Let's talk Charlescomm!

Speculation, discoveries, complaints, accusations, praise, and all other Erfworld discussion.

Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Sun Jul 08, 2012 2:46 pm

Just thought I'd speculate about Charlescomm the side a little. We've learned a good bit about them, now

Just the stats:

Cities: 1, level 5

Units:
Golems: ~700, city defence, probably primarily low level.
Archons, last known: ~600, field work, probably ranging from levels 1 to 8 or 9. Scattered throughout erfworld, with about 20% of their forces guarding the the area around Charlie's city. These are likely also used for scouting and other, smaller missions.

Income:
Two major sources, mercenary work and telecommunications, as well as one level 5 city. No idea how high this income is.

Expenditures:
Upkeep for 600 archons: 200-500 shmuckers, scaling with level. Assuming that, on average, archons are around level 4, that would give us an average upkeep of around 300 shmuckers per archon, for a total archon upkeep of around 180k. The consumption of provisions, as well as the fact that a large chunk of these are staying in the city might cut this down to around 150k.
Payment for magic kingdom casters: No idea how high these costs would be.
Golem upkeep: Being magically animated, I don't think golems require upkeep.

That's what we know so far, I think. Now, for the things we don't know.
Warning, hardcore speculation ahead.

First, le archons.
I put the average archon level between 4 and 5 for a couple of reasons. Primarily the fact that the majority of these archons must have been alive for a long, long time. Charlie pops one a turn, 1.5 a turn at times. That means that the oldest archon must be at least 400-600 turns old. This is assuming no archons have died. Assuming that, against all expectations, support units doing mercenary work take casualties when doing mercenary work, we can bump that estimate up to, say, 500-700 turns. Let's say 600, roundabouts. If we assume that archons spend just half their time employed, that makes 300 turns' worth of employment. And if we take our queue from Jillan's mercenary work, we can assume that mercenaries, once employed, are generally very active.

That means that, on average, an Archons will have 150 turns' worth of employment. Of course, experience needed to level increases exponentially, and it'll take much more effor to get 2 units to level 5 than it does to get one unit to level 10. But I think that Charlie will generally be clever enough to direct experience in the direction of the lower-level, rather than the higher-level archons. Some might end up at levels 6 or 7 while others, particularly the newer ones, bump around at levels 2 and 3. Some will be even higher-level, particularly those with leadership, while the really fresh archons won't have leveled at all.

Of course, Archons seem to be more support-focused than combat-focused, and would probably have difficulty getting as many kills as a combat unit of equivalent strength. On the other hand, archons with leadership will gain experience for winning battles that they lead, and could "claim" the killing blow for themselves or other archons. Plus, while they seem to prefer tricky tactics, they are perfectly capable of killing via shockamancy, the environment, and ultimately attacking.


Second, finances.

Expenditures:
I think 150k is a pretty conservative estimate for Charlie's upkeep. It's also a luuuudicrously large sum given that he has to pay it every freakin' turn. We don't really have a good way to judge exactly how much it is, but we know a few things. Jillan got 40k from razing Jitterati's cities. I think I remember her commenting that this would be enough to sustain her side for 8-10 turns. That would put her upkeep at 5 k. While her side isn't huge yet, she does have an alliance with the Western Giants to honor, as well as spending for fliers, casters and warlords.

We also know that wiping out Carpool would cost Translyvito a quarter of a million shmuckers. That's 250k, 1.7 times as much as Charlie spends each turn on units alone. From context, we can infer that this sum is very difficult to spare. From that in turn we can probably assume that it's significantly more than Translyvito makes in one turn.

Interestingly, we know that the bounty for 25 archons (25x5k for 125k) is the kind of sum that would be necessary to promote Tramemnis to heir. From Benjamin's discussion with the Don when Slately asks for the loan we can deduce that this sum would basically empty Translyvito's treasury to a good degree.

Of course, Translyvito has spent money boosting up FAQ and its 3 cities and units, but at the current point in time, Charlescomm spends more every turn than Translyvito has cash reserves. I think that's significant.

If we assume that Translyvito will retain about 3 turns' worth of expenses as a minimum cash reserve (which is probably wise in such volatile times), we get about 40-50k in expenses for them. Looking at their size and their force composition, I'd say that seems about right, particularly in comparison with FAQ during its assault on Jitterati. FAQ was still growing at that time, and I think that pegging Translyvito at 8-10 times FAQ's size at the time fits pretty well.

Ultimately, that gives us the result that Charlie's upkeep is about triple that of Translyvito, which I think is a pretty good benchmark for a major side. It'd probably be 2.5 times that of Jetstone and 4-5 times Haggar's upkeep.

Income:

Of course, the reason that Charlie can grow so much larger than the other sides lies in the fact that he doesn't depend on cities for income. His units work for their keep, constantly. That allows him to circumvent the limiting factor that is decreasing city income. The more city-levels you have, the less income you'll get from each additional city-level. As such, there is an upper limit to the amount of units a conventional side can sustain. Not so for Charlie.

The first question is how high his income would be.
We know that, after TBFGK, Charlie lost a lot of business with royal sides involved with the battle and the RCC. Since Charlie operates globally, the loss of these sides would present 5 or 6 out of dozens, or even hundreds. These sides are, however, very close to home, for him, and would probably make up a good chunk of his customer base, since they're most familiar with him, they're the market he started with. However, as far as we can tell, the loss of business didn't effect him negatively. He has been spending a good amount of resources supporting Jillan (Kingsworld cost him at least 120k shmuckers, in addition to what he payed for another caster, for one), and he's also very free with his bounties (offering a significant cash reward for Archon-killing). From that we can presume that, even with the loss of a large customer base, he's still doing fairly well financially. Charlie is the type to have very large cash reserves to fall back upon, but I feel that such a profit-oriented character wouldn't be spending this much money if he wasn't sure that this kind of spending was sustainable. As such, I'm gonna assume that his income outstripped his expenditures by at least one third before GK, and still outstrips it signficantly post-GK. Expenditures of 150k, income of, say, 180k.

From what we know he has three methods of income. FIrst, a level-5 city.
I'm gonna put this at around 3-4 thousand shmuckers per turn, though I have nothing to really support that.

Secondly, his thinkagram service. He can use the Arkendish to communicate with anyone on Erf, and his aid in transmitting information is available for a fee. Parson speculates that his role as a telecommunications giant actually earns him more income than his mercenary business, which is extremely interesting. His income has to be at least 180k shmuckers. "Over half" of that would be around 100k. I'm gonna assume that charlie's income isn't vastly greater than his expenditures. He probably has cash reserves, but I don't think he makes much more than he spends on his Archons. We know that Charlie charges 2,500 shmuckers for a two-way thinkagram. If a one-way is, say, 1500, then Charlie would only need arould between 40 and 66 thinkagrams per turn. Of course, with such high prices, he's going to have some trouble finding customers, but given that his services are apparently available to any warlord on Erf, I think his market is large enough that he could get the numbers. Assuming 200 sides on erfworld (about as many nations as there are in the world today), he'd only need them to request an average of one thinkagram every 4 turns, assuming most requests are 2-way. The more sides there are, and the greater the need for rapid communications, the greater his income from this sector would be. Of course, the corrolary of that is that, in the short term, it's very hard for him to expand his income in this sector. He has unlimited supply, the limiting factor is total global demand. This will fluctuate regionally, but since he works globally, I think his income here will be pretty static. He can encourage the formation of new sides in the long term and discourage the use of MK thinkamancers by making himself seem more reliable, but I think that, however high his income from telecommunications is, he's reached his limit.

As a side note, as far as we know, his ability to use the Arkendish for Thinkagrams or communication is nullified when he's busy linking casters. The two days he spent linked to Vanna would, therefore, have cost him about one-and-a-half to two days' worth of communications, the equivalent of anything between 150k and 200k shmuckers. Quite pricey, particularly considering the fact that it might have been for nought.

The other half of his income (perhaps slightly less than half) comes from mercenary work.
This is probably the bit we know the least about. We know that, at the time of TBFGK, he had about 480 archons in the field. How much income would he gain from this? At most 100k per turn, if our previous estimates are correct. Given that his archons in and around his capital site are often also working, at least to some degree, we'd have around 500 archons active in mercenary roles. From our estimates above, (50% employment rate, average upkeep of around 300, less provisions and rations), he'd have to charge 400 shmuckers per turn per archon. That would be more than the individual upkeep of the archon in question, with extra fees based on extra services, but would mean that he's losing money on his standing army! Does that make sense?

I think it does, to a degree. Charlie isn't only about profits, he's also about influence. Archons are excellent vectors for Charlie's influence. They're mobile, loyal and very, very versatile. Textbook force multipliers, and he has them all over the world. Sure, they also act as a source of income for Charlescomm, but I think, beyond that, they quite simply give Charlie power. That's what units in Erf are about, really, to grant their controller power. Shmuckers support that aim, but aren't a goal in and of themselves.

Given that profits from mercenary industries probably have limiting factors as well (only gonna be so many sides willing to hire archons), a mercenary archon force is only going to be self-sustaining up to a point. But, as we've, I think, established, it isn't about creating a self-sustaining force, for Charlie, it's about having influence. Charlie loses money on his standing army, but he gains security, power and control all over the world.

Of course, 400 shmuckers does seem a bit of a bargain for such a strong force multiplier, but I think lower prices, coupled with penalties for losing archons encourage frequent use of Charlie's mercenary services. That gives him much more influence on global current events, it gets people more familiar with his side, builds up trust and earns his archons more experience, since they'll be acting more. So I think that a price tag of 4-500 shmuckers per turn would be in character.

Production:
The fact that Charlie still (presumably) has a surplus in his income means that he could continue to produce units.. 30-50 k shmuckers will be enouther to support 100-200 archons, tending towards the 200, since these archons will be capable of mercenary work as well. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the 66 turns since TBFGK, charlie would have popped another hundred archons to deal with the GK threat. That would even his cashflow out signficantly, particularly since he'd also be recalling at least some of his archons from distant lands, but it'd probably leave him with at least a small surplus.

So what does that tell us about deployment? If he recalled 30 higher-level archons from mercenary work, popped another hundred archons and kept the 120 archons he already had in his city, that'd leave him with a standing army of up to 250. A lot of these would be lower-level, though Charlie could replace some higher-level field archons with freshly-popped level 1s. Of course, he might not have popped the full hundred, since that would require the services of a Turnamancer, which, while feasible, would probably be quite expensive. So let's assume a force of 200.

What does that mean for GK? We know that Archons CAN fight. We've seen them do so very effectively. But at the same time, considering their other abilities, they don't seem like optimal combat units. Charlie would have needed 28 Archons to reliably take GK at its very lowest point, and we can assume they would have taken considerable casualties there. We're currently seeing how effective they are at hitting and eliminating individual targets, but also that, despite their tactics and coordination, they die fairly quickly in direct combat.

Using them for their support abilities seems to be the name of the Archon game. Communications, scouting, advice, as well as their wide variety of specials that give commanders so many more options than they would've had otherwise, and make their usual options that much more effective.

My point, I suppose, is that, as I've stated a couple of times already, Archons are more effective when used as force mulitpliers for combat-centric troops, to misdirect the enemy, lead their allies, provide information and eliminate high-value targets. As such, while a force of 200 Archons sounds formidable, said Archons would be most effective when supporting an equally formidable conventional army. As it is, though, while a pure-archon force isn't optimal, numbers, specials and their high mobility make it very possible for them to be used in precision strikes against certain hexes or cities (Such as Charlie's threat to eliminate Haggar's capital if they didn't comply).

Still, this weakness in direct combat might be why Charlie hasn't launched a decapitation strike at GK yet. Maybe 200 archons, a third of his entire army, wouldn't be enough to take GK and kill Stanley. And that, in turn, opens up an interesting perspective. Charlie's at his best when supporting allies. The corrolary being that he's at his weakest when working alone. Charlie's force is made up of precisely one unit (two if you count the golems). And while that unit has great variety, it is not not efficient in direct combat. That's a tactical flaw. But this tactical flaw plagues his entire side. His entire side is weak on a strategic scale if you face it directly. When alone, he can't commit to direct combat on a large scale, and, since he relies on units to provide a large chunk of his income, a singificant portion of his army won't be available for combat operations at any given time. He's bad at recouping losses due to his low production and, while he is big, that size ultimately translates into political influence more than it does into combat prowess.

I think that's why he's so intent on GK not discovering his role in the battle for Jetstone. He's afraid of facing them head-on. And that's why he's so determined to see GK fall in general: It has motive to move against him, it has the strength to move against him, its goal is to eliminate his allies, forcing him to face them directly, and it's led by a man whose mind is at least a match for Charlie's. Charlie's opposition to GK isn't an ideological one, or motivated by revenge, it's self-preservation. He's threatened. And I think that, for such an old, powerful side, that's a really interesting realization.

I feel that I rambled on for a bit back there, but I kinda got into it. This is a lot longer than I thought it would be when I started writing, and large chunks of it are conjencture with minimal ties to what we know, but that's half the fun. I think the picture as I painted it is both consisent with the facts that we know and with characters' trends and behaviors. I haven't touched on Charlie's interference with natural allies, I was considering him more as a conventional side without touching on the Arkendish's special tactics. Though if you'd like to touch on those, please do. I just wanted to work out a rough picture of Erfwold's favorite telecommunications giant.

Comments, discussions and corrections welcome.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby MarbitChow » Sun Jul 08, 2012 3:39 pm

I'm going to say that your assumption of Level 4 for an average level is excessively high. Most archons would be in the level 1-2 range. Note that Charlie will hire them out for 'full service' suicide missions. I'm going to guess that this "hooker/assassin" mode is probably somewhat popular. We've also seen a significant number of them killed - Wanda's tantrum over GK w/ Jillian, the capture of Ossomer, and now in the airspace above Jetstone. I'm guessing that they're glass cannons - strong offensively but fairly easy to kill. I don't think gaining experience is as easy as you've assumed. In Jetstone, Ansom was level 10, but he was considered one of the finest and most experienced warlords. He was only able to field warlords around level 4 from his own side when he sent the Jetstone troops under GK. Based on that, I'd put his upkeep closer to the 120k/ turn range, but that's still really high.

Charlie has unlimited Thinkagrams. If he were to charge 1k / 'gram, and he were able to drum up 100 calls a turn, that would cover the bulk of his expenses right there. I'd actually assume the rates were even higher - 2K still seems 'reasonable' for a communication fee, and we have no idea how many sides are really out there; there could be thousands.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Sun Jul 08, 2012 3:58 pm

In regards to Archon level, regardless of casualties, the archons have to have lived an average of at least 200 turns. That's the absolute minimal estimate. Charlie can only produce one archon every turn. Three every two turns with a turnamancer. He has 600 archons. That means that the oldest of these archons absolutely has to havepopped at least 400 turns ago. The second oldest has to have popped at least 399 turns ago. The third oldest also has to have popped 399 turns ago. The fourth oldest 398. The fifth oldest 397. The sixth 397. And so on, till you get the the youngest, which was popped today. If you factor in casualties, the average level would only rise, because younger archons are more likely to die than older, more experienced archons.

I won't deny that level 4 is already fairly high-level for erfworld terms and that having an army of level-4s would be pretty singificant. But given the age of most archons, coupled with the fact that they, being mercenaries, are gonna be a lot more combat-active than warlords (since they go where there's conflict, they're not bound to a side), I think it makes sense. Given that a lot of archons we've seen so far seem to have multiple specials, I think higher-levels Archons are more of a norm than an exception.

I can buy you saying that archons would level fairly slowly 'cause they have problems getting kills or stuff like that. But you can't argue that they're throwaway units when it's mathematically impossible for half of them to be less than 200 turns old.

As for the thinkagrams, it's explicitely stated in book 1 that a 2-way costs 2.5 k. A one-way is less valuable to the customer, so its price is lower. Still a very strong source of income, and the bigger our erfworld is, the higher his income from it.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby MarbitChow » Sun Jul 08, 2012 4:29 pm

GJC wrote:That means that the oldest of these archons absolutely has to havepopped at least 400 turns ago.

Artemis (a level 8 in a major side) was almost 1900 turns old. 400 turns is not that significant.

GJC wrote:Given that a lot of archons we've seen so far seem to have multiple specials, I think higher-levels Archons are more of a norm than an exception.

Narrative bias. You're generally not going to see the low-level ones involved in the story, because Charlie wouldn't be positioning them near the action - it would be too easy to croak them.

GJC wrote:I can buy you saying that archons would level fairly slowly 'cause they have problems getting kills or stuff like that. But you can't argue that they're throwaway units when it's mathematically impossible for half of them to be less than 200 turns old.

Age has no bearing on level. Most units don't train, so they only level when actually getting kills. 20% stay behind and guard Charlie's city, so they're not leveling at all. Artemis' account shows that it took almost 700 turns to reach level 6, and she was Noble - they level faster. http://www.erfworld.com/book-2-archive/ ... -06-02.png

I think you've got a good summary here. I just think you're overestimating the Archon's *average* level, and thus Charlie's average upkeep. Having more than 10-15% of his forces being level 4 or higher seems really high to me; I'd place the *average* between 1 and 2 (closer to 2), as the bulk of his units are probably level 1.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:49 pm

Artemis (a level 8 in a major side) was almost 1900 turns old. 400 turns is not that significant.

Artemis was a discredited warlord who spent more than half her life managing cities, though. She trained for 640 turns to level from 6 to 7, and then spent another 400 rounds in the same city. Experience required to level is exponential, so I'm not surprised that leveling via training took her so long.
Up until then she had about 800 turns' worth of "active" duty, which was enough to get her to level 6. We know that it took her about 40 turns to level for the first time, though this was as an adjudant to a warlord. Not necessarily a combat role. Ultimately, we don't know exactly how much fighting she did, only how long she lived.

Admittedly, the same argument applies to the archons, but my assumption is that, as highly mobile mercenaries, they'd do more fighting than a mid-tier warlord would.

Narrative bias. You're generally not going to see the low-level ones involved in the story, because Charlie wouldn't be positioning them near the action - it would be too easy to croak them.

This is an argument I'll accept, though, to Charlie, action is basically everywhere. He all the irons in the fire. All of them.

In regards to leveling, however, compare this!
http://www.erfworld.com/book-2-archive/ ... -01-22.png

Here we see clearly how much combat is necessary for a unit to level. Look at Fud specifically. He lands, both he and his Dwagon survive. They come under attack by a stack of infantry. Assuming that it's a max stack of 8 and the Dwagon croaks 3 to 4, that means Fud levels after croaking 4-5 infantry units. Admittedly, he could have already had some experience beforehand.

However, when Sylvia calls out for help, Fud is the only unit to her rescue. We know that she's under attack by a stack of 5 infantry and a level-1 Warlord. Fud engages them, croaks them, and levels again. Even if we assume he did have 2-3 units' worth of experience beforehand, that'd make a total of 12 infantry and one low-level warlord. That's enough experience to get him to level 3.

Looking at their time alive, and the fact that mercenaries are generally used pretty enthusiastically, you really don't think that 400 or even 200 turns' worth of battle would be enough for an archon to rack up a dozen infantry kills and a warlord?

I'm not saying that I expect to see much above levels 6 or 7, because exponential progression just makes that really hard for units to obtain. But I think levels 2, 3, 4 shouldn't be too much of a problem, y'know? Not for "special forces". : P
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Nnelg » Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:05 pm

I'd agree with Marbit that you're overestimating their levels; however you've raised several interesting points that are still valid even taking this into account.

Archons seem to be pure fire support roles, sort of like modern aircraft, which is what makes them perfect mercenaries. However, we've also seen that they're vulnerable when not backed up. If Stanly were to take a force of Dwagons (analogous to MBTs in this case) and fly to Charlescomm, he'd be able to slaughter all of Charlie's archons in the skies, at which point the cloth golems would be at his mercy.

I guess now we know why Charlie has invested so many resources in Faq. Simply put, Faq's airfleet is the perfect match for his staff of archons. Because of Book 0 we know it's at least hypothetically possible for megalos to act as troop transports, which would make them so much more useful than they could ever be as mounts (at least in this case).

While masses of troops (from Jetstone and Transylvito) engage the enemy across a broad front, a mobile reserve of gwiffon cavalry with archon fire support and backed up by infantry (deployed via megalo) would be able to ravage at will. It's the same sort of strategy that got the Germans so far in WWII, before the lost the strategic initiative. Alas, on Erf the strategic initiative is currently in GK's hands...
"The Wizard is Charlie!"
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby MarbitChow » Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:40 pm

GJC wrote:Looking at their time alive, and the fact that mercenaries are generally used pretty enthusiastically, you really don't think that 400 or even 200 turns' worth of battle would be enough for an archon to rack up a dozen infantry kills and a warlord? I'm not saying that I expect to see much above levels 6 or 7, because exponential progression just makes that really hard for units to obtain. But I think levels 2, 3, 4 shouldn't be too much of a problem, y'know? Not for "special forces". : P


We're probably arguing over the meaning of "average" at this point. In order to have an "average" of level 4 Archons, he'd need a whole lot of level 6 and 7s, or almost no level ones. We know he's popping another level 1 every turn, so there's going to be a lot of those. If he were to have equal numbers of just level 1s and level 4s, the average level would be 2.5.

What was an Archon, really? A flying knight-class unit with a random special from the set of: dance fighting, leadership, and limited forms of Shockmancy, Thinkamancy, Dollamancy and Foolamancy. Note that Thinkamancy, Dollamancy, and Foolamancy aren't that great for croaking another unit. If we assume that the random specials are evenly distributed, you've got roughly 50% of your popped forces that aren't great for leveling.

Charlie may have a disproportionately high number of level 4+ units compared to other sides, but keep in mind that EVERY side sees action constantly, not just Charlie. His attrition rate is probably no higher or lower than any other side, seeing as he will willing hire out his units for suicide missions (for the right price). Every time he loses a higher-level combat-oriented unit, he's got a 50% chance to have it replaced by a non-combat type.

Also keep in mind that, in a lot of games, the more powerful the unit begins as, the more experience it takes to level it. Using Fud as an example for XP gain may be flawed, because as a simple infantry unit (even promoted to heavy), he might level more easily than a special unit.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Balerion » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:03 pm

I think you are underestimating the archons in unsupported combat.

From what I have seen, their shockamancy is a ranged attack that generally lets them strike first and has considerable range(look at the beams taking out Wanda's fliers in book 1). It wouldn't shock me at all to find out that 200 shots like that could wipe out 20-30 dwagons before they even had a chance to act (and I could see it going higher). Not everyone is likely to have the shockamancy special, but a good chunk will, so call it 15 dwagons down instantly. And once you manage to close with them, they have foolamancy and thinkamancy to mess with your units managing to actually hurt them. Then throw in tower defenses. 50 dwagons would die screaming if they attempted it; and should they manage to secure the air space, 700 cloth golems is more than sufficient to hold the city against the survivors if they are at all comparable to sizemore's rock golems.

I think the reason Charlie needed so many to take the garrison was 1)sizemore's golems 2)wanda there to lend massive support to uncroaked 3) having to descend from the air zone and navigate tunnels/halls, which will prevent them picking off units from afar. Remember, the golems and gobwins were enough to take down a few thousand infantry when used properly. GK was down on its luck, but still had a rather potent force (hence Ansom attempting to divide it between holding the tunnels and the walls, allowing a breach in one). 30 archons would have been guaranteed to do what that swarm of infantry failed to accomplish; that speaks volumes about their usefulness.

As to the rest, I would be very curious to hear what Charlie's mercenary business generally pays (maybe we will get a hard number for Jillian's typical contract so we can start estimating). But also bear in mind that any surplus he nets he has been making since before Jetstone existed, at least 1600 turns ago. Charlie can only have obscene amounts of cash. My bet is that he could last a hundred turns without any work coming in if he had to.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:27 pm

Mmh, maybe you guys are right on the level issue. I'd still maintain an average level of around 3, with a bell-curve-like distribution, but 4 might really be too high.

Also, I just realized, we've seen portal park, right? Quite a few times? We know that it has one portal for every side in existence. But it has never seemed like a very large place. A hundred, maybe. 200. Not a thosand. If anything, my estimate for the amount of sides on Erfworld seems to have been exaggerated. Which, in turn, would lower the amount of income Charlie can get from telecommunications. Which in turn means he can only support a cheaper force. So if we do go for 130k in upkeep, I think we'd still be on the mark.

And yeah, Charlie's side being as old as it is, he must have massive reserves. All he spends money on is casters and upkeep, and he's been able to do the telecommunications business since day 1.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby drachefly » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:44 pm

MarbitChow wrote:
GJC wrote:Looking at their time alive, and the fact that mercenaries are generally used pretty enthusiastically, you really don't think that 400 or even 200 turns' worth of battle would be enough for an archon to rack up a dozen infantry kills and a warlord? I'm not saying that I expect to see much above levels 6 or 7, because exponential progression just makes that really hard for units to obtain. But I think levels 2, 3, 4 shouldn't be too much of a problem, y'know? Not for "special forces". : P


We're probably arguing over the meaning of "average" at this point. In order to have an "average" of level 4 Archons, he'd need a whole lot of level 6 and 7s, or almost no level ones. We know he's popping another level 1 every turn, so there's going to be a lot of those. If he were to have equal numbers of just level 1s and level 4s, the average level would be 2.5.


Setting aside the operators, here, if any are level 1...

There won't be a lot of level 1's, because they'll level or die within a few turns. Similarly to a lesser extent with the level 2s. The power of getting them in the field gathering experience is a big deal. How many turns can you spend as a level 1 if you're working for Charlie? Once you're in the field, it could be something like 15 turns on average. So the number of level 1s is going to simply be the number of turns it takes a level 1 to get in position, plus 15 turns. I'd be shocked if there are more than 35 level 1 archons (not counting any among his operators). We don't know how sharp the exponential increase is, but if it's a pretty steep 4x, we're not going to see more than 140 level 2s.

And every casualty they take is another turn on the age of the oldest archons, making them older and more experienced still.

An average - a literal average - of level 4 seems very reasonable to me.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Nnelg » Sun Jul 08, 2012 10:21 pm

Balerion wrote:I think you are underestimating the archons in unsupported combat.

From what I have seen, their shockamancy is a ranged attack that generally lets them strike first and has considerable range(look at the beams taking out Wanda's fliers in book 1). It wouldn't shock me at all to find out that 200 shots like that could wipe out 20-30 dwagons before they even had a chance to act (and I could see it going higher). Not everyone is likely to have the shockamancy special, but a good chunk will, so call it 15 dwagons down instantly. And once you manage to close with them, they have foolamancy and thinkamancy to mess with your units managing to actually hurt them. Then throw in tower defenses. 50 dwagons would die screaming if they attempted it; and should they manage to secure the air space, 700 cloth golems is more than sufficient to hold the city against the survivors if they are at all comparable to sizemore's rock golems.

I think the reason Charlie needed so many to take the garrison was 1)sizemore's golems 2)wanda there to lend massive support to uncroaked 3) having to descend from the air zone and navigate tunnels/halls, which will prevent them picking off units from afar. Remember, the golems and gobwins were enough to take down a few thousand infantry when used properly. GK was down on its luck, but still had a rather potent force (hence Ansom attempting to divide it between holding the tunnels and the walls, allowing a breach in one). 30 archons would have been guaranteed to do what that swarm of infantry failed to accomplish; that speaks volumes about their usefulness.

As to the rest, I would be very curious to hear what Charlie's mercenary business generally pays (maybe we will get a hard number for Jillian's typical contract so we can start estimating). But also bear in mind that any surplus he nets he has been making since before Jetstone existed, at least 1600 turns ago. Charlie can only have obscene amounts of cash. My bet is that he could last a hundred turns without any work coming in if he had to.

I think you misunderstand what being unsupported means. If the archons have no backup, then whomever they are up against has the chance to maneuver more, drastically decreasing the chances of the archons being able to concentrate their force like that. For example, the dwagons could adopt hit-and-run tactics similar to those Parson used on Ansom's siege column in Book 1. But that's just one possibility, all that is certain is that no competent commander would lead his troops into a slaughterhouse like the one you described without a very good (or desperate) plan in mind. A few more such plans spring into my head, if you'd like to hear them.

Secondly, 30 archons might've been able to take GK in one turn before Parson withdrew the majority of his forces into it, but they most certainly would not have fared any better in the tunnels. Their advantage was to be able to choose an angle of attack that Parson hadn't planned to defend at the time that calculation was made, namely from the air. There's no more reason to believe that the archons had more raw power than all of Jetstone's infantry than there is to believe a crack team of British SAS has more power than all the German soldiers who went into the meatgrinder of Stalingrad. It's not about mere force, it's a matter of leverage.

Finally, I don't see Charlie as the miserly sort. I'd expect him to reinvest that money somewhere, rather than let it gather dust. Sure, he's likely to have a few million schmuckers tucked away for a rainy day, but somehow I doubt it'd last much more than a dozen turns or so were he to be cut off from all income.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Lamech » Sun Jul 08, 2012 10:49 pm

MarbitChow wrote:Note that Charlie will hire them out for 'full service' suicide missions. I'm going to guess that this "hooker/assassin" mode is probably somewhat popular.
Somehow I doubt that. I"m not sure how common kings wasting a bunch of money on a hooker is, and most people probably don't want to spend a bunch extra just to allow the unit to shoot Charlescomm. Who even attacks Charlescomm anyway?
We've also seen a significant number of them killed - Wanda's tantrum over GK w/ Jillian, the capture of Ossomer, and now in the airspace above Jetstone.
I would like to point out two specific archons: One got killed by a unipegatur in a swipe, and one was taken out by an arrow when capturing Ossomer. I think that is more indicative of their frailness. Going down to a super gun, arrow barrage, or tower is what dwagons do.
MarbitChow wrote:Age has no bearing on level. Most units don't train, so they only level when actually getting kills. 20% stay behind and guard Charlie's city, so they're not leveling at all. Artemis' account shows that it took almost 700 turns to reach level 6, and she was Noble - they level faster.
Charlie is not most people. It might require a commander to train, or units might not do it own their own initiative, but archons have lots of commanders, and Charlie doesn't seem like the kind of guy to let XP float on by. I bet the average archon trains on a regular basis.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Nnelg » Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:45 pm

Lamech wrote:
MarbitChow wrote:Age has no bearing on level. Most units don't train, so they only level when actually getting kills. 20% stay behind and guard Charlie's city, so they're not leveling at all. Artemis' account shows that it took almost 700 turns to reach level 6, and she was Noble - they level faster.

Charlie is not most people. It might require a commander to train, or units might not do it own their own initiative, but archons have lots of commanders, and Charlie doesn't seem like the kind of guy to let XP float on by. I bet the average archon trains on a regular basis.

He'd let the XP go if it would cost him money -both in training costs, and in increased upkeep. I'd also like to point out that the odds are most of the archons at his capitol are probably garrison units, because we know those cost less upkeep. But we don't know if it's possible to demote a field unit back to garrison, so it's probable that not one of those archons has ever been on a mercenary mission. They'd also be his oldest archons, since they'd never need replacing, but if they can't be (or just weren't) trained while garrisons then they'll all be level 1.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Lamech » Mon Jul 09, 2012 12:04 am

Nnelg wrote:
Lamech wrote:
MarbitChow wrote:Age has no bearing on level. Most units don't train, so they only level when actually getting kills. 20% stay behind and guard Charlie's city, so they're not leveling at all. Artemis' account shows that it took almost 700 turns to reach level 6, and she was Noble - they level faster.

Charlie is not most people. It might require a commander to train, or units might not do it own their own initiative, but archons have lots of commanders, and Charlie doesn't seem like the kind of guy to let XP float on by. I bet the average archon trains on a regular basis.

He'd let the XP go if it would cost him money -both in training costs, and in increased upkeep. I'd also like to point out that the odds are most of the archons at his capitol are probably garrison units, because we know those cost less upkeep. But we don't know if it's possible to demote a field unit back to garrison, so it's probable that not one of those archons has ever been on a mercenary mission. They'd also be his oldest archons, since they'd never need replacing, but if they can't be (or just weren't) trained while garrisons then they'll all be level 1.
Archons get new powers and better stats with levels. A level 10 archon is almost certainly more than 2.5 times better than a level 1 archon. However, a level 10 archon only has 2.5 times the cost of a level 1 archon. Hence more levels=more efficient. And since Charlie's main goal is to grow the strength of his archon fleet... he would have them train. And I don't think training costs anything major other than hard work. Ansom's response to Artemis wasn't that it was expensive, but that she must not have slept.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Nnelg » Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:45 pm

Lamech wrote:Archons get new powers and better stats with levels. A level 10 archon is almost certainly more than 2.5 times better than a level 1 archon. However, a level 10 archon only has 2.5 times the cost of a level 1 archon. Hence more levels=more efficient. And since Charlie's main goal is to grow the strength of his archon fleet... he would have them train. And I don't think training costs anything major other than hard work. Ansom's response to Artemis wasn't that it was expensive, but that she must not have slept.

Let's look at things from Charlie's perspective here. Before the battle of GK, it was absolutely unthinkable that anyone would attack Charlescomm (at least not for a long time in the future). Now, let's say he's considering training his garrison such that the upkeep would go up 10k a turn. But there's no foreseeable need for a better garrison in the next thousand or so turns. Multiply that out and you get an additional 10 mil in upkeep costs for very little benefit. (And that's assuming training costs nothing but idle time.)

Of course, now that Parson's on the scene things are different; Charlie now has a direct threat, and thus a reason to bolster his defenses. But I see no reason to believe that his permanent garrison consisted of anything but Lvl 1's a hundred turns ago.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Mon Jul 09, 2012 3:30 pm

But there's no foreseeable need for a better garrison in the next thousand or so turns. Multiply that out and you get an additional 10 mil in upkeep costs for very little benefit. (And that's assuming training costs nothing but idle time.)


Of course, if there's no need for a defense, then the question is, why station any archons there at all? Charlie's side is, as it is, not invulnerable and I don't think it ever was. We saw how easily flying siege units can destroy a city's tower and take its garrison. I think the deployment of a defensive force of fliers isn't dumb. Of course, whether or not it is is irrelevant. Charlie clearly saw the need to deploy a force in his only city, and given that, it might well have been a higher-level force. I really see two alternatives.

Either it's a lower-level force of mostly fresh archons. They're there for training (both in terms of operating procedures and tactics, as well as actual experience gain), and then get sent off on mercenary missions. Training takes around a hundred turns, so 100 level-1 archons, and Charlie has 20 aides to help him with various administrative tasks.

The alternative being that, when an archon reaches a certain level, say, 6 or 7, Charlie calls it back to act as an elite reserve. If there's only a limited demand for mercenaries, this can ensure that his lower-level archons get a taste of combat and the experience they need to level. It also leaves him a reserve of higher-level units to send out to hotspots around the world when he really needs it.

Either work, though I favor the first. I like the thought of archon academies, where archons get indoctrinated, trained and prepared for the world out there.

Edit: Come to think of it, probably indoctrinated too. Archons seem really addicted to the Arkendish.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby woort » Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:11 pm

Balerion wrote:I think you are underestimating the archons in unsupported combat.

From what I have seen, their shockamancy is a ranged attack that generally lets them strike first and has considerable range(look at the beams taking out Wanda's fliers in book 1). It wouldn't shock me at all to find out that 200 shots like that could wipe out 20-30 dwagons before they even had a chance to act (and I could see it going higher). Not everyone is likely to have the shockamancy special, but a good chunk will, so call it 15 dwagons down instantly. And once you manage to close with them, they have foolamancy and thinkamancy to mess with your units managing to actually hurt them. Then throw in tower defenses. 50 dwagons would die screaming if they attempted it; and should they manage to secure the air space, 700 cloth golems is more than sufficient to hold the city against the survivors if they are at all comparable to sizemore's rock golems.

I agree. They must be good- Charlie seems to be the smartest commander in erfworld (after Parson), and has access to a huge amount of information. He wouldn't be amassing a gigantic fleet of pure archons if they were only useful as support units.

I mean, sure, their defense is probably much weaker than a heavy unit, but with all their special abilities that hardly matters. Their combination of flying, high speed, foolamancy, and shockmancy would mean they never even need to take damage at all.

Let's say someone does send a massive force to attack Charlie. He could position the archons to wait on a hex that's just outside the range of the attack force. They could be hidden by foolamancy, and since they're flying no ground unit would be able to attack them anyway. So then on Charlie's turn they move in, use Shockmancy to attack from the next hex over, and then retreat out of range. Repeat every single turn. The only way to stop them would be to have units fast enough to catch them, strong enough to kill them, and with a way to penetrate their foolamancy. So... basically more archons.

Or a bunch of purple dwagons with a hippiemancer to stop any attack :p.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby drachefly » Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:24 pm

You have to enter the hex to attack.

Also, 'no ground unit'... archers aren't that unusual! Especially if you know you'll be facing archons, you'll want to bring scads of them.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby GJC » Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:00 pm

Yeah, you do have to enter a hex to attack.

Shockamancy is a powerful offensive weapon, but from what we've seen Archons are better at using it to incapacitate, rather than kill. They could presumably do a good bit of damage with it against high-level units (and I think that a sufficiently large force could probably croak quite a few Dwagons), but even hit-and-run tactics require that you engage the enemy force and allow it an opportunity to attack you. And we've seen how vulnerable archons can be to simple bows.

Charlie produces one Archon per turn in his city. But we know that infantry pops at 6 to 8 times that rate (6 for stabbers, 8 for pikers). I'm pretty sure that archers pop at 8 per turn. So in the time you've popped 100 archons, the enemy would have popped 800 archers. Or maybe 600 archers and a few warlords to lead them. And I'm pretty sure that these 600 archers and 10 warlords won't cost nearly as much upkeep as the archons.

Now, are the archons more valuable than the infantry army? Most certainly. But can they take it in direct combat? I kinda doubt that. They can use shockamancy to get rid of a lot of warlords, but in the comics we've seen them go down to as little as 1 or 2 arrows, while Dwagons can take something like 20 or 30 arrows, for comparison. They're harder to hit, yes, but they are squishy, squishy units. And looking at their performance in the battle against the unipegataurs, I don't think their attacks do much damage either. We've seen them croak some orlies, but the unis seem to be taking those attacks pretty well. I just don't think they have strong combat stats.

And while their many specials do go a long way in making up for that, I don't think it's enough. Foolamancy can get them close, but scouts or warlords can see through a veil, especially if there's a lot of veiled enemies. Dancefighting can get them some nice bonuses, and they can eliminate enemy leadership while retaining their own. But when it comes down to it, they'll still be outnumbered 1 to 6 and go down all too easily to a few volleys of arrows. Charlie just can't afford that kind of engagement. And yes, his various specials mean that he can generally avoid such an unfavorable engagemen, but being unable to engage your enemy head-on is not a place you want to be in. Particularly if the enemy's upkeep is less than half of yours.

And even against Dwagons, I don't think Archons can stand. Those would probably be more their forte than the infantry are, because hey, high-value targets, but even there I'm not sure how well they'd do. 100 Archons against 30 (A city can pop one every 3 turns) Dwagons with leadership sounds like a much more even battle, though with their superior speed, it'd be the Dwagons who control the engagement this time. They'd be more vulnerable to foolamancy (because presumably fewer warlords) and shockamancy (because more high-value targets), but even if the archons do manage to kill 5 or 6 Dwagons with a pure shockamancy volley (which, I think, is a fairly generious estimate), it'd still leave them with 1-4 odds. And I honestly think those favor the Dwagons. We've seen how much damage Dwagons can do to infantry and even to elite, well-led knights. Even if the Archons end up winning, I don't see them coming away from it with many survivors. And that's doubly problematic since, hey, it's not gonna be 30 Dwagons. GK can produce 1-2 Dwagons a turn if Stanley tames them. So suddenly it's not 30 Dwagons, it's 150 Dwagons. The Archons can't stand against that on their own.
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Re: Let's talk Charlescomm!

Postby Nnelg » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:38 pm

Don't forget that most sides have dozens of cities, while Charlie only has one.

GJC wrote:
But there's no foreseeable need for a better garrison in the next thousand or so turns. Multiply that out and you get an additional 10 mil in upkeep costs for very little benefit. (And that's assuming training costs nothing but idle time.)

Of course, if there's no need for a defense, then the question is, why station any archons there at all?
To act as a deterrent, so that nobody gets any 'clever' ideas. 120 Lvl. 1 archons and ~700 cloth golems (presumably lvl 1 as well) are more than enough to fend of any surprise attack; in fact if I was in Charlie's position I'd have thought even that much was complete overkill.

woort wrote:I agree. They must be good- Charlie seems to be the smartest commander in erfworld (after Parson), and has access to a huge amount of information. He wouldn't be amassing a gigantic fleet of pure archons if they were only useful as support units.

Why not? If he's so clever, he'd realize that as a mercenary provider he should tailor his units to the client's needs. And since his clients will almost always have line infantry of their own, he knows that he doesn't need to provide that. But if what the clients want is a one-time-use specialist, when they want it, where they want it, while they're still willing to pay through the nose for it, then a highly mobile glass cannon/fire support unit fits the bill perfectly. Lightning Bruiser-types would cost a whole lot more, without being much more useful.

It's only recently that Charlie's had a direct threat -and hence a need for something other than support units.
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