Team games, they can be tons of fun or they can be a mess of frustration. I’m making this guide to spread some guidelines about the way to behave when playing with strangers – and even your friends – in PA team games, whether sharing armies or not. We can all have more fun playing team armies this way. I’ll also be talking strategy; team games are a very different beast from 1v1!
As always, questions, comments, suggestions and violent reactions are welcome, just not all at once please!
Ethics Of Team Games
Before you jump into a game with strangers, consider how you’re going to behave both in chat and in-game. Playful banter is common and perfectly OK, but understand when you’re crossing the line and being a terrible human being. There’s no need to be a douche, if you don’t like the folks in your lobby just find a different one or better yet, make your own.
When in another player’s lobby feel free to ask about the game parameters, but don’t tell the host what those should be, it’s their game. You wanted a shared game and it’s unshared? Ask politely, but if told no either leave and find a shared lobby or make your own. All you’ll get by insisting the parameters be changed is the resentment of the community members in that lobby.
If you’re playing with newer players resist the urge to call them a [insert derogatory term here]. Remember that you were once a squishy nooblet yourself just like everyone, even if it was in the Total Annihilation days. Calmly point out what they are doing wrong and explain why what they’re doing is a bad idea. They’ll see soon enough anyhow when the enemy comes rolling through their base, no need to make them feel any worse about it than they already will. If you don’t like playing with new players then lock your lobbies and play with friends, or better yet, educate those you come across so that they can contribute to their teams and the community. If you don’t have the patience or time to do it yourself, point them to the guide section of eXodus eSports. It’s what its there for!
When playing shared armies the game allows you to use units that belong to any player on your team. This can lead to a lot of frustration when two or more players try to enact conflicting plans using the same units, fighting for control of fabbers being an example of this. If your team has no particular agreement regarding division of labor, it’s considered polite to mind your own assets only, those whose existence can be traced back to your own Commander. If you really do need something that you didn’t think of but your ally did, tell them before you take it, and if they grabs it right back take that as a “no”. I’d say “ask them”, but you should minimize typing, there are orders to give! Note: if your ally appears overwhelmed, or if you see something “dumb”, make the counter-move for them and immediately ping the location so they can take personal control of the situation. Again, if they grabs their units again, assume that the “dumb” move is just part of a greater plan that you’re not seeing.
Try and offer assistance whenever you can, you’ll find it easier to get assistance yourself when you need it – not just because your allies will like you better, but because you’ll be winning more battles by cooperating.
If your ally is a new player and just crashed your eco rushing T2 or orbital, talk to them first. If they are not getting it you could destroy their fabbers, but that will likely lead to them deleting your Commander, so it’s better to bow out of the game. Make sure your ally understands why you’re throwing the game. Again, resist the urge to call them a [insert something mean here], it will achieve nothing. If it bothers you that much, find or start an unshared teams lobby or a locked one.
Ping is a great tool, but should be used sparingly. Remember the boy who cried wolf? You don’t want to be that person when the enemy decides to triple team your base! Don’t ping your grand army or it’s latest victory, don’t ping your nuclear silo coming up, your allies don’t care. They’re busy winning victories and enacting plans of their own.
You’ll want to use the ping to attract attention to things that require actions, actions you cannot take yourself. An army just appeared on radar coming to your ally’s base and you happened to notice it? That’s a ping. You’ve spotted a T2 factory going up in the enemy base? That’s a ping, but only if you can’t deal with it yourself. About to get double-teamed and need a hand? Ping the armies coming at you. Lonely Commander begging to get sniped but you have nothing ready? Good time for a ping. Ping first, then send a quick team-chat message to say what it’s about and what you expect your allies to do about it.
Please do restrain yourself from sending 50 pings in a row. If your allies didn’t respond to the first one then there’s a solid chance they have problems of their own to deal with. Should you be playing a shared army game and an ally pings a location, assume that they means “I saw that but I have other problems, can someone handle it?”. Should you take the job, say so in team chat. If no one speaks out, ask about it.
When choosing your Commander’s landing site you should always consult with your team. You should seek to control as much territory as possible, therefore Commanders should be spread to as many different planets and landing zones as possible. New players will often find security in numbers and want to spawn close to their allies, but you have to talk them out of it. You may last a bit longer by being together but you’re also reducing the chances that you will win the game.
You should seek to control as much territory as possible
Lets take a 3v3 on PAX 2014 as an example. We have 3 starting planets with 2 landing zones each. It may be tempting to occupy 2 landing zones on the same planet, but that means your opponent will own an entire planet uncontested from the very start. That’s very unhealthy to your win/loss ratio! If your opponent does it and you end up 2v1, you need to see it as an opportunity. The longer you keep those 2 busy, the longer your allies have to expand and build armies completely unopposed. Even if you are killed chances are you will have bought enough time for your allies to end the game and bring victory to your team. See the Outnumbered section for strategies and tactics relevant to such scenarios.
The early game of team armies usually evolve as a series on 1v1. It’s not always a bad idea but you’re wasting the advantages of team play. If you’re alone on a planet with an enemy it’s entirely possible that you’ll kill their Commander before your eco allows you to safely build your first Orbital Launcher, but if you have allies on the same planet or you have the ability to reach them (preferably Teleporters) you should coordinate with them. If you ally is in a position to send so much as 10% of their strike force to bolster yours it can easily be the difference between a clash of armies or a destroyed enemy base. Even better if they can come from a different direction. If you want to send troops to your ally in an unshared game but don’t have the attention span to monitor those along with your own battle spaces, make them follow a unit in the middle of your ally’s formation. You can even make that unit the rally point of your Teleporter. When the unit they are following dies, your ally should simply ping your troops to get your attention – assuming the combat alerts didn’t get it already.
Should you score a Commander kill in a shared armies game, make sure you mop up the base and troops afterwards. Make especially sure you don’t miss any factory or fabbers, you don’t want them to rebuild while you’re chasing Commanders on other planets.
Remember that your allies may be under considerable pressure and unable to provide assistance to you. If that’s the case, a little bit of defensive play can help you free up some units to go assist them in their offensive operations or vice-versa. If you’re under no immediate threat yourself ask your allies who could use a hand and see to it they get the help they need. Don’t go mass fabbers, it won’t do your team any good if you have a planetary fortress and your allies are dead.
In the early game the Commander is an extremely powerful unit
If you and your allies are on the same starting planet you’ll want to secure the land between you first. Scout it and if you see no enemies go drop a radar or build a small production center. Make sure there is always a safe and monitored path between you and your allies. If you do have an enemy between you and your ally, double-team them into submission ASAP. Even once you have Teleporters in place don’t neglect that path, unless you want your air force torn to pieces when it goes to reinforce your ally.
Putting down Teleporters should be done early. Everyone can drop their own in shared armies, but when not sharing you’ll want to designate someone to create a Teleporter network permanently linking all your bases when able. Don’t rush orbital just to setup the network, if your enemy is scouting they will punish you violently for it.
Even some pretty advanced players don’t know this – you can use any open Teleporter, whether they belong to you, an ally, or even your enemy if you can restrain your troops from exploding the Teleporter on sight. This also means that should your base be overwhelmed by enemy forces you should cut power to your Teleporter as soon as you’re done evacuating, unless you want an enemy army to follow your Commander into your ally’s base and make them go nuclear there.
When building a Teleporter network make sure anyone can go anywhere without you having to reconnect the portals. If your allies need to evacuate or you need to get some reinforcements they probably won’t have time to ask you for a new link. This could mean multiple Teleporters in at least one base if there’s more than two players per team. Understand that in the early game that network is a lot of energy and considerable metal, so you may want to direct any spare troops to go assist the player who owns the network to secure their land first. They’re providing a service to the team at great cost to their personal safety and resources, be a gentleman (or a lady) and make sure they don’t end up regretting it.
In the early game the Commander is an extremely powerful unit and in shared games you have a few of them to play with. Don’t hesitate to send one of them forward after you’ve got your first base going, especially if you had limited spawning options and end up with two of them in one place. Use a Teleporter so support units can follow behind quickly. The Commander can destroy the opposing army with their Uber Cannon, allowing your own army to go in and wreck buildings and enemy Commanders mostly unopposed. If you do lose them you’ve got more of those back home so you don’t lose the game and you likely will at least have bought some valuable time to your allies. It’s also worth mentioning that a Commander going nuclear in the middle of an enemy base in the early game can turn the tides of a conflict quite brutally. If your enemy manages to ramp up their eco and production to a level that threatens the Commander you can pull them back and have them establish a forward base nearby.
Don’t get too greedy with eco unless you’re sharing armies. If you take all the eco near your teammates, sure, you’ll be strong, but your allies will be paralyzed and even become a burden to the team. They have a full attention span, all sorts of locations and battles they can monitor while you’re looking elsewhere. Why not take advantage of it? If you take all their metal they’ll become glorified radars, unable to act on gathered intelligence themselves. If you want eco that bad, take it from the enemy! If your ally can’t be bothered to take the eco you left for them, remind them before you take it for yourself.
It’s now roughly 15 minutes in, the weak links have been eliminated from both teams, planets are claimed, contested planets have clearly divided territories, we’re now in…
The mid game
By now your main base may have expanded right into your allys’ in smaller systems. Space and metal are becoming an issue as you have to split it. Cooperation becomes more important than ever before. You’ll want to be making joint assaults whenever possible to overwhelm the enemy. When not sharing armies, it’s also a good time to start thinking of improving your Teleporter network by having another player on your team add portals of their own. This way if the original owner of the network dies you won’t be cut off from the surviving players.
If your allies are hurting for eco you can have your fabbers assist them for a while. The same applies to bigger projects like going T2 early or building super weapons. Better that one of you have those ready early than all of you later. In fact, if two of you are under no immediate threat and both have solid ecos you may consider combining resources for a surprise nuke. You don’t see those this early in 1v1, but it’s certainly possible with two or more players pooling resources.
In a shared army game you’ll want to start dividing labor differently. Again, if your team has no agreement on this it’s better to stick to managing your own assets. You may not win the game but at least everyone will have fun in their own way. You’ll ideally want to have discussed this before the game starts, but in short it’s time to forget who built what and start looking into who’s attention goes where. A simple way to deal with this is to assign battle spaces, geographic areas or whole planets to each player. Decide on a dividing line somewhere, and any assets found beyond that line is considered a responsibility of the “area Commander” for that sector. Instead of commanding reinforcements you send their way, just send them past the line and let your ally handle it from there. This way you can best use everyone’s attention span. Make sure you communicate to your allies what sort of pressure you’re under so they know when to start sending some of the production from their own sector to yours.
A way to divide labor that is perhaps more appropriate when playing on a single large planet with folks you know is to divide according to specialties. You could have a “ground Commander” responsible for land armies, an “air Commander” responsible for the air force, an “ops Commander” responsible for spec ops, scouting and regular raiding, and maybe a “logistics Commander” responsible for eco and production expansion. This way you can better exploit the specialties of each player. Some people simply have a better ground game or better micro skills, for instance. If you do it this way feel free to make up your own division of labor according to the skills of each player in your team, just make sure everyone agrees on it before the game starts and that no tasks go unassigned. You don’t want to wake up late game and realize no one was handling raids!
You should also decide on a transition point. This decision is more dynamic, and depends on the game’s progression. When the lines between “yours” and “your ally’s” start to get blurry, call out in chat that you’re going to start assuming your designated role as agreed pre-game.
The Late Game
It’s been 30 minutes now and somehow those guys have stunted all your assaults and are still beating at the door. There’s been nuclear exchanges, maybe even a planet smash, and yet the battle rages. Chances are, by now, you have a massive eco with T2 energy and metal everywhere, possibly even some Jigs on a nearby gas giant. It’s time to fully commit to a game ending strategy.
Whether it’s nukes, a metal planet, some Halley engines on a large body, or a multi-snipe, you and your teammates need to get to it. Have everyone send fabbers of their own to assist in building your super-weapons or contribute units to the snipe. Everyone should continue relentlessly attacking the enemy and scouting targets, you don’t need to watch the fabbers work. Keeping the pressure on helps ensure your enemy can’t counter you. If you do see them preparing a counter that you can’t stop in time don’t hesitate to shut down all non-essential production system wide and throw even more fabbers at your project. It’s a race as your opponent likely also has a giant eco, and probably is also working on super weapons or snipes.
Late game is often when even pro level games start to look funny. Everyone’s working on their own little thing while they could be combining resources to end the game right then and there. Don’t make that mistake, recognize that moment when it’s time to commit to a single plan. If you feel your new role as an eco farm is boring, go mind your Commander. The late game is when they are most often found abandoned by the player, and it’s also when people have the most resources to throw into a sniping attempt. Don’t get caught defenseless when the SSX shows up on radar. Keep your Commander on the move if they’re not building. Make them patrol between two Teleporters so they’s never far from one. Find that magic spot where you have a dozen umbrella and three anti-nukes overlapping. You get the idea – don’t get caught!
Shared armies can make managing late game plans easier since you don’t need your allies to send their own fabbers to your location, you can just make more while they continue attacking the enemy and grabbing eco fields for your team. You should be doing that too, the building project doesn’t require that much attention. Again, you may enter a super-weapons race with the enemy at which point you should tell your allies that you’re stepping up the project and shutting down non-essential production.
Shared Eco Management
In a shared armies game you’ll be sharing your eco streams too. If you were to float someone else can fix it elsewhere and vice-versa. That also means if your eco crashes you’re bringing down the whole team. If you’re a new player make sure you understand eco management before jumping in a shared armies game, it will save everyone involved a lot of frustration. Rushing T2 or rushing orbital can be especially tempting when you see all the base eco you get just from having multiple Commanders, but it will still crash your team’s eco because each one of those Commanders is building and trying to get out there.
If you happen to be alone on a planet you should still build armies to go assist your teammates, but you can afford to send more fabbers out there to claim eco faster. Don’t overdo it as fabbers are what kill eco and once it’s all claimed you have a lot of useless fabbers.
So you’ve spawned alone on a planet with all your enemies around you? Sounds like you’re about to have a bad time, but if you make the most of it your allies will win the game for you.
You’ll want to be playing a more defensive game, though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be raiding or attacking. As always, raid often and everywhere! Make sure you cannot be ignored. Your strike teams should never be mobilized too far from home, your opponents are likely just waiting for you to leave your base to come and attack you. If you do see an opportunity to take down a Commander or a base make sure you use a Teleporter or highly mobile units so you can abort and return home quickly. Use the minimum number of troops you can to get the job done when attacking. Use static defenses and walls. Prioritize battle spaces of military significance over those of economic significance. You’re not fighting to win, you’re fighting to survive as long as you can. Use Combat Fabbers to extend the lives of your combat units, repair damages to your defenses and lay minefields. Use your own destroyed buildings as shields to cover your inferno’s approach and restrict enemy movement if you have to.
Eventually a portal will open somewhere and friendly troops will start pouring in like liquid death! If you’re still alive and raiding at that point, whatever your allies might think, you won the game.
All that said, even the best defensive game can’t keep two, let alone three, well coordinated and experienced enemies at bay. Chances are you will die or be forced to evacuate to start over somewhere else, but if you made your enemies swear under their breath or shake their fists at their screens while cursing your name, you did a great job!
There’s a notable exception: shared army games. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t put down a Teleporter for each one of your allies to send help through from the very start of the game. Go at them like it’s a 1v1, your allies aren’t just sending you troops, they are growing the eco unopposed in some other corner of the system.
Needless to say, any discussion of strategy or tactics should be done in-game. Everybody sees what you’re typing in the lobby and until the game starts anyone can switch teams. That gives you two minutes to talk strategy before the commanders drop, so use it well.
If you’re playing competitively it’s not really optional for your team to have some voice communication setup, be it Skype or TeamSpeak or whatever you use. You can communicate your plans to your allies in realtime without your hands leaving mouse and keyboard. Consider the following guidelines to improve your chances of winning:
- Designate a comm officer – This player will be in charge of enforcing radio discipline and reminding everyone to submit reports. If possible, they should have admin privileges over the channel.
- Use a private channel/call – Can’t have interruptions while conquering a solar system.
- Minimize chatter – You don’t want your ally’s voice to be drowned in laughter when they call out the surprise Teleporter invasion. Soon enough there’s going to be so many reports flying around you probably won’t have much time for small talk anyhow.
- Send threat and recon reports – Let everyone know about enemy armies and bases, and whether or not you can deal with them on your own. Share your intel. If it has all been quiet for a while, let them know that too, maybe they’ll ask for help they wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Send mobilization reports – If you’re moving a strike force somewhere, let everyone know, maybe they have units or intel to contribute.
- Send battle and force depletion reports – After an engagement let your allies know the outcome and whether or not you can press on. If you were defending your base inform them of the damage sustained.
- Send strategic reports – If you’re committing to a nuclear strategy or moving your production towards air instead of ground or any such major strategic shift, let your team know.
- Keep strategic planning discussions short – You stand the best chance of winning if everyone agrees on how to achieve victory and lengthy arguments wastes precious time. If you feel it’s appropriate, designate a supreme commander for your team.
- Be clear and concise – You’re not telling a story, you’re relaying information. Fit as much info as you can into as few words as possible.