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Topic Subject: FC Mechanics
posted 09-26-01 02:53 AM EDT (US)   
I don't remember if we had any post like this here in AoWH, so I dug up this post of mine from the Lifeline so we can add it here. This was originally an answer to a question on FC rules and how the AI prioritizes its resources and targets and how the order of engagement is determined.

This is how FC works as far as I know, but if I have forgotten something or gotten something wrong, please feel free to point it out. I have tried to present the information in as distilled and clear a form as possible without omitting anything, and I have tried to avoid paragraphs that need elaboration. I hope this helps.

I don't know if this qualifies for being one of those sticky threads or for the Strategy Tips section of AoWH, but if so, I'm happy to have been of help.

BTW, this is the 'off the top of my head' post Unicorn referred to some weeks back, if anyone remembers, though it's been edited a bit for additional clarity. The FC Tips section, for example, was not included in the original.

Edi

*****************

FC Mechanics

Wall breachers (battering ram, catapult, cannon, giant, beetle, bone horror) always go first. I have seen an exception to this once, and only once, and that battle included a hero who may or may not have had wall climbing.

Heroes with wall climbing do not use that ability to attack units inside walls if there is any unit with wall breaching included on their side. They wait for the wall breachers to either take the walls down or die first.

Ranged units go next. Long range units (ballista, catapult, cannon, ships, units with doom gaze) get in two shots before melee units get to them, except against cavalry whom they get to shoot only once before melee is joined. Archers get one shot against everything except cavalry before they are exposed to melee attacks. Even if units have high enough movement to close with archers before they can fire (36 or more), the archers go first unless it's cavalry they are facing. There are curious exceptions to this at random intervals.

Distance is not relevant. All armies start next to each other and start swinging.

Terrain obstacles do not exist. This even seems to apply to walls when attacking archers shoot at the defenders inside. Enemy melee units are still prevented from entering until the wall is breached.

Any unit can hit any unit unless impossible by virtue of movement type (ground vs. flying) or walls. A unit may be attacked by an unlimited number of units in the same turn.

Heroes always cast spells if they have channeling available. This can be prevented by starting to cast a spell that takes more than one turn to complete and canceling it after combat.

Heroes always use missile attacks to the exclusion of everything else, even if they have a much stronger melee attack.

Units with round attack will only hit one unit on the first attack, but then they will always (attempt to) hit at least three units if they use round attack.

Units with seduce/charm/dominate will use it to the exclusion of all other abilities whenever possible.

The AI uses healing to heal units even if they only have a single point of damage.

The AI seems to be unable to utilize Turn Undead in FC. For some reason I've never seen Turn Undead used, which makes is very annoying if you run into wraiths with a group of paladins or frostling shamans. Neither of those units has magic or holy strike and if they don't use Turn Undead on the wraiths in FC, they're screwed. I'm not sure if there are other powers the AI does not use in FC.

The AI always flags pure missile units (i.e. no retaliatory strike) as the primary targets and starts on melee units only after they are dead. In sieges, battering rams, catapults and other wall breachers are always targeted first. I'm not sure whether battering rams are moved to the last priority when they manage to breach a wall. I can't remember that one.

The AI tends to target the most powerful enemy units first (after missiles, that is), wasting hordes of units when it would be much more effective to concentrate on first taking out important low and medium level units and leaving the big baddies for the last. This makes fast combat especially frustrating, since even if you would lose in TC, you could at least inflict losses in proportion to your strength (or even completely out of proportion as the case may be) and possibly severely weaken the effectiveness of an enemy stack (e.g. by eliminating their wall breaching capabilities).

The AI is unable to distinguish which units pose the greatest threat to your army if wraiths or incarnates are present. The only shaman in the stack might shoot magic bolts at the flame thrower while the wraith wreaks havoc with the defenseless units. It will not do anything about it until higher priority units are dealt with. I'll be damned if I can understand that algorithm past the 'missile units' first approach, because it starts to lose consistency after that.

When faced with multiple target choices for archers, especially flying ones, the AI sometimes keeps switching targets and accomplishing nothing instead of killing one or two of the enemy which would otherwise happen.


Conclusions

Consequently, the rules of thumb:

1. Don't use FC
2. If you absolutely have to use FC, make sure it's overkill
3. Never ever use heroes in FC.
4. Again, if you have to, make sure they have zero channeling left or are casting a spell that takes more than they can channel that turn.
5. You can nearly always reach a better result in TC, but there are exceptions.

With this in mind, get familiar enough with FC that you can comfortably use it (e.g. with a small test map where you simply put stacks of various composition and pit them against each other until you have an idea of how it works. If you decide to play PBEM, all combats initiated by the AI against you and all combats between players are of necessity FC, all combat you initiate against the AI can be either TC or FC.

In conclusion, FC can be a powerful tool once you learn to use it and know what makes the AI tick. And still there will be surprises from time to time. It is, however, one of those double-edged swords that need to be wielded with great care lest the swordsman wound himself. Consider yourself warned.


FC Tips

Units with seduce, charm or dominate gain a very good advantage in FC, especially if used in groups. The AI will automatically have these units try to use these abilities as the main attack if it is possible. If you see an 8-stack of nymphs, ladies of pain, satyrs, doom priests or something else with one of these abilities, be afraid! Be very afraid! If it's a stack of incarnates, things are even worse...

If you've only got archers garrisoning a city and the enemy comes in with catapults, giants or cannons, use FC. That way your archers will get something done instead of getting killed when they rush out and are cut down by enemy melee troops. Of course, you can wait for wall breaching in TC and then sell yourself as dearly as possible, and this option is recommended if the enemy has a lot of archers/shamans/other non-wall breaching missile units, because all attacking units go first. Without the wall for protection (as per the FC mechanics), FC would be nothing but suicide.

Long range missile units (ballista, shredder bolt, catapult, giant, cannon, ships, air galley) in a group are well used in FC, because they will get two shots off before anyone reaches them when you are the defender, and at least one shot when you are the attacker, depending on what you attack.

Replies:
posted 09-26-01 04:47 AM EDT (US)     1 / 12  
Quote:
The AI always flags pure missile units (i.e. no retaliatory strike) as the primary targets and starts on melee units only after they are dead

I understand that pure missile units target the strongest unit in the stack, missile unit or not. Melee units target pure missile units only if there is no badly damaged melee unit.

posted 09-26-01 06:33 AM EDT (US)     2 / 12  
Definitely worth sticking to the top! Thanks Edi!

It's another one of these great posts that should be converted into a web page for the Strategy section. Some day...

posted 09-26-01 09:49 AM EDT (US)     3 / 12  
"Some day..." turned out to be today!

FC Mechanics

posted 09-26-01 10:20 AM EDT (US)     4 / 12  
FC is a joke, as you point out. One thing I noticed recently is how devestating hurl stones is in FC. It seems to give ballista range to the hurler. So there are a few cases when FC works better. That is if you are heavy with missile units, especially hurl stones. You always get 2, sometimes 3, shots vrs. an enemy. Also attacking groups seem to be treated seperately, that is: While you are attacking one group the other group just sits there and watches, they don't move in. I have defeated multiple stacks with just one hero who would have been eaten in TC. I do a lot of play testing so I use FC quite a bit.
posted 09-26-01 11:13 AM EDT (US)     5 / 12  
I think that turn undead in FC arent used because its to weak. Because i have seen it happen in Warlocks mod were turn undead is much more powerful. Also a unit that is turned undead in FC can retaliate strikes, but not attack.
posted 09-26-01 12:31 PM EDT (US)     6 / 12  
Well, edi's description of FC is not entirely correct, I have studied FC quite a bit and this is what I have found:

Units (and heroes) can be separated into 3 groups:

Group 1: all units (and heroes) with a long range attack (also long range spells for heroes with spell casting)
Group 2: all fast units (32 or more movement points) and medium ranged units (and heroes)
Group 3: all other units


FC is separated into rounds, the defender always attack first in every round:

Round 1:
(wall crushers attack walls)
Defender: all units in group 1 attack
Attacker: all units in group 1 and 2 attacks, but units in group 2 can only attack defending units from group 1
Heroes can not be attacked!

Round 2:
(wall crushers attack walls)
Defender: all units in group 1 and 2 attack
Attacker: all units in group 1, 2 and 3 attacks, but units in group 3 can only attack defending units from group 1 and 2
Heroes can not be attacked!

Round 3
(wall crushers attack walls)
Defender: all units can attack
Attacker: all units can attack
Heroes can be attacked by units from group 1

Round 4
(wall crushers attack walls)
Defender: all units can attack
Attacker: all units can attack
Heroes can be attacked by units from group 1 and 2

Round 5
(wall crushers attack walls)
Defender: all units can attack
Attacker: all units can attack
Heroes can be attacked by all units

Heroes is protected from attacks for 2 extra rounds. They can use ranged attack as normal but can not melee attack before round 4. When heroes can be attacked all units will try to hit them no matter how close they was to kill the unit they had been attacking until then.

ffbj, hurl stones is working just like any other medium ranged attack in FC and it don't have any increased chance of hitting.

Kris

posted 09-26-01 12:39 PM EDT (US)     7 / 12  
Wow! I'll add Kris' post to the Strategy page too. Some day...

ffbj, perhaps you've seen the spell Stoning in action. It looks pretty much like hurl stones, but is long range and throws 6 stones.

posted 09-26-01 06:42 PM EDT (US)     8 / 12  
I was thinking of hurl stones. I didn't say there was increased accuracy just good results. 6 hobbit slingers always defeat 6 pikemen. Many times without even taking a loss. The question was about how FC is inferior to TC, and I agree in most cases. But with missile units the balance is certainly in their favor. With markmanship iv they become truly awesome. Especially against slower units.
posted 09-27-01 10:46 AM EDT (US)     9 / 12  
Quote:
I understand that pure missile units target the strongest unit in the stack, missile unit or not

By strongest unit I mean the unit with highest attack or/and damage. The AI don't seem to care about the defense and HP of the target.

posted 10-16-01 12:29 PM EDT (US)     10 / 12  
One thing I just noticed in fast combat is that a stack of goblin bombers will make a hole in the wall, but then retreat as if they have no way to inflict damage if you keep a garrison in the city.

I had a single halfling slinger in a city hit by 8 bombers. I figured it was dead so hit fast combat. 2 bombers died as they knocked down the wall, then retreated. 4 turns later, they were all dead as they tried to take the city every turn, losing two bombers in each attack.

posted 10-25-01 09:31 AM EDT (US)     11 / 12  
In my experience, FC favours ranged attacks regardless of terrain. In TC it is not that easy to move your units so that every ranged attacker can attack every melee unit if the battle takes place in a heavily forrested area or in a city. That's why I let FC do the fighting for me if I have a clear advantage in the ranged attack. Also in the later half of most levels when I have control of a large portion of the resources, the gold is pouring in and I have a large amount of low level units (because I bought the alliance of friendly troups) I often can't be bothered to play TC.
As a rule I never play FC if there is any chance of the computer doing something that I wouldn't do. Usually this involves burning up mana with useless spells, sacrificing units I don't want to loose or keep my hero out of a battle even though he is overpowering the enemy footfolk and I actually want him to gain experience points. The AI also sucks at healing, wasting it on units who losse 1 or 2 points early in a battle instead of saving it for a moment when they can use the complete five points (or even more for healing water).
posted 11-13-01 12:02 PM EDT (US)     12 / 12  
The other fc mechanic I did not see mentioned was the order of combat. The hex in the 12 o'clock position goes first and then it follows in clockwise order. Well, I didn't test it but I would guess the center hex actually goes first. This would be important in how you group your group 1 and 2 units as Kris describes. As the attacker, you would want your archers to be able to fire on the long range units in round one before the long range units shoot so that they are free to take on other units.
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