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.

Tier 1
You'll see that Indirect boosts are at the bottom: ergo, Grit. More specifically, it's the fact that this boost is effectively useless when the guy sends every other unit besides Soldiers to the bottom of the barrel. As mentioned above, the number of units affected is more important than the specifics. Grit almost has to use Directs to secure ground early on, but doing this means he'll only have a couple Artillery on the field getting affected by his powers by the time those are ready. Most people don't see the problem until you realize this: while Grit can one-shot most units with Artillery even on COP, having 2 or 3 Artillery limits him to 2 or 3 kills. This also means 2 or 3 fewer Directs, who have to behave more conservatively to avoid being annihilated in the counter-attack. If Grit actually does play with nothing but Soldiers and Artillery then he can cause destruction on the level of higher tier COs; the new problem being that he cannot secure ground in the same turn, and his opponent will just move back into the area he clears. What hurts Grit the most is how similar in strength his powers are. COs usually want to bank on SCOP since firing off COP might trigger the enemy SCOP sooner. With Grit it doesn't really matter, so the enemy is free to take advantage of their COP's greater frequency of use and pummel his forces.

In the same tier is Indirect-defense, ergo Javier. This man is the anti-Grit for a couple reasons. The first of these reasons is that Grit has no units that do above normal damage to him except for soldiers on a daily basis; this is mostly a side-effect of how the damage formula treats defense. Javier can quite happily spam COP for a little extra defense and firepower while he secures an area directly in front of Grit, and then hit SCOP while he advances. Despite this, he is still in the same tier as Grit because his total blandness against Directs actually makes his match-ups worse at higher tiers. Javier is better in tower matches, but we'll get to those later.

Tier 2
Terrain! Well that would be Lash. So what's bad about her? Lash gives you a good defense boost under her Super, along with some firepower and no movement cost.. What's not to love, right? Well granted, it's definitely better than nothing, but Lash's defense boost doesn't get up to a meaningful level until she gets onto a city, and lower than cities her firepower is only equivalent to daily boosts. It's no Counter Break and it definitely ain't Samurai Spirit. Prime Tactics is troublesome, but it's nothing a good firepower SCOP from a higher tier won't break.

The "generalist" would be Jake. Jake has been described in the past as, "a poor man's hybrid of Jess, Hawke, and Grit." This would actually be pretty awesome if he wasn't so watered-down compared to them. The only way he's similar to Hawke is that he has the same daily boost... on one type of terrain. He's similar to Jess only on SCOP when he gets his movement boost; his firepower is so watered down and limited it's not even fair to compare the two. As for Grit, the only similarity on either power is that he gets Grit's range boost; Grit's boost already sucks, and Jake waters it down so much that he may as well not have it. Jake is functional as a Direct-boosting CO, but he tries so hard to be good at everything else that it diminishes his effectiveness in that role.

Luck! Well it's universal, which is more than I can say for our terrain-loving friends. Reliable? Not a chance in hell. Granted, they get an OK average. But that's it: OK. Far from spectacular. People tout Nell as being better than the other two because you can potentially one-shot a Megatank with an Infantry. The problem, at least in my personal experience, is that Nell typically shoots at 50% luck or lower; while her Black Hole counterparts can bottom out pretty badly, they only do that about as often as Nell hits her maximum and in the meantime average higher than she does.

Tier 3
So... movement. Should be fairly self-explanatory. When you can get reinforcements to the front faster, it's easier to force the game downhill. If these COs get hit, they can storm back into the area pretty fast. If they get the first strike, they can have units further back run up and break the line while units up front can dive in and flank the enemy. They're also good at getting your normally-slow soldiers to the front line sooner to capture properties and gum up the enemy line.
-Another advantage, easily overlooked, is that Adder's ability to spam COP is useful in putting the smack-down on lower-tier COs; though beyond this you may want to save him for Tags.
-Koal is superior to Adder in every way thanks to having a firepower boost, which will come in handy for breaking choke-points as mentioned earlier.
-Andy doesn't have as good of a movement boost, but his firepower is universal and his healing makes the front line last longer.

Of course movement alone isn't all that makes Directs good, and that's what our next three take care of. Grimm, Max, and Jess are our COs in this department, as well as Javier when he has easy access to a single tower. These COs are able to wipe out enemy front lines on SCOP, or even COP.
-Grimm and Max are almost identical in the units they give practical boosts to, but due to his lowered defense Grimm may seem to be an inferior choice at first. (Max does 144% of normal damage to Grimm.) Unlike Max, though, Grimm powers up soldiers, giving him the option to bring up Mechs from the rear line to augment his vehicle force; Max can do this as well, but the firepower disparity makes this less effective and Max's powers don't affect soldiers like Grimm's do.
-Jess powers up even fewer units and doesn't give them quite as much firepower, but she does give her land Directs extra movement and keeps her air units from crashing. Similar to movement COs she can strike with rear-line units and then hit the enemy rear line with her own front line; unlike those COs, Jess has some serious killing power.
-Javier1T is more formidable than he sounds due to the defense formula. Without getting into too much detail, defense cancels out an equivalent firepower boost, and in addition cancels out 1% per 10% defense per 10% firepower. What that means is that Javier's 110% defense will cancel Max's 120% firepower down to 108%, because +10 defense cancels out +10 offense and +2 extra offense for Max's +20 offense. (120-10-[1x2]=108) That same amount of defense cancel's Max's SCOP firepower from 190% down to 171%. (190-10-[1x9]=171) This is why Javier1T's SCOP defense is powerful enough to make up for relatively low firepower, because while +10 cancels out an extra 1% for every 10% firepower, +40 defense will cancel out an extra 4%. Ergo, Max's 120% daily firepower cancels to 72% (120-40-[4x2]=72), and his SCOP cancels from 190% to 114% (190-40-[4x9]=114). This works in reverse as well, hence why Grimm takes extra damage.

Power denial is Sasha's gig. What she does is take a powerful day-to-day boost and use it to augment a COP whose sole purpose is to slow down other COPs so her daily boost has a chance to take effect. This is really only effective after attacking but before building, but the results are an average of 1-2 stars stolen from the opponent per use. Your opponent is basically shoved into the AW2 charging system which, while not cripplingly slow, is still slow enough that Sasha doesn't get pummeled by use after use. Meanwhile, Sasha's ever-so-slight tech and expansion advantages substitute for an actual power boost of her own. The only reason she's not ranked higher is because the higher tier powers are strong enough to ruin her even while slowed down.

Direct-counter, ergo Sonja, is using a power specifically geared at warding off Directs without boosting them herself. Counter Break isn't an impenetrable shield, but it forces the opponent to hold off from same-unit match-ups for a turn, and in a pitched battle this often means holding off from attacking altogether. It's a free turn where they aren't advancing, in other words. The only downside is that she's a bit bland the rest of the time.

-It's worth noting that Sonja is to Lash as Javier is to Grit, which is to say one of Sonja's abilities (terrain reduction) cripples Lash to the point of being an auto-win for Sonja, except even more so since unlike the latter match-up Sonja is in a higher tier on top of this.

Tier 4
Mass damage is really a catch-all term for four different types of powers that all happen to deal damage for free. The first type, and the only one to be shared by multiple COs, is wave damage. This type of CO power deals a wave of 1 or 2HP damage to all enemy units, causing what I call the triple-whammy effect. The triple-whammy effect is, as the name would suggest, a combination of 3 factors: economic damage from repairs, power denial from not filling up stars, and overall strength reduction from being damaged. (Units lose 10% of their overall firepower and defense; not a flat 10%, though. Ergo, a 9HP Andy unit is 90/90, but a 9HP Von Bolt unit is 99/99, because 99 is 90% of 110.)
-Drake piles rain and fuel reduction on top of this effect. While battles usually move too fast for fuel to come into play, the rain gives you an opportunity to blind the opponent by destroying their vision units, thereby reducing their second-strike capability and being a poor man's Sonja.
-Hawke heals his units in the same wave that damages enemies, making him a bit of a poor man's Andy. His daily firepower combines with the default boost and the enemy's lowered defenses to launch devastating attacks, right after refreshing his own front line.
-Olaf's firepower boost both the turn of and the turn after SCOP is such that his wave will be accompanied by an all-out assault, utterly devastating the enemy front line.

Von Bolt covers the next flavor of mass damage with Ex Machina. Ex Machina is not a missile exactly: despite having an identical effect, it additionally freezes its targets for a turn. Von Bolt is already quite strong to begin with for the same reasons as Javier1T, but Ex Machina does something Tower of Power cannot: shutting down an entire section of the battlefield. The enemy can't remove their frozen units even by deleting them, which means they'll gum up their own front line until they unfreeze; and with Von Bolt having a free shot at them, it's far more likely he'll just take the area for himself first.

Rachel gets the third flavor, which is to just annihilate a particular section of the battlefield. Simple, efficient, doesn't really require explaining.

Kindle gets the fourth and final flavor, which is a demi-wave. It's a wave that does more damage for cheaper, but only affects certain terrain. In this sense Urban Blight doesn't give the triple-whammy exactly, though it does give you the economic portion far more frequently. Kindle's entire game centers around wrecking the enemy economy as such, with lingering damage being icing on the cake.

Our next culprit is multiple moves, ergo Eagle. Eagle gets an extra move for only three stars, which opens up some unique opportunities and a somewhat unusual force concentration. Since Eagle doesn't boost soldiers, and since he can build, move, and build again, he can often wait until COP to build soldiers. This results in Eagle having nearly all of his army up front and attacking, sometimes twice.

Superior capturing would be Sami. Sami uses a non-standard build of Mechs and Copters to project offensive power and combine it with securing a strong economic advantage. If her full-health units start capturing, they must be reduced to 2HP to delay the capture; and as long as a soldier has at least 7HP, they can still go around happily capturing properties in two turns. The real danger with Sami's Mech rush is her SCOP, which turns even the most damaged Infantry into a 1-turn-capturing monster. Any property Sami snags will be hers for at least two turns: that's two turns where she gets that income and you don't. It's not hard for her to pursue strangulation as such.

Tier 5
There are two COs that do super-units: Kanbei, and Javier2T, and they do this about the same. Kanbei's units are more expensive, but being 160/160 on Samurai Spirit with doubled counter-attacks means he can take a free move without fear of retaliation; if a Tank attacks one of his Recons this turn, the match-up is dangerous to the Tank. Javier2T gets 170/170 on Tower of Power, and while he doesn't get Kanbei's godly counter-attacks he doesn't really need them: he doesn't fall behind early on since his units are normal cost. The only reason he's not considered better than Kanbei is because:
A. We generally assume the other CO has the same number of towers.
B. His power is dependent on towers, not absolute like Kanbei.

Colin is our tech CO. He has low costs that let him tech up and expand faster, and his COP lets him do this even more. It's not uncommon for Colin to be regularly turning out Md Tanks or Bombers toward the mid-game thanks to this. His SCOP makes these already-good units even better, but you need at least 18k in the bank before it equals Max's COP; you're generally better off saving this for his Trust Fund Tag.

Tier 6
Spam is the art of making more units than your opponent can possibly hope to counter. While some COs can fit this description already, Sensei is the only one obviously designed with this in mind. Specifically, he can do it often and for free. Much like Sami, Sensei can pull off an effective Mech rush. What makes Sensei different is his ability to augment this force on the fly with free Infantry, as well as self-feeding the CO bar with said Infantry. He can use his SCOP for Mechs in a pinch, but ultimately it's the flood of Infantry forcing his opponent to focus on them instead of the real danger that makes Sensei a true spam artist.

Hachi is a super-tech CO, but he also fits into the spam category. His super-tech is distinguished from Colin's tech by the degree of his discount: 50% prices on either power, with the aforementioned spam on SCOP. By never teching above Recons on a daily basis, Hachi can bank an absurd amount of money to spam 2nd and 3rd tier units in the early-mid game. What I mean by this is that buying a single Megatank and then spamming Md Tanks in addition gives you the following: a unit that the opponent must waste a disproportionate amount of resources to kill, and a squad that can mop up what's left. Hachi can also buy B-Bombs on this same turn and play a poor man's Rachel while having units that can tear the real Rachel a new one.

Beyond Tiers
Javier with 3 towers or more is beyond classification. With 3 towers he's potentially beatable by Hachi (also with 3 towers), but other than that he has the one advantage in the game that can't be overcome: invincibility. Because of this game's somewhat screwy math, 200+ defense is invincible not matter what. You could gather enough towers and bonuses to have 1000% offense, attack a unit with 200% defense, and deal exactly zip damage. This is because of the damage formula:
where D is the total damage, b is the base damage, o is offense, d is defense, and H is HP. Value o is positive above 1, while d is positive above 0. This means that when defense becomes 200% or higher, d becomes a value of 1 or higher. This means your offense multiplies by 1 and is then subtracted from your offense, resulting in 0 damage. (Technically a higher number produces negative damage, but either d is capped at 1 or the game just ignores it. I don't actually know which it is, but for practical purposes it doesn't matter.) Javier is invincible on SCOP from 3 towers onward at full health, invincible on COP from 5 onward, and just plain invincible from 10 and onward; though beyond designing an alien invasion scenario I would question the logic of having that many towers even without Javier.

There you have it. That's the power flow of the game, and these have been the explanations for why that is. Now go play the game.


  1. A good and thorough read - despite everyone talking about "playing with your favourite characters" and such, breaking the individual COs down like this really brings into perspective how strong of an opponent you are facing. Or rather, what kind of playstyle to expect.

  2. Ooookay, so my post didn't show up...

    Nonetheless, this has been an excellent read and very insightful. I knew I was on the money to choose Andy and Hawke as my main players.