Testing Report #1: Middle Ages Conquest

The foremost purpose of the beta test, aside from submitting bug reports, was to write up mission testing reports of games we played and submit them to the BreakAway staff. The testing reports, abbreviated MTRs for short, formed the basis for review and commentary of the game. I've turned them into html format and presented them here for the reader's pleasure, with comments where appropriate. Just remember again that some of these features have been changed, and almost all of the bugs have been fixed. My first game was a test of the Middle Ages Conquest, one of the largest and longest of the scenarios.

Scenario: Middle Ages
Tester: Sullla
Version: 0.24a
Civ Choice: England
Difficulty: Monarch
Clock: 12 hours, 53 minutes

Result: Victory Point win in 1236AD (Turn 131 of 204)

Victory Point Scoring
England: 37,745
(Abassids): about 10,000 (right before they were killed)
Fatimids: 6280
Byzantines: 4820
Turks: 3480
Kievan Rus: 2860
Germany: 2820
Norway: 2360
Sweden: 2360
Bulgars: 1700
Magyars: 1600
Poland: 970
Cordova: 950
Denmark: 560
Celts, France, Castille, Burgundy all eliminated

Standard Scoring
England: 2518
Byzantines: 1966
Turks: 1624
Abassids: 1532
Fatimids: 1175
Kievan Rus: 1141
Sweden: 1130
Magyars: 975
Poland: 873
Germany: 861
Burgundy: 846
Bulgars: 816
Norway: 780
Denmark: 654
Cordova: 647
France: 396
Castille: 229
Celts: 120

English Breakdown of Points
Location: 25
Unit Capture: 10,000
Wonder: 1400
Unit Kill: 11,720
Advance: 2100
Conquest: 12,500

Wonders Built
Holy Roman Empire (England): 1059AD
Domesday Book (England): 1119AD
Bayeux Tapestry (England): 1230AD
All leader-rushed.

(This picture taken from a later version of the game; I took none when playing this first game.)

Summary of Events

Contacted Celts, France, and Burgundy on the first turn and used communications trading to steal a serious amount of gold and a worker from them. Then I did more of the same the next turn with the Germans, Norwegians, and Danes. Since this has already been commented upon in the thread I stared, I won't say any more on the subject; suffice to leave it by saying that I was able to get a significant advantage from early communications trading.

I began by looking through my cities and figuring out what each one was best suited to do. Two of my cities had high-food tiles (wheat and cattle ones) in range and so I started them on granaries so that they could become worker/settler farms. With virtually no city improvements available other than granaries and barracks, I started all other cities which lacked barracks onto producing them for veteran units. As they finished, I assigned the cities to produce either swords or spears, depending on how many shields/turn they were getting to avoid wastage. By 921AD I had enough swords on hand to be confident of eliminating the Celts, so I declared war and moved on their cities. I took out Cornwall and Wales first and then moved into Scotland, where their capital was located. I killed their king in 951AD and watched all the Celtic cities collapse into dust. Since this was the first time I had played a regicide game, this was new to me. Unlike pdescobar, I was playing this game as though it was a regular (non-regicide) game, so I'll be making comparisons to his report throughout mine.

Killing the Celts initiated a mad scramble among the nearby civs to settle the land that had been opened up. I managed to get Ireland and most of Scotland, but the Norse and the Swedes each put a city in the extreme north of Britain as well. I resolved to be better prepared to take advantage of the razing effect of killing AI kings in the future. Since military support costs were seriously crimping my income, I declared war on France very soon thereafter in 972AD to both gain victory points and lower my number of units. I also hoped to get a toehold on the Continent, which I managed to achieve in this war. I razed the French city in Brittany and took a city in modern-day Normandy, getting Horseback Riding and a right of passage from France for peace in 990AD. Now I had a foothold on the European mainland.

I had to wait 20 turns of peace before I could attack France again (I wasn't going to play dishonorably and trash my reputation), so I used the time to explore the blackness that was France and prepare for a bigtime attack when the treaty wore off. By 1050AD I had so many swordsmen that I was actually losing money, at 100% cash on the slider, due to unit support (I could support about 35 units and I had over 70). In that date my peace treaty ended and I declared war on France again, invading simultaneously from the northeast (Netherlands), the northwest (Brittany), and the southwest (from the Pyrenees). I brought along a number of settlers to replace the cities which would be destroyed in killing the king unit.

In 1056AD I traded for Castle Building with one of the other AI civs and used my leader that I had had since the start of the game to rush the Holy Roman Empire wonder in my capital. This triggered a golden age for me the next turn in 1059AD; I used the Theory of Evolution effect of the HRE to grab Monsticism and Feudalism, allowing me to build knights. Now the game was well and truly tipping in my favor. Paris was captured in 1065AD in very bloody fighting (about 8 or 9 spears in the city) and I destroyed the French. Within a few turns, my settlers had claimed all of former France for the orange borders of England. I also popped another leader in the fighting around Paris (due to the Heroic Epic effect of the HRE, perhaps?) and I sent him back home to Britain to save for later.

I used the golden age production to alter between working on the new city improvements (monasteries and manor houses) and knights. Within a few turns my armies were rested and ready to go again, so war was declared on the weak nation of Castille in 1089AD and my knights rolled over the border into Iberia. In this scenario, there really is no reason not to be either at war or preparing for war at all times. By 1107AD I had reached Leon and killed Isabella, eliminating Castille. My settlers quickly were at hand to snap up the opened up territory from destroyed cities, even landing from boats on the coast to grab territory in Portugal and on the northern coast of Spain.

But things had become interesting in 1101AD when Burgundy declared war on me (in violation of a RoP agreement!) and went after my holdings in France. Fortunately my supply lines ran right by their borders, and aside from Ghent falling on the first turn of the war when I was blindsided, I was unharmed by the sneak-attack. My knights soon returned from Spain and more were ferried over from Britain to join their efforts, so I began systematically carving up the Burgundians to get more victory points (and for revenge, of course). Rather than kill their king, I decided to go after their cities instead. I started by capturing Marseilles and then moved down the west coast of Italy, capturing Rome and going all the way down to the heel of Italy. Then my knights turned around and moved back north again, capturing the Burgundian cities in the Po valley and moving up through Metz and Strasbourg to Aix-la-Chapelle. I finally captured the Burgundian capital and killed their king in 1176AD, destoying only a handful of cities since I had captured almost all of them by hand.

By this time I had amassed over 21,000 victory points and decided I would try to return the Holy Grail to Jerusalem to go over the top and win. It would have been easier to simply invade Germany, but I wanted to test out this feature of the scenario. I sent my knights down to the bottom of the Italian pennisula and used my large income to cash-rush a fleet of curraghs there (I had no better transportation available). In 1203AD my crusading fleet set sail: 23 knights, almost all of them elite, loaded upon 19 curraghs and my one starting galley. I secured a RoP with the Byzatines to travel through their land (well, sea) and headed for Jerusalem. I reached the Levant in 1227AD and declared war on the Abbasids, landing my whole invasion force on the same turn.

Then massive things started to happen. The Abbasids signed the Germans to a military alliance against me, and they poured over the border, capturing two of my cities with their own knights. The same turn, a Russian berserker jumped out of a curragh and attacked one of the cities on the British homeland, capturing the city. I easily took it back on the next turn, but it was unpleasant to say the least. With almost all my knights off in the Holy Land, I found myself scrambling to defend against the German invasion. Fun stuff, trying to cash-rush units to hold off the enemy. I had also just traded away most of my money for the tech Medieval Combat, so I could rush the Bayeux Tapestry with another leader, and things were dicey.

Outside Jersalem, my knights slaughtered the defenders in huge numbers, but there were so many that I could not take the city on the first turn. I was barely able to take the city on the second turn of the attack, with Sir Galahad, bearer of the Holy Grail, killing the king unit and marching into the victory point location (I love the re-name feature for these scenarios, heh). All told, there were some 13 or 14 spears in the city, a serious blow to any attacking army. I won on the next turn in 1236AD, with over 37,000 victory points. I was in the process of turning the tide against Germany, and the struggle on the Continent was very heated at the time the game ended.


First, I'll start by saying that this is a very entertaining scenario. It really does a good job of recreating the feel of the Middle Ages, with all of the different historical civs in their proper places, and the different units for the different cultural groups. The idea of the Crusade is particularly well done, as it takes a very high investment of time, money, and units to reach the Holy Land from Western Europe - just as it did in real life. My game highlighted the fact that states which sent all of their forces away to Jerusalem run the risk of being invaded at home while their armies are away - also something which sometimes happened in the Middle Ages. I love it. :)

But there are of course still some balancing problems (as well as bugs, which I'll be reporting a bit later). I'll list them in the order I notice them. First up is the nature of forest tiles - why do they produce s food instead of one? Is there a reason for this? Forest tiles are the uber-tile of this scenario; an unimproved forest tile is as good as a mined bonus grassland! Perhaps this was done to show that people could get more food by hunting in the forests during the Middle Ages (?) but from a balance standpoint it's a bad idea. Why increase one tile's food output and leave all of the rest unchanged? This makes no sense to me. Suggested Fix: Change forest tiles back to one food instead of two, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. The current state is illogical and makes forest tiles too strong.

Communications trading is a big issue. Since we've already talked about this in great deal, I'll just mention it in passing. Suggested Fix: Move communications trading back to a later tech, probably the same one which enables map trading (Map Making).

Technology and the issues that come with it are a huge issue at the moment. To be blunt, the tech costs are too high. I couldn't research any of the starting techs faster than 40 turns at the start of the game, so I just turned off science completely and relied on buying it from the AI civs throughout the game. I didn't even get remotely close to the end of the tech tree in this game, and while it's true I was doing a lot of warring, the biggest AI civs (the Byzantines, the Turks, the Fatimids, and the Abbassids) were left completely alone by me until the very end of the game. With 130 turns gone, they should have bee at least into the final age by that time. At the current rate, no one will ever reach the end of the tech tree, and that is not a good situation.

This causes other balance problems. For example, as England I started on an island and had to fight my way onto the Continent. But with harbors and galleys not coming until the third age, I never did get to harbors or a better ship than the horribly weak curraghs. The inability to trade for luxuries when you start on an island, and the inability to link your continental cities with your capital (and vice versa) due to the lack of harbors is a serious setback for civs which start on an island or will have a lot of cities on them. This problem would be solved if the tech pace was simply increased. Other issues, like the fact that attack units so badly dominate defensive ones, could also be solved by increasing the tech pace. If you could actually GET to pikes on the tech tree, maybe then knights and berserks wouldn't be so overpoweringly strong. Suggested Fix: Decrease the cost of techs! There's a lot of good stuff in the High Middle Ages that we simply aren't seeing right now. At the current rate, I'd have to play Deity in order to get see the later techs due to the fast AI researching.

I think that the wonder Holy Roman Empire may be a bit unbalancing in terms of power. It had both the Militaristic and Religious traits, so ANY Viking/Western Christian civ which builds it will immediately trigger a golden age. It also combines the features of the Heroic Epic, Pentagon, AND Theory of Evolution - that's a potent combo! More testing might be needed on this wonder, but it was insanely powerful for me in this game. Suggested Fix:Make the wonder have either the ToE effect OR the Heroic Epic/Pentagon effect, but not both.

Moving aside from my own game, I think pdescobar's excellent testing effort demonstrated some of the problems with the Regicide format. I've been thinking about ways to deal with this problem so that it won't be possible for someone to kill off 14 of the 18 civs in just barely over 100 turns. ;) I don't think that the Regicide format should be junked; it's interesting, it forces different strategies than a usual game, and it makes this Middle Ages scenario unique among the Conquests. My results showed that when given some time to develop their civ, the AI did defend its king unit very strongly; Paris, Burgundy, and the Abbasids all had large numbers of spears in their capital cities. It required a truly overwhelming stack of units to take them out, and that's as the game should be. If the player can marshall a sizable army to take out the capital, that's not a problem. At issue is the ability to take out king units WITHOUT a large army on hand, as pdescobar was able to do. The follow suggestions are aimed at taking care of that.

The key problem as I see it is in the imbalance of the different cultural-specific unique units. The Latin Christian civs and the Arab civs get their UUs (the knight and the Ansar) in the second technological age; knights are enabled by a tier-three tech and ansars by a tier-two one. By the time these units appear, the AI civs have had plenty of time to develop their cities and protect their king unit (thus the massive slaughter it took for me to capture Paris and Jerusalem). In contrast to this, the Viking civs get the berserker from a tier-one VIKING age tech, from the very start of the game! This is far, far too early from a balance issue; combined with the similarly overpowered longboat, the Viking civs can crush any capital which sits on the coast with ease in the early stages of the game. When you consider that the rest of the civs can only build swords and curraghs early in the game compared to zerks and longboats, the disparity is obvious. This would not be such a big deal if the tech rate was sped up, but "as is" at the moment, the Viking civs have a massive unit advantage for almost the entire game. I know that these powerful units come early in the tech tree to represent what happened in history (Norse raids came well before knights, after all) but in terms of game balance this represents a serious problem.

Suggested Fix: There are two options as I see it. One is to move the berserker back so that it appears later on the tech tree; I would suggest enabling it early in the second age, a little bit ahead of the knight or the ansar but definitely later than it is now. I would also push the longboat back a bit on the tree too, or - failing that - cut down its ridiculously high six movement (as England, I couldn't build a ship faster than three movement! Talk about unfair.) The other option is to decrease the stats of the berserk and keep it where it is on the tech tree. If it comes that early, it should not have DOUBLE the attack power AND amphibious assault when compared to the swordsman. I mean, come on here, that's a ridiculously large advantage for the Viking civs. I would lower its attack power to 4 instead of 6 if doing this, which would be much more logical for a first-tier Viking age tech. One final note - make sure no Viking civ starts with more than one, at most two, berserkers. No way should someone be able to take out AI capitals with their starting units like pdescobar was able to do. The Swedes, for example, start out with FOUR longboats and SEVEN berserks. That's enough to kill ANY king unit in a coastal city right off the bat. (For comparison, England starts with five warriors, five swords, and a galley.) The civs don't all have to be perfectly balanced, but this much discrepency is a problem. The zerks need to be toned down, and the Viking civs need to have fewer of them to start; at the moment, it's not even close to balanced.


I'll file separate reports for these with the Web Tracker program later, but I thought I should mention some of the ones I found. Here the main ones:

- England starts with a leader unit, Alfred the Great. If this isn't a bug, it should be. Giving them a leader to start makes no sense; get rid of it and give England some more starting units.

- The leader pic for the Fatimid Caliphate flickers and changes between two palettes non-stop at a very fast rate. It's somewhat disturbing, and definitely a bug.

- When entering a new age, all of the cities, leader pics, and music change over to the next age. For example, leaving the Viking Age and entering the second one prompts a change to Industrial Age graphics and music. I would assume the same thing happens when entering the third technological age, though I did not verify this. If it isn't a bug, it should be; seeing Industrial Age smokestacks on the cities and leaders like Bismarck in Industrial Age garb is not the way it should be.

- This is the biggest problem right now: there are serious problems with the different technology "flavors" and the way they appear on the diplomatic screens. Techs that civs of a different cultural group have do not always appear on the diplomatic screen to be traded. For example, the Byzantines had all of the Viking Age techs that appear on the bottom of the tree, but I could not see them or trade for them on the diplomatic screen. Then when I researched the tech "Byzantine Ingenuity", suddenly I could trade for the tech beyond it "Lost Roman Secrets" with them. This is a serious problem; I encountered the same issue with other civs too. The player must be able to at least see what techs AI civs in different cultural groups have; this must be a bug.

- Related to this issue, the Civilopedia must, I repeat MUST, have better documentation of what buildings/units/improvements are available to each cultural group. It is not clear for a lot of them; the Dromon's entry never says that it can only be built by the Byzantines. I would like to see a line for any civ-specific thing in BIG letters saying "can only be built by _____ civs". This would make it a lot more clear when trying to learn the scenario. Not really a bug, but I wanted to include it anyway.

Final Word

This scenario is a lot of fun, tons of potential for replay value. I hope you can incorporate some of these changes to work out the balance issues.

Impact and Later Changes

Here was the list of changes to the Middle Ages scenario in the next patch version. Judge for yourself:

Turned on Mass Regicide. Al playable civs now have 3 kings (or royal heirs); non-playable civs have 2.
Changed leader heads so industrial and modern heads never appear.
Renamed British leader Empress Matilda since this is too early for Elizabeth.
Renamed Celtic leader Malcolm since it is too late for Brennus.
Communication trading was moved back to Map Making in the Crusades age.
Ankara renamed as Ancyra.
Removed a Berserk and Longship from the at-start forces of the Danes, who are significantly more powerful at the start than the other Norse civs.
Reduced multiplier for kills points from 10 times to 5 times shield cost.
Reduced some early tech costs by 25%.
England starts with an extra galley and swordsman, but no leader.
Tech cost added for Seamanship.
Fixed a few minor map errors.
Knights Templar produces Knight every 8 turns (instead of every 10).

The balance issues have largely been fixed and changing the scenario from Regicide (one king unit) to Mass Regicide (2-3 king units) has vastly cut down on the potential for abusive play. On the whole, lots of fun to play and great for a medieval history buff who actually knows who people like the Burgundians and Abbasids were. This is also the second-longest Conquest of the nine to play.