The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

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taptap
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by taptap » January 16th, 2013, 11:35 pm

ako wrote:In competitive play, the scenarios where spear would be advantageous are almost unimaginable, due in large part to the melee advantage Netcasters get. Even if the opponent can surround your lvl 2, you will still want to do as much damage as possible to melee attackers before going down. If you can reform with your army, the slow effect is a battle-changing asset. I like the idea of reversing the melee damages. People will then choose Netcasters if the opponent has strong melee fighters and Spears if they want to be able to kill things quickly. Even with this change, I'd expect Nets to be chosen at least as often as spears.
Aren't the L2 highly irrelevant to competitive play anyway? If you level up a hunter you surely decide according to the situation, whether you prefer the ability or ranged damage output (that you would get better out of elvish L2). Actually I believe spearmen might be much more common in MP, because when you recruit hunters (ok, who does?) you rather level it to an unit that fulfills the same role better than a completely different unit (netcaster) - that's why people take lancers not knights in mp while knights are more common in sp.

In SP if you play merfolk as a faction you always have the spellcasters as alternative source of ranged damage, and they almost always (probably not against cavalry units, but when do merfolk fight cavalry?) outperform the spearmen. Dead Water actually does well in making them useful, but even there you could probably just as well do without them. But you don't have to change them for SP because you can always balance campaigns by making different maps, limiting spellcasters or sth. like that.
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by ako » January 20th, 2013, 5:14 pm

People take Lancers for the same reason they take Deathblades — because they are a much better unit except for the fact that they can't level. Often in MP, the better, unleveling level 2 unit will give the player enough initiative to make up for the distant and not-assured chance that the unit will get enough experience to level.

The Netcaster, on the other hand, can level just like the Spearman. It's also better alone and with a group. Great strategy games force the player to make difficult decisions based on their resources and their opponent's, both in the present and the future. Removing a skill-differentiating decision by having a "good" advancement and a "bad" advancement is the reason why we'd like to see a Spearman buff and/or Netcaster nerf.

Yubtzock
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by Yubtzock » January 21st, 2013, 12:19 pm

Commence wall of text... cause balance is serious business.

Chrysophylax wrote:Spearmen have a very useful purpose - they do much better in battles against units that have high defence in water. For example, a Netcaster has a 36% chance to completely miss a unit with 60% defence, such as a Naga, and so relying on one is risky. A Spearman can reliably get a hit or two in at range. It's rather like the choice between Captains and Heroes - you want a small number of the unit with a useful ability, followed by a bunch of the high-damage unit. (I've tested this.)
First, it's more risky, but the pay off is better - slowed water unit is either dead or useless next turn, and Netcaster has large melee capabilities to make up for missing strikes in range in case of a water brawl with other units.

Second, Rebels get sure-hit units (fighters and archers - 4 strikes, mages - magic, lvl2 marksman...) so they don't yearn reliable damage sources. (it does not mean they might not want a water capable one, or simply more)

Third, it's not like captains and heroes at all. Each unit with slow might mean one less usefull unit for the enemy. Unless you are in the previously mentioned, rare situations (or merman campaign) you don't spam mers, and if you do, you take netcasters in larger numbers.


I didn't like the idea with the firststrike either, but
Chrysophylax wrote: Marksman is poor flavour (have you ever tried to throw a javelin at a moving target?) and I don't think it's necessary. A better fix, if testing proves that one is needed, might be to increase the Spearman's melee damage.
Have you? Using a bow means aligning 3 points (ends of the arrow determining bow angle, then target), throwing an object means you apply direction to the centre of its mass (vector - 2 points), its construction and initial position determines that it does not fly sideways (unlike arrow, where its construction allows its initial position to affect the path).
... and we have marksman archers despite that. Bow can be more precise, yes, but it is also harder.

Chrysophylax wrote: Mermen don't swing clubs under water, they swing them above water. It's a pretty effective weapon, especially when you're more mobile than your opponent, and it's designed to be used in melee.
This is a good point, but this
Chrysophylax wrote: A javelin, by contrast, is pretty hard to fight with effectively in water - spears work best en masse or when you can use them like staves. A lone spearman jabbing at you because he can't lower the butt of his weapon below waist height is not very threatening, especially when his spear is actually a javelin. The only way to really be effective with one would be to use it as a lance, putting the force of both arms and your legs into a lunging thrust. A merman would do this a lot better than a human, but would not have much of an advantage if he stayed still and jabbed. An extra point or two of melee damage would make most sense in terms of flavour if a fix is needed, with a point off the club's damage coming second (but being worse for game reasons).
People in the Pacific use short spears for hunting, both over the water, thrusting them down and diving and lunging them forward underwater. Another food for imagination: dolphin plunging out of water. Enough thrust?
Also narwhals. (off topic: why are there no charge mers?)
A javelin is probably the only weapon to fight effectively in water with. Swords and clubs might mean that you need swings, and even above the water, downward swings might mean that you get your weapon in the water, so you need to swing out from it. Jabbing is not at all non-threatening. It is only "not a threat" to an armoured unit. Jabbing can be as deadly any other kind of wound. :D

BTW to address something from later on:
It would also make sense (see my last post for context) to change the melee attack to blade
No, it would not make sense. Swing something into water and swing it back.
Additionally, it would mean we would need another type of mer for this, to comply with the rule, saying that units should not be forced to lose some aspect of them in the event of level-up. Adding another melee attack (blade) would be ok, but it wouldn't make anyone chose Spearmer over Netcaster

Chrysophylax wrote:I neglected to mention that the movement advantage of Netcasters over Spearmen makes little sense (except that it lets the Netcaster get first strike more often). Giving both 7 movement seems like the first change to make.

It's pretty difficult to make them balanced in both multiplayer and campaigns. In a campaign scenario mermen are generally either necessary or useless, while in a multiplayer scenario you occasionally want a few, but not to use them en masse. The kinds of scenario where Spearmen and Javlineers excel (those wherein most of the fighting takes place in water, making them either reliable damage-dealers or gods of death, depending upon the enemies) are rare in multiplayer.

If changes are made, I recommend increasing the Spearman's movement,[...]
This all I can get behind, but
[...]then adding up to two damage to the melee attack, and then turning the ranged attacks into 5-5 and 8-5 (making them better against high-defence enemies)
First, the range - you don't want marksman as means to make Spearmer good vs high-defence enemies, cause it's a "poor flavour", but then you want it to throw javelins faster than archer uses the bow...

I proposed 8-3 marksman because it does exactly that and does not affect the way Spearmer works vs drakes and horses as much as idea of more damage or more strikes.

taptap wrote:
ako wrote:In competitive play, the scenarios where spear would be advantageous are almost unimaginable, due in large part to the melee advantage Netcasters get. Even if the opponent can surround your lvl 2, you will still want to do as much damage as possible to melee attackers before going down. If you can reform with your army, the slow effect is a battle-changing asset. I like the idea of reversing the melee damages. People will then choose Netcasters if the opponent has strong melee fighters and Spears if they want to be able to kill things quickly. Even with this change, I'd expect Nets to be chosen at least as often as spears.
Aren't the L2 highly irrelevant to competitive play anyway? If you level up a hunter you surely decide according to the situation, whether you prefer the ability or ranged damage output (that you would get better out of elvish L2). Actually I believe spearmen might be much more common in MP, because when you recruit hunters (ok, who does?) you rather level it to an unit that fulfills the same role better than a completely different unit (netcaster) - that's why people take lancers not knights in mp while knights are more common in sp.
ako gave you excellent answer for most of this, but I'd want to chip in:

L2 do happen in MP competitive and are relevant (even simply by being possible). It's L3 that are mostly irrelevant.

No, spearmer is very rare in MP, that's what this topic is about too.
Additionaly, role change is usually more preferable than staying the way the unit is. If you have plenty of mermen hunters or can recruit more, you don't need another one, but better. Your enemy is probably already recruiting units good vs your hunters (skeletons, HI, skirmishers...). Sudden change of function/abilities is probably the better choice by itself in most cases even if both units were balanced.


As much as I don't like the idea of swapping melee roles between both mers, I must give ako's idea credit of being reasonable.
The only bad thing about it, I can see, is Spearmer with both melee and range being very good (and too good vs units it is already good against, with no answer for drakes sans Skirmishers), and Netcaster being weak in both melee and range at the same time - turning them into water-shamans essentially. :/
The more useful marskman and slightly better melee still seems like the best compromise.

Edit. for clarity.
Edit. tl;dr - Spearmer 8-3 marksman and slightly better melee (?) OR Spearmer melee boost and Netcaster melee nerf.

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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by Chrysophylax » January 25th, 2013, 7:02 pm

Yubtzock, you've not understood (as far as I can tell) what I was saying about the use of a spear in water. A human standing up spear-fishing is much higher in the water than a merman floating (due to bouyancy) - the fisherman can strike downwards, fast, at prey, whereas a merman fighting an intelligent enemy (that is probably wearing armour) must strike forwards or sideways. To get sufficiently clear of the water to fight properly (human-style) with a spear would be extremely difficult - the merman would be, in effect, tailwalking on the spot. A lone spearman fights like the spear is a staff with a rarely-used pointy bit on the end - anything else would be suicide without a shield (I speak from experience, and also from the advice of people who have been actually using these weapons every week for years). As for what you say about dolphins and such, you are saying exactly what I was saying - the correct way to use high mobility in water is to use it, not stay still and get slaughtered by someone fighting with a weapon designed for melee combat. High damage, low strikes is the only sensible way for an unarmoured skirmisher to wield a spear in water if forced into hand-to-hand fighting.

Regarding your comments about the relative usefulness of the two units in sea battles - have you actually tried a balanced, all-sea battle? I have tested this, as I said above, and my findings disagree with your allegations. I find your lack of faith in experimental evidence disturbing.

I have tried both javelin throwing and archery. It is vastly easier to hit a target with a bow than with a javelin. As the son of a competitive javelineer, I think I can speak with confidence when I say that javelin throwing is not precise, especially given that a military javelin is not nearly as well balanced as a sports javelin. Even a slight change in weight or balance can have a huge effect on where a thrown projectile goes. In contrast, a skilled archer can shoot a large number of aimed, accurate shots, very quickly and with far greater lethality. I will accept arguments on these points when you have spent several months researching precisely how these weapons were actually used in battle, as I have.

Saying that javelins should be consistent with bows makes no sense, because using a longbow in water is not practical. A good bow was a valuable possession, and water ruins bows and bowstrings - no competent military archer would let his bow get rained on if he could help it. Javelins are pretty much strictly inferior to bows, barring that they work in melee and in water.

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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by DSidious » February 26th, 2013, 1:01 am

yub ceded that archers can peak higher but said javelins are more natural and easier to learn and this i cant attest to having tried archery in gymclass and playing war with an old wooden broom handle i got decent with the broom handle in a weekend at 10yds as little kid than i did with a bow and arrow at 15yds (15 and 30 were the only two options for safety) as a 13 year old in my first 3 gym classes it was just awkward at first

and to say its impossible to get good with a spear is ridiculous

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taptap
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by taptap » February 26th, 2013, 2:13 pm

Yubtzock wrote:It's pretty difficult to make them balanced in both multiplayer and campaigns.
...
No, spearmer is very rare in MP, that's what this topic is about too.
No, it isn't. Balance for MP as you see fit then campaign designers can adapt the scenarios. You don't have to "balance" a unit for SP ever, you can change the gold settings, the maps, available units, limit recruits etc. to balance campaign scenarios.

Aren't spearmen rare mostly because hunters aren't so great to begin with? Would it change anything to rebalance spearman vs. netcaster when the L1 isn't recruited or doesn't survive?

P.S. It is always wrong to compare individual practice with military practice. The aim isn't necessarily an individual target but e.g. disrupting a formation. Javelins, throwing axes etc. probably were quite effective for such purposes. However you can not expect to model this in an abstract game like Wesnoth.
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pauxlo
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by pauxlo » February 27th, 2013, 8:33 pm

taptap wrote: No, it isn't. Balance for MP as you see fit then campaign designers can adapt the scenarios. You don't have to "balance" a unit for SP ever, you can change the gold settings, the maps, available units, limit recruits etc. to balance campaign scenarios.
Balancing is not just about making a scenario/campaign the right difficulty to win, but also to make it interesting to play. If there are units which are not useful at all, you just frustrate the user who uses them.

In Dead Water, the spearmen were quite useless for me – after one or two and seeing how they don't do any good, I leveled every single remaining hunter to a net caster. This might be related to the lots of undead enemies or the fact that I really like slowing my opponents, though.

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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by oea » March 3rd, 2013, 6:58 am

well i can only speak about single player.
earlier today i finished the TRoW scenario 'peoples in decline and i was extremely happy that i had bother to level 2 of my hunters into spearmen. i only brought my loyal nethunter into the scenario.
especially after leveling to javelineer, these unit were key to one flank of my defense.
they were also very useful in the scenario before fighting the nagas of the small island boss and in holding the river against goblin knights trying to flank my start position.
so while netcasters are nice units, having those few spearmen instead (with their higher damage potential) was very useful.
of course of the six hunters i leveled up only 2 became spearmen.
the same can be said for the DW campaign i was even happier in the drake scenario there, as one of the two i had was already a javilineer. that javelineer softened up a drake every turn. (so you know in dead water those were the only two spearmen i bothered with but they really were handy to have).
another great use for these units is to take down annoying bats.

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The_Afterman
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by The_Afterman » April 13th, 2013, 3:47 pm

I like the idea of marksman for the spearman. ^_^ Plenty of above wall-of-texts for reasoning.

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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by Crow_T » April 13th, 2013, 11:18 pm

Has anyone tried a playthrough of Dead Water with a hacked Spearman file? I wonder what would be more balanced, a blade damage type or marksman. I feel as though blade might add some nice diversity, the only other fish with a blade is the L3 Triton.

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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by beetlenaut » April 13th, 2013, 11:52 pm

The netcaster changes the pierce to impact, and one of the options should retain it. I wouldn't be in favor of blade damage. I think marksman would be a great change, but it might have to be a level-3 option so as not to mess with multiplayer.
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Aelaris
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by Aelaris » April 26th, 2013, 7:50 pm

Clubs have to do with the net. If you stab or slash your net, you're going to need a new net. Thus clubbing things inside your net.

Of course, this is all IRL stuff, and WINR is a thing.


I mostly use fish as stalling blocks to ZoC people from streams that are otherwise flat. Sometimes they even kill people. But the ability to have a unit in the way with 60% defense rather than 40% defense is cool.
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Re: The Uselessness of the Merman Spearman

Post by WanderingHero » July 11th, 2013, 2:41 pm

I second adding Marksman to the otherwise weak Javelinners, and maybe boosting their movement

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