A Tutorial on the Foundations of Good Play

  • Date: 29th June, 2014
  • Updated: 10th July, 2016
  • Category: Beginner

Welcome to this tutorial for Planetary Annihilation. My name is Quitch and I’ve been playing since the alpha first launched. I wanted to make a series of tutorials to make it easier to pick up the game and play it well, based on what I’ve learned.

As Planetary Annihilation is still under development and the meta is in constant flux, I will be looking at high level lessons rather than examining the specifics of any particular build order. This tutorial will focus on some good ground rules for playing Planetary Annihilation, the mistakes new players typically make and how to avoid them. At the end we will put these lessons into action against the AI.

The Classic Mistakes

New players to this, and indeed to any RTS, tend to make a number of mistakes in how they approach the game, such as:

  • Not expanding
  • Over reliance on static defences
  • Failing to scout
  • Mismanaging their economy
  • Failing to scale up
  • Launching nothing but frontal assaults
  • Failing to learn from their mistakes

Let’s look at how we can correct these mistakes.

Not Expanding

Failing to expand is costly in Planetary Annihilation

This is a key mistake and is a case of overcoming your instincts. You will find a natural tendency is to expand a short way, to take a “manageable” amount of territory, then wall up and hold that space. It feels right.

It’s wrong.

Are you playing a 1v1 on a planet with 150 metal spots? Then 75 of those metal spots are yours. Go and get them. That’s not to say you should expand above all else, but you should never put yourself in a position where you’re ceasing to expand. When you’ve taken your territory you should be taking your enemies territory. If you let them take the planet you let them dominate you economically and it doesn’t matter what you do thereafter, their army will be unstoppable because they’re able to invest far more metal in it. You may not even see an army because if you don’t put pressure on them they’re free to invest that entire economy in super weapons.

Even in a FFA where you won’t have as much room for growth you want to make sure you’re not giving up territory that is rightfully yours.

Over reliance on static defence

In Planetary Annihilation too much static defence is bad

You need to keep pressure on your opponent, stop them from implementing their master plan, force them to dance to your tune. This means you need mobility, you need units performing raids on expanding fabricators, you need an army which forces a response and disrupts their plan.

That’s not to say turrets shouldn’t be used, and indeed you can use them aggressively to deny metal heavy areas for your opponent. But you should never allow them to dictate the play. Don’t give in to the temptation to try and recreate the Maginot line.

Failing to scout

Planetary Annihilation provides the Firefly as a perfect means to scout

You’re going to make this mistake a lot. I make this mistake a lot. But you need to correct it. Scout, and scout often. Only by knowing what your opponent is doing can you stop them. Setting up a proxy base behind you? Rushing a super weapon at the expense of their army? Trying to get out a tier 2 air force before you produce significant amounts of anti-air? Scouting will tell you.

Knowledge is power, so scout so you don’t get caught with your pants down. Make use of early scouting to find your opponents and regularly check what they’re doing.

Mismanaging the economy

Red and blue economies are bad in Planetary Annihilation

Planetary Annihilation can feature battles on big planets, and it does so with big armies. This isn’t a game of micro, it’s a game of macro. Your economy matters a great deal because if you can put out more hardware than them then you’re favourite to win. This means maintaining a healthy economy.

As the balance of the game changes so will what this means, so I’ll talk about it in general terms. The key is to make sure you’re thinking about what your needs are going to be, not what they are. Have you expanded enough to get metal for the factories you need? Do you have enough fabricators producing energy to power your new fabricators? Do you have enough factories and fabricators to spend all your resources? Are your preparing an economy that won’t stall when you tech up? And most importantly, the first thing you produce at tier 2 should be some advanced fabricators so you can roll out the tier 2 economy and really start to boom.

Failing to scale up

In Planetary Annihilation three factories isn't going to cut it

And tying into this economy is the idea of growth. As you grow your economy you should continue to scale up your production. One of each factory isn’t going to cut it. In fact one base isn’t going to cut it. You have a whole planet, make use of it. Setup proxy base locations with their own production developing additional economies and armies. The more you have the less being nuked matters.

If you find yourself thinking “what will I do with all this metal?” you have failed. More factories, more fabricators, more production, more super weapons. There’s always something to spend on.

Launching nothing but frontal assaults

Don't just attack from the front, Planetary Annihilation uses spheres

You’re on a sphere, do not lapse into flat map thinking. If you only attack from one direction you make it much easier for them to defend against you. They only need to put defences in one place, move their armies to one side, pay attention to one spot.

Don’t do this. Instead hit them from every side. Have lone units looking to kill their expanding fabricators. Setup proxy bases. Attack on multiple fronts. Keep them on their toes, keep the pressure high. They should expect you from any direction at any time. And if you don’t do that then it’ll be them rolling into the undefended backside of your base.

Failing to learn from your mistakes

Uber's Planetary Annihilation forum

This one is a classic. Do you find yourself complaining about how a unit is “OP”? Well stop. Slap yourself. The odds are you sucked and so long as you continue to make excuses for your losses you’re going to keep sucking.

Winning is a lot more fun.

When you lose a game take the time to look at what you did. Look at what your opponent did. Where was the tipping point? Did their economy power ahead of yours? Did you tech up too late? Too early? Did they sneak units into your base? Did they surprise your Commander? Identify what went wrong and, more importantly, why it happened in the first place. What could you do differently next time?

You’ve got the same tools as they have so figure out how they used them better. And don’t give into frustration because you lost, it’s counter-productive and will make what should be a fun game into what feels like work.

Rules To Remember

So that’s a lot to take in, so let’s boil it down to some simple rules to remember.

Control the flow of play

Planetary Annihilation rewards aggressive play

Offence is the best defence, you want to control the game because so long as your opponent is responding to you it means you’ll win. Keep your opponent on their toes through constant raids, and hit them from every direction.

Intelligence is key

Radar and Deep Space Radar are key to victory in Planetary Annihilation

You need good awareness of what’s happening on the map. Build radar, send out scouts, take more territory even if you don’t need it just to maintain vision. If you can see everything then you know everything and you cannot be surprised. It also ensures you will be able to engage at an opponent’s weak spot and keep the odds favourable to you at all times.

Produce more

PAStats provides numerous useful graphs

At the end of the day, most games will be won by the person who made more stuff. As you expand and grow your economy you need to be sure to expand and grow your production base. If you spend all your resources on building more resources what have you achieved? Build more factories.

We’re on a sphere

Planetary Annihilation uses spheres, you should use them too

In most RTSs you start in a corner, here there are no corners and every direction is viable for attacks. Hit your opponent from every direction. If the map is large enough then setup production bases all over the map to facilitate this.

Review your games

The Chronocam is one of Planetary Annihilation's unique features

This is possibly the most important rule to remember. If you want to get better you’re going to have to get over that fear we all have of losing. Bring up the Chronocam and see what you did wrong, even if you won. Were you floating? Was your eco struggling? Did your opponent get up a proxy base you didn’t find? Keep looking at how you can do better next time.

Use the keys

Like with any RTS, Planetary Annihilation rewards use of the hotkeys

You’re on a PC, you have a keyboard in front of you. It’s a massive hotkey interface. Use it. There’s a top Starcraft 2 player renowned for playing with only the mouse. You know why he’s known for this? Because it’s weird.

Go through the keyboard settings and find the ones that look useful, then either memorise them or map them to keys that make sense to you. Do use control groups. Do use camera anchors. Do select your next build item through hotkeys.

You will play faster. You will play better.

Mod the game

There’s a healthy client mod scene out there and you should be making use of it. Check out Community Mods in-game and a wealth of mods are now are your disposal. Try them out and see what works for you.

Personally, I cannot live without Hotbuild2.

Author: Mod Type:
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Applying The Tutorial’s Lessons

So let’s look at how to apply all of the tutorials lessons in a game against the AI. Note that this video talks about an opening which has been rendered obsolete by changes to the income of the commander, see other eXodus eSports guides on build orders for more up-to-date information on the current meta.

The video might be from an older version of the game, but its lessons are as valid as ever.

The full stats for this game are available here.


I know the type of advice found in this tutorial can seem trite, though hopefully the video helped you see how these tutorial lessons can be applied.

Be prepared for an upwards struggle, reading a tutorial will not magically make you better, but it will hopefully help you identify the weaknesses in your play so you can fix them and become better with time and experience.

Additional Information

Planetary Annihilation Version

Recommended Reading


    I received a comment on reddit that this needs more about orbital invasions. This guide isn’t intended to be that specific, as I mention in the introduction I’m looking at the game at a high level due to the meta changing a lot, and orbital invasions change from patch to patch. However, the video does feature an orbital invasion and I talk about it there.

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