Feels like plenty of people are in the dark when it comes to army composition and overall strategy.
To avoid further confusion heres a few lines on how combat system works.
As you can see by watching combat replay from battle reports, all units with the same initiative are attacking in the same phase, for clarity the attacks of your units are displayed first (but its still the same phase).
a) first phase (cavalry, dogs, wolves, shadowsneakers, most of the amazon type of units) ? attack in the first phase, since they can damage units before those can strike back ? their damage is usually decreased.
b) second phase ? normal initiative (most units)
c) last strike ? cannons, most of the viking type of units, most of the bosses
a) first strike ? causes units to be able to attack in the first phase
b) attacks weakest target ? obvious. In fights against any units with this ability it is highly advised to not use cavalry/ archers of any kind, as it usually comes with first strike and will eliminate all your weak units before they can fight back; there are however few tactical exceptions from this rule ? you can sometimes add bowmen to your footmen/LB/crossbowmen army to draw enemy cavalry attacks, so that bowmen are killed instead of more valuable ranged units.; units: cavalry, shadowsneakers, guard dogs, like half of the amazon units, some bosses.
c) splash damage ? causes unit to deal the damage that exceeds the amount of hp of the target to be applied to the next target. IE a boss that deals up to 800 damage would normally deal 800 damage to a recruit, effectively killing it. With splash damage, he will kill up to 20 recruits instead (as excessive damage will be dealt to the second one, third etc..) ; units with this ability ? boss creatures, some of the pirates
d) tower bonus ? as far as I can tell this applies to archer units that are in towers and therefore harder to kill, I dont know about any situations when it needs any specific approach (since those are usually cleared with cavalry, no probs).
Additional mechanics (apart from splash damage):
a) hit chance ? this is confirmed by some sources that are unrelated to BB as the chance to deal maximum damage. If the hit is not successful, minimum damage is dealt instead.
Eg. 200 roughnecks against 200 soldiers, you have 100% chance of winning the fight as roughnecks have only 60% hit chance (meaning they will only deal half their damage 40% of the time).
Principles of army composition:
a) Use recruits. These are the fastest produced units, using the least materials that are the easiest to get (as producing them requires only basic structures, cheapest mines and technically the least number of buildings).
b) Attack twice whenever you can. Its always better to weaken the camp and then finish it with cavalry/archers than to engage in a fight that you win with barely any units left.
c) militia/soldiers do more damage than recruits, in a well calculated fight they can replace archers as extra damage dealers long as you dont lose them
d) bosses are attacked first. This is quite important, since there is plenty of fights where even throwing 200 soldiers to die will leave you with no units killed. Normally a way to avoid that is sacrificing cavalry to clear some of the units hiding behind the boss (attacks weakest units first -> rings a bell ?) up to a point when you can engage boss with a combination of footmen and archers (or just footmen if boss attacks weakest units aswell).
Chuck, 100 Roughnecks, 50 Guard Dogs, 49 Rangers
a) dogs -> we cant use archers
b) boss has 9k hp, we cant break it in the first round without archers
c) we decide to clear dogs before we engage boss; while we?re at it, we can throw some extra cavalry to kill rangers; considering hit chance is not 100%, we will need about 120C
d) ok, weakest units cleared, now onto the boss; he strikes last, meaning that a huge pack of archers will be able to damage and most likely kill him before he strikes for 2-2.5k splash damage (ouch).
e) we can either throw in 180 longbowmen just to kill chuck and let them die from roughnecks, or see if we can add some footmen so that at least some of the LBs are protected.
f) playing with the combat calculator leaves us with 50M, 150LB composition, where we kill the camp on the second wave, losing militia and some of the bowmen.
Sample fight #2: Secluded Experiments, camp 9
1 Crazy Cook, 100 officers, 50 gunmen, 50 caltrops.
a) playing with the combat simulator, we get to know that caltrops can be attacked even before the boss. We decide to sacrifice some recruits to eliminate them, as theyre keeping us from using both cavalry and archers. Required amount or recruits is about 70-75, as some will die on first strike of the caltrops.
b) we have a 5k hp boss that strikes first and alot of strong units behind him. We can either sacrifice cavalry (will be alot since officers have lots of HP), or setup a small block (to soak bosses damage on round 1) and some archers to kill the boss right after. LB are not mandatory since 190 regular archers will do.
c) normally we would use cavalry against gunmen, BUT officers would attack it and eliminate in a single shot (splash damage!). We decide to use recruits instead (should soak officers? damage) with some soldiers or militia as damage dealers that are not ?weakest units? in this fight. Combat simulator tells us 166R and 34S will be the right amount. BAM! Fight is over.
Sample fight #3, as I found some ridiculous stuff @ Horseback adv.
Camp #20: 90 amazons (first strike, attacks weakest target), 10x Bulls (2k hp, first strike)
Possibly the most ridiculous solution to a fight ive come across: we dont use a single blocking unit (NO!), we use 130 bowmen and 70 LBs
Units without splash damage can only attack ONE unit at the time. Doesnt matter if they do 5 or over 9000 of damage, they will only deal it to one unit.
As a consequence, we will lose 100 bowmen on the first round of this fight just to block the first attack. No worries ladies and gents, we still have 100 units left.
After the initial attack (those basterds have first strike!), we attack back. Amazons have 20 hps, so some of them will die to bowmen shots, rest is cleared by LBs. Any remaining damage is dealt to Bulls.
From this point fight continues as follows: on every round after first, you should be able to kill 2-3 of the bulls, after blocking with the remaining bowmen. Each of the bulls damage is irrelevant, since it is only distributed to one unit at time (no splash damage!). Before all bowmen are lost the fight should be over.