Crunching the Numbers on Unit Strength

When the statistics for Illyriad’s troops were first created, Elgea was an empty place. No cities, no players – just an empty map, and the hope that in time many players would come to this new land and start building their empires.

So, when the statistics were created, the vision was for a world where people were building up their towns, and maybe vying with each other and skirmishing as they went. And you can see that from the way that the troops stats are balanced: the toughest units take time to unlock, and then make hefty demands on a town’s production capacity, but in the end a few super-units are the out-and-out favourites.

To understand why these super-units rule the battlefields of Elgea, it’s necessary to look past the apparent stats (movement, carrying capacity, defence against bows, defence against spears and so on), and look at two vital stats which are not actually listed. To many of Illyriad’s more analytical players this is no revelation – some people have built spreadsheets to calculate these numbers – but to more casual players these numbers may not be obvious, so let me explain….

The key numbers are strength relative to gold upkeep, and strength relative to time required to build.

Strength/gold is the power of your army, relative to the amount that you can afford to spend on their upkeep. During peacetime this is a vital number, as it defines the power that you can maintain without running a financial loss.

Strength/second determines the speed with which you can build up again if you suffer losses. In a protracted war or a tournament this is key, as it determines how fast you can bounce back, and determines your staying power in a war of attrition.

At the moment, the highest attack/gold and attack/second stats are both the human Knight – with 16.25 attack/gold and 0.0406 attack/second (unmodified by Barracks or Sov). Meanwhile the best defence/gold and defence/second stats are those of the Elven Trueshot. And this is why many players say that the humans and elves are the most powerful races in Illyriad, and why most human players build Knights and elves build Trueshots.

To be clear, there are other units that are worth building. When we introduced equipment we made sure that Elite dwarven infantry became fearsome (correctly equipped elite Stalwarts have the edge over well equipped Elite Knights, in terms of attack/upkeep). Basic cavalry – especially the elven Swiftsteed – are handy for getting to a fight fast. Orcs have the unit with the best defence against cavalry, their Guardsman. But the overwhelming choice for most players is to go with the weight-of-numbers favourites, the Knights and Trueshots.

In a game where most people haven’t yet got the researches or Barracks or resources to build these units, that is fine. But now that Illyriad is well established, for the most powerful players concerns over researches and resources are a thing of the past. They have the researches they need, and have set up their cities to pump out the resources that are required.

This is, if not actually a problem, not as interesting as it could be.

We’ve always said that people should be able to pick their own path in Illyriad. And it in’t so satisfying if this becomes, “well, you can pick your own path, but the only military path that really makes sense is to build Knights!”

So, the time has come to rework some of the units stats.

Now, we have not taken anything away from people – no unit is going to become weaker. And we haven’t changed any combat strengths, nor change the resources required to recruit troops. So, peoples’ build strategies will still work just fine.

But we have changed one thing – and we have changed it radically.

We’ve reduced the build times for some of the weaker units. Knights, Trueshots, Marshals, Death Packs and their ilk will be unaffected, but many of the weaker units are faster to build… and in some cases they are much, much faster.

Of course Knights will still have the supreme attack/gold ratio. And Trueshots will still have the best defence/gold. But completely different units now have the best strengths per time. So, with a reduced build time dwarf Stalwarts now have a better attack/second ratio (0.0438) than Knights (0.0406), and the best unit for overall defence/second will now not be the fearsome Trueshot (0.0273) but the humble orc’s basic spearman (0.0291).

And because the changes are quite detailed, we’ve ensured that most of the units available to a player have a single overall advantage.

Thus, for an elven player, the best defence/gold is the Trueshot and the best attack/gold is the Marshal, the Swiftsteed provides the fastest movement speed, the Phalanx has the best defence/time if you’re looking for defence versus cavalry, but the Sentinel gives the best defence/time against other unit types, and if you want average strength/time then you should go for Wardancers…. So, no longer is the Trueshot the inevitable choice for maxed-out military Elves.

And the picture for other races is similar. Orc Fangs and Cohorts suddenly become attractive, dwarves don’t just benefit from faster swordsman production, and humans may start to be tempted by Men-at-Arms and even Archers.

These production speed changes will give a much broader range of options for all races, and should provide much greater strategic choice in a game where power now resides with fully formed cities.

These changes are now live.

Broken Lands Factions: Drek-Hhakrall

From the report of Drudzak the Cunning-Teller, before the throne of Great Chief Kujagur of the Drek-Hhakrall.

Great Chief! Champions! All who stand before the Great Chief, who eat of his gifts, who live because he lets you, who bow to him. Listen!

I have spoken to our wise hunters. I have listened to our cunning spies. I have cheered at the war stories of you, our great Champions. So I have heard and learned, and thought. I have thought of the enemies that we’ve killed. I have though of the enemies that we haven’t yet killed. And I can tell you, all, now of each. I can tell you what their weaknesses are. I can tell you where they have some strength. If you hear what I say, and learn, your next victories will be more bloody, more glorious.

But first, I speak of the greatest warriors. I speak of the mightiest armies. I speak of the fiercest, finest, most ferocious force to tread these lands since the mages fell! I speak first, of us! I speak first of the Drek-Hhakrall!

Who should be spoken of before us? How dare any name be mentioned before ours!

Does anyone have a general as strong as the mighty Great Chief Kujakur? Does any army have Champions as fierce as those who stand here? Do any races or kingdoms command hordes as bloody as ours? No!

So first, let us remember why it is that we are strongest, why it is that we are supreme.

First, we are Orc! In the First Age, when time began, the Always-Chiefs said that Orcs should conquer all. They knew that Orcs are strongest, that Orcs are born to fight and kill, that Orcs will make slaves and rule. It is in our blood to be strongest!

The Pirate Kings of the middle sea, or the peasant Kings of Virten, are they so strong? No! Humans scheme and plot, ride horses so that they can run away, that weave pretty cloths to wear at quiet feasts, sing stupid love songs, learn useless arts. How can such weak creatures stand against us! We do not scheme, but fight. We charge to battle, we do not flee. We wear the hides of beasts that we have killed ourselves. How much stronger are we!

Second, it is not enough that we are Orcs. More, we do not forget that we are Orcs! We remember how to be Orcs! In the First Age, the Always-Chiefs said that Orcs should fight all and rule all. We know this! We roar for this!

The Kartur-Hhakrall, they think that it is their place to serve! They hear of the First Age, and think that the Always-Chiefs want them to snivel and fawn before people they should crush! They have made themselves slaves to humans! You, here, are you stronger than slaves? Yes! Then you are stronger than the Kartur-Hhakrall. You know how to be true Orcs!

The southern Orcs, too. They forget the stories of the First Age. They forget that they should serve great chiefs. Is a fist stronger than a finger? Yes! Is an army stronger than one warrior? Yes! Is a fist stronger when it hangs idle, or when a clever mind commands it? It is so with us. While the southern Orcs fight in little groups, we come together to like a great fist. And we fight at the command of the greatest chief in any land – Kujakur!

But there is one more reason why we are strongest. And it is this! It is because we were so low! Who here, in this hall, was not beaten as a child? We all were! And we are stronger for it! We learned to take pain, and we learned to hate, and we learned to hit back harder. How many scars do we all have, from a battle where a foe was quicker, or used a new move? Many scars! And for each scar we learned a lesson. We learned to be quicker. We learned new moves to watch for. We learned to train harder.

So it is! Anyone who is knocked down will stand more firm when he gets up! Any who is beaten, will hit back with great rage! And we, through the Second Age, we, mighty warriors, were slaves! We were slaves to Elf Wizards!

Other tribes, other people, they say that the Sundering was very bad. They weep that so many died. Pathetic! There is always death! For us, the Sundering made us free! We were freed from slavery, to rise, and rule, and fight, and slaughter or enslave any who dare face us!

Broken Lands Faction: The Pirate Kings

From the journal of Barnard of Shelton, master trader in the employ of the Illyria Trade Council, recording his journeys to the Broken Lands.

I was welcomed in Belgorrian with trumpets blaring, a rich carpet rolled out on the dock to great me, and rows of men-at-arms lining my procession to the royal palace. There was a formal presentation to King Ulharadd in his throne room, and then a great feast in the evening.

This, I thought, is a pirate city? I had expected rough cut-throats, carousing in stinking taverns, making threats upon my life. But instead I was being wined and dined in royal style, treated to a display of courtly splendour and shown every respect.

The following day I rode out to hunt with Ulharadd and some of his courtiers.

“We are the true Warrior-Kings of these lands,” he assured me. “Our wealth, it is true, often comes from plunder. But raiding is a traditional noble pass time, a source of wealth and honour, and a training for war. People call us pirates, because we prey upon ships that will not bow before us and offer us due payments. In much the same way land-locked nobles will extract loot from subjects who refuse to bow to them and pay taxes. Are the world’s nobles all bandits? Only then are we pirates.”

Ulharadd’s views of other local rulers was not entirely complementary. He had the highest praise for Ramoar, Surriem and Azoash, the other three so-called Pirate Kings, with whom he is closely allied. But he was dismissive of the Kings of Virten, who he mocked as “commoners without breeding, training or experience, raised above their abilities to rule, unable to cope, reliant upon the College of Silence to secure their election and then twice as reliant on the College’s advisers and spies in order to rule.” In other words, the Kings of the west were, in his view, incompetent puppets, manipulated by the College. For the New Light he had even less kind words, dismissing them as power-mad maniacs. And when I asked about the Drek-Hhakrall he only laughed.

“We have no enmity to these people,” he shrugged, “but we do not pretend that they true kings, such as ourselves.”

Ulharadd explained that his own lands were ruled by men trained for war, taught from birth how to rule, and supported by families with experience in combat, administration and leadership. They were, he said, as any good nobles should be, an elite, superior in breeding and training, ruling over those less capable.

What was unusual, he conceded, that he and his fellow kings laid claim not only to land but also to water – specifically to all the waters around their islands, north as far as the jungle and south to the icy shores. Then he said that he hoped that the Illyria Trade Council would soon become some of his most honoured water-borne subjects – that we would bow to his throne, accept the protection of his fleet, and pay him royally.

The court was spectacular. The food, the entertainments, the quality of courtesy and conversation, the discipline of the troops and the fortifications of the city were all of the highest standard.

But such trappings do not disguise that rulers who blackmail and prey upon honest trade ships are nothing but pirates, and are the enemies of all honest merchants.


Choosing a Name for the Tower of Evil

As we continue working on the Broken Lands expansion for Illyriad, it has been really nice to take some time out to look at all the names suggested by Illy’s players for the dark tower of evil at the heart of the Broken Lands.

And after much deliberation…

The winner is…

Absolutely not Black Skull Horde.

Sorry, guys. Much as I chuckled to see the relentless march of orc humour on the forum, how ever many times you suggest it, we can’t oblige you. Ultimately, this is going to be the brooding heart of evil for a continent where people will be playing for years, so we have to go with a name that really works in that context. The name has to say something about the world, what has happened historically and what may now happen in play, and it has to resonate with players who may not be familiar with the current Horde’s particular sense of humour.

Likewise, we had to drop a lot of other names that we immediately responded to, emotionally. Sparky Sparky Doom Doom Tower genuinely made me laugh out loud, but sadly we can’t go with that. Likewise, Durcamroth was one of several moving tributes to past players, but we have to go with something that fits the context first and foremost.

Some other suggestions were dropped for a more prosaic reason – language. Anything that (as far as we can tell) translates directly and inappropriately into another language, had to be dropped. This was a shame, as we lost some names that sound really nice to an English-speaker, but we have players here from all around the world and we didn’t really want anyone to be contending in-game with a dark tower of menace that, to them, was named “Grandmother’s Hip” (yes, seriously), or “Dumpster Baby” (or maybe “Dumpster, Baby!”)

This still left us with lots and lots of very cool names to choose from, and I applaud the creativity of our players! Darkhaven Spire, Moonholme, The Sunderspire, Fel-Flame Tower, Kangax Drugis, Spire of Bleak Beginnings, Blacksilver Keep, Doegun… the list of cool names just went on and on.

But in the end we decided to go with something that spoke not only of past catastrophe (as the Bleak, Tarnished, and Sundered suggestions did), nor of betrayed hope, but also something which looked to the future – something which hinted at further horrors that might be unleashed on the world – and, of course, on our players!

Even here we had several excellent options to choose from. But in the end, one stood out. Just four letters, full of dark menace, heavy with promise of some future evil – genius in its conciseness: Omen.

Broken Lands Faction: Cult of the Black Oak

The last words of Guldran, called The True Whisperer, Third High Priest of the Cult of the Black Oak, before his execution by order of the New King.

You fools you liars you deaf and blind!

Your life is a gift and you do not care you were saved above millions and you do not care you have your life through their power and only through their power because you stand upon the land that they they held firm when mountains fell!

You call me monster you call me mad you call me and forget and do not listen to yourself you fools you liars!

This is your funeral but you do not dance!

This is your birth but you do not scream!

They hold us all and held us all and do not care because nothing cares and nobody cares!

The bird who eats the maggot who eats the dead bird who had eaten maggots or the rain that falls or the child who eats the flesh that was bought by the gold paid to this executioner standing here nobody cares and it does not care and there is no caring for not caring!

There is truth and there is power and I know and I have seen and if you were with my brethren you would see and hear and know but here I stand and scream what you cannot hear and draw from my heart the pain of truth of joy of so call me call me call me what you will and do not listen and do not see and do not hear and do not learn that I have seen and known and you are blind and know nothing but you are fleshy puppets who dance at your own wakes but cannot see your own corpse lying there and rotting as you dance above!

You are blessed and you turn away and you could have knowledge but you stuff up your minds and you could hear truth but you refuse to hear but rather pay this man to kill because you say I should not kill so swing my executioner swing swing your axe and a thousand brethren will dance as I have danced and all the blood you shed cannot save the blood that will be shed so call me call me call me as I call them call them call them and now swing and swing and swing at once!

Broken Lands Faction: Houergertt

From the Teachings of Urgrukt the Blind, first High Priest of the Kartur-Hhakrall.

Pilgrim asked: “How now shall we deal with that last tower of the Order of Silver Light, the Tower of Houergertt?”

Urgrukut answered: “First, ask yourself, what could you do.”

Pilgrim remained silent, and thought.

Urgrukut frowned: “You are Orc! Long thinking is for Elves and cripples. Your heart knows what you should do. When I ask what could you do, let your heart answer!”

Pilgrim asked: “My heart says fight! Is that right?”

Urgrukut answered: “Of course! You are Orc! So how can you fight, and how can you not?”

Pilgrim replied: “I would fight its champion. But it has no champion. I would scale its walls. But they are enchanted. I would kill its lord. But he is dead. I would battle its armies. But they cannot be killed.”

Urgrukut answered: “You say you cannot scale the walls. This is true. No siege engine can scratch them. Curses slay those who climb over them. But you are Orc! If your foe is more skilled that you, you train harder. If your foe has bigger armies, you win more allies. If you want to defeat an enemy, you will always find a way. You are Orc!”

Pilgrim asked: “Is this what I should do? Should I build bigger siege engines? Should I find other wizards to overcome his curses?”

Urgrukut answered: “You could. But why? To break into the castle of a man already dead? There is no glory there, no slaves to be won. It is an empty battle.”

Pilgrim asked: “Should I fight his armies? Each day they return! They cannot be defeated!”

Urgrukut answered: “You are an Orc! Your heart hurts if you cannot fight. Great glory is had in defeating a champion. In blood and pain you find joy. Now, here, the dead wizard’s enchantments provide you endless enemies! Sometimes there will be better battles. Sometimes you will have wars where you can take slaves, win gold, earn glory for your King. But here, always, there is an enemy who will face you. And you want to defeat champions? What greater champions than those who cannot really be slain!”

Pilgrim asked: “So this is what I should do? I should fight?”

Urgrukut answered: “Yes! At times of peace when there is no worthier fight. When you are at full strength and your heart is restless. When your warleaders are bellowing for blood. When your warriors are growing fat or lazy. Then, here, there is an enemy that you can fight. But that is not the first thing that you should do. First, you should give thanks! The Always-Chiefs laid down at the start of time that you should fight. And in your heart your long for war. And here, this dead mage has made it so! Give thanks that this wizard has given you these foes to fight. So, the New King may build a kingdom in peace, and you may serve him with honour, and yet, as the Always-Chiefs demand and as your heart desires, you will always be able to fight!”

Broken Lands Faction: Kartur-Hhakrall

From the Teachings of Urgrukt the Blind, first High Priest of the Kartur-Hhakrall.

Pilgrim asked: “What is best for Orcs? We do what we want? We kill? We hunt? What?”

Urgrukut answered: “Here, you ask me, because I am wiser. In war, the warrior asks the champion, because champion is stronger. In the forge, the young maker asks the master maker. In all things, ask the better, and they will teach. In great issues, ask the greatest. Ask the Always-Chiefs, who are elders to all, who are stronger than all, who are wiser than all, who came before all.”

Pilgrim asked: “The Always-Chiefs. What do they want?”

Urgrukut answered: “All Orcs, in all lands, know the stories of the First Age. There were four champions. The greatest was called Orc. He founded our race. He asked the Always-Chiefs what he should do. They said he should fight to make slaves of all the lands.”

Pilgrim asked: “So we should fight? Or we should make slaves? Which is greater?”

Urgrukut answered: “All Orcs know that it is good fight. It is in our blood. We are born knowing it. Great Orcs learn that it is good to make slaves. When a champion first sees slaves bow before him, slaves he has won in blood, then he learns, in his heart, that this is the greatest thing, greater than killing, greater than fighting. So to win slaves is greater, but cannot be without fighting. Many Orcs have learned this. But it is not the greatest thing.”

Pilgrim asked: “So what is the greatest thing?”

Urgrukut asked: “To get his answer, what did Orc do?”

Pilgrim answered: “He asked the Always-Chiefs. He asked those greater.”

Urgrukt said: “He could have no answers without asking those greater. He had no-one to fight for, without serving those greater. It is easy to know that we must fight. It is easy to learn that we should have slaves. Many Orcs understand that. But when Orcs understand no more, when they forget that they must serve, then all Illyria pays the price.”

Pilgrim asked: “So who should we serve? The Always-Chiefs?”

Urgrukut answered: “In your heart, always serve the Always-Chiefs. But the Always-Chiefs have left Illyria. So you must find a mortal master.”

Pilgrim asked: “The priests serve the Always-Chiefs, and hold the secrets of the Always-Chiefs. So should I serve the priests?”

Urgrukut answered: “The priests are just Orcs, like you. Wiser, but not your lords. Do not trust a priest who wants to be your lord. Trust a priest who would be a priest, and find a lord who is the greatest lord.”

Pilgrim asked: “Who, then, should I serve? Who is the greatest lord?”

Urgrukut answered: “Orcs are the greatest warriors. But we are not good at the things a great lord must do. It is in our blood to fight and make slaves. Great lords must build, and maintain.”

Pilgrim asked: “In the Second Age, Orc warriors fought for the Order of the Silver Light. I should find lords like the Order?”

Urgrukut answered: “The wizards of the Silver Light were not great lords. They tried to make slaves, but they were not Orcs, so they were bad at it. When their slaves rebelled, they did what no Orc should do, they destroyed all that they had, wasted all that they had, killed their servants and slaves as well as their enemies. These are not things that a great lord would do. Only serve the greatest lords.”

Pilgrim asked: “So who, then, should I serve?”

Urgrukut answered: “You should serve the New King, raised up by the humans. Of course the humans are weaker, descended from weaker fathers, and birthing weaker children, and so are not as great in war as you. But they are better at the things that a ruler needs to do. They can build, and they can maintain. So, you should be the greatest warrior. But you should serve the greatest lord.”

Pilgrim thought long, and then asked: “What if the New King of the humans is a bad lord? What if he is stupid and destroys those who serve him, like the Silver Light?”

Urgrukut smiled: “Be sure that the New King knows that you are the mightiest, that he fears you and admires you. Be sure that he knows you are loyal. But be sure he knows you will destroy him if he is not the best that he can be. Then he will make sure he is the best ruler that he can be! This is what it is to be an Orc. Be the greatest warrior. Win many victories. Make many slaves. And through your strength, be sure that the lord of the lands is the best lord for the lands!”