Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby armacham01 » 15 May 2019, 19:57

1v1 Ladder Guide for New Players

Welcome to FAF. We are glad you are here.

I’m glad that you have decided to play 1v1 ladder games. That is the purest and most intimate way to play Forged Alliance. It is the best way to develop well-rounded skills for Forged Alliance.

But it is not easy, and at first it can be overwhelming, even if you have played many team games. Or, perhaps you have played many ladder games, and you just keep losing.

The purpose of this guide is to focus on a few very basic mistakes that very new players often make. The main mistakes people make are with economic balance and by being too passive (being a “turtle”). In this guide, I will focus on those, rather than advice about how to move specific units around, or how to counter specific defensive structures.

The fun stuff in FAF is marching your armies around, but you need an economy to build an army. You need an economy to build a T4 experimental doom weapon. You need to build up your economy, and not die, to get to the part of the match where you get to decide “should I go for T2 navy, and build up an awesome fleet, or should I go for T2 air first to raid him with gunships?” I want to help you to get there, so you can have fun.

I split this guide into 5 parts. Part 1 is for players who still don’t know how or why they should push out of their base. Part 2 gives a little more advice about how to get out of your base. These are intended for people having trouble getting past 250 rating points on the 1v1 ladder.

Part 3 deals with specific matchups that may frustrate low-rated players. Part 4 is advice aimed at more advanced ladder warriors. If your rating is somewhere in the 250-750 point range, you might like this.

Part 5 is a summary of Zock’s advice, that he gave in personalized 1-on-1 lessons, which he uploaded to YouTube. That is intended for advanced ladder warriors. Even players at and above 1000 rating points will probably find something of interest in what Zock teaches.

Part 1: a strong start (250 rating and less)
Spoiler: show
Mistake: not having a build order.

A “build order” is a plan for what you are going to build at the start of a match.

“You can think of generic build orders as a ticket to enter competitive gameplay. If you don’t know any build orders, it does not matter how good of a strategist you are. You will probably die within the first minutes, or at least handicap yourself so much from the very start that you will die a slow painful death, over the course of the game.”

That is from the introduction to Heaven’s build order tutorial, which you should watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6uE1-xS2uk

The standard build order for your ACU is:

    * a land factory
    * two pgens
    * two mexes
    * one more pgen
    * two more mexes

You make them, with your ACU, in that order. The reason this build order is so good is that you get a factory up quickly, so you can start making engineers; then you get enough power that you won’t just run out of power, and you get some mass income as well. It gets the mexes as quickly as possible without running out of power.

But the build order is more than this: also you need to make more pgens and more factories. Your first factory should make mostly engineers so you have plenty of engineers to do all of the things. As long as more engineers keep coming out of your factory, hopefully when you see the engineers just standing there, that should help to remind you to give them orders.

This build order is far superior to making mexes and pgens before your first factory. For some reason, a lot of noobs like to do this. A factory can make engineers. Multiple engineers can build more mexes and pgens, much faster, than your ACU alone could hope to do. You want to grow quickly and you can’t do that without engineers.

Zock (one of the greatest Forged Alliance players of all time) teaches that in this game, the more economy you have, the faster you can grow. More economy means you can afford to build more pgens, which actually cost a lot of mass and power. More economy means you can afford to upgrade more mass extractors, more quickly. More economy means you can afford to make more tanks, to secure more area, so you can build more mass extractors. There is a snowball effect to being bigger than your opponent. That is why it is so important that you don’t fall behind in the first few minutes of the game. The best way to do this, as a new player, is to steal a working build order (either a generic one, or a build order specific to the map) and follow that for the first 2-3 minutes+.

Mistake: not having a plan

A build order is a kind of plan. And when you are following a plan, you are under less stress. In Forged Alliance, you always have many options. The more choices you have to consider, the more stress you are under. If you are following a plan, you are taking choice away from yourself, which is actually a good thing.

According to Zock, it is always better to have a plan than to have no plan.

A plan can be as simple as: “I’m going to follow a generic build order, make 5 land factories in my base, and stream units out to the left in order to grab the expansion in the top-left corner of the map. My ACU is going to go south, and I’m going to send some units with it. The ACU is going to try to grab 3 mexes in the south and make a point defense there. Then I will make an air factory, send air scouts around the map to see what the situation is, and start upgrading my mexes back home, one at a time, to T2.” If you have that basic idea in your head, you will be able to make decisions and give orders much more quickly, which will give you the time you need to more effectively manage things.

It is said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Sometimes that is true, sometimes not. But even if your plan is not working perfectly, it is giving you a framework to evaluate your situation and to more quickly decide what to do next (including: whether to change your plan).

Here is Zock’s explanation for why you need to have a plan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... 0&t=51m46s

Mistake: staying in your base

New players often stay in their base. I don’t just mean the ACU stays in the starting location (which is not necessarily a bad idea, especially for lower-rated players who aren’t very good at keeping their ACU out of danger). I mean that no units at all leave the base until the core mexes are T2 and there’s a T2 factory. That is a terrible way to play.

If you stay in your base, while your opponent expands (sends engineers out to build mexes outside of their base), you will immediately fall behind in economy, and it will be basically impossible to recover from this early deficit.

A T1 mex gives 2 mass per second. If you upgrade it to T2, that will give you 6 mass per second. So by upgrading one of your mexes from T1 to T2, you get an extra 4 mass per second.

But it costs 800 mass to upgrade a mex. For 800 mass, you could build a land factory, 4 engineers, and 10 T1 mexes.

If your opponent expands and builds 10 T1 mexes outside of their base, while you stay home and upgrade one mex to T2, your opponent is going to have a gigantic advantage over you (you get +4 mass per second, and he gets +20). And, remember: in FAF, an economic advantage can snowball, because it costs mass and energy to build more pgens, and it costs mass and energy to upgrade mexes.

Whatever strategy you want to carry out in FAF, you need mass and energy to make it happen. If you allow yourself to fall far behind in mass income, you are making it impossible to battle your opponent, because they will always outnumber you. It is not so much fun to make executive-style decisions (“do I get T2 land and make Pillars, or do I just make 50 T1 tanks?”) when your economy is half as big as your opponent’s. Because even if you make smart decisions at that point, you can still be crushed.

I think one reason lower-rated players don’t try to expand is that they are afraid their expanding engineers will die. If you watch 1v1 games from higher-rated players, they lose engineers all the time. Engineers are not that expensive, and you should have a lot of them. You can and should try to protect your engineers. But the biggest mistake is to not even try to grab mexes.

And: since you know how frustrating it is to lose engineers: don’t forget to harass your opponent by killing his engineers. Sending out units for harassment is a very important part of getting out of your base.

Mistake: not making (enough) units

Part of the sluggish, passive mindset (that you are going to stay in your little castle, behind point defense, while you build up to Tech 3 or Tech 4) is that you don’t need units.

When you get over the turtle mindset, it is obvious that you are going to need many, many units (called “spam” because you are making so many of them) to do all of the things that you want to do around the map.

The best advice I ever got, was in my 8th ladder match, when RLO told me, “wheres you spam” (meaning: why are you not making T1 spam?). I improved significantly after getting that piece of advice and taking it to heart.

Mistake: not making enough factories

Because turtle players don’t need many units, they only build 1-2 factories. If you watch games from high-level players, or even just players at the 400-500 rating points range, you will see a lot more factories.

How many factories to make? The short version is: one T1 factory for every 2 T1 mex you can hold.
If you start on a small map where you have 4 mexes in your base and 6 more nearby, then you’re going to need at least 5 land factories.
On a lot of maps, you might have 16 mexes or more that you can take and hold. So it is normal to build 8+ land factories, depending on the map. It takes time to get 8 factories up, but it also takes time to grab all of the mexes that you will need to run them.

Factories take a long time to build, so it is best to have more than 1 engineer at a time making a single factory. When you are just starting out, for small maps make all of the land factories in your base. Don’t try spreading them around a small map. Don’t just leave your ACU standing there. If your ACU is not going to leave your base, it should be building factories or pgens for you.

Mistake: idle factories

Another common mistake for new players is that they make factories they need, but then the factories are idle (not producing anything). If you make factories, but they don’t produce units, you are just wasting mass. There is an icon on the right side of the screen for idle factories. It can be smart to pay attention to that. But also, when you are zoomed out to take a look at the battlefield, one of the things to think about is “why are my factories doing, are they making the right things? Are they making anything?”

It is good to give your factory orders while they are still under construction. If you wait until they are fully built to give them orders, there will be some idle time.

Take advantage of the ability to make an “infinite build queue.” The “build queue” is the list of things that the factory is going to make. When it is not set to infinite, the factory will make those units, and then stop. When it is set to infinite, every time it makes a unit, it puts (at the back of the queue) an instruction to make the same unit. So it will make everything in the list, and then repeat, infinitely. If your factories are making an infinite number of units, you do not have to worry that they will ever be idle.

This does not mean that you always want all of your factories producing things. If you are stalling mass or power, you might have to make hard choices about what to make. But your goal in the early game should be to get up a number of T1 factories churning out “T1 spam” so that you have units that you can use to attack, defend, raid, scout, etc. You use these forces to spread out and grab more mexes so you can afford to build more pgens and more factories.

Mistake: overbuilding point defense and putting it in the wrong places

Point defense and anti-air turrets can be extremely effective in certain situations. The highest-rated 1v1 ladder players will make defenses in basically every game—but not at the very start, and only when and where they are needed.

A point defense can only help you to hold one small spot. If it is an important spot, and you know it will be attacked soon, then it can be worth making the point defense.

The real problem with making too much point defense is that it shows you have the turtle mentality: your plan is to stay back and hide behind turrets, instead of creating swarms of robot armies to march across the countryside and burn down your opponent’s stuff.

Mistake: getting T2 too early or redundant T2

Part of the turtle mentality is the belief that “T1 sucks” so you should get T2 as quickly as possible. If you go straight to T2, without using T1 units to expand, you will not get ahead of your opponent. Their economy will be so much stronger than yours, that when they transition to T2, they will be able to get far ahead of you.

Just having T2 tech gives you some advantages over an opponent who does not have T2 (especially: TML and TMD). But it does not make you invincible. To actually make cool T2 stuff, you need mass and power. The best way to get that economy is with aggressive expansion using T1 spam or T1 transports.

Another mistake I see is that the player will upgrade their ACU to T2 and also upgrade a factory to T2. Or they will upgrade a land factory and also an air factory to T2 at the same time. Doing it this way basically makes it twice as expensive to get to the next tech level.

I recommend that low-rated players never get the T2 upgrade on their ACU. You will just be tempted to build stuff around your ACU that you don’t really need.


Part 2: moving out (250 rating and less)
Spoiler: show
The point of the first part is to convince you to try not being a turtle. Once you have accepted that you must leave your base with T1 spam, there are new mistakes that players commonly make.

Mistake: not reclaiming mass

One of the best ways to boost your economy is to scoop (reclaim) mass, which can be from rocks or wreckages. In addition to maps-specific reclaim that is placed at the start of every match, after a battle, there will be mass from the dead units.

New players often overlook reclaim, and don’t even attempt to grab it. I think this is because they have a hard time understanding the relative value of reclaim compared to the value of having more mexes.

During the early part of the game, when you are trying to expand, reclaiming mass is awesome because it costs a lot of power to build T1 mexes (and it costs a lot of power to make the T1 pgens that you need to get the power that you need), but reclaiming mass does not cost any power at all.

Later in the game, reclaiming mass is still very important. Mass is usually the limiting factor in how much stuff you make (because, let’s face it, by minute 10, players at a low level almost always mass stall by trying to spend more mass than they have). Making stuff is usually the limiting factor in doing stuff. Doing stuff is the fun part of FAF. More mass means more fun. Reclaim is literally just lying on the ground, waiting for you to take it.

You can see where mass is by holding down ctrl-shift. You also just know that there will be reclaim any time there is a battle. A bigger battle, especially with T2 and T3 units, means more reclaim. Do not forget that planes and boats also leave reclaim when they die.

Taking it is as easy as sending one engineer to patrol near it.

Mistake: taking bad engagements

Engagements (that’s what we call it when units fight each other, so we sound smarter) are obviously extremely important.

You want engagements to go well. You want to avoid getting in to bad engagements.

What makes an engagement good, or bad? It depends.

If you’re just talking about two armies clashing in the middle of the map, probably you are looking at who is losing more and who is losing less. If you have 20 mantis, and your opponent has 40 mantis, and they overrun your position, you will lose all 20 and they will probably only lose about 10-15. That is a significant victory for your opponent, especially if they can get an engineer in scoop up the wreckage.

So one way of looking at engagements is: who lost more mass?

But if your opponent is trying to raid your mexes, an engagement might be “good” just because you keep them. If they are sending 5 mantis behind your base to kill 4 mexes, and you end up losing 7 mantis in the process of killing 5 in order to save your mexes, that is not really a “bad” engagement for you.

So you also have to look at things like: opportunities to kill mexes and pgens. Opportunities to secure an expansion or stop your opponent from having naval factories.

Knowing what is or is not a “good” engagement is the first step towards learning how to get good engagements.

The most basic rule is: don’t attack into a superior force. If you have 20 mantis and you charge into 40 mantis, you will be defeated, badly. If you see 40 mantis coming for your 20, your mantis should probably retreat, and kite (retreat meaning move away, and kite meaning that they are shooting at the oncoming mantis while they move away). If you start running away quickly enough, maybe only 8 of his mantis will be shooting at your units, and 8 of your mantis will be shooting back at him. And then the engagement does not go poorly for either side: while it is 8 shooting at 8, you will both lose basically the same number of units.

The flip side is: try to get a superior force, so you can attack into an opponent where they are inferior.

Engagements can also go well, or go poorly, based on unit composition. For example, light artillery does extremely well in some circumstances, and poorly in other circumstances. When you are playing, and when you are watching replays, try to judge whether each engagement was good or bad, and think about what you could do to have better engagements.

You can’t always avoid bad engagements. Your opponent is trying to force them on you. But you can usually avoid taking bad engagements.

Mistake: not scouting

If you build an air factory, you can make air scouts. If you send out air scouts, you can see what your opponent is up to. This will help you to not just suddenly die because your opponent surprised you.

Every strategy in FAF has a counter. But you cannot afford to effectively counter every possible strategy from your opponent. If you fly scout planes around the map, and every few minutes you fly a scout plane over his base, you can try to see what strategy he is working on. Then you can counter that specific strategy, so you are spending your resources wisely.

Part of the fun of FAF is getting to make executive decisions (like: “Do I go T2 navy, or T2 air?”). Deciding how to counter your opponent’s strategy is an executive decision. If you scout your opponent, see what they are doing, and you get the chance to come up with a response, that is fun. If you see that your opponent has T2 air and has 4 gunships hiding behind his base, then you know you should build flak, or build lots of T1 interceptors. Having the opportunity to make that decision, and put a plan into effect, is a lot of fun. Suddenly finding your ACU surrounded by 10 gunships is not so much fun. The purpose of this guide is to get you to the point where you can have fun in ladder games.

If you make one air factory, consider giving it an infinite build order: 1 scout, 2 interceptors. Then, as you are playing the game, whenever you notice a scout plane on the ground (or seven of them), take that as a reminder to send it on a scouting mission. And because you are making interceptors, over time you will build up an air force that just might save you from a T2 air snipe instant death attack.

Mistake: lacking radar

Scouting is one form of intel. The other main form of intel is radar. (Also, for all of the reasons that you want radar, in the water you want both radar and sonar.)

At long range (and when you fly scout planes into enemy territory) radar is important for not being surprised by where your opponent’s units are, and so you can make better plans about where to send your units. Longer-range radars are the T1, T2, and T3 radar buildings, as well as on destroyers and cruisers.

At short range, radar is important because, without radar coverage, your units can only shoot at units they can see. But with radar coverage, they can shoot farther. This can give a big advantage in fights, especially if one side is trying to keep distance between the two forces. The easiest way to have short-range radar for your force is to send a land scout with your units.

Mistake: leaving your ACU exposed

If you do move out with your ACU, that can be a very powerful move. The ACU has a lot of hit points, inflicts a lot of damage, it regenerates hit points pretty quickly, it can be upgraded to do those things even better, and you can use it to build mexes and factories around the map.

An un-upgraded ACU has equivalent firepower to about 20 T1 tanks.

But moving out can also be a death sentence for you, if your enemy is able to swarm your ACU with enough T1 tanks (or stronger units).

As you play, you will get better about not putting your ACU in the wrong place. Since this is an extremely basic guide, I just want to give basic advice:

    * have a radar, or fly a scout plane, near where your ACU is, so you don’t get surprised by a sudden swarm of enemy units
    * have units with your ACU, so if you are attacked, you can try to win the fight
    * once the game gets past 10 minutes, or if you see that your opponent has T2 air, have flak with your ACU
    * the gun upgrade is very strong. If your opponent has the gun upgrade and you don’t, his ACU is very dangerous to yours.


Part 3: big maps and master turtles (250-500 rating)
Spoiler: show
Your time and attention are limited

You probably noticed that there is so much going on at once, that you just can’t do everything you know you ought to be doing. That is true, at every level. Even Zock talked about not enjoying 20x20 maps because there were too many things he needed to pay attention to. Some people are better at multitasking than other people, but no one is fast enough to do everything perfectly.

As you play, you will get better at giving orders more efficiently. One of the things you want to practice is giving orders quickly, and moving on to the next thing.

Also, one of the most valuable things you can do is to zoom out, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture. You can also get this big picture point of view while you are watching replays of your games, but by then it is too late to make a difference. Try doing this during your games, at least every few minutes. And try in general playing more zoomed out. It helps to have radar coverage, and to scout your opponent, so that when you zoom out, you see more of what is happening.

Don’t stress about big maps.

Players at low rating levels often hate the big maps (20x20) because they fall behind their opponents so much more quickly than they fall behind on small maps. This is especially true if your mindset is “turtle” rather than “expand expand expand.”

Players at low rating levels are very bad at shooting down transports. I could tell you: “learn how to shoot down transports, learn how to make scouts, send them around the map, and then get interceptors locked on your enemy’s transports, learn how to send bombers to kill the enemy’s expanding engineers, learn how to win air battles and use air superiority so you can use bombers and transports to get a big advantage over your opponent.” You WILL eventually need to learn all that if you want to keep improving. But that is not the best advice I can give when you have a very low rating. No. The best advice I can give you is: make a lot of transports and use them to drop engineers all around the map to grab as much as you can, as fast as you can. It is okay if the first three units to come out of your air factory are all transports. A 1700-rated player would never do this. But if your opponent is half as bad as you are, he won’t catch most of the transports. Be super-greedy and expand super-quickly. Do not expand only to “your” side of the map.

Every time you give an order for your transport to drop units somewhere, queue up another order after that (by holding shift) for your transport to return home.

When you get better, and you face better opponents, this rapid-expansion-super-greedy strategy will stop working. You will still want to expand quickly with transports, but you have to be more careful about protecting them. When you get there, you can adapt and improve. But in the meantime, do what works against low-rated players and you will have a lot more fun.

One mistake from low-rated players make is idle units after a drop. The transport will drop units, and they will just sit there for 30 seconds or longer. Try not to forget about them.

Expanding with transports and engineers: it is more sneaky if you drop engineers away from mexes. But you are not trying to be sneaky, unless your opponent already has the expansions. You are trying to be greedy. So drop the engineers right into the middle of a cluster of open mexes. If you need mass badly, it might be smart to build mexes first, before you build a T1 factory. If you are under 250 rating points, probably your most limited resource is your attention, not your mass. If you start building a factory first, and then queue up the mexes to be built after the factory, this lets you immediately give orders to the factory (while it is still under construction) and then you can zoom out and give your attention to something else going on somewhere else on the map.

If you tell the factory: “make a tank, a mobile anti-air, and an engineer, make these units on infinite loop, and when they come out, they should patrol in a triangle shape around the factory” you can then give your attention to the rest of the map. While you are not paying any attention to this expansion, the engineers will build the factory, build the mexes for you, and a stream of units will come out, stomping around in a circle: tanks to stop you from being raided by land units; mobile anti air to shoot down bombers; and engineers that will scoop everything around the expansion.

Eventually you will have enough of them, so you can tell the factory to stop making those units. You will have a number of engineers there so you can quickly start building other things, like radar, point defense, more factories (if you want to launch an assault from this expansion), etc., depending on what you need based on what your opponent is up to. This is an extremely efficient way (in terms of attention and APM) for a low-rated player to grab as much of the map as possible, as quickly as possible.

After you finish expanding as much as you can, then you can look at upgrading your economy and your tech. This is where you are making executive decisions, like deciding how hard you want to eco, which tech you want, and where you want to build up armies so you can take things away from your opponent. This is where the game gets to be fun.

Beating a turtle

So I have told you over and over again not to be a turtle. But one of the common experiences that lower-rated players have playing FAF, is losing to a turtle. It is also one of the worst feelings, when you are trying to play the “right” way, and you lose to a turtle. And if you are at 250 rating points or less, you are going to run into turtles quite often, including people who have a lot more skill than you, and just really, really like to turtle (which is why their ratings are so low, even though they have better skills). So I should give you a few points of advice about how to beat another player who is following the turtle strategy.

I have good news: the way to beat a turtle is: AFTER you expand, turtle harder than them. Turtle, but without building the point defense. I know you like to turtle, because the fact is, we ALL like to turtle. (That is half the reason why people play team games.) The only reason better players don’t turtle more is because we also like to win games.

First, you do what I describe above in terms of out-expanding them, grabbing as many T1 mexes as you can. It will be even easier to grab them if your opponent is being a turtle.

Second, scout them to see what they’ve got. If they stayed at home to build up T2 point defense, don’t bother attacking them with a T1 army. Once you have enough T1 units, you can stop making T1 land.

Their plan might be to turtle up until they can build a nuke launcher. Or a Galactic Colossus. Or, as soon as their fourth T2 mex finishes, they might start building TML, which could actually do a lot of damage to you. Your opponent will eventually have enough resources to implement any strategy (making lots of bombers, making gunships, making T3 land, etc.), and when they start on a strategy, you need to start on the counter to it. This is why scouting is so important. In fact, their strategy might be to build up 50 T1 tanks use them to run you over early. If that is what they are doing, then the most important thing for you might be to make more T1 tanks.

Do not only scout your opponent’s base. You also need to scout the rest of the map to make sure that they are not doing anything sneaky. Put a few scout planes on patrol to give you vision and radar over all the places that you opponent is not supposed to be. Making radars is a good idea, too.

Third, it is not enough to have a bigger economy than them, you need to stay ahead of them, and you need to not fall behind in tech. Build enough pgens. Upgrade your mexes faster than your opponent can upgrade his. Get a T2 land headquarters so you can make T2 engineers. Never stop eco-ing. When your mexes get to T2, put mass storages around them. Start upgrading mexes to T3. When you scout your opponent, pay attention to his economy and make sure that you are growing faster than him. You are not just trying to keep up with your opponent. You are trying to snowball an unstoppable economic advantage, so you can grow so much faster than your opponent could ever hope to grow, and then you will use that to crush them.

Fourth, while you are doing this, don’t let your opponent out of their turtle box. If they make 10 T2 tanks, make 15-20. If they have 20 interceptors, have at least 40. Be ready to stop them from expanding. If they make naval units, make twice as much as them, and then go attack their naval yard (even if they have enough defenses in their base to stop a land attack, they probably can’t stop you from killing their naval yard).

You want to out-grow and out-tech your opponent. If they build up strong enough defenses, it might be impossible to break them with T1 units. So get up to T2 and make MMLs or TML. If they have enough defenses to stop that, then get up to T3 and make T3 mobile artillery. Or get to T3 air and build a strat bomber. As long as they don’t have a SAM, one strat bomber can do huge damage. If they have shielding, but no SAMs, maybe you need to build up 4 strat bombers and attack with them at the same time. If they can defend against that, build a nuke launcher, or a heavy artillery, or some T4, or 50 Percivals.

The worst thing you can do is to stop ecoing in order to implement some strategy. If you stop upgrading your mexes (or if you completely mass stall while you are trying to upgrade them) because you want to build 15 T2 artillery pieces, you are giving your opponent the chance to get back into the game. You can build a mess of T2 artillery, if that is the strategy you want to follow—as long as you also keep ecoing faster than your opponent is.

Figure out what strategy you think can defeat them with a single attack. Failed attacks can actually help your opponent because you will be leaving mass on their doorstep that they can reclaim. If you make a Monkeylord, and you think, “this just isn’t enough. He has 4 Ravagers and I’m not sure whether a Monkeylord can break that, because I don’t know this game very well” then keep ecoing, and make a Megalith too. He probably can’t build enough defenses to stop a Megalith, in the time it takes you to make a Megalith, if you have twice as many T3 mexes as he does. Hang back with your spider until it can go in with the crab at the same time.

This is not the time to think small. In this situation, you want to grow your economy on an epic scale, and build weapons on an epic scale, to destroy your opponent in an epic fashion.


Part 4: Intermediate Ladder Concepts (250-750 rating)
Spoiler: show
(This was too large to include in a single forum post, so I am going to paste Part 4 into a separate comment below.)


Part 5: Lessons from Zock (250-1000+ rating)

Spoiler: show
Zock recorded 25 hours of 1-on-1 lessons with FAF players during 2014-2016. I am in the process of summarizing his advice, and sorting it by subject matter, to make it easier to find, along with links back to the original YouTube videos.
https://forums.faforever.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=17577
Last edited by armacham01 on 21 May 2019, 11:31, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby Little Miss Murder » 15 May 2019, 21:10

Finding someone willing to tutor you is a great help.
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Re: Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby armacham01 » 20 May 2019, 07:29

Since I made this thread, I found 25 hours of Zock's 1-on-1 lessons on YouTube, and a lot of the advice he gives is at least a little bit different, and in many areas where I avoided giving advice, or at least I did not have a clear answer, Zock has a lot to say (how to play big maps, and when get T2 tech, when to upgrade mexes). I made a thread about Zock's lessons here: https://forums.faforever.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=17577

Based on all that, I am going to nuke the May 15 version of the guide and basically start over, and it will be aimed at even lower-rated players who need the most fundamental direction. If this new version of the guide is too simple for you, then you should probably be reading (or watching) Zock's lessons, rather than taking my advice.

For purposes of archival and accountability, I am going to post a copy of the original version of the 1v1 ladder guide, here, in a spoiler. Eventually I may come back to making an "intermediate" ladder guide for people between 250-750 rating. But first I want to finish reviewing all 25 hours of Zock's lessons.

Here is what this guide looked like on May 15, 2019:

Spoiler: show
Key Advice for Low-Rated Players

Introduction

Forged Alliance is a deep and very complex game. There is no real guide for new players, beyond the single-player campaign and some YouTube videos.

This guide is for lower-rated players (less than 500 points on the 1v1 ladder, or less than 1000 points in global rating) so you can improve.

The best way to improve at FAF is to play 1v1 ladder matches. “team games are a crutch. . . . Team games teach you bad habits because you have a team to lean on.” BRNKoINSANITY, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8jx_1R4o0w.

I could just tell you: go out and play ladder matches. But not all of you will, or you will try it and get discouraged. What I remember most from my early attempts at the ladder is feeling lost and not understanding why I was getting crushed. This is meant to be a road map for 1v1 ladder matches. If you have more success in the ladder, that means more opportunities to improve your game, which means you will have more fun in team games.

I want to give you the tools that you need to get 500+ rating points on the 1v1 ladder. If you are at -143, or +475, or anywhere in between, this guide is for you.

Every rule has exceptions. Think of these rules as a framework. When you are starting out, you should follow the rules. When you achieve a level of success (let’s say, 500+ rating points on the ladder) you can experiment with bending the rules or leaving the framework behind entirely.

I did not just wake up one morning knowing all this. Most of this, I didn’t even learn this by playing the game. I learned these things because other players told me (narrating their game while they were streaming, through chat messages in-game, and on Twitch chat) or because I watched people playing and saw them do things differently than I would have done.

Playing to learn

Playing against the AI

If you’ve very new to SupCom, and you want to learn the mechanics of the game, playing against the AI is not a bad way to learn. If you really don’t know what you’re doing, playing against other humans is not particularly fun.

But playing against the AI teaches bad habits, because there are so many mistakes that the AI won’t punish you for, especially being too passive (turtling).

If you’re going to play against AI, at least don’t play alone. There are custom games where people play together against the AI. If there isn’t a game like that, then host one! You don’t have to be good at FAF to host a game. There are other people, some at your level, some better, who will play with you. When there are multiple people playing, you can chat with each other, share advice, point out mistakes, and learn about how other people play the game. It’s a way to compete (see who can build up their base the fastest, get the biggest economy, do the most damage to the AI) without another person trying to break your base.

Play 1v1 Ladder

When you are laddering, you are responsible for everything: economy, intelligence, ground, air, and navy. You will learn the importance of scouting and you will learn to start doing it (or you will pay the price). You won’t ask your teammates for “e pls” or rely on their overflow. You will learn how to balance your own economy. You will see how important it is to harass your opponent because you’re going to be on the receiving end of it. You will own every defeat and every victory.

The ladder is unforgiving, because there’s no one to rescue you from your mistakes. But it is also very forgiving, because your opponents will be mostly people who are at your same level. So they’re struggling with the same things as you are, and then some.

Economy for 1v1 Ladder

How many land factories do I make?

What I remember most about being new to ladder is not having any idea how many factories I should make at the start of a match. This led to some very frustrating losses. We’ve all experienced being overrun by another player who just made 2-5 more land factories than we did, and churned out more land units than we could. I still often lose because I don’t have enough land factories. This is not something that only happens to bad players.

For a large map (20x20), or an island map, you probably want to use transports to quickly expand. Which is going to change how and where you build your factories. You may also want to start upgrading mexes to T2 sooner. That’s a more complicated situation so I’m only going to give advice about smaller maps.

For a small or medium map (5x5 or 10x10), at the start you might want just one air factory, and many, many land factories. On those maps (5x5s and 10x10s), streaming out T1 “land spam” is usually critical to winning the game.

The short answer (courtesy of BRNK, who explained it while he was streaming) is: 1 land factory for every 2 mexes you can hold, plus additional factories based on the reclaim you will get. Some maps have a lot of reclaim lying around; and on every map you can try to get reclaim after battles.

T1 Land factories generally require 4 mass per second. And of course, 2 T1 mexes will give you 4 mass per second. Land factories cost only 3.7 if they’re adjacent to a mex. If you put your mouse over the factory, it will say “3” mass per second, but the computer lies, it’s really 3.7. The adjacency bonus is nice, but it doesn’t really change the total number of factories you should build. You can run 13 land factories all with the adjacency bonus for the same cost as running 12 land factories all without the bonus.

Even on a small map, this can mean 8+ land factories is a good idea. That is why you will see good players drag out a line of land factories. At the start of the match they might try to carefully place their factories for adjacency bonuses (with T1 mexes and T1 pgens) but later in the game, they will just drag a big ugly line of land factories.

Where do I build my factories?

On a large map, 20x20, you may need factories spread around the map, because units walking across the map are (1) vulnerable to being picked off by the enemy and (2) may not be providing much value until they arrive at their destination. If units have to walk for 60 seconds to get where you want them to be, that’s a long delay to get the value out of the mass you are spending.

But on smaller maps, it is probably best to start by only making factories in your base. This has a number of advantages. First, it means you only have to defend a single location to avoid losing factories. If you fall behind in unit production compared to your opponent, that can cost you the game. So if two of your factories are far away from your base, and you lose them to a raid, suddenly your opponent will be out-producing you. Second, with units streaming out of your base, it means you will always have a lot of units near your base in case it comes under attack. Third, as units stream out of your base, they help you to secure the territory between your main base, and where you want them to be. Fourth, you can start building factories immediately in your base. But if you want to build factories around the map, it takes time for the engineers to get there, so there is a significant amount of time that you could have been cranking out units, but aren’t. The engineers might be picked off along the way.

You want to build air factories adjacent to power generators, especially hydrocarbons. Air costs a lot of power, and making pgens costs a lot of mass and power. If you can save power through adjacency bonuses, you’re actually saving mass too, because you don’t have to build as many pgens.

When there are reclaim fields, it may be worthwhile to build a factory near them so you can crank out engineers to grab the mass.

Should I make air units?

Yes. Usually you want a build with second air or third air (meaning: your second factory, or third factory, is an air factory), unless you are on a very small map, in which case you might want 6+ land factories before you make an air factory.

On maps where air is especially important, you might want to eventually make more than 1 air factory. If you have more interceptors than your opponent, you can “win air” which gives you more freedom to do things like send out transports and bombers. If your opponent builds gunships or T2 fighter/bombers, inties can quickly kill them.

How many pgens do I make?

It is well known that new players struggle with power. They either make not enough, and power stall, or too many, and end up wasting their resources building power plants when what they really need is more tanks.

You want a few pgens at the start to pay for all the construction that your engineers are going to do (building mexes costs a lot of power, that is one reason why reclaiming rocks is so important at the start of a match). For every T1 land factory you have running, you need 1 pgen. For every T1 air factory you have running, you basically need 4 pgens. (More if you’re making transports, but people usually don’t crank out large numbers of transports.)

It takes 60 seconds for an engineer to build a factory and it takes 30 seconds for an engineer to build a pgen. There are a few ways to set up your build instructions so you add as many pgens as factories: one is to have 2 engineers building land factories while 1 engineer builds pgens. (Thanks, BRNK.) Another way is to have an engineer building a land factory, then a pgen, then a land factory, then a pgen. The problem with this 2nd approach is that it takes so much longer to queue up. And if your engineer dies, you need to go back and re-do this time-consuming process. If you just grab an engineer and tell it to build a line of pgens or a line of factories, that takes less than a second. Your time and attention may be your most precious resource, even more important than mass or energy.

You also want pgens to support commander upgrades. Upgrading your ACU can be very powerful, but the upgrades cost a lot of power. So you may want extra pgens to support ACU upgrades, and then to have power surplus so you can use overcharge. But keep in mind that every 2 pgens is 3 tanks that you don’t have on the field. If you make 6 too many pgens, you are going to have 9 fewer tanks, which could make the difference in an important battle.

To get a sense of whether you are building too many, or too few pgens, watch your replays, and look at your power bar. If you want to have power for a short time in order to make an important upgrade, consider whether it makes more sense to build a power storage, instead of building more pgens.

How bad is it to stall?

Good players will sometimes intentionally power stall, if there is something important, like a commander upgrade or finishing a T2 pgen. And they can power stall if their power is sniped. But bad things happen. During a power stall, mexes don’t produce as much mass. Radar and shields turn off. It takes longer to build things. You want to build enough power, based on what you plan to do, to avoid a power stall.

Building pgens costs a lot of power. An engineer uses 30 power per second when it is building a pgen: so you need 1.5 pgens for every engineer that you want to have building more pgens. If you are low on power, that is when you can least afford to spend power building more pgens.

A mass stall is less bad. When you mass stall, things take longer to build. But otherwise, it does not affect your operations.

It is still inefficient to mass stall, because when things are under construction, you’re paying for them, but you’re not getting any value out of them. One finished T3 heavy artillery is worth a lot more than two half-built T3 heavy artillery. (I’m not proud of this, but that’s actually what I did in my very first 1v1 ladder game . . . .)

Economy is all about balance, and spending too much on making buildings takes away from your ability to make units. One thing good players will do during a game is to select all engineers (Ctrl-B) and pause them (Z), and see how that affects their economy. It turns out, the fastest way to find out just how much your engineers are costing you, is to pause them all and see what happens. Then they make a decision about which ones to unpause (perhaps, all of them).

When should I have engineers assist a factory?

Each T1 factory has 20 build power. The ACU has 10 build power, and a tech 1 engineer has 5 build power. This means that if you have 4 T1 engineers assisting a factory, you can produce as many units as two factories running at the same time. Engineers only cost 50 mass, but a land factory costs 240 mass, and an air factory only costs 210.

So why should you build factories, when you can just build engineers to assist your factories?

First, engineers are much more vulnerable. A single bomb can kill 5 or more engineers clustered together. A frigate can slaughter engineers grouped around a naval factory.

Second, engineers do not get any adjacency bonus. If your land factory is next to a T1 mex, it gets a 7.5% reduction in the amount of mass needed to produce units. But if you have a T1 factory next to a T1 mex, and it is being assisted by 8 engineers, you’re really only getting a 2.5% bonus. This is especially important for air factories, where the pgen adjacency bonus is so important.

When should you use engineers to assist a factory?

Sometimes, you have an immediate need for a particular unit.

If you only have a single T2 factory, it can be faster and cheaper to assist it than to make support factories.

While the factory is upgrading, that can be a good time to assist. While a factory is upgrading, it is not building anything for you. And it does not get the hit points boost until it finishes upgrading. So less time spent upgrading means it is less vulnerable to being sniped in the meantime.

Naval factories are more expensive and can’t benefit from adjacency. Also, their units take significantly longer to make than other factories, but you don’t get any value out of a unit while it is under construction. Faster construction times means your mass spends less time tied up in the factory.

When do I get T2 mexes?

Upgrading a T1 mex to T2 will get you an additional 4 mass per second, but it takes 800 mass, and it can take 90 seconds unless you have engineers assisting.

There are other, cheaper ways to get an additional 4 mass per second: you can build 2 T1 mexes, which costs 72 mass.

Or if you break two of your opponent’s T1 mexes, you’re not getting an additional 4 mass per second, but you are stopping your opponent from getting the same amount.

800 mass could be used to build 16 tanks. If you can use 16 tanks to secure 2 more mexes (or to deny 2 mexes to your opponent, or to deny 1 mex and secure it for yourself), that is more efficient than upgrading a mex to T2. Not only does it provide the same income benefit as making a T2 mex, but having more tanks means you have a bigger army and more map control.

On many small maps, it is common for players to complete a match without ever upgrading a mex to T2. It is just too important to keep the pressure on.

So when should you upgrade your first mex to T2?

On some maps, like Daroza’s Sanctuary, there is just such a ridiculous amount of reclaimable mass lying around that it is not even bad to make early T2 mexes.

Once there are no more mass points you can secure, you may want to upgrade T2 mexes so you can continue growing your economy. You have to decide whether you can afford it, or if you need to be churning out more land spam.

If it’s a large map and you’re looking at a long game, you may want to upgrade mexes.

If your opponent is upgrading T2 mexes, you probably want to keep up with them. You might be able to make up the difference through raiding their mexes and securing more territory. But you can also try to keep up with them by upgrading your own mexes.

And, if you’re not able to otherwise spend all of your income, that can be time to upgrade mexes, because the alternative is that you overflow mass. Any mass that you overflow, in a 1v1 match, is lost forever.

But this last reason, that you aren’t able to spend all of your mass income: that may actually be a sign that you bungled things. If you’re on a small map, you SHOULD be able to spend all of your income. You SHOULD have made enough factories. The fact that you didn’t, means that your opponent might be churning out more units than you, and your opponent might use those units to roll right over you. If you can survive, you’ll have a T2 mex, and in the long run, that’s good. But in the short run, you might just be dead.

What do I do with my commander?

Aggression or Engineering?

Without upgrades, your commander is roughly equivalent to 20 T1 tanks (that’s about how many it can beat in a straight-up fight) and 2 T1 engineers (it builds exactly twice as quickly as a T1 engineer).

With or without upgrades, you can use your commander aggressively (to secure territory, and to deal and tank damage) or defensively (to build up your base, and to be there in case enemy units show up to raid your base).

At the very start of the game, you need to build at least 1 factory. Depending on the map, you might be better off staying to build 3+ factories and protect your base, or you might get the most value out of leading the charge.

If you send your ACU away from base, you are giving up about 100 mass (because it costs 100 mass to make 2 T1 engineers). If your ACU leaves the base, kills a single enemy tank (52 mass cost to your opponent), and scoops up what’s left (30-40 mass), you’ve already almost gotten the same value out of the ACU as if your ACU stayed home in base.

If you use your ACU aggressively, you WILL lose games when your ACU gets caught out by a larger force. That does not mean you should stay in your base. If you stay in your base, you will also lose games. Part of becoming a better player is knowing when and how far you can push your ACU to take the most advantage, and when and how to protect it. This is just something you need to develop over time by playing the game. Have units with your ACU; have radar or send out scout planes to see if the enemy has more units near your ACU so you aren’t surprised by a large force; know whether there is deep water nearby that your ACU can run to; and as the game gets on, have interceptors or flak so your ACU doesn’t just suddenly die to 8 gunships that come out of nowhere.

Eventually, the game becomes too dangerous to have your ACU on the front lines. The primary game-ending mechanic of SupCom is that, as the game goes on, the battlefield becomes a more and more dangerous place.

Commander upgrades

Upgrading your ACU to get T2, so you can build point defense, is usually the wrong move. Instead of doing that, upgrade a factory and make T2 engineers. It’s not much more expensive and it makes your army (or air force) more diverse. Your ACU doesn’t need T2 unless you’re planning to drop it into a danger zone. If your ACU is with your army, the gun upgrade is generally much more effective. As long as you don’t just walk into too much point defense, a gun ACU beats a T2 ACU, especially if the gun ACU can overcharge stuff that the T2 ACU builds.

One of the mistakes new players often make is being too passive. They want to build a bunch of T2 point defense to make a fortress that can’t be broken. But in Supreme Commander, there is no such thing as a position that can’t be broken. The best defense is a good offense.

Unit mix

Factory infinite build orders and factory attack move

One of the most powerful things you can do in SupCom is to set your factories with “infinite” build orders, so they will loop endlessly through a list of units to make. Rather than telling a factory to make “10 tanks,” you can tell it to make “3 tanks, a land scout, a tank, a light artillery, a tank, and an engineer, on infinite loop.”

You can, and should, give your factories move orders (or attack-move orders) so your units will rally out to some waypoint. If you don’t do that, when they come out of the factory, they will just stand around in front of it waiting for you.

When I have an infinite build order from a factory, making a mix of units, I like to have an engineer in the mix. This is because when the units stream out with an attack move order, the engineer will grab mass along the way. If there’s a battle, reclaim will be left behind, and the engineer can grab it, which often pays for the engineer, and then some. If I think a location is important enough that I want to send a pack of units there, then probably it would be nice to have some build capacity there in case I want to put down some PD, or a radar, or factory, or whatever. Just having engineers around the map, reclaiming things, not only strengthens the economy but it gives flexibility when I want to build things.

What ratio of tanks to light artillery?

In general, 5:1. If your commander is leading the charge, you can have more light artillery in the mix, because your commander is taking the place of 10-20 tanks.

Against Aeon, you probably want something more like 2:1 or even 1:1. And of course you need to have radar or bring land scouts. This is because Auroras have such excellent range.

Do I even make mobile anti-air?

Every mobile anti-air unit you make could have been a tank. If you make MAA, you will lose fights where you just didn’t have quite as many tanks as your opponent. But you need some kind of anti-air. Your opponent could surprise you by suddenly shifting into air production and making bombers. If you rely on interceptors for anti-air, you run the risk that you will “lose air” (that your opponent will have more interceptors than you, and kill all of your interceptors in an air fight). I don’t have a good answer on this, but I will note that high-rated players often skip making MAA until they need it.

Air mix

If you’ve only got 1 air factory, it may be smart to put it on infinite build making 2-3 interceptors and 1 scout plane. If you want some air aggression, you can add a t1 bomber to the loop.

When you see a scout plane landed in your base, that is a reminder for you to pick it up and send it on a scouting mission. Some of us need reminders to scout or we will forget to do it.

When and how do I tech up?

When do I go to T2? When do I go to T3?

I don’t have a good answer for this. I’ve heard multiple reasons why you might want or need to move to T2: (1) because your opponent went to T2; (2) because your T1 land units aren’t getting the job done; (3) because you are getting T2 mexes and need TMD to protect them; (4) because you can afford it; or (5) because it’s been 10 minutes.

BRNK made a video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5cTaTKJ5vI

When do I get T2 Navy?

Navy units tend to be expensive, but they tend to be more efficient than similar land units. For the price you pay in terms of mass and power, naval units are faster, stronger, and hit harder than land units. That is one important reason to invest in navy. If one player spends 2,000 mass on riptides, and the other player spends 2,000 mass on frigates, the frigates should win easily in a stand-up fight.

On a map with a lot of water, you don’t want to be locked out of the water. (A navy lock means: one player can’t build a naval factory anywhere because his opponent sends ships over to kill it.) So depending on the map, you may need to build a naval factory pretty quickly and you might want a T1 torpedo launcher. (It is not a “torpedo defense”; please stop calling it that. Torpedo defense is a defensive system that makes torpedoes not hit their target. A “torpedo launcher” is a building that fires torpedoes.)

Subs beat frigates. A sub can hit a frigate, and the frigate can’t hit back. But it takes a long time to die. And while frigates are slowly dying to subs, they can do a lot of damage. Potentially, they can break your opponent’s naval factories, helping you to lock them out.

A good unit mix at the start is often 1 sub + 2 frigates on infinite loop.

T2 navy is great, but it is also expensive. If your opponent rushes T2 navy, you can often shut that down if you just show up soon enough with enough frigates. Making a T1 naval factory and upgrading it to T2, and then building a destroyer, costs 5,550 mass and 26,500 power. For that price, you could make 4 naval factories and 12 frigates. If you show up with two more frigates than your opponent has, you may be able to crush his factory before it finishes upgrading or at least before the destroyer comes out. Then you are far ahead of your opponent. (And that might be a good time for you to start upgrading a naval factory to T2.) Or if you swarm enough frigates around a destroyer, you can sink it.

Frigates might not excite you the way destroyers and cruisers do, especially because they are so limited in range when you are trying to kill stuff on land, but you should not overlook them. Even when you get to the T2 phase, you probably want a good number of frigates in your fleet. You want them in front of your other ships, to provide vision and to tank damage.

Frigates deal area of affect damage. Not a large enough area to hurt submarines with ground fire, but they are great at slaughtering groups of engineers, which you will often find clustered around enemy naval factories.

Frigates are faster than mech marines, have better radar than a land scout, a better direct fire gun than a tank, range and splash damage like light artillery, hit points like a wall section, and (except for Aeon) have anti-air guns like the mobile AA.

Technical Stuff

Templates and Hotkeys

Templates can save a lot of time (especially if you’re trying to put down a point defense with 8 wall sections around it).

There are only a few hotkeys that I’m using. I bound the F1 key to: select all fighters. This means I can just press “F1” and it selects all my interceptors and ASFs, so I can quickly send them around the map. And I use the period key (“.”) to select the next idle engineer, so I can make sure that my engineers are doing useful things.

Just using these templates and hotkeys will save you a lot of time. As you get to be a better player, you can look to add more into your game.

Build orders

“You can think of generic build orders as a ticket to enter competitive gameplay. If you don’t know any build orders, it does not matter how good of a strategist you are. You will probably die within the first minutes, or at least handicap yourself so much from the very start that you will die a slow painful death, over the course of the game.”

That is from the introduction to Heaven’s build order tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6uE1-xS2uk

BRNK also made a video about build orders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8jx_1R4o0w

Learn how to use the Replay Vault

The Java client for FAF has access to a vault with information about just about every FAF game ever played. It is in the vault section, and it is called “online replays.” Some of the replays don’t work, but most of them do.

You can filter the replays to search by player name, player rating, map name, and other factors. So you could search for all 1v1 ladder games ZLO ever played on the map Loki. And then you can watch a few replays and steal his build orders.

If you click on “ID” it shows a list of 10 factors you can use to filter the games. What is less obvious is: this is actually a scrollable list. There are more than 10 things. Scroll down to see additional search factors, like player name and map name.

Comeback Mechanics

Every good RTS has comeback mechanics. So how do you come back, when you are behind? And on the flip side, what do you have to worry about, when you are ahead?

The three main comeback mechanics in SupCom are: (1) reclaim; (2) eco snipes; and (3) commander snipes.

Sniping the enemy commander (killing them with a surprise attack) is straightforward enough that I don’t need to explain it. A lot of players (and I am guilty of this) only look for commander snipes when we are losing. When you are ahead of your opponent, you might overlook the chance to take out the enemy commander.

Eco snipes are when you target down important economic structures, namely pgens or upgraded mexes. If you land a T2 transport carrying 14 lobos, or 16 zthuees, behind your opponent’s base, and crush 4 T2 mexes, that can be so much damage that suddenly, you’re not losing any more. Or perhaps you build a TML and use it to kill some T2 mexes.

Reclaim is so complicated and important that it needs its own chapter.

Reclaim

Energy Reclaim

Energy reclaim (from trees) is mostly only important in the early game, and when it is available it is usually part of the build order for a particular map. After you are done carrying out your build order, energy reclaim is probably not going to be very important for the rest of the match (but keep it in mind if you have power problems, it can provide a short-term fix).

Mass reclaim at the start of the match

Mass reclaim (from rocks and dead units placed at the start of the match) is important to early build orders, because it can give you mass so much faster than you get from T1 mexes (which produce 120 mass per minute, but an engineer can pull that from a wreck in seconds), and because it costs so much energy to build T1 mexes. Every good build order takes into account where there is mass that can be reclaimed early.

Reclaim fields are strategic objectives

Every mass point is strategically important, and when multiple mass points are grouped together, obviously it is even more important. New players tend to overlook that reclaim fields (either placed on the map by the mapmaker, or the result of a battle) can be equally important, because they can provide just as much, or more, income as mexes, albeit a finite amount. But you are only going to get a finite amount of mass from every mex: the only way to get infinite mass from a mex is if the game never ends.

When you are watching a replay, you can look at the mass income each player has. You can also look at the total amount of mass they have gathered during the game. And you can look at the total amount of mass they have reclaimed during the game. You should pay attention to this while you are watching replays. There are many games where one player with less income from mexes uses reclaim to keep up with or even surpass their opponent in terms of total mass. This is why reclaim can be a comeback mechanic. Even if you are behind in mexes, reclaim can keep you in the game or even give you a winning edge.

This also makes the game more interesting because (1) it punishes players for failed attacks; you don’t just lose units but you give reclaim to your opponent, which is called a “mass donation”; (2) it creates new strategic locations on the map. Chokepoints don’t move, mexes don’t move, but every time you play a map, and as the game goes on, the reclaim fields can be in completely different places.

See the reclaim

To see how much reclaim there is, press Ctrl-Shift. Very small amounts (less than 10) do not show up, but otherwise, the amount of each piece of reclaim is shown as a number on your map. You should be doing this throughout the match.

Grab the reclaim

The most APM-efficient way to get reclaim is with an “attack-move” order (alt-right click) or patrol (a unit on attack-move behaves the same way as on patrol, except they stop when they reach their destination and run out of things to do). You can give an attack-move order in a fraction of second. But the engineers will not scoop efficiently: if there are small wrecks, or single trees, the engineers can scoop those before scooping the important stuff.

The most efficient way to quickly get reclaim can be “manual reclaim” which is where you select an engineer and for each rock/wreck/tree clump that you want them to reclaim, you give a separate order (a separate mouse click while holding down the shift key).

You have to balance your need for APM with your need for getting mass quickly.

You can build a factory next to a reclaim field, set an attack-move order for units coming out of the factory, and have it build engineers. Engineers on a “factory attack-move” order have double range when they are reclaiming things, for some reason. (This is a game engine bug, but it is not considered an exploit.) You will see good players build factories next to reclaim fields just so they can crank out engineers to grab reclaim, even in the middle of the ocean. You will see players use transports to drop engineers into reclaim fields, so they can grab the reclaim, or so they can quickly build a factory to get factory attack-move engineers into the field.

Reclaim your own losses

In team games, it is obvious that you should reclaim the base of a dead teammate to quickly boost your economy so your team does not fall too far behind. You can also cannibalize your own base in a 1v1 game. You have to decide between scooping and rebuilding. Sometimes, the smart move is to scoop the mass, and use it to keep your war engine running.

If there is a battle between 20 T1 tanks, 10 of yours and 10 of your opponent’s, the reclaim field might have 700+ mass in it. That is enough to rebuild your 10 tanks. That is enough to run a T1 land factory for three minutes. That is enough to build a pgen, a T1 land factory, and run it for over a minute. That is almost enough to upgrade a T2 mex. Even a small engagement can leave behind enough reclaim to make a real difference in the game.

This guy scoops

Your ACU does not just fight, it also scoops. After (or even during) a battle, you can give manual reclaim orders. Or you can put the ACU on patrol (just make sure it doesn’t wander off). One of the benefits of having your ACU out on the map is not only that it helps you to win fights, but you can scoop the mass afterwards.

Control Yourself

More important than controlling units is to control yourself.

Pay Attention, but not Too Much

“Tunnel vision” is when a person focuses on one thing only, and fails to notice other things on the map. When there is a fight going on, it is normal to want to watch it, to see how it resolves, and to see if you can control the units a bit to increase their chances of success. That might be the best use of your attention. But maybe not. You need to decide where to focus your attention.

Good players don’t just watch things happen. If they’ve got a transport that’s trying to unload units but is under attack from interceptors, they might click away to a different area of the map, give some orders, then click back to see if the transport unloaded the units or not. They don’t just stare at it to see whether it will survive. Whether or not that transport unloads the units might be extremely important to how the match develops, going forward—but staring at it doesn’t change anything.

Don’t be a “looky-loo.” Don’t miss opportunities to control your entire army because you’re waiting to see what happens to three units. Keep everything moving. You have a mighty war engine, with many moving parts, and they all need your attention.

In order to see the big picture, it is as simple as looking at the big picture. Zoom out! And glance at your minimap often. FAF has nice graphics. The units look nice when you are zoomed in. The strategic icons don’t look so nice. But you’ve got to zoom out so you can see what is happening.

Attack Your Opponent’s Attention

When you are aggressively attacking, you force your opponent to respond. Even just sending a mantis behind their base takes their time and focus. JaggedAppliance talks about a “ZLO bomber”: a bomber sent out to some random part of the map, which is not really targeting any particular unit, but which is targeting the opponent’s attention, because players have to react when they see a bomber. Don’t let your opponent get comfortable. Harass and disrupt their plans.

Have Good Manners

If you’re not rude to people, many of them will help you out. They can give advice and point out holes in your game. Most people don’t actually want to be better than you at FAF. They just want to beat you. So they don’t mind explaining how they won, or what they think you did wrong. It feels good to pass on advice, so do it, and let other people do it to you. Not all the advice you get (or give!) will be good advice, but discussing the game with other players is an important part of the total FAF experience and an important part of your journey to becoming better.

Be Reflective

Watch replays of your games. If it hurts too much to watch a game you lost, skip it. You’re probably making the same mistakes in games that you win. You will see so much in the replays. Switch between the three perspectives (the overview, what you could see, and what your opponent could see). If you don’t watch your replays, to see where you’re messing up, you will miss major opportunities for improvement.

Sentimentality is Weakness

Because of the reclaim mechanic, there are times when it is better to bring a unit home and suicide it, so you can scoop out the mass, than sending it to die on your opponent’s doorstep (where your opponent can scoop the mass). This happens most often in team games that reach the T4 stage.

If you make a TML (tactical missile launcher) and pick off a few of your opponent’s mexes, and then your opponent starts building TMD (tactical missile defense), your best move might be to suicide the launcher (select it and press ctrl-K) and scoop up the mass. You will get back hundreds of mass, instead of having an “anti-T2 mex” costing you 6 mass per second while it builds missiles that you might never get to use.

If there’s an enemy bomber coming for your base, you can stop a unit in partial production in order to start making a mobile anti-air. If you press “s” to stop a factory that is 80% done making a tank, you will lose about 40 mass of investment. But if you get a mobile anti air unit out faster, you might save an engineer from dying (50 mass). It’s a mistake to worry too much about half a unit when you need to be paying attention to the big picture, and you need to budget your time/attention efficiently.

If you start making a building that you don’t need, you can reclaim it. When a building is fully built, reclaiming it takes away health and does not give you mass (until it dies). But when it is under construction, reclaiming it gives you back some mass. So if you start making a T2 pgen, and you decide that you don’t actually need it, stop building it, and start reclaiming it.

Be Decisive

Making a plan, and sticking to it, is a good thing. Decide at the start of the match how many factories you’re going to make, where you’re going to expand, and when you’re going to go for T2 land or T2 air.

There are times when you need to abandon a plan. There are times when you need to react to some new development. In particular, you should be scouting your opponent, so you can counter your opponent’s strategies. But in general, make a plan and carry it out.

Be Persistent

When stuff gets destroyed, rebuild. When you lose mexes, retake them. (And if you lose them again, retake them again, again and again.) Even though the battlefield gets more dangerous as time goes on (which means, among other things, that it is harder and harder to hold mexes in the middle of the map) it is still worth it to build T1 mexes wherever you can. Don’t be a quitter and don’t get discouraged. Stay in the fight until the other guy quits.

Conclusion

Make a plan, and carry it out. Make decisions, make them swiftly, carry them out decisively, and then move forward to the next thing.

Manage your entire army. You will find more efficiency at the large scale (paying attention to the map and your economy as a whole) than in the small scale (micro-ing single units).

Zoom out. Always be scouting. Always be looking for reclaim, and then take it. Be aggressive without donating mass.

What purpose does this guide serve?

I want to help people to start playing FAF by reducing barriers to entry, and help people to play ladder by reducing barriers to entry, and to help people improve at FAF by encouraging them to play 1v1 ladder, which is the best way to improve.

I want to provide advice within a narrow scope, because to provide a guide/tutorial for FAF as a whole is an undertaking that is too broad (it would take too much effort, and the end result would be so big that no one would read it) and for which I am not qualified.

Since the best way to improve at FAF is to play 1v1 ladder games, the most efficient way I can help people to improve at FAF is to find a way to get them to ladder more. Based on my recent experience moving up the ladder (from about 250 to 750), I am in a good position to write such a guide.

Also, to ensure that the guide is short, I want to focus on advice/guidance that players basically can’t get elsewhere. I don’t need to explain specific units and unit mechanics. Players seem to have a good grasp of that. And I don’t need to describe build orders, because there are already excellent tutorial videos from Heaven and BRNK.

Also, to keep the guide short, I want to focus my advice only on the smaller ladder maps and only on the first 10 minutes or so of the game.

If more people play more ladder games and improve their gameplay, that should make things better all around.

BRS_DESTRUCTOR has also made a list of tips for newer players: https://forums.faforever.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=16980

I would appreciate any corrections where the guide is wrong. Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to tell the entire story of everything every player should be doing. I tried to keep it short and it should only include advice that would be of significant help to players who are having a tough time getting their ladder rating up.

Also, I would appreciate feedback about whether any particular advice was helpful. If it's not helpful, it should be cut. I think the #1 way to improve this guide is probably to cut out half of it so it is short enough that people will use it.

Also, I welcome any discussion in this thread in more depth about any of these issues.

I am grateful to everyone who has responded to my questions, given me advice during games, shared advice and wisdom in Twitch chat, and especially everyone who streams and casts games (their own, and replays).
armacham01
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Re: Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby armacham01 » 20 May 2019, 09:02

Part 4: Intermediate Ladder Concepts (250-750 rating)
Spoiler: show
Economy for T1 Spam on a 5x5 or 10x10 Map

How many land factories do I make?

What I remember most about being new to ladder is not having any idea how many factories I should make at the start of a match. This led to some very frustrating losses. We’ve all experienced being overrun by another player who just made 2-5 more land factories than we did, and churned out more land units than we could. I still often lose because I don’t have enough land factories. This is not something that only happens to bad players.

The maximum number of factories that you can make, in order to pump out the maximum amount of T1 spam as fast as possible, is: 1 factory for every 2 mexes you can hold, plus additional factories based on the reclaim you will get.
(Thanks, BRNK.) Some maps have a lot of reclaim lying around; and on every map you can try to get reclaim after battles.

IF you want to maximize your production of T1 spam, you should go right up to this limit. If you build fewer factories than this upper limit, you will end up with fewer units than than if you go to this upper limit exactly, because you will not be able to spending all of your mass on making T1 units. If you build more factories than this upper limit, you will also end up with fewer units than if you go to this upper limit exactly (because you are spending 240 mass to make an extra factory, but then then you are mass stalling so none of your factories is producing at top speed).

(Biass makes a good point below, which is that: you do not always want to max out on T1 spam. Sometimes, you do! But not always. If you want to spend on other things, like navy, a second air factory, upgrading a mex to T2, making a TML, etc. you would want to make fewer than that maximum number. Also, if you plan to go up to Tech 2 land, every Tech 2 factory can spend about as much as 2.25 Tech 1 factories, so you won't need as many factories in order to spend all of your mass. Some maps strongly favor the "maximum spam" approach, and others do not. For example, on Fields of Thunder and The Ganges Chasma, maps which have a tremendous amount of reclaim in the center, maximum spam seems like the only viable strategy, because if one player has enough units to stop the other player from scooping, the non-scooping player will quickly fall behind. The main reason to teach you how to calculate the "maximum spam" number of factories is so that you can make a plan. Your plan could be "I want to go maximum spam" or it could be different. It could be "almost maximum spam, but make 2 fewer factories, and use the extra mass to upgrade my mexes." You should have some idea of what the "maximum" number is, when you are deciding how to play a map.)

T1 Land factories generally require 4 mass per second. Two T1 mexes will give you 4 mass per second. Land factories cost only 3.7 if they’re adjacent to a mex. If you put your mouse over the factory, it will say “3” mass per second, but the computer lies, it’s really 3.7. The adjacency bonus is nice, but it does not really change the total number of factories you should build. You can run 13 land factories all with the adjacency bonus for the same cost as running 12 land factories all without the bonus.

Even on a small map, this can mean 8+ land factories is a good idea. That is why you will see good players drag out a line of land factories. At the start of the match they might try to carefully place their factories for adjacency bonuses (with T1 mexes and T1 pgens) but later in the game, they will just drag a big ugly line of land factories.

According to Zock, you pause making T1 land factories when you can no longer afford it. You do not want to keep making factories while you are mass stalling, because that means your newest factory could have been 5 tanks, and the newest factory won’t help you to produce units faster until you solve the mass stall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... 0&t=22m00s

Also, according to Zock, you stop making T1 land factories when you decide to transition to T2. So even if you planned to make 16 T1 land factories (which is not actually a bad plan, if you are playing on Goodlands), if you decide you need to move up to T2, you would stop making more factories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2WFQxy ... 0&t=28m05s

Where do I build my factories?

On a large map, 20x20, you may need factories spread around the map, because units walking across the map are (1) vulnerable to being picked off by the enemy and (2) may not be providing much value until they arrive at their destination. If units have to walk for 60 seconds to get where you want them to be, that’s a long delay to get the value out of the mass you are spending.

But on smaller maps, it is probably best to start by only making factories in your base. This has a number of advantages. First, it means you only have to defend a single location to avoid losing factories. If you fall behind in unit production compared to your opponent, that can cost you the game. So if two of your factories are far away from your base, and you lose them to a raid, suddenly your opponent will be out-producing you. Second, with units streaming out of your base, it means you will always have a lot of units near your base in case it comes under attack. Third, as units stream out of your base, they help you to secure the territory between your main base, and where you want them to be. Fourth, you can start building factories immediately in your base. But if you want to build factories around the map, it takes time for the engineers to get there, so there is a significant amount of time that you could have been cranking out units, but aren’t. The engineers might be picked off along the way.

Zock teaches that it is good to build your factories at your starting site, and to use more than one engineer at a time to build factories so they finish faster, because a half-built factory can’t help you, but a complete factory can. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... 0&t=24m08s

You want to build air factories adjacent to power generators, especially hydrocarbons. Air costs a lot of power, and making pgens costs a lot of mass and power. If you can save power through adjacency bonuses, you’re actually saving mass, because you don’t have to build as many pgens.

When there are reclaim fields, it may be worthwhile to build a factory near them so you can crank out engineers to grab the mass, with a factory attack-move order.

Should I make air units?

Yes. Usually you want a build with second air or third air (meaning: your second factory, or third factory, is an air factory), unless you are on a very small map, in which case you might want 6+ land factories before you make an air factory.

On maps where air is especially important, you might want to eventually make more than 1 air factory. If you have more interceptors than your opponent, you can “win air” which gives you more freedom to do things like send out transports and bombers. If your opponent builds gunships or T2 fighter/bombers, inties can quickly kill them.

How many pgens do I make?

It is well known that new players struggle with power. They either make not enough, and power stall, or too many, and end up wasting their resources building power plants when what they really need is more tanks.

You want a few pgens at the start to pay for all the construction that your engineers are going to do (building mexes costs a lot of power, that is one reason why reclaiming rocks is so important at the start of a match). For every T1 land factory you have running, you need 1 pgen. For every T1 air factory you have running, you basically need 4 pgens. (More if you’re making transports, but people usually don’t crank out large numbers of transports.)

It takes 60 seconds for an engineer to build a factory and it takes 30 seconds for an engineer to build a pgen. There are a few ways to set up your build instructions so you add as many pgens as factories: one is to have 2 engineers building land factories while 1 engineer builds pgens. (Thanks, BRNK.) Another way is to have an engineer building a land factory, then a pgen, then a land factory, then a pgen. The problem with this 2nd approach is that it takes so much longer to queue up. And if your engineer dies, you need to go back and re-do this time-consuming process. If you just grab an engineer and tell it to build a line of pgens, and grab two engineers and tell them to make a line of factories, takes about a second. Your time and attention may be your most precious resource, even more important than mass or energy.

You also want energy to support commander upgrades. Upgrading your ACU can be very powerful, but the upgrades cost a lot of energy. So you may want extra pgens to support ACU upgrades, and then to have power surplus so you can use overcharge. But keep in mind that every 2 pgens is 3 tanks that you don’t have on the field. If you make 6 too many pgens, you are going to have 9 fewer tanks, which could make the difference in an important battle. According to Zock, you can often make do with having slightly fewer units, if you are investing in something that will pay off in the long run.

To get a sense of whether you are building too many, or too few pgens, watch your replays, and look at your power bar. If you want to have power for a short time in order to make an important upgrade, consider whether it makes more sense to build a power storage, instead of building more pgens.

How bad is it to stall?

Good players will sometimes intentionally power stall, if there is something important, like a commander upgrade or finishing a T2 pgen. And they can power stall if their power is sniped. But bad things happen. During a power stall, mexes don’t produce as much mass. Radar and shields turn off. It takes longer to build things. You want to build enough power, based on what you plan to do, to avoid a power stall.

Building pgens costs a lot of power. An engineer uses 30 power per second when it is building a pgen: so you need 1.5 pgens for every engineer that you want to have building more pgens. If you are low on power, that is when you can least afford to spend power building more pgens.

A mass stall is less bad. When you mass stall, things take longer to build. But otherwise, it does not affect your operations.

It is still inefficient to mass stall, because when things are under construction, you’re paying for them, but you’re not getting any value out of them. One finished T3 heavy artillery is worth a lot more than two half-built T3 heavy artillery. (I’m not proud of this, but that’s actually what I did in my very first 1v1 ladder game . . . .)

Economy is all about balance, and spending too much on making buildings takes away from your ability to make units. One thing good players will do during a game is to select all engineers (Ctrl-B) and pause them (Z), and see how that affects their economy. It turns out, the fastest way to find out just how much your engineers are costing you, is to pause them all and see what happens. Then they make a decision about which ones to unpause (perhaps, all of them).

Zock teaches that it is better to power stall a little bit, than to overbuild power. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... 0&t=29m30s

When should I have engineers assist a factory?

Each T1 factory has 20 build power. The ACU has 10 build power, and a tech 1 engineer has 5 build power. This means that if you have 4 T1 engineers assisting a factory, you can produce as many units as two factories running at the same time. Engineers only cost 50 mass, but a land factory costs 240 mass, and an air factory only costs 210.

So why should you build factories, when you can just build engineers to assist your factories?

First, engineers are much more vulnerable. A single bomb can kill 5 or more engineers clustered together. A frigate can slaughter engineers grouped around a naval factory.

Second, engineers do not get any adjacency bonus. If your land factory is next to a T1 mex, it gets a 7.5% reduction in the amount of mass needed to produce units. But if you have a T1 factory next to a T1 mex, and it is being assisted by 8 engineers, you’re really only getting a 2.5% bonus. This is especially important for air factories, where the pgen adjacency bonus is so important.

Third, engineers take a long time to build. According to Zock, you can spend mass faster by building more factories, than by building engineers to assist your factories.

When should you use engineers to assist a factory?

Sometimes, you have an immediate need for a particular unit.

If you only have a single T2 factory, it can be faster and cheaper to assist it than to make support factories.

While the factory is upgrading, that can be a good time to assist. While a factory is upgrading, it is not building anything for you. And it does not get the hit points boost until it finishes upgrading.

Naval factories are more expensive and can’t benefit from adjacency. Also, their units take significantly longer to make than other factories, and you don’t get any value out of a unit while it is under construction. Faster construction times means your mass spends less time tied up in the factory.

When do I get T2 mexes?

Upgrading a T1 mex to T2 will get you an additional 4 mass per second, but it takes 800 mass, and it can take 90 seconds unless you have engineers assisting.

There are other, cheaper ways to get an additional 4 mass per second: you can build 2 T1 mexes, which costs 72 mass. Of course, you can only do this if you can safely get an engineer to two open mexes.

Or if you break two of your opponent’s T1 mexes, you’re not getting an additional 4 mass per second, but you are stopping your opponent from getting the same amount. If your opponent can rebuild these mexes, then you have not really secured an advantage equivalent to upgrading your own T2 mex. Zock teaches that it is acceptable to lose a little territory while your mexes are upgrading, if you can get the territory back after.

800 mass could be used to build 16 tanks. If you can use 16 tanks to secure 2 more mexes (or to deny 2 mexes to your opponent, or to deny 1 mex and secure it for yourself), that is more efficient than upgrading a mex to T2. Not only does it provide the same income benefit as making a T2 mex, but having more tanks means you have a bigger army and more map control.

On many small maps, it is common for players to complete a match without ever upgrading a mex to T2. It is just too important to keep the pressure on.

On maps with a lot of reclaim in the middle, building engineers to scoop it can bring in more mass income, much faster, than getting a T2 mex. Of course, you also need to build tanks to protect them (and you should consider raiding your opponent to disrupt their attempts to scoop mass).

So when should you upgrade your first mex to T2?

According to Zock, you should do it as soon as you can get away with it. You can get away with it if, by making the mex (instead of producing more units) you are not going to suffer much damage. According to Zock, you can often make do with having fewer units, for a brief time, while you are working towards some long-term advantage.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2WFQxy ... 0&t=36m44s

On some maps, like Daroza’s Sanctuary, there is just such a ridiculous amount of reclaimable mass lying around that it is not even bad to make early T2 mexes.

Once there are no more mass points you can secure, you may want to upgrade T2 mexes so you can continue growing your economy. On small maps that are bitterly contested, you might need to keep making tanks. But if you can make do with having fewer units for a few minutes, upgrading a T2 mex can swing the game in your favor in the long run.

If it’s a large map and you’re looking at a long game, you may want to upgrade mexes. Zock says not to start upgrading mexes until you finish with the “expansion” phase (using transports to try to grab every mex that you and your opponent haven’t grabbed yet).

If your opponent is upgrading T2 mexes, you probably want to keep up with them. You might be able to make up the difference through raiding their mexes and securing more territory. But you can also try to keep up with them by upgrading your own mexes.
Zock teaches that it is very important not to fall behind your opponent in economy. If you fall a little behind your opponent in economy, you should invest in T2 mexes, even though it means you will have fewer units on the field—you just have to make do with fewer units so you can catch up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... 0&t=34m18s

And, if you’re not able to otherwise spend all of your income, that can be time to upgrade mexes, because the alternative is that you overflow mass. Any mass that you overflow, in a 1v1 match, is lost forever.
But this last reason, that you aren’t able to spend all of your mass income: that may actually be a sign that you bungled things. If you’re on a small map, you SHOULD be able to spend all of your income. You SHOULD have made enough factories. The fact that you didn’t, means that your opponent might be churning out more units than you, and your opponent might use those units to roll right over you. If you can survive without taking too much damage, you’ll have a T2 mex, and in the long run, that is good. But even Zock calls this an “error.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwwVVS5 ... t=2h08m34s

What do I do with my commander?

Aggression or Engineering?

Without upgrades, your commander is roughly equivalent to 20 T1 tanks (that’s about how many it can beat in a straight-up fight) and 2 T1 engineers (it builds exactly twice as quickly as a T1 engineer).

With or without upgrades, you can use your commander aggressively (to secure territory, and to deal and tank damage) or defensively (to build up your base, and to be there in case enemy units show up to raid your base).

At the very start of the game, you need to build at least 1 factory. Depending on the map, you might be better off staying to build 3+ factories and protect your base, or you might get the most value out of leading the charge.

If you send your ACU away from base, you are giving up about 100 mass (because it costs 100 mass to make 2 T1 engineers). If your ACU leaves the base, kills a single enemy tank (52 mass cost to your opponent), and scoops up what’s left (30-40 mass), you’ve already almost gotten the same value out of the ACU as if your ACU stayed home in base.

If you use your ACU aggressively, you WILL lose games when your ACU gets caught out by a larger force. That does not mean you should stay in your base. If you stay in your base, you will also lose games. Part of becoming a better player is knowing when and how far you can push your ACU to take the most advantage, and when and how to protect it. This is just something you need to develop over time by playing the game. Have units with your ACU; have radar or send out scout planes to see if the enemy has more units near your ACU so you aren’t surprised by a large force; know whether there is deep water nearby that your ACU can run to; and as the game gets on, have interceptors or flak so your ACU doesn’t just suddenly die to 8 gunships that come out of nowhere.

Eventually, the game becomes too dangerous to have your ACU on the front lines. The primary game-ending mechanic of SupCom is that, as the game goes on, the battlefield becomes a more and more dangerous place.

Commander upgrades

Upgrading your ACU to get T2, so you can build point defense, is usually the wrong move. Instead of doing that, upgrade a factory and make T2 engineers. It’s not much more expensive and it makes your army (or air force) more diverse. Your ACU doesn’t need T2 unless you’re planning to drop it into a danger zone, because you can build all of the same things with a T2 engineer. (Thanks, Farmsletje!) If your ACU is with your army, the gun upgrade is generally much more effective. As long as you don’t just walk into too much point defense, a gun ACU beats a T2 ACU, especially if the gun ACU can overcharge stuff that the T2 ACU builds.

One of the mistakes new players often make is being too passive. They want to build a bunch of T2 point defense to make a fortress that can’t be broken. But in Supreme Commander, there is no such thing as a position that cannot be broken.

Unit mix

Factory infinite build orders and factory attack move

One of the most powerful things you can do in SupCom is to set your factories with “infinite” build orders, so they will loop endlessly through a list of units to make. Rather than telling a factory to make “10 tanks,” you can tell it to make “3 tanks, a land scout, a tank, a light artillery, a tank, and an engineer, on infinite loop.”

You can, and should, give your factories move orders (or attack-move orders) so your units will rally out to some waypoint. If you don’t do that, when they come out of the factory, they will just stand around in front of it waiting for you.

When I have an infinite build order from a factory, making a mix of units, I like to have an engineer in the mix. This is because when the units stream out with an attack move order, the engineer will grab mass along the way. If there’s a battle, reclaim will be left behind, and the engineer can grab it, which often pays for the engineer, and then some. If I think a location is important enough that I want to send a pack of units there, then probably it would be nice to have some build capacity there in case I want to put down some PD, or a radar, or factory, or whatever. Just having engineers around the map, reclaiming things, not only strengthens the economy but it gives flexibility when I want to build things.

What ratio of tanks to light artillery?

In general, 5:1. (Thanks, JaggedAppliance!) If your commander is leading the charge, you can have more light artillery in the mix, because your commander is taking the place of 10-20 tanks.

Against Aeon, you probably want something more like 2:1 or even 1:1. (Thanks again, Jagged!) And of course you need to have radar or bring land scouts. This is because Auroras have such excellent range.

Do I even make mobile anti-air?

Every mobile anti-air unit you make could have been a tank. If you make MAA, you will lose fights where you just didn’t have quite as many tanks as your opponent. But you need some kind of anti-air. Your opponent could surprise you by suddenly shifting into air production and making bombers. If you rely on interceptors for anti-air, you run the risk that you will “lose air” (that your opponent will have more interceptors than you, and kill all of your interceptors in an air fight). I don’t have a good answer on this, but I will note that high-rated players often skip making MAA until they need it.

Technical Stuff

Learn how to use the Replay Vault

The Java client for FAF has access to a vault with information about just about every FAF game ever played. It is in the vault section, and it is called “online replays.” Some of the replays don’t work, but most of them do.

You can filter the replays to search by player name, player rating, map name, and other factors. So you could search for all 1v1 ladder games ZLO ever played on the map Loki. And then you can watch a few replays and steal his build orders.

If you click on “ID” it shows a list of 10 factors you can use to filter the games. What is less obvious is: this is actually a scrollable list. There are more than 10 things. Scroll down to see additional search factors, like player name and map name.

Comeback Mechanics

Every good RTS has comeback mechanics. So how do you come back, when you are behind? And on the flip side, what do you have to worry about, when you are ahead?

The three main comeback mechanics in SupCom are: (1) reclaim; (2) eco snipes; and (3) commander snipes.

Sniping the enemy commander (killing them with a surprise attack) is straightforward enough that I don’t need to explain it. A lot of players (and I am guilty of this) only look for commander snipes when we are losing. When you are ahead of your opponent, you might overlook the chance to take out the enemy commander.

Eco snipes are when you target down important economic structures, namely pgens or upgraded mexes. If you land a T2 transport carrying 14 lobos, or 16 zthuees, behind your opponent’s base, and crush 4 T2 mexes, that can be so much damage that suddenly, you’re not losing any more. Or perhaps you build a TML and use it to kill some T2 mexes.

Reclaim is so complicated and important that it needs its own chapter.

Reclaim

Energy Reclaim

Energy reclaim (from trees) is mostly only important in the early game, and when it is available it is usually part of the build order for a particular map. After you are done carrying out your build order, energy reclaim is probably not going to be very important for the rest of the match (but keep it in mind if you have power problems, it can provide a short-term fix).

Mass reclaim at the start of the match

Mass reclaim (from rocks and dead units placed at the start of the match) is important to early build orders, because it can give you mass so much faster than you get from T1 mexes (which produce 120 mass per minute, but an engineer can pull that from a wreck in seconds), and because it costs so much energy to build T1 mexes. Every good build order takes into account where there is mass that can be reclaimed early.

Reclaim fields are strategic objectives

Every mass point is strategically important, and when multiple mass points are grouped together, obviously it is even more important. New players tend to overlook that reclaim fields (either placed on the map by the mapmaker, or the result of a battle) can be equally important, because they can provide just as much, or more, income as mexes, albeit a finite amount. But you are only going to get a finite amount of mass from every mex: the only way to get infinite mass from a mex is if the game never ends.

When you are watching a replay, you can look at the mass income each player has. You can also look at the total amount of mass they have gathered during the game. And you can look at the total amount of mass they have reclaimed during the game. You should pay attention to this while you are watching replays. There are many games where one player with less income from mexes uses reclaim to keep up with or even surpass their opponent in terms of total mass. This is why reclaim can be a comeback mechanic. Even if you are behind in mexes, reclaim can keep you in the game or even give you a winning edge.

This also makes the game more interesting because (1) it punishes players for failed attacks; you don’t just lose units but you give reclaim to your opponent, which is called a “mass donation”; (2) it creates new strategic locations on the map. Chokepoints don’t move, mexes don’t move, but every time you play a map, and as the game goes on, the reclaim fields can be in completely different places.

See the reclaim

To see how much reclaim there is, press Ctrl-Shift. Very small amounts (less than 10) do not show up, but otherwise, the amount of each piece of reclaim is shown as a number on your map. You should be doing this throughout the match.

Take the reclaim

The most APM-efficient way to get reclaim is with an “attack-move” order (alt-right click) or patrol (a unit on attack-move behaves the same way as on patrol, except they stop when they reach their destination and run out of things to do). You can give an attack-move order in a fraction of second. But the engineers will not scoop efficiently: if there are small wrecks, or single trees, the engineers can scoop those before scooping the important stuff.

The most efficient way to quickly get reclaim can be “manual reclaim” which is where you select an engineer and for each rock/wreck/tree clump that you want them to reclaim, you give a separate order (a separate mouse click while holding down the shift key).

You have to balance your need for APM with your need for getting mass quickly.

You can build a factory next to a reclaim field, set an attack-move order for units coming out of the factory, and have it build engineers. Engineers on a “factory attack-move” order have double range when they are reclaiming things, for some reason. (This is a game engine bug, but it is not considered an exploit.) You will see good players build factories next to reclaim fields just so they can crank out engineers to grab reclaim, even in the middle of the ocean. You will see players use transports to drop engineers into reclaim fields, so they can grab the reclaim, or so they can quickly build a factory to get factory attack-move engineers into the field.

Reclaim your own losses

In team games, it is obvious that you should reclaim the base of a dead teammate to quickly boost your economy so your team does not fall too far behind. You can also cannibalize your own base in a 1v1 game. You have to decide between scooping and rebuilding. Sometimes, the smart move is to scoop the mass, and use it to keep your war engine running.

If there is a battle between 20 T1 tanks, 10 of yours and 10 of your opponent’s, the reclaim field might have 700+ mass in it. That is enough to rebuild your 10 tanks. That is enough to run a T1 land factory for three minutes. That is enough to build a pgen, a T1 land factory, and run it for over a minute. That is almost enough to upgrade a T2 mex. Even a small engagement can leave behind enough reclaim to make a real difference in the game.

This guy scoops

Your ACU does not just fight, it also scoops. After (or even during) a battle, you can give manual reclaim orders. Or you can put the ACU on patrol (just make sure it doesn’t wander off). One of the benefits of having your ACU out on the map is not only that it helps you to win fights, but you can scoop the mass afterwards.

Control Yourself

More important than controlling units is to control yourself.

Pay Attention, but not Too Much

“Tunnel vision” is when a person focuses on one thing only, and fails to notice other things on the map. When there is a fight going on, it is normal to want to watch it, to see how it resolves, and to see if you can control the units a bit to increase their chances of success. That might be the best use of your attention. But maybe not. You need to decide where to focus your attention.

Good players don’t just watch things happen. If they’ve got a transport that’s trying to unload units but is under attack from interceptors, they might click away to a different area of the map, give some orders, then click back to see if the transport unloaded the units or not. They don’t just stare at it to see whether it will survive. Whether or not that transport unloads the units might be extremely important to how the match develops, going forward—but staring at it doesn’t change anything.

Don’t be a “looky-loo.” Don’t miss opportunities to control your entire army because you’re waiting to see what happens to three units. Keep everything moving. You have a mighty war engine, with many moving parts, and they all need your attention.

In order to see the big picture, it is as simple as looking at the big picture. Zoom out! And glance at your minimap often. FAF has nice graphics. The units look nice when you are zoomed in. The strategic icons don’t look so nice. But you’ve got to zoom out so you can see what is happening.

According to Zock, even if a battle is important, you should not just stare at it. You should give some orders, then look at some other part of the map, so you can give orders there, before you move your vision back to the critical battle. In the example, he was talking about a player whose ACU was dying. So no matter how important a battle might be, you can probably pull away briefly and then come back to it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2WFQxy ... 0&t=24m48s

Attack Your Opponent’s Attention

When you are aggressively attacking, you force your opponent to respond. Even just sending a mantis behind their base takes their time and focus. JaggedAppliance talks about a “ZLO bomber”: a bomber sent out to some random part of the map, which is not really targeting any particular unit, but which is targeting the opponent’s attention, because players have to react when they see a bomber. Don’t let your opponent get comfortable. Harass and disrupt their plans.

Zock describes it this way: losing takes away your attention. Losing makes you busy because you are losing things everywhere. Winning is much less stressful than losing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2WFQxy ... t=1h05m50s

Be Reflective

Watch replays of your games. If it hurts too much to watch a game you lost, skip it. You’re probably making the same mistakes in games that you win. You will see so much in the replays. Switch between the three perspectives (the overview, what you could see, and what your opponent could see). If you don’t watch your replays, to see where you’re messing up, you will miss major opportunities for improvement.

Sentimentality is Weakness

Because of the reclaim mechanic, there are times when it is better to bring a unit home and suicide it, so you can scoop out the mass, than sending it to die on your opponent’s doorstep (where your opponent can scoop the mass). This happens most often in team games that reach the T4 stage.

If you make a TML (tactical missile launcher) and pick off a few of your opponent’s mexes, and then your opponent starts building TMD (tactical missile defense), your best move might be to suicide the launcher (select it and press ctrl-K) and scoop up the mass. You will get back hundreds of mass, instead of having an “anti-T2 mex” costing you 6 mass per second while it builds missiles that you might never get to use.

If there’s an enemy bomber coming for your base, you can stop a unit in partial production in order to start making a mobile anti-air. If you press “s” to stop a factory that is 80% done making a tank, you will lose about 40 mass of investment. But if you get a mobile anti air unit out faster, you might save an engineer from dying (50 mass). It’s a mistake to worry too much about half a unit when you need to be paying attention to the big picture, and you need to budget your time/attention efficiently.

If you start making a building that you don’t need, you can reclaim it. (Thanks, Death_Squad!) When a building is fully built, reclaiming it takes away health and does not give you mass (until it dies). But when it is under construction, reclaiming it gives you back some mass. So if you start making a T2 pgen, and you decide that you don’t actually need it, stop building it, and start reclaiming it.

Be Persistent

When stuff gets destroyed, rebuild. When you lose mexes, retake them. (And if you lose them again, retake them again, again and again.) Even though the battlefield gets more dangerous as time goes on (which means, among other things, that it is harder and harder to hold mexes in the middle of the map) it is still worth it to build T1 mexes wherever you can. Don’t be a quitter and don’t get discouraged. Stay in the fight until the other guy quits.

Final Notes

I will again suggest that you read my thread about Zock’s lessons. https://forums.faforever.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=17577

BRS_DESTRUCTOR has also made a list of tips for newer players: https://forums.faforever.com/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=16980

I would appreciate any corrections where the guide is wrong. I welcome any discussion in this thread in more depth about any of these issues. Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to tell the entire story of everything every player should be doing.

I tried to include only the advice that I think you would find most useful. Part 4 is a list of the things that I wish someone had told me when I hit about 400 rating points. “Okay arma, you’re a big boy now, you are ready to hear this.” Instead, I had to learn it the hard way. No, I don’t mean playing ladder games. I was not smart enough to learn this stuff for myself just by playing the game. I learned it from watching YouTube videos and Twitch videos, and chatting directly with better players.

I am grateful to everyone who has responded to my questions, given me advice during games, shared advice and wisdom in Twitch chat, and especially everyone who streams and casts games (their own, and replays).
Last edited by armacham01 on 20 May 2019, 13:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby biass » 20 May 2019, 09:23

armacham01 wrote:The answer (courtesy of BRNK) is: 1 land factory for every 2 mexes you can hold, plus additional factories based on the reclaim you will get.


Stepping in here:
While the ratio is true, i never in all my time training will recommend this ratio be acknowledged lest used ingame.

The correct answer is a trade-off, if you want map control, you need to invest more into units (and thus, factories) than your opponent to do so, but of course, that's less investment into economy, other military branches, ACU upgrades, so on and so forth. So it's more about making sure you get that return on your investment. If you're not going to gain anything from more factories (enemy is aeon, map is water, etc) build less, and invest in something more worth your time.

It's cool that you are both A: sinking in effort and B: willing to change and improve based on feedback, that shows promise, but i have a feeling (forgive me for not reading the whole thing) that a lot of things will need correcting.

Of course, because you show that promise, i would be happy to assist you.

So, some notes:
I would recommend you pre-write your documents in something like Google Docs, forums can crash or find other ways to wipe your post, and removal of the topic or other reorganisation activities can remove your hard work as well. Google Docs auto saves, allows better formatting, and is yours to edit and etc.

Probably check around to see what other people think of your sources, i raised an eyebrow at your inclusion of BRS_DESTRUCTOR's tips, when they were more of less universally mocked. I recommend the Player Councillor Discord, all the trainers are there too. They will likely attempt to assist you if they can. https://discord.gg/KjBAqw (link should last 24 hours)

And finally, for your perusal, the same thing you're making, but by me:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ycN ... sp=sharing
This was never meant to be official and clearly isn't done. But maybe there are some small snippets of info you might gain something from.

Good luck with it all. Feel free to pm.
Bask in awe of what once was: http://bit.ly/2qubD3l

Petricpwnz wrote:biass on his campaign to cleanse and remake every single map of FAF because he is an untolerating reincarnation of mapping hitler
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Re: Feeling lost? 1v1 Ladder Guide for Low-Rated Players

Postby FtXCommando » 21 May 2019, 15:26

I appreciate the effort you put into writing all of this down, though I find the best way to help people below 1k rating is to keep things simple. A lot of the problem is that people at this rating range don’t understand how to properly ignore the ‘infinite’ possibilities during the game or they hyperfocus on a minor thing like grabbing every single rock with manual reclaim and forgetting to send their early air scouts.

These players should:
1) Learn the basic bos that get you to minute 3-4 on just about any map with no stall and a solid basis (dual land, land/air, trans rush, how to build these with/without hydro)
2) Learn how the three major resources relate to one another:
Too much mass and e? Didn’t make enough buildpower.
Too much mass and too little e? Didn’t make enough energy.
Too much e and too little mass? Overbuilt power.
Too much buildpower and too little e and mass? If reclaim -> get it, if not -> overbuilt.

You can rectify too much e on the fly by making extra air or acu upgrades if you overbuilt power.
You have a harder time rectifying too much mass and too little energy and instead need to bite the bullet and put more focus on building pgens.
The lack of build capacity can be somewhat rectified by utilizing mex upgrades to delay overflowing but you need to build engineers to use the future mass, still.

Reclaim serves as a sort of cheat that let’s you bend the rules to make more powerful builds that would originally not be possible. However, learning about how to do that is kind of pointless if you don’t understand the fundamental rules themselves. Best to just know rocks and wrecks = mass and trees = e.

Learning how things counter each other should come later. If you are adequately spending your eco and understanding how to invest into things, then the next step is moving up to what counters what. That would be the time when discussing replays with trainers would be the most beneficial to both the trainee and the trainer.
Are you upset? Are you happy? Are you a FAF Player? Come to the PC Discord and share your thoughts and build the community!

https://discord.gg/Y2dGU8X
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