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Old August 7th, 2000, 04:37 PM

Jeb Jeb is offline
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Default Surefire early game combat tactics

It's no secret that the AI in the demo is currently pretty weak, so there's no particular difficulty in beating up on it. I think the tactics I'm describing, however, flow from the basic structure of the game rather than problems with the AI, and are therefore interesting and, from a play balance point of view, troubling. Either tactic allows me to win virutally 100% of my battles if I use tactical combat, even when I am outnumbered.

Tactic one: missiles
No great mystery here. Just put a missile launcher (even a I will do) and always stay out of weapon range of your opponent, firing missiles whenever you get the chance. If you opponent has beams, always stay at least 4 squares away. If your opponent also has missiles, this is a little trickier, because while their launchers are re-charging, the opposing ships will run away from your missiles. However, when they are ready to fire again, they will turn around, so if you time your shots correctly they will then get hit.

Possible responses:
A savvy human opponent armed with missiles could defeat this tactic by mirroring it to keep you out of range and running away from your missiles, but then the battle would be a Mexican standoff, and boring beyond belief. (Even when it works, this tactic is pretty tedious.)

One possible fix might be to make even low-tech missiles go at speed 4, so beginning ships couldn't run away. This would make missile vs. missile battles more interesting, but would make missile ships yet more deadly vs. beam ships.

A more promising counter-measure is already in the game: point defense. The AI early in the game doesn't seem to use it, even when I've been beating them with missile ships for quite a while. A human might, however, which brings us to sure-fire tactic #2.

Tactic 2: the meson bLaster
This one has the disadvantage of requiring some research to pull off, but if you play with any kind of starting bonus it's readily available within the first few turns. The meson bLaster II has a range of 4, while the depleted uranium cannons I & II (mainstays of AI in low tech starts) and the anti-proton beam I & II (mainstays of early game AI in mid-tech starts) have a maximum range of 3. I think you can see where this is going.... Just stay 4 squares away from your opponent and destroy enemy ships with no hope of their retaliating against you.

Possible responses:
One idea is to counter with missile ships. The AI won't do this, but a human might. However, it is usually possible to run away from missiles using a triangular pattern that enables you to get in a shot every third turn or so, and point defense would also reduce the deterrent value of opposing missiles.

The other counter-measure is, again, to mirror the tactic, by building meson bLaster III-armed ships. This is OK, but it's a shame when everyone's ships are the same. It also makes weapons like the anti-proton beam and the depleted uranium cannon superfluous.

Two final points about both tactics:
1) Speed kills. Having your ships move at speed 4 makes both tactics work better, or at least be less tedious to execute. It especially helps with outrunning missiles. With beam ships, it lets you dance in and out of close range to up your to-hit percentage once you've slowed the opposing ship down to speed 2 or 1.

2) The only time these tactics may not work is in combat around a warp point, when both ships start close together, allowing your opponent to get some shots in. Even then, a lucky hit will slow the enemy ship down enough to let you get out of range and destroy it.

[This message has been edited by Jeb (edited 07 August 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Jeb (edited 07 August 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Jeb (edited 07 August 2000).]
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Old August 7th, 2000, 07:20 PM

Lerchey Lerchey is offline
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Default Re: Surefire early game combat tactics

Yes, you are correct. Combinations of greater speed and greater weapons range will always allow you to do better in tactical combat. The only real equalizer is to turn off tactical combat and let the computer AI hash out the details. This is something that I strongly recommend for multi-human-player games. Given the types of tactics described, I regulary kick the snot out of computer controlled DNs using DDs and LCs. Sadly, the computer AI, by default, does poor (IMHO) weapon selection and research.

I haven't played with it yet, but I believe that a good portion of the AI is configurable via text files. One thing I'd like to do is to set up computer races that use very specialized weapons tech. For example, it would be neat to build a race that uses only missiles and point defense. Given the range issues, they could become quite deadly despite being computer-controlled.

John
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