From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

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tuggyne
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From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by tuggyne »

I have a bit of a mania in campaigns: I never let units die, with the occasional exception of low-XP level 1 units. Unfortunately, any reasonable campaign is likely to have some level of attrition, which means I have to save-scum, micro-manage risk with calculations, and attempt the same turn multiple times to meet this goal. And some campaigns just aren't designed for this at all (such as Northern Rebirth, I believe; that's probably why I've never finished it, and possibly why I never quite made it through Dead Water either). Now, I don't have this problem in the occasional MP matches, since all my units are low-XP level 1, and I have no emotional attachment to them anyway :P.

So my question is: how do I adjust my playstyle to either change this tendency, or compensate around it? In what circumstances are expendable units unarguably the best strategy to use? What campaigns most require this?

TeeWee
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by TeeWee »

Realise that while leveling is king, IMHO you only need a certain amount of high level units, not 100% of all units. So if a level three dies, as long as you have sufficient high level units for the same role in your roster, there's no real problem. And high level units have one drawback: upkeep.

If you must save/load, force yourself to restart the entire scenario instead of just your failed rolls.

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Xudo
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by Xudo »

TeeWee wrote:If you must save/load, force yourself to restart the entire scenario instead of just your failed rolls.
... or disable autosaving and limit your saves per scenario to X. Adjust X to whatever you want.

MRDNRA
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by MRDNRA »

This is something I still struggle with, despite only restarting scenarios these days rather than save loading constantly like I used to. Although in shorter campaigns I don't usually mind if a few units die (say, An Orcish Incursion, I often lose a few units on that and just carry on).

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Dixie
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by Dixie »

Also be aware that while costing twice the upkeep, a lv2 unit is not really worth two lv1s. This is especially true in MP matches that use era like age of heroes ('cause upper level units in that cost more than the 20g recall of campaigns). Two units level one can soak up more damage, deal more damage (and to different targets at that) and zoc more space than a single lv2. Same logic applies to upper levels too. Leadership units are especially useful, though. Not to say that you shouldn't use them - some have useful abilities, and it is also scenario dependent. But having them survive is often very dependent on having expendable lv1 meat shields to take the blows for them.
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taptap
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by taptap »

Play a campaign with few or no healers, limit autosaves to 1 and you get rid of this bad habit in an instant (or you give up playing frustrated). It would help not to rename units or do other things that build attachment. To use recalls less often and to keep recruiting fresh L1 in later scenarios will help you to build a better recall list, soon not only L1, but also L2 and occasionally L3 units will be expendable units to you. Especially don't ever recall L3 units unless they are really necessary. You also will have less attachment to those guys if you don't recall them in every scenario.

There is another hidden reason for this: gold management. Personally I sometimes found when already low on gold, you need all the power you get for your gold, but the habit to recall the heavy hitters then makes it very hard to earn any gold in the current scenario (5 L3 are already 15 upkeep) so the problem drags on. (I played through the second half of The Hammer of Thursagan with this problem always present and it wasn't enjoyable, because I couldn't recover from the gold shortage.) With a more numerous but less upkeep intensive recruit (and casualties further reduce upkeep) usually you end up in better shape right away - more gold and a better recall list (because you put the XP into new units).
I am a Saurian Skirmisher: I'm a real pest, especially at night.

Insinuator
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by Insinuator »

tuggyne wrote:So my question is: how do I adjust my playstyle to either change this tendency, or compensate around it? In what circumstances are expendable units unarguably the best strategy to use?
It is good not to think of units as expendable or non-expendable. Every unit has it's purpose, and every one has an acceptable price for its loss(aside from mission critical units, of course). Instead of thinking what you will lose by a unit's death, think rather on what you will gain from it. Perhaps a distraction from more critical units. Perhaps buying you time at a chokepoint so you can reach the end quicker. Perhaps just the extra income you'll now receive. There is no set circumstance where you must expend a unit, but there are ones where it could be best.
taptap wrote:It would help not to rename units or do other things that build attachment.
This is a particularly good idea. Remember that they are a means to an end, and losing some to win is usually acceptable.

tuggyne
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by tuggyne »

Thanks for the advice so far, guys!
taptap wrote:Play a campaign with few or no healers, limit autosaves to 1 and you get rid of this bad habit in an instant (or you give up playing frustrated). It would help not to rename units or do other things that build attachment. To use recalls less often and to keep recruiting fresh L1 in later scenarios will help you to build a better recall list, soon not only L1, but also L2 and occasionally L3 units will be expendable units to you. Especially don't ever recall L3 units unless they are really necessary. You also will have less attachment to those guys if you don't recall them in every scenario.

There is another hidden reason for this: gold management. Personally I sometimes found when already low on gold, you need all the power you get for your gold, but the habit to recall the heavy hitters then makes it very hard to earn any gold in the current scenario (5 L3 are already 15 upkeep) so the problem drags on. (I played through the second half of The Hammer of Thursagan with this problem always present and it wasn't enjoyable, because I couldn't recover from the gold shortage.) With a more numerous but less upkeep intensive recruit (and casualties further reduce upkeep) usually you end up in better shape right away - more gold and a better recall list (because you put the XP into new units).
I had begun to suspect that gold was the main reason to avoid overuse of L3s, so that's probably a good thing to start with. I'll probably hold off on limiting autosaves until I make a bit more progress, though.
Insinuator wrote:
tuggyne wrote:So my question is: how do I adjust my playstyle to either change this tendency, or compensate around it? In what circumstances are expendable units unarguably the best strategy to use?
It is good not to think of units as expendable or non-expendable. Every unit has it's purpose, and every one has an acceptable price for its loss(aside from mission critical units, of course). Instead of thinking what you will lose by a unit's death, think rather on what you will gain from it. Perhaps a distraction from more critical units. Perhaps buying you time at a chokepoint so you can reach the end quicker. Perhaps just the extra income you'll now receive. There is no set circumstance where you must expend a unit, but there are ones where it could be best.
Hmm, OK. Any further examples of where this would be useful?

Insinuator
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by Insinuator »

Examples are difficult to identify because there could be so many factors affecting a situation. However, one might think of a situation where you need a particular zone of control mastered for a short time. Sacrificing a level one unit to do so instead of weakening a level two could be a viable strategy there.

But to be honest, it really is more of a mindset than a tactic. You just need to steel yourself over the inevitable loss of units. Wesnoth is designed for you to lose some. The better you get, the less you will lose. In fact, save/loading makes you a worse player, because you never really grasp what is the essence of Wesnoth: risk management. Risk management means being able to take calculated risks, knowing you will probably incur losses, yet being able to come out victorious despite that.

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Crow_T
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by Crow_T »

I hacked a few files so that there was a higher hit % globally- this makes me care less about losing high level units, because I know there is another one coming around the corner. Suddenly losing a druid or white mage isn't a big deal anymore, I can just get a new one ;)

roidanton
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by roidanton »

I'm still very new to this, and I have the same problem.

After a few learning campaigns on easy and medium, I played South Guard, Two Brothers, HttT and Liberty on Hard with mostly lvl 3 units and very few losses. I saw some thread in this forum where someone complained about not being able to keep any of mermaids alive, so I made this a challenge to myself - and I actually succeeded in finishing the entire campaign on hard - including the final scenario! - without losing a single unit.

Of course, I had to use a ton of save/loads, often even go back a few scenarios, so it was not always much fun, but after some time I got really emotionally attached to my crew and really didn't want to lose any of them. One key point of my strategy was building a "super force" of multi-AMLA'ed units (for instance, I got that mermaid with the healing ability the Storm Trident and AMLA'd her 3 times as well as Konrad, Delfador and the rest of my main crew).

But it also made my army extremely expensive and I often finished in negative gold due to high upkeep. An even bigger problem was that I only had very few units of each kind, so I also couldn't recall a unit with the treats that would match the current scenario best. For instance, in these "runner" scenarios a quick unit is best whereas in the final one, you would wish to have some "strong, resilient" ones to hold the defense line.

I even needed to recall that mermaid in "The Battle for Wesnoth" because I only had two Shydes and four Mages of Light, so I needed her as an additional healer. Well, after cleaning up the battlefield, I still had plenty of time, so I let the Mermaid kill Asheviere with the Storm Trident :lol2:

Well, in later campaigns, this strategy really didn't work out anymore and I also realized that I did many strategic mistakes earlier on simply because I didn't want to lose units.

For instance in "The Battle for Wesnoth", these skirmishers were a huge threat: I used the mermaid and one of the Mages of Light to setup a "hospital" behind my keep, the other 5 healers immediately behind my front line. While I could easily ZoC and hold back the enemy, I didn't have enough reserves to fill all the holes in my line, especially in the back. So these skirmishers could slip through and kill one of the patients in the hospital. Well, it would have been best to simply let that happen - the wounded units were not used later on in the battle anyways, so I could have simply setup a nice welcome party.

I played Liberty and Two Brothers after that - and already tried to get used to the idea of losing units.

My last campaign was The Hammer Of Thursagan, where I had to give up mid-way. After reading a bit in the forum, I start to understand my problem:

I started that campaign with my usual strategy of building a super strong force, so I mostly recalled instead of recruiting and I tried to get my lvl 2's all the way to lvl 3 first before training new lvl 2's. In hindsight, I think my defeat actually already started in "Troll Bridge": you're supposed to get 200 gold from that troll, but it didn't help me that much because I was already in negative. Then in "Invaders", I deliberately kept the enemy leader alive over several turns until he ran out of gold. He was already super low on health and I had three units standing right next to him which could each have instantly killed him, but I wanted him to keep recruiting to get more XP.

So I started "High Pass" with the minimum gold. I tried several different strategies in this scenario, including recruiting only "canon fodder" or not recruiting at all and just trying to make a run for the signpost. Well, just finishing the scenario was actually not that hard - but I tried several times and just couldn't make it any earlier than turn 10 (and you only have 12 on hard), simply because the commander is so slow on his feet.

The next scenario, "Mages and Drakes" was the end - I gave up after that, decided to play another campaign first to learn a better strategy and eventually come back later.

Due to my high upkeep problems from the previous scenarios, I only had the minimum gold - so I had these two dwarfish commanders, that completely useless Mage and could recall 4 of my units (with 80 gold, I also couldn't recruit more than 4). I had more than 4 Dwarfish Lords, Dragonguards and Stalwarts to choose from. Tried with 4 Dragonguards, 3 Dragonguards and 1 Lord and 3 Dragonguards and 1 Stalwart. Also tried both sending that Mage up into the mountains (which works perfectly fine) as suggested by the walkthrough - or taking him with me, getting him killed.

I finally realized that it's just impossible. With just 5 units (plus that Mage, but he can't instantly kill any of the Drakes with one hit), I just can't kill the Drakes fast enough.

Looking back, this basically means that I should have gotten into "High Pass" with some decent gold reserve, then probably just recruit disposable lvl 1's for minimum upkeep, so I get at least some carryover gold.

Finding the right balance between getting most XP and also finishing with decent carryover gold is probably one of these strategy things that I still need to learn.

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nuorc
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by nuorc »

tuggyne wrote:So my question is: how do I adjust my playstyle to either change this tendency
Change your mindset.
tuggyne wrote:or compensate around it?
Stay on easy, save/load.
tuggyne wrote:In what circumstances are expendable units unarguably the best strategy to use?
When you consider BfW more like chess. You can't play chess without losing units, and it's pretty much agreed what 'casualties' are acceptable.
tuggyne wrote:What campaigns most require this?
What's this, where that red mage has to blow up a bridge? Terrible scenario from the viewpoint of not wanting to lose units...

Personally, if I just want to enjoy a nice fantasy story about a number of friends conquering evil, I stay on easy and save/load.

If I have some appetite to accomplish x, I might feel much less romantic... (Though I'm really not the cannon fodder type.)
I have a cunning plan.

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taptap
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by taptap »

You shouldn't make "challenges" as long as solving them involves abusing save-load. Play with the challenge "no save-loads" on medium, it will be more fun. Your playstyle will then change automatically as you can't waste XP for multiple AMLAs, waste gold for upkeep etc. under those circumstances.
I am a Saurian Skirmisher: I'm a real pest, especially at night.

roidanton
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Re: From decent to awesome: using expendable units?

Post by roidanton »

taptap wrote:You shouldn't make "challenges" as long as solving them involves abusing save-load. Play with the challenge "no save-loads" on medium, it will be more fun. Your playstyle will then change automatically as you can't waste XP for multiple AMLAs, waste gold for upkeep etc. under those circumstances.
Good point. I already adjusted by not using mid-turn save-loads anymore after realizing that I'm basically not beating the AI with this strategy, but only relying on positive variance. Tbh., I really abused that a lot - ie. get the perfect kill on oppenent #1, save, get the perfect kill on opponent #2, loading previous save until it worked, save again, etc.

I started to play "Descend into Darkness" and really like it because your units don't have any individual characteristics such as names (or even faces!) - makes it easier not to get emotionally attached. And I also changed my strategy to recruit more fresh units rather than recalling veterans.

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