On mercenary costs, size and army professionalism

On mercenary costs, size and army professionalism

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Froonk

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Jun 23, 2020
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Emperor brought the much awaited mercenary rework and I think it was in general a great success in terms of both gameplay and flavour, as well as diversifying warfare. However there are two problems that I think is holding back the system and making it progress awkwardly and also inadvertently handicapping the AI. That are related to mercenary costs, mercenary army sizes (which also relate to their costs) and mercenary interaction with army professionalism. In light of what I consider the developer design decision, which is that mercenaries should be more important early and especially for smaller states then scale to be very costly and be replaced by professional armies later I have three easy to implement suggestions with number balance left to developers. I think all three would work great in tandem.

1. Mercenary costs

Rather than current situation where it costs less to just hire mercenaries indefinitely because they break even their initial costs at 5 years which means its better to keep them as you often declare war sooner than every 5 years, I think it was intended you should rather hire them in wars as you need them then disband them after. As to remedy this, mercenaries should cost less in initial hiring but cost more in maintenance with balance shifted towards breaking point placed somewhere at 2 years. Morever mercenaries should loot faster as to encourage recouping mercenary costs with sweeping occupations to loot as much as possible. Overall aim being mercenaries should be hired at war, used to both fight and loot then disbanded as soon as possible. Mercenary costs should scale with time as usual so that proportion of loot to maintenance should decrease.

2. Mercenary size

Currently mercenaries scale with your force limit. I think this is wrong way to approach mercenary armies, as not only are mercenaries supposed to be indepedent of your state thus not depended on your army size but also gameplay wise become unwieldy due attrition and cost limits in a weird way. I think for better gameplay experience, to represent mercenary indepedence and emphasise mercenary advantage to smaller states and to make it so mercenaries aren't enough later in game mercenary sizes should not scale with your force limit at all, remaining static according to their type with more variety of sizes between different mercenary armies. This way mercenaries would be more important early on and especially for smaller states, as well as a larger investment but become secondary to professional armies later. Costs would increase later and states would need to pay more and more for same size mercenaries representing the fact that professional armies becoming more cost effective as well. Also because the amount of mercenary armies you can hire are limited by type the total amount of mercenaries you can hire, it would be capped by the span of the empire, thus also representing the usefulness of mercenaries to far flung empires as well. No longer would you have upwards of half a million or more mercenaries at your disposal late game but also have much more relevant ones early on. As their sizes would be tailored to optimal army sizes in early game, which makes it easy on AI as well.

3. Army professionalism

Currently, hiring mercenaries reduces your army professionalism by a static amount regardless of size or duration. This alongside with costs and unwieldy sizes encourages players to hire and keep mercenaries. Moreover it makes no sense an empire with vast and professional armies should suffer so much from just hiring one or two detachments of mercenaries. History has plenty of examples of professional armies and mercenaries existing together, most relevant examples being Spain and Sweden during this period. My proposal is rather than reducing your army professionalism mercenaries shouldn't benefit from it, moreover they should decay your army professionalism as a percentage of their share of your force limit up to 1% per year as opposite of drilling. This way army professionalism becomes a balancing act between professional armies and mercenary armies rather than an all or nothing tanking your professionalism just because you hired a few. Also by not benefitting from army professionalism they would be inferior to professional armies later as instead of staying at 0% professionalism all game some armies would increase it as game progresses.

I think these three changes together would allow mercenaries to be more manageable, interactive and dynamic in gameplay, as well as represent more flavour. Additionally and importantly mercenaries would be disproportionately more important early on but become eclipsed by professional armies later on and be reduced to auxiliary and local roles. I also think AI would have easier time handling smaller mercenaries meant to be hired and disbanded more often with sizes easier to direct.
 
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Lars M

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Allowing splitting mercenary forces would also make sense to me.
 
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DashingDozer

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This would solve most of the complaints where people want to siege using Mercs but their hyuge size makes them impractical late game.

Yes! Please this. I am playing HRE and I'm at 1628 with a force limit of 189. I'd colonized Flores and moved onto nearby provinces. Flores duly rebelled - with a 12k stack. I had a 6k nearby, so I thought I'd just augment with a handful of cannon-fodder, sorry - locally raised mercenaries and job done. But no, when I opened the hire mercenaries screen looking for a 6k mob of local heavies on the cheap, my minimum possible local band were 52k infantry, plus some cavalry and artillery. Seems to me this ruins the balance of mercenaries. You can still run mercenary heavy and replace regular troops with a decent band of dogs-of-war, but if you need mercenaries in a hurry to bulk out colonial or other wars you are bang out of luck. Very unrealistic too - just because I'm a large empire I can only hire 50k or more? IMO and if this is the true game mechanic it badly needs revising to allow a wide range of mercenary hires...
 
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twinxor

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All of these changes would be most welcome!
 

Froonk

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Another possible change for their interaction with army professionalism could be hiring mercenaries would reduce army professionalism according to their size compared to your force limit. This could be implemented if their size becomes static.
 

Canute VII

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So apart from feeling like bumping this thread, I have another complementary suggestion to add.

What if each mercenary company counted towards our relations limit?

So maintaining relations with a merc company would be equal to maintaining relations to another nation. Sure, the merc company costs ducats and the alliance/vassal not, but on the upside the company will always join you in all defensive wars and you even don't need any favours to call them when declaring wars yourself.

It would be quite self balancing since exceeding relation slots by hiring many merc companies will cost MP. This means a player will likely only do this for short periods and try to not constantly be over limit.

The more the game world consolidates into bigger tags the less favourable it necomes to have a merc company instead of s bigger ally or vassal with more troops. But of course if a player is of the opinion that she can leverage the (smaller) merc company better than an ally/vassal could his (larger AI-controlled) army, then that's also fair play.

I believe this eould introduce an interesting decision and trade-off and lead to plausible/ maybe even historical results in the way to meet the initial goal to limit late game merc spam.
 
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Zander

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I don't really agree with the diplomatic relations idea, at least not at a 1-for-1 level. But the original proposals do make a lot of sense. Professionalism in particular means that there is literally never a circumstance one should raise mercs after the first five years of the game unless it is the only way to survive... and historically mercenaries did not disappear from the world in 1460.
 
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Froonk

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So apart from feeling like bumping this thread, I have another complementary suggestion to add.

What if each mercenary company counted towards our relations limit?

So maintaining relations with a merc company would be equal to maintaining relations to another nation. Sure, the merc company costs ducats and the alliance/vassal not, but on the upside the company will always join you in all defensive wars and you even don't need any favours to call them when declaring wars yourself.

It would be quite self balancing since exceeding relation slots by hiring many merc companies will cost MP. This means a player will likely only do this for short periods and try to not constantly be over limit.

The more the game world consolidates into bigger tags the less favourable it necomes to have a merc company instead of s bigger ally or vassal with more troops. But of course if a player is of the opinion that she can leverage the (smaller) merc company better than an ally/vassal could his (larger AI-controlled) army, then that's also fair play.

I believe this eould introduce an interesting decision and trade-off and lead to plausible/ maybe even historical results in the way to meet the initial goal to limit late game merc spam.

I do like the idea of diplomatic involvement for mercenary companies in principle but I feel like Paradox would have to overhaul the whole diplomatic system to properly embed this, which could indeed ultimately add dimensions with question of vassal loyalty or even standing army loyalty. However I feel like diplomatic system is the last thing Paradox would overhaul and it is beyond the scope of this game. As the idea of EUIV is simply Risk with trade and more flavour, unlike games like Victoria 2 and CK which focus on human element more.
 
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BalticM

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I do like the idea of diplomatic involvement for mercenary companies in principle but I feel like Paradox would have to overhaul the whole diplomatic system to properly embed this, which could indeed ultimately add dimensions with question of vassal loyalty or even standing army loyalty. However I feel like diplomatic system is the last thing Paradox would overhaul and it is beyond the scope of this game. As the idea of EUIV is simply Risk with trade and more flavour, unlike games like Victoria 2 and CK which focus on human element more.

What if there would be limit of mercenary companies you may have. And going over this limit would cost you 1 military point for every stack above the limit. Say initial limit is just 1. But there are national ideas and other bonuses which may increase this limit by 1, like being trade republic would give +1, or plutocracy idea giving +1 and etc.
Mercenaries would not count to your Force Limit anymore.

I think Force Limit is way too high now, % bonuses or province stats increasing it may be easily halved if mercenaries were excluded from FL. Going over FL should be a thing if you have money, and mercenaries would be an interesting alternative for it.
 
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Froonk

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What if there would be limit of mercenary companies you may have. And going over this limit would cost you 1 military point for every stack above the limit. Say initial limit is just 1. But there are national ideas and other bonuses which may increase this limit by 1, like being trade republic would give +1, or plutocracy idea giving +1 and etc.
Mercenaries would not count to your Force Limit anymore.

I think Force Limit is way too high now, % bonuses or province stats increasing it may be easily halved if mercenaries were excluded from FL. Going over FL should be a thing if you have money, and mercenaries would be an interesting alternative for it.

I like this one a lot, and it would differentiate very well between government forms. Especially like the merchant republic and plutocracy giving extra limits (as well as other possible policies).

Indeed force limit is too easily stacked, and that mercenaries cost forcelimit means they are using same monetary resource as regular armies which doesn't distinguish them.
 

gestr

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I completely agree on the mercenary size, it should definitely be changed. I don't want to siege a fort with 70 something army and can't split them.
 

watchout86

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I would think a simple fix to merc size would be to tie it to combat width in addition to, rather than strictly limited by, force limit. Something like min(combat_width;force_limit) as the maximum size of each company, or maybe 1.5x combat width (to be able to account for when cannons are included). To compensate for there being fewer mercs available in total, make it so that you can get additional local merc companies from your own territory (e.g. the "Free Company") as your country grows big enough (maybe 1 "Free Company" stacks per region -- max size limited by the region's force limit contribution from dev rather than nation's entire force limit, so a Russia that has conquered all of Russia, Ruthenia, Pontic Steppe and Ural regions would have 4 varying sized "Free Companies" based on how much dev in each of those regions). Late game, if it was 1.5x combat width, you'd still be getting 60k stacks but that's a notable improvement.
 
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MatthewP

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Some of these are good ideas, but none of them address the reason I don’t use mercs except as a very last resort, which is that you can’t split or combine them and so they just make war twice as tedious as it needs to be. If paradox is working on a fix they should just fix this, all the rest combined is less important.
 

Froonk

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Some of these are good ideas, but none of them address the reason I don’t use mercs except as a very last resort, which is that you can’t split or combine them and so they just make war twice as tedious as it needs to be. If paradox is working on a fix they should just fix this, all the rest combined is less important.

If the sizes were inherently smaller, you wouldn't have to split them for the most part. For joining them together you could attach them and use them as a singular block (or with regular armies).

For example if the free company was simply 6 regiments whole game, it would be something you just attach to pad out numbers. Or if there was a 4-1-8 mercenary company you could use that for besieging. While some of them could be more "independent" armies such as 16-2-4 that would need only slight padding from your regular armies. Having them as smaller, purposeful stacks instead of scaling monstrosities would make them immediately easier and more intuitive to use.
 

MatthewP

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If the sizes were inherently smaller, you wouldn't have to split them for the most part. For joining them together you could attach them and use them as a singular block (or with regular armies).

For example if the free company was simply 6 regiments whole game, it would be something you just attach to pad out numbers. Or if there was a 4-1-8 mercenary company you could use that for besieging. While some of them could be more "independent" armies such as 16-2-4 that would need only slight padding from your regular armies. Having them as smaller, purposeful stacks instead of scaling monstrosities would make them immediately easier and more intuitive to use.

this would be a good change and solves a problem, but not the one that mainly keeps me from using mercs. It’s just all the attaching/detaching, not being able to use hot keys to merge units without going through and deselecting all the mercs, not being able to split off a couple infantry to carpet siege, or in different situations just hit the “split in half” button repeatedly to get smaller units for various reasons. Basically most of the great QOL stuff that makes the repetitive parts of army management less annoying breaks with mercs.

I don’t deny they would be more theoretically useful with your changes. The one time I used mercs recently after the very early game was when I talked
myself into 300% overextension and just had silly levels of rebels. There was one area I had no convenient troops or easy way to raise them, so I hired an absurdly overqualified 60k stack. A 25k stack would’ve been much better and made me happier in that case. But I still wouldn’t use mercs generally.
 

MatthewP

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Understandable as far as UI issues go, Paradox needs to do an UI pass for army merging and selecting. Especially adding more functionality and hotkeys for selectively attaching and detaching.

personally I would rather they just let mercenaries split and combine as normal. They can still have their own manpower and be named companies hired together, preferably with your fixes. But short of that some ui fixes would indeed go a long way.
 

magusdl

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Nov 23, 2013
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For the past few days I have been trying to make a "condottieri build" as switzerland, because of their ideas and gov type, they also have the Swiss Home Guard which is the free swiss guard (+5% discipline) but double the amount for the same price.

I still haven't found a reason to pump up mercs (as in, idea groups and policies focused on them).
Eco+Quantity for manpower and reduced troop cost (which increases chance of people actually being able to afford them), and deving up helps to keep them "updated" in size.
Eco+Quality for the space marine mercs
Innovative+Offensive for mad siege capability.

All those options are better because you can have the professionalism bonuses, and most importantly customized unit comp (like a siege stack). The only upside for the mercs is the free generals, but I still haven't found what influences their skill, if anything.

Note i'm trying with the best merc squad, with the best nation for them, but still think it is not worth it. The fact the game wants them to be obsolete, only makes it even more pointless to invest in them. The Swiss Home Guard with the eco+quality, as an example, gets 120% discipline with just two idea groups (not to mention the inf combat).

Oh and their size is not related to the FL, it's your dev. Also the merc manpower bonus only increases their manpower and the amount of condottieri you can rent, does not help with their size either.

I know it's not entirely the point of this thread, but I wanted to add that yeah, mercs are underperforming badly right now, almost pointless.