Part 1: Commanding Officers (COs), Prologue and Orange Star Introduction
Commanding Officers (COs)
In each battle, your army will be led by a Commanding Officer or CO, and the opposing army will be led by a CO as well. Each CO has unique abilities that affect their strengths and weaknesses with certain units, and also what special powers they have access to when their CO Power gauge fills up. Again, this list will grow as we progress through the game, but for now:
Orange Star Theme music
Main protagonists of Advance Wars 1 and still playing a major part in Advance Wars 2, Orange Star's COs and units have an American theme to them. In Japan the country is known as Red Star, changed for releases outside of Japan because of the association with communism or something, I guess.
Andy "Andy's Anthem" A pretty awesome guitar cover
Andy is an all-rounder CO: all of his units have the default stats. His CO powers heal and repair his units, which under the right circumstances can give you a massive boost. Andy is pretty much the quintessential "vanilla" CO, and the one designed for beginners so that they can get used to the feel of the game early on.
Background/Personality: Although he may be a mechanical wizard, Andy's role as the "naive newcomer that new players can identify with" is often played to a worryingly ludicrous extent, giving one the impression of someone who's an idiot savant at best, and a total thicko at worst. Still, Andy's boundless enthusiasm and lack of any weak points makes for a useful ally and a tricky opponent, and he is central to the plot of Advance Wars 1.
Sami Theme Another awesome guitar cover by the same guy.
Sami's main strength is in her infantry-class units. They get a 30% boost to firepower and a 50% boost to their rate of property capture. This isn't particularly noticeable will full-health infantry, as they will still capture properties in two days. Damaged units have a reduced capture rate, though, and that's where Sami's strengths come in to play. She also gets a +1 movement bonus to her transport-class units (APCs, T-Copters, Landers - normal move points 6, Sami's move points 7). Her Super CO Power, Victory March, allows her to capture any property in one turn, regardless of the health of the unit doing the capturing. Her main weakness is that all of her direct-combat non-infantry units (most of the units in the game) have a 10% firepower penalty. So she can be rather situational. But when she's in her element, watch out.
Background/personality: As Orange Star's special forces commander, Sami is one of the more serious-minded COs in the game, often playing straight woman to Andy and Max in Advance Wars 1 and 2. She's fiercely courageous, but she is sometimes insecure about her lack of knowledge outside her speciality of infantry. Sami idolises Nell, has something of a friendly rivalry with Sonja, and has a fairly serious crush on Eagle.
Max specialises in direct combat units: all of his direct combat units (bar infantry and mechs) receive a 20% attack boost. As the vast majority of units in the game are direct-combat, this can be pretty handy. But his weakness is pretty crippling: his long-range units (artillery, rockets, missiles, battleships) have a range penalty of -1. So while most artillery can hit 2 or 3 squares away from them, Max's can only hit 2 squares away from them. This can be very awkward - especially against, say, Grit (who we'll see more about when we get to his missions).
Background/personality: A hard-hitting, rough-and-tumble kind of guy, Max much prefers brawling at close range than standing back and shooting from a distance. He can be a little bit proud at times, but his heart's in the right place. He's sometimes a little bit sceptical about Andy and Sami's ability in combat, but this mostly stems from a desire to keep them safe.
Max's muscles do grow by the game,
Some say that steroids are to blame,
His tanks are the tops,
His planes deserve props,
But his long-range performance is lame.
Orange Star's commander-in-chief, Nell doesn't play an active role in Hard Campaign (although she is an unlockable CO, her power being that she's very lucky: basically, Flak (see below) without the downside) but she co-ordinates the activities of Orange Star and their allies in their bid to bring down Black Hole. In Advance Wars 1 she was responsible for training up the Advisor (i.e. the player: she's the CO you play as during AW1's Field Training), before co-ordinating the efforts of the Orange Star COs in their attempt to work out why the hell everyone was attacking them. Some time before this, she graduated from CO training at the same time as Max and Grit. She seems to have been involved in some odd love triangly thing with them that kind of led to Grit defecting to Blue Moon - but the whole thing gets completely ignored in AW2 anyway.
Blue Moon Theme
Blue Moon's COs and soldiers have either a Russian or a Canadian theme to them, depending on who you ask.
Like Andy and Adder, Olaf is a vanilla CO - almost. His units don't get bogged down in snow the way that other CO's units do. So naturally, his CO Power, Blizzard, makes it snow for a turn. His Super CO Power, Winter Fury, makes it snow for a turn and inflicts 2HP of damage to all enemy units (although, as with most such things, it can't kill units). Olaf is weak in the rain - while it affects other COs movement slightly, rain affect Olaf as badly as snow affects other COs.
Background/Personality: The commander-in-chief of Blue Moon may be a pompous braggart, but there's no denying his patriotism to the extent that, in Advance Wars 1, he is willing to work with Sturm in exchange for gaining more land for the glory of Blue Moon . Olaf feels so strongly for his country that he thrives in the colder weather of Blue Moon, and he uses this affinity for cold weather to his advantage. As much as Olaf and Grit squabble, they respect each other a lot and make for an effective chalk-and-cheese pairing.
Grit is essentially the polar opposite of Max: his indirects take a +20% attack boost and - significantly - a +1 increase in range, allowing him to hit a heck of a lot more stuff than anyone else. To counter this, all of his direct-combat units (other than footsoldiers) take a 20% penalty. Given that most of the units in the game are direct combat, you'd think that'd be crippling, right? Not really: Grit's long-range units rock so much that he's easily a more powerful CO than Max, and one of the strongest in the game. Grit's CO Power and Super CO Power increase the attack range of his indirects a further 1 and 2 squares, respectively, while also boosting his attack strength with them to ridiculous levels.
Background/Personality: If Grit were any more laid back he'd be horizontal, but his folksy demeanour hides a sharp strategic brain and peerless abilities as a marksman. Completing his CO training in Orange Star at the same time as Nell and Max, prior to the events of Advance Wars 1 he defected to Blue Moon for unexplained reasons. Grit can be a bit of a jerk sometimes, but he's usually just messing around and is, on the whole, a nice guy.
At sniping our Grit is an ace,
His Rockets can hit every space,
At chokepoints he owns,
His opponents all groan,
They just can't break into his base!
Colin's units cost 80% of the normal cost of units, but only have 90% firepower. However, the fact that it's not 80% for 80% or 90% or 90% alone should give you an idea that Colin works out as a better-than-average CO. He also, tellingly, still gets 100% defence. Put simply, he's pretty darn broken, and that's even before you get to his CO Power, Gold Rush: for just two stars, he gets his current funds multiplied by 1.5. His Super CO Power, Power of Money, gives his units an attack boost based on his current funds - but we won't be using that much, because Gold Rush is just so sillily broken.
Background/Personality: Blue Moon's little rich kid, Colin subsidises unit construction from his vast inherited fortune. Inexperience and nervousness mean that he doesn't get the most out of his troops, and he still remains very uptight despite repeated calls from Grit to relax a bit. Olaf and Grit are his heroes.
There is a young CO called Colin,
Who gets all the veterans holl'rin',
In protest they yell,
"He's broken to hell!",
But all of the n00bs keep on LOLin'.
Yellow Comet Theme
Yellow Comet's COs and soldiers have a Japanese theme to them, although many of their units have a very old-fashioned look to them - their fighters are propellor-driven, and their B-Copters look like they're from the Korean War.
Kanbei is essentially the opposite of Colin: Colin's units are weak but cheap, Kanbei's are expensive but strong. As it happens, both COs are better than average because they both come out of the trade-off on top: we've already seen this with Colin, but now let's look at Kanbei. Kanbei's units are 20% more expensive, but they get a 30% attack boost - and, crucially a 30% defence boost. Defence boosts are pretty rare in Advance Wars 2 (only four COs have them), and with good reason. Because of the slightly odd way that defence boosts are calculated in Advance Wars, a unit that somehow managed to have a total defence boost of 100% (say, a Kanbei mech in the mountains during his SCOP) would be invulnerable. Nothing would scratch it. Even with only a 50% defence boost, it would only take half damage. So Kanbei can soak up (and dish out) a lot of damage, making his units worth their extra cost.
Background/personality: The Emperor (and commander-in-chief) of Yellow Comet, Kanbei - "that self-styled samurai", as Olaf put it - is fiercly proud, honorable and loyal - but not the sharpest tool in the shed. From losing socks to building bases on isolated islands, he gives Andy and Flak a run for their money in the contest for dumbest Advance Wars CO. He's protective of his daughter Sonja to a fault, although ironically Sonja spends a lot of time making sure he doesn't get into too much trouble. But ultimately he's a good leader, always looking out for the welfare of his people.
Kanbei is known proudly to boast,
That his armies are better than most,
But they come at a price,
Which isn't so nice,
When Colin's the choice of your host.
Sonja's big thing is that her units get +1 to their vision ranges in fog of war, the same way that Grit's long-range units get +1 to their attack ranges. She also gets a boost to her counter-attacks, so defending units will deal more damage to their attackers if they survive. In VS. Mode, Sonja also hides her units' HP from view, although you won't be seeing that here because the AI doesn't give a stuff about that. Sonja's weakness is that she's slightly unlucky: while most COs can expect to do 0 to +10% more damage than the "Expected Damage" thing says, Sonja's range is -5 to +5%. Sonja's CO Power, Enhanced Vision, adds another +1 to her vision range and lets her see into forests and reefs to boot. Her SCOP, Counter Break, does this while also giving Sonja first strike when defending.
Background/Personality: The daughter of the emperor of Yellow Comet, Sonja graduated top of her year from Wars World's CO academy (then again, as far as I know the only other person who graduated that year was Sami so I dunno). Sonja believes that the surest road to victory is to gather as much intelligence about her opponents as she possibly can. She was primarily responsible for unravelling Sturm's crazy clone plot in Advance Wars 1, although she also got captured by Sturm before the final battle, prompting Andy & co. to rush in and rescue her . Partly because of this, her father Kanbei is very protective of her, and it takes a lot of persuading for him to let her command battles.
Sensei Sensei's maddeningly hilarious theme tune
Sensei's infantry and mechs are even stronger than Sami's at +40% attack power, although they don't get Sami's faster capture rate. His B-Copters get the largest attack bonus of any unit in the game, with a whopping +50% boost to attack, and like Sami his transports have an extra movement point. His vehicles and ships take a 10% attack penalty, however. Sensei's biggest feature though are his CO Powers: for just two stars on the power meter, Copter Command drops a 9HP infantry onto every city Sensei owns (provided nothing's sitting on it) and boosts the attack power of his B-Copters further. His Super CO Power Airborne Assault drops 9HP mechs onto every city, and again boosts his choppers.
Background/Personality: A retired paratrooper, Sensei mentored Kanbei in the art of war and in his heyday he was rumoured to be an unbeatable CO (His name in Japan, "Yamamoto", is a reference to a CO from Super Famicom Wars who had 140/140 stats ). Nowadays he'd rather be enjoying his retirement, but with Black Hole invading his homeland it's time to clean the rust from his helicopter blades. Hilarious to play as, annoying as hell to play against, Sensei's my favourite Commanding Officer. And no I don't know why he still has his parachute strapped on.
Sensei's powers are really quite barmy,
For two stars he gets a whole army,
These infantry grunts,
Can go straight to the front:
His charge rate's enough to alarm me!
Green Earth Theme
Green Earth's units have a rather Germanic feel to them, but the specialities of their COs seem mostly spread around all of Western Europe.
As an air unit specialist, Eagle gets a 15% attack and 10% defence boost to them - they also use less fuel under his command, with his planes only using up three fuel per day while "idling" instead of five, and with his copters using no fuel up when they idle. On the other hand, his navy gets a whopping 30% attack penalty (his ground units are unaffected). His CO Power, Lightning Drive, is nothing to write home about (giving an attack boost to his air units), but his Super CO Power, Lightning Strike, is quite legendary - used at the end of a turn, it "refreshes" all of his non-footsoldier units and lets them move and attack all over again. This devastating power takes nine stars to charge up, though, so it isn't cheap.
Background/Personality: A proud man, one might even say egotistical, the dashing air ace Eagle is the commander-in-chief of Green Earth's forces. In the first game, he repeatedly hounds Andy after mistaking him for the clone that attacked and devastated Green Earth. After the truth is revealed by Sonja, Eagle grows to become Andy's friendly rival. During the same game, he also becomes romantically involved with Sami despite the fact that they're at loggerheads for most of Campaign, with him determined to hunt Andy down and her determined to protect her . In this game, he tends to spend a lot of time quarrelling with Green Earth's new CO Jess for some reason. I dunno. Each of the Green Earth COs can be said to represent a specific European country: in Eagle's case, it's early-WW2 Germany with their superior air force and "blitzkrieg" ("lightning war") strategies.
Drake is the game's naval specialist, but interestingly his ships don't get an attack bonus: instead they get +1 move and +10% defence. That +1 move is very handy, though, and it makes Drake pretty much the only CO whose ships can effectively combat air units (since his cruisers can outpace copters and keep up with bombers). It also puts his landers on a par with Sami and Sensei. His drawback is a massive 30% penalty to air units; his ground units are average. Drake's CO powers are fun: Tsunami calls up a massive wave that deals 1 damage to all enemy units (unless they already have 1HP) and drains half their fuel. Super power Typhoon deals 2 damage, drains half their fuel and makes it start raining: like Olaf with snow, Drake doesn't get movement penalties in the rain.
Background/Personality: My favourite CO personality-wise though not gameplay-wise, Drake is laid-back and self-deprecating; this big-hearted (and big-stomached) former pirate often finds himself mediating disputes between the two big egos of Eagle and Jess. Going on the "each Green Earth CO is a country" theory, Drake is Britain - with a particular reference to Sir Francis Drake, pirate, naval captain, and one of the masterminds behind the sinking of the Spanish Armada in 1588. With the smaller British ships more nimble and easier to defend than their Spanish counterparts, the Spanish were routed before their remaining forces got swept away in a great storm.
As it happens, Drake was the first Advance Wars CO that I wrote a limerick for, and it's still one of my favourites:
Green Earth has a CO named Drake,
Who decimates foes in his wake,
He's sufficiently round,
That tsunamis abound,
When he "cannonball"s into a lake!
Jess Theme Awesome guitar cover guy does it again
Jess is a vehicle specialist: her vehicles get a +10% attack bonus. Her other units (ships, aircraft, footsoldiers) get a -10% attack penalty - this unfortunately means she has pretty much the worst footsoldiers in the game, as no other CO (Colin aside) gets a footsoldier penalty. Her CO Powers are quite interesting though: aside from attack and movement boosts to her vehicles (+20%/+1 and +40%/+2 respectively), they resupply her units. This indirectly makes her naval and air units quite handy, despite the attack penalty - especially her transports and submarines.
Background/Personality: Away on a training mission during the events of Advance Wars 1, Jess is a tank commander with an analytical mind and a genuine concern for the welfare of her troops. She's very confident in her own ability, but spats with Eagle have left her determined to prove her worth as a Green Earth CO. Going by the "each Green Earth CO is a country" theory, Jess is France - jokes about French military victories aside, France did have the strongest army at the start of World War 2 - they were simply taken by surprise by Germany's blitzkrieg strategy. Jess's resupply abilities also bring to mind Napoleon Bonaparte's famous quote, "An army marches on its stomach".
... and oh yes she carries a
Black Hole Theme
The villains of the piece, Black Hole show up briefly at the end of Advance Wars 1 as the people behind all the fighting from that game. This time though, they're actively involved in the plot of the game from the get-go.
Flak's brute force and lack of finesse means that sometimes his units do more damage than expected, and sometimes less. In other words, his "luck" has a greater spread of values than most commanding officers. He is generally regarded as a low tier CO, not least because there's another CO (Nell, who doesn't actually fight in campaign and simply works to direct Andy, Sami and Max in the field) who is just inherently lucky - i.e. she has Flak's strength without his weakness.
Background/personality: The lowest ranked of Black Hole's five commanding officers, Flak is a thuggish brute who just likes to break things. His stupidity means that he has a habit of coming up with unintentional comedy moments. There is a general theory that each of the new COs is an evil counterpart to one of the existing "good guys" COs: under this theory, Flak is Max's evil counterpart. Flak is in charge of the invasion of Orange Star.
Lash gets a +10% attack bonus for every terrain defence star a square has: so +10% on plains, +20% in woods, +30% on cities, +40% on mountains and so on. In addition to this, she has no weaknesses, which makes her one of the more powerful COs in the game. Her CO Power is nothing particularly special, it just eliminates movement costs for a turn (so her units can drive through forests and so on without movement penalties). Her Super CO Power, however, doubles the terrain stars for a square, as well as negating terrain cost. This can give her a massive boost to both attack and defence.
Background/Personality: Black Hole's twisted wunderkind, Lash is responsible for designing and building Black Hole's many weapons of mass destruction. More than any other CO, she treats war as a game and units as expendable toys. Despite these faults, she is an effective CO who uses terrain to her advantage. Lash is in charge of the invasion of Blue Moon. In evil counterpart terms, she is the evil counterpart to Sonja.
Lash is a clever inventor,
She builds things left, right and centre,
But she's not very wise,
When she fights the good guys,
And they turn all her designs against her!
Adder ugh Adder's theme
Like Andy, Adder is a vanilla CO whose only distinguishing features come from his CO Powers, which boost his movement range by +1 (COP) or +2 (SCOP). Not very exciting, but he has one of the shortest power bars in the game: only two stars need to fill to get his COP, and only five to get his SCOP (some COs get one or the other of these, but none other than Adder get both).
Background/Personality: Glod I hate Adder. He's such a slimy, smug git. "Setting traps" this and "trying to get COs to join Black Hole" that. Plus his theme tune's annoying as hell. The good news is that we'll get to give him his comeuppance several times over the course of the Campaign. Anyway, Adder ranks below Hawke in Black Hole's hierarchy, but above Flak and Lash. He's a self-styled "master strategist", devising all manner of sneaky tricks in pursuit of Black Hole's goals. Adder is in charge of Black Hole's invasion of Yellow Comet: under the "evil counterparts" theory, he is the evil counterpart of Grit.
Adder gets right on my wick,
All his taunting just makes me feel sick,
But Sensei and Grit,
Made him feel quite a twit,
That'll teach him for being a prick.
All of Hawke's units get +10% to their attack. To balance this, his CO Power meter charges quite slowly: it takes five stars to get his CO Power, and nine stars to get his Super CO Power. Only Sturm, Eagle and Sami have comparable power bars. Hawke's CO Power drains 1HP from all enemy units (aside from those already on 1HP) and gives all his own units 1HP (aside from those already on full health). His Super CO Power is the same, but with 2HP instead of 1. This can be pretty darn nasty on a large map with lots of units.
Background/Personality: Second only to Sturm in rank in the Black Hole army, Hawke is probably Black Hole's sanest CO. He treats his opponents with respect, he loses gracefully, but he's very, very competent. On the other hand, he does have a nasty ruthless streak and a habit of not stopping until he gets what he wants. In Advance Wars 2, Hawke is in charge of the invasion of Green Earth. In terms of evil counterparts, he's a bit of a mix: his name and hairstyle suggest that he's Eagle's evil counterpart, but the nature and names of his powers suggest Drake (Tsunami --> Black Wave, Typhoon --> Black Storm).
Hawke's a CO of some skill,
When you beat him, you get quite a thrill,
Black Storm charges slow,
But when he lets it go,
All your units will feel rather ill.
Sturm gets +20% attack and +20% defence all the time, without having to pay anything extra for his units. He's also not affected by terrain movement costs: for example, for most COs moving units through forests costs 2 move points for vehicles with treads, and 3 move points for vehicles with tyres. For Sturm, it just costs 1 move point. Although this doesn't mean he can send his tanks up mountains, it does mean that any square that his units can cross can be crossed for a minimal price. The closest thing Sturm has to a weakness is that he only has one CO Power, not two, and it takes a whopping 10 stars to fill up. But it's worth it. Oh it's worth it. So worth it that I'm not going to spoil it here.
Background/Personality: The commander-in-chief of the Black Hole army, Sturm and his troops are mysterious otherworldly invaders. Sturm's first attempt to invade Wars World was in Advance Wars 1, where he started wars between the various nations in order to try and weaken them, so that he could clean up later. He did this by getting Olaf to attack Orange Star while creating clones of Andy and sending them out to attack Green Earth and Yellow Comet . This time round he's taking a far more direct approach, hiring a bunch of mercenary human COs and using the power of the dreaded Factories to both supply his armies and plunder the allied nations' resources. Sturm is... well, your typical Big Bad, really. Hates failure among his subordinates, loathes the allied nations with a passion, and hasn't forgiven them for defeating him last time. He's also a total badass thanks to his absurdly broken powers, but that goes without saying.
Right then, let's start playing Hard Campaign!
How goes the Macro Land invasion?
Excellent, my lord. The other COs have just completed their operations.
Our objective is clear, is it not?
To establish a base of Black Hole operations here on Wars World.
Yes. Recently, I instigated a great conflict between the countries here. I sought to conquer them all amidst the unrest. I failed.
That was in Cosmo Land, was it not, my lord?
I will not make the same mistakes again. This time, I will have a base and invade at my leisure. To that end, I need materials and money...
Do not worry, my lord. The COs have been given their orders. They will transport all that you desire from the lands they seize.
Do not fail me.
Never, my lord.
Okay, not much humour to see here, just the main villain and his number 2 discussing serious plot stuff and a bit of backstory. I won't discuss it much here, since it's all basically spoilers for the first Advance Wars game, but let's just say that in Advance Wars 1, Our Villain Sturm tried to invade a continent of Wars World (the setting) named Cosmo Land. This time, he's attacking a different continent, Macro Land. And this time he has help, in the form of four other commanding officers: Hawke, Adder, Lash and Flak, each of whom is responsible for the invasion of one of the four main Wars World nations. More on those guys later, but for now, let's head off to our first front in the war against Black Hole: Orange Star.
Orange Star Introduction - Theme music
You're not going to believe this, but that Black Hole Army's back!
Didn't they learn their lesson last time?
: I guess not... Let's go get 'em! Um... Where are they?
Slow down, Andy. The enemy's not here in Cosmo Land.
Huh? Well, where are they?
In our world... In Wars World, there are several continents, right?
Really? Continents? (and here's where your thread title comes from. At least it's not Andy's other famous quote, "What's an airport, again?"...)
You twerp! You don't know anything, do you?
Heeeey... You're not... calling me dumb, are you?
I'm just saying that people who don't know anything... don't know nothin'!
Knock it off, you two! This is neither the time nor the place for that! According to Nell, Macro Land is the focus of the conflict, but they've been spotted in other countries, too! Including here in Orange Star!
And Blue Moon and Yellow Comet?
Yep! And Green Earth, as well. I wonder if they're mobilizing to push the Black Hole Army back, too.
Woohoo!!! It'll be like a family reunion!
Andy! This is war! Do you think that's anything to be excited about?
No, but... we'll get to see everyone again, and that makes me happy! C'mon, let's go!
Hold on, Andy. Andy? He's gone... Oh...
Well, we all gotta go sometime, right? At least he's got the right attitude. No sense getting all bummed out before the battle even begins.
You know... It's been so peaceful around here lately... I just know Nell is going to want to give us all a little refresher course on basic combat ops. But that's fine... After all, you can never have too much training!
Oh, great. Just what I wanted... Another boring lecture.
Well, I guess today's your lucky day, Max, given this is Hard Campaign. Then again, you could be unlucky... given it's Hard Campaign, and you're going to need to be on your toes in the coming missions. We'll see.