Monday, December 26, 2011

AWDS Battle Reports - Episode 2

And now for round 2. Once again, all matchups were put together by Biggabertha. The map is still "The Coast."

Red Kanbei vs Blue Grimm(FR) - Slam Guard, Star Power, Slam Shield, Fire Sale
This game started out with Kanbei taking an early property and unit count lead in spite of starting setbacks. By the time both sides reached the middle, the game devolved into a giant stalemate. Samurai Spirit would light off, then Knuckleduster after it wore off, back and forth. I remarked to Bigga during the game that it was like the trenches of France in World War 1. Eventualy, however, Grimm took a funding advantage by blocking off chokepoints with his T-Copter fleet, and gathered up a force of Md Tanks. When the next Knuckleduster hit, Grimm might as well have been Colin using Power of Money: Firepower + Tech = Death. The south broke first, then the north. Kanbei had only four units left when he finally yielded.

Red Jake(FR) vs Blue Lash(FR) - Invader, Prairie Dog, Fire Sale, Conqueror; Sale Price, Star Power, Gold Rush, Fire Sale
Like the last game, this started out hugely in red's favor and devolved into a stalemate. Jake used a strategy of having shielded Artillery in the southern mountain range while blitzkrieging to the north. Both fronts were supported by Copters. Jake found short term success with this and broke through on both fronts. Lash, however, had made a point of claiming both center bases and used her T-Copters to shuttle in Infantry and stubbornly defend the northern front. She flooded the north with Tanks while letting the south be flooded with Mechs and Copters. The stalemate broke when Lash made a Md Tank push all the way to Jake's northern base and plugged his airport, freeing up funds for the south. Jake quickly folded under this pressure.
-Jake's blitzkriegs were SCOP-assisted, but so were Lash's defenses. It came down to a matter of money, and Lash had slightly higher tech units getting better defensive bonuses. It ended up being no contest.

Red Jess vs Blue Grit(FR) - Sale Price, Gold Rush, Fire Sale, Soul of Hachi
This match was put together by myself rather than Bigga, because I used this Grit build as an example in my guide without actually trying it out. I can only theorytard something for so long before it starts coming together in my head and I realize it may be more or less effective than I gave it credit for, as the case may be. In this case I predicted that it would be more effective, so I gave it a go.
The game started out as many Grit matches do, and in spite of the price reductions it looked as though Grit was going to suffer the usual pitfalls. However, what won the day was Soul of Hachi. Being able to build en masse and right at the front of the battlefield gave Grit the production resources he sorely lacks in normal cases; though, granted, it would not have been nearly as effective without the money skills. By the time Jess surrendered, the south was broken and the northern center base had been capped off, with only a few Infantry standing between Grit and ultimate victory.

Soul of Hachi is a lot more powerful than it sounds in my head, and I'm going to have to remember in the future not to let Bigga pick it except for massive differences in tier placement. I guess that makes sense, though, seeing as production capability is one of the two things that puts Hachi at the top to begin with.

Tune in next time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

AWDS Battle Reports - Episode 1

I got a hankering for some AWDS recently, so I figured I'd do a battle report series. The matchups are put together by my old friend, Biggabertha. This set was played on "The Coast," which can be found on the Tag Tier Project page.

Match #1 was Hawke vs Andy, with Andy in red and Hawke as blue. Andy was given Star Power, Slam Shield, Fire Sale, and Conquerer. The game started out with Andy gaining an early property lead due to his lowered prices. Star Power saw to it that Hyper Upgrade fired off relatively early, and the upped defense and capture ability made it difficult to hold Andy back. Everything looked set for Hawke to lose. But Hawke just patiently waited for Black Storm, and fired off. This caused Andy some casualties and a slight drop in funds, but he still kept a property and unit count lead. But as SCOPs continued to be exchanged it became apparent that the timing disparity between Hyper Upgrade and Black Storm was working in Hawke's favor. Andy's skill-enhanced d2d wasn't enough to keep him afloat in the face of Hawke's in-built attrition strategy. All Hawke had to do was let Black Storm do most of the work for him, and just exploit the cracks. In the end, all of Andy's advantages were unable to offset the effects of a strangulation strategy.

Match #2 was Sonja vs Kanbei, with Sonja in red and Kanbei in blue. Sonja was given Sale Price, Gold Rush, Fire Sale, and Soul of Hachi. The game started out predictably in Sonja's favor, due to a combination of her accelerated start and Kanbei's naturally slow start. Kanbei opted for the consolidated strategy he tends to favor on this map, relying on Samurai Spirit to let him make advances later. When their forces met, however, it became clear that Kanbei was horribly outmatched by Sonja's force ranks. Sonja's money skills made her just about equivalent to Colin, and her regular d2d was preventing Kanbei from taking cover properly. Samurai Spirit was able to delay things, but Counter Break now had the added bonus of city deployment. While Kanbei could normally just wait out the counter-attacks, that added factor of being out-positioned made it much harder to deal with. He was eventually overwhelmed by the near-instant reinforcements.

Match #3, lastly, pitted Sami against Hachi, with Hachi in red and Sami in blue. Sami was given Invader, Sale Price, Fire Sale, and Conqueror. The match went initially in Sami's favor, with a slight property advantage and a massive unit count. Hachi went for his typical conservative strategy, producing a Recon in the front and Infantry out back while he quietly waited for SCOP. Sami bulldozed ahead with her typical Mech/Copter rush, with Infantry bringing up the rear. The reduced prices only made this easier, and the capturing skills made it impossible to stop her captures without killing her soldiers. The first use of Merchant Union didn't look like it did much: a few AAs to beat back the Mechs and Copters temporarily. Victory March would snag a property or two with each use, and it looked like Sami would manage a strangulation strategy. However it became the case that Merchant Union was fired off about twice as often as VM. A Black Bomb and a Md Tank spam later, the northern front was as good as dominated, with the south holding out through sheer attrition. Territory was captured or retaken, and Sami's forces folded from there. As with the first match, her force ranks ended up being insufficient against the superior foe.

These were fun both to play and to write, so I hope to have some more later; possibly on a new map.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Creeper World

As long as I'm broadening the blog, I figure I may as well give an honorable mention to a game I've been playing for the past couple years. Creeper World has probably sucked up more of my time than any other game except Minecraft, and for good reason: I love tower defense games, I love strategy games, and Creeper World is both wrapped into one.

Much like games such as Star Fox 64, Creeper World is a difficult game to lose once you get a good feel for it. The real challenge comes from trying to get the highest score possible. This is more difficult than you would think since the score starts at 10,000 and slowly counts down as time passes.

Your resource in this game is energy. You will never run out, but several factors can make life difficult for you. Your base's ability to function is based on your energy production, usage, stockpile, and starvation. Your base will function optimally if you keep your production at least as high as your usage. A high stockpile will allow you to temporarily use more energy than you produce without drawbacks. If you run out, though, starvation will kick in. As long as starvation keeps climbing your economy will slow to a crawl. This is dangerous since your guns can run out of ammo, and the Creeper will begin advancing on your position. Low starvation is a common occurrence and isn't cause for concern. It's when you run in excess of about 100 units that it becomes a problem, as it takes awhile to recover from and eats away at your time.

In fact just about every obstacle in this game is put there specifically to waste your time. Things like starvation will reward you for falling back and consolidating your economy. Again, it's harder to lose this game than to win it. Any problems posed by these setbacks always come down to score: the longer you take, the lower your score counter ticks. It's easy to get sidetracked by trying to cap off Creeper emitters, since doing so makes winning many times easier by saving you energy. However, getting the highest score requires that you keep your eye on the ball: that ball being the totems, as well as the occasional crashed escape pod.

I cannot stress enough how easy this game would be without the score counter. It is both tempting and feasible on many maps to simply construct a doom force of towers and steamroll the Creeper until every last drop is eradicated and all emitters capped off... given enough time. The problem is, of course, time. The game ends when you power up all the totems, and it doesn't much care how you do it as long as you're quick.

To be fair, the game does give you a pause button so that you can issue build and move orders without wasting time or diverting your attention away from the never-ending flow of Creeper. The only issue presented by this is that games do not start pre-paused, which can be frustrating to no end if you forget that little detail. Restarting is always an option, though, so even that isn't a big deal.

There isn't as much detail to go into for this game like there would be with Advance Wars, but it's an interesting game nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm not kidding myself anymore

I'm about the only author to ever use this blog, and it would probably have stayed that way. From now on this blog is just going to be my personal blog. Don't get me wrong, 90% of what I post here is still going to be video games, just not necessarily Advance Wars.

And since this blog doesn't have a specific purpose anymore, I've gone ahead and deleted a lot of the touchier posts. I've mostly divorced myself from the mainstream AW community and don't really want to incur anyone's wrath for some of the dumber things I've said and done.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Difference Other Game Modes Make... In AWDoR

Yeah, you thought I had forgotten about this little sucker, didn't you? But as much as there is to talk about with AWDS, AWDoR will always be hands-down the most interesting game in the series, and this is exemplified in its game modes. (US names are used; sorry EU, but if I can memorize your version you can memorize mine. :p )

Unlike AWDS, DoR fog does a lot more to affect the flow of the game. This has more to do with the nature of the COs involved than the fog itself; that being said, the fog mechanic of this game is better implemented. It brings a real element of guile and skill into the equation, and it rewards you for smart use of your CO. COs like Tabitha and Lin are going to be able to eliminate enemy vision with much greater precision and make it more difficult for their opponent to attack; this same pair of COs also have CO powers that are conducive to out-maneuvering the enemy in fog.
-Fog also rewards defensive play with Artillery since properties are hidden from enemies: if you put Artillery on a city and wall up, the enemy has to bust through the wall and get vision on that property before the Arty is actually in any danger. In the meantime the city still affords repairs and ammo, and that Arty is quite capable of going down fighting if you think it can do enough damage. And all this is before we even inject a CO into the mess, it's just that good for defense.
-While we're on the subject of using fog for defense, we probably should mention the Flare. Only useful in fog, the Flare is pretty much a requirement to break through the aforementioned defensive wall. In fact the Flare is incredibly helpful for pretty much any assault on a tightly-woven complex. It's also a decent choice for a CO unit.

Okay, enough about fog, time for weather. Random weather will cause some major headaches for some COs, and be a major boon to others. Snow isn't a terrible hindrance for most COs; Mech rushers like Will will get bogged down when that hits, at least temporarily. On the other hand, a sudden sandstorm takes away the biggest advantage of Tank rushing COs like Tabitha and Lin, and makes Arty-wall COs like Gage and Brenner very happy. But those last two really hate it when rain shows up, because that inability to see anything is just asking for an ambush the moment it lifts.
-One CO stands above the rest when random weather is turned on: Penny. Not only does she gain any potential advantages twofold from weather, she can take those same advantages and turn them on themselves. She is unique among all COs in this game in that her main ability applies itself like an AWDS CO; Penny does not need a CO unit to be immune to weather. For Penny, a sandstorm is just free defense, snow lets her play movement games, and rain just plain makes her unfair. Penny's CO power lets her summon weather, but in clear weather it's very difficult to get that charged since she is normally very weak. With random weather on, occasionally taking advantage of that weather will make that CO power much easier to charge; but most importantly, it means she can occasionally stabilize the weather and make greater use of a particular weather effect for the three turns she gets it.

Turning off unit levels, if you choose to do so, gives more weight to the CO unit than it already has, being the only unit on the field with veterancy. More significantly, it takes a little weight away from Tanks; you see, a veteran Tank is as good as a basic Md Tank in AWDoR. By turning this off, you have a decent reason to build Md Tanks occasionally.

Now as for tweaking income... it doesn't do anything we didn't already cover in AWDS. It will change your basic unit focus, but that's about it. Changing starting funds can be a big deal, though, since depending on how high you make them you can get a decent CO unit pretty early on. That's about all the difference, it will make, though.

Turn limits, again, don't do anything we didn't already cover. It doubles as the game's property victory, so much like its predecessor this mode just means that the battle will end in the middle of the map.

To sum it up, tweaking the game settings of AWDoR has a much greater affect on the flow of gameplay than it does for AWDS, and as such it gives you a much greater depth of gameplay to choose from. Hey, there's a reason I've always called this the superior game.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Difference Other Game Modes Make

Typically I talk about AWDS in terms of the default game mode; that is, two or more COs/Tags duking it out on the default victory conditions and game settings, and generally assuming that Force Ranks are not involved. All of these dramatically change to focus of gameplay and heightens the importance of skill, but what difference does it make to the game's balance? Surprisingly little, actually.

As far as Force Ranks go, you will quickly find yourself gravitating to the money skills. In fact, the money and hard-mode skills so eclipse the others in power most of the time that you'll hardly find a use for any of the others. If everyone has the money skills and Soul of Hachi, then the differences come back down to their respective CO abilities. (There are exceptions; they will get their own post.)

Fog does nothing, not even for Sonja. The ability to see further can't save you from mass damage, nor from two moves, nor from insta-capture, mega defense, etc.

Weather can give some weight to Drake and Olaf. Slightly. Olaf can occasionally get more firepower out of the deal, and both can change the weather to suit them. Constant snow can even bump Olaf up within the mass damage circle. But that's really it. Rain is basically Fog especially if it's constant, and Sandstorms don't really do anything except nerf Grit... not that he needs nerfing.

Turn and capture limits just mean that the game ends in the middle of the battlefield rather than at one player's HQ. Alternatively, it can be like Capitol Risk in which the elimination of all players is unnecessary. (Although it one person was getting double-teamed this may not be quite enough.) It can give some weight to Sami, but that's about it.

And lastly, funds. Minor changes to funds can significantly impact the flow of the game. A small bump to 2k funds makes Black Bomb warfare an option. From there it only gets crazier until Tanks and B-Copters finally become endangered species. In spite of the changes to whatever units are on the field, the tactics will be more or less the same. Much of what goes on with funds deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that while it makes the game much more interesting, it doesn't really alter the effectiveness of the COs by all that much.

Lest I forget, I guess there's also the never-talked-about Dual Screen mode. You know, the option in the versus menu to go with either one or two maps? Yeah, I nearly forgot about it myself. It also shares a trait with the other game modes: It doth not affect the gameplay much. A sufficiently powerful CO can lose his partner on the top front and still win down below. They could also send a large amount of reinforcements to the top to keep that from happening... but why bother? You may as well play a single map for all the difference this mode makes.

So basically, while the different game modes can make the game more interesting and change the tactics and focus, the overall game balance remains mostly the same regardless.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It has been quite a day...

For those of you keeping track of the Tag Tier Project, I pretty much re-wrote the list today. Eagle/Sami got kicked downstairs and a bunch of COs went way up. I finally got around to finding a better map, so that probably helps. XD

My earlier thinking had been that I should use a smaller map to make the tests go by faster. The only problem... after what seems like a thousand runs on it I know the damned thing well enough that I could probably beat Hachi with Grit on it. So I got a bigger map with even better ratings, and I've got better strategic options to play with now. It also doesn't take as long to play as I feared, so I think I'll stick with it.

With all that said, I've done a batch of re-testing and busted a lot of assumptions. Most obvious is that Eagle and the mass-damage COs got kicked upstairs, past Creepy Crawly. I don't think I'm done bumping them either. And COs like Hachi and Sensei definitely need to have another go. It always did bother me that Hachi could give Grizzled Vets a hard time and yet lose to Shaky Alliance. Methinks perhaps the better map I have now will remedy this.

Stay tuned. I'm not done rebalancing the list yet, not even close...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Pariah CO: Grit

From the TV Trops article "A Commander is You":

The Pariah Faction. This faction relies on some not particularly useful gimmick or combat ability. They tend to be disadvantaged with most everything else. For bored advanced players or Scrubs. Of course, an exception to this rule would be if their gimmick/ability were hard to use and/or apparently useless, but gave a substantial advantage if mastered properly, in which case they would be a Lethal Joke Faction.
Also known as "the opposite of Game Breaker." Grit, for so long considered broken in Advance Wars Dual Strike, was several months ago kicked downstairs. He is currently considered the worst CO in the game. But why?

Grit's ability is that he gives Indirect units extra range and firepower on a daily basis. His weakness is an inversely proportional firepower drop for Direct units. His CO Powers further boost his Indirects with more range and more firepower. The strategy you would naturally want to use is drawing up a wall of units, usually Infantry, to protect the relatively cheap Artillery and advance as a wall. In fact, this is really his most viable strategy.

His unit focus is entirely shifted away from every other CO in the game, in that he benefits neither soldiers nor Directs. Every other CO in the game boosts at least one of these somehow. And that is where the problems begin.

The first and most obvious problem is economics. The cheapest unit Grit powers up is the Artillery, costing 6k. It is feasible to get one of these out by day 3 or 4, where it can then use Infantry to help shield itself. Contrast this with all the COs who do something for, say, Recons, a 4k unit. Recons can be feasibly made on day 2 or 3, and can then  sally forth and disrupt the enemy's capture phase. Grit can offset this advantage by building his own Recon and forgo the early Arty. No big deal, right? He can do what he needs to do. And then day 8 rolls around...

Day 8 is the magic day in AWDS. Some SCOPs are charged by then; others are being planned for. Either way, SCOPs are on one's mind. This is when Grit's "oh shit" moment hits. He doesn't have very many units that his SCOP can affect at this point; Arties are expensive, and at any rate he had to curb the advantage of the early Recon. But now he's lacking in the CO Power department while his opponent is not; his opponent has been playing to their CO Powers the whole time. He could try using his COP; same firepower as his SCOP, merely lacking range. Of course if his opponent knows their Grit theory, it's a good bet they've planned ahead for this. That leaves his SCOP. For most COs this is a no-brainer: if you need to beat your opponent to the SCOP, shred some Infantry and fire it off. Except Grit needs the meat-shields, so that's out.

His opponent fires off. Their units are in close, but Grit has now suffered losses and damage; some of which is undoubtedly his Artillery. In most cases Grit's best bet is to go ahead and light off his own SCOP, but the damage is done and he's not going to get as much juice out of it as his opponent did. If it's Kanbei or Javier, his only option is to wait out the defense boosts; especially Javier's.

This will only get worse if Grit continues trying to fight fire with fire. The more his opponent forces him to change style, the greater the advantage he hands to them. Once Copters enter the game, Grit's pretty much done: his suck, and his AAs suck at shooting them down. In the end he's just pissing away money on units he can't power up, and his opponent reaps the advantage.

So is there any hope for Grit? The honest answer is... not really. Sure, you can bias the terrain in his favor, get rid of the airports, and maybe give him a fighting chance that way. But that's it: beyond stacking the odds, you're really not going to find many uses for Grit outside the War Room. He's that bad.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Trust Fund

That's what the Colin/Sasha Tag is called. And it gives me nightmares. It might actually be better than Earth and Sky.

Basic Strategy:

Obviously you'll lead off with Colin at first. Once you start getting into combat, though, always hit the switch button at the end of your turn. Not only will it make this Tag charge up absurdly fast, but unlike most Tags these two actually have good d2d reasons to do this. Colin ends his turn with extra money left over, and Sasha makes extra money. Generally speaking, you shouldn't tech higher than Recons during Sasha's turn. Colin, on the other hand, will be capable of buying multiple Tanks quite quickly, and don't be surprised if Md Tanks become an option before the first Dual Strike.

Colin should lead the Dual Strike. His money boost combined with Trust Fund's default 140/110 means that he'll average at least as well as the firepower COs. The key difference being, of course, that said firepower is backed up by a massively teched up army in this case. He buys stuff, and then it's Sasha's turn. Sasha plays a straight 140/110, but with the whole "combat pay" routine going on, not to mention some reinforcements to call up. Unlike any other Tag pairing, Sasha during this Dual Strike is quite capable of giving you at least one Recon and filling the rest of your bases with Infantry.

Why This is Godly:

Well why do you think!? Look at the rest of the power scale in the game if you need a hint: nowhere else do tech and firepower cross over in these proportions! What are you gonna do, pull out a Hachi Tag? They have to stay low tech to get a Megatank on time. Now on most Colin Tags you can probably get away with this. Trust Fund? If necessary it can ass-pull a Md Tank in time to meet this threat. A Trust Fund Md Tank has sufficient time and firepower to destroy a Megatank; and if Colin bought it then it's still cheaper. At worst, a Tank may need to assist with the kill. However it happens, this will not kill Trust Fund's economy; unlike Hachi, it is always on overdrive.

If the enemy is something like, say, Hachi/Kanbei, this just makes it worse. Yes, Kanbei's got Samurai Spirit for this Megatank; he also screws up the prices. If they switch out often enough to make a quick charge, they'll actually have to tech down even further just to get the Megatank in time. Trust Fund is still perfectly capable of spamming Tanks in the meantime. Hachi/Kanbei may indeed get the one Megatank this duo can't beat, but at the cost of battlefield control it's too little too late. (Might even be better off just spamming 3.5k Tanks, and even then...)

Why do I think it might be better than Earth and Sky? It fires off first, it can get Copters obscenely early, and it can pull double-production as mentioned earlier. Unlike most Tags, it can afford to leave an Infantry on the HQ. After wiping out the rest of Earth and Sky's forces, that one Infantry is enough to screw things up. Walking across the map and capping it ain't an option at that point, and with their forces so demolished they might get one or two consolation captures that won't have any long-term effect on Trust Fund's tech advantage.

Against any other opponent, the result is predictable. Trust Fund is fucking insane for what it says on paper. They say that a CO or Tag is broken when it does something the game wasn't designed to take into account. Look at the power flow chart. What are the top five items? Tech, spam, super units, capture, two moves. By the CO stats and by its nature as a Tag, Trust Fund combines all five of these in evil, evil ways. No other Tag in the game does this. I'm not even sure any other Tag can match this. Talk about broken COs like Hachi or Sensei all you want. Throw them in the Tag ring and suddenly they look a lot less impressive. You want broken? Look at the article title.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Power Flow of AWDS

Originally Published: 2011年3月29日
Last Updated: 2012年10月16日

What exactly is the power flow of this game?

6th Tier (+Broken)
Super-Tech, Spam
5th Tier (Overpowered)
Tech, Super-Units
4th Tier (High Balanced)
Capture, Two-Moves, Mass-Damage
3rd Tier (Low Balanced)
Direct-Counter, Power Denial, Directs, Movement
2nd Tier (Underpowered)
Luck, Generalist, Terrain
1st Tier (-Broken)
Indirect-Defense, Indirects
+ and - "broken" used to indicate game-breaking advantages and disadvantages, respectively; ergo, "Spam" is an auto-win while "Indirects" is an auto-lose.

I will explain this from the bottom up, but before I do I feel that I must explain some things about AWDS game theory. Many people who are new to BHHQ that aren't coming from Wars World News are either community newbies whose greatest experience with the game comes from War Room theory, or are coming from AWBW with the game theory that comes with it.

War Room theory is learned on your first exposure to the game. Battling the AI encourages you to tech up super fast and beat the AI within a certain time limit. War Room theory is actually inefficient even for the War Room itself, as quite often competitive tactics with only slight modifications will net you better results.

AWBW works on the AW2 system, but has AWDS elements meshed into it. The prevailing theory in AWBW is that the game moves slowly, and that a heavy mixture of Indirects into one's tactics are necessary for the purposes of "digging in." In reality, most of the tactics that follow have been tested in AW2 and are fully backward-compatible. This compatibility extends to AWBW as well, and a quick perusal of their forums will show that things like Recon rushes and their ability to smash through Artillery walls have been in front of their faces for quite some time; yet no one makes the connection, no one bothers to do the test games and arrive at the natural conclusion, and suggesting that one exists will see you laughed out of the community.

The game theory I'm about to present you with can be adapted to any of the first 3 games in the series. Where CO stats differ, other parts of the article should fill in the blanks for you. I won't repeat the contents of "AWDS for Dummies" here, but suffice it to say the game balance that follows was discovered by the good folks at Wars World News due to the following factors:

1. CO Powers charge quickly enough that the number of units on the field being affected is more important than the specific units receiving a boost.
2. Artillery Walls can be taken down by any CO that boosts Directs or Soldiers, or that has resistance to Indirects.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why I Hate My Job

It is not that I don't like tier lists. On the contrary I think they are good for promoting good, healthy competition. Every game is a chance to find a new strategy that proves the old theories wrong. The problem is that some people hold tier lists almost as law. That is, tier lists have a tendency to cause tourney-fag syndrome:

Warning: This picture is really fucking huge.

I mean holy fuck, how many caveats and exceptions do you need to have? 16 stages are banned by this list in Melee. Isn't that, like, 3/4's of all the games stages or something!? There are only two ways to get into a situation like this:

1. The game is inherently flawed.
2. The players are unimaginative and probably shouldn't be conducting exercises in game theory.

SSB is a successful series. Flawed games do not become successful in tournaments and competition, so SSB can't be inherently flawed, or at least not so flawed that 75% of the playing fields are unplayable. Therefore the flaw must lie in the fan base. Just from my chair here vaguely recalling this game, I can tell you how to avoid the speed problem on Hyrule Temple: Don't lose! One of Sun Tzu's first teachings is that the combatant under the most pressure to perform also has the most incentive to win, and will fight more vigorously as a result.  The stakes are higher for the slower character, and since many of them are more powerful to begin with there's a pretty big incentive to go straight for the high damage moves. Only in the most extreme cases can the situation be truly unwinnable.

Now what does any of this have to do with Advance Wars? Well, how long were Tags and Force Ranks written off as broken mechanics in AWDS? Actually let me put that another way: In most Advance Wars circles Tags and Force Ranks are written off. The thing is, if you combine the two as far as potential gameplay goes you're writing off over 10,000 possible player combinations in favor of just 27. That's not unimaginative, that's just pure willful ignorance.

AWBW's gotten us into the habit of thinking Advance Wars has an inviolable balance that cannot be questioned. Of course, anyone who remembers Grimm vs Grit knows that there are always new loopholes in the so-called balance if one knows where and how to look. One of the main reasons I started the Tag Tier project was for this exact purpose: finding new things we haven't thought of. And with all the possible combinations, my "intellectual fellows" have left us with a lot of discoveries to take the credit for.

The old theory with regard to Tags almost always felt as if only one side was assumed to actually be tagging. Why? Who the hell really knows, but that's probably why people got scared of them. Of course, aside from the fact that we now know some Tags to be weaker than some COs, with over 300 combinations just in this area you are rarely ever going to see a Tag vs CO match.

Same thing goes for Force Ranks really. Even though they haven't been tested yet, it's silly to think that only one CO or Tag is going to have them once in play. (Although honestly... I'm probably never going to get around to testing all 10,000 combinations. XD)

Just something to think about. Balance isn't static. Even the oldest standing tier list can change if someone gets creative. Just think outside of the box and don't take people like me at our word... unless of course my word disproves your word. ;)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Possibilities For Constructing a Tag Tier List

I have recently obtained an interest in creating a tier list specifically for Tag teams. This list would be much longer than the single-CO list simply by necessity. After all, there are 27 COs each with 26 potential partners. That's 702 Tag duos that I'm aiming to rank on a single list. (No one can ever accuse me of thinking small again. XD) I suppose if I really wanted to be a completist, I could throw the single COs onto that list as well. After all, some of them could potentially hold off some of the more ineffectual duos.

In the single CO tier list, COs for the most part are put into little groups that are then ranked against the other groups. COs are then ranked within their own group, and COs who don't fit in a particular group are then ranked against the groups and each other. These rankings are mostly based on the effects of Supers on the battlefield, with only a few notable exceptions. The Recon COs, for example, are so named for all of their Supers significantly amping up the damage Recons can do in the early game. Similarly, mass damage COs are so named for their Supers dealing free damage to large numbers of units.

In a Tag list, however, we must think in slightly different terms. The first and foremost thing that must be drilled into one's head when talking about Tags is that it essentially gives every CO in a Tag duo the Super CO Power "Lightning Strike", except that footsoldiers also get a second move. With few exceptions these Tags come earlier than Lightning Strike, and all of them have additional effects piled on top. As such, even the worst Tag duo is better than single-CO Eagle by default.

The second thing that must be considered in a Tag list is that you cannot look at power alone. The rate at which a Tag charges can be just as important. On the forum, the question came up about whether Andy or Hawke would be a better partner for Rachel. While it is inarguably certain that Rachel/Hawke is better pound for pound, during an actual game Andy/Rachel will charge up as early as two days sooner. Since Rachel deals free damage in such massive amounts, the battles occurring during this Dual Strike are not necessarily guaranteed to grant Rachel/Hawke their own Dual Strike, especially if Hawke is caught on the back burner charging at 3/4 the normal rate. Simply by virtue of coming sooner, Andy/Rachel can cause enough damage that the retaliatory Dual Strike, despite being stronger on paper, simply won't do as much since many front-line combat units have been destroyed.

The following are some early thoughts of mine on how this might begin to shape up. Bear in mind this is just sort of "calling it now" and could easily turn out to have no relevance at all:

-First of all, I think that mass damage is going to find itself interspersed with mass spam and super units as far as placing Tag duos at the top. I predict this due to the fact that unlike in single-CO play, you have two turns to capitalize on the free damage. Additionally, mass damage duos have the added benefit of dealing twice the pain and thrice the damage since their Supers accumulate. Drake/Olaf is the often cited example, but even Hachi/Sensei is going to find itself hard pressed against Olaf/Rachel.

-On the topic of spam, I suspect that in certain situations its effectiveness is going to decrease. Specifically, spam vs the ability to tech up quickly. While Sensei/Hachi can undoubtedly make a large, teched-up army, they actually limit each other's capabilities pretty severely. Sensei must go first, and he cannot buy anything. As a result, none of Hachi's teched up units get to move that turn. In single-CO play this isn't a big deal for Hachi, but in dual-CO it makes this team vulnerable to a retaliatory Tag. As previously mentioned, mass-damage can utterly crush them during this vulnerable phase, especially Rachel's missiles since a lucky shot can turn a Megatank from a harbinger of doom to a juicy target. When Uber Lightning Strikes are a regular occurrence, even getting Black Bombs and bigger guns on the cheap might do nothing more than simply even the odds.

-HOWEVER, while the pure spam Grizzled Vets may not be as effective in the face of such heavy hitters, using spam as an enhancement to other kinds of Supers still makes them dangerous in dual-CO play. You don't know true horror until you've seen Sami/Sensei and Hachi/Kanbei in action.

-As mentioned earlier, speed is important. I heavily suspect that Adder/Koal will have a relatively high place in the tier list simply due to being the fastest-charging Tag in the game. (Well, granted, you could substitute in Sonja for either of them and still charge at the same speed, but you get my meaning.) The ability to dismantle a large chunk of the opposing force before they're able to exercise their own firepower on you is a critical component of dual-CO play which you ignore at your own peril. With only a few notable exceptions, speed kills in this mode.

I'll start making this list on the forum inch by inch starting with more obvious Tags, and then working my way into more obscure ones.