For anyone who has only played against the AI of the cart games, facing human opponents can be a daunting task. This is a short guide that aims to aid the transition by explaining the gameplay basics.
To win a game of AWBW you need to be able to overpower your opponent’s army by gaining small advantages and snowball them into bigger ones. There are many ways to gain those advantages, which usually fall under one of the following categories, listed in no particular order.
- Army Value
- Unit Count
- Army Composition
- Power Bar Charge
Income and army value are very straightforward parameters, the player whose army is more expensive is more likely to have the stronger army, and income allows you to build those armies. However, that rarely tells the entire story.
Unit count is important because AW is a grid-based game where every unit takes the same amount of space. Having more units gives you more opportunities to shield your units, break the opponent’s shield, block his movement and so on. This in turn puts the opponent into situations where he has to waste his firepower on less important units (usually infantry).
Likewise, army composition can make even a less expensive army stronger if the units are more suited for the current situation. Examples would be attacking with more copters than the opponent can hit, or pushing him back with an unbreakable line of artillery because he doesn’t have enough indirect units.
Power bar charge usually tends to be more important on larger maps and with SCOP-reliant COs. One star is charged by either losing 9000G or destroying 18000G worth of units. Stars become more expensive with every power usage and you do not gain charge as long as your own power is active. This is an intrinsic disadvantage for COs who rely on 2-3 star COPs as they spend less time charging stars that become more expensive faster. It is also a disadvantage for powers that give firepower boosts as opposed to powers you can more easily fire off in the middle or at the end of your turn. For gameplay purposes, it is advantageous to either overcharge your opponents powers, and/or barely not allowing him to use his powers in a constructive manner. This is more relevant for games on bigger maps and with higher income, where powers are more frequent and games last longer.
Positioning is the tactical core of AWBW gameplay and can’t be taught by a simpleguide. In broad strokes, having a better position allows one to threaten to gain advantages in the other categories. This applies both to positioning on smaller scales (shielding your indirects, placing your units as offensively as possible, threatening potential counter formations and gaining control of heavy terrain squares) and positioning on larger scales (fighting for a central location, choosing the fronts to fight on/reinforce).
Derived from those concepts, there are a few simple tips which ensure that one does not needlessly fall behind.
Build from every factory every turn
Depending on the state of the game, unit count can be very important as even small differences can lead to large gains/losses of positioning. Thus, you maximize unit count by not leaving your factories empty. That means that you will end up with a lot of infantry, which are multipurpose for capturing, shielding and killing enemy infantry. Unit count tends to matter less once enough units are in play, so you don’t need to build from airports or seaports every turn, and it is also fine to skip an infantry to get out a key unit one turn earlier in the midgame.
Choose an efficient capture phase
Efficient capture phase just means that you go for any neutral bases as soon as possible to start producing from them immediately, and to have your earlier infantry capture multiple properties. You also have to find the correct balance between capturing backwards properties and frontline properties first, as you don’t want to have your infantry arrive too late to fight for contested properties. However, you also don’t want to capture them too early just to lose them a few turns later because your infantry units that were supposed to reinforce the front still have to capture backwards properties.
Your first non-infantry unit on a small to mid-sized map is usually a tank, as it is the best unit to fight for contested properties. Most maps are not too recon-friendly due to FTA/STA concerns, and APCs are only good if they accelerate your income enough to offset its cost while avoiding enemy tanks. This is more likely to be the case on bigger or higher income maps.
Spend your money, counter the opponent’s new units immediately
Self-evident. If your opponent builds a copter you better build that AA (or in rarer cases your own copter), you likely need to counter his first tank with your own tank, and if he techs up you need to react accordingly. Saving up is usually only relevant in later stages of the game, where you might want to invest in higher tier units to gain an advantage.
Familiarize yourself with common combat patterns
Following the above guidelines will put you in a position where you can fight your opponent on equal ground. Unfortunately, the most important and most difficult part of the game is combat math, which can’t be easily summarized. In essence, you need to cover your units (including your infantry) against attacks, make attacks that the opponent cannot punish, and also position your units as offensively as possible without giving him a favorable attack. Just hiding behind infantry is trivial, but finding the optimal formation to gain positioning is incredibly difficult. A few common attack/threat patterns are listed below.
Combat math can potentially be very complex, especially if trying to calculate several turns in advance while taking power charge, luck and potential reinforcements from other fronts into account. Fortunately, many attacks will fall under one of several common patterns, or use a combination of them. These are important to keep in mind not only to see them offensively and defensively, but also to threaten the opponent with them.
Attacks are generally free if you destroy more value than your opponent can immediately destroy in his counterattack. This usually only happens if one or several units are not covered at all. For instance, your tank/copter gets to attack an infantry with no unit being able to hit your tank/copter in response. Or less commonly, your tank gets to first strike a tank sitting on low terrain that doesn’t have backup from your opponent. These free attacks are only bad to take if you desperately need the unit elsewhere, or if it can get trapped. There are also edge-cases where you might win out in value but lose in unit count, such as sacrificing an infantry to wound a Mech on heavy terrain.
Attacks from better terrain
To avoid giving the opponents free attacks, people will cover their units. If those units are only covered by direct units (including infantry), attacking them can cause a tradeoff of units over several turns. In those cases, attacking from better terrain gives you a good advantage, assuming that you can actually keep control of the high defense tile(s).
Attacks while protecting the attacker
The above attack patterns are very basic and usually at most result in infantry harassment in higher level games. More potent attacks will enable you to attack vehicles or at least fully destroy infantry. An important example is the 2HKO from tank plus infantry onto an infantry that is on a city, and then start capturing that city with another infantry (or parking a tank on it), thus shielding your tank. Any sort of 2HKO onto a tank while only exposing yourself to one tank attack also falls under this category. Likewise, you can often use (or threaten to use) a copter to attack from difficult to access terrain, and block the path of the AA meant to counter the copter. Instead of shielding the attacker,you can also aim to take out their counter-units. A trade that would be even in value, but takes out all of the opponents AA and most of his copters will leave you with air superiority for a few turns, forcing him to either retreat and give up his counterattack or suffer a lot of free copter attacks.
Attacks with cover/backup
While you have to consider the opponent’s counterattack, you also have to take your own next turn into account. Even though attacks may not be completely free, they can still be correct if your next move will cause him far more damage. An easy way to accomplish that is to attack a unit that is covered by direct, but not indirect units and put an unreachable artillery behind your attacker. Similarly common is attacking a unit that is covered with a single B-copter, but not an Anti-Air, with a B-copter while having your own AA in range. As the opponent is unable to OHKO the B-copter (bar any CO power boosts), putting the remainder of your army into a good position is simple.
Attacks with superior reinforcements
Arguably a supertype of the above pattern, although on a larger scale. Once enough units are involved attacks often prompt a tradeoff of units over several turns. This allows you to gain an advantage if your production facilities are closer. This is often the case on maps with forward airports, where copters might reach the frontline in one turn while responding AAs need 2-3 turns. Reinforcements can also simply come from another front, which is why controlling the center from where you can reach multiple fronts is important.
Those patterns are just a simplification of attacks the players threaten and combat that actually plays out, but it is still useful to be familiar with them. There are attacks this does not cover, including many unit or CO-specific patterns. And regardless of the concepts and patterns presented here, the most important skill for AWBW is still the ability to calculate both your own and your opponent's turns. For that one needs to be familiar with damage values and possible OHKOs/ 2HKOs, which open up space for more units to attack. Being aware of common patterns is useful to have an idea of what to look out for in those calculations, but does not replace actually doing them.
Other topics that are not covered so far are the decision-making behind the choice of units to build, typical terrain dependent positioning, and much more. Hopefully this guide will be helpful for new players nonetheless.