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Empire Deluxe Combined Edition

The latest in the classic Empire Series of games, which has spanned almost five decades. · By Killer Bee Software

What Units Do You Actually Build and Use

A topic by Bloodaxe2 created Jul 24, 2020 Views: 758 Replies: 7
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I’m sure somebody has run a thread like this before but since I do see some people viewing and not much discussion I figured I’d just throw it out.

What Units do you actually use in your games? As a corollary it is probably a good idea to describe the game type you normally play.

I like small fast games 50 North South by 65 East West, East West wrap 4 computer opponents everybody set to default reduction and combat. Everybody starts with 2 cities. There are 50 cities and Victory is 75% city occupation.

The result is I’m generally getting bombed straight out the gate. Which leads me to believe A) The computer always build Aircraft 1st or B) On the default settings the computer is still cheating:^).  The temptation then is to build some AA right away which always ends in early abysmal defeat.

So what do I build? Infantry until I have a few wandering around then switch one city to Fighter. If it winds up being a 2 city island I’m screwed and start over. 3 city island switch 1 city on and off building fighters and bombers the other two Infantry and Transport. Then really I have got a lot of trouble justifying building anything besides those 4 things for the rest of the game with the exception of starting an early cruiser build, on a large island sometimes before the Transport. The computer seems to build exactly the same stuff except Destroyers instead of the Cruisers which sometimes can be embarrassing Transport wise. But they usually can be dealt with by aircraft operating alone or with a cruiser.

Sometimes I get side tracked into building other stuff when I get a specialist city with a high production level. It’s like those things are so cheap they got to be good for something. Almost always I wind up wishing I had built Infantry, fighters, Bombers or cruisers instead.

So what kind of games do you play and what kind of units do you wind up using?

When I was a kid I played a lot of games of empire with my dad, and both of us ended doing exactly this - there was almost no incentive to make anything other than infantry, transports, and planes. We played on huge maps almost exclusively, so anything that took longer to get to the front probably wouldn't get there in time for it to matter. Now I usually use wide and short maps with a horizontal wrap so that the fighting is more linear.

I think EDCE helps fix this with the addition of antiaircraft guns, but they can still be overwhelmed by a larger group of planes - which are cheaper and more mobile than the antiaircraft guns. An antiair costs 1.5x a plane, and the plane has added value due to its speed.

This brings us back to the original problem - it's often easier and more effective to just throw more of the same units at things they're bad at fighting, rather than bring in or produce units that counter them.

Another 'problem' is that empire focuses a lot on expansion. Infantry, transports, and planes are the best at expanding because they're the cheapest and fastest units. Expansion is the obvious priority early game, but the shift from expanding your domain to protecting it from threats when they appear doesn't involve much change in behavior. Mostly, the player just directs more units to wherever the threat is.

The AI isn't really good enough to pose a threat to a player because they don't direct their forces in a very focused and sustained manner like a player would. The only real incentive to use the specialized units to fortify an area comes when you are fighting an opponent that would direct sustained resources to you, such that you

1. expect to fight over the same area for a prolonged period of time and

2. have to care about the cost efficiency of each round of combat.

Even then, making something other than infantrytransportplanes is a hard choice because throwing more stuff at the enemy just works.

I don't like every situation in a game having the same answer, because the whole point of a strategy game in my mind is to adapt different solutions to whatever the situation is. I've just barely started tried to fix this, and what I came up with is to scale the counters way up. The effectiveness of a unit in its 'role' should be very high, but so should the costs of ignoring that role and throwing it at something it isn't supposed to fight.

Planes in my games are now very good at attacking, but bad at defending, especially against fighters.

Infantry are good at taking on structures like cities and airbases, as well as defending, but are bad at attacking armor.

Armor fight well against other ground units but are only mediocre at killing dug-in infantry and poor at taking cities.

Antiair and heavy artillery are now time-consuming structures built by engineers, so they don't take up a city's production line but still aren't practical to spam everywhere.

Ships are mostly the same but the small ships like transports or patrol boats do very poorly against larger boats - medium boats can fight larger boats at a slight disadvantage, but the disadvantage for planes and ground units is much sharper.

I then decreased the time for engineers to create infrastructure like roads, minefields,  ports, etc. to encourage their use.

The hope is that all of this creates a gradient of undeveloped frontier areas where infantrytransportplanes rule the day to more developed and better defended interior regions where shore bombardment and missiles become more useful while infantrytransportplanes will get killed if they rush in without help.

I've tried making some stuff less expensive. Like I can justify AA being cheaper since it does not perform the additional important Recon roll of aircraft. But I swear once the AI runs into a few AA it just stops sending aircraft. Like for the rest of the game. Your idea of having engineers build stuff is interesting. 

I've been playing Empire since the 80's.  My friend and I have played some serious games since then.

I found the Cruiser to be the main workhorse of the control and dominate sea battles - Battleships have always seemed to let you down after the long wait to build one. Subs were seldom used but effective when utilized but to a degree due to their fragility.

I used the fighters to do my sighting and their main duty in my mind was to find transports or other cruisers so I could better martial my forces. So for me fighters were extremely valuable and not to be squandered on lesser unit, unless they were about to attack a city.  So the first version of empire did not have bombers,you learned to husband your fighters and primarily use them for finding and sinking transports.

Aircraft Carriers were seldom used. Destroyers were not used as much. I found a group of 8 cruisers or more to be an effective fighting force. I remember the pitched battles my friend and I had, we learned to develop like minded strategies to conquer as deviating from that script could cost you the game.  The how many cruisers do you have would be asked to determine how initial neutral city conquest was going. You would really be stressed out if your opponent had a 5 cruiser lead on you as you would find yourself outgunned in critical situations.  In your mind you would have an abacus way of calculating force multiplier by scouting and calculating your odds in a naval battle prior to engaging, you wanted to give yourself the best chance. On several great games I played a game could be decided early if for instance if both sides had say approx 15 cruisers per side and 1 player would win say 8 battles in a row on the same turn - So 1 player had 15 cruisers and the other say 7. Psychologically it would be difficult to remove the stigma of upcoming naval battles and the inability to project offensive strength in any one area. You would be delegated to a defensive role and would succumb to the other players dominant offensive strengths. Projecting when and where to attack is a very Sun Tzu form of warfare.  

Now in the last two recent versions of Empire, the EDEE and EDCE versions I've taken the lessons I've learned from playing this game and crafted units and their performance to make for interesting battles. I've made WW2 Mods for Empire. An example of what I mean is survive ability for warships and assigning various roles for them.  So with my Naval war between two capitol ships there are more likely than not be a good space barrier between ships. So you are not relying on one time epic roll of the dice for combat results, in my mod it may take several rounds of ranged fire combat before a ship sinks. This is where the survive ability comes in, after taking a pounding you can break off from an attack and sail the wounded ship back to port for repairs and for that matter as a result of conflict between two fleets you may opt to retire from extended hostilities to repair and marshall your units for another round of fighting lending to the war of attrition.

In the ww2 mod Marines can board transports, frigates and destroyers. So you would need to calculate the odds your opponent has put marines on a destroyer to make a raid on your city. I have seen the AI do just this in several games based off my AI scripts. So a single fast 4 movement space frigate can travel twice as fast as a transport - it carries only one marine not six like a transport can.  So the marine unit forces a player to keep enemy frigates honest whenever they come near  his city. To help counter the addition of the marine unit I also added Coastal gun fortifications to be built by seabees and engineers. The coastal gun has the range and damage of a battleship - but it's caveats are limited sighting ability (Requires airplanes or requires sighting from other units.) and no ability to move nor can it repair.  But the coastal gun can help keep marauding marine transports at bay. 

There are several different units I could touch upon for adding different tactics and abilities, example dedicated AA frigates, Destroyers and light Cruisers to help keep aircraft at bay.

I think that is enough to mention for the scope of this thread. But for other possible strategy and tactics consider the ww2 mod you will be able to do more and the aircraft movement won't be as restrictive as the vanilla game.


This mirrors my style of play  in the deluxe version.  I build a lot of fighters, just enough transports and infantry to accomplish my objectives, destroyers in limited quantity for scouting/exploration, and usually 50-60 cruisers (their hitting power at sea and their ability to shore bombard make them the best balanced fighting ship).  No subs, and maybe 2-3 battleships and a carrier.  In most of my games I use a carrier only as an aircraft transport.  In my last game, the map has large expanses of open water which made fighter transfers to some newly captured ports impossible due to range.  Using a carrier as a floating airfield effectively increased fighter transfer range from 20 to 40 spaces

Lots of food for thought here. I've never tried modifying units or the rules but this has inspired me to try. Where would I find this ww2 mod?

I play on a 27" iMac with 24Gb RAM so use a game size of 125 by 125 and have 3 opponents each enhanced standard AI, everybody starts with one city. My initial priority is expansion capacity so I build armour which explore trying to find a city to conquer and build transports. I produce a single bomber to explore while I am building up invasion capacity. On this size of board finding the enemy quickly is vital so I try to build surveillance satellites as soon as I can  and meanwhile build bombers which I throw away on 24 move reconnaissance missions. Similarly I build destroyers as soon as I can so they can perform high speed exploration.

I find cruisers and battleships useful for defending the first couple of cities taken on an enemy island. I also use sea bees or engineers to construct oilfields, ports and roads to speed up transit across poor terrain. Due to their anaemic range I have no use for missiles or nukes. I find air transports too slow to be useful and I have never built an aircraft carrier. In old empire I used carrier loaded with patrolling fighters for rapid exploration, now there are satellites.

I quite like the capital kill variant as this means you have to carry out missions inside enemy territory in order to take out one city.

The link to the ww2 thread:

I think the game design has always been ass backwards in many ways (I've made kind of a big write up here, so thank you for anyone who reads it).

One example I'll give now is the dynamic between infantry and armor:

I've made it so only infantry (IN) can take cities.  This is more realistic and more fun; I've made other units stronger, so I'm keeping IN relevant.  IN does not get destroyed when taking a city.  If they stay in the city, it gets a one turn of production boost; the military presence is keeping order.  *cough cough "order" (martial law).  One turn of production boost per IN unit up to a max of 3 turn boost.  Keeping a city without losing it over time makes this permanent by converting this temp boost over to the main production percentage.  I think maybe 20 turns converts a point to percent, per IN unit (is a guess).  You get the bonus, but lose the IN unit because it isn't doing anything but defend, so it's a strategic decision.  This is one of the several ways I'm trying to encourage territory retention and defense by using production rewards.

I've made land units "can defend" cities; same as forts.  I don't see the point of that not happening; currently if you station units in a city you are basically throwing them away in a surprise attack.  So cities are basically a black hole death trap for them.  It's asinine.  I would actually give defending units a defense bonus; 10% to dice chances or something because they are hiding and dug into buildings.  I've given cities a site range of 2 (3 to see air and capital ships), because of the obvious habits of military scouting and intelligence networks among population centers.

I think cities should have a max carrying capacity.  30 or something.  26 for a port, 18 for an airbase and fort.  With a special map icon when it's full.  The current unlimited carrying capacity could make for cheese plays.  I have other ideas for making hard points (strongholds), but unlimited units in one spot isn't it.

Armor (AR) steam rolls infantry in most cases.  Still a 50% hit chance, but IN only has a 33% hit chance against it.  You know cause its... armored.  This is more realistic and more fun.  Armor is way more expensive, so what is the point of commissioning its construction?  So AR is the hard counter to IN.  There really needs to be hard counters in this game so a player is punished for cheaping out with quantity of units in use cases that should have called for quality of units.  Or not strategizing a paper rock scissors kind of play.

I'm thinking of letting AR carry one IN unit, while the AR unit isn't being hosted by something else.  The infantry would sit on the tanks as they motor around.  They can't fight from the tank, but there is no turn cost to load or unload.  They simply hop on or off the tanks.  Dunno if that's a good idea; maybe so.

I gave AR another movement point.  But they can't enter forest, swamp, river, mountain or peak tiles, and rough terrain is still a 2 point cost.  So AR can let er rip down clear tiles and roads.  I've taken away their 'abandon tanks' ability.  A tank brigade crew is no match for an infantry squad, or anyone else.  Maybe it could be a 'crippled' IN unit, but then the tanks should still remain but be duds, so the tank crew can scout out a forest or something and come back, but then someone else could steal the abandoned tanks; this is quickly becoming too complicated.

I'm considering giving AR a 1 tile ranged attack; with a smaller chance to hit.  This seems balanced in several ways: They would somewhat defend from shore bombardments, they outrange IN, they can bombard and damage cities; there's nothing an undefended city can do about it, which is reasonable.  If an occupying party wants to stop the bombardment, they have to leave the city and meet them.  Same goes with artillery.

I've taken away AR's 'build airbase' ability.  What the hell is that?  Are they a construction crew or a tank brigade?  I think air bases are way too easily made.  I think it should take IN 3 turns to make an airbase, but they don't get destroyed.  Engineers 2 turns.

AR and IN or any other land unit save AA guns cannot attack bombers (BO).  That's asinine.  BO have a small chance of 33% to hit IN.  I'm thinking about other plane types, like dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and heavy bombers.  And that only heavy bombers can't land on carriers, making carriers more relevant, with a larger carrying capacity too.  This encourages the production of AA guns, bombers and carriers.  I'm thinking of special abilities too, and a bomber would have a 'carpet bomb' ability.  Smaller damage, but an area of attack.  Dunno.

I made IN have a lower hit chance on fighters (FI), but AR and FI are equals.  Air transports enjoy the same high flight immunity to land units, but they can't attack at all.

I want IN to be able to hide in forests.  They would only be seen if an enemy unit becomes adjacent to them.  And can't be seen from the air.  If an enemy land unit happens upon them, there is an immediate fight and the forest IN gets the first shot (ambush).  AR can't enter forest, so IN can retreat and hide in larger forests.  I want Engineers (EN) to be able to dig trenches.  An IN unit entering a trench tile is immediately 'dug in'.  Leaving a trench they are immediately dug out.  No turn wait for that.  So the same dice roll chances for dug in.  Artillery (AL), AR and naval units can hit and cave in trenches (small chance).  That would make the tile a 'bumpy land' ground, and make any IN unit currently inside it flee.  IN and EN could destroy trenches.  Only IN and EN can enter trench tiles.  So you can use them as tanks barriers, like walls.  5 turns for IN to dig a trench tile, 2 turns for EN.  

I want a 'flee' button, and able to be used as a group.  So this feature would consider the location of the nearest enemy and head the other direction towards a defense point (friendly host).  City, fort, trench, forest etc.  User could set up the choice of their custom 'flee target' priorities in advance.  Units fleeing that are attacked have a smaller hit chance against the attacker.  When they get to the host they are fleeing to, they will automatically rest until recovered.  Then activate for further orders.  Or help defend the host in the event of an attack.

Then I want a 'pursue' button too.  They would chase a unit, and not stop chasing unless the enemy unit passed into the firing range of their host they are headed towards (fort, city etc.).  Then the pursuit is ended; the unit stops and activates for further orders.  Instead of just attacking the host to their doom.

Engineering type units and transport units can't fight anything but other engineering/transport units.  They must be defended by the armed forces.  Good juicy targets for enemy forces.

This is a small sampling of the changes I want to make.  I can make this game cherry.  But since I have zero programming know how and killer bees hasn't said a word to me here or over email, I'm assuming this will never happen.