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Advance Wars By Web has been around for many years and was built with a competitive player vs. player focus in mind. Inevitably, this has lead to the evolution of a well-developed metagame, ranging not just from the chosen COs and units but also the game settings and even its map design too.

Game Settings

The game settings used in AWBW vary slightly depending on the game mode in question. The default competitive settings in AWBW are known as the Standard metagame, so-called as it is the default game mode assumed when no other qualifiers are included.

All other game modes use the Standard settings as a baseline, rarely changing more than one or two options away from it. There are two other game modes officially supported in AWBW through the Global League and/or Z Games: Fog of War, High Funds and Tag. There exist other unofficial game modes created by the community as well, some of them being popular enough to have developed their own separate metagames.

Standard

Standard has the following settings:

These settings are a match for the default settings from the cart games, except for banned units - although banning is not possible in the vanilla games, the disruptive effect of the Black Bomb for gameplay of any sort eventually led to its removal from competitive play.

Fog of War (Fog)

The Fog of War game mode settings are identical to that of Standard, except, naturally, for the enabling of Fog of War. Gameplay is superficially quite similar to that of Standard, but the addition of fog introduces new elements to the game - there is now an emphasis on information warfare (and the consistent use of Recons specifically) but also an increased element of risk associated with almost every action taken.

The element of risk subtly affects almost every engagement taken in fog. Aggressive play in particular is disproportionately punished by a lack of information as direct units are required to put themselves in attack range in order to participate in combat, meaning the addition of fog, with no other changes, tends to slow down games and increases the likelihood of stalls. To compensate, much of the change made to the game can actually be found in its map design, which is tuned more heavily around preventing the emergence of stall tactics and risk-avoidance.

Fog mapping, being more restrictive than Standard, is also the main driver that affects the balance of the Tier List; although it is fairly close to the Standard list, COs who benefit from open maps are relatively stronger in fog, and vice versa for COs who prefer heavy terrain.

High Funds (HF)

Main article: High Funds

High Funds is a game mode that changes the funding per property from 1000 (the cartridge default) to 2000 - in other words, all income is doubled in High Funds.

The large increase in available funding has a dramatic effect on the metagame of Standard - with more money being shared among the same number of production facilities, higher-cost units such as Neotanks and Bombers are much more viable and common in High Funds, as poor cost efficiency is less of a concern than it is in Standard. Lower cost units are still in use, though more relegated to early-game duties or walling in the later stages.

Due to the overall higher quality of units in play, firepower in general is higher than normal in turn, with the frequency of instant-kill matchups making it difficult to form walls or stall effectively. This encourages more aggressive gameplay overall, and allows terrain on High Funds maps to be less restrictive than Standard.

With higher funding, power bars in general tend to charge much faster, meaning High Funds also has a large effect on the Tier List - in this case, more power charge overwhelmingly favours COs whose power is concentrated in their CO powers, especially those with army-wide effects. This results in a tier list that is significantly different from the Standard one, with less stratification overall but wider difference between the tiers in turn.

Tags (Tag)

Tags is a game mode that utilises the eponymous mechanic from Dual Strike - Tag COs. Tags are not supported for use in the Global League, but can be enabled for generated Z Games at a fairly low rate.

The main consequence of Tags is to amplify the effectiveness of COs who have the majority of their power consolidated into either their day-to-day effects or their CO powers - as it is possible to benefit from a strong D2D while simultaneously gaining charge for a strong CO power, the Tag metagame favours coupling COs who have good day-to-days with COs who have cost-efficient Super CO Powers; the first acts as the daily driver and oversees most of the fighting, while the reserve CO exerts indirect pressure only from the threat of their powers, especially those with one-time-use effects that persist after their turn is over, such as Andy or Drake.

COs with a more balanced blend between their day-to-day and powers consequently fall off, with the tag mechanic rendering their inherent versatility less of a benefit.

Unofficial Game Modes

These modes are not officially supported on the website, either through the Global League or Z Games, but are regularly used and may even have had their own metagames developed by the community.

High Funds Fog (HFOG)

High Funds Fog combines Fog of War with High Funds, having fog enabled and 2000 income per property. Its metagame for units and COs mostly resembles that of regular High Funds, but with even more emphasis than regular Fog games on the vision war, as the poor sight range of high-cost units coupled with their higher firepower can lead to large vision losses if not properly invested in and more significant opportunities - or punishments - for tactical mistakes.

Live Play (Live)

Live Play is a game mode analogous to the 'fast' or 'blitz' game type from chess - in this mode, the time players are given to complete their moves is substantially shorter, starting at a 5 minute Timer with a 2 minute Increment. Most games will take place in 1 hour or less from start to finish.

To ensure players are given sufficient time for interaction with each other and not external factors, map designs are slightly constrained to maps that possess more intuitive capture phases and lines of attack, though not to such an extent that one pattern of moves becomes obviously correct. Other than that, maps have no particular differences to regular maps of the same base game mode.

Though technically not having any direct gameplay changes, Live Play nevertheless has a strong impact in matches through its effect on the mental game; because every second counts, time must be spent as efficiently as possible, usually by dedicating less thinking and planning towards moves. This can often lead to suboptimal lines of play in complex situations or when the timer is in danger of running out. This primarily affects the CO pick, generally favouring COs with strong powers that both do not require much investment to use but do require some investment to play around, such as Rachel.

Free-For-All (FFA)

Free-For-All involves 3 or more players with teams disabled - every player for themselves.

The meta for FFA games frequently revolves around truces and betrayal and conventional tactics will be far less important than CO choice and diplomatic measures. Being aggressive or taking control of key, central properties can make you a target for other players who will perceive you as a threat and wielding a universally dangerous CO, such as Hawke, Olaf, or Kindle, will hinder your ability to make truces with other players. Frequently, FFA maps are asymmetric as well, and so the strength or vulnerability of your starting position will have an impact on your opponents' perception and your chances of diplomacy with them.

Teams (Team)

Teams involves more 3 or more players with at least 2 players allied on the same team, with all allied players striving to complete the victory condition for their team. In such games, cooperation and communication become the key factors. Much of the metagame will remain the same, but by having multiple players, teams can specialize based on the resources each player has available to them and help to compensate for each other's weaknesses. Considering the turn order and coordinating moves and attacks accordingly can easily give one team a decisive advantage.

Similarly, discussion of CO selections is important to make sure that all teammates have chosen COs that work well together and each bring something useful to the team. COs such as Sasha and Sonja (in fog) whose powers may help benefit the whole team become more important, while COs like Olaf and Drake whose powers may hinder their own teammates become less attractive.

CO Selection

The first component of the metagame is selecting a strong CO and using their abilities effectively, which in extreme cases can frequently be the deciding factor of the match. The Tier List contains useful information on relative CO strength and can serve as a general reference point when considering which of the available COs are the most viable on the map in question.

The COs of the Broken Tier (T0) are always banned in competitive settings such as the Global League. In addition, the luck-based COs (Nell, Flak and Jugger) are also frequently banned for an overreliance on randomness in their kit. Otherwise, all other COs are available for selection, with the specific tier being randomly chosen when the game is created.

Units

The 7 most common unit types in Standard play.

Under standard settings the metagame tends to be dominated by a few primary units: Infantry, Tanks, B-Copters, and Anti-Air, with support from more specialised units in the Artillery and Md. Tank. As this list would suggest, ground units will comprise the bulk of your army with some support from air units and little or no support from naval units; this is due to the fact that ground units are cheap, versatile, and the most directly responsible for acquiring new resources (capturing cities).

Unit count is extremely important in the AWBW metagame and building from every Base you own every turn is standard practice, with exceptions being extremely rare. With Standard funding, this will result in the purchase of a lot of Infantry, which can be used for capturing, shielding, blocking enemy movement, or helping to break through opposing Infantry walls. Tanks and B-copters are the primary attacking units used for breaking through walls and attacking exposed units or threatening the area around their position. They are backed up with Artillery and Anti-Air to help secure formations against enemy Tanks and B-Copters, respectively.

As the game progresses, players may purchase higher tech units such as Md. Tanks, Bombers and Fighters to help secure their advantage or counter other higher tech units, however these will make up a small fraction of the units in the game and are rarely built at the expense of unit count.

The dedicated transport units (APCs, T-Copters, Black Boats and Landers) may see some use in the meta, but are typically reserved for properties that cannot be accessed any other way. As such, T-Copters and Black Boats are the most common ones due to their high mobility, though APCs and Landers may occasionally provide a logistical benefit such as their resupply function, getting units to the front more quickly or allowing for a sudden front switch that takes the opponent off guard and leaves them unable to react sufficiently.

Gameplay

Once inside a game, gameplay tends to be fairly similar between COs in the same game mode, with the main exceptions being the Broken Tier COs whose strengths are so great that they subvert the usual rules and methods that other COs follow. Nevertheless, even non-broken CO picks will tend to encourage deviation from the accepted average CO playstyle.

A typical match of AWBW will progress through three main stages: the capture phase, the mid game, and the late game.

In the capture phase, skill disparity is primarily measured by the efficiency at which players can capture properties. Infantry is the overwhelming choice of unit build, being the cheapest and fastest unit capable of capturing. Any neutral bases are always captured first, as capturing them sooner boosts unit count and subsequent capture rate. On small maps, opposing Infantry may meet early on contested properties and be required to fight for them - on such maps, COs that excel at this task such as Sami can gain large early advantages this way. Early Recon harassment is possible, but very situational outside of Fog.

The onset of the midgame generally begins once Tanks begin to be produced in large numbers, and is sometimes described as being dominated by the 'unit triangle' of Tank, Anti-Air and B-Copter which all counter each other in a circular fashion. At first, vehicles will use their movement and strength to threaten the field and may interrupt enemy Infantry captures if they are left undefended. As more units and vehicles are built, players will resolve their units into more solid formations, shielding their more vulnerable units behind cheaper, expendable ones. Players then continue to attack and shift their formations in such a way that gives them an advantage in unit count/value, army composition, positioning, or funding and, if they are able to outmaneuver their opponent, they can deal a decisive blow, frequently in combination with a COP or SCOP, from which their opponent can't recover.

If, after trading blows and/or (S)COPs, the players maintain strong armies and formations, the match progresses into the late game, and higher tech units will begin to emerge as player supplement their foundational units with powerful direct attackers intent for breaking through walls. Occasionally, maps may have supplemental properties in a difficult-to-reach area of the map that will require investing in a transport to access. If these have not already been captured, they are typically captured at this point to help break the stalemate. Similarly, any Pipe Seams on the battlefield may be broken to open up new avenues of attack.

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