Stars!-R-Us Article

War Strategy - Part II
by: Mathias Dellaert

PART II : READY, SET ... FIGHT

Now we are getting to the interesting stuff, the actual strategies.

There are a number of strategies that you can use to lead your fleet to victory. I will only discuss a few of them.

II-I : The glory of Surprise

Most strategies are based on two very important things : Surprise and anticipation. You can surprise people by many things, here's a list of the most important :

  • Origin and target of attack
  • Time of attack
  • Manner of attack
  • The fact that there is an attack

    Let's discuss them in more detail :

    1) Origin and Target of attack

    This can be very surprising. Make your enemy believe that the attack is going to come form one side and then attack from a completely different side. The right hand hides the movements of the left hand.

    By attacking from a whole other side than you made him believe, you will confuse him, making him weaker. This kind of an attack is very useful if you decide to attack him from 2 sides.

    Prepare your fleet on one side (let's say the north) without hiding it too much (but then again, don't be obvious). You have a good chance that he will assemble his fleets near the port you are preparing yourself. If he does this, attack with the other fleet (which he doesn't know about) from let's say the east, where defence is lower.

    That moment is a great occasion to make your enemy believe that the fleets on the north is only a small fleet, intended as distraction. If you make him believe that, there are three things he can do :

    Either he attacks the fleet in the north, thinking it's a minor fleet and when he realises he was wrong, it will be too late, or he pulls his fleet back to protect the east side of his empire against your second fleet, in which case you attack with the northern fleet. Bewared though, he will never pull back all his troops and it's possible that he just pretends to pull back his fleet. His third option is to split his fleet, that way he reduces his strength at both points and you can defeat him in a simultaneous attack of both your fleets.

    The same scenario can be used with more then two fleets, but make sure all your fleets are strong enough to handle his, don't divide your army too much.

    Another thing, never send your enemy a message. If you want to convince him of something, you will need to do that with fleet movements (or no fleet movements) and presence.

    2) Time of attack

    A bit difficult in stars. You can't say "Let's attack in the winter, they won't expect that". But you should attack on the time he least expects it. One of the best times to attack is when he is in war with somebody else.

    3) Manner of attack

    The strategy you use, as discussed later but also the ships you attack with, like using Beam Weapon ships or barbarian hordes (don't overdo it though, make sure your ships can win).

    4) The fact that you attack

    The fact THAT you attack can be a surprise on it's own. It can be a surprise because he didn't notice your preparations or that he thought you were preparing to attack somebody else. This kind of surprise is one of the best because he has had no time to prepare himself.

    II-II Rules of attacking thumbs

    There are some rules-of-thumb that apply to almost all strategies, let's go over them :

    1) Speed

    You're attacks should be fast and firm. Don't hesitate and focus completely. An attack fleet that spends 10 years killing of small planets is a dead one. You should strike fast and destroy the right targets. Just send in your fleets, send them directly to your enemies main worlds and blow them into oblivion (your enemy's world, not your fleets).

    Don't give your enemy time to breath, attack his main worlds and take them out ASAP and you might have a chance of success.

    If you hesitate though, or attack small worlds first, you're enemy will have time to refind his guts, collect his fleets and strike you, quite possibly destroying you completely.

    You should never waste your time at the same planet except when it's really necessary (like you just took over a big world and wait until your colonists get an Ultra Station up (takes about 2 years if you drop a million colonists and use enemy factories and minerals)).

    Slow attacks only work against AI's as they don't fight back.

    2) Focus

    You have to focus on one enemy, if you can avoid it you should not attack multiple enemies at once, if you have to divide your attention between 2 sides of the galaxy you can be sure something will slip through unnoticed (especially in Blitz games where you don't have the time to look at each square ly of the map).

    Focus on one enemy and when he is finished off you can start thinking about the others.

    Also make sure that when you go to war you focus completely, if you don't you will lose. A war is not something to think lightly about.

    3) Striking power

    You should make sure the power of your fleet is greater then his (obviously). This doesn't mean you have to attack with a fleet that's bigger then all his ships together, just make sure it's stronger then the fleet(s) in the area you are attacking. Also remember that you probably will have many battle's with the same fleet and that, since you are in enemy territory, you have no chance to repair damage (for this reason you should always add at least one super Fuel X- port in your fleet). Make sure your fleet is strong enough to win multiple battles in a row without having to worry about refreshments/placements.

    II-III The Simple attacks

    In this chapter I'm going to discuss the "easy" attacks.

    With easy attacks I mean attacks that don't include massive fleet movements and cloaking. Just build a fleet and attack (like the Spanish armada, but preferable with better results).

    For this kind of attack the rules-of-thumb ought to be enough : speed, focus and striking power.

    II-IV Multiple-side attack

    This kind of attack strategy is just as the title says : you attack from multiple sides with mutiple targets, preferable separated by a big stretch of space so he has to split his fleet too.

    There are many ways you can attack a person on multiple sides, the first choice you have to make is whether you will use one or 2 attack ports, let's look at the differences :

    1) Multiple side attack with one attack port

    Actually, this isn't very good. When attacking multiple sides it's better to use 2 (or more) attack ports. Unfortunately, you don't always have the opportunity to do that. It's quite possible that you only have one planet that's reasonable close to your enemy's space. In this case you will have to do with that one.

    You can use 2 fleet "manoeuvres" when attacking multiple sides from one attack port.

    The firs one is the evasion manoevre. With this I mean making a big detour with one or both fleet(s) to distract your enemy and at the same time not letting him know right away that you are attacking from different sides.

    He will probably see the first fleet and defend against that one, your other fleet can then slip in almost unnoticed (or noticed too late) and blast everything into oblivion.

    Optionally you can make af#2 (attack fleet 2, see figure) a lot stronger then af#1 and just use af#1 to get his fleet where you want to.

    af#2 should be cloaked if possible. This manoeuvre can be used with the tactic discussed under II-I:1) (suprise: target and origin).

    ___________________________
    | | . O . |
    | af#2__--> O |
    | _- O | |
    | | O . O |
    | | O . / |
    | | . . _/ af#1|
    | | af#2 O | _/ .|
    | ------------O-- |
    |___________________________|
    |fig.1 : Multiple-side |
    |attack from one attack port|
    |using evasion manoeuvre |
    |___________________________|

    (excuse me for the badness of this figure, I'm no expert in ascii art, I hope it's in some way understandable)

    The other manoeuvre is the Direct-attack manoeuvre. This manoevre is just what it says, you attack the both sides directly, using the shortest way to reach the different bases.

    This manoeuvre amkes a better use of rule-of-thumb one (speed) while there is almost no suprise. You still get the advantage of 2-side attack and you give your enemy less time to prepare himself.

    Also, the evasion manoeuvre has a chance of failing when your enemy notices af#2 too early, this way you ensure he has very little time to prepare for an attack on 2 sides.

    ___________________________
    | | . O . |
    | OO |
    | \O | |
    | O .\af#2 O |
    | O | / |
    | .| . _/ af#1|
    | O \| _/ .|
    | O-- |
    |___________________________|
    |fig.2 : Mult.-side attack |
    |from one attack port using |
    |direct-attack manoeuvre |
    |___________________________|

    2) Multiple-side attack with multiple attack ports

    This is the preferred kind of multiple side attack, because you attack from different points he will have a harder time anticipating your attack. Using multiple attack ports it becomes easy to use the tactic discussed in II-I:1) (suprise: origin and target of attack).

    By using multiple attack ports and multiple targets, you can confuse your enemy. One way to confuse him is to do fast strikes (go in, blow up, go out) switching between the 2 (or more) ports as base of oporations. You do a strike attack with af#1 and on the moment af#1 is back at his base (or even before that, when he's still on his way back) you fly out with af#2 and do a strike attack at a totally different place.

    By using a random patern of origin/target of attack you can confuse your enemy so much that he has no idea where you will strike next, forcing him to defend all his planets. If you are IT you can gate your fleet between planets so you don't even have to weaken your fleet by splitting it.

    If you have to (or even if you don't) drive your enemy totally crazy.

    ___________________________
    |. | | O |
    | _O . O O |
    | |_/af#1 / . |
    | O |/af#2 |
    | O O- . .|
    | \af#2 O |
    | O | . \| . |
    | O O |
    |___________________________|
    |fig.3 : Multiple-side |
    |attack from 2 attack ports |
    |___________________________|

    3)Multiple-side attack with multiple races

    If you have an ally or teammate that is willing to join you in battle you will almost automatically use the multiple-side attack from multiple attack ports. You attack your enemy from one side and your ally from the other side. You can use the same tactics as discussed in 2) but more successfully since your enemy might not realise you're ally is attacking him too.

    ___________________________
    ||
    | ally |
    | | |
    | | |
    | enemy |
    | ^ |
    | | |
    | you |
    |___________________________|
    |fig.4 : Multiple-side |
    |attack with 2 races |
    |___________________________|

    Minefields can have serious impacts on Multiple-side attacks, reducing the speed you can attack/get away and giving him time to split his fleet and defend all the targets you attack, therefore cloaking is almost a requirement and you should only sweep minefields when in the middle of them, but more about that later.

    II-V : Cloaked fast strike attacks

    Again a very descriptive title. The goal of this strategy is go in cloaked, do a fast strike and disapear into space. Obviously this tactic is very handy for SS races. You need to know your target exactly before starting and then sneek your fleet to it unseen and blast the planet to pieces.

    Your target should be an important enemy planet way behind your normal "bomb line" and have little to none defending fleets orbitting it (because it's so far behind your normal line of attack he will probably not have such a big fleet there).

    You sneek in with a big fleet with very high cloaking (90%+) but still try to avoid coming too close to scanners. The last 100 ly or so should be traveled in 1 year if possible (put a waypoint 100ly from your target and set speed after that waypoint to warp 10). Only if he has NAS and the 600 scanner he will see you when you're cloaked 90% (600*2*0.1 = 120 ly range). If your cloaking is 92% he will not see you when you do the 100 ly jump. Make sure you don't pass planets with scanners too close (<100ly) as this will betray you.

    You can't leave directly since you have to bomb the planet and kill everybody so he will have to recolonise it and rebuild everything. I suggest LBU's with Smart or cherry bombs, using that combination and enough of them you can wipe his planet from the map in maximum 2 years. After that, get the hell out of there.

    If your enemy has minefields around the planet you should move in at warp 4 (or 5 for SS) without sweeping and when you are at the point he can almost see you, start sweeping and move in further, sweeping everything away. If your cloaking is high enough not to be seen until you are at his planet (e.g. his scanner range is only 600 and your cloaking 96% or his scanning range is 300 and your cloaking 92%) then you should only start sweeping when you're in orbit of his planet.

    Whatever yo do, you'll need to sweep the minefield because as soon as the planet is anilihated you have to make sure you can get away FAST.

    If you attack only one world your attack won't have much results as he will just recolonize the world and get his economy up, you will have handicapped him a bit for a few years, but he won't care much.

    If possible, you should use the same fleet to commit some other suprise attacks at random points in his universe (but always attack big planets). Eventially he will defend all his planets though and your fleet will barely win or probably even lose.

    What you also can do is use multiple sneek attack fleets and attack with all of them at the same moment at many different places. This will give his economy such a big blow that if you come in with a big attack fleet right after the attack he won't have time to prepare and you can finish him off.

    II-VI : fan-pattern attack

    The fan-pattern attack is a much used attack. The idea behind it is to split and spread your fleet just before you reach the planet you were heading for and attack enemy worlds in the neighbourhood, that way suprising your enemy.

    Because he sees a big fleet heading towards one of his worlds he will probably send fleets from neighbouring planets to that planet making it easy for you to destroy these, now low defended, planets.

    You can do this with either attacking the planet ou were heading for too or not. For the reason above you better not attack it since his fleet will be the strongest at that planet.

    ___________________________
    | O | .|
    | |O | |
    | |O : O . |
    | O \ : | |
    | .\ \ : / ||
    | O \__\:/_____O |
    | . | |
    | . |af#1 . |
    |_____________O_____________|
    |fig.5 : fan-pattern attack |
    |___________________________|

    II-VII : Minefields and how to handle them

    Here I realy only have to say one thing : if you set your minesweepers battle orders to attack noone and nothing he will not sweep minefields, this is very handy if you want to get somewhere without anouncing your arival years in advance or want to sweep a minefield in one time, from the midle (this tactic doesn't work against the "many small fields" tactic, you'll have to find another solution for that.

    II-VIII : The end

    I believe that's about all I have to say, if I think of something else I'll post an addition.

    All comments are welcome

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