The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

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Krogen
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The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Krogen »

Sooo... i wanted to do this for a long time and finally it's here. I will analyze the whole issue and why i think this unit is just wrong the way it is. I will try to gather the most important arguments and even counter-arguments, and make a conclusion and a few suggestions based on those.
One thing i would like to make clear: I don't have any problem with the level 1 variant, the Dwarvish Fighter. I think that unit is fine and i don't want to change that in any way.

So the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord... Where do i begin? It's a really strong unit, i don't think anyone can argue against that. That alone, of course, wouldn't make it a problem.
From level 1 to level 2:
Gains +21 hp, +12 damage to both axe and hammer, and +10% resistances to blade/impact/pierce.
From level 2 to level 3:
Gains +20 hp, +12 damage to axe and +10 to hammer, +10% resistance to blade, and gains a 10-1 ranged blade attack. (Which used to be 10-2 back in 1.10, thumbs up for that well-deserved nerf.)
These are quite impressive advancements and the xp requirement is not exactly high, compared to other units. Though, it's not unique at all.
Let's take a look at the Swordsman, one of the Spearman's advancements:
From level 1 to 2:
Gains +19 hp, +11 damage and changes damage type, and +20% resistances to blade/impact. Almost as good as the Steelclad in terms of gains, arguably as good or better, due to resistances. (+30 vs +40 overall.)
From level 2 to 3:
Gains +19 hp, +12 damage, and +1 movepoint.
So when reaching level 3, the dwarf actually catches up with resistance gains. But that bonus movepoint more than makes up for both that and the hatchet.
Drake Arbiter also gets +10% to pierce resistance and once again at level 3. There are other examples, but point made i guess.
So there are other units with gains as good or possibly even better than the Steelclad's.

So why do i believe this unit line needs (another) nerf so much? First the weaker arguments.
Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord is more likely than not to beat every single other default level 2 or level 3 in the game on flat, in neutral time of day. I don't think that's normal by any means. (Actually i tested this a few years ago and Drake Arbiter/Warden was the only opponent that managed to come out on top more often than not, thanks to first strike. But i'm not sure now if this test back then was reliable.) Keep in mind, that this all took place on flat and we know that's not even the comfortable terrain for dwarves. Yet it was able to go toe to toe and win against units that are supposed to excel there.
It is an equally reliable unit in every situation. While at level 1, Dwarvish Fighter has it's weaknesses and bad matchups, this is not the case anymore. This line is not supposed to be the best against Drakes or Loyalists for example, but Steelclad and Lord will be more than a match to them aswell. One could make the argument that this is what core units are supposed to do, but Knalgans don't really have one in Default. They require different builds in most matchups. Making one of their units at level 2 overpowered, just makes it even more devastating in situations where it already excels.
It has no weaknesses. (Well, they kinda have but about that, later...) Other units might gain resistances at advancements, but not to everything. They'll still have their weak points. Steelclad just gets stronger against every physical damage type, making it superior to other fighters. Pikeman will be extremely resistant to pierce, but is just as vulnerable to blade and impact as it was. Swordsman will be a bit better against blade and impact, but pierce is still there. (I know, there are 3 other damage types, but those are not that common and the units using them are way different.)

Now, let's get to the most important part, that ultimately convinced me to make this post:
I missed a really important detail so far on purpose. The movepoints. Dwarvish Steelclad is so tough, because it's slower. Though not by that much, since it has dwarffoot and just flies over forests, mountains and hills. Which means with a quick trait, it'll actually be more mobile than non-quick humans, elves or orcs. At the same time, it'll still have more or even hp and far better resistances, so it'll be superior, plain and simple. Default dwarf resistances and worse terrain defense worked really well at level 1, not so much at level 2. A Drake Clasher beats a Dwarvish Fighter on flat comfortably, after advancements, it becomes a coin toss. On flat, for a unit that's not even supposed to excel against Drakes, especially not on that terrain and is cheaper and easier to level up. Fire/Inferno Drake, which was it's hard counter at level 1 and is a unit of higher value, also loses to it.
But here is a counter argument: What beats what in one on one doesn't really matter. Players are smart and can abuse that mobility and ultimately force those nasty Steelclads and Lords into a bad position. In a PvP battle, the dynamic still works. They may get a little bit overpowered, but there are waaay worse things we have to put up with. It's not even one of the most powerful leaders. (I'm looking at Lieutenant and Marksman.) So... it's an issue for multiplayer PvP, but by no means a special one. And there are worse and more important things to take care of. I think it's obvious where i'm going with this. This all counts for PvP only...

What is the era that people play PvP with 9 times out of 10? That's right, it's Default. Are there Steelclads and Lords in Default? Nope, just leaders. They can level up of course, but that's hard for a 4 mp unit against another human player, and can be prevented by the opponent. And it's not like one Steelclad can't be outplayed and would break the game.
So where are we going to see them most of the time? In singleplayer campaigns of course, and special multiplayer games, like World Conquests or Survivals, where level ups and just in general units above level 1 are much easier to achieve or are just there by default. What is the common thing about these kind of games? Players usually fight the AI. Even when it's competitive and not co-operative, they rarely have to fight eachother directly. Afterlife is a great example.
What do we know about the way the AI plays? It can't come close to human players. It might improve, which is a fine and desirable thing, but a human player with a week of practice at most will probably overcome even the most advanced current Wesnoth AI. That is, if they have even resources.
So what consequences does the way the AI plays has on the gameplay? The reduced importance of mobility. Steelclad and Lord are just that good in these games because they don't have to move around. The AI will come at them. They are so good in fact, that sometimes they basically break the game. One of the best World Conquest II players i know considers playing as Knalgans (because of this unit line of course) as a reduced difficulty and is hesitant to play with someone who uses them, since the game just doesn't offer the same challange anymore. When facing dwarves, especially Dwarvish Lords require several turns to bring down and far more sacrifices than even the toughest of Drakes. I'm also positive it's basically impossible to beat them on the Default Afterlife map at least. Auction-X also suffers from this, though not to the same degree.
By the way don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is the only problem these Survival/Conquest style games have. There are harder and easier situations and some factions or builds have obvious advantages over others. But none of them is so game breaking.
Leveling up Steelclads and Lords is essentially just reduced difficulty in these kind of games. This is especially frustrating when it comes to competitive, but not directly up against eachother kind of games. Games that would offer a fun and unique kind of challange otherwise.
One could say that Knalgans in general are better in these kind of games. But i'm not saying Steelclads are better. I'm saying they are straight up game breaking. If it's all just about defense, then why do people use Steelclads/Lords and not Stalwarts/Sentinels? Because they are simply better, even while defending. Knalgans might have an easier time in Afterlife for example. But they are not the only ones. I will salute to anyone who beats a solid Drake player as Rebels for example. Though i don't deny that's possible. On the other hand i don't think a proper line of Dwarvish Lords can be broken. They are too tanky, deal too much damage and since their mobility is not an issue, they can sit on hills or moutains and enjoy the defense. No other faction or unit can do this so easily.

One could say that the factions were balanced to fight eachother on Default maps. I suggest to take a look at the games on the server and where exactly these units show up generally. 9 times out of 10, a Dwarvish Steelclad or Lord appearing in a Wesnoth game will not be in a normal Default match. Which means 9 times out of 10 it will be extremely overpowered and potentially game breaking.

This has been pretty long already, but let me talk about singleplayer campaigns a little bit and how changing this unit line might affect them.
First of all, i don't believe the players need to fight dwarves quite too often. And since the AI will probably use other types of level 2/3s next to this line, i don't think it would make any scenario... easier than it should be. It would only affect a relatively small number of units, basically a drop in the sea.
Using dwarves/fighting with them happens more often. And i genuinely believe a significant nerf would have a healthy effect here. Right now, this line is superior to all the other dwarves. Encouraging the player not to spam an overpowered unit but to use a more diverse group is clearly desirable in my book.

So what could be done?
The simplest and probably best solution in my opinion is to take away the resistances. They get +10% to blade at level 3, so that means they have the best defense against that damage type. If lore demands that they wear heavier armor, then keep the blade bonus, give them +10 at level 2 and then +10 at level 3. At least they'd be more vulnerable to pierce and impact. Nerfing some of their movement costs is also a solution and would make sense lore wise. Though it'd be weird, since at level 1 there is no need to change anything. Whenever a unit gets worse at something/loses abilities or weapons, it's usually a special advancement and there is another option.
Damage and/or hp nerf is also a possibility, though not too optimal in my opinion. But it'd still be better than nothing. If it ever comes to considering damage, i suggest to either nerf axe or hammer, but not both.

Sorry for the long rant, but i think this is a serious issue that affects more games in a negative way than most people realise.
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Whiskeyjack
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Whiskeyjack »

Krogen wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 12:52 am
So what could be done?
The simplest and probably best solution in my opinion is to take away the resistances. They get +10% to blade at level 3, so that means they have the best defense against that damage type. If lore demands that they wear heavier armor, then keep the blade bonus, give them +10 at level 2 and then +10 at level 3. At least they'd be more vulnerable to pierce and impact. Nerfing some of their movement costs is also a solution and would make sense lore wise. Though it'd be weird, since at level 1 there is no need to change anything. Whenever a unit gets worse at something/loses abilities or weapons, it's usually a special advancement and there is another option.
Damage and/or hp nerf is also a possibility, though not too optimal in my opinion. But it'd still be better than nothing. If it ever comes to considering damage, i suggest to either nerf axe or hammer, but not both.
Can't comment on multiplayer PvE, but speaking from a purely campaign focused perspective: A movement speed nerf would be horrible. There are too many big maps and maps with mainly roads to travel where it's not about the higher maneuverability of dwarves. There would be no reason anymore to ever recruit dwarves in a lot of cases. 3 MP is just too crippling.

That said, I do agree with you that the unit is extremely powerful against AI. Also the reason why the end of Hammer of Thursagan was such a slough (when the AI was the one massively using lords/steelclads). However, nerfing the unit considerably would necessitate a considerable re-balancing of campaigns - there are just too many scenarios where there is not much to do until you survived the big bad AI onslaught and dwarves (+ healers) are the basic strategy to break said onslaught. This is not an argument against a nerf, just something to keep in mind :)
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Hejnewar
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Hejnewar »

Krogen wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 12:52 am
Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord is more likely than not to beat every single other default level 2 or level 3 in the game on flat, in neutral time of day. I don't think that's normal by any means.

It has no weaknesses.
There is at least one lvl 2 unit that can beat Steelclad almost every time. But it's an exception.

Lack of weakness combined with unusual strength is in my opinion biggest problem with this unit.
Whiskeyjack wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 10:47 am
Can't comment on multiplayer PvE, but speaking from a purely campaign focused perspective: A movement speed nerf would be horrible. There are too many big maps and maps with mainly roads to travel where it's not about the higher maneuverability of dwarves. There would be no reason anymore to ever recruit dwarves in a lot of cases. 3 MP is just too crippling.
I don't think it's about reducing mp to 3. If anything he mayne would want to increase movement cost on for example forest from 1 to 2 or something like this.

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Krogen
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Krogen »

Yes, making it 3 mp would obviously be a terrible idea, but i never suggested that. I only talked about movement cost, like Hejnewar said. Dwarves can go through forests, hills and mountains for 1 mp, which wouldn't be a problem. But this unit is so powerful that a quick trait doesn't only make it more mobile than non-quick ones of other factions, but also stays more powerful and resilient, therefore overall simply blatantly superior. When i said movement cost, forest was the first that came to mind indeed. But i also addressed why i don't think this would be the best solution.
Another option i failed to mention: raise xp requirement for level 3. If it's so damn powerful at least make it harder to achieve. Right now, it's one of the easiest level 3s to get. Though i wouldn't touch xp requirement at level 1, because that could have a major effect on PvP.
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sergey
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by sergey »

Krogen wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 12:52 am
The simplest and probably best solution in my opinion is to take away the resistances. They get +10% to blade at level 3, so that means they have the best defense against that damage type. If lore demands that they wear heavier armor, then keep the blade bonus, give them +10 at level 2 and then +10 at level 3. At least they'd be more vulnerable to pierce and impact. ... Damage and/or hp nerf is also a possibility, though not too optimal in my opinion. But it'd still be better than nothing. If it ever comes to considering damage, i suggest to either nerf axe or hammer, but not both.
I support this.
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Sadaharu
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Sadaharu »

How about taking the quick trait away from dwarves altogether?

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Krogen
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Krogen »

Sadaharu wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 10:45 pm
How about taking the quick trait away from dwarves altogether?
That'd be... bad. Like, burning down the whole forest by accident while trying to put out the camp fire level bad.
I believe this a level 2/3 problem, better not involve level 1 at all. Let's not fix something that isn't broken.
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Velensk »

I'm not around on these forums much anymore but it's funny to see this topic here as in my free time I've been playing one of the dwarf campaigns and contemplating the Sentinal vs Lord issue.

A long while back there was a period of time where higher level units as a whole went through some rather sweeping nerfs. I think in general these were all better for the game but somehow the Dwarven Lord scraped through with only getting it's ranged attack nerfed. I think this shows in how it compares to other units of it's class now.

On a sentimental level, I kind of like the dwarves to have the premier infantry units at higher levels but I agree that the extent to which this is true is overwhelming right now.

Personally, I'd go for the hit points rather than the resistances and let magic be a consistent 'weakness' of the line while retaining a lot their relative resilience to conventional weapons. Possibly allow the stalwart/sentinel line to pick up extra resistance to magic.
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Krogen
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Krogen »

I haven't thought of that. Maybe hp nerf has it's advantages. I don't know how weird it would be to nerf fire and cold res. After all, heavy inf's armor also makes it worse against those damage types. Hp nerf would also weakens Lord against other opponents, not just mages, while res can focus on particular units. But i'm not sure how well this would sit with dwarves.
On the other hand, i still believe that on flat, a dragon/human hybrid who relies entirely on heavy armor and melee combat should beat a dwarf that does the same.
Rebels also struggle even against the Dwarvish Fighter and it only gets worse on higher levels. Reducing pierce resistance would do miracles and even Woses would benefit from impact.
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Sadaharu
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Sadaharu »

Krogen wrote:
October 24th, 2019, 8:19 pm
Sadaharu wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 10:45 pm
How about taking the quick trait away from dwarves altogether?
That'd be... bad. Like, burning down the whole forest by accident while trying to put out the camp fire level bad.
I believe this a level 2/3 problem, better not involve level 1 at all. Let's not fix something that isn't broken.
I thought my suggestion would be rejected, but it was in character and it's best to have it explicitly be so by somebody who knows far more about this game than I do than have it remain an unexplored possibility.

That said, a dip in HP might be more consistent with the lore of the game than reducing resistances. The dwarves are said (by themselves) to have the best armour in Irdya, but they are smaller than humans, elves, etc. so fewer HPs could match a smaller body.
At least, as the OP says, now the Lords have only the one hatchet throw per fight.

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sergey
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by sergey »

Sadaharu wrote:
October 25th, 2019, 5:59 am
That said, a dip in HP might be more consistent with the lore of the game than reducing resistances. The dwarves are said (by themselves) to have the best armour in Irdya, but they are smaller than humans, elves, etc. so fewer HPs could match a smaller body.
I don't think that reducing dwarf's HP below human's or elf's HP is a good idea. Reducing it a bit may be. I like the idea of reducing their resistances, however it conflicts with the lore:
Steelclad - Outfitted in the strongest plate and mail of Knalgan forges...
Lord - Clad in shining armor
Lord probably has better armor than Steelclad (at least it looks more stylish :lol:) Steelclad/Lord has better resistances (armor) than Stalwart/Sentinel (not counting steadfast). Even if Steelclad will be nerfed as Krogen suggested it still will have better resistances than Stalwart. Lord nerf as suggested leads to about the same armor as Sentinel. But the gameplay and balance is more important than lore, isn't it? What if the unit's description will be slightly modified, e.g. "Outfitted in the strongest plate and mail of Knalgan forges" -> "Outfitted in excellent plate and mail of Knalgan forges" and add a sentence to Sentinel's description saying that his armor is very good too.
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Krogen
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Krogen »

I love the fact that the discussion is entirely about how to nerf it, nobody really spoke against the necessity or at least fairness of it. It's really reassuring.
And there is nothing wrong with sharing ideas naturally, even if they don't happen to be good ones sometimes. It's best to consider as many opportunities as possible.

Even with some kind of a nerf, both the Dwarvish Steelclad and Lord will remain quite powerful. We really should go over the top with it to mess this up. So it could easily take two nerfs at the same time. I'm thinking about raising xp requirement aswell, next to hp or resistance reduction. As i said, it'd still be really strong. But if they level up slower to level 3 (messing with level 1 would lead to major effects on Default, so i don't want to do that) then there'd be a time period where Steelclads are still level 2 while the other factions already have their strongest units. This would give a nice window of opportunity for example in Afterlife to make it or break it for other factions that would stand little to no chance against Knalgans otherwise.
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Hejnewar
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Hejnewar »

Curio: After change I would lower proposed by me cost of Steelclad from 40 to 37.

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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by gnombat »

Interestingly both the steelclad and the lord had their melee damage and hit points increased (some time between Wesnoth 1.0 and Wesnoth 1.2).

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Sadaharu
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Re: The case against the Dwarvish Steelclad/Lord

Post by Sadaharu »

sergey wrote:
October 25th, 2019, 7:24 am
Sadaharu wrote:
October 25th, 2019, 5:59 am
That said, a dip in HP might be more consistent with the lore of the game than reducing resistances. The dwarves are said (by themselves) to have the best armour in Irdya, but they are smaller than humans, elves, etc. so fewer HPs could match a smaller body.
I don't think that reducing dwarf's HP below human's or elf's HP is a good idea. Reducing it a bit may be. I like the idea of reducing their resistances, however it conflicts with the lore:
Steelclad - Outfitted in the strongest plate and mail of Knalgan forges...
Lord - Clad in shining armor
Lord probably has better armor than Steelclad (at least it looks more stylish :lol:) Steelclad/Lord has better resistances (armor) than Stalwart/Sentinel (not counting steadfast). Even if Steelclad will be nerfed as Krogen suggested it still will have better resistances than Stalwart. Lord nerf as suggested leads to about the same armor as Sentinel. But the gameplay and balance is more important than lore, isn't it? What if the unit's description will be slightly modified, e.g. "Outfitted in the strongest plate and mail of Knalgan forges" -> "Outfitted in excellent plate and mail of Knalgan forges" and add a sentence to Sentinel's description saying that his armor is very good too.
Gameplay and balance v. lore? Hmmm. I don't know; this is (partially) an RPG, especially in single-player campaign mode (see below, too).
Since you bring up the Sentinels, let's remember that they have a better defence stat on flat land and also they have the steadfast ability which doubles some of their resistances when defending (presumably because of their shields?).
Krogen wrote:
October 25th, 2019, 3:54 pm
I love the fact that the discussion is entirely about how to nerf it, nobody really spoke against the necessity or at least fairness of it. It's really reassuring.
And there is nothing wrong with sharing ideas naturally, even if they don't happen to be good ones sometimes. It's best to consider as many opportunities as possible.

Even with some kind of a nerf, both the Dwarvish Steelclad and Lord will remain quite powerful. We really should go over the top with it to mess this up. So it could easily take two nerfs at the same time. I'm thinking about raising xp requirement aswell, next to hp or resistance reduction. As i said, it'd still be really strong. But if they level up slower to level 3 (messing with level 1 would lead to major effects on Default, so i don't want to do that) then there'd be a time period where Steelclads are still level 2 while the other factions already have their strongest units. This would give a nice window of opportunity for example in Afterlife to make it or break it for other factions that would stand little to no chance against Knalgans otherwise.
Case in point: on BfW 1.14 I am currently playing the last scenario in the Northern Rebirth campaign. For those who don't know/remember it it's four teams, one on each side of the map, attacking a central fortress full of AI orcs and trolls who sally forth to attack. Out in my Eastern camp I have a lot of Lords with a fortified camp and a hilly area for 60% defence and three healers, not counting a dozen or so villages. Plus my Lv.4 leader with authority, two liches, a fireball-addicted lunatic of a great mage, etc. But on the western end of the map are the only player-aligned AI-controlled faction, Hamel's dwarves. Hamel the character himself is supposed to be a master strategist and tactician, and achieves off-screen victories, but in actual gameplay all he does is recruit Steelclads and Thunderguards and then throw them off his fortified mountains and onto the plains where the Orcs and Trolls slaughter them with ease. The only way I can save them (and I *must*, because Hamel has to survive for me to win the battle) is to sacrifice my northern and southern armies (drakes and elves respectively) and detach as many of their units as I can and send them westwards in a desperate attempt to save Hamel while those two armies fight holding actions -I might just save the Drakes by doing the same with my eastern force in turn in a replay.

I know that that is a mistake no player with an ounce of sense would ever make (a- abandon fortified positions b- let Orcs being a fight at dusk c- let said Orcs start a fight at dusk/night after letting them cross a moat) but how would you balance this, too?

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