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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Medieval 2 Total War Concentrated Vanilla 0.07

Charley, the Shetland Pony, bowling :-) by Deep Frozen Shutterbug from flickr (CC-NC)Here's another release of my Medieval 2 Total War Concentrated Vanilla mod.

Old releases suffered from the too-much-money problem, just like the pre-crash Goldman Sachs, so I decided to scale it down a bit. Instead I introduced massive free garrisons.

Here's the full list of changes relative to vanilla:

  • For more dynamic game, all units move 75% faster on strategic map.
  • One big problem with vanilla was that money didn't matter. No matter if you had a lot or not, there wasn't all that much to spend it on. So now all buildings take 1 turn to build, but are 50% more expensive. This drastically increases importance of money.
  • To add some strategic richness, mines give 2x the profits, and cost 3x as much (x2, +50% like all other buildings). Some settlements with rich mines like Zagreb or Vienna are worth a lot, maybe even worth starting a war over.
  • There used to be 50% increase in settlement and merchant trade, and mine profits used to be 3x, but this was a serious overkill. If you manage well, settlements and merchants will give you more money than in vanilla as you can build relevant buildings faster.
  • There also no longer double population growth penalty/bonus for tax rates - it was an overkill.
  • To help small nations, King's Purse increased 2x (that is - free money a nation gets unrelated to its settlements - from 1500-2500/turn to 3000-5000/turn).
  • To reduce annoyance with rebels, rebel and pirate spawn rates reduced 10x. (I'm not actually sure if it reduced them as much as the file says it would, but it feels more or less right now).
  • Cavalry, especially heavy cavalry was seriously overpowered. Small groups of knights could easily crush infantry armies ten times their budget, so infantry was useless other than free militias to patrol cities, and cheap grunts to operate siege equipment. Because with cavalry-centric warfare missile units are useless, this limited army composition even further - and destroyed rich tactical variety that M2TW could possibly have. So all cavalry is now 50% more expensive to recruit and upkeep. Cavalry is still extremely powerful when used right, except now other kinds of armies are useful too.
  • Bodyguards were particularly overpowered - in early periods they simply destroyed everything, were numerous, self-healing, essentially free (you get new candidates for adoption if you lose old generals all the time), and as every faction has identical bodyguards they severely reduced tactical richness of the game. So bodyguards units are the half size now (upkeep cost is proportional to unit size, and they're cavalry, so mod's bodyguard unit costs 75% of vanilla's). Old versions of the mod reduced their hitpoints from 2 to 1, but it no longer happens, as this made bodyguards overnerfed in late periods. Unfortunately there no way to get the balance right - as bodyguards stay the same, but other units massively improve, either bodyguards will be too strong early on, or too weak late on. I moved the balance point somewhat towards the weakening.
  • Vanilla sieges are ridiculously easy, with a single unit of ballistae being able to take down large stone walls. This made sieges was too easy, and as a consequence turned the game into a siegefest. So now gates and walls (but not towers) are 5x stronger. Serious artillery will be needed to take anything but the weakest walls.
  • Towers now have 2x fire rate for normal ammo, and 1x fire rate for flaming ammo. Increasing flaming ammo rate too much as old versions did made siege equipment like siege towers almost useless. But high normal fire rate should help defenders a lot, even for undermanned settlements that AI leaves. This wouldn't be necessary if AI was competent, but we know well it's not, and leaves valuable settlements defended by one unit of Peasants far too often. This balances AI stupidity considerably, and also frees the player to play more strategically by making defense easier (this is not as essential as in old versions of the mod due to increased free garrisons).
  • Tower activation range is 8x larger (a bit of reversal to Rome Total War). So you cannot shut down towers just by scaring off defenders with some arrows like in vanilla. Strong walls, and massive towers' firepower together mean sieges will be very difficult. Prepare a lot of artillery, or spies, or massively overwhelming force that can take severe loses before giving up. I'm yet to take a well-manned Fortress in this mod (but then AI often mans its settlements insufficiently, and there are other options like waiting their food supplies out, or provoking a sally).
  • For consistency with making sieges harder, spies cost 2x to recruit and upkeep. And AI is quite competent at counter-espionage operations, so spy flood doesn't work all that often.
  • To help defenders in sieges, missile infantry ammo increased 2x. It very rarely affects field battles, as in those they rarely get to expend even half of their ammo.
  • A big change is doubling free garrison in cities. Village 0, Town 4, Large Town 6, Small City 8, Large City 10, Huge City 12.
  • The biggest change is introducing free garrison in castles. Motte&Bailey 1, Wooden Castle 2, Castle 4, Fortress 7, Citadel 12. In vanilla castles are either left barely defended, or are massive bleeding money hole - failure both ways.
  • Just like with cities, castles' basic infantry units can be free garrison, but not cavalry or expensive infantry. Basic infantry is one with morale up to 5, and cost up to 155. So Peasants up to Armored Sergeants, and Peasant Archers up to Genoese Crossbowmen, Venetian Archers, and Hand Gunners can all be free when garrisoned. On the other hand Dismounted Knights of all kinds, and most faction-specific elite units cannot. I guess it might introduce some faction unfairness, but I can live with it.
Overall, what you get is much tactically and strategically richer game, with a lot larger differences between factions, but one that still feels a lot like vanilla Medieval 2 Total War. In the mod defense is easy, so you don't have to mindlessly attack everyone.

The main problem left is the spectacularly stupid AI, about which I cannot really do that much.

I also did some other experiments, that didn't get to the mod:
  • Making ocean-traveling ships available from the beginning (well, as soon as you can build sufficient port infrastructure) enables fights with natives. But Americas are disconnected from the mainland Europe, and it doesn't really feel like it's part of the same game. Try it once to see what fighting Aztecs is like, then forget they're even part of the game.
  • Making Mongols (or maybe even Timurids) come earlier. It's a lot more fun to fight Mongols, but then if they come very early, they will totally crush AI on auto-resolve. Unfortunately auto-resolve favours stronger armies too much, so they won't even suffer too much loses, and you'll have to deal with them yourself. One full stack of Pavise Crossbowmen and Feudal Knights led by semi-decent General (or equivalent) can defeat one full Mongol stack without that much trouble in field, and well defended settlement with ballista towers completely destroys them. It's another thing to try once. I haven't fought Timurids yet.
  • Making Gunpowder available immediately unfortunately counters the effects of very strong walls, and yet good gunpowder infantry and cavalry won't be available until much later. I'm not even sure if gunpowder units are better than plain Pavise Crossbowmen, they don't seem to be from the stats, and I never had an opportunity to play much with them.
Anyway, download the mod here.

Blog posts about previous releases: 0.02, 0.04, 0.06.

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