Part 3: big maps and master turtles (250-500 rating)
. . . . 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 two units to come out of your air factory are 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 mass points. 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. (Yes, a factory’s “rally point” can have a patrol, and it can include “attack-move” orders, and even orders to board a ferry route.)
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 hide 50 T1 tanks in the back of their base and 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.