The MG42 is a scam

It turns out a +30% damage bonus generally doesn’t translate into actually killing units faster.

Unit classes

Every unit in Rise of nations is categorized as one (and only one) of the following:

  • Foot (“F” mask)
  • Mounted (“M” mask)
  • Vehicle (“V” mask)
  • Naval (“N” mask)
  • Air (“3” mask)

These different categories determine — among other things — most of the different bonuses and penalties when calculating damage dealt or taken in unit matchups.

The German MG42 UU has a 30% damage bonus against foot units; i.e., a 30% damage bonus against units with the “F” mask.

How attacks work

Most units deliver one attack per attack salvo. Thus the damage of each attack is equal to the damage of each entire attack salvo. For example:

  • Hoplites spear their target once per attack.
  • Crossbowmen release one crossbow bolt projectile per attack.
  • Dragoons shoot one bullet projectile per attack.

Some units deliver more than one attack per attack salvo. In this case, each portion of the full salvo deals an equal proportion of the full salvo’s damage. For example:

  • Most ships fire three projectiles per attack, with each dealing one third of the full salvo’s damage.
  • Longbowmen fire two arrows per salvo, with each dealing one half of the full salvo’s damage.
Longbowmen’s two attacks per salvo doesn’t affect their raw DPS, as armor is calculated against the full salvo’s damage rather than each individual attack. It does have minor impacts such as causing a longer delay before the target takes the full salvo’s damage though.

Machine guns fire six projectiles per attack.1 Thus, each projectile deals one sixth of the full attack salvo’s damage. In terms of raw damage dealt, this would be the same as attacking six times with one projectile per salvo, but then also cutting the net damage of each attack to one sixth.

The problem

The reason that the MG42’s higher damage-per-salvo doesn’t normally translate into anything useful is the combination of three things:

  1. The Heavy Machine Gun (which the MG42 replaces) already kills almost every foot unit (for one-person foot units) or sub-unit (for three-person infantry squads) in the game in less than a full attack salvo. The only exceptions are Flamethrowers, the Militia line, and the Machine Gun line. This remains true even at the highest normally-achievable armor value of +10 (a fully upgraded Comrade).
  2. Killing a unit partway into an attack salvo doesn’t allow the attacker to switch targets any faster than requiring the entire salvo to do the job. This includes when switching between sub-units in an infantry squad.
  3. All machine gun units have a very long attack recharge of 50 (i.e., a relatively long time is required between attack salvos).
An example firing loop for Machine Guns (not to exact scale). Although the MG42 does kill an infantry unit or sub-unit more quickly than a Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), this mostly just increases the amount of time it wastes while waiting for its attack recharge timer (which determines attack speed) to complete.

This combination means that when attacking Modern Infantry and/or modern Heavy Infantry — by far the two most common foot units in army-vs-army combat — the MG42 does not gain any meaningful advantage in time-to-kill when churning through multiple targets.

The MG42’s bonus 30% damage vs foot units thus essentially translates into “deals 30% bonus damage against Flamethrowers, the Militia line, and the Machine Gun line”. Not very exciting, and not very useful.

Could it be changed into something useful?

It could be, though whether or not it should be I’m not completely sure about. Late-game combat is already a mess (see also A couple more reasons why RoN’s late-game combat sucks), but rather than being “actively bad”, this particular issue is moreso a “failure to be good” — a lesser sin, and one that’s less important to correct.

Design-wise it’s pretty bad, as bonuses have a design obligation to be useful in at least some meaningful way. When a bonus implies that it’s useful (as the MG42’s bonus does) and fails to deliver, that’s a good indication that the bonus is poorly designed, or at least poorly implemented (for example put into a system that doesn’t interact well with the bonus). With the MG42’s bonus being useful only against niche units that it’ll rarely be fighting against, the bonus is barely meaningful — certainly much less so than most players would probably expect after reading what the bonus is.

If the bonus were to be removed, then power-wise a replacement bonus wouldn’t need to be that powerful since the original is approaching useless. One could argue that the bonus could instead be translated into something more meaningful (and powerful), such as a shorter attack recharge time, faster production time, or cheaper production costs.

Another option would be to implement the buffs at a (simulated)2 nation-power level, abstracting the bonus away from the MG42 specifically and onto all German-built machine gun units more broadly.

Either of these two options would elevate the Germans’ late game power slightly, though it could reasonably be argued that they could benefit from getting a late-game buff. Unfortunately the first option introduces its own design sin, being that it would normally be better for the player to not upgrade their MG42s to Advanced Machine Guns if the former maintained useful bonuses not found in the latter. And as it turns out, the latter seems to still end up breaking replay compatibility despite only involving changes in XML — go figure.

So for now I think it’s best to just leave it as — yet another one of RoN’s many, many quirks.

“lol”, said the Machine Gun, “lmao”.

The previous line about quirks was originally where this article was going to end, but I tend to sit on drafts for a while before publishing, which gives me some time to mull things over and think of anything interesting or important which might be missing. On this occasion, that waiting has generated yet another reason why late game combat sucks: manually selecting targets increases the DPS of Machine Guns.

Thankfully it still doesn’t seem to make a difference in CBP with the MG42; even with manual targeting the MG42 remains a scam.

But CBP — to reduce the design sin of encouraging players to not upgrade MG42s to Advanced Machine Guns — nerfs the damage bonus from 30% to 20%. With T&P’s full-fat 30% bonus, a modest advantage forms in the same scenario shown above:

Because this was slapped on a bit later than the other images, the HMG is on the left and the MG42 is on the right this time. Notice how the MG42 has churned through the units a bit faster.

Even with CBP’s 20% I suspect there may be edge cases where the damage difference between the MG42 and the HMG will matter with manual targeting, but I just don’t think it’s worth spending the time to hunt them down. I’ll leave the MG42 as it was in the earlier draft of the article: a weird quirk a game that’s full of them.

  1. There’s slightly more to it than this, with the visible projectiles actually being dummy tracers that deal no damage, and the projectiles that actually deal the damage being invisible (..I don’t know why they were made this way), but that detail doesn’t seem to affect this specific discussion.
  2. Since we can’t really add custom nation powers without both great effort and breaking replay compatibility.

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