Managing Experience Points (in MP)

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Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Velensk » June 17th, 2011, 5:35 am

I was recently inspired to attempt to write a guide on this topic. This is not a guide for instruction of new players but rather laying out a concept most veterans already know on some level, in a way that will hopefully reinforce and remind them. I expect I'll have to edit this tomorrow as I'm not in the best of shape this late at night but I hope to get this sticky or wiki worthy. Anyone with additional content or feedback on the old content feel free to comment.

In multiplayer battles, there are many factors that go into a players tactical decisions. Holding villages vs killing enemies vs protecting your own units, and many more. One priority that many people frequently forget to take into account when making these decisions is controling the flow of experience points. Getting a level 2 onto the field can make an even fight one sided, give the strength needed to recover, or seal a game where you already have an advantage. In addition to being more bang for the recruiting price and fully healing the leveling unit, leveled up units tend to offer any or all of the following tactical advantages: More staying power per hex (they can be used to hold formation corners, villages, and other crucial points that other units would not be capable of holding), more breaking power per hex (if you need to kill a unit but you only have two hexsides to do it these units will give you a chance), or useful special abilities (I don't think I need to explain how much leadership, healing, or other special abilities can be). However, the odds of aquireing these advantages if you simply leave it up to fortune are incredibly slim. But as we all know Wesnoth is a game about making your own odds and managing your experience is a consideration that can seperate an expert player from a good one.

The main thing to remember here is to pay attention to it. Frequently, what would be ideal for experience management will conflict with all your other tactical priorities/practicalities and most often it will be the other priorities that are more important but there are rewards for those who can find the ways to exploit it.

Three things determine whom you want to try to give experience points to.
-Units that level up into desireable things (you should make the best level up you can)
-Units that are easy to level up (but any level up is better than none)
-Units that will survive (and it does you no good if they die before it happens).

Naturally, you can help the last one along but that will frequently come at the price of tactical convenience. When it will not be a problem elsewhere, try to have the finishing blow struck from the least exposed hex and generally protect your units that have experience if you can do so without it being a problem elsewhere. You can help the first two by taking these into consideration when you recruit (though don't let it sway you so much that you're heading into battle at a disadvantage).

A unit with full health but which is very close to leveling makes an excelent tank as the enemy will have to kill them in units equal to the number of experience points left (unless they have level 0s). In some circumstances you might want to not level these units to increase their tank (though this surrenders choice of advancement).

The difference intelligent makes
It varies from unit to unit but in many cases it drops the number of needed kills by 1 (or eliminates the extra experience on top of the kills needed). A typical infantry unit goes from needing 29 to 24 or exactly 3 level one kills. This is significant in large part because of way battle tends to flow. Say in a battle you've weakened a unit to the point where a typical infantry can reliably kill it, you pick an intelligent unit it now has 8/24 xp. Most enemies will think nothing of this (especially if this infantry is in a position where it cannot be attacked by many units). On the next turn the battle is still raging and if you can line up another kill for this infantry you will likely end up with a unit that is one kill away from leveling and probably not all that badly hurt. Your enemy has essentially 3 options: Try to kill it before the next turn (which you can frequently make hard to do, or at the very least inconvenient), try to position themselves so that it cannot get that third kill (possibly by retreating), or just deal with the level 2 when it appears (if they don't have the upper hand this will not be easy). If the enemy runs then you'll have ample time to heal it up and make it even harder to get rid off without presenting an oppertunity for it to level. If this unit were not intelegent he would have to do some extra fighting on top of that which would give him more time to be killed.

A few units are reduced to needing only two kills by intelegent. These units tend not to level up into impressive things but it's still worth checking them when it's time to deliver a killing strike. Even trappers are a pain to an orc player who will be wanting to attack at night.

Intelligent is not something you'll want on a ton of units but it can be made useful if you are pay attention to it.

Notes by faction
Loyalists: Loyalists don't have a great deal of power in this fashion but when making these considerations:
-Spearmen: Spearmen are something you'll likely have plenty of and can level into a variety of units useful in many circumstances. Because you will likely have many of them look out for the intelligent ones especially.
-Horsemen: Horsemen take a few extra experience points to level but if you can keep them alive they should have no problem accumulating these due to their specialty of delivering final blows. In addition their leveled up forms are truely fearsome. If you can protect them from the RNG and the other player the fact that horsemen are relatively easy to level and powerful when you do is a decent incentive to buy them.
-Mages: Mages experience point requirements are so high I'd generally advise against feeding them kills. On the other hand, they do level into extreamly useful things when you do get them.
-Fencers: It's harder to prevent an intelligent fencer from getting that final kill than most units due to skirmisher ability.

Other units generally don't warrent any special attention for leveling.

Rebels: Most rebel units have the ability to gain something awesome when they level except the scout and wose though that said, more of the same for woses is pretty good and scouts have low xp requirements.
-Fighters: Can gain leadership.
-Archers: Can gain ambush or marksmanship.
-Shamans: Can become a powerful magical attacker or improve healing.
-Mermen: Can gain slow.
-Scouts: Have a low xp requirement but are fragile enough that it's hard to take advantage of it anyway.
Woses: Can never be intelligent
Mages: Same precaution as last time.

Undead: Most undead don't get the intelligent trait so you don't have to worry about that (though most undead level pretty quickly anyway). Due to the matches dynamics you generally will not see all that many non-lvl 0 level ups but you can certainly try for them. Things of particular interest.
-Skeleton: If you manage to level one of these you'll get some much needed mobility (and good melee power while you're at it).
-Dark Adept: Dosn't empower the ranged attack much but it does add a bunch of much needed toughness and a melee attack.
-Ghost: Although almost as vulnerable to the things that kill ghosts as the ghosts were, you can get additional tanking for other things, or the ability to assassinate most things quite easilly.
-Walking corpses: Complicates the priorities of assigning kills with plauge. On one hand, leveling a walking corpse will give you a level 1 unit, not any more capable than those you can recruit, on the other hand getting kills with them gives you more of them. This can be worth it, even if the experience spread isn't ideal.

Northerners: Getting leveled up units can really help out with your damage per hex problems.
-Wolves: Wolves level quickly and have a somewhat more reliable attack than grunts. They also level into a couple excelent units, one of which can slow down enemy melee before you hit it with grunts, resist enemy ranged, or deliver a fire melee attack, and the other of which is mobile power with decent durability.
-Archers: Level surprisingly quickly especially if intelligent.
-Goblins: Again, if you level a level0 you get a level 1, and aside, goblins tend not to last long anyway. Dim is a great trait because it does not alter how many kills it takes to level the goblin at all and does not slow or weaken you.
-Assassins: These also have a low cost to level though their ability to get kills is somewhat limited.

Knalgans: The dwarves level normally, the outlaws generally level pretty quickly.
-Thieves/Poachers: If intelligent, level in two kills. Thieves in particular gain a respectable increase to their capabilities when they do so.
-Griffon/Footpads: Their leveled forms aren't a huge improvement so I wouldn't put too much effort into getting them.
-Ulfskers: If you trade an ulfskerer for another unit, even if for a gold advantage, the experience goes to your foe. Berserkers are truely fearsome if you can get them but it is very tricky and you'll likely lose them soon after anyway.
-Fighter/Thunderer: If you are using many seek out the intelligent ones and give them kills. Leveled dwarves are a particuarly fearsome force.
-Guardsmen: Not easy to level guardsmen and if you do you get a really really tough unit, but one which won't help you break the enemy line all that much. I'd generally consider them very low priority.

Drakes: One of the advantages of going heavy on saurians is simply how fast they level. The drakes are harder to level but it is always very rewarding to do so. Getting experience to just about anything other than gliders is generally good as long as it is protected, though special attention to leveling burners should be made if you have them as it will allow access to leadership.

Obviously experience point management is important in campaigns as well, but I find that if you focus on learning it in multiplayer where the battles are almost always on very equal ground (thus making the balance of tactical priorities very delicate) then doing the same in campaigns will come naturally. Campaigns will tend to throw large amounts of experience at you to the point where high xp costs should not be a daunting factor (infact, considering what they tend to conceal it might be an encouragement). In most large scale campaigns it should be more than possible to arrive at the final scenario with a recall list so large you can't get it all onto the map even if you have a substantial store of gold.
Last edited by Velensk on August 1st, 2011, 1:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by pauxlo » June 17th, 2011, 10:24 am

Nice guide. Just one note: The word is experience, not experiance.

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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Velensk » June 17th, 2011, 12:30 pm

Fixed every instance of that now (I hope).
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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by jb » June 17th, 2011, 2:38 pm

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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Sapient » June 18th, 2011, 1:38 am

Great guide, but I'm surprised that you would put footpads as a low priority advancement. What was the reasoning behind that?

In comparison to the ease and power gain of leveling of a thief, I guess you are right. But if you are planning to use your L2 mainly to bolster your defenses then I would rather have the Outlaw. "Looks like your skills saved us again. Uh, well at least, they saved Soarin's apple pie."

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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Velensk » June 18th, 2011, 2:06 am

This is not easy to explain but let me try.

Leveling up anything improves what for lack of a better term I'm going to phrase as your armies 'attrition' value. Basically the raw number of hitpoints the enemy has to destroy and damage that can be dealt per turn. All level ups improve this to some extent or another. However, many level ups offer specific applied tactical advantages on top of this general improvement (the mentioned breaking power, holding power, and abilities). These are IMO the most critical aspect to why leveled up units are important. When it comes to it, two dwarven fighters has more hitpoints and damage per tun than a steelclad(barring retaliations which are depend on the enemy), but you can do things with a steelclad for which the two fighters would fall short on because all that power is compressed into one hex. As such, it might be worth sacrificing one of the fighters that could have lived to achieve a situation where you can get a steelclad, especially if you think there's going to be plenty of more time to the game.

The Outlaw is certainly a useful unit and a vast improvement on the footpad however, it does not so reliably provide those advantages I mentioned. It does not offer breaking power because it's damage is split between ranged and melee and thus when attacking they don't do more damage than some level 1s you can muster, while it is a very good tank it's still an unreliable one unlike a steelclad who will survive even if the orcs get four hexsides and land every single strike, it does not offer any special ability enhancements either. Now, the increased durability and damage do augment the mobile wall and harassing role greatly but just about any level up other than griffon enhances that units role significantly and I would not say that the footpads role takes special precedence over any other units in a generic situation (which is practically a fictitious creature in Wesnoth but it's not easy for a guide to gracefully cover all contingencies).

Other than that principle I generally find that other units can use the experience more.

Footpads are also not very easy to level. Their experience requirements take an extra kill or a decent amount of fighting over the other outlaws despite them doing less damage. Their survivability is chancy especially in the roles they traditionally take. Trappers may not be a great level 2 either but it can be incredibly hard to prevent an intelligent one from leveling and reliable ranged damage and forest holding are things that the knalgans are generally weak on).

Thieves gain the skirmisher special which allows them to reliably access their breaking power (which is definitely greater than that of your level 1s), Thunderers, Fighters, and Ulfserkers are all monsters when leveled, I wouldn't say that footpads are worse than griffons or guards just that I'd generally prefer other units to them.
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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by tekelili » July 26th, 2011, 9:46 pm

Nice guide. May be to give it a final touch you should add a "counter-advise". I mean: if you want have a perfet xp flow control you must also be aware when NO lvl your units. I think there are several reasons for you could want do it:

1- Sometimes an almost lveled unit is a better shield, as you are threating your oponent with become all his turn strikes on that unit useless if you level him and completely heal next turn.

2-In multiplayer it is often better wait to lvl units when a large scale combat is going to start. If you lvl a unit far away from main combat or in a stalemate status game, extra upkeep from a lvl2 unit will harm you.

3-A lvl2 unit can be the easier way to your oponent to get his own lvl2 by killing it and geting 16 xp in one strike. If you are doing a "burning earth" attack where your problaby best decision next turns is stand and kill as much your units live can afford, avoid lvl units if your oponent can get a lvl2 that pays him for casualties you did.

And finally, be aware when lvl your oponent units. If you are rushing him and steal his villages to harm his economy is main part of your attack, dont be afraid of let him lvl units as far you can keep killing lvl1 units. A lvl2 units worth 2 gold upkeep but he can just do 1 thing each turn, becoming painfull waste it to retake a village. Inmortals (units that just need 1 xp to lvl) are nasty shields, probably better do a safe "cheap attack" to lvl them when you have chance (evenmore if that unit has 2 possible advancements and one of them is very desirable, as your oponent wont chose advancement when lvl during your turn, it is a random AI decision)

As a side note: I am not agree with no giving effort to lvl griffons. It is true they dont improve too much, but you want lvl them for a different reason, heal them. A 24 gold unit is a very desirable target for your oponent, if you stack xp on them and threat your oponent with heal them after a killing try on such expensive and mobile unit, it becomes game a lot of times. Besides protect them from oponent attacks, I find desirable stack xp on griffons to become longer his "attacking life", as they are just mele units, they use to stack hp lost during their attacks. As they are very expensive and meaningfull in your army, difference beteween "I have to retreat and heal griffon" and "I can kill a unit and heal him" is huge. Anyway, I use to overprotect my griffons hp using them as horsemen, just attack when they kill on first blow. As I know my gameplay style will stack xp on them, I use to give cheap kills on early game aslo to them, to not have to change that gameplay for xp reasons.
Last edited by tekelili on July 26th, 2011, 10:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Be aware English is not my first language and I could have explained bad myself using wrong or just invented words.
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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Great_Mage_Atari » July 26th, 2011, 9:52 pm

Awesome guide!
I find it odd that Walking Corpses are not praised for their spamming advantages and the fact that they basically pay for themselves.
Other than that, I personally think that this is a well made guide!!

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Re: Managing Experience Points (in MP)

Post by Velensk » July 26th, 2011, 10:30 pm

It would allow walking corpses to pay for themselves if walking corpses were worth their cost for fighting ability alone. As it is, without plauge they would be considerably cheaper.

Tekeelili: That is a good idea, I'll write a section on that some time soon but not tonight.
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

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