AI Improvements

Hannibal: Rome and Carthage in the Second Punic War is a new and innovative turn-based strategy game that puts you in command of the Carthaginian military during a period of total war over land and sea with the young Roman Republic. With this military juggernaut of the ancient world at your disposal, you will vie for control over Italy, Carthage, Spain and the Mediterranean Sea using a combination of strategic political maneuvering and sheer tactical skill both on land and sea. Play consists of two layers; the first is a strategic layer where you must prudently steer your forces to the destruction of Rome’s army and the ultimate destruction of the Republic and city itself. At your disposal are a variety of unit types and historical commanders from which to form your armies. On the tactical scale, when meeting the enemy in battle, skilled leadership and a knack for war come into play as you use a simple but engaging battle system to best your opponents.

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Thales99
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AI Improvements

Post by Thales99 »

I've bought this game a few days ago and enjoy it a lot so far. The AI puts up a tough fight, but there is always room for improvement. Maybe a thread gathering AI bugs and ideas for improvements is a good idea. Here are the things I have noticed so far:

- Often "Roman Siege" cards are used by the AI when storming small cities defended by only a single militia unit. These cards could be saved for more difficult targets (unless the AI has accumulated too many cards?).

- I observed a case where Africanus accepted mountain attrition to move from Etruria to Cisalpine Gaul and then stormed Genua (defended by just one militia unit) from there. He should have stormed Genua from Etruria instead.

- I played a card forcing the AI to remove two units from northern Italy. It removed two Latin legions and left two Roman cavalry in play. I think the AI should choose the less capable Roman cavalry (1/1 vs. 1+/2) in such cases.

- I sometimes observe generals (with inferior troop numbers) exiting from a border city into a region held by Hannibal. This gives Hannibal two chances to easily destroy a force without having to use trick cards (interception during AI's turn and - if the general manages to retreat into camp - again during the player's turn) . This often happens after Hannibal has entered Cisalpine Gaul at the beginning of the game.
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mercenarius
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by mercenarius »

You make some good points.

The storming of border cities is something that I am adding to the next patch. We hope to make this available sometime on Monday the 11th. This behavior will be in the AI at the Hard level and probably the Normal level as well.

The use of the siege card in the case that you mentioned was wasteful. The AI probably did have a full hand and needed to play a card anyway. But perhaps this could be refined a little in the future.

The choosing of losses in the case that you describe doesn't make sense in game terms, but I don't want the AI discriminating between Roman and Allied units. However, there is some room for improvement when deciding between infantry and cavalry. But, what if those cavalry units had been Latin Allied units?

I hope that you will want to try the patch when it will be released. Technically, it will be a beta (at first) but the improvements in the AI should interest you. There will also be a few improvements for dealing with sieges of Rome and sally/relief battles in general.
James Warshawsky
Forced March Games, LLC
smartspick
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by smartspick »

Mercenarious, whats the ETA on the beta patch? the 11th?
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mercenarius
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by mercenarius »

Yes. It will probably be late in the day (Eastern Daylight Time) but it should be the 11th. Of course, sometimes things get crazy on Mondays. But that is what I am aiming at.
James Warshawsky
Forced March Games, LLC
Ron
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Ron »

I have seen the AI use the Roman Seige cards wisely, ie Major cities, as well as on Minor cities.

As noted elsewhere, at times AI does not realize the danger to Rome and seems intent on recapturing Gaul or some such instead of concentrating all available forces to Rome.

I have been playing Hard the last few games and I have noticed a trend with the AI's desire to continue building/reinforcing the Navy when the strategic reality in Italy has rendered that option wasteful and just plain wrong, ie the Carthagians have near parity in Italy and control Etruria and Umbria.

Equally the Carthagian Senate is divorced from real events and its decisions tend to break immersion, ie after several turns of Reinforce Spain/Upgrade Defenses an Army of 12 stuck in Spain does not need further reinforcing nor does an Army of 7-8 in Carthage.

Perhaps random I don't know, but during my Normal games I would occasionally get Punic Trick cards, yet in three Hard games thus far I have only gotten one! What are the bonuses for/against on Hard?

Great game! Thank you.

Edit: I did get another Punic Tricks card at the end of my current game, Turn 16 - perhaps the others ended too early?

Thales99
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Thales99 »

I just managed to finish my first game using the new beta patch (absolutely flawless, no bugs observed). While the AI gave a good fight, I again noticed its tendency to deliberately move understrength and numerically inferior armies into territories held by the player.

During the first turns of the game, the AI sent an army of 5 units (vs Hannibal's 12) to Cisalpine Gaul and landed with 5 units (vs 18!) in Spain. The AI successfully evaded combat and retreated into camp, but the disparity was so large that I attacked the camp and destroyed the enemy army with minimal losses in both cases. A handful of these battles (including a failed invasion of Africa) broke the back of the AI, even though it defended well afterwards and held out quite long.

IMHO, the already competent AI could be further improved by disallowing this kind of behavior. Instead it should try to attack/recruit/reconquer wherever the player is weak or has left the region (which it already does quite well in many cases). When actively moving towards the player, it should concentrate its forces before to achieve clear numerical superiority.

I also think that an invasion of Africa should only be undertaken if the AI is clearly winning or there is a good chance of gaining Numidian support or outright capturing Carthage. Otherwise the player can attrite the AI with his - normally inactive - Numidian allies for free.
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mercenarius
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by mercenarius »

You raise a number of worthy points. Let me just say that I don't want to rush into altering the play balance any further until I have feedback from a number of players.

In the meantime, may I ask if you are playing at the Normal or the Hard level? Did you use the Standard First Move?

I do find that it's a little more challenging to decline to use the Standard First Move, as long as it doesn't drive you nuts if Hannibal has a bad march to Italy. Forgive me if I sound like a broken record on that one point.

What you suggest has merit. I am not dismissing it. And the 5-unit minimum that you often see the AI use is something in particular that could be changed.
James Warshawsky
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NefariousKoel
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by NefariousKoel »

ORIGINAL: Thales

I also think that an invasion of Africa should only be undertaken if the AI is clearly winning or there is a good chance of gaining Numidian support or outright capturing Carthage. Otherwise the player can attrite the AI with his - normally inactive - Numidian allies for free.

I hadn't seen them invade Africa too terribly early unless I moved many of my troops in Zeugitania elsewhere. Even when they did, they definitely worked towards getting Numidia to switch and achieved that a couple times against me.

The AI is definitely a bit more reckless in the early game until they've fought Hannibal some. It's meant to be that way. However, if they start attacking at 1 to 3 odds regularly then it'd be good to check on. I'd be a bit scared to tweak it too much, though, as I like how aggressive it can be at the right moments and wouldn't want that to change.
Miket_nz
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Miket_nz »

I'm not sure whether early in the game whether the 5 unit minimum needs to be changed for the romans (isn't this supposed to be the standard consular army size in the game?). Up until Hannibal came along the romans had been pretty succesful at defeating larger armies of lower quality troops.
 
I also guess there is an issue of abstraction at this level of detail that also comes into play, armies of this era could easily decline battle or move with relative freedom in the same region as another army given the often "voluntrary" nature of meeting for battle or staying in camp. I like that the game models the fact that the cocky romans get outmanouvered in the field and can't decline battle on occasion. Gives a nice feel to the game.  
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Thales99
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Thales99 »

ORIGINAL: mercenarius

In the meantime, may I ask if you are playing at the Normal or the Hard level? Did you use the Standard First Move?

So far I've always played on Hard level without Standard First Move (I like the added strategic options and variability). I agree that one has to be careful with changes, and the AI is certainly challenging as it is. But maybe "teaching" the AI to build large enough armies will prevent it from getting overwhelmed and attrited too easily in some cases. Of course strategic necessities and lack of troops will not always allow this.
PJJ
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by PJJ »

I always welcome AI improvements, but I also like it when the AI sometimes makes mistakes - this is what happens all the time in real military operations (or in any human activity), and both sides in the Punic Wars certainly made their fair share of mistakes, sometimes really stupid ones. And of course bad generals should be more prone to making silly things that end up getting their troops slaughtered. But I don't want to see Scipio invade Africa with one or two legions when I have several times that number of troops waiting for him in Carthage - that's suicide and completely out of character for a brilliant general. Romans were quite arrogant and usually for a good reason, being in the habit of always winning their wars with their incredible aggressiveness and relentlessness, but Hannibal definitely taught them some humility.

Hannibal already has a brilliant and well-balanced AI opponent (I always play on hard and often lose to the AI), so one must be careful with the improvements.
"But here we are in a chamber pot, about to be shitted upon."

-French General Auguste Ducrot before the Battle of Sedan, September 1870
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Toby42
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Toby42 »

ORIGINAL: PJJ

I always welcome AI improvements, but I also like it when the AI sometimes makes mistakes - this is what happens all the time in real military operations (or in any human activity), and both sides in the Punic Wars certainly made their fair share of mistakes, sometimes really stupid ones. And of course bad generals should be more prone to making silly things that end up getting their troops slaughtered. But I don't want to see Scipio invade Africa with one or two legions when I have several times that number of troops waiting for him in Carthage - that's suicide and completely out of character for a brilliant general. Romans were quite arrogant and usually for a good reason, being in the habit of always winning their wars with their incredible aggressiveness and relentlessness, but Hannibal definitely taught them some humility.

Hannibal already has a brilliant and well-balanced AI opponent (I always play on hard and often lose to the AI), so one must be careful with the improvements.

That's right. Don't ruin a "Great" game by trying to make everyone happy!!
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mercenarius
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by mercenarius »

First, I forgot to reply to Ron's question about Punic Tricks cards. There are no differences in frequency of cards at any of the levels of difficulty. He simply experienced the luck of the draw. Naturally, a longer game tends to average out more (in all respects) than a shorter game. And I will remind everyone here that the game does have a certain chance each turn of reshuffling the deck to keep players from counting cards.

I wanted to say something about the relatively small armies which the AI uses to "shadow" hostile leaders. This is built into the behavior of the AI in place of an explicit system of disincentives to prevent Rome from "hiding" from Hannibal and your other generals. Such a system would just be too complicated. But if the AI were allowed to ignore Hannibal's entirely, build a fleet, garrison Rome, and then send armies anywhere it wanted, the game would just become impossible.

So the AI is programmed to usually "harass" your generals when it can't meet them in the field. And it's true that sometimes you will catch them off guard. This feature works reasonably well, I think. The business in Spain that was cited does show a weakness in how the AI usually goes about this. However, I think that what happened there is that the AI thought it could capture a port but then couldn't. Probably because another leader used the last available "Siege" card. That is a mistake that I allow the AI to make.

As for the 12 versus 5 in Cisalpine Gaul, that's a battle that Hannibal can win but unless the Roman force was overbalanced with Cavalry, I think that Thales got lucky not to suffer some losses.

Finally, I do agree that there could be some fine tuning of force levels on expeditions to Africa (or Spain or Sicily) especially when Rome doesn't control a port there already. I am going to try to improve this a little and then issue a second beta patch next week. After that I hope to close the book on changes to the AI for a while and concentrate on finalizing 1.0.2 and issuing that to all users.
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Ron
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Ron »

I am of the opinion that until the Roman AI has 'learned' about the danger of Hannibal, sending smaller Armies initially is probably better for them in the long run so they still have some Troops left. I am finishing my second Hard game since the Beta patch, optional start, and both games have generally followed similar courses. Hannibal moves to Cisalpine Gaul, gathers Gaulish recruits, defeats the Army from Placentia or whatever else the AI sends. From there Hannibal moves to Etruria, hopefully capturing Genoa or Pisa, so an Army from Spain or Carthage can follow depending on the Senate, and defeats the Roman Army sent against him. After that Italy and Rome will be wide open.

Having the Roman AI concentrate its Armies to face Hannibal in Etruria - usually the second big battle - makes for some fun initially but has resulted in an early ending overall. This last game Hannibal was sitting in Etruria with an Army of 12 and one Punic Trick card. First the Romans recaptured Cisalpine Gaul, apart from Placentia which was garrisoned by Mago, with an Army of 6 followed by a raid in Carthage with an Army of 2. The Romans had concentrated an Army of 14 with their worst General(4!) to square off against Hannibal who of course crushed them totally with a Trick. Now by the fourth turn usually, Rome/Italy are wide open and their smallish Armies are scattered, ripe to be destroyed piecemeal. Hannibal can win a war of attrition favourably even without any Punic Tricks. Even playing conseratively and capturing Umbria to gather those recruits, the game usually will end in a few turns. Perhaps I have been playing too much and need to take a break!

As to the frequency of getting Punic Trick Cards on Hard, well I must have bad luck then because I very rarely get them! I get swamped by the 'Forced March' cards though :)

vonRocko
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by vonRocko »

ORIGINAL: Ron

As to the frequency of getting Punic Trick Cards on Hard, well I must have bad luck then because I very rarely get them! I get swamped by the 'Forced March' cards though :)


This has been my experience also, after many, many games on hard, I rarely get punic trick cards, outside of what I start with. Plenty of forced marches. I'll take Mercenarius at his word, but I must be one unlucky person, it seems more than random draw. When I play lower difficulties, I get plenty of punic tricks. I'm not complaining, just stating my observations.
PJJ
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by PJJ »

You guys don't have any Punic Tricks? Well, I have four in my current game (hard difficulty). Too bad the Romans don't want to play with Hannibal. [;)]

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"But here we are in a chamber pot, about to be shitted upon."

-French General Auguste Ducrot before the Battle of Sedan, September 1870
Ron
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Ron »

ORIGINAL: PJJ

You guys don't have any Punic Tricks? Well, I have four in my current game (hard difficulty). Too bad the Romans don't want to play with Hannibal. [;)]


That is because our games are over by Turn 8! :)

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NefariousKoel
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by NefariousKoel »

ORIGINAL: PJJ

You guys don't have any Punic Tricks? Well, I have four in my current game (hard difficulty). Too bad the Romans don't want to play with Hannibal. [;)]

You seem to have things in hand on that game for the moment. [:D]
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mercenarius
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by mercenarius »

Well, I have digested what has been posted here in this thread. And I do see the validity of what people are saying. Here is what I intend to do.

1) We plan to post a beta patch (1.0.2 beta 2) on Wednesday (the 20th) or Thursday the 21st. This patch will have fixes for all known errors. I want to get this completely stable so I can make it official as soon as I can. The patch will have a few minor tweaks to the AI, but nothing dramatic.

2) Once the 1.0.2 patch is released officially, I will start work on version 1.1 of the game with an eye towards making the game more challenging at the "Hard" level. My goal is to make the AI smart enough to deal with the kind of strategies that I see some players are throwing at it. But I will also try to keep the general difficulty of the "Hard" level about the same as it is.

3) I don't think that you will see version 1.1 any earlier than about 6 weeks from today. [:(]

Now, this forum is for the players and I certainly don't want anyone to feel that they cannot post honest criticism of the AI. I will certainly try to take everyone's views into account. Naturally, it's hard to make everyone happy. I hope to come close.

I realize that waiting 6 weeks (or more) to get a more challenging AI will disappoint some players, but I don't think it can be done sooner and still remain a challenge based on "intelligence" and not greater numbers, etc.

Of course I will continue to read what people post here on this (and similar) circumstances.
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Evil Steve
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RE: AI Improvements

Post by Evil Steve »

the only comment I have to make is with militia in sieges: a route for a militia is essentially a hit, which make succeeding in a storm of a city, perhaps, easier than it should be? I appreciate that this may have been taken from a tried and tested design, but was wondering whether militia could be:

1. not routable
2. or always "inspired"
3. or when routed (ie hard-pressed) become Att 2 / Def 0.5

or some such.

I'm also seeing that the Romans seem to be getting a full complement of militia after taking a city, whereas Carthage gets a militia that "grows with time". however, I may be seeing things here

:)
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