United States of America Inst
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04 Nov 2017, 09:05

I notice that there's not a lot of coverage on Chinese Flamethrowers. These are often described as lamethrowers. That actually means two things: when used against an opponent unprepared for them, they seem quite imbalanced. However, against a prepared opponent, Flamethrowers themselves are somewhat overmatched. But I assert this bipolar characterization is not the true nature of flamethrowers, and understanding their peculiarities can help you use them profitably.

The Unit Itself

Flamethrowers are a Chinese siege infantry unit trained out of the Castle. These units have short range, about 2 less than musketeers, and, as their name implies, throw flames at their opponent, for a splash damage of one. They are not, contrary to noob belief, artillery units, so attempts to hit them with dragoon fire will cause their 64% ranged resistance to kick in with no bonuses to dragoon fire.

The main question is, are flamethrowers any good? Well, it depends on what they're facing. Against heavy infantry, a single flamethrower is pushing out 60 DPS for a 170 wood / 170 gold cost. This is enough to erase a musketeer in 3 seconds, and in fact does superior damage compared to both Chu Ko Nu and arquebusiers for cost, even with Repelling Volley, albeit at far shorter ranges. Against skirmishers, while there is a 60% damage mod on top of the 600% mod against infantry, arquebusiers ignore ranged resistance as they deal siege damage. This mostly negates the damage penalty when facing skirmishers, so against short-ranged units like Stretlets, flamethrowers can be quite lethal. Moreover, China has three artillery shipment cards that increase flamethrower HP and attack by a total of 40%. Fully upgraded, the flamethrower then is as carded more heavily than cuirassiers, British cavalry, and British muskets, and ignoring pop efficiency issues, is carded as heavily as Old Han Army after Old Han Reforms. Moreover, the high ranged resistance allows flamethrowers to tank ranged fire better than Chu Ko Nu. And the siege attack, while not at Oprichnik or Ram levels, is respectable and offers China one of its better ways to destroy buildings.

So, you may ask, if flamethrowers are so good, why don't I see more of them, or flamethrower masses?

Unfortunately, flamethrowers have pronounced weaknesses. First, flamethrowers are extremely fragile when their ranged resistance is not taken into account. For a cost comparable to three Ashigaru, they have only 210 HP, when three Ashigaru would have 510 HP. Units, even musketeers, that get into melee with them, are going to tear the flamethrowers a new one. Artillery, likewise, actually gets bonuses against them and are liable to wipe out entire clusters of flamethrowers in one hit. Abus Guns too are part of the threat list, as Abus Guns ignore ranged resistance. Second, flamethrowers do not get bonuses against villagers, so against villagers you are dealing only a measly 10 DPS for 34 food. Nor do they, importantly, get bonuses against cavalry, meaning that, first, not only do flamethrowers take the equivalent of 3x damage from cavalry, they actually have damage penalties against cavalry, of 20%, meaning that they are nearly worthless in engaging a cavalry army. This creates major micro issues because in a fight, they need to be babysat so they target infantry, not cavalry escorts, although their siege damage allows them to be credible in engaging artillery. Lastly, their range and speed are not excellent, meaning that large masses of skirmishers can kill them before they get into range. However, with 4.25 speed, flamethrowers are actually faster than skirmishers without the speed upgrade, barring the Cassador. Lastly, they're economically distorting. Flamethrowers, unlike other artillery-like units, costs a balanced amount of wood and gold. They are, arguably, a wood hog; the only other land trainable available to the Chinese that has a similar wood intensity is the hand mortar, which costs more wood than food and is used primarily in a supporting capacity.

Now your question is: why even bother with flamethrowers, then? The problem is the Chinese Banner Army system. China, notably, does not often train units, although it can receive pure unit groups by shipment. On paper, you might think: wow, China has a great skirmisher in the Chu Ko Nu, with better bonuses than the Crossbowman and better DPS than the Skirmisher. Wrong. The Chu Ko Nu can only be trained in the Old Han Army, which as a whole behaves like a musketeer, or in the Standard Army, where the Steppe Riders get countered by heavy infantry faster than the Chu Ko Nu counters the heavy infantry. Moreover, experienced China players will note that it's a challenge to keep armies at appropriate balances, with either the meatshield (Changdao Swordsmen, Qiang Pikemen, Iron Flails) vaporizing faster than the supporting skirmishers, or the meatshield entirely lacking skirmisher support. The flamethrower functions as a remedy to this problem: it is a unit that can be trained without combination, and functions as a nearly pure counter to heavy infantry, with some light infantry being vulnerable to the flamethrower. Consider the alternative, for example. If you wish to mass the Forbidden Army, which is vulnerable to heavy infantry and light cavalry, you have to build the Imperial Army or Territorial Army, both of which are diluted by a second unit, although the Changdao performs respectably against heavy infantry. The flamethrower, on the other hand, means that every point of resource invested into it goes into countering the opponent's heavy infantry commponent. Likewise, you're at Colonial and your opponent is pushing a heavy infantry rush. You have taken a few losses early on, and your Old Han Army is working as too soft a counter for what your enemy has and wants to do. If you already have a castle up, the answer is clear, send out flamethrowers to hard counter the opponent's rush. In performing against a pure musketeer army in the Colonial Age, 1000 resources invested into Old Han Army is equivalent to at most 500 resources invested in flamethrowers, less if you consider splash damage. Flamethrowers then have situational uses at which they excel.

What are all these situational uses, then? I've described two possible scenarios above. In combination with the Forbidden Army, they actually cover each other's weaknesses quite well, although there is a gap to light cavalry. Iron Flails, with their large size, splash damage, and high speed, are good at blocking enemy cavalry from reaching the flamethrowers and forcing them to engage the Iron Flails, which due to their splash are quite credible in cavalry to cavalry engagements. Meteor Hammers allow the Chinese player to quickly remove artillery that poses a threat to the flamethrowers. And if the Forbidden Army is mediocre at base siege, flamethrowers allow your force to burn down enemy buildings rapidly. Moreover, if the flamethrower has a speed and range problem, Iron Flails can pin down the enemy infantry and allow the flamethrowers to scorch them. In comparison to other artillery+cavalry combos, as well, the flamethrowers are not vulnerable to enemy light cavalry, and with their 4.25 speed and ability to fire without deploying, they can keep up with the cavalry in a tactical situation. The other trainable source of flamethrowers also comes in quite handy in this scenario. If a combo of Forbidden Army and flamethrowers counters everything but mass cavalry and light cavalry, you actually have a solution to the second problem. The Black Flag Army is a more traditional approach to the artillery cost structure, being gold intensive, but it comes with arquebusiers and allows you to train anti-light cavalry without having to resort to Changdao Swordsmen or additional Iron Flails.

Another scenario is the early rush. With an initial Castle by your TC, things like sepoy rushes can be fended off with greater ease by using flamethrowers to hard-counter them. If, for whatever reason, you choose to get the Temple of Heaven early, Transcendence combines extremely well with Flamethrowers, allowing you to reboot damaged flamethrowers back to full health, making them a phenomenally annoying ranged meat shield.

With these two uses in mind, we do have to pose a question about the late game. Starting in Industrial, China begins to focus more on the Old Han Army as with the Old Han Reforms card, it is extremely powerful. In this case, should one automatically switch from Forbidden Army + Flamethrower armies to an Old Han spam? Yes, and no. In actuality, Old Han Army does have significant superiorities over Forbidden Army + Flamethrower cores, namely that it is vulnerable mainly to artillery. Old Han Army's superior anti-cavalry ability is one reason to switch out, especially if your opponent has gone pure cavalry to counter your combo. On the other hand, Forbidden Army as half of the core is extremely effective in handling artillery, which the Old Han spam requires heavy Hand Mortar support to handle. Moreover, even Reformed Old Han Armies cannot outmatch the flamethrower in clearing heavy infantry; the 30 DPS with Repelling Volley does not come with splash, and is tied down by having part of its resources diluted by pikemen. Why is this, then? To know, we should take a closer look at the Old Han Reforms card.

According to many players, the Old Han Reforms card is in fact extremely imbalanced. Some stat-crunching will show this to be different, however. First, while the Old Han Reforms card doubles unit HP and attack, it also increases cost by 50%. In terms of unit efficiency, this is equivalent to a 33% increase in HP and damage. While some players might conceive of masses of Old Han Armies as being double armies for pop, even with full upgrades the Old Han Army is still quite tame, with an average unit cost of 109 resources per pop. The Forbidden Army, in comparison, is 104 resources per pop. Likewise, if we consider cards, the Old Han Reforms card isn't that powerful when we consider the full buffs applicable to both the Chu Ko Nu and the Qiang Pikeman. To fully card a flamethrower, you need to get three shipments, which buff it to +40% health and HP, alongside +30% health and HP for other artillery units, incidentally giving you the best heavy cannon in the game with a Russian ally. For an Old Han Army, by comparison, if the Old Han Reforms makes the Old Han Army 33% more effective for cost, you also need Standard Army and Manchu Combat, which essentially adds another 7% efficiency by each affecting one half of the Old Han Army by 15% in one area, essentially matching the Siege cards boost on the Flamethrower over 3 cards.

That said, Reformed Old Han armies do have a place in army composition, as much as Flamethrowers do, as Reformed Old Han is the best, if not the most efficient, anti-cavalry army the Chinese have.

===

It's getting late, so if you did manage to get through this wall of text, thanks for reading. I hope you've reconsidered a somewhat underused and underrated unit, and fare well in your China games.
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04 Nov 2017, 09:06

Inst wrote:For a cost comparable to three Ashigaru, they have only 210 HP
I don't know about "brief". Also, Falconets have 200hp. Castles and the range are the main issues to me. I think something like this would be cool:

– Castle cost reduced from 250w, 100c to 250w, 50c (bounties recalculated accordingly).
– Flamethrower population cost reduced from 4 to 3; maximum range & line-of-sight increased from 10 & 14 to 12 & 16 respectively.

I enjoyed reading your post, by the way.
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04 Nov 2017, 11:26

Thank you for these excellent comments about my favorite unit :chinese:
Also, disciplined flamethrowers are improved by 30% (hp & attack), honored ones by 35% and exalted ones by 60%
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France Kaiserklein
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04 Nov 2017, 12:43

Didn't read everything, but light infantry means coyote runners and other units in the same fashion, not ranged infantry such as skirms. Flamethrowers actually deal the exact same damage against heavy infantry and ranged infantry. They don't do shit against coyote runners though, just like against cav.

But this unit seems pretty bugged, the ROF is really weird, and the multipliers don't seem to apply properly in game. 64% rr is also weird as fuck.
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04 Nov 2017, 14:37

Yes and I think on the good side of flamethrowers, low attack and extremely high ROF keep overkill minimal
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04 Nov 2017, 14:48

I really dislike that flame throwers have 10 range only. Its super easy to focus them down. To make them work you probably must have a very large amount of meelee units as well.
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04 Nov 2017, 14:54

China usually has pikes or disciples or the monk. If you can force a musk fight in age II they could do decent. They get raped by skirms or goons though.
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04 Nov 2017, 15:46

Kaiserklein wrote:Didn't read everything, but light infantry means coyote runners and other units in the same fashion, not ranged infantry such as skirms. Flamethrowers actually deal the exact same damage against heavy infantry and ranged infantry. They don't do shit against coyote runners though, just like against cav.

But this unit seems pretty bugged, the ROF is really weird, and the multipliers don't seem to apply properly in game. 64% rr is also weird as fuck.
Isn't it 65%?
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04 Nov 2017, 16:33

Biggest issue with throwers is the range

The awkward castle is the 2nd issue.

The lack of musketeers is the straw that breaks the camels back. I guess the combo you want is steppe riders and pike with throwers. But this can just be infinitely kited, even by a mass of musks. Keshik pike is the next best thing, but again, easily kited. So it just sux
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04 Nov 2017, 20:09

zoom wrote:
Kaiserklein wrote:Didn't read everything, but light infantry means coyote runners and other units in the same fashion, not ranged infantry such as skirms. Flamethrowers actually deal the exact same damage against heavy infantry and ranged infantry. They don't do shit against coyote runners though, just like against cav.

But this unit seems pretty bugged, the ROF is really weird, and the multipliers don't seem to apply properly in game. 64% rr is also weird as fuck.
Isn't it 65%?

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04 Nov 2017, 21:23

Couldn't it be used vs russia somehow ?
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United States of America Inst
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06 Nov 2017, 08:46

Skirmishers are considered light infantry, and at least by TAD most skirms take extra damage from anti-light infantry units.

You'd honestly think that if it were a light infantry thing, flamethrowers would be adequate against coyote runners, which they're not (flamethrowers apparently deal stacked and counter-stacked bonuses against light infantry, you have the 6x kick in, then the .6x kick in afterwards).

About kiting, the only reason they can kite you is because flamethrowers have such low RoF. They can break contact and maintain full damage while you're being reduced. On the other hand, however, flamethrowers are faster than musketeers, so with some micro you could stop them from kiting you by moving closer to melee distance. Likewise, your monk is often sufficient for locking the enemy into close range in colonial, and the monk will often get focus fired (use cover), so your monk ends up helping your flamethrowers to tank.

My main point, though, is that flamethrowers should not be treated as artillery, since they're not. Think of them as an eccentric version of the Abus Gun; their main role is to scorch heavy infantry like musketeers and pikemen. In combination with heavy cavalry, the heavy cavalry basically stops the BS kiting behavior by pinning and slowing the enemy, while your flamethrowers compensate for the damage taken to multiplier-backed anti-cav by dealing heavy damage in turn.

Likewise, the castle complaint is not really warranted. China is often going to build a castle anyways to help stop rushes given that it's going to try to get fortress ASAP; it's essentially a slightly more expensive version of the Outpost, and what's better, it can train the equivalent of a Skirmisher. You cannot think of the Flamethrower as an offensive unit, because it's not; the anti-building is not enough for real aggression beyond killing outposts or forward bases, and Flamethrowers are terrible at killing villagers. It's a defensive, specialized counter-unit intended to perform the role of Chu Ko Nu, if only Chu Ko Nu could be built singly, which is not possible.

That said, if I could have any change to the flamethrower, it would be upping its speed from 4.25 to 4.5 or even 5. The fact is, in Colonial, you're not going to be mixing flamethrowers with Iron Flail, simply because the latter is not available at that age. The Colonial flamethrower mass is based around having Old Han Army to escort; pikes cover the Chu Ko Nu's weakness against cavalry, but you're incredibly vulnerable to crossbows, yumi archers, and other long-range skirmisher-type units. China has weak counters to these units: unless you have White Pagoda, you're stuck with un-upgraded disciples and/or steppe riders; the latter is diluted by Chu Ko Nu, while the former is capped at 5.
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06 Nov 2017, 09:38

Skirmishers are ranged infantry in TAD.
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06 Nov 2017, 09:42

Speed is the last thing I would buff. It's already surprisingly high. Castle cost, unit cost, population cost, or range are all preferable to me. The most obvious candidates are Castle and population cost, I think.
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06 Nov 2017, 09:49

Inst wrote:Skirmishers are considered light infantry, and at least by TAD most skirms take extra damage from anti-light infantry units.
Definitely not.
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06 Nov 2017, 09:57

EAGLEMUT wrote:
Inst wrote:Skirmishers are considered light infantry, and at least by TAD most skirms take extra damage from anti-light infantry units.
Definitely not.


Do yo mean to say that for example rajputs don't have a multiplier against skirms? Never tried it, but alwas thought they had.
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06 Nov 2017, 09:58

Correct. Rajputs could have been less shit, then.
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06 Nov 2017, 10:19

2017, people still confusing light inf and ranged inf tags
Goddam RE, you could have not messed up this one.

LI = coyote, RI = skirm.
United States of America Inst
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06 Nov 2017, 11:09

Chu Ko Nu are listed on the Wiki as light infantry. Am I mistaken?
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Italy Garja
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06 Nov 2017, 11:14

Wiki is not accurate.
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06 Nov 2017, 11:27

Why couldn't they just call the fucking tag "runner" instead of "light infantry"...
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06 Nov 2017, 11:47

Inst wrote:Skirmishers are considered light infantry, and at least by TAD most skirms take extra damage from anti-light infantry units.

No, the light infantry tag is given to infantry units that serve the purpose of hand cav, such as rattan shields, disciples and coyote runners.

You'd honestly think that if it were a light infantry thing, flamethrowers would be adequate against coyote runners, which they're not (flamethrowers apparently deal stacked and counter-stacked bonuses against light infantry, you have the 6x kick in, then the .6x kick in afterwards).

They only deal 0.6x to coyotes. 6x only applies to heavy infantry units like musketeers or pikemen.

About kiting, the only reason they can kite you is because flamethrowers have such low RoF. They can break contact and maintain full damage while you're being reduced. On the other hand, however, flamethrowers are faster than musketeers, so with some micro you could stop them from kiting you by moving closer to melee distance. Likewise, your monk is often sufficient for locking the enemy into close range in colonial, and the monk will often get focus fired (use cover), so your monk ends up helping your flamethrowers to tank.

Using the monk to stagger the enemy army is probably the wisest thing you can do to make flamethrowers work, but 0.25 more speed than muskets is not going to help you a lot, considering flamethrowers even have less range. Cassadores can kite or chase musketeers effectively, as they have 20 range and 4.5 speed. Flamethrowers only have 10 range and 4.25 speed, chasing units is not a real option. All the time you spend chasing units only translates to wasted damage potential. Their high HP also makes them easy to focus fire without too much overkill, they are usually the first thing to be sniped by your enemy if you bring one in a fight.

My main point, though, is that flamethrowers should not be treated as artillery, since they're not. Think of them as an eccentric version of the Abus Gun; their main role is to scorch heavy infantry like musketeers and pikemen. In combination with heavy cavalry, the heavy cavalry basically stops the BS kiting behavior by pinning and slowing the enemy, while your flamethrowers compensate for the damage taken to multiplier-backed anti-cav by dealing heavy damage in turn.

Flamethrowers are basically grenadiers with 10x rate of fire, they are really nothing like abus guns unfortunately. Hand cav+flamethrowers is also extremely weak to ranged cavalry, so it is a viable army composition only against japan or other civs with weaker ranged cav. Even then, it is still less practical than skirm-type units, who are more manouvrable thanks to their range and they also counter ranged cav. I'd rather train imperial army than flamethrowers+forbidden army.

Likewise, the castle complaint is not really warranted. China is often going to build a castle anyways to help stop rushes given that it's going to try to get fortress ASAP; it's essentially a slightly more expensive version of the Outpost, and what's better, it can train the equivalent of a Skirmisher. You cannot think of the Flamethrower as an offensive unit, because it's not; the anti-building is not enough for real aggression beyond killing outposts or forward bases, and Flamethrowers are terrible at killing villagers. It's a defensive, specialized counter-unit intended to perform the role of Chu Ko Nu, if only Chu Ko Nu could be built singly, which is not possible.

That's exactly because china wants to get fortress asap that you won't be able to afford a castle while advancing. And even if you got a castle, making flamethrowers is a bit disruptive on your economy. I can see flamethrowers as a good defensive tool (e.g. against a sepoy rush) because the opponent has to get close to you to deal damage, but if you are the one who needs to get close to your opponent then it is just not going to work.

That said, if I could have any change to the flamethrower, it would be upping its speed from 4.25 to 4.5 or even 5. The fact is, in Colonial, you're not going to be mixing flamethrowers with Iron Flail, simply because the latter is not available at that age. The Colonial flamethrower mass is based around having Old Han Army to escort; pikes cover the Chu Ko Nu's weakness against cavalry, but you're incredibly vulnerable to crossbows, yumi archers, and other long-range skirmisher-type units. China has weak counters to these units: unless you have White Pagoda, you're stuck with un-upgraded disciples and/or steppe riders; the latter is diluted by Chu Ko Nu, while the former is capped at 5.

The main buff that flamethrowers actually need is a range buff. If they had 14/16 range instead of 10 they might actually be worth training in prolonged colonial wars (which china doesn't really want to be in though).
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06 Nov 2017, 12:38

zoom wrote:Correct. Rajputs could have been less shit, then.

I don't get this, rajputs have the same stats (slightly better actually) as disciplined changdaos yet people say rajputs suck and changdaos are OP. Maybe rajputs are a bit overpriced but i don't think it is a bad unit at all.
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06 Nov 2017, 14:03

gamevideo113 wrote:
zoom wrote:Correct. Rajputs could have been less shit, then.

I don't get this, rajputs have the same stats (slightly better actually) as disciplined changdaos yet people say rajputs suck and changdaos are OP. Maybe rajputs are a bit overpriced but i don't think it is a bad unit at all.

Who says changdaos are op?
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06 Nov 2017, 14:21

deadrising78 wrote:
gamevideo113 wrote:
zoom wrote:Correct. Rajputs could have been less shit, then.

I don't get this, rajputs have the same stats (slightly better actually) as disciplined changdaos yet people say rajputs suck and changdaos are OP. Maybe rajputs are a bit overpriced but i don't think it is a bad unit at all.

Who says changdaos are op?

Changdaos are often seen as halberdiers with 5 speed, therefore very strong.
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