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  • On the Utility and Use of Marines

    On the Utility and Use of Marines

    The marine is a much-maligned unit. The game designers admittedly didn’t exactly make it a “go to” unit – the marine’s detractors will point out that: (1) marines become available only with an optional tech; (2) marines are expensive, costing as much as a tank; (3) speaking of tanks, marines become available around the same time as tanks (which means after tanks, since almost no one will research Amphibious Assault before Motorized Transportation), but the A/D/M is, in each instance, less than that of a tank; (4) the amphibious assault ability is rarely (if ever) actually needed, and only infrequently useful.

    I contend that the marine is maligned unfairly, and that its true utility, especially after v1.21, is underutilized by most players.

    When planning an invasion across the seas in the late industrial ages or later, the marine can often unleash tremendous, instantaneous pain on one’s enemy – given the proper circumstances, “marine pain” may actually reduce a strong AI into a simpering, permanently disabled vassal state as the result of a well-executed, one-turn blow. My suggested approach to more effective intercontinental invasion is:

    1. Identify 2 or 3 attractive coastal cities -- attractive because they control luxury or strategic resources (ideally in the city tile itself), or contain a non-obsolete wonder.

    2. For each identified target, load one transport full of marines, one transport full of infantry, and one transport with a mix of artillery and tanks / cavalry. This is my minimum, as a general rule of thumb – obviously employ more or less depending on the circumstances. Two battleships or a battleship and a destroyer should be a sufficient escort for each grouping of three transports (assuming you are not already at war against a strong naval power). If you have aircraft carriers and bombers, so much the better, but they are usually not required.

    3. Position your attack parties outside the enemy's borders, but within 5 tiles of the target cities. Declare war. Bombard cities with battleships / destroyer (bomb city if air support available). Attack the cities directly from your transports with marines. When the marines take the cities (they will ), move your other transports into the city and unload. I have honestly never seen a transport full of marines fail to take a city guarded by no more than 3 infantry. If the enemy is defending with mechanized infantry, however, you will want to throw substantial bombardment at the defenders before you launch your marines at the city defenses.

    There are several significant advantages to the amphibious assault as compared to a traditional beachhead invasion involving landing your forces in enemy territory:

    You never have to unload units into enemy territory. Landing parties forced to come ashore at a beachhead will be subject to repeated attacks by huge stacks of AI units (especially now under v1.21) before they have a chance to fortify, let alone attack their primary objective. The first AI counterattack against your amphibious invasion will be against your fortified units, units which may be fortified in a city or metropolis, both of which factors mean substantially increased defensive power (i.e., that infantry defense of "10" goes up to "22" when fortified in a metropolis).

    Your landing parties will effectively control 9 tiles, instead of just 1 tile. Because you have captured a city (instead of landed on a tile), you also control one tile around the city in all directions. Counterattacking AI infantry and other one-move units can enter "your" territory, but cannot attack in the same turn; AI tanks and other 2+ move attackers can enter and attack, but cannot attack twice in the same turn (except modern armor or panzers, of course). This represents a truly significant advantage over the traditional beachhead landing because the AI will furiously counterattack with its 2-move attackers, losing many in the process and leaving many others wounded, while its 1-move attackers slowly advance toward their objective. Should you have gotten lucky and taken the city with its barracks intact, you won’t even face the second-half of the AI attack (next turn) with any wounded units, and will probably face it with some newly promoted elite units. Furthermore, regardless of the presence of a barracks, your reserve artillery and 2-move invasion units (after having auto-bombarded the 2-move attackers in the case of artillery), together with your naval power offshore, will have an opportunity to damage and destroy more of the AI counter-attackers before many of them are even able to attack at all, and all from the safety of your city. Effectively forcing the break-up of the AI counter-attack stack into two different attacking forces that must attack over the course of two turns (and which are therefore subject to intervening pre-emptive strikes by you) greatly weakens the AI counter-attack potency. In a traditional beachhead landing by contrast, the AI will have the opportunity (and will generally take it) to throw everything at you in one turn, meaning lots of 2-attack tank battles followed by a bunch of 1-attack infantry / rifleman battles. Note that the amphibious strategy therefore allows the invading units to hold off the same counter-attack force with much smaller numbers of actual troops than does a traditional beachhead landing.

    Because all of your units except the marines who actually attacked the city are unloaded within the city, they have preserved all of their movement points. Your invasion forces are therefore able to: (a) attack other AI units during the same turn, (b) pillage / bombard nearby improvements on the same turn (such as roads to a luxury / strategic resource just outside your new territory), or (c) take up a series of defensive positions on hills and mountains and fortify, creating effective kill zones, all as is appropriate to the given situation.

    You have inflicted severe morale / resource damage on your enemy before he even has a chance to prepare. Assuming you have planned your invasion strike well, you have taken cities with luxury and/or strategic resources. Given the right circumstances, you may have deprived the AI of its sole type of the particular luxury and/or disrupted its trade of an excess luxury, causing much greater (and immediate) unhappiness in the AI population. If you have managed to take the AI’s only source of oil / rubber, then the AI’s furious conscription of units during its turn will produce underpowered units, and further add to its happiness woes. The combination of luxury denial and AI drafting results in an immediate and significant blow not only to morale (happiness) but also to production abilities as AI citizens are converted into entertainers.

    In the age of railroads and therefore instant AI counter-attack mobility, and with the advent of v1.21’s proclivity to produce AI counter-attacking stacks of 50+ units, the ability to land one’s invasion force safely in one’s “own” city with the instant protection of one’s own cultural borders should give the marine a decisive role in all your intercontinental invasions.

    You may begin the vociferous denunciation of marines now. Until NYE comes to the defense, that is.

    Catt

  • #2
    Didn't want to include this in the first post above, because it is unverified, but there are those who have stated that marines, when attacking amphibiously, deprive the defenders of the advantages of various city defense bonuses (city/metropolis defense bonus, walls bonus, etc). I have never seen any verification of this proposition, but, if true, would obviously only add to the power of the jarheads.

    I will say that, given the marine’s attack value of 8, anecdotally it does seem to have a surprisingly high success rate against defenders in a fortified city or metropolis.

    Catt

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    • #3
      I haven't done many amphibious attacks, but like the idea. Thus far, I've done massive invasions onto a good defensive tile. (BTW, Firaxis, please make sure the AI does this going forward).

      1. Your arguments are excellent... especially the ability to land artillery and defensive units with their movement intact.

      2. It is critical that we understand whether city defense bonuses apply.

      3. I AM a Marine, and would love to depend on my bro's. I also like the machine gun noise.

      Lastly, thanks for the complement.
      The greatest delight for man is to inflict defeat on his enemies, to drive them before him, to see those dear to them with their faces bathed in tears, to bestride their horses, to crush in his arms their daughters and wives.

      Duas uncias in puncta mortalis est.

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      • #4
        Great article! I had always wondered about this myself, but never had time to sit down and think about it.

        Some concerns: Their effectiveness in attacking diminishes on the advent of mech. inf.. Take this with the defense boni (which I believe apply) and Im tempted to just land an attack force. Moreover, when you attack and fail the AI often gets its units promoted and next turn you have fully healed, promoted units (which really annoys me). So with mech inf in place, a suicide attack of 8 marines to weaken the city defenses is pretty fruitless since you may only kill 1 or so, while the rest gets promoted, hence negating your advantage or in the worse case actually making taking the city harder for yourself.

        Marines make most sense when you are very strong naval wise. They make good all around (defense and attack) soldiers, so if you can horde them with a big navy you can decimate a civs coastal areas and hold the cities fairly well. The key is though is to have them in numbers. But if youre military is navy+marines then it shouldnt be too much of a strain if you are avoiding tanks etc.
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        • #5
          Marines cut through fortified Infantry like they are butter, not much bombardment needed. MechInf are a bit nastier, but by that time I have a well developed navy and can pummel the Mech to the point that the Jar heads make short work of them too.

          I have to agree with the perception that amphibing Marines negate some defensive bonuses. My results are difficult to believe if not.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Theseus
            I haven't done many amphibious attacks, but like the idea. Thus far, I've done massive invasions onto a good defensive tile. (BTW, Firaxis, please make sure the AI does this going forward).
            How has this worked for you by and large, especially since 1.21? In the mini-tourney game, after finishing as a peaceful builder, I went back and replayed the last 100 years of so, just to have some fun with the intercontinental invasion. I picked on Liz, and took three coastal cities using marines against fortified infantry. Liz sent a stack of 70+ (just about her entire military, I suspect) towards her recently conquered city just east of London. Even if I had landed a force of 50 units on a mountain rather than 20 units in a city, I think I would have taken serious losses, since Liz's rail connection ensured that all those units would be able to counter-attack right away. A few turns later, after Mao decided to take a few pieces of Liz's empire, I watched a stack of 124 Chinese units advance -- I know I couldn't have survived that onslaught if it hit my beachhead positions in a non-amphibious invasion.

            I've always like the marines in Civ 3; I like them even more when faced with the huge concentrated force of AI attacks / counter-attacks in 1.21.

            2. It is critical that we understand whether city defense bonuses apply.
            Agreed. I might try to set up a test bed just to satisfy myself, if I can stand to "test" rather than "play."

            Lastly, thanks for the complement.
            The title was a no-brainer - imitate the classics.

            Originally posted by Pythagoras
            Some concerns: Their effectiveness in attacking diminishes on the advent of mech. inf.. Take this with the defense boni (which I believe apply) and Im tempted to just land an attack force. Moreover, when you attack and fail the AI often gets its units promoted and next turn you have fully healed, promoted units (which really annoys me). So with mech inf in place, a suicide attack of 8 marines to weaken the city defenses is pretty fruitless since you may only kill 1 or so, while the rest gets promoted, hence negating your advantage or in the worse case actually making taking the city harder for yourself.
            I am very careful when the target has developed mechanized infantry, and will generally only use the marines if I have been able to significantly weaken the defenders with naval and air bombardment. Nothing worse than having a transport of marines fall without taking the city, and having a couple of other transports floating off-shore -- powerful enough to hold a city and counter-attack, but sure to be slaughtered if put ashore in railroaded enemy territory.

            Originally posted by notyoueither
            Marines cut through fortified Infantry like they are butter, not much bombardment needed. MechInf are a bit nastier, but by that time I have a well developed navy and can pummel the Mech to the point that the Jar heads make short work of them too.

            I have to agree with the perception that amphibing Marines negate some defensive bonuses. My results are difficult to believe if not.
            I knew I'd get you in here to vouch for the utility of the marines .

            I find it so hard to believe that no mention of the defensive bonus advantage would be made in the manual, civilopedia, patch readmes, Firaxis chats, etc. if this were really true. OTOH, my experiences are very similar to yours. Fortified infantry in an metropolis fall easily (should be a 22 defense!), and mech infantry are doable. Game play just doesn't seem to match what the combat calculations say should occur. God just loves the marines .

            Catt

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            • #7
              I was waiting for someone to say that the leather-necks are useless. Then I could have launched an assault.

              Yes. I believe Mars has a globe and anchor tatoo.

              Let's agree to remember to quiz Firaxis on the defence bonus issue come next chat.

              Does it say anything in the strategy guide?
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              • #8
                I haven't used marines yet. Not because I find them useless, but because they are the only excuse to research a dead-end tech, which I consider to be a waste of at least 4 turns in the race for the UN (just for safety) or the Spaceship. Also, if I intended to invade, I almost for sure have done it long before marines showed up, for instance with infantries and cavalries. When I already have a beachhead from a medieval or early industrial assault, or even a whole conquered civ, I don't depend on spectacular landing operations.

                However, for the case where a quick response is needed in the late game, or a resource has to be secured or denied in the late game, I will consider to use them, and Catts excellent article will be a valuable strategy guide.

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                • #9
                  It's interesting that some of the best posters here haven't used much marines. I haven't either (not that I'm any good) But I think one of the problems with Marines is that it fails to differentiate itself from the all dominating Infantry. Same goes with the Paratroopers. In most cases, their specialty (airdrops for paratroops and direct shore to land assault for marines) are either overlooked by players or somehow, made impractical by the game. Tanks are overwhelming behomoths that upgrade to Modern Armor. People want those shitznit badly. Marines is a dead end unit that can assault cities directly from shore. Well, most players can just send in their surplus infantry and not worry about the Marines. Heck, when Infantry upgrade to Mech Infantry, a quick mass upgrade immedately grants players with a massive army of powerful new units. Why bother with Marines? And let me say, I'm as guilty as everyone here.


                  This is not an argument for historical accuracy, but one that I hope would encourage more creative tactics. Also is makes for good gameplay as it is a lot more challenging to organize an assault with combined arms than it is to have an all purpose unit do everything and simply rush hordes of them at the enemy. Of course, it doesn't hurt that historical accuracy tends to agree with me also, given their smaller numbers compared to your standard Infantry grunt, their superior training and "elite" status. These type of units (Paratroopers as well) needs to be more specialized, scarcer and lastly MORE USEFUL than Firaxis has made them. While I acknowledge that their stats do differ, they don't differ drastically enough. In the early game, a Spearman with 2 defense points makes a pronounced difference and defends more effectively than a warrior with one. In the late game, with Modern Armor weighing in with 24 Attk points, Tanks with 16, Infantry with 10 and Mech Infantry with 12, a difference of 1 or 2 defense points is marginal. With spearman vs swordsman vs archer, you have double digit percentage differences. A Bowman (Archer) has 100% more attack capability than a Warrior or a Spearman, and the Swordsman have 50% increased attack capacity compared to the Bowman.


                  In Civ IV, I'd like to see Marines arrive at the same time as Infatry, cost twice as much, but with more pronounced complementary capabilities that forces the players to use combined arms --by this stage of the game, people ought to play in that mode.
                  All my invading forces are combined arms out of habit from playing so many historical "simulations" from KOEI, but some of the strategies that I've seen proposed. All horseman all the time, and stuff like that, while efficient, seems to take a lot of fun out of the strategic aspect of war. Instead, people are playing the mongol horde rushing game. In that case, go pick up Sid Meir's Barbarian
                  Last edited by dexters; June 15, 2002, 07:33.
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                  • #10
                    Marines in my mod: Attack 12 (from 8), Defence 10 (from 8), Movement 1 (no changes), two additional HP. Makes it kinda special forces, very good field fighter.
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                    • #11
                      After reading your article, I was inspired and for today's game decided to abandon my usual tactic of landing a pair of 4-infantry armies on a mountain and then following up with tanks in favor of an amphibious assault on my opponent.

                      My spies reported 4 fortified infantry and a single artillery. No costal fortress or walls. A barracks. I brought over 16 marines, 4 infantry, and 4 empty armies (for later tanks through airlift). The results? 9 dead marines. 4 wounded. 1 promoted. 3 full strength. 900 shields is a heavy price to pay for an invasion, that's 10 infantry or 9 tanks. Experience tells me that if I'd instead brought 8 infantry and 8 tanks I would have taken the city with maybe one or two dead.

                      While marines may have their place, it wasn't in this situation... an expensive lesson, but at least I got to hear the machine guns.

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                      • #12
                        City Defense Bonuses Apply

                        Originally posted by Catt
                        Didn't want to include this in the first post above, because it is unverified, but there are those who have stated that marines, when attacking amphibiously, deprive the defenders of the advantages of various city defense bonuses (city/metropolis defense bonus, walls bonus, etc). I have never seen any verification of this proposition, but, if true, would obviously only add to the power of the jarheads.

                        I will say that, given the marine’s attack value of 8, anecdotally it does seem to have a surprisingly high success rate against defenders in a fortified city or metropolis.

                        Catt
                        Okay -- I managed to set up and run a test to determine whether defenders lose their city defense bonuses when facing amphibious assaults. The answer (definitive, in my view) is that they do not. In other words, city defense bonuses apply to defenders, even when being attacked amphibiously by marines.

                        First, the test results:

                        Situation: marines attacking from a transport. Defender is an infantry, fortified in a metropolis (size 14), built on grassland. Assuming all defensive bonuses apply, the infantry defense should be 23.5 (base of 10, bonuses as follows: 100%+25%+10%, from metropolis, fortification, grassland respectively). With an attack value of 8, we would expect the marine to win 25.40% of the individual combat die rolls (i.e. hit point lost by attacker or defender).

                        Actual test results:

                        2501 individual combat die rolls
                        1867 HPs lost by marines
                        634 HPs lost by infantry

                        Empirical marine success rate: 25.35%

                        Someone who actually took statistics and remembers the experience can comment on whether 2500 trials is sufficient to give comfort -- it certainly is for me.

                        Catt


                        *********

                        In the interest of open "scholarship," here is how I ran the test (ignore the remainder of the post if not interested in testing procedures):

                        Most important factor: find time in busy schedule that may be used for a crazy test without impinging on Civ 3 game time (this was accomplished by letting my wife captain the minivan on the 2 hour drive to a niece's high school graduation party yesterday ).

                        And now, seriously:

                        In the editor, I configured the human player to start with about 15 settlers, several workers, a pair of explorers, 3 or 4 infantry, 8 marines, 100,000 gold, all technologies discovered, and in a Democracy. Each of the AI civs were given all techs through replaceable parts, a settler, a worker, and an infantry. Infantry was modified so that rubber was not a required resource; transport modified so oil was not a required resource. All combat experience (conscript, regular, veteran and elite) given 10 hit points. Difficulty was set at Regent.

                        Started game. Selected tiny map, archipelago max water, warm, wet, 5 billion.

                        "Preserve Random Seed" OFF!

                        During the first few turns, built two coastal cities pretty close together. In my capital rush built a trasnport. In the non-capital city, garrisoned 7 or 8 settlers. Used workers to irrigate all around the non-capital. Had 2 settlers join non-capital city. Rush built aqueduct. Transport and explorers were, meanwhile, looking for contact with a civ, any civ. After aqueduct was completed, added few more settlers, rush built a hospital. By now, I had discovered another civ, and my transport is back in my capital. Established an embassy with the other civ. Loaded 8 marines into transport, positioned transport just outside the territory of my second city. After hospital was completed, added a few more settlers, bringing population up to 14+. Contacted other civ, "gifted" my second city to him. This generated an AI infantry in the "new" AI metropolis. Waited one turn (so the infantry could fortify). Used embassy to investigate city (to make sure something crazy like a coastal fortress or some such thing had been rushed). Declared war, moved my transport to coast, woke 4 or 5 marines. SAVED GAME. Proceeded with attack -- wrote down, at the conclusion of each attack, the number of HPs lost by the fighters. For example, when my first 10 HP marine was destroyed but knocked off 3 HPs from the infantry, and my second 10 HP marine destroyed the 7 HP infantry but lost 8 HPs in the process, I would write down:

                        M -- I
                        10...3
                        8.....7
                        etc., etc., etc.

                        After the infantry died and the city was taken, I reloaded the saved game and re-commenced the attack. Continued apace for as long as it took to get to the graduation party .

                        Did the math. Posted results.

                        Catt

                        ********

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Blitzer
                          After reading your article, I was inspired and for today's game decided to abandon my usual tactic of landing a pair of 4-infantry armies on a mountain and then following up with tanks in favor of an amphibious assault on my opponent.

                          My spies reported 4 fortified infantry and a single artillery. No costal fortress or walls. A barracks. I brought over 16 marines, 4 infantry, and 4 empty armies (for later tanks through airlift). The results? 9 dead marines. 4 wounded. 1 promoted. 3 full strength. 900 shields is a heavy price to pay for an invasion, that's 10 infantry or 9 tanks. Experience tells me that if I'd instead brought 8 infantry and 8 tanks I would have taken the city with maybe one or two dead.

                          While marines may have their place, it wasn't in this situation... an expensive lesson, but at least I got to hear the machine guns.
                          Yup - marines won't be be right in every situation. However, a couple of points / questions for you on this specific situation:

                          Under 1.21 are you having success landing 8 infantry and 8 tanks in railroaded enemy territory? My experience has been that the AI will send a huge stack of counter-attackers and destroy such an invasion force -- for me it is certainly still doable as a land invasion, but I must have massively superior numbers and quality of units.

                          Was the coastal city you attacked also a border city? I have rarely seen the AI leave more than 3 defenders in any city away from the front lines.

                          Catt

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                          • #14
                            Under 1.21 are you having success landing 8 infantry and 8 tanks in railroaded enemy territory? My experience has been that the AI will send a huge stack of counter-attackers and destroy such an invasion force -- for me it is certainly still doable as a land invasion, but I must have massively superior numbers and quality of units.
                            Not much can deal with a pair of 4-stacks of infantry, in an army, in a mountain. Yes the AI threw a TON of crap at it, but it held firm. Mind you this is before the AI has tanks... mostly cavalry and infantry with the odd swordsman thrown in. Have yet to test with a tank-equipped defender, if the AI gets tanks I generally just build the spaceship, and I don't build many of those .

                            Was the coastal city you attacked also a border city? I have rarely seen the AI leave more than 3 defenders in any city away from the front lines.
                            Was just a regular ole city (albiet size 23 and with a luxury and a wonder).

                            Sorry, marines suck =(. Avoiding the city defense bonus like we thought would pretty well balance them. A Coastal fortress could restore the bonus. Someone feedback it to Firaxis, I can hardly see marines becoming unbalanced through this change.

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                            • #15
                              I think removing any defensive bonus altogether will lead to some lame abuse strategies. I support the idea of say halving defensive bonsues however.

                              And yes, it will be restored by the coastal fortress.
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