My previous guides have focused on strategy more than tactics. This one gets into finer details of how to command your troops in battle for greatest effect. We’ll be looking at classics like the Dancing Dox and some less common but equally interesting like the Pelican Gambit.
Understand that the tactics I describe here are often very demanding on your most precious resource: attention. You can’t go in a game thinking you’re going to do all this stuff, or even any of it. Think of it as ideas, things you could do. That said, a lot of these tricks are common in high level play, so you’d do well to be aware of them.
If you’re a new player and you stumbled here, great, welcome! But you may want to look into beginner guides first. If you don’t master eco and expansion then none of this guide’s content will matter. Here are two of my favorites: The Foundations of Good Play and 2.5 Minutes to Becoming a Better PA Player. Look here for a lot more!
As always, questions, comments, suggestions and violent reactions are welcome, just not all at once please!
First, we’ll be taking a look at:
Commonly misused units
How they are misused: grenadier exclusive strike forces. There’s two problems with that: firstly the projectile takes a long while to reach it’s target, so said target can get out from under it, and secondly the grenadier is a really squishy unit.
How they shine: when mixed in to a vehicle force. When you approach the enemy base you can micro them into shooting turrets as a priority, otherwise they’ll hang out mid-formation using their AoE damage at anything approaching the combat group. Your enemy is also less likely to try and move out from under the grenades when they’ve got Bolos and Infernos to worry about too.
How they are misused: as offensive weapons. Sure, they’re great for sniping lone Commanders, but you can’t just send them out there and hope you’ll stumble on targets. Even area attacks are mostly ineffective if you don’t have vision.
How they shine: as defensive weapons and sniping tools. When an enemy vehicle force comes at you, Booms can save the day and will benefit from the vision of your buildings, units and radar. Make them circle around to the back of the formation – the front likely has Infernos and maybe Dox watching it – and make them area attack the rear 3/4 of it. Watch as a 20$ of Booms turn 1000$ of vehicles into sauce! Bonus points if the enemy formation was already engaged in combat and couldn’t shoot the Booms. If you’re losing the production war this can be a way to turn things around, or at least buy some breathing room. As a sniping tool you need to make sure your scouts maintain vision of the target during the attack, you don’t want the Boombot wandering too close to some Dox. It’s worth noting that on the offensive, with proper vision, they can be helpful to overwhelm static defenses. Just don’t rely too much on Booms – they may be fast but they are easily countered. Best to start producing them only when you see the opportunity to use them, it’s not like it takes a long time to build them.
Combat Fabricators – Sporting the best fabricator arms on any mobile unit of their tiers, the Combat Fabricators can be impressive support units. They can lay down minefields, create Teleporters, repair units and buildings very effectively, and when you have the T2 variety, put up walls and basic turrets at an alarming rate.
How they are misused: Use in appropriate roles. I see them mostly used in two roles: mine-layers and combat support. Mines are not all that effective against good players. When the initial surprise is over, you can expect their next strike force to have a combat fabber or Skitter mixed in to detect and remove your mines. They won’t even slow down. It will buy you breathing room however, so don’t discount them entirely. Combat support can be effective and greatly prolong the life of individual units, but the fabber arm requires a lot of power. It’s probably best to have a power storage building or two if you plan on having lots of these units in your army. Keep in mind that the larger the engagement, the less effective healing will be.
How they shine: Teleporters, reclaiming and static defense. When you send your first strike force at the enemy, have a Combat Fabber accompany them. When you approach the enemy base, have it hang back and create a link with your main base. I make extensive use of them in my games, see “Assaulting enemy strongholds” for some of my favorite tactics. The Combat Fabber can trade energy for metal at a very high rate when reclaiming, whether it’s trees, destroyed buildings or dead Commanders. This can easily finance an early move to T2 or increased production rates. On planets with reclaimable terrain (trees, destroyed unit cannon CSG, etc.) you can gain victory very early on if you reclaim and the opposing player doesn’t, or uses regular fabbers. Do mind your energy supply if you do so, it’s easy metal but it’s not the most efficient way to get it.
The static defenses and walls that the Advanced Combat Fabbers have access to are built so fast that they can turn an engagement around on their own. The second you see trouble coming at you, camp the army, put up a wall and lay down some turrets. Add a Teleporter so you have options to reinforce or evacuate. The T2 variety is in fact so fast it can wall in very large armies in seconds and is limited mostly by the time it needs to walk from one segment to the next. When you’ve dealt with the threat, simply delete the wall and continue marching. If trouble comes in the form of a bomber force, you can put down AA turrets just as fast to bolster your spinners. This can get pretty resource intensive, so you’ll want some metal and power storage handy, but that shouldn’t be an issue by the time you have T2 units running around.
How they are misused: a replacement for land fabbers. Air fabbers tend to be much more vulnerable than their land and seaborne counterparts. Fighters being more common than bombers, it is more likely you’ll be blown out of the sky. To top it off, they have the worst fabricator arms of any fabber of their respective tiers.
How they shine: they fly! They can go anywhere fast, but don’t rely too much on them. When a group of Phoenixes comes out of nowhere and destroys them all in a second you’ll be happy you had some bot fabbers too. Send them to capture islands or distant metal field, base building and local metal is a job for ground fabbers. Even then, you’d probably be better off air dropping land-borne fabbers – it’s possible to dodge a Bumblebee’s bombs but there’s no way an air fabber can survive if a Hummingbird gets a shot off.
How they are misused: I don’t see nearly enough people use them intra-planet. I don’t doubt you folks are out there, I just wish more would follow your excellent example. Don’t limit your thinking, Teleporters are not just for invading other planets.
How they shine: land armies are slow, and between the time they leave base and the time they reach the target your opponent will have produced more troops for their defending armies or scouted your strike force and be in a position to take measures against them. There’s no reason your strike force can’t be accompanied by a fabber (preferably a Combat Fabber) to put a Teleporter closer to your enemy’s base. This way you’ll be able to reinforce during combat or pull back rapidly if need be. The ability to move your units around the map faster than your enemy is key to victory, especially on larger planets.
Unit Cannons – A factory that can fling it’s output anywhere in the system, twelve units at a time. It can build some T2 bot units and most T1 land units and has a better fabricator arm than even T2 factories.
How they are misused: same problem as the Teleporter, they’re often reserved for extra-planetary operations and mostly only for sniping. They’re actually even more useful for local operations.
How they shine: It’s the ultimate spec ops unit and the ultimate raiding unit. Never underestimate the ability to position troops anywhere anytime, even if they are weak and in low numbers. Again, it’s often better to have a handful of units behind enemy lines than a massive army at the front gate. Both is always best! Use it to build Dox and send a constant stream of them anywhere, or even Booms and turn the Unit Cannon into interplanetary artillery. Switch to Combat Fabbers and Slammers when trying to secure an invasion beachhead. Send some Advanced Bot Fabricators to colonize unclaimed planets.
How they are misused: this one is a bit misleading, it’s hard to misuse something that’s not really used at all. You’ll see them for early game Inferno drops and similar tactics but they usually completely vanish from the battlefield mid-game as battlefields grow larger and attention spans more divided.
How they shine: same principle as the Teleporter – they can get your slow ground troops and fabbers where it matters, fast. You’ll need to clear a path with your air force first when making troop movements using Pelicans as large air unit movement on radar usually prompts a fighter response from alert opponents. Draw out their fighters first, then move in the Pelicans. Smaller insertions can usually be done without fighter escort, they’ll draw less attention if you plan a proper flight path. If you have a safe flight corridor and no space for a Teleporter, you can setup a SupCom style ferry by queuing area load and area unload commands.
How they are misused: you’ll often see GIL-Es added to strike forces. It’s not a bad idea, adding some long range units to your strike force can certainly help turn the odds in your favor, but that also means they are often sitting in defensive positions, awaiting reinforcements, intel, etc… An idle GIL-E is a waste, more so than many other units. It’s also worth noting that they can shoot things well beyond their own sight radius (an extra 40 meters at the time of writing). If deployed away from your radar coverage, you’d do well to have a Skitter or 2 accompany them.
How they shine: as spec ops and raiding unit, GIL-Es can do some serious damage. People often forget that on land, only a Dox, Boombot or Skitter can beat them in a race. They can take out Pelters in just a few hit, and since it will be a near maximum range engagement you should have no trouble dodging the shells. You’re of course inviting an air response, but keep in mind the enemy with likely not have vision over the GIL-Es thanks to their range. It’s a great opportunity for an ambush. Have the GIL-Es be escorted by some Spinners, a Skitter and some Dox, and watch as your opponent becomes completely impotent against your raids. Even if they do get them, it will be at the cost of a good chunk of their air force, helping you achieve air supremacy. They are also great for denial tactics. After taking out the enemy Metal Extractors in an area, you can have a small group of units, including a GIL-E and Skitter, hang back and patrol the area to dissuade rebuild attempts and buy time for your own fabbers to come and claim the area. When you do send a strike force to an enemy base, you can rally the GIL-Es to it then – they’ll catch up.
Spec Ops Tactics
As mentioned in my previous guide, a small group of carefully inserted units can win the war for you better than your doom army could. These are just ideas, be creative, there’s plenty of way to exploit the battlefield! Keep in mind: if you need to deploy more than a dozen units or so, its not really a “special” operation anymore.
Locating targets: scouting, scouting, scouting! Understand the distinction between a high value target versus a low value target and how that notion changes over the course of the game. Early on, taking out a T1 factory can be enough to turn the tides in your favor, but in the later stages of a game it represents too small a proportion of the opposition’s build power to matter. Energy Plants and Energy Storage are always prime targets: even if you don’t outright crash their eco, you can stop all their radar devices, shut down Teleporters, prevent Umbrellas from firing, etc.
The Inferno drop: everyone knows this one, you’ve probably been a victim to it yourself or have used it to achieve an early game victory. In short: use scouts to locate an area of the enemy base that is undefended, then use it as a landing zone for some Pelicans carrying Infernos. You won’t need many of them, they do ridiculous amounts of damage to buildings. Once inserted, micro them away from trouble and towards high value targets. In later stages of the game you can replace the Infernos with Vanguards for even greater result.
The Teleporter team: consists of a pair of Combat Fabricators, preferably with a small escort or a Pelican insertion team (or both!). They’ll be responsible for putting a Teleporter near or even inside your opponent’s base so you can move the doom army directly in there, along with any reinforcements coming out of production. It’s recommended you send two so they can build the Teleporter fast. Feel free to launch it from a Unit Cannon if you have one. You’ll lose the stealth factor but gain in speed.
The sniper team: as previously mentioned, a lone GIL-E can destroy static defenses without breaking a sweat, paving the way for more classic raiding tactics or a strike force. Since they can fire through almost anything, in small groups they can also take out priority targets deep within enemy territory without exposing themselves too much. If you can find the enemy’s supply lines (the path between the production center and the rally point) you can pick off units headed for the front lines and prevent the accumulation of a doom army. This can go on for a while before your opponent realizes what’s happening, as most people consider space between the front and their base to be safe. Add an Advanced Combat Fabber to the mix and you can wall them up and add some AA defenses for added effectiveness.
The air ambush: if you find yourself losing because your enemy has achieved air supremacy, this spec ops can help you get back into the game. A very common reaction to a small number of units showing up on radar is to send the air force to deal with them. There’s not that many units, how bad can it be? If all those units are Spinners you can score some good kills. You can use whatever fighter force you managed to hide away to block the escape route for maximum results. Should the enemy have the wisdom to scout first, just have them rally with the nearest strike force.
Surprise expansion: most people use air fabbers to go start forward bases in distant areas. A single fighter can get there fast and nip your expansion attempt in the bud. Instead, airdrop a few spinners with bot or vehicle fabbers. Not only will you increase the chances of getting setup in time, but you’ll likely cause your opponent to send a larger force at it, diverting them away from resources and their main base. Later on, you can do this with a unit cannon instead for added efficiency (at the cost of secrecy, unit cannons aren’t very stealthy).
Unit Cannon raiding: A lot of players perceive the Unit Cannon as a sniping tool, but it’s just as useful for staging raids deep into enemy territory. The Unit Cannon’s fabber arm is even faster than a T2 factory, meaning it can pump out 12 Dox and land them anywhere in seconds. You can pretty much send a constant stream of them everywhere in your opponent’s eco fields, limited only by the time it takes to load the unit in a pod. If you choose to use Slammers instead, make sure they are supported by some fighters. It will hurt you a lot more to lose the Slammers than it would have if they had been Dox.
The Dancing Dox: it’s called the Dancing Dox but you can do this one with most units. In short, you’re exploiting the travel time of projectiles to gain victory against superior forces. While the projectile is in the air, just have your own units change course or stop. If you keep doing it every time your opponent fires a salvo, you’ll be dodging the bulk of the damage. You can take out large groups of Grenadiers or entire walls of Pelters with a pair of dancing Bolos. Dox are so fast they can even dodge direct fire projectiles like the Bolo’s main cannon. This loses effectiveness when attempted with larger forces, hence its inclusion as a spec ops tactic.
The Pelican gambit: Pelicans are cheap (a quarter the price of a Hummingbird) and on radar they’re hard to distinguish from a regular air force. You can use them to draw the enemy’s own air force away from high value targets or into AA defenses at very low cost. If you’ve been winning the air game you can solidify your hold on the skies by tricking your opponent into mobilizing away from their own air defenses. If you’ve been doing spec ops you’re likely to have a few Pelicans handy anyhow, might as well put them to good use.
Assaulting Enemy Strongholds
You cannot win merely by taking the field, you must also destroy the enemy’s bases and eco. In fact, the best way to take the field is to put pressure on the opponent’s base. While they’re busy repairing the damage and preparing defenses for the next assault, you can claim territory uncontested.
There’s a lot of moving parts to this kind of a plan. It may be best to enact just a portion of it.
Good strike forces are usually made of assorted vehicles, the proportions of which depend on what the enemy armies are composed of. Bots don’t have either the armor or the firepower to overcome base defenses and walk through incoming fire. However, a measured bot presence in your strike force can add some much needed flexibility. Having a small screening force of Dox up front opens some raiding and countering options with a bit of micro skills (yes, the middle of an assault is also a good time to be raiding!). Grenadiers can use the AoE damage and long range against either enemy units or base defenses while benefiting from the protection of the armored units. Combat Fabbers can build a Teleporter in-situ to bring in even more units and lay minefields along the retreat path. Do note that their repair abilities are of limited value in larger conflicts as most unit that die do so instantly from mass fire. You’d need a lot of them to make a difference, metal better spent on adding more DPS to your force.
Students of Sun Tzu will know always to have your strike force split in two or more groups. One will be your “main” force, the other the “support” force. The main force should be bigger but either force should be of sufficient size to assume the role of main force should you need to switch roles in a pinch. Both should have at least one Combat Fabber. Regardless of your usual scouting habits, all assault should be preceded by scouting. If you’ve been doing it often, it won’t look unusual to the opposing player and won’t reveal you’re about to attack. Bonus points if you bring a Skitter or two with your forces. Try and locate different attack vectors for each attack group, and find the enemy radar installations and scouting units. It is critical that you locate the radar so that you can plan your approach.
Now, move your forces in position outside the enemy’s radar range. Make sure the approach you chose isn’t a choke point. It won’t matter that you have 500 vehicles, if they stream into the enemy base two or three at a time you won’t do much damage. Your opponent may scout your incoming armies or they may just intercept with their own strike force that was mobilizing. You’ll need to adapt quickly. You may need to abort, regroup and prepare to meet them in the field. You may need to change your approach vector, or make a diversionary attack somewhere else using raiders. Circumstances will dictate the appropriate action. The point is, just because you decided to attack doesn’t mean you’re committed to it yet.
If you can’t win a battle don’t waste the troops. If it’s too late to run then consider turning your slower, sturdier units around to act as rear guards. A group of Infernos or Vanguards can help buy time for your retreating army to regroup with other forces and the formation itself will accelerate since it no longer needs to wait for the slower members. Putting your units in roaming mode can also help; they’ll break formation and go for the target you gave them as fast as they can. Don’t forget to put them back in maneuver mode when you’re ready to engage.
Once both armies are in position outside the enemy base, have each one use its Combat Fabber to make a Teleporter and queue a minefield between the Teleporters and the enemy base. Move in the main army while they are building. Order an area attack on the entire base as soon as you are within range, it should cause most units to behave in a an appropriate way: Infernos will move in close, Bolos will form up behind them, followed by Grenadiers, etc. We don’t have time to micro just yet. Before you actually make contact with structures, you’ll likely see the enemy defensive forces mobilizing. That’s when you turn to the support force and move it in the middle of the enemy base. If they don’t face opposition it’s now the time to go micro the main force if only to make sure the Spinners don’t drive past the main battle line. You’ll also want to link the Teleporter on the support side to your main base so you can get reinforcements.
Should your opponent mobilize against both your armies, you’ll need to quickly determine if you can stomp either force. If so, push right into the force you can take on and retreat from the other. Relink the Teleporters you built between themselves and have the retreating force rally up with the attacking one. You’ll have effectively drawn all the remaining defenders away from the base while rallying enough numbers to finish them off after you’re done with the buildings, and likely killed quite a few if they didn’t pay attention to the minefields we ordered earlier. If instead the opponent wises up and turns to your advancing force, make them retreat too and assemble your full army or find a choke point (possibly made from destroyed enemy buildings!) to wait for the support army to show up. Ideally you can push further into the base, then catch the defending army in a pincer movement when the support force arrives and keep causing damage meanwhile. Re-evaluate your capacity to win and either press on, or link the Teleporter back home and pull out altogether. If you can’t reach the buildings and do some damage, it’s not worth going in. If they’re camping their base then they’re not out there, so you should go take some land and force them to move out of their base. With some clever Teleporter placement you can move right behind their armies and back into their base when they mobilize. Also keep in mind that the more you maneuver around, the more time they have to build new units. You can’t play with Teleporters forever, at some point you need to commit to attacking or retreating.
If a Commander is spotted while you still have enough units to take them, think about it before going for the throat. They may be able to lure you into static defenses, or in shared games may attempt to destroy your army by going nuclear in the middle of it. If it looks like you’re going to roll through that base anyhow, best to leave the Commander be for a bit longer. It will be easier to prevent them from leaving with a bit of micro than to blindly chase them through laser turrets with your whole army. If it’s a main base assault they’re only delaying the inevitable by running.
Now presumably you’re inside their base wrecking stuff like an angry bull in a china shop. Time for some micro! Make sure the Infernos and Vanguards go as deep inside the enemy base as you can and spread them out a bit. Look for high value target just like if it was a spec op. Have the Grenadiers, GIL-Es, Bluehawks and Shellers kill static defenses as a priority. Line up your Bolos, Slammers and Levelers between your army and the defender’s to keep them at bay while you wreck their base. Send surviving Dox to raid the nearby eco that now no longer benefits from the base’s proximity for defense. The Combat Fabbers can pitch in by reclaiming enemy buildings or setting up turrets if they’re T2. Even if your army is large enough to just roll through, some micro skills can minimize losses and allow you to press on without waiting for reinforcements.
Of course, if you get there and you find the enemy defensive force is simply too big to handle, you should call off the assault until you can lure them away from their station. For instance, send the support force to attack an enemy expansion. Don’t wait for reinforcements – if your opponent already has a larger army than you, chances are they’re outproducing you, so you cannot reinforce faster than they do even with a Teleporter. You’ll need to achieve local superiority through other means or go out there and claim global superiority.
You’ll note there’s a lot of moving parts to this kind of a plan. I’m not even getting into the role your air force can play in such an assault. It is best to enact just a portion of it if you’re monitoring too much stuff at once. The simple fact of having a Teleporter within striking distance of your opponent is usually enough to win the battle, if not the game. That being said, the more elaborate versions of this plan have a higher chance of success because there is no single point of failure. Lost an army? That’s why we have two. Lost a Teleporter? There’s another one across the field. The more options you give yourself, the harder your opponent will have to work to counter them all. While everything is time sensitive, when attacking you have the initiative. With queued orders you can plan ahead and achieve a lot more than the other player will be able to when given a chance to react.
If you end up being a victim to such shenanigans, your best bet is to keep your defending army very close to home. You’ll lose buildings by fighting amongst them, but much less than you would if you get out-flanked. See “Defending from attacks” for more details.
Assaulting Enemy Held Planets
If you and your enemy are both sitting alone on your respective planets, don’t wait or build planetary defense systems – invade now! Your enemy may already be working on super-weapons, planetary defenses or an invasion of their own, you need to keep the pressure on to disrupt their plans. If you both go mass fabbers and build planetary fortresses, all you’re going to get is a long, boring and laggy game. So how exactly do we go about invading? Teleporters of course!
The easiest and most common way to invade is to use an Orbital Fabricator to setup a link on the enemy planet’s ground, then move in the land armies. You could also use a Unit Cannon in later stages to send some fabbers and a small escort down, or even an Astraeus during the early game. Here are some things to consider when doing so:
- Pick a good landing site – your enemy may own the planet but if you move fast they can’t defend all of it. Find a landing spot with lots of building space and low resources. At best, find a place with no metal at all, it’s where you’re most likely to go unnoticed until it’s too late. There will be plenty of time to grab the metal later.
- Use your orbital presence or move it away – if you’re using a lone orbital fabber for instance, either queue Anchors for them to build after the Teleporter or send them back home. If it’s just sitting there it’s only going to give away the position of your beachhead while providing no help.
- Have an army and some fabbers ready to come through as soon as the Teleporter links up – consider having factory output move directly to the Teleporter that’s in your main base.
- As soon as the first fabber comes through, make it setup a radar – it can then setup defenses or factories to secure the beachhead. In later stages of the game, you’ll want an Advanced Radar followed by an Anti-Nuke as a single nuclear strike will end your invasion ambitions fast. Flak would also be a good idea if you can afford the build power; it will provide a safe harbor for your Phoenixes.
- Send your armies in multiple directions – chances are you haven’t had as much liberty to scout that planet just yet, can’t hurt to recon in force. You’ll likely crash their eco just by walking through undefended metal fields. Watch for static defenses, no need to go at them until you’re done scouting and gathered your forces.
- Look for grouped and idle orbital units or anchors – there’s a solid chance the enemy’s main base and Commander are under there.
- Wait for your armies to have assembled before you hit the main base – when you locate the main production center have the army that found it pull back or skirt along the edge. You want them to pull away defenders while your other armies get into position. Use all the tactics described in the previous section of this guide if your attention span allows it.
- Consider using multiple Teleporters and multiple locations – it’s not unusual to have an air force respond to your Teleporter and for it to get destroyed before it can activate. Send two Orbital Fabricators (or two Unit Cannons or Astraeus) in two different locations whenever possible. Even if you’re only using one location you may benefit from multiple links to your base if only to increase your bandwidth. If it takes 5 minutes to move your forces through, your Teleporter may get overwhelmed.
- Use Radar Satellites – going in blind is a bad idea. If your satellite comes into orbit in the middle of a group of Avengers or over an Umbrella, return them home. It takes a lot to shoot them down, they’ll probably have time to charge the engine and escape.
When attacking you have the initiative
- Use Phoenixes – your opponent already has a local air force. If you’re going to contest the skies (and you have to!) you’ll need fighters and you likely won’t have time to setup your own air factories on the opponent’s planet when launching the invasion. You can send them first and regroup them near the Teleporter when it starts getting built. See if you can locate a mass air fabber group and land your Phoenixes right on top of them, it’s a great way to open an invasion.
- Use SXX Lasers – it’s not uncommon to stumble into a hastily built wall of turrets or Catapults on the surface. Have your ground forces focus on Umbrellas then let an SXX take out the turrets. Just the one SXX will usually do. If you have a lot of those you should be looking into a snipe anyhow.
- Nuke a landing site – if your enemy does have a planetary defenses system in place, don’t hesitate to nuke a landing site open. Since nukes travel slowly through inter-planetary space, you may want to wait a bit before following up with the fabbers unless you want them taken out by the blast too. Don’t wait too long, otherwise your opponent may rebuild before you can land. Your invasion certainly won’t be very secret. Works with planet smashes too if you build right on the crater’s edge and you won’t have to deal with land assaults coming at your back.
- Keep an eye on the system view – when the other player sees you marching all over their planet they may try to send their Commander offworld. Use a PIP camera or zoom out every now and then to monitor Astraeus movement or desperate Unit Cannon/SXX sniping attempts.
- Water planets – those can be painful to invade since you can’t build Teleporters in water and therefor can’t move ships to other planets. You may need to use Slammers to get a foothold since they are the only anti-naval unit of significant strength that can cross Teleporters. Depending on the water’s depth near the edges, you may even need to send your Commander or an air fabber carried by an Astreus to setup the first naval factory. On the plus side, ships are very slow, so if you do manage to move in some fabbers you can get in the water before the enemy can respond in force. If you’re the one holding the water planet you’d do well to deny any piece of land that could fit a Teleporter. It doesn’t take much, a quick minefield, an Umbrella and/or an Orca by the coast.
- Keep trying – if the enemy’s air force takes out your first Teleporter before it’s built, try again with some Phoenixes leading the charge. If an Umbrella destroys your Orbital Fabricator, scout some other place with a satellite. Can’t finish the build in time? Send enough fabbers to build the thing in half a second (don’t forget to account for charge time). Still not good enough? Nuke the landing location. Don’t let the pressure off. Every time you try to land they waste more effort building more defenses while you’re probably out there getting more planets. You can use the PIP camera to keep trying while you monitor expansion and combat elsewhere, just make sure you don’t miss the Teleporter finishing up if you finally succeed. Use different combinations of the above ideas as they become available to you.
If all that fails, you probably have them contained to a single planet while you claimed the rest of the system. You should have the eco to start a game ending strategy.
Defending From Attacks
If you’ve been paying attention chances are you won’t find yourself defending, you’ll be out there handing out punishment. But maybe your opponent’s got better mouse and keyboard skills, maybe you put too much of your attention span in spec ops and forgot to mind the field, maybe they read this too and are better at applying it, maybe they even knows tricks that make me look like a moron with no conception of warfare. Regardless, you now need to fight for your base and your Commander’s life and the enemy has local superiority.
First there’s some preparation to do, and hopefully you thought of it before your opponents find their way into your base. It starts with your Energy Plant placement. Don’t have them all setup in the same corner, that’s asking for trouble. Make your fabbers spread them out. I like to put one next to each factory, as that’s about the input they need to run at full capacity. Speaking of factories, I like to use them to wall in my base when terrain allows it. This way they’re not all on one side of it and I can use them for cover during combat. You can then hide your other Energy Plants, that first T2 factory, your Orbital Launcher and other special purpose buildings in the middle. Growing your forward posts is also a good idea. When nukes start falling you may be happy you don’t have 90% of your production in one place. Conversely, if you spread too thin, the average Dox raiding party will be able to knock out your forward posts. Strike a balance between the two.
Once your eco starts ramping up faster than your Commander can place new factories, you should take a fabber and make it start working on static defenses. You know I don’t advocate defenses much, but one fabber won’t hurt your eco significantly. Queue up defenses of all kinds, not just laser turrets. Alternate the placement too: one laser, one AA, another laser, a pelter further in, another 3 turrets, an Umbrella, a few more turrets, go back and put a small wall, maybe an extra radar for redundancy, more turrets, etc. Hotkeys can make this relatively painless. Prioritize your rear and flank, you presumably have units streaming out the front door anyhow. If you end up with pretty good coverage and an idle fabber, send it to your undefended eco fields away from the front lines to repeat the process. Consider adding an energy storage somewhere so your defenses don’t stop shooting halfway through a fight. Keep the turrets close to your buildings, if you put them too far out there it makes them vulnerable, and if you need to expand beyond them they’ll act as a second line of defense. You should do the same with the third fabber to come out of T2 production (the first two going to energy and metal respectively). Better to have Anti-Nukes and Flak Turrets ready early, and again, a single fabber, even T2, shouldn’t do too much damage to your eco. If you’ve been aggressively taking land, it won’t even be a factor.
Those small defenses, even in low numbers, are closing doors to your enemy. They won’t stop the doom army, but bolstered by your own armies they’ll certainly help you survive. Their armor makes it worth using Combat Fabricators as healers on them. The most important aspect of these defenses is that they will stop most sniping attempts, or at least complicate them. Same for those daring raids on edge buildings. Don’t let your defenses restrict your expansion. If you need to build out, build around the turret. Don’t hesitate to delete walls, or even the defenses themselves, if you need the space.
Hopefully, by the time your enemy comes, you’ll have some small defenses setup to help. When enemies do show up on radar or scouting, your first move should be to assess the threat. Send out scouts in all directions, or if you have limited numbers of them, make them circle the enemy army as a priority. Do you have time to meet them in the field? If so, will you win? If you can’t defeat the whole army, or at least deplete them into an ineffective combat force, you’d do best to rally all your local forces inside your base while you continue scouting.
If it’s a team game, call for help. If you have troops that could be fetched by Pelican or returned through Teleporters in time, do so. If you have an air force, bring it home now too. See if you can’t rally enough troops to take the fight to them. Next, check your flanks and rear, make sure there’s no one else lurking nearby. You can’t go meet the enemy in the field if that leaves your base wide open for an incoming rear attack.
Whenever you get a second, change your factory rally points for somewhere inside your base and consider changing production too. Soon you’ll know what your opponent brought to the party; prepare the counter. If your scouts are shot down and you can’t tell the army composition, Grenadiers are a safe bet for Bot Factories, Infernos for Vehicle Factories and Hummingbirds for Air Factories. For naval bases, Barracudas are the way to go. The Grenadiers will be able to shoot over your own buildings, the Infernos can use those same buildings for cover while they approach the enemy, the Hummingbirds will make sure you don’t get caught pants down when their air support moves in, and the Barracudas are kings of sea denial. You should consider these specific units even with your T2 factories: You’ll need numbers more than specialized/powerful units if you’re going to survive and a T2 factory producing T1 units is limited mostly by the time it takes to roll new units off the factory. There’s a notable exception for T2 naval: that Leviathan can win engagements pretty much on its own if properly supported by Narwhals. If you already had the T2 factory running at the time of the attack, it’s worth rushing the Leviathan if you can bring it into the fray in time.
You should now have all the intelligence you need to decide how best to defend. If your enemy is coming at you from one side only, you should obviously move your army that way. Keep them outside the base, but close to the buildings. If this is the early game, put the Commander at the back too. You may need its Uber Cannon and you don’t want to leave him alone during combat on the home front, Booms can be sneaky (among other threats). Late game you’d run the risk of GIL-Es sniping him, so it’s best to keep him further back. If a surprise force does sneak in the back you won’t have much terrain to cross to intercept. You’ll also be benefiting from those turrets you setup. Try and put a wall in front of your army if you have time, even a few randomly distributed segments can help. An Advanced Combat Fabricator will get you walled up in seconds if you have one handy. If you’re about to get pincered or simply are facing superior forces, you may need to use your own buildings as cover. It’s far from ideal, but it will allow you to deal with much greater forces than you otherwise could. Move all your units, Commander included, to the middle of your base and let the enemy come close before you unleash your forces on them.
Check your flanks and rear
As far as microing goes, you’ll need to try to get some targets down as a priority. If you spotted Combat Fabbers, find a way to kill them fast. You don’t want them adding a Teleporter to your misery. Throw all your bombers at it if your have to! Building killers, like Infernos and Shellers, should be next. Make sure you get maximum benefits from the close quarter engagement by sending your short range unit out at the last moment. Don’t wait so much that your enemy is allowed to walk amongst your buildings. It’s your cover, not theirs. When Combat starts to die down, have your Combat Fabbers area repair the base so they can fix the damage done. Don’t reclaim your old buildings just yet, wait until you’re hurting for eco or really need the space. Meanwhile they’ll act as extra walls for your base.
The most important thing to do as part of your base defense is to prepare the counter-attack. If you had troops in the field ready to attack, make them move out before you even do your threat assessment. If your enemy is at your base, then they’re not in theirs. If you didn’t have troops at the ready, try to sneak out a Combat Fabricator to go prepare a Teleporter near the enemy base. Redouble your raiding efforts. If you can’t hit back fast and cripple your opponent just as bad you’ll be out of the game soon enough. If you can’t field a counter-attack, this may be a good time to go for a desperate snipe.
Should your strike force be intercepted and survive, consider turning the remains into an impromptu raiding group instead of marching them back home. They’re already halfway across the field, might as well put them to good use while you bring reinforcements forward. If the remains are big enough to still deserve the name strike force, perhaps you could simply divert them to a more manageable expansion. Send scouts to find a new and more appropriate target.
When fighting in the field, look carefully at the terrain. I’ve seen people complain on forums that it’s useless in PA, but that’s nonsense. Choke points, forests, mountains and other impassable obstacles, lakes, etc. You can usually use something to your advantage except in moon biomes, those are pretty flat for the most part. Have your Dox raiding party go hide in a nearby body of water. Lure the enemy Bolos into a forest before you unleash the Infernos (bonus points if your opponents were reclaiming the forest). Pull the enemy’s armies to a choke point and station your Bolos on the other side of it. Circle close around the mountain and regroup on the other side to make an improvised choke point. Put your Infernos right below a ramp where direct fire projectiles can’t hit them until it’s too late.
Speaking of moons, they’re a great place for bots to operate since most of them are flat. You’ll probably still want vehicles to hit enemy bases and for area control, but Dox and Grenadiers with air support is difficult to counter in such open terrain. Your early game should be much more bot oriented. Don’t forget to mix your units, Dox lack firepower and Grenadiers are easy to dodge. Do note that it’s possible to use craters to hide from enemy direct fire just like ramps.
There’s not always time for proper micro when monitoring battlefields across entire systems, but you may have to make some time anyhow. When 2 equal size armies of similar composition clash, a bit of micro usually brings victory. Sometimes its as simple as having your troops fight a retreating battle until you’ve shot all the opponent’s close range units. Others it may involve having 4 different combat fabbers each execute a separate build queue to wall yourself up while simultaneously splitting your Infernos and Vanguards in two to watch the flanks and moving the Bolos, Levelers and Grenadiers front and center. Possibly while you’re microing a whole other battle where you have to fight while dodging Holkins fire. It all depends on how much attention you can dedicate to it, how fast you are with a mouse and how well you know your hotkeys. A second PIP camera doesn’t hurt either.
When trying to take down a Commander with land armies, beware the Uber Cannon. It requires energy to fire, so if you can crash their eco first you can shut it down. Micro your units into a semi circle around the Commander – or full circle if it can’t be bothered to run. Have the widest front possible and don’t just attack it, run it down. If you gave the attack order before the move order, your units will prioritize him while in range. If it’s a team game, send some combat fabbers to reclaim the dead Commander. It’s worth a small fortune, not to mention its defunct base. Also, in team games when the Commander’s about to blow, pull back the bulk of your forces to save them from the explosion.
Keep an eye on your own Commander. Put a post-it on your screen if you need to, but you need to check on it regularly. Make sure it stays busy, it’s your top builder until T2. Later in the game, keeping your Commander on patrol, preferably near Teleporters, can thwart many classic sniping tactics. When the scouts locate you they’ll send (for example) the SXX there, but your Commander will be out of the way by the time they show up, narrowing their strike window significantly. Conversely, if you scout a moving Commander and try to go for a snipe, see if you can anticipate its movements and lead your target.
Destroying Metal Extractors is a long term business, destroying Energy Plants has a more immediate effect. This means that if you can crash the other player’s energy eco, you get a short window of significant advantage. Use it. While losing Metal income is equally damaging to your plans the initial hit may not be as brutal. Production will short out, but your defenses and radars will remain online. If you’re the one subject to an energy blackout, power down your factories, non-essential Teleporters, Radar Satellites sitting over friendly controlled space, etc. Better to float metal for a bit than be deprived of your precious intel, and you’ll need to divert power to the rebuilding efforts. A single Metal Storage building can help prevent eco waste when you no longer have enough energy to spend all the metal.
I’ve mentioned both storage buildings by now. They’re useful, but it’s a buffer against eco-storms and combat drain, not a bank. If you’ve never heard the term, an eco-storm is when your resource streams rapidly fluctuate from high loss to high float, a common situation in later stages of the game as fabbers and factories pause to move or offload units periodically. Don’t build 25 storage buildings. Don’t even build 12. One of each, two or three in the late game, is plenty. That eco you’re storing, it could be units out dominating right now. I’ve seen players who build storage before the first factory goes down. There’s no point to that, the Commander doesn’t output enough resources to fully supply its own fabricator arm, let alone that factory it should be building instead of storage. That factory can then help get your eco rolling with a fabber or two, a much better use of your time and Commander-stored resources.
A Word On Air Tactics
I haven’t talked much about the air force in this particular guide, and that’s because most folks get it already: it’s fast, can move anywhere and if not countered can really ruin your day. Just remember never to neglect your air force. If you can’t rule the skies, you need to deny them. I could rewrite the entire guide and add “keep your air force on alert nearby” every 2nd sentence and it wouldn’t be exaggerated. The presence of your air force is implied in every sentence of this guide. You get it.
It may be worth noting that in equal forces, you can win a fighter battle by bunching yours tighter and picking away at the edge of the enemy formation. If your opponent’s not paying attention it will cause the enemy fighters to funnel themselves as they all try to dive at the nearest plane in your formation. Don’t pack them and go straight in, you’ll get swallowed. The opposite also applies, if your enemy bunches up first, order your units to bunch up too, but interrupt them when they’re occupying slightly more space and send your formation right through theirs. You want all your units in firing range. The ideal fighter formation will strike a balance between occupying space and keeping all the guns in range. If you bunch up too tight all your planes will fire at the same target resulting in many wasted missiles.
Finally, do keep an eye on your birds, they’re fragile and expensive. Mind enemy AA defenses and keep an eye on your air ops so you can retreat quickly in case of trouble. Everything happens fast in the sky. Blink and you might miss it. If you can help it, don’t ever let your birds land. They’ll be safe from Hummingbirds but they won’t be able to respond fast, which is what we want air units for. Keep them patrolling or park them over water, lava, CSGs or buildings.