Monday, August 27, 2012

AWDS Match-Ups Part 7: Kindle

We now delve into the master of economic deconstruction, Kindle.

Overview
Typical for this tier, Kindle has a somewhat unusual strategy. With yet another COP-centered strategy, you will target the enemy's economy directly by hindering captures and forcing repairs. The enemy then expands slower and either has to tech down or build fewer units. When reinforcements do arrive they are stuck at 9HP unless the enemy wastes even more money on repairs. Either way their forces will be weaker, making your assaults more successful.

You'll also be using Urban Blight for a 3-part assault on property centers. First part is using the damage it causes to knock enemies off of their properties. Second part is parking on those properties, preferably in the same move, and using the firepower you gain to start beating back the enemy line. After that, park an Infantry on it and start capturing. This is most useful for capturing production facilities, but can also be used on maps like Hourglass Isle (or in a similar vain) to annihilate property choke-points and punch through.

VS Grit
As usual, an easy match-up. You don't have a good way of blasting through Grit's line immediately, but you can nip at it and build up star power to fiddle with his production. Sooner or later he'll either have a hilariously low unit count or a front line thinner than the paper you may or may not be printing these guides on. You'll take heavy losses in the meantime, but he won't gain any ground either.

VS Javier
Without towers Javier is... why am I repeating myself? He's a null CO, you're not: go kill him.

In a two tower match you still outclass him. He has a bit of defense, you have a bit of economic devastation. Just whittle down his force while whittling down his funds and sooner or later you'll be doing better than "whittling."

A four tower match is tricky as usual. If there are six tiers with 1 being the worst and 6 being the best, J2T is tier four and a half. Technically he's as strong as 5th tier Colin and Kanbei, but the 4th tier has the potential to snag a tower from him and knock him back down to tier 3. This is also what you'll be focusing on. Ideally you'd want to keep him from snagging the second tower in the first place, but the map would have to permit that. In fact beating him in the first place requires that each player's second tower be accessible to the other at all. You're already at a disadvantage, and if he gets one of your towers... well, J3T is so powerful the concept of tiers pretty much doesn't apply.

VS Lash
Lash has no appreciable firepower to threaten you with; pretty much the story of her life. Same goes for SCOP defense which, if you recall, amounts to less than what J1T would get. As such there are exactly two things she can do to counter your main tactic, one of them being jack. Fire off COP until her front line stops getting reinforced.

VS Jake
With his plains boost he's basically a more offense-geared Lash. He also has the same issue with his firepower not being that impressive. Fire off COP, strangle him until he's no longer a threat.


VS Sasha
Sasha has an easier time maintaining a triangle and doing some mid-game tech. This is made easier by delaying powers. Your strategy is the polar opposite of Sasha's, but she's just fast enough to COP before you do. Fortunately Sasha has a hard time delaying COPs more than a single day, and yours is easily powerful enough to be a SCOP instead. After the first few uses of Market Crash the power cost will have increased enough that Sasha won't be able to slow down Urban Blight too much. Sasha doesn't make quit enough money to fully offset the repair costs, and of course has no answer to free damage. Sasha doesn't take any longer to beat than other COs in this tier; she just trades power boosts for power nullification, which has about an equivalent effect.


VS Luck COs
With no meaningful difference between them and nothing at all reliable about them, you can safely approach all three of these COs much like Jake and Lash. Just strangle them until they can't keep up their unit count properly.

VS Adder and Koal
No point separating them when they're basically the same CO. Anyway, both of them will try to bum rush you with their extra movement. Unlike their more successful counterpart from the last article, these guys can't really move stuff up if you hurt their ability to buy said stuff. Nothing that isn't covered in the overview.

VS Andy
Andy has a bit of movement, a bit of firepower, and free healing. Movement we've already dealt with: he can't move it if he can't build it. For firepower, even your day-to-day property firepower is higher, and it will always be there when you get to tough center zones you need to crack. As for healing: it's a problem for weakening his line, but the funding drain combined with the firepower disparity makes it a non-issue.

VS Grimm
Man oh man have I been looking forward to this one, mainly because of this debate. Instead of my usual guide I'm going to build off of the overview and show why Bronze's argument managed to get so off course.

It's simple to see where Bronze's argument goes wrong: even though he manages to name all of Kindle's main strengths, his argument is based on Kindle's firepower and, by extension, her SCOP. I didn't bother mentioning her SCOP before because it's next to useless compared to her COP. At +3 points of firepower per property you need at least 17 properties to even equal Grimm's COP firepower (after the default boost). Sure, you gain a shit-ton of firepower on properties, but you already get that on COP. By the time this would even be useful, which is towards the end of the game, COP would still be more useful still as a means of beating Grimm's tech base down to soldier level and knocking units off of his last bases for capturing, assuming your opponent doesn't say "good game" long before that.

Biggabertha recognized the flaw in this logic and pounced on it, making the point that if Kindle is played for firepower, Grimm totally out-classes her. (Incidentally demonstrating the whole point of these articles, which is to help you avoid these pitfalls.) Played for firepower Kindle has the same problems as Jake and Lash: her bonus is too situational. This is why Urban Blight, not High Society, is what you must use to beat Grimm: you can't use properties for firepower if you can't knock enemies off in the first place.

By beating down his tech base and ravaging him from his own properties rather than trying to beat him at his own game, Grimm is easy enough to defeat. He'll put the hurt on you toward the beginning, but the funding drain means that Grimm won't have the late-game staying power to compete.

VS Max
Many of the points about Grimm also apply to Max. While there's no weakness to capitalize on, Max won't put on the hurt to quite the same degree as Grimm on a day-to-day basis The strategy is the same: drain his economy until his front line starts to crumble, then pounce.

VS Jess
She's a combination of movement and firepower, and has the same problems as both CO types against Kindle. There's no point to movement or firepower if you don't have the economy to sustain an equal tech level. Jess will be dangerous in the early game, but as more power exchanges are made you'll weaken her economy enough to just out-tech her.

Maybe I should elaborate. In an even property match-up you're not exactly going to beat someone down a whole tech level below you. What you're mostly ruining at first is their ability to maintain a triangle. By ruining their triangle you can go in and snag a property, and that's when the tech and unit count advantages really start to peek through.

VS Sonja
Sonja relies on your unwillingness to attack her during SCOP. As long as you don't do any same-unit or worse attacks you'll mostly be fine. Meanwhile, wear down her fund base like you do with any other CO.

VS Drake
We're in your tier finally. Drake does the same financial damage you do, hurts your front line, and hides his guys. You inflict your damage about twice as fast, though. Ultimately this will come down to you collapsing Drake's economy before he can wear down the overall health and unit count of your front line. When there are no more neutrals and you take a property lead, it's fairly downhill from there.

VS Hawke
Similar to Drake, but the secondary threat is repairs. Since Hawke repairs units for free he won't have to combine damaged units for health and funds in response to the 3HP damage you deal, and of course it makes his front line self-sustaining to a degree. However, you are nearly guaranteed to get a 2-to-1 ratio on power usages for the first two or three rounds of power exchange, so he'll only nullify every second COP. Cost increase will slow you down, but if the match actually lasts long enough for you to pass ten uses then this is only a temporary problem.

Oh, and of course you need to be careful of his firepower. It's no much on paper, but combined with mass damage and healing it's a real pain in the ass to deal with. You're pitting your passive attrition against his aggressive attrition, and while evenly matched it is not fun.

VS Olaf
While Olaf may be a tad more powerful than Hawke, he is at least less aggravating to fight. It's firepower and mass damage. Nothing you don't already know how to handle. Olaf doesn't do attrition at all, and is a pure aggression CO. The entire point of your strategy is countering aggression. Just destroy his economy before Winter Fury destroys yours.

VS Von Bolt
I'm going to say this right now, Von Bolt is not fun to fight no matter who you play as. It's amazing how much   110/110 stats screws around with match-ups when your own CO is mostly bland. Your biggest difficulty with fighting Von Bolt will be gaining ground. Von Bolt resists your attacks, hurts you as much as Hawke does, and when he hits SCOP he hits hard. It's imperative that you not clump your units when Ex Machina is about to hit or else you're giving Von Bolt two free moves to just bull through your force. If he does that, you're done.

As long as you can dodge the blast, your only real challenge is punching through his defense. There are two ways to reduce a triangle: not needing AAs, and being forced to build many AAs. A Tank/AA build is weaker since those units take up the same production slot. Force Von Bolt into a Tank/AA build by attacking with a Tank/Copter build. Do not build AAs yourself, just wreck his economy until he must gear down. Once he does that, punish him.

VS Rachel
On paper she should be similar to Von Bolt, but Rachel goes much more for offense than that CO. She's about as bland as you are day-to-day, but her SCOP is cheaper than Vonny's and she gets three missiles from it. You won't get paralyzed by this, but at least one front will get reduced to 4HP, and some units may get down to 1. Since it happens so often, you can't really spread out every single time this power hits since all you'd be doing is trading a damaged front line for a non-existent one. Another thing in her favor is that your COP really only fires off 1.5x more often than hers. The good news is that Rachel fully heals from your COP. That may sound bad for you, but it really means that her funding base gets hit harder than normal. As such, unit counts will be just about even, and you'll generally have an easier time maintaining a triangle. Force her into a Tank/AA build and punish her.

VS Kindle
As with any versus match, you must follow the philosophy of "do unto others first." If your opponent is dumb enough to play Kindle for firepower rather than economy damage, educate him.

VS Eagle
We sort of covered this last post. Eagle has a COP-centered tactic similar to yourself. This entire match is going to be defined by who gets COP first. If you get it first, the order of use will always favor you. You will be able to wreck Eagle's economy before he can empty his bases. This robs Eagle of the necessary funds to do his usual build, so he must sacrifice what is easily his greatest strength. If he does it first, your greatest strength is basically useless except to slow down captures. So you can see it's important that you get the first use.

VS Sami
This is an extremely tough match. Your COP won't do much to slow down captures on its own, since even at 7HP Sami's soldiers can continue moving from city to city capturing in two turns. The biggest godsend you can give yourself is hurting her Copter production: the way they complement her Mechs is easily Sami's biggest strength on the offensive. If Sami must choose between Mechs and Copters, she has to go with Mechs for her SCOP to do anything. When your own Copter assault begins, Sami has to tech up, and in doing so nullify her SCOP anyway. This is the strategy you must pursue in order to defeat her. While it may sound easier by my description, Sami's build is very formidable and you can easily start losing properties if you're not careful.

VS Kanbei
As usual, force ranks are necessary. You know the set: Gold Rush, Sale Price, Fire Sale, Combat Pay. You'll play as somewhat of a hybrid of your own strategy and that of Colin. Since Kanbei's expansion is slower and yours is marginally faster, particularly on a T-Copter map, it's entirely possible that you'll take all the center bases before Kanbei even finishes his natural expansions. Unfortunately, if numbers were all it took to take Kanbei down this would be an easy match. Even from a bad position, Kanbei's near-invulnerability on SCOP gives him a free move to not lose any units, capture whatever he wants, and generally block you off from making any progress yourself. You probably think dealing and compounding damage with Urban Blight would help, but even at 4HP Kanbei's SCOP counterattacks can lay on the pain while maybe taking 1HP of damage himself in a same-unit fight. You can also forget about slowing down any captures, since the defense from properties combined with Samurai Spirit brings those units to just a hair under being invincible.

Tech up, out-produce him, bring the hammer down with COP, and pray to God you beat him down before he gets to the center.

VS Colin
This is as difficult as Kanbei for different reasons; use the same skill set, by the way. Colin expands as fast as you do and techs up a whole heck of a lot faster. You can even the odds a bit with Urban Blight, but if Colin gets comfortable enough to start using Power of Money you're basically done. Follow the old saying: do unto others first.

VS Hachi and Sensei
No point separating them, as you can't beat either one even with force ranks. You can't get the tech to compete with Sensei's numbers even if you use Soul of Hachi, nor can you get the tech to compete with Hachi's, er, tech. This is actually true for all of the 4th tier: for whatever reason capturing, double moves, and mass damage are just really shitty at complementing the force ranks needed for this tier.

Final Notes
Kindle demonstrates the need for maintaining a strong economy in this game. If you have trouble building units, or need to choose between using many damaged reinforcements and a few joined ones, your opponent can just walk all over you with a normal build even if it's relatively bland. The only COs who counter this are the ones who have better economies to begin with.

Next up is Rachel, where we'll be examining the effects of missile damage in depth.

Monday, August 20, 2012

AWDS Match-Ups Part 6: Eagle

We now get a strategy of persistence from a very persistent CO: Eagle.

Overview
With Eagle we're back to working around your standard triangle. As Eagle you have a bland land front, a strong airforce that conserves its fuel, and a marginally weaker navy. Since navy is fairly rock-paper-scissors-ish to begin with, for all intents and purposes you lack a weakness. There are also plenty of COs with your strength, sans fuel conservation, so you're not too unique on that front either. Your real strength comes from your CO powers.

Unlike most COs you will not be using SCOP much, if at all. All it does is occasionally give you a second move for non-soldiers with the default boost, with at least four or five turns between uses. Instead you will focus on Lightning Drive, which cuts firepower (but not defense) in half before adding in the default boost, making it a lot more powerful than it has any business being for 3 stars. Multiple moves is a bit like spam without actually spamming anything: You get a single unit to do the work of two. Well, one and a half and you still have counterattack damage from the previous move slowing you down. Point is, you're hurting your opponent more than the other way around, and you're bringing your reinforcements up twice as fast during this time.

There is a little mini-tactic you can also employ to speed up the reinforcement process: When you're ready to fire off COP, don't buy any Infantry. Buy them after you've moved your vehicles off of your forward bases.

VS Grit
One thing you may have noticed by now (if you're actually playing these match-ups) is that it's pretty easy for Grit to take a unit count advantage. Unit count isn't really the issue for him due to the cheap build: it's his ability to gain ground. He loses it faster than he gains it, and Eagle's fight with him is no exception.

Your main method of dismantling Grit's force involves throwing units at the wall with reckless abandon. This assault should start with Recons and gradually progress toward Tanks and Copters with the occasional Md Tank. The goal is to charge your meter as quickly as possible. You generally will not hit the Artillery at first, and Grit may produce Copters and AAs occasionally, significantly reducing your unit count. But without Recons and Tanks to gain ground, Grit will almost never progress beyond his established line, giving you plenty of opportunities to bum-rush his units. You'll charge Lightning Drive every second or third turn, and each time you use it is an additional shot you take at Grit's line. Every time you punch through and destroy an Artillery, Grit must pull back a space or two and consolidate.

Your front line will mostly not consist of soldiers, so each time you push Grit back it's easy to start taking funding advantages. Because of the sheer force of your units slamming Grit's line with these double moves, you can afford to tech up every now and then in order to do more damage. Even though they'll probably be destroyed by the Artillery very quickly, a single Md Tank can blast an Artillery and damage another with the help of Lightning Drive and force Grit to consolidate even more than normal. Taking even one of Grit's forward bases marks the end of the game since at this point you'll be able to easily keep unit parity with him; since you can can Grit's ass with a smaller force, no further guide is necessary.

VS Javier
Without towers, Javier is in a similar plight to Grit when fighting Eagle. While neither you nor Javier gain appreciable firepower or defense, you consistently gain additional moves while Javier does not. So while Javier pursues a similar unit build to yourself, your build receives the benefit of attacking twice, moving reinforcements sooner, and making room for more of your regular reinforcements to be built on forward production facilities. Javier must be content with the occasional 110/110 stat boost and an even distribution of reinforcements arriving in a normal amount of time, which is to say all but those units on forward bases are arriving more than twice as slowly as yours. It doesn't take much to push him back as such.

Since some may find it relevant, I will touch on odd-numbered tower matches for once. In a 1 tower match, with the tower presumably in the center of the map, it's a race to get the firepower (and for Javier, defense) boost. Javier cannot get here faster than you can, and once the fighting starts you still totally out-class him and will have no trouble seizing the tower. This is why I typically skip this and the 3 tower match.

In a two tower match you face J1T. This time he has appreciable firepower and defense that you must overcome, but neither is match-up changing. Meanwhile, you possess the same offense as he does day-to-day, and your units are somewhat stronger during Lightning Drive since the offense cut is calculated prior to other boosts. As such, you maintain the ability to mercilessly pound on Javier's forces with COP, perhaps scaling back during his SCOP due to the defense discrepancy. (It adds up to a 70 point difference with your Tanks doing 23% damage to his with your COP against his SCOP.) Whether you do or don't, you'll still find it easy to push him back until the funding difference gives you a tech advantage that makes this cease to matter.

In a four tower match, force ranks may become necessary at your discretion. As with any other J2T match, it comes down to who captures the other's tower first. (This is why even though J2T's stats are comparable to Kanbei's he can still be defeated by lower tiers, hence why I never list Javier with towers as a separate entry on the tier list. His status at each tier is too unstable to effectively classify.) This fight is tremendously difficult since J2T gains a free turn with each SCOP, but with you slamming him day-to-day it is possible to snag a tower first. At that point the match reverts to a J1T match.

VS Lash
As I have explained previously, Lash only occasionally gains appreciable defense and never gains appreciable firepower. Even when she hits SCOP, you are still more than capable of taking her forces apart by repeatedly hitting COP. Rush forward, blast her before her reinforcements arrive, and push her off of her natural expansions. Again, speed allows you to be a poor man's spammer: unlike every other CO in the game, the vast majority of your units are on the front line fighting, meaning you can have a significantly lower unit count and continue putting up a decent fight. Push your advantages, and Lash crumbles quickly.

VS Jake
Jake produces better, more consistent firepower than Lash, but that's it. While generalists have an advantage over other COs, Jake tries to be a generalist in his powers as well, and this lack of focus lets COs like yourself to tear him apart with relative ease. Rush forward, blast him, and push him back.


VS Sasha
Sasha has two advantages: better maintenance of a tech triangle, and slowing down of CO powers. Your COP is 3 stars and comes at the end of the turn. It cannot be slowed down. Your units are all are the front anyway, so you can afford to tech up and have a lower unit count. You completely nullify both of Sasha's advantages by existing. Rush, blast, push back.


VS Luck COs
As usual, these COs will randomly devastate your front line or leave it relatively unscathed. You will always and more frequently destroy their front line. Why do I use "devastate" for the luck COs and "destroy" for Eagle? Because, again, 75% of your units are concentrated at the front while that number is 50% or less for every other CO in the game, not to mention yours can attack twice. Rush, blast, push back.

VS Adder
While Jake was technically your first encounter with movement, Adder is your first encounter with it as a focus. Adder can move every unit, including soldiers, significantly faster than most other COs. Now you may not affect soldiers at all, but your vehicles are so much faster than Adder's that the point is moot. Your forces are balanced with vehicles saturating the front with soldiers bringing up the rear: unless you're hauling them up with T-Copters, Eagles soldiers will hardly ever be on the front lines. This is why soldier movement for Adder doesn't matter, because his soldiers will be competing with vehicles rather than other soldiers. Rush, blast, push back.

VS Koal
Similar to Adder except for the firepower. Regardless, every fact I laid out for Adder applies here: Koal is fast, you're faster. Your force balance is so drastically different that his boost to soldiers just doesn't matter. Rush, blast, push back.

VS Andy
Andy is a little faster, has consistent firepower, and he can heal his units. Problem: you have double attacks and a better concentration of vehicles. Andy can't heal often enough to keep you from killing units, and you can continue killing units even when he does heal. Whatever units you have can and will rush forward, blast him, and push him back until he has nowhere left to fall back to.

VS Grimm
With his firepower, Grimm can destroy your units as much as you can destroy his. The problem, of course, still comes down to positioning: more than half of your units are up front, and more than half of his are not. It's a perfect example of why Eagle can do what he does: even with a lower unit count, you only have to destroy the units at the front to keep moving forward. The enemy cannot move forward because the majority of the front line must be destroyed, which in Eagle's case would be the majority of your units on the battlefield.

I have in the past mentioned Grimm's advantage with soldiers. Like the movement COs, this matters little against you as Grimm's soldiers will not often interact with your own. Grimm is also not helped by his low defense, which helps to alleviate the firepower cut you receive under COP. Rush, blast, push back.

VS Max
Similar to Grimm without the useless (against you) advantage and no weakness. Max lacks some of Grimm's firepower day-to-day, and still has no answer to your concentration of units. Firepower boosts are insufficient to stop an opponent who can hit you twice (firepower) and continue moving to the point of pushing you back faster than you can answer.

VS Jess
I've already explained why firepower is insufficient: it can't handle the unit concentration. I've explained why movement is insufficient: Jess is fast, you're faster. Jess has firepower and movement, and not even the two of them together overcome your total advantage.

VS Sonja
The main advantage your opponent has here is one of defense. Sonja can take any match-up of the same unit or more favorable and receive the first strike on SCOP. Her SCOP comes shortly after your COP, and the two will probably never interact. So while you partially lose a turn, you make it up every time you fire off COP. Sonja still does nothing to prevent the first round, and subsequent rounds consist of you trading blows with her and making up the turn she steals from you.

VS Drake
We're in your tier now. Drake will not hit you as often as the other way around, but mass damage will hit you hard. He can't hurt you like he can other COs if you've just used Lightning Drive, since any units that are still on bases are probably soldiers. A skilled Drake player will be aware of this, though, and he'll try to BS his way into his first SCOP before you can light off your second COP. If he manages this he will cripple your front line, but it also opens the door for you to pull off COP twice in a row.

This is where unit management becomes important. You see, Eagle may not be able to move rear-line Infantry up faster, but he can produce them on the front line. In fact you can leave bases open once you finish buying vehicles every single turn if you want to, because building forward Infantry on Lightning Drive takes about as long as hauling them up from the back anyway on larger maps. This goes a long way toward reducing your vulnerability to Typhoon, and lets you maintain as powerful of a front line as possible while you work to drive Drake back.

VS Hawke
The nice thing about this match-up is that you can usually get off two COPs before Black Storm. Unfortunately, while Hawke's SCOP may come slightly later its affects stacked up with his day-to-day means he hits hard. The tricks you used against Drake are even more important against Hawke, and like Andy you'll want to try and ensure kills so that damaged and near-death units don't start reanimating. You both rely on a strategy of making fewer units go farther, so make sure you manage your units well enough to keep your quantity and quality better than his.

VS Olaf
As usual, this match-up is your biggest worry. He doesn't heal his units, but his bar is as long as Drake's and he hits even harder for longer than Hawke. Your strategy is the same, but the threats are different. Don't agonize over kills if you can do more damage by attacking the whole front, as this will hurt Olaf's ability to exploit Winter Fury much more in the long run. When dismantling his triangle, attack the Tanks first. You can kill his Copters with your own easily enough, so you'll have more Tanks to deal with Olaf's AAs. As stated earlier, you have an easier time maintaining your Tank and Copter force than he does since you can afford to skip rear-line Infantry on large maps.

On the subject of Infantry skipping on large maps, I wouldn't recommend skipping mid-line Infantry. While rear-line skipping lets you maintain a better front, if you skip all of your Infantry all the time you aren't going to have enough of them to secure captures and wall up.

VS Von Bolt
This match-up presents two major problems: Von Bolt's defense and unit freezing. It doesn't seem like much, but these two combined let him play the slow and steady game against you. You'll want to do a little less of the Infantry skipping this time, as the large mass of triangle units you produce are just asking to get wiped out by Ex Machina. You'll get two COPs off before the first Ex Machina, and you should use them to eliminate enemy Tanks. Done correctly, Von Bolt's ability to tear you a new one come Ex Machina will be somewhat reduced, and you'll survive its usage. Keep up the pattern and you'll eventually push Von Bolt out of the center, and it will be downhill from there.

VS Rachel
Like Von Bolt, but she trades power and freezing for bringing more pain more frequently. Use your normal forward build since there's no freezing to worry about; you can deal with pain at least. There's no defense to worry about, so Lightning Drive will have its normal effectiveness. Get mixed in with Rachel's forces as much as possible to confuse the missiles and redirect them; done correctly you'll walk right through her. Done incorrectly, she'll walk right through you, so don't slouch!

VS Kindle
Unlike the other mass damage COs, Kindle cannot destroy your front line. Unlike the others, she is COP-dependent like you and fires off just as often. As such your production strategy has the potential to backfire if she tries to BS her way into firing off first. This match is going to come down to who can fire off first the most often: if you manage it, she'll only damage Infantry; if she manages it, you're going to lose a lot of funds very quickly.

VS Eagle
The vs self match again. This is very similar to the Kindle match in that it comes down to which one of you can fire off first more often. Remember that the enemy Eagle player has the same unit balance you do, so unlike every other CO in the game you will be fighting a force that is concentrated toward the front. Whoever breaks through first wins.

VS Sami
While you rush vehicles to the front, Sami rushes souped-up Mechs in equal quantities. As stated in the previous post, expect a Copter rush to accompany this. Don't waste any money on AAs; if you attack a Copter with your own and attack again on COP you'll kill it in one turn. You'll get in at least two COPs before Sami lights off Victory March, so use that time to blast her back and away from your stuff. If you survive the first Victory March you've pretty much got this in the bag; if not, continue until you manage it or until Sami kills you.

VS Kanbei
You need the money forces, Combat Pay included, to have any hope of winning this. Produce T-Copters and Infantry as fast as you can and pray to God you out-expand Kanbei enough to withstand Samurai Spirit. Use the money from Combat Pay to buy extra units on your Lightning Drive turns and do some poor man's spam. The goal is to do as much damage as possible between Samurai Spirit uses and minimize the damage Kanbei can do with it.

VS Colin
Use the same forces as with Kanbei. Despite the advantages you gain, Colin can still tech up faster than you, so your ability to smack him around on Lightning Drive is still very important. Gather up as many funds as possible and spam during extra turns.

VS Sensei
Soul of Hachi can't help you in this tier because your SCOP is too specialized to make good use of it, so you're stuck with the money forces. With the minor spam you pull during COP combined with the double attacks, you should be able to pull off a near-even unit count. The biggest problem is Sensei's early expansion which we covered in his article. You're no Hachi, and if you can't bust through this quickly enough you're pretty much done.

VS Hachi
Not possible. Even with forces giving you spam and extra moves, you don't have a good counter to half-price Black Bombs and Megatanks.

Final Notes
While not as specialized as Sami, Eagle is very much a one-trick pony. While it's a hell of a trick, it has some disadvantages within his own tier and prevents him from using certain forces to their full potential higher up. The unique balance of units he brings to the board and the poor man's spam he can pull serves as an example of what a balanced version of spam could look like if Intelligent Systems just beta-tested better based on community reviews of the past games.

Coming up next is Kindle, the first in a series of six articles in which we cover the effects of mass damage far more in-depth than we have so far.

Friday, August 10, 2012

AWDS Match-Ups Part 5: Sami

We now move to the 3rd tier, where we will be staying for the next eight posts. We begin with the first of 5 COs focusing on a strangulation strategy: Sami.

Overview
Sami has a unique build compared to other COs. On a typical map, your focus will be on filling as many bases as possible with Mechs, the rest with Infantry, and purchasing B-Copters when possible. Mechs will comprise the backbone of your force, generally being produced at forward bases to remove as much need to build T-Copters as possible. You will use their improved firepower to cost-effectively deal with Tanks and AAs; also use their capture rate, sturdiness, and powerful counterattack for better forward captures. Since a full-health Mech needs to be brought down to 3HP to prevent a capture.

Your Copters are weaker than normal and have less firepower than your Mechs, but will be difficult for your opponent to counter without Fighters. You will mainly use them for first-strike capability against Tanks, the Copter taking minimal damage while the Mechs finish the kill undamaged. They are also your counter against enemy Copters, which you should be able to mob due to a generally cheaper build.

As with other COs, Infantry will bring up the rear and act as your primary walls and capturers. Their true benefit comes during SCOP, when you will want to use your Mechs' firepower to punch holes for as many capturing units as possible. The range of Infantry will make it easier for them to dart through these holes and snag cities, and if possible bases and airports. It doesn't matter if they die or not, because the whole point of this is fund deprivation rather than gaining ground. It will take at least two turns for your opponent to regain the lost properties, and you gain at their expense for all but the last one.

VS Grit
Similar to Sensei, your ability to take apart Grit is based on having a soldier-based build. Your Mechs will easily rip through any wall units he produces while Copters attack the Artillery. Even if Grit tries to counter, you still massively outclass him, as he's the only CO in the game with weaker Directs than you, and your build is already intended to counter that.

VS Javier
In a no-tower match you don't have anything to worry about. While his units aren't as weak as Grit's, he has no units that can potentially one-shot your Mechs either. Just tear through him.

In a two-tower match, J1T's defense will prove to be a minor annoyance for you, but in such a match you get a tower yourself and won't have too much trouble overcoming this. It also comes with the added benefit of your Copters coming up to normal strength, and above that once you take Javier's tower.

In a four-tower match Javier is probably the better CO, and force ranks may be required at your discretion. You still maintain an advantage during SCOP, and you don't come into this match all that underpowered (compared to the Kanbei match-up, for example). All it takes is one SCOP with well-placed units to snag a tower and drop Javier down two whole tiers while having overwhelming force yourself. If the opposite happens then you're done, unless you decided to equip some forces.

VS Lash
I've already explained in detail why Lash's SCOP defense isn't a threat, so I won't repeat myself here. The long-short of it is that she can't do appreciable damage even on SCOP, nor can she sufficiently defend herself. She's like a more sporadic Javier for your purposes, so treat her as such.

VS Jake
I've explained before that Jake's lack of focus is his main problem. He's better than Grit, but weaker than a straight Direct CO. Nothing you can't handle. Send in the Mechs, hog the plains, capture his stuff. Simple.


VS Sasha
Just so I don't exaggerate unintentionally, let me lay out exactly what Sasha's advantage is in plain English: She can get more capturing Infantry out quicker on T-Copter maps, she can start a triangle sooner, and she can maintain it more easily. She accomplishes this partly through her day-to-day, and partly through the money she gains during SCOP. Occasionally a Sasha player might gear down to COP in a bid to delay your SCOP.

You pretty much have nothing to worry about from Sasha's strategy, though. Even if Victory March gets delayed, it won't be for more than two turns. In the meantime, you have a build that benefits from being cheap to maintain, and is already geared toward dismantling Sasha's build. Sasha may have an easier time producing counters, but rarely does she actually tech up as a result. You may face more Copters than normal, but that's about the extent of what you'll worry about against her. In the absolute worst case scenario, saving for a Fighter shouldn't be hard for you to do.


VS Luck COs
The main advantage of the luck COs is basically useless against Sami, since luck is most useful using lower tech units against more powerful ones. Your Mechs will potentially get torn apart a bit more by Tanks, but that's about it. You're still at a massive monetary advantage, so your Copters will pick up the slack.

VS Adder
He can match your soldier movement on SCOP and bring up reinforcements faster in general. The concentration of units makes your version of strangulation a bit tougher at times, but not so tough that you can't do it. The best way to deal with movement is simple containment, especially since Adder has no firepower to blast open chokepoints. Cap those off and flood units in to blow him apart and capture some stuff.

VS Koal
Very similar to fighting Adder, as you'd expect, but it is possible for him to break roadside chokepoints. You'll have to approach him more conventionally as such, attacking him head-on and trying to punch holes. His units will be more concentrated toward the front, but since it's not true spam every unit you kill is still an advantage in unit count for you.

VS Andy
Less movement, a bit of firepower, but that healing has him equipped for attrition. Fortunately your strategy of punching through the line already takes attrition into account, so punch through and strangle his resources.

VS Grimm
The only CO where your Copters will do better than normal damage. In combat terms you're about evenly matched on the ground, with your primary advantage being economic in nature. The problem with Grimm is that his Copters can cut yours down under either power, though it will mostly just even the odds. While Grimm can destroy your units under SCOP, your Mechs can do the same to him and to a greater degree. We're talking Mechs doing 125% damage to Tanks on roads, which translates into one-shotting them on everything short of cities, though even that can be accomplished with a luck roll. That means an awful lot of holes in his line for you to run through and capture stuff, which is more important in the long run.

I will mention that his Tanks are slightly more powerful than your Mechs on his own SCOP, but as I said earlier the economics are very much in your favor here, so it doesn't matter. You'll always be able to tear him to pieces no matter what.

VS Max
This is slightly tougher, but not overly so. Max is less of a threat day-to-day, but doesn't have a real weakness to exploit. You have the same problem with SCOP as you did with Grimm, but you can't destroy him on forests with one shot on SCOP. All this means is that away from roads you'll have to two-shot any full health Tanks that are in the way of your capture squads. Max is still inferior economically to you, and your airborne advantage is still present thanks to this.

VS Jess
Jess is a bigger threat on the ground than the previous two since she combines vehicle movement with enough SCOP firepower to one-shot your Mechs in most cases. Her Copters are as weak as yours, and you're quite capable of out-numbering them if necessary. Maintain an air advantage and use the Copters to help minimize the land-based threat.

VS Sonja
This match-up is frustrating, but not hard. Sonja's SCOP will always fire off during your day-to-day, period. You'll waste a turn as a result, but it won't interfere with Victory March. Since she can't actually do anything about Victory March, you'll be able to walk all over her and strangle her economy without resistance.

VS Drake
This is where the auto-win threshold stops, as we are now in your tier. Like most COs in this tier, Drake is aiming for a similar goal to yourself: strangulation. You can expect to start feeling the effects the moment mass damage hits, losing money to repairs and maintaining parity only by virtue of a more cost-effective build. You'll be lucky if you can see a single damned thing during Drake's SCOP, so you'll usually want to wait until after it wears off to fire your own. Your day-to-day capturing isn't affected much by the mass damage, and your SCOP capturing isn't affected at all. When you do punch holes you'll find the main difference between yours and Drake's versions of strangulation: his is more convenient, but yours lasts longer and is potentially permanent. Eventually you can drag him down to your level and beat him with superior units.

VS Hawke
Similar problems to what you encounter with Drake, except his SCOP doesn't blind you. You can fire off before he does depending on how the Infantry shenanigans play out, making the point somewhat moot. Things to worry about include slight resilience to attrition thanks to mass healing, and the little bit of firepower he gains on top of the mass damage. As with the Drake match-up, his strangulation strategy is focused more on convenience and repetition, while yours relies more on lasting effects and temporary gains. When you do get funding advantages you should try to tech up your airforce and help the Mechs deal more damage. Drag him down to your level. If he establishes a triangle and forces you to tech up, you'll be in trouble.

VS Olaf
Of this particular trio, Olaf is definitely the most threatening. This is because the mass damage combined with firepower -and particularly because his SCOP fires off first- deal enough damage to your units and economy that it can potentially hurt your build; you're not a spam CO, so your unit count still matters. On the other hand, you and Olaf have polar opposite goals: he wants to force opponents to tech down, while you want to stay teched down. Another way you can try and stay ahead is your airforce, which you should have an easier time affording anyway due to your low-cost land force. Once again this match is going to come down to whether Olaf's constantly hammering you with short-term economic damage or your constant attempts at long-term damage will win the day.

VS Von Bolt
Now that we're in his tier, ol' Vonny is really painful to fight. Your SCOP should come first, theoretically, but Von Bolt might try an ass-pull to fire off his first instead; and if he changes the order of use like that, you're in trouble for the rest of the game. The trouble is that while damage won't affect your instant capture ability, freezing will. On the other hand, Von Bolt has taken a swing back from strangulation to force annihilation. His day-to-day defense is a slight problem, but you'll still do better than normal damage. Pick off any unit far enough forward to surround and mob to make it easier to punch holes once SCOP comes. As long as you fire off before Von Bolt does, worst case scenario is you end up with your units inter-mingled in his force, thus limiting the damage Ex Machina will do.

VS Rachel
Easier in some ways and harder in others compared to Von Bolt. You are vastly superior in a day-to-day sense, as Rachel is basically bland. On the other hand, her SCOP comes sooner and she doesn't need to time it at all, so your units will get pretty devastated now and then. As long as you stay in the thick of fighting your front line won't be affected too much, and as usual pure damage doesn't actually affect SCOP at all, so you'll still have reserves for when it's time to light off yourself. As long as not more than two missiles land on the same spot, back-tracking captures won't be affected except for a slight funding drain once they finish capturing. Once you've taken an economic advantage, it will be downhill from there.

VS Kindle
Jumping back into a very specific form of wave damage. Kindle is, again, easier to deal with in some ways and harder in others. On the one hand, she can neither devastate your front nor hurt your captures too much. On the other hand, the frequent money drain will hurt your ability to spam Copters a lot. Kindle is also a real demon at holding her properties, particularly on COP when she's basically Max on SCOP while sitting on them, not to mention she has a fairly easy time of it knocking you off of them. You will need to place some more importance on holding your captures after SCOP to balance out the economic damage and ultimately keep her from wrestling control of the air from you.

VS Eagle
Eagle is like a massively exaggerated movement CO with elements of spam. With the exception of soldiers, he can move up produced units in the same turn, and everything else can move and attack you twice. If you're not smart about eliminating vehicles he can overwhelm you quickly. That being said, I've already told you what to prioritize: vehicles. Since they're so much faster than his soldiers he usually won't wall up to any great degree. He definitely won't try hit-and-run due to the price disparity of your main units making such a tactic inefficient. The more vehicles you kill, the easier it will be to punch through with SCOP when the time comes. Do note that Eagle mostly relies on Lightning Drive for speed, so you can at least expect the second attack to be much weaker.

The biggest threat here is to your air dominance. While two of your Copters can mob one of Eagle's, Eagle can do the same with a single Copter anytime his COP comes up; a one-man-mob, if you will. This will cease to be as big of a problem when you get your SCOP captures underway, but in the meantime these same Copters can annihilate your Mechs if left unchecked, so be mindful.

VS Sami
As with any vs self match, the best advise I can give has pretty much been given in the overview. You already know your opponent's best tactics, and theoretically they know yours as well. Just keep throwing crap at each other until one of you blinks.

Before I get to Kanbei I'd like to quickly explain the purpose behind including upper-tier COs and mentioning force ranks. There are enough forces and force combinations in this game, particularly with the presence of Tags, that you could almost devote a hundred page strategy guide to them and still not cover everything. Covering forces this way is as close as I care to get to actually doing that, and will also drive home the point concerning which ones are the most overpowered.

VS Kanbei
It's a bit difficult picking forces for this match. The only thing that can really overcome defense without going up a tier is tech, but Sami really doesn't like teching up. As long as air units are in the equation, then this is an easier decision. Take Gold Rush, Sale Price, and Fire Sale for sure. Take Combat Pay if you are fairly confident that you can out-expand Kanbei, as this will help with getting Bombers later; if you're not so confident and the map allows for T-Copter rushes, take APC Boost instead.

Whatever you pick, it's going to be a major slug-fest until you can finally get some Bombers out. You can compete with Kanbei day-to-day to an extent and even expand faster early on, but his SCOP fires off right about when you want to use your own. You can't expect to punch through that and do your own thing, forcing you to wait. If you have any Bombers and he has any AAs, you have to pull back as well. This is where Combat Pay becomes your friend, since you need to deal as much damage as possible for money even if you can already get Bombers, because you still need to get your Mechs. Get them out as fast as you can afford them until you can punch through and grab some of his stuff on SCOP. It's not downhill exactly once you gain a property advantage, but it's enough to let you slog through the rest of the match.

VS Colin
The only thing that can compete with tech is either defense or more tech. You don't have defense, so tech it shall have to be. Use the Combat Pay build just as you did with Kanbei. Fortunately with this match AAs go back to being a minor nuisance. Less fortunate is that Colin may decide to go after your Bombers with a Fighter, so you may end up needing one or two of those yourself; for once, it's an even match in firepower terms. This isn't as hard as it sounds since Colin still has a more expensive land build, allowing you to concentrate on the air more than he does in spite of this, but it will distract you from Bomber construction. You will have to take a fairly hefty property advantage to out-fund Colin, but once done you'll rob him of his only advantage and have a downhill match from there.

VS Sensei
The only counter to spam this frequent is a tech spam. On the ground. Which you massively suck at doing. I hate to say it, but no combination of forces is going to win you this match. Sorry, but that's the truth of the matter. Sami without a Tag partner is an auto-lose against Sensei, period.

VS Hachi
Nor can you win this match-up, I'm afraid to say, no matter what forces you throw at it. Sami's SCOP is just too damned specialized to pursue the necessary strategy. Even with money skills and Soul of Hachi, your only ace in the hole is a Bomber. And guess what? Hachi can counter those for 10k, and he doesn't even need SCOP to do it if he doesn't feel like waiting that long. As for Mechs, he has Megatanks and Md Tanks on the cheap, and he spams them. Worst case scenario he's quite capable of AA spam, making your built-in AA counter moot.

Final Notes
Sami is a very interesting CO to play as. As you probably gathered from those last two tiers, though, she's specialized almost to a fault. She's a good example of why the top COs tend to be the generalists: in a turn-based strategy, adaptable factions are always better. Sami's particular specialty helps her avoid turning into another Grit, but you get much above her own tier and she has the same problem: she lacks a good way to change strategies when higher tiers and force ranks require it. But within her tier she's good enough to compete, and below that she just dominates. Most COs lack a good way to counter her form of strangulation once she starts, a quite a few can't stop her from doing it just because of that unlikely air advantage.

Up next is Eagle, where we'll finally start getting into some more conventional tactics.