The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars

by Paul.Power, Sockerbagarn

Part 31: Yellow Comet Campaign in Review (by Alien Arcana)

Gah, you were faster than I expected. Well, better one mission late than never...

Yellow Comet Campaign in Review

For the most part, the Blue Moon missions were fair fights. Almost every mission was either a match between armies of roughly the same size (It's War!, Sniper!, Blizzard Battle!), or a gimmick fight where you could outproduce, outmaneuver, or outlast a larger force (Gunfighter!, Olaf's Navy!, Max's Folly!?). The COs aren't too bad to face, either: Olaf's powers are nothing special, and while Grit's indirects are a big threat, his poor direct units give him a huge weakness

The Yellow Comet missions aren't so nice. The COs you'll be facing are dangerous and have no real weakness as Campaign adversaries, and the maps themselves give you only potential advantages - you have to be smart enough to seize them. This chapter isn't too bad if you know what you're doing, but it's a wakeup call.

Mission 8: Sami's Debut!

Mission 9: Kanbei Arrives!
Emperor Kanbei is all about . If you're a new player, this battle feels like the highest degree of bullshit - even Max's tanks fight Kanbei's merely on even terms, as 150% times 80% equals 120%. And that balance lasts only until Kanbei brings out the indirects. Every other CO is working at a severe disadvantage.

When fighting Olaf or Grit, you could usually win with either long-term strategy or short-term tactics. (Blizzard Battle! is a good example of this - you can either outfight him at both river crossings, or you can plan ahead, rush to grab one, and then concentrate your forces on the other.) Against Kanbei, you need both. His defensive bonus severely complicates the tactical situation, but his offensive bonus will destroy you if you give him an opening.

Happily, the game is willing to work with you on this. Now, Kanbei's normal weakness is irrelevant in a predeployed map like this. However, as the pre-fight chatter indicates, Campaign has given him a new weakness - he's kind of stupid. In this first mission, Kanbei has engaged you at a natural defensive wall and left his rockets sitting out in the open. Kill them, then fall back to the mountain chokepoints; the terrain and your indirects will cancel out much of his advantage, and good tactics can go from there.

Once you get over the shock of Kanbei's CO bonuses and work out a good strategy, Kanbei Arrives! isn't that hard. It exists to teach you that you need to look at both the big picture (How do I fight this guy?!) and the little picture (How can I hold this chokepoint?).

Mission 10: Mighty Kanbei!
I love this mission so, so much.

Like Gunfighter!, this is a "one-sided deployment mission," where you have bases and your opponent doesn't. But while Grit was mostly happy to sit back and let you come to him, giving you plenty of time to build up an army, Kanbei doesn't give a fuck and will throw everything he's got at you, right away.

The first time you see this set-up, it looks impossible. His army is something like three times the size of yours, and your income is barely enough to build a mid tank every other turn. There's no way you'll be able to match him before he reaches you.

But you don't have to match him; you just have to delay him. You've got two perfect chokepoints and superior indirects; as long as you can keep some kind of meatshield on the bridges, you'll be fine. And you've got enough income to throw a tank to the wolves every turn and still build a new artillery every two days or so. It's a very different type of fight than you're used to, but Kanbei Arrives! taught you how to fight on the defensive - now you get to use what you learned.

Mighty Kanbei! becomes much easier once you figure out the "tank trick": the AI always moves faster units before slower ones. Thus, if you create a one-tile opening on this map, Kanbei will always fill it with a tank if there's any left, and he won't retreat the tank until it hits 1-2 HP. A mid tank, or a small tank on a city, can stalemate that tank almost forever; as long as you don't kill the obstruc-tank on your turn, your indirects have all the time they need to whittle down Kanbei's gridlocked army.

Mission 11: Kanbei's Error!?
This might as well be another one-sided mission, considering how useless Kanbei's base is. It doesn't really matter, though - Kanbei's Error!? is a race for properties, and your superior bases just mean there won't be any stalemates.

More important (in my book at least) is that this is your first mission with airports! You've played with them before, so you know what they can do, but this map is the first time your air force is more than a disposable counter to an enemy air force. B and T Copters rein supreme in Kanbei's Error!?; the planes are too expensive and there's not enough for them to do.

The main island is nearly unassailable unless you do what Paul.Power did and sacrifice an (admittedly useless) fighter to sidetrack Kanbei's ack-ack. Between the cities there, the useless base, and the three on the northern island, Kanbei has enough to win, so that island should be your top priority! Except wait, there's an airport on the middle island. Maybe you should go for that first. Or you could try and shut down that base before it gets production started? Your fighter can just barely park on it on Turn 1...

What I'm saying is that there's a lot of ways to attack this mission. Which makes it another really fun one in my books.

Oh, hey, did you notice? Kanbei's bonuses don't seem like such a big deal in this mission. That's because you're outmaneuvering him, rather than confronting him head on. See how dramatically a different mission goal can change things? Yeah, keep that in mind heading into Green Earth.

Mission 12: Divide and Conquer!
There's an interesting quirk here with regards to difficulty. Sonja's part of Campaign is semi-hidden; you have to be decent at the game to unlock it. Logically, then, it should be notably harder than the missions right before and after it, yes? And it is... but only because you're not used to fighting Sonja. Once you've got the hang of dealing with her, these three missions aren't much harder than the three ones before them.

In this first mission, Sonja's army would be easy to clear out if you could just see it. She has precisely as many units as Max, with far more indirects but not a single mid tank. Max does have a middie, and it could probably solo this entire map if it weren't for all the Fog.

The sadistic thing about Divide and Conquer is how closely it resembles Sniper! and the other FoW Grit maps. In those missions, the best thing to do was to hide your tanks in the forests, so you couldn't be shot at. Here... well, forest-hopping still works at first, but that's just so you get lulled into a false sense of security and over-extend your troops. Then Sonja pulls out the Enhanced Vision and FUCK MY TANKS NOOOO...

Even knowing she can do this, I still get caught over and over again. Why? Because I'm an idiot, and also because no other CO in this game or its two sequels can do something like this. Sonja reaches into the game's code and "turns off" one of the rules. No healing or direct damage. No weather shenanigans. No bonuses to offense or defense, to Movement or Range. Just pure, undiluted, "Oh you thought your units were safe? How quaint."

The key to this mission, I think, is keep part of your army in reserve. Sonja's army isn't big enough to pose a serious threat unless you get caught in the Enhanced Vision crossfire, and having a few tanks back out of range greatly reduces the danger of that.

Mission 13: Sami Marches On!
Two words: lander spam. Sonja goes friggin' nuts with the things in this mission. I think what's going on is that the AI is trying to attack both the northern and southern island at once. Targets reachable by land seem to have a higher priority than those that require sea transport, so all Sonja's tanks, artillery and infantry attack the south... but she still builds as though she means to split her forces evenly. End result: lots of landers with nothing to carry.

The challenge of Sami Marches On! is the sheer amount that's going on. In the south, you're fighting a vicious brawl against Sonja's land troops, with forests getting in your way constantly and never doing enough to shield you - but at least you have some bases right there. In the north, there's not much to fight, and the terrain is nice and open, but the properties on the right (including the bases) can be shelled by battleships in the hard-to-reach eastern sea. And the entire time, you're also trying to outmaneuver Sonja's navy, which is really annoying considering naval units can attack you from farther than even your subs can see.

On the plus side, Enhanced Vision isn't all that annoying. Also, if you can even come close to holding your own, you'll soon gain the advantage in production thanks to Sonja wasting all that cash on her lander armada.

Mission 14: Sonja's Goal!
I think this is the earliest mission in which you get to play with land, sea and air units all at once. As was the case in Divide and Conquer!, Sonja's army is about the same size as yours, and once again she doesn't have any mid tanks. She does have some aircraft, but compared to that second fight with Eagle that I'm not actually covering yet, it's not much of an air force.

Basically, if you've played the Max branch of Blue Moon, you know how this goes - it's History Lesson!, just with Andy and Sonja instead of Max and Grit (and with a few air units thrown into the mix).

So instead I want to talk about CO Powers for a moment.

Most powers fall into one of two types - strategic and tactical. The strategic powers improve the overall strength of your army or reduce that of your opponent (typically through money or HP) but aren't good at creating openings. Examples include Hyper Repair and Tsunami, as well as AW2's infamous Gold Rush.

In the tactical category are the ambush powers: they extend the reach of your units, letting you to hit the enemy in ways they didn't anticipate. Snipe Attack is the canonical example, but Max Force, Double Time, and Lightning Strike are all tactical CO Powers. Blizzard is sort of a reverse tactical power in that it reduces your opponents' reach.

The only one in AW1 or AW2 that is neither strategic nor tactical is Morale Boost. It can hurt, yeah, but it doesn't actually let Kanbei attack in any new ways - if you got wrecked by Morale Boost, you were probably would've been wrecked by regular Kanbei too. , remember?

There do exist CO powers that are both strategic and tactical. There's a lot of them in AW2 (Sensei anyone?), but only two in AW1 that definitely qualify. One is a secret. The other... here's where I tie this tangent back into the original subject... is Enhanced Vision, which lets you scout out the enemy position and spot his ambushes (strategy!) and also exposes his "hidden" units to attack (tactics!).

...I was going to end the post there, but I was reading over Paul.Power's run of Sonja's Goal! again and I just realized why I hate playing this mission: I never approached from the west. I would instead march east through all the stupid forests. I think I was afraid of the bomber finding me with my forces divided, so I'd bunch everyone up and sidle right until I got it. Then I would keep on going that way because fuck backtracking.

I'm not as good at this game as I should be.