Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

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ezysquire
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Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by ezysquire »

Undead Makeover

The undead faction has recently had a makeover. The improvements of the adept, ghost, ghoul and corpse have undoubtedly made undead vs undead battles much more lively. However, I think that perhaps the undead faction is still an ugly challenge to play with.

It seems to me that the changes made to the undead faction via 1.3 have not strengthened the undead vs other factions... which in reality is the more pressing issue. An examination of this:

Undead strategy from the, "How to Play Guide" on the forum:
"The biggest aspect of Undead that you'll have to become comfortable with is almost overextending yourself at night. Your damage is so high that even Northerners can't keep up."

This point of core undead strategy is essentially saying that undead are big hard hitters. This concept demands examination.

How Hard do Undead Hit?
Adepts have hard hitting magic and skeletons can attack nearly anything at night in suicidal fashion, making them aggressive and hard hitting. However, owing to poor movement type they can struggle to effectively hit hard. When attacking a defensive position, it can be difficult to facilitate a 3+ hex attack on a single unit. This is because of poor movement type. Many experienced players recognise the immediate advantage of "quick" adepts because this added speed provides the player with the opportunity to successfully co-ordinate 3+ hex attacks.

Reliable Killing

Owing to the rng's delight at upsetting the best of assault plans, no attack is a sure thing. This issue is compounded when owing to poor movement an undead army is generally unable to cover for such eventualities. This leads to scenarios where on the first watch turn, only half of the undead units are able to attack at all. This is caused by the adepts leading the assault failing to create the space for the rest of the army. With a little bad luck the undead can be easily stopped in their tracks without any fighting at all... just pure bad luck. These scenarios can demand that the undead player must then retreat because they have missed their chance. Real hard hitters should be able to make these initial breakthroughs some 90% of the time (arbitrarily chosen %).

The Undeads Biggest Enemy is Daylight

The other principal issue with undead's slow movement type is that come dawn (or after a failed assault) retreating is particularly difficult. Without some kind of terrain advantage they find it difficult to run for cover. Alternatively, drakes have FAST saurians to cover their tails, while the undead are stuck with SLOW ghouls and corpses to do a similar job.

Running at dawn?!?... but surely undead have hit so hard they don't need to run...

This is a classic argument as to why undead do not need to retreat. Well, all I have to say to this is... yes this is the case when the assault is successful... however, at the moment I do not feel that undead hit that hard often enough to justify this as a reason. What is more worrying about this argument is that if undead were able to always hit that hard,then they would be invincible... So it is clear that there is a difficult balance to strike here.

My impression of undead strategy

It seems to me that the intention for core undead strategy is for them to be a large mob that moves slowly and hits hard. This mob mentality caters for the slow moving ghouls and corpses to provide protection. This is great as a concept as it is different to the other factions. Indeed it continues with the theme of mirroring Drakes who are hit and runners. However, undead do no not have the staunchness required in defence for this to work. Corpses don't really work because they are too slow, or maybe it is because the maps do not provide enough time or gold for enough of these units to be built for this strategy to be implimented. Maybe most maps are just too big for this strategy? Whatever the reason, something needs to change.

Suggestions for Improvements - suggestions are to be read independently of each other
(This is not a package. If all these changes were implimented then undead would be unstoppable.)

1.Improve potency of the ghosts - addresses the poor movement issue

The ghost is possibly the best looking unit in the game... yet looks alone aren't worth 20 gold.
Ghosts have the movement to open more attacking hexes (as I am sure you were pondering when reading my above comments). However, its low damage makes it a risky attacker. Afterall, there is no guarantee it will get the 1/3 hits needed to finish off a dwarf on a mountain. Perhaps ghost's range could be made magical? Alternatively, maybe melee damage could just be increased a little?
Another idea for the ghost is to give it skrimish. This would really open up the hexes and ensure the intial line break can be made. All in all... the ghost is a little pricey for 20 gold as it stands. (give me a 20 gold mage over a ghost any day)

2.Improve the walking corpse - addresses the daylight weakness issue

Simply put... give them 5 movement points.

3.Adjust the Dark Adpet advancement tree - addressess the unreliability of undead hard hitting

Does anyone ever choose the Necromancer at lvl3? My suggestion here is for the choice between Liche and Necromancer to be decided at lvl2. Instead of having the generic dark sorcerer at lvl2, perhaps a choice between a 5mp, powerful, killer Liche, or a 6mp Necromancer with leadership and the plague staff would work. Basically the Liche would be a numbed version of the current lvl3 Liche. The Necromancer on the other hand would not be so dangerous owing to its magic, but because it provides leadership for all undead units. This excludes adepts because they are living. I feel that this development is very much in line with the theme of the undead. The real benefit to this change would be that the "undead leadership" would improve the hard hitting punch to such a degree, that undead assaults would succeed more regularly. In addition, the leadership would improve daylight defence.


One final point about the imbalance of undead as I see it, is that simply put they have no chance vs rebels. Mages, shamans and woses with fighters in support can rip any undead force apart... when will rebels give up their magi? Afterall, the elvish sorceress has arcane and not cold now. If without the mage rebels find it too tough, then improve the shaman a tad. Doesn't seem so difficult to me :geek:

I hope this post will open a healthy debate on this topic and I look forward to reading some other people's ideas. :D
Velensk
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Velensk »

I disagree. I can't elaborate without seeing a replay of what you are doing with them.

I do think that ghost could use a very slight buff though, that's the olny change I agree with.

One thing, it may seem that adepts are unreliable, but 2 attacks magical is still very good odds of hitting twice, and almost certainly one hit. Yes bad luck will happen, however that is something you have to live with.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Darth Jordius »

I wholeheartedly agree with every point you have suggested, except perhaps the ghosts and the level two Adept split. Perhaps the Necromancer could be given more powerful ranged strikes and have the Plague Staff damage increased as well.
Velensk wrote:One thing, it may seem that adepts are unreliable, but 2 attacks magical is still very good odds of hitting twice, and almost certainly one hit. Yes bad luck will happen, however that is something you have to live with.
The only thing he suggested for the Adept was a level advancement change, not a power reshuffling.
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governor
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by governor »

I generally find that undead are overpowered. Bats are really hard to hit. Adepts kill everything. Ghouls are painfully hard to kill as well. Undead can force any player into retreat at dusk with a couple adepts. Lets also not forget that adepts are very fast too (since they have very good odds for getting quick trait). On most maps TOD even gives undead an econ advantage since they are the first to advance into enemy territory and steal a village or two.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Ken_Oh »

ezysquire wrote:they have no chance vs rebels. Mages, shamans and woses with fighters in support can rip any undead force apart.
Queue the "You should challenge one of the 'better players' on this and try to beat their Undead with your Rebels," reply.
ezysquire wrote:I hope this post will open a healthy debate on this topic
I'm not taking a side here, one way or the other. It's just that you won't get healthy debate.

I urge you to come back with some data to support what you're saying. Until you can consistently defeat one of the "better players" with you as Rebels and he as Undead, preferably posting replays, no one here will listen to you.
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jb
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by jb »

it's a very long post, but here are a couple of things:
Reliable Killing

Owing to the rng's delight at upsetting the best of assault plans, no attack is a sure thing. This issue is compounded when owing to poor movement an undead army is generally unable to cover for such eventualities. This leads to scenarios where on the first watch turn, only half of the undead units are able to attack at all. This is caused by the adepts leading the assault failing to create the space for the rest of the army. With a little bad luck the undead can be easily stopped in their tracks without any fighting at all... just pure bad luck. These scenarios can demand that the undead player must then retreat because they have missed their chance. Real hard hitters should be able to make these initial breakthroughs some 90% of the time (arbitrarily chosen %).
I don't really see a faction based argument here. Bad luck is bad luck, regardlesss of who you are playing.
Running at dawn?!?... but surely undead have hit so hard they don't need to run...

This is a classic argument as to why undead do not need to retreat. Well, all I have to say to this is... yes this is the case when the assault is successful... however, at the moment I do not feel that undead hit that hard often enough to justify this as a reason. What is more worrying about this argument is that if undead were able to always hit that hard,then they would be invincible... So it is clear that there is a difficult balance to strike here.
This argument is so classic I've never heard it. It is well know that UD are the most ToD dependent faction. I understand it can be tricky to know when to run, but if you can clearly see that you can't get away in time, you could even consider beginning to run at 2nd night, hide at day, and strike again 4 turns later at dusk.
One final point about the imbalance of undead as I see it, is that simply put they have no chance vs rebels. Mages, shamans and woses with fighters in support can rip any undead force apart... when will rebels give up their magi? Afterall, the elvish sorceress has arcane and not cold now. If without the mage rebels find it too tough, then improve the shaman a tad.
Well, mages die as fast as they kill. That's about as simple as I can make this argument.
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TL
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by TL »

jb wrote:I don't really see a faction based argument here. Bad luck is bad luck, regardlesss of who you are playing.
Agreed. Compare adepts with their 12-2 (at night) ranged magical attack to grunts with 12-2 nonmagical melee and tell me who's more vulnerable to luck.
ezysquire wrote:The other principal issue with undead's slow movement type is that come dawn (or after a failed assault) retreating is particularly difficult. Without some kind of terrain advantage they find it difficult to run for cover. Alternatively, drakes have FAST saurians to cover their tails, while the undead are stuck with SLOW ghouls and corpses to do a similar job.
First, they've got better movetypes than loyalists. Lack of quick traits on the majority of their units hurts a bit, but it's nothing that an unlucky loyalist player doesn't have to deal with. Secondly, the corpses and ghouls don't have to match pace with your strike force... your hitters all pull back behind the advancing corpses/ghouls. Corpses still have some difficulty keeping up, but generally they should not be your primary defense; you should be using ghouls for that.

The problem with simply buffing corpses (in movetype if nothing else) is that corpses are already worth their cost thanks to their plague ability--it's hard to argue with free units.
ezysquire wrote:All in all... the ghost is a little pricey for 20 gold as it stands. (give me a 20 gold mage over a ghost any day)
That is debatable. The ghost's damage-dealing capability is comparable to other factions' scouts, it has superior survivability vs. physical damage types than most, and drain in particular gives it excellent survivability in melee. Plus it has low XP requirements and truly outstanding upgrades. The ghost does have an Achilles' heel in its vulnerability to fire damage, but most factions have a limited selection of units with fire attacks--Knalgans in particular get major headaches trying to deal with ghosts unless they have a couple of lucky thunderers (and even then, the fact that they must resort to thunderers to handle ghosts still gives you a bit of an upshot there).
ezysquire wrote:One final point about the imbalance of undead as I see it, is that simply put they have no chance vs rebels. Mages, shamans and woses with fighters in support can rip any undead force apart... when will rebels give up their magi? Afterall, the elvish sorceress has arcane and not cold now. If without the mage rebels find it too tough, then improve the shaman a tad. Doesn't seem so difficult to me :geek:
As Jetryl said, mages are really nothing to be feared (except by ghosts!) Their low HP means they're just as vulnerable to you as you are to them; their high cost means they can't really keep up with mass skeleton recruitment.

Woses, on the other hand... rrrrrrrr. Yeah, I hate woses so much. Skeletons are the only things that can kill them with any reasonable speed, and they're not very reliable against a wose on defensive ground and will take heavy counterattacks even at night. On the other hand, at least woses are one of the few things that's actually slower than your undead are. Still, I would not mind seeing woses getting -40% or -50% arcane.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Velensk »

Skelotons hit woses the hardest, but get hit back decently adepts can frost woses at night for no retaliation, and ghosts also deal with them well. None is great, but then consitering how slow and expensive woses were, if undead had a great counter to them they would be mostly pointless.

When I play undead as rebles, I prefer to go with mages, fighters, and shamans, with woses depending on enemy recruit, at night I run or slow skelons depending on situation, and at day mages blast away anything undead have.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Noy »

Thanks jb, TL, Velensk, and Ken for the replies. Gov -1 point for your overpowered comment. Overall I can't really see how someone can say they are "underpowered vs other factions" when since 1.3.5; adepts got arcane, ghouls and WCs got resist buffs, ghosts now have a arcane/cold split in their attacks. If anything their balance is much improved since 1.2, particularly in mirror matches.

TL wrote: That is debatable. The ghost's damage-dealing capability is comparable to other factions' scouts, it has superior survivability vs. physical damage types than most, and drain in particular gives it excellent survivability in melee. Plus it has low XP requirements and truly outstanding upgrades. The ghost does have an Achilles' heel in its vulnerability to fire damage, but most factions have a limited selection of units with fire attacks--Knalgans in particular get major headaches trying to deal with ghosts unless they have a couple of lucky thunderers (and even then, the fact that they must resort to thunderers to handle ghosts still gives you a bit of an upshot there).
Not to nitpick, but Knalgans should have some of the easiest time vs ghosts. Two thunders have a 25% chance to kill a ghost; according to my gorilla math, thats almost as good as what one mage can do in a day, and as good as two at night. Thunderers also are useful against the undead, since they are an effective counter vs ghouls (a scourge against Knalgans), and represent a very effective defensive unit vs Dark adepts.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by TL »

Noy wrote:Not to nitpick, but Knalgans should have some of the easiest time vs ghosts. Two thunders have a 25% chance to kill a ghost; according to my gorilla math, thats almost as good as what one mage can do in a day, and as good as two at night. Thunderers also are useful against the undead, since they are an effective counter vs ghouls (a scourge against Knalgans), and represent a very effective defensive unit vs Dark adepts.
Well, I may very well be overestimating the case of ghosts vs. knalgans (and underestimating thunderers vs. undead). Still, even if knalgans don't have it that bad, they don't have it very good either. Thunderers' average damage vs. ghosts is lower than any other faction's ghost-killers (even orc archers at day get marginally better averages, although their CTK is crap for those 2 turns), and while they can get lucky and score a quick clean kill, their one-shot attack is just as likely to bite you in the ass with a double whiff.
Velensk wrote:Skelotons hit woses the hardest, but get hit back decently adepts can frost woses at night for no retaliation, and ghosts also deal with them well. None is great, but then consitering how slow and expensive woses were, if undead had a great counter to them they would be mostly pointless.
Adepts and ghosts can hit woses for relatively little risk (well, ghosts can at night, anyhow), but they're also painfully slow to bring them down. Given a full health wose you're looking at three adepts to kill, at night, if they're fairly lucky. There aren't many units that adepts have such a hard time killing, and failing to kill that wose means that your adepts are going to get shredded by elf fighters.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Radament »

Kinda OT, but try a poacher and a thief against ghosts. They do pretty well, and usually don't stand around with 30% defense the next turn.
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Re: Are the Undead disadvantaged? unbalanced? destined to lose?

Post by Lorbi »

This whole discussion is a proof of the good balancing of the undead.
"It's hard to bring down a wose" -> Should it be easy to win over rebels?
"Knalgans have a hard time killing ghosts" -> Should Knalgans win easy over Undead?
Any faction has some way to counter any other faction and this faction can counter-counter and than the first one may counter-counter-counter ...
This whole discussion is just about that as far is i can see.
Example:
One Argument is that Undead have a poor movement.
Other argument is that a Wose is hard to kill.
Don't you see those 2 Arguments are conflicting each other cause the Wose will never cath up with the movement of the undead?
So if the Rebel gets Woses the Undead has the advantage of better movement vs the strong Wose.
If the rebel gets more fighters and such the Undead has the advantage of pierce and blade resistence vs the rebels better movement.
-- ^ --
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