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Thread: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

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    Member Member dismal's Avatar
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    Default The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    This is a spin-off from the "Too Many Sieges" thread, which can be found here:

    https://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showthread.php?t=76826

    In that thread, I say something to the effect that "the AI's tendency to underdefend cities may be the biggest issue in the game". The point of this thread is to show some examples of what I mean.

    First, the situation. This is a VH/VH game where I am the Scots. The action will focus on my relatively easy conquest of Hungary between turns 103 and 117.

    Here he are in turn 103 with FOW off. I have recently finished exterminating in rapid succession the HRE on my Eastern front, Denmark to the Northeast, and Milan to the Southeast. I am still at war with Spain, the Moors and Sicily who have launched various amphibious attacks against me over the years.

    On this turn, the AI will decide I don't have enough enemies and I will be attacked by Portugal in the West and Hungary in the East. I have previously had nothing but neutral peace with both.



    Note from this screenshot above: I probably have 4 or 5 stacks in the area of Prague/Vienna when the Hungary decides to attack me. It sends one stack (seen just East of Prague) to an area where I have two, and leaves Budapest and Krakow almost defenseless. This is a classic example of the AI undefending issue. Whatever shall I do? Well, the answer is: ignore the stack near Prague and sack some of those defenseless cities.

    Flash forward a few turns:



    Now, I have already taken Budapest and Thorn, and have a stack within range ready to move on Krakow. The AI has 2 1/2 stacks of troops in the vicinity of Krakow, but maybe 2 units actually defending the city. I think I shall jusy ignore them and take the city.

    This screen taken moments later:



    After 3 minutes of hanging about in the city square, Krakow is mine. Those 2 1/2 stacks are stuck a couple provinces from the nearest Hungarian border. What will they do? Head south, I guess. One thing I know: I will never fight them.

    Next screen shows the final moments of the once proud Hungarian empire:



    In the last few turns, I have taken Bran, Bucharest and Sofia leaving the Hungarians with just Iasi. Clinging to their last city, and with 2+ stacks in the area the fight for Iasi should be epic, right? Well, except there's only one unit actually in the city. I think I just autocalced it.



    Finally, those Hungarian stacks have gone rebel. 7 cities gone in 14 turns without much of a fight.

  2. #2
    Signifer, Cohors II Legio II Member Comrade Alexeo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    We've known about this for weeks...
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    Master Procrastinator Member TevashSzat's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    That doesn't happen in my vhvh campaign as Sicily. I am at war with the French and they seem to be concentrating most of their military force on my front and are guarding their border cities with at least half a stack. Their cities further in however have like one unit garrisons.
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    the G-Diffuser Senior Member pevergreen's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    dah dah dah Garrison Script!
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    Member Member Neoncat's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Scotland does it sometimes even worse. They have only one city and that city doesn't even have any garrison. So its kinda quickjob to take their city in most of games. Because of how AI acts(overall) theres no challenge in game. It has even bonuses to be 'better' enemy, but it sure fails most of time. One way is to add more bonuses or build better AI. I would go for second option. Sure I don't know what CA will do. However it seems so stupid to play against enemy, which gets so many bonuses that it should win the war, if it would have any sense of logic. Its like playing a chess with AI, which gets 2-5 moves when you move only once and it will still lose the game.
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    yup i rate this the single most dissapointing element of the game ( worse than any of its other faults)

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    Cynic Senior Member sapi's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    7 cities in 14 turns is a bit slow...

    For a real expansion you should be averaging one city per turn

    /sarcasm

    (actually, i often average close to that, so while i'm trying to make a joke out of the issue, it really is serious)
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    Supreme Ruler of the Universe Member FrauGloer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Yep, it really is annoying. "Funniest" thing that happened in my HRE campaign was taking both Milan and Genoa in one turn with the same army! *lol* Milan had 4 to 5 full stacks in the area (but none right next to their cities). My 3/4-stack of rather mediocre troops was next to Genoa, which was defended by a sole general and infiltrated by two spies of mine (80% chance of open gates). I took it easily with minimal losses as the walls weren't manned at all, and after noticing that Milan itself (also infiltrated) was only garrisoned by another general and one unit of militia, I thought: 'Ok they're asking for it', and took it. In one turn, all of mighty Milan was captured and all their fearsome stacks of italian/genoese crossbow militia turned rebel.

    I mean, hey, it's their friggin' capital of ~15000 inhabitants and they garrison it with 1 and a half units?!? WTF? Not only is it indefensible, but public order should be at about... err... 0%! If I want to keep order in a city that size, I have to put at least six units in there + lots of happiness buildings! I'm ok with the A.I. getting some advantages, but this is unfair and takes away the possibility for some exciting sieges/last stands. Who wants to butcher 1 measly peasants unit in your archrivals last city/castle, just because he's too stupid to keep his nearby stack behind the walls?!? I want to earn that final victory, but the way it is right now, I'm being cheated out of this experience!

    Well at least I don't have to put up with the abysmal pathfinding in cities that much!
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    It is unfortunate that it's all too easy to rush past the AIs field armies, take all their settlement and leave the now rebel army to just sit there and rot.

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    Member Member Midnight's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    It's tricky right now, I'd imagine. If the AI is forced to garrison troops to maintain public order, then it's going to have a very tough time expanding, leading to the player rampaging across the map at will. If, as is currently the case, the AI can maintain order with almost no garrison (and sometimes actually nothing!), it probably does so in order to try to be aggressive, thus leaving its cities horribly vulnerable to a reasonable bit of maneuvering.

    I'm not sure what the solution is, other than a blanket (and unhelpful) 'better AI'.

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    Supreme Ruler of the Universe Member FrauGloer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by PureFodder
    It is unfortunate that it's all too easy to rush past the AIs field armies, take all their settlement and leave the now rebel army to just sit there and rot.
    Well, actually they did me the favour of blocking the western alpine passes so the 4 french full stacks coulnd't invade northern italy!
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    Philosophically Inclined Member CountMRVHS's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    I've seen both sides of this in my unpatched games. The way I finally destroyed the Danes in my Vh/VH Poland game is a pretty funny story. The Danes had only Antwerp left, but they had a big scary stack roaming around near the border of Arhus, which I owned. Just wanting to end the faction quickly (as the Pope had just reconciled with them and i didn't want to get warned away), I marched an army around their stack and put Antwerp under siege. What was Antwerp's garrison? A single unit: their elderly faction leader. Next turn the bugger died of old age and my troops marched into an empty city.

    However, in that same game I've noticed the Spanish and Russians did a much better job of garrisoning their cities. The Spanish had conquered up into Germany, so I marched an army down to Dijon, which at the time only had a couple units inside. By the time I got there, the Spanish had filled it with dismoutned chiv knights, crossbows, javelins.... those of you who play the Polish know their infantry isn't that great, making taking settlements sometimes tricky, so the Spanish did a good job of filling their town with effective units to defend against an assault.

    On the eastern front, I've got Russia on the ropes; they own Bulgar, the province below it, and the province on the Crimean peninsula. I have a stack headed down to Sarkel (Khazar for MTW players), when I notice the AI moving some armies into the city and moving a force to intercept my army on the road. Now I've got to deal with this significant stack in my way, potentially giving them more time to reinforce their settlement.

    I've seen the Egyptian AI do a good job of garrisoning their cities as well -- not against me, but against the Mongols. Up until a few turns ago (damn Mongols!) I owned Acre and Jerusalem, and I was nervously tracking the movements of the horde as they headed from Baghdad towards the Holy Land. Damascus and Gaza were steadily beefing up their garrisons the whole time, and also building full stacks to stand near the cities. I had a full stack in both of my settlements, but it wasn't enough to deter the hordes: once they settled in Antioch (held by the Byz) they swept down the coast with terrifying speed.

    Clearly the AI could do better at defending its cities, but I'm seeing several instances where the AI is doing great. The new recruitment mechanism is surely largely responsible for these instances, as it's possible to train multiple units per turn and thus beef up security more quickly. I prefer a more aggressive AI to a passive AI; thus, to me, a bigger issue is the slowness of the initial phase of the campaign, where the AI sends out a tiny stack to take a nearby rebel provinces. It's as though the AI is programmed to send out only the bare minimum against rebels; of course this results in the AI factions failing to take the province until several tries later. But that's a topic for another thread.

  13. #13

    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    I'm of the opinion that some people allow this AI oversight to ruin the game for themselves by exploiting it, much as you have. By using you cannons to assault in sieges right away you are avoiding the AI field armies. If you just wait a turn or two those armies will be knocking at your doorstep and you fight an epic battle of 1 vs. 2 or 3 stacks. Sure its not a siege but the city is still on the line. Self restraint can be used, its not like CA is forcing you to blitz through the AI cities.
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    Member Member dismal's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by sapi
    7 cities in 14 turns is a bit slow...

    For a real expansion you should be averaging one city per turn

    /sarcasm

    (actually, i often average close to that, so while i'm trying to make a joke out of the issue, it really is serious)
    The point wasn't so much the speed as the ease with which it was done.

    Well, really the point is to show the AI obviously failing to use the resources it has wisely so maybe it gets fixed.

    I could have gone faster by dividing my army more and leaving smaller garrisons behind. I'm mostly sending full stacks where half stacks would probably have been enough.

    At this stage, the game was pretty much over and I wasn't worried so much about a fast expansion. I wouldn't have even bothered with Hungary if they hadn't attacked me.

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    Desperately Seeking Tamworth Member Ethelred Unread's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    I've had experience similar to the count. Playing as England on VH/VH France lightly garrisoned their cities, but I've fought sieges against the Milanese with lots of unit defending.

    I always seek out and crush armies anyway - isn't that part of the game? i guess if I was playing a human in a campaign game, I would manouever more, but against the AI, once my army is ready I attack!
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    Member Member Kraggenmor's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by caius britannicus
    Self restraint can be used, its not like CA is forcing you to blitz through the AI cities.
    Very true and I agree to a point.

    However, should it be the user's responsibiliy to 'make the game challenging.'?

    Wasn't/isn't that the job of the game maker?


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  17. #17
    Member Member dismal's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by caius britannicus
    I'm of the opinion that some people allow this AI oversight to ruin the game for themselves by exploiting it, much as you have. By using you cannons to assault in sieges right away you are avoiding the AI field armies. If you just wait a turn or two those armies will be knocking at your doorstep and you fight an epic battle of 1 vs. 2 or 3 stacks. Sure its not a siege but the city is still on the line. Self restraint can be used, its not like CA is forcing you to blitz through the AI cities.
    The point is that the AI has a clear deficiency. Whether I should deliberately handicap myself to compensate for the AI's deficiencies is a separate issue.

    I could choose to fight only offensive bridge battles with peasants, I suppose. But I don't really view it as my role to make a strategy game more challenging by using bad strategy.

    Going after cities with cannons is not what I'd call an "exploit". It's what one would expect any reasonable opponent to do. That's where the money is.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Senior Member Barkhorn1x's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by dismal
    I could choose to fight only offensive bridge battles with peasants, I suppose. But I don't really view it as my role to make a strategy game more challenging by using bad strategy.
    This about sums it up for me. Seems that the Strat AI has some very fundimental flaws - how hard is it to write code that goes something like this:
    1. IF = Cities/Castles of size "X" THEN = must be garrisoned by "Y" number of units
    - And -
    1. IF = City/Castle attacked THEN = SWARM!

    These are basic issues that mimic how a (cautious) human player would act. They should have been addressed.

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  19. #19

    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Fighting the AI in the field isn't much amusement though. Usually I end up on the side of a mountain spending most of my time trying to find a way to even get to the AI's army on some inaccessible overhang. It's a serious annoyance.

  20. #20

    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by Barkhorn1x

    how hard is it to write code that goes something like this:

    1. IF = Cities/Castles of size "X" THEN = must be garrisoned by "Y" number of units
    - And -
    1. IF = City/Castle attacked THEN = SWARM!

    Barkhorn.
    Its very difficult. Seriously, it's among the hardest problems faced in computer science. If a nearby city a is attacked should the garrison Y in city b set out to swarm because there are no other units around?? Absolutely not, because that contradicts the first rule.

    The games that do have good AI (or at least make it seem so) either have:

    1.) Rockstar programmers.
    2.) limited scope - coding AI for RPGS or shooters is magnitudes easier then strategy.
    3.) Limited environment - coding AI on a chess board is magnitudes easier then coding on some variable environment map with roadblocks, hundreds of moving units and dynamic alterations (think forts).

    The game AI is not going to get better. It's been like this since Rome and xx patches, expansions later its only marginally improved. They really just bit off more then they could chew with the complexity of the strat map.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Senior Member Barkhorn1x's Avatar
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    Default Re: The AI Underdefends Cities (with pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by RussianWinter
    Its very difficult. Seriously, it's among the hardest problems faced in computer science.
    You may be right about that but, come on? CA has to do better on things like:
    - stacks marching up and just standing there.
    - all of these short stacks "to'ing and fro'ing" around the countryside
    - large stacks stooging around while you have your way w/ a city.
    - a large castle defended by two units of militia and a crossbow

    All of that adds up to a less than satisfying gaming experience and could be fixed w/ the proper resources assigned.

    The game AI is not going to get better. It's been like this since Rome and xx patches, expansions later its only marginally improved.
    And I know you are right about that.

    I am still playing - and having fun - but I am more than a bit wistful for what might have been.

    Barkhorn.
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