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Advance Wars 2

by Paul.Power

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Original Thread: Really? Continents? Let's Play Advance Wars 2 - Hard Campaign! (SSLP)

If you liked this LP, you might also like Oregon Trail by Vanilla Ice, Animal Crossing by Chewbot and Earthbound by Travis343

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So, what's this Advance Wars malarky, then?
You may well ask. Advance Wars and its sequels are turn-based strategy games made for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS by prolific Nintendo studio Intelligent Systems (also famous for Fire Emblem, WarioWare, Tetris Attack and Paper Mario). The full series is technically called "Nintendo Wars", as it's appeared on a number of Nintendo consoles in various guises, but Advance Wars was the first game in the series to be released outside of Japan. As war games go (with the exception of latest iteration, Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict), Advance Wars is cute, bright and light-hearted, with a lot of cheesy humour. AW is one of my favourite series of video games, but more to the point it's one of very few video game series that I'm actually any good at.

Okay, why Advance Wars 2?
Admittedly the logical thing to do would be to start with Advance Wars 1. But I've decided to go with Advance Wars 2 for a number of reasons. First of all, it's my favourite game in the series: for me, they're all great games, but Advance Wars 2 has something extra-fun about it, particularly in Campaign mode. It also has the "baby bear" Hard Campaign: Advance Wars 1's Hard Campaign is a complete nightmare, Advance Wars: Dual Strike's Hard Campaign is a walk in the park, but Advance Wars 2's Hard Campaign gets the balance just right between hard and fair (Advance Wars: Days of Ruin doesn't have a Hard Campaign). Which leads me on to...

Why Hard Campaign?
Partly because I can, partly because it's more impressive, partly to skip the tutorial-like nature of the early bits of Normal Campaign. Plus most of the Fire Emblem LPs I've seen have been Hard Campaign, so I may as well follow the crowd.

What format will this LP take?
Screenshot. I know it's been suggested that the game should be a video LP to cut down on the number of screenshots, but I'm a more confident writer than a speaker. My plan is to post at least one screenie from each of my turns, together with shots of any important events (like damaging an important unit, or the use of CO Powers) and with annotations to the shots to make things look clearer. I'll also be including what the characters say, referencing a couple of snippets of dialogue that only appear in Normal Campaign when I think they're amusing.

Will there be any interactivity for the readers?
Yep. When it gets to parts when you can choose what order to try missions in, I'll be asking posters for the order they'd like to see missions done in. I plan to do every mission eventually, though (or at least try to - I've never beaten Danger x9 (the Green Earth lab mission) on Hard Campaign before). I may also ask for posters to suggest which CO to use on the missions where you get to choose, although I may veto this on occasion (for instance, I really love playing as Sensei on the Yellow Comet lab mission).

Hey, didn't Mesan say he wanted to do this?
I have some very bad news, guys. Mesan, also known as Shade, was killed in September last year. He was a brilliant and funny member of the AW community, and this Let's Play will be dedicated to his memory. I only hope I can live up to his standards.

Sorry to put a downer on things there. Let's move on to what this game's actually like to play.

The Basics

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is a turn-based strategy game played on a square grid with a taxicab metric. Only one unit can stand in a square at a time, and all units block all enemy units' movement (yes, ground and naval units block enemy air units and vice versa... I know it makes no sense. Just roll with it). There are two main types of combat: with direct combat, you roll on up to the square next to a unit and select it to attack. You do some damage to it, it gets a chance to counterattack if it hasn't been destroyed, and that's pretty much it. With long range attacks, you can assault your foes from a distance, meaning you can't be counterattacked, but long range units cannot move and fire on the same turn. The objective of the game (most of the time; there are a number of exceptions in Campaign) is to either destroy all of the enemy's units or capture their headquarters.

Units

The armies at your command are made up of discrete, specialised units that fill a variety of roles: killing stuff up close, killing stuff at range, capturing stuff, transporting stuff, flying and killing stuff, killing flying stuff... you know the drill.

Army

Infantry or "Inf" (1000G). The bread and butter of most armies. Infantry move slowly and are weak in both attack and defence, but they can capture properties, board transports and they're very cheap to produce. A standard high-level defensive tactic is to mass produce infantry, on the basis that your opponent can't kill all of them.
Mechanised Infantry or "Mech" (3000G). Actually they're more like anti-tank infantry than mechanised infantry (since that implies some form of transportation), but whatever. Mechs are even slower than normal Infantry, but are a little more solid defensively and much more powerful attackers - their bazookas allow them to hold their own against small tanks and the like. Like infantry, they can capture properties and board transports.
Small Tank or just "Tank" (7000G). Pretty fast, decent armour, packs a fair punch against infantry and most light ground units but not up to much against air units or larger tanks. Reasonably cheap and pretty versatile, a mainstay of many an army.
Medium Tank or "Md Tank" or "Middie" (16000G). Slower than a small tank and a lot more expensive, but a lot more powerful both in attack and defence, Middies annihilate most ground units. Their main weaknesses are air units and long-range attacks.
Anti-Air Tank, or AA (8000G). As the name suggests, the AA's primary role is to marmalise aircraft, B-Copters especially. It's also a very powerful unit against footsoldiers. It's a lot less effective against tanks, though: Tank > AA > B-Copter > Tank is one of the simplest examples of a rock-paper-scissors triangle in AW. Pretty fast, can move the same distance per turn as a small tank.
Artillery, or Artil, or Arty (6000G). Artillery are the most basic long range unit, able to hit things two or three squares away from them. They pack a significant punch for their cost, and because they strike from a distance they're immune to counter-attacks. But they're slow, they can't move and fire on the same day, and their defence is paper thin. As a result, Artillery at their best at chokepoints, behind some kind of meatshield - either a heavily-armoured tank, or a large number of infantry. Another mainstay unit in high-level play, as they offer one of the best firepower-to-cost ratios in the game.
Rocket Launcher, or Rockets (15000G). Rockets are Artillery+: they do more damage and have a greater range of fire (three, four or five squares away). But their range shadow is larger, and they are even more slow and poorly armoured than Artillery. Again, best used at chokepoints behind some kind of meatshield.
Recon (4000G). Recons are very fast units, but don't have much in the way of armour. They can take on footsoldiers and long-range units well enough, but that's about it. Recons also have fantastic vision ranges in Fog of War, and are a must for good intel gathering in those conditions.
Armoured Personnel Carrier, or APC (5000G). APCs can transport footsoldiers around the map (just as well, as footsoldiers are slow buggers), and double up as supply trucks to keep your forces fuelled and armed. They carry no weapons (and infantry inside APCs cannot fire out) and aren't that well armoured despite their name, so keep 'em escorted.
Neotank (22000G). Don't let the quirky design fool you, this secret Black Hole weapon is superior to the Medium Tank in pretty much every way bar cost. It does more damage and takes less damage, is faster and carries more fuel and ammmunition. Its main weaknesses are the same as the medium tank's: long-range attacks and air units.
Missile Launchers (12000G) are the long range surface-to-air weapon - they have the same attack range as rockets, and a full health missile launcher can one-hit kill any air unit. So on paper, that sounds pretty good. Unfortunately, they have a lot of weaknesses: they're slow, and it's very easy for B-Copters and Bombers to just fly into their range shadow and take them out. They have a few uses though, like rendering enemy airports useless by setting up within range of them.

Air Force

Battle Helicopter, or B-Copter (9000G). Pretty fast, these are basically small tanks that can fly, so they can get over most awkward terrain (such as rivers and mountains) easily. This makes them invaluable flankers on maps with chokepoints. They're decent attackers against most ground units, and take little damage back as tanks can't use their main cannons on them. They have one massive weakness, though: they get taken apart easily by anti-air.
Transport Helicopter or T-Copter (5000G). If B-Copters are flying tanks, then T-Copters are flying APCs, able to transport one footsoldier at a time. Because they can fly, they can reach places that APCs can't - to make up for this, they can't supply units the way that APCs can.
Bomber (22000G). The game's most powerful attacking unit, capable of one-hit-killing many ground and naval units and not being far off at killing medium tanks and battleships, either. Even Anti-Airs can only beat them if they get the first shot in. Bombers are helpless against Fighters, though.
Fighters (20000G) rule the skies, and are how you gain and hold air superiority in Advance Wars 2. They're devastating attackers against Bombers, B-Copters and T-Copters - and to add insult to injury, those three units can't even attack Fighters. They also have the largest movement range of any unit in the game. They can't do anything against ground or naval units, though: a common anti-fighter tactic is to surround it with infantry or something and trap it in. It makes no sense, but that's Advance Wars for you.

Navy

Battleships (28000G) are the most powerful long-range unit in the game, able to hit anything between 2 and 6 squares away from them. They provide great fire support, and - amazingly for a long-range unit - have good armour. But they're the most expensive unit in the game (you know you've made it if you've got the financial power to spam battleships), and are defenseless against air units and submarines, requiring Cruisers to escort them. As naval units they can only travel on sea or reef tiles.
Landers (12000G) are naval transports that can carry two of any ground unit: this includes vehicles as well as footsoldiers. This makes them a key part of any island-hopping assault (unless you're playing as Sensei and can afford to skimp on vehicles). They can't resupply. They are the only ship in AW2 capable of travelling on shoals (the yellow-and-light blue beach areas around some coasts). Landers can pick up and drop off their passengers either in ports or on shoals. Landers carry no weapons, and are vulnerable to indirect fire (including battleships), air units and submarines.
Submarines or Subs (20000G) have the ability to dive to hide themselves from view. While dived, submarines can only be seen by units in neighbouring squares, and can only be attacked by cruisers and other subs. However, when dived, Subs use fuel a lot more quickly (and they don't carry much of it to begin with), so you'll need APCs on standby to stop them sinking. Subs prey on battleships and landers, but fall quickly to cruisers. They have no anti-air or ship-to-shore capabilities.
Cruisers (18000G) are the anti-air and anti-sub naval unit, designed to protect battleships and landers from their main predators. Trouble is, while they're pretty good at dealing with subs, air units are more of an issue. Bombers do serious damage to them, and even B-Copters can knock them down below half health (and Sensei's B-Copters will... hahahaha... you'll see). A little-remembered fact about Cruisers is that they can also carry two helicopters, protecting them from Fighters and stuff and also refuelling them. They have no ship-to-shore capabilities.

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