#1 3rd Dec 2018 04:19:06

odisseus
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Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

There seems to be (or, more precisely, to have been a few years ago...) a discussion about swordsmen vs pikemen, so I decided to present my opinion on that matter (yea, just a tiny bit late).

Many players hold that the swordsman is the strongest unit and, therefore, best suited for sieges. If I recall correctly, even the in-game manual says so. But, in fact, this is quite far from the truth, and swordsmen are next to useless in laying a siege.

Sure, swordsmen have powerful attack and decent armor. But they also have a lot of disadvantages which more than offset this fact:

  • slow

  • vulnerable to crossbow bolts

  • very vulnerable to fire

  • cannot dig moats

  • cannot climb ladders (duh)

  • slow

  • did I already mention that they are slow? In an open field, an archer can run in circles around the swordsman, and will eventually bring him down.

So what is the best melee unit for sieges? Unsurprisingly, the pikeman it is. He is significantly faster than the swordsman, has better armor, and can dig moats. This makes him much more likely to reach the enemy walls before being reduced to scrap metal. His only disadvantage is his pathetic attack, but it isn't as crippling as it probably was intended by developers. This is because the peculiar way Stronghold 1 handles unit collision.

I believe everybody has noticed by now that units take no space themselves, and theoretically there can be any number of friendly units on exactly the same spot. They will spread out when given an opportunity, but they will remain in the same spot if there's no room to spread to, or if they are attacking. The first condition also enables tower stuffing, but that's off topic.

This shortcomingfeature also allows you, with the slightest amount of micro-management, to have two or three pikemen standing on the same tile and attacking the same wall block. Despite the weak attack of individual pikemen, this arrangement will tear through the walls in reasonable time. Besides, any damage by incoming arrows will be spread over a larger count of units, so each of them has a greater chance to survive.

The swordsman is actually a defensive unit, and his true purpose is defending wall breaches. Groups of swordsmen are best placed where such breaches are likely to occur — right behind the gatehouse; in the outer court, next to the most exposed stretch of wall; and on top of the keep (duh). Located in this way, they won't have to rush to the enemy, so their slowness won't be an issue, and the walls will protect them from enemy fire. They will engage the attacking troops from three sides and chop them down as quickly as they arrive.

Now, it might seem that pikemen are just as suitable for that task. But, in fact, this is the sort of situation where their weak attack turns into a big weakness. If the advancing file of enemies is not dispatched quickly, they all will squeeze into a single tile and start attacking all at once. In effect, this creates a "super soldier", which will kill even the toughest opponent in one blow. Consequently, pikemen can only slow down the attack, which actually may make it stronger, unless your ranged units provide ample fire support. Meanwhile, a sufficient number of swordsmen can fend off an attack on its own.


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#2 3rd Dec 2018 23:06:39

Crusader1307
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Thanks odisseus....Great Observations on your behalf. I am sure those of us who play The Older Versions still will appreciate them!  big_smile

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#3 4th Dec 2018 19:32:09

Nigel
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Nice analysis, odisseus.

I remember in the olden days when I played a lot of multiplayer SH1, all the good players ended up fielding armies of pikemen to attack the enemies. And that even though by concept it would have been the pikemen for defence and the swordmen for attack.

But you give the reasons why in the hard test on the battlefield it turned out the other way around. Nicely explained smile

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#4 31st Mar 2019 21:14:41

EaglePrince
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

This is nice observation. I think there is only one thing you didn't mention - cost. If you fight on a map with less iron, this is a very important factor, so you choose between a group of swordsmen and twice as many pikemen.

Still, I wouldn't call them defensive units either, because they are slow, and in case you need to displace your troops within the castle, you're going to have a hard time. It's all fine when everything is as expected, but the opponent could wipe out all your archers on one side of the castle, or even set the castle to fire. In the later case these swordsmen behind the gate would die. Not to mention cows that the enemy throws upon your castle. Because of this you would actually have to keep them on the keep.

But, as everybody else here knows well, I like swordsmen, and I even use them to attack. You just need to use them smart. For example, of course you wouldn't send them out alone without some archers or crossbowmen.

And swordsmen do have some great advantage over pikemen. In case of melee fight they kill their opponents very quickly, while the opposite is the case with pikemen. So yes, swordsmen are more vulnerable to crossbow bolts, but pikemen would have to fight under fire longer before being able to move on.

Nevertheless, when an enemy brings tons of archers and crossbowmen on top of castle, just waiting there for my attack and making their defenses stronger, then I attack with pikemen, and swordsmen are out of question.

And another thing. I prefer to play as I please, rather then fighting in the most efficient way. It might indeed be much easier to play without swordsmen, but they are still going to be my choice in many situations.

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#5 4th May 2019 05:22:16

odisseus
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Your points are valid, but I think they just confirm my conclusions, or at least don't contradict them.

I haven't compared the cost of hiring a pikeman against those of a swordsman, because it's not entirely clear which values to compare. Shall we compare the gold cost of hiring the unit + buying the weapon & armor? Or maybe it makes more sense to compare the resource costs of manufacturing the equipment? Shall we factor in the time needed to produce said equipment? What about the difference in costs of weapon shops? Anyway, the pikeman seems to be more cost efficient whichever way of comparison you choose.

I never claimed that swordsman is the ultimate defensive unit (that title belongs to the crossbowman, but that's off topic). I just mean that the swordsmen's slowness is much less of an issue when they are protected by walls and have limited distances to move.

When you mention setting enemy castles on fire, I assume this is about Stronghold Crusader, where this is indeed possible. Stronghold Crusader also has assassins, which are good at capturing gates and clearing walls of ranged units, but rather weak in melee. To counter this threat, it might make sense to put swordsman next to walls and gates or even on top of them. I have to admit my experience with Crusader is very limited, so this is just a guess.

I agree that an individual swordsman is a much better fighter than a pikeman – but this is a moot point if the swordsman dies before even reaching the enemy. In my experience, pikemen often can reach the enemy walls where an equal number of swordsmen cannot.

Lastly, every player plays as he pleases, and I have neither intent nor means to forbid attacking with swordsmen. However, by knowingly choosing any unit save the most efficient one to do the job, you are purposely putting yourself at a disadvantage. You may still win by besting your opponent at economy, tactic or micromanagement, but you have imposed a handicap onto yourself, and, when matched with an equal, you would probably lose.


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#6 4th May 2019 16:38:02

Crusader1307
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Well Said, good strategy Sir!

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#7 5th May 2019 14:26:35

Mathew Steel
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Must say, I too agree with odisseus. I think pikemen look the part better, definitely, but swordsmen are better in almost every aspect except for costing slightly more and being slightly slower. Swordsmen can be used to attack in singleplayer, however, when it comes to multiplayer, they're far too weak against intelligent people who know how to easily counter them. Crossbowmen in particular rinse through swordsmen as if they were nothing.


"Gofyn wyf am galon hapus, calon onest, calon lân."

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#8 12th May 2019 20:45:16

EaglePrince
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Yes, I see we've come to an agreement. I would only add one more thing about these differences in costs. It depends on the map. If the map is with little iron, and you cannot buy a lot of iron to produce more weapons, then choosing pikemen means twice as large army. Plus, pikemen are more resilient to arrows, and even to killing pits. Two killing pits are needed to kill a pikemen.

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#9 12th May 2019 21:32:43

Rakso
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Re: Swordsman is strictly a defensive unit

Swordsmen are obviously a really good defensive unit. They exceal on multiplayer especially on King of the Hill type maps. smile It's obviously just a bad unit when it comes to play offensively. But at defence... damn bruh. They just pwn. Cheers.

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