so that their cities are not vulnerable to attack. You can tell a defender alliance by the adequate troop counts, mostly active roster, acceptable city placement, and neutral stance on most issues.

Glory seekers are sometimes called "big game hunters", but this is actually a metaphorical misconception. There is nothing that a glory seeker values about shooting a lion or elephant with a high-caliber rifle. It is a one-sided fight, which eliminates all the challenge and danger, and therefore all the glory. Glory seekers desire to meet equals on the battlefield and clash in an intense test of strategy and willpower. Some glory seekers will accept a confrontation with a much larger adversary that has inferior military skills, but these wars can be easily seen as tedious and protracted. In case it isn't already obvious, The Phalanx [300] is predominantly composed of glory seekers.

The third category of PvP gamer is often called a "grief" player. Also known as harvesters of carebear tears, these gamers value strife over challenge. Griefers are different from defenders in that they proactively attack; griefers are different from glory seekers in that they intentionally target the weak, not the strong. The main goal of a griefer is the indignation and protests of their prey, the carebears. The more the carebears struggle, curse, lament, sulk, cry, and fight among themselves, the more their feeble antics amuse the griefers. It is a housecat playing with a mouse, purely for entertainment.

The Reason is <Insert Reason Here>


For years, I have been baffled by the Illyriad fascination with pretexts. People seem to believe that wars require elaborate explanations. This is not to say that wars don't have reasons, I'm just bemused by the notion that these reasons must be explained at great length to the general Illyriad populace.

Let me be clear. Defenders typically have one reason for war: they are being attacked. Glory seekers might be legitimately angry over some rationale, or they might just think you would be cool to fight. Griefers probably just see carebears who are likely to squeal in an amusing fashion.

If there is no reason, the reason will be invented. You can't stop that process. With the rise of grief play in Illyriad, all muggle alliances must accept that hostilities might arrive on their doorstep at any moment, with a very weak trigger (or without any valid trigger at all), and might proceed with all the cruelty of a coyote pulling apart a baby bunny nest.

Zombies and Museums


Contrasted against the PvP player types, several factors define a muggle alliance.
  • Declaration of muggle-hood
  • Carebear roster
  • Corresponding lame troop counts
  • Terrible city placement
  • Many dead accounts

Illyriad has been in decline for several years, especially after the devs stopped running their own tournaments. Rather than give up old accounts, players have simply handed the keys over to their fellow players. The result is alliances where half the roster is players who haven't logged in during the past week. Many times these accounts are used as alliance farms, or as bulk troop mules for tournaments. Both of these situations can present hazards. To glory seekers, an alliance supporting visible troop counts in tournaments is a signal that they are active and might be interesting to fight. To griefers and scavengers, an alliance filled with barely active farms can signal cities full of loot. The timid coyotes will rifle through those cities anonymously with thieves; the brazen will simply siege them, loot the contents, and destroy the empty husk.

While it might seem unfair that predatory players will take these prizes, there is an argument to be made that active players deserve the loot. Zombie accounts contribute nothing to the game. Likewise, museum alliances devoted to storing dusty unused accounts are just taking up space. I don't really buy either of those arguments myself, but that's exactly the point I'm making--unless you are going to oppose people with troops, your opinion is largely irrelevant. In fact, if you are a muggle complaining about injustice in GC, that's probably signaling the griefers that you would be fun to target just for giggles.

Declaring your peaceful nature is a signal to griefers. Having bad city placement is a signal to griefers. Having controversial players in GC is a signal to griefers, particularly if your troop counts are obviously insufficient. Holding valuable assets without real military power is a signal to griefers. An alliance with multiple accounts showing dead growth is a signal to griefers.

While all these behaviors were commonly accepted in prior Illyriad history, they are now the equivalent of a wounded fish flopping in the water. Flop long enough or loud enough, and the sharks will begin to circle.

I do want you to understand, you don't need to be flopping in order to draw attention from a shark. Depending upon the breed, they can transition from scavenger to predator very quickly. The only real defense is vital accounts, placed correctly, with sufficient troop counts to repel attacks.

Be Your Own Rescue


A final thought before this article is over. Many muggles want to believe that they can prevail upon others to rescue them. For people thinking along those lines, I would ask them to consider two factors.

First, the distances on this map are enormous. Even if an ally decided to save you, could they really reach you in time? Probably not. Even then, your friends aren't going to send troops to die on non-plains squares. If you lack even basic city placement, you have an anchor tied to your feet, and you cannot expect even a powerful ally to rescue you.

Second, the server lives in dangerous times. Just because a loyal friend could save a carebear from the griefers, doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Alliances stepping into conflicts are by definition escalating the conflict, and that instantly generates a reason why they can be opposed. New alliances can enter the battlefield to confront the saviors, turning it into an even uglier conflict.

The best policy is to be your own rescue. All muggles must die, but defender muggles will live a lot longer.
  • Place your cities cleanly.
  • Keep your armies in good repair.
  • Cleanse your roster of dead accounts.
  • Minimize troublemakers.
  • Keep a low profile in GC.
  • Do not claim what you cannot reasonably defend.
  • Befriend worthy allies.
  • Understand the constraints upon your confeds.

If you haven't done these things already, then like it or not, you have already begun making delicious little ripples in the water.

Valar mug-hulis!


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Moon: Phase 3 Training (Magic)

Day 1: What is a blight shield, and how is it deployed correctly?

Day 3: Explain why you never dispel or identify a hostile spell. How do you identify the caster of an instant blight against your city?

Day 5: Imagine for me (briefly!) how you might use geomancy and/or blight magic as an effective attack.

Day 7: Describe the purpose of a Geomancer's Retreat. What is the bonus for using 1, 2, 3, 4 of these buildings at level 20? For a PvP player, what weakness is introduced by relying on a Geomancer's Retreat?

Day 9: What is the typical rune setting for a PvP player? Why?

Day 11: Describe the purpose of a Runemaster's Grounding. What is the bonus for using 1, 2, 3, 4 of these buildings at level 20? Under what circumstances would you expect to use this building?

Day 13:
Change your previous answers to any of the above questions.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

New Moon: Phase 2 Training (Diplomacy)

Day 1: Describe (briefly!) what is meant by the phrase: Discipline never sleeps.

Day 2: Describe the best wartime defense against each diplomat category: saboteurs, assassins, thieves, spies, scouts.

Day 3: For a PvP player, which diplomats are most and least important to defend against? Rank their importance, and explain your reasoning (briefly!).

Day 5: Why are defensive thieves are ineffective? What is the function of a Vault, and under what specific conditions is it useful for PvP?

Day 7:
What is the main use case for embedding diplomats into a field army?

Day 9: Why should you always include a 1000 troop escort (minimum) on armies with embedded diplomats? Why not just 1 troop?

Day 11: Why is the Foreign Office as mostly useless for PvP?

Day 13: Change your previous answers to any of the above questions.


Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Vanguard Leather

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

I get asked about Vanguard Leather a lot. Rather than keep repeating my opinions on that item, I decided it was time to enshrine it in an article for all future cannon fodders.

The Big Bang


Why does vanguard leather fascinate people so? Well, since the 5x equipment update, it adds +100% attack for a -10% move penalty. In other words, it can instantly double the attack power of an army.

Vanguard Leather even holds a green rating in Jagblade's Guide to Equipment. So why don't I recommend it strongly to everyone? Well, like any specialized tool, the Vanguard Leather armor has a narrow range of circumstances where it is truly useful.

The Drawbacks


If you recall the three central tenets of Jagblade's Guide to Equipment, a crafted item is useful if it:
  1. Is used for city defense.
  2. Amplifies the proper defenders against expected attack types.
  3. Can be manufactured in bulk quantities, to equip entire armies.
Vanguard leather is an attack item. So when we use it, we expect to have 80-90% of the equipment get destroyed. It's a single-shot weapon. The remaining 10-20% will drop onto the attacked tile, where it might be impossible to recover. Or worse, when used on city attack duty, the surviving Vanguard Leather will be dropped into the enemy city's inventory, where it can be used against you.

Does Vanguard Leather amplify the proper attackers? Well, not necessarily. Looking at the One Chart, we can see that the primary attackers are t2 infantry, t2 cavalry, and orc fangs. None of those units can equip Vanguard Leather. When deployed in the field, this particular armor is equipped to t1 cavalry or t2 bow armies. That doesn't mean it's useless. Far from it. Those are medium power attackers, and they can do a lot of damage to an enemy formation like a siege camp.

Can Vanguard Leather be manufactured in bulk? An unequivocal yes. Hides and Iceheart are both extremely common materials. You can manufacture vanguard leather for about 5000 gold. If you mine your own Iceheart and do your own hunting, it can be nearly free, even in quantities of several thousand.

Is it cost effective? Not really. You're paying 5000 gold to double the attack power of a 1500 gold medium attack unit. I would never recommend that as a routine strategy. So if Vanguard Leather is a specialized tool, in what situation do you need it?


Break Glass in Case of Emergency


So why would a military PvP player maintain an inventory of Vangard Leather?  One answer: emergencies. There are times when one of your allies gets sieged at a significant distance away from you. Even clusters can span 200-300 squares. Sometimes you just need t1 cavalry speed with that double kick to get it up to t2 cavalry striking power.

One great example came at the end of the vCrow-fCrow war (300 fought on the fCrow side). Tinkinator launched a teleport war wagon deep into enemy territory to drop sieges on Ryklaw, dittobite, and other enemy cities. Ryklaw responded by sieging her battle city on multiple tiles and blockading on the rest. While our t2 cavalry was dispatched at the main sieges on plains, Tink needed to prestige build to keep the city above raze population. It was imperative that we quickly break the smaller blockade forces.

That's the situation where you use Vanguard Leather in bulk. You want to guarantee a powerful strike, so you double up the attack power on your t1 cavalry army. Elves can use their thoroughbred horses to cancel the speed penalty; other races can use a light spear instead. Battles like these can be risky affairs where the outcome is uncertain. Having one last ace up your sleeve can be the difference between victory and defeat.


Be in the Vanguard


So there you have it, cannon fodders. Vanguard Leather armor is a one-shot tool for doubling the striking power of t1 cavalry in speed-critical emergencies. When you are in a do-or-die PvP situation, cost efficiency becomes irrelevant. Vanguard Leather is a great final weapon to use, but its other constraints (casualties destroy the gear, it doesn't equip to heavy attackers) will limit its usefulness for typical PvP fighting.

Misbehave, kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade