Part 46: Green Earth Campaign in Review (by Alien Arcana)Would have posted this sooner but I ran into some issues with my internet.
Green Earth Campaign in Review
Each nation's COs work a little different with regards to Campaign missions. Olaf and Grit's missions were fairly well mixed. Kanbei held the line in Yellow Comet, with Sonja hidden away behind him. And now we find Drake waiting patiently for us to arrive in Green Earth proper, unlike Eagle who has been (and will continue) harassing us at random intervals regardless of whose campaign it's supposed to be.
I can't really talk about Eagle's difficulty curve since he's so spread out (I'll cover him in the individual missions) so instead let's talk about the difficulty of Drake's missions. They're... not so much a step up as a step sideways. Kanbei and Sonja forced you to refine your skill, to develop advanced tactics to deal with units that could out-fight you or out-maneuver you. Drake is different - he forces you to adapt to unusual objectives, shifting battlefield conditions, and flat-out unfair starting positions.
As a general rule, Sami's missions are considerably more bullshit than Andy's. I believe Sami is meant to be hard mode in Green Earth. It happens that I've never played Max's run of missions either (playing Campaign twice to unlock everyone was quite enough Campaign for me) so I won't have too much to say about those.
Mission 3: Air Ace!
Ah, Eagle. The master of the skies picks a fight in a region with no ports or airports and isolated HQs, and doesn't bother to pack a T Copter. Good thing we did.
This map is the very first time you fight an air force outside of Field Training (read: an air force not designed to destroy itself against your defenses on the very first turn). Missions like this inevitably give you a single missile launcher to start with, and doing well is all about getting the enemy planes in range of the missile without endangering too many of your other units.
My favorite strategy in these situations is the 'firewall'. Park the missile where you think it'll do the most good; position your most valuable and/or fragile units right next to it on all four sides, then completely surround the entire package with tanks, anti-air, and chaffy units like infantry. This way, the important units are safe from harm (unless Eagle manages to blow a hole in your firewall) and any air unit that comes in to attack is automatically in missile range. Smaller firewalls can also be used to ward off enemy fighters - just park the copters side-by-side against the edge of the map and fence them in with chaff. You can then clean up Eagle's fighters at your leisure.
Of course, it's quite possible other players have their own ways of dealing with air forces - the point is that you'll have a lot of trouble with Air Ace! until you stumble onto something that works. Whatever you find, remember it, because you'll be needing it later on.
Air units aside, Eagle has several other lessons to teach. The first is an elaboration of one from the previous mission, Gunfighter! - namely, watch your opponent's CO Meter. Lightning Strike is absurdly painful if you're not ready for it, especially if Eagle still has air units available - if there exists a path to your T copter, those fighters will find it and end it. Of course, once Eagle is grounded, his CO Power's kind of a dud - the paths here are very narrow, and getting to move twice doesn't help much if a big ol' mid tank was blocking the first move.
Like Gunfighter!, this mission gives you access to a factory - the trick is that this time Eagle's also got one. Granted it's kind of out of the way, and he has to grab it first... but if you lose your T copter, that base will turn the map into an absolute slog, as his income works out to be about the same as yours. (To the best of my knowledge, there's no way to stop him from getting it - all you accomplish is to sacrifice your copters and sidetrack his air force for a turn.)
If you did manage to save your T copter from the fighters, of course, you're golden - just drop a mech on the HQ, block the Eagle tank with the copter itself, and you can't lose!
...Unless of course you were so impatient to finish the level that you neglected to actually kill the bomber. Then you might have a problem.
But surely nobody'd be that dumb, right?
Mission 8: Sami's Debut!
Ugh. See, here's the thing. I don't mind Fog of War the way Grit and Sonja do it, where you're playing hide-and-seek with artillery and tanks. That's fine. Even Drake's brand of FoW, as we'll see, isn't too bad. But with Eagle there's a problem: Air units do not mix well with Fog of War.
Now, if it's my air units we're talking about, I find can't use them for much, because there's so many things that can one-shot them and I can't hide them in forests and reefs. Well, okay, maybe I'm just too timid about air units. I do tend to have a cautious playstyle.
But when it's the AI's fighters and bombers? Yeah, they don't have that problem. His fighters and bombers can see perfectly well where most of my units are, and can zoom on-screen from farther than I can possibly see to assassinate my units. With Eagle in particular it's even worse - if I'm unfortunate enough to advance into suddenly-airplane range on the turn his Lightning Strike charges, I can lose a quarter of my army in a single turn.
Sure, I could set up a firewall as before, but the problem is that a giant bunched-up mass of units like that is the antithesis of normal Fog strategy. You can't hide your units in trees if they have to maintain a roughly diamond-shaped formation. I can either rank up, and expose my units to indirect fire, or disperse, and expose them to Eagle's invisible jets.
I have nothing else to say about this level. It's annoying, it's making me wait for my Yellow Comet goodness, and it's really not a good introduction to the new CO at all. Why they gave a name like Sami's Debut to anything but a property mission I just can't understand.
Mission 15A: Captain Drake!
This is one of those maps where you win or lose in the first few turns. There's no ports, so if you can kill his battleship and submarine, Drake becomes just as vanilla as Andy. On the other hand, if you get your solitary lander killed early on, you're in for a long, grinding fight across the southern bridge.
Thus, the core of this mission is making proper use of that lander. You don't want Drake to get too much of a hold on that central island, but you also don't want to expose yourself too much until you've got his navy under control. At the same time, you're also fighting an extremely cramped battle in the southwest.
As in Sami Marches On!, Drake won't load anything onto his landers as long as there's a land route to your units (which in this map means "always"). Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if the AI thinks all transports are made of gold and candy, and that's why they overvalue the enemy's and hold back their own.
My strategy for this map is to immediately land my artillery on the central island and start shooting at Drake's infantry. The infantry won't attack as long as there's cities to capture, so the arty's safe as long as I keep it away from the battleship. With the center island under control, I pull the lander back to safety until I control the seas. Then, and only then, do I start landering infantry. (By the time I finally send troops to the northeast, Drake will have pulled his entire army to the other side of the map to fight me there - I can grab the cities there and escape long before he can counterattack.) With all that taken care of, it's just a matter of pushing Drake back onto the south bridge and wiggling an infantry in to grab the final property.
So basically what Paul.Power did, only with a little more focus on beating Drake's army, and a little less ramming submarines with my lander.
Mission 15M: Captain Drake!
Never personally played this one, but looking at the Fogless map it's really very simple. Captain Drake has one less sub than Max, but one more battleship, and other than that it's a straight up FoW naval battle with no special rules.
Of course, Captain Drake likes throwing curveballs, and this map's no exception - a "straight-up naval battle" is actually a very unusual thing in AW1. Olaf's Sea Strike! aside, previous missions always had the navy functioning as support for a ground force (recall History Lesson! and Sami Marches On!). Here, the ground force is the support, and not much of it at that.
I'd say the key here is managing your subs' fuel properly - they run out fast, you've got no way to refuel them, and if they sink, you're sunk. If I had to play this map, I probably wouldn't rush forward as much as Paul.Power did - I'd move the rocket and infantry onto one of the closer islands, group up around it, and let Drake come to me. Granted you run the risk of cruisers coming at you out of nowhere like Eagle's jets, but as long as you keep a dived sub forward enough he'll have a hard time sneaking up on you. Just don't forget the Green Earth ships are faster than yours... and be sure to memorize how far each type of ship can move! I tend to forget that cruisers are faster than subs.
Mission 15S: Captain Drake!
I do not have many fond memories of this map, but I'm willing to suppose that it's my fault this time.
Claiming the top half of the map is quite easy; that forest is narrower than it looks and makes a great checkpoint. As long as you start at the bottom and work your way up, Drake is unlikely to ever break through to your side of the island. The problem is that you still need at least one property from the bottom half, and getting a foothold can be a headache, especially with Tsunami randomly slowing down your capturing.
As usual, however, there's a trick to fighting Captain Drake. The ocean here isn't really a circle; Drake's port is on one side of the bridge. On the other side - the side defending that southwestern port - Drake has one complete set of naval combat units, and that's it. Once they're dead, you have free reign to assault that area by sea. You've still got Drake's land forces to deal with, but he doesn't have that much to start with and will waste a lot of his early money buying landers .
As long as you hurry you can probably land forces and establish a defensive wall for long enough to capture the port. Then just dive a sub there and Drake can't retake it. (Or if you'd rather use that sub to fight off the other half of Drake's navy, just park the battleship near the port and shell any infantry dumb enough to try and steal it.)
In my opinion, this map does more to sell the concept of "naval superiority" than any other one we've seen so far. Seizing control of the southern ocean makes things so, so much easier.
Mission 16A: Naval Clash!
Winning this mission is a piece of cake - stick the missile on the lander and sail to the northeast. As long as you don't park your lander on the open sea within range of a battleship you basically can't lose. No, the real challenge of this mission is winning without looking like a chump - to make Drake regret having tried to hunt down the missile in the first place.
Now, it's almost impossible to defend the island where you start. Drake's navy is three times the size of yours; included in that number are four battleships, which are tough enough (especially with Drake's bonus) that there's no way to sink them fast enough to avoid being double- and triple-teamed. In addition, since the AI can see through Fog and you can't, that choke point would be a headache even if the naval situation wasn't an issue. Juggling your recon, rocket, and mid tank to try and land a hit on Drake's rocket before it reduces your defensive line to ruins is... let's just say "not fun" and leave it at that.
Clearly we aren't meant to hold our ground; we need to pack up and retreat. The northern landmass is more open, giving us room to outmaneuver Drake's moderately-sized army, while the northern sea is more closed in, making it harder for Drake's gigantic navy to outmaneuver us. Furthermore, both places offer more cover (forests and reefs) that can protect us from battleship fire. We'll have to sacrifice at least two land units for lack of a lander to carry them (I usually ditch the rocket and one of the tanks), but once we relocate we're in a far better position to fight than we were before.
His navy will still annihilate ours in the end, but with more room to move around in, the combination of mid tank, tank and recon could theoretically avoid the battleships' threat zones and pick apart Drake's entire army as it comes across the bridge towards you.
Mission 16M: Naval Clash!
Another map I've never played. From the looks of things, Max actually has Drake rather outgunned - the Green Earth troops are more numerous, but horribly spread out. His navy, meanwhile, is battleship-heavy, with only a single sub and cruiser for defense, allowing Max's subs to clean up quickly.
I agree with Paul.Power's assessment with regards to splitting up vs. sticking together. Drake's army is so dispersed already that "divide and conquer" doesn't really gain you anything, and it's not like the AI won't charge all his units right at you so "splitting up to cover more ground" just makes it easier for his battleships to reach you.
Mission 16S: Naval Clash!
By now, you should be able to deal with armies that are larger than yours (within limits) without needing the game to give you an advantage or handicap your opponent. You should also have some idea of how to deal with Fog of War.
Welp, time to combine those lessons. Drake's army is only a little bigger than Sami's, and his navy exceeds ours by nothing but a single battleship. If we could see him, this'd be a cakewalk. But, of course, there's Fog afoot, which complicates things enormously.
Now, let's talk strategy. Charging right into the middle of Drake's base is a terrible idea, right? Well, yes. Unloading your troops in the middle of the enemy army is generally a bad plan. But as Paul.Power demonstrated, trying to relocate your troops onto that peninsula is an even worse idea. It's extremely cramped, there's lots of forests at the top for Drake to snipe and set ambushes, and if you get pushed back onto the tiny beach you've cut off your escape route and your reinforcements. Remember - the AI can see you! The moment you set foot on that beach, he's going to send his entire army to bottle you up there.
So if a direct attack won't work, and an indirect attack won't work, we seem to be in a bit of a bind. We can easily win the naval war if we're careful, but establishing a presence on the northern landmass seems to be a bit of a problem. You could go with the approach demonstrated in the LP - drop everything onto the peninsula, then rush north and try to break through. But I favor a different approach.
Drop one or two disposable troops on the peninsula early on (maybe an infantry and the APC) and leave them there. Drake will attack with every unit that's not in "guard" mode. Meanwhile, pack your tanks and rocket onto the landers and drop them off in the northeast. Sweep west and engage his troops one by one as they rush back from the Cape of Fools, where they've been idling since they killed your decoy. Use one lander to evacuate anyone who gets hurt too bad. The other lander can bring your mechs up to capture the HQ (or you could just hunt everyone down if you prefer).
Mission 17A: Wings of Victory!
This is a fun mission. I like fighting Eagle as long as I can see him coming.
As is typical for an Eagle fight, the first order of business is countering his air force. Theoretically we learned how to do this all the way back in Air Ace!: the AI is terrible about not rushing its valuable planes and helicopters into units that can one-shot them. You can build a firewall, or just park your army just out of range and wait for him to do as stupid does. Oh, and don't forget about Lightning Strike! It's been a while since you've fought anyone with an alpha-strike CO Power.
Once the planes are dead, it's just a matter of using tactics to whittle down his army without taking too many casualties. This should be a piece of cake for anyone who's made it this far. I prefer to win this map by rout rather than HQ capture, but then I feel that way about most maps.
Mission 17M: Wings of Victory!
Never played it. Kind of want to now.
I'd say that if you have any idea how to play Max, this mission is a piece of cake. The only danger I can really see is if he gets off a surprise Lightning Strike and manages to kill your mid tank and bomber, because after that your ground-pounding options are fairly limited. Even then you could probably pull it off if you keep that copter safe.
Really, even viewed through the lends of Max = Easy Mode, this is really a simple mission. Well, I suppose that's Eagle's style, isn't it? Not sneaky like Sonja or Drake, but not as error-prone as Kanbei; just straight-up aerial combat. You can't go wrong with that, right? Unless...
Mission 17S: Wings of Victory!
Unless you had to do it in Fog of War. If Andy's version of this mission is similar to Air Ace!, then this version is a return to Sami's Debut!, which you may recall I was not too fond of.
I'll be fair: it's not as bad here. The map is smaller, and as a result it's easier both to figure out and to remember where everything is. Still, surprise bombers remain a severe annoyance. Meanwhile, Eagle's got two anti-airs and a missile, and there's forests everywhere, so I have to protect my air units with a defensive line, which limits their utility somewhat.
Honestly, I never would go for an HQ capture on this map - there's far too many things that could go wrong (as I believe Paul.Power learned the hard way). I don't like repeating any mission, and I hate hate hate hate hate having to redo FoW maps. Dunno why exactly; perhaps it's that when I lose a full-vision map, I know where I screwed up, but when I lose in a FoW map, I may have no idea what I did wrong.
Mission 18A: Battle Mystery!
Fun little mission. The 'twist' this time is that Drake is utterly outgunned and vulnerable - but the first time you play this map you don't know that, so you're likely to take things slowly and perhaps miss the Speed cutoff. Perhaps. Even if you have no idea where anything is, though, the hint that Drake's lander is in a reef makes it fairly obvious where you want to focus your attentions (as all the reefs are in the same direction).
Drake has no artillery and only small tanks, and his lone battleship is all the way on the eastern edge of the map, so if you drop Andy's mid tank on the western island it can pretty much rampage to its heart's content without fear of reprisal. Fun fun fun.
Mission 18M: Battle Mystery!
The last of the missions-I've-never-played.
I think the best idea on this map would be to stay west and let Drake come to you, rather than charge forward and fight everything at once. (It's a good rule of thumb for any non-production map: keep your forces together, and let the AI come at you piecemeal.) Also, as Paul.Power discovered on his second run through, it's better not to dive your sub on the first turn - you need to lure that cruiser as far forward as possible so you can kill it before the battleship arrives.
I kind of want to know what he was thinking in his first run when he sent his mid tank east instead of landering it to the north. There were two infantry and a tank there. Utterly non-threatening. A small tank, or two mechs, could have easily cleaned them up. Sending a Max mid tank to kill them was serious overkill.
Personally I would have attacked via the western beach rather than the central one, so that the units bunched up in the northeast would get separated by their differing speeds and terrain issues, but the center attack worked on take two so it's clearly not a big deal.
Oh, and since it was brought up: As far as I know, the AI doesn't even understand the concept of using a spotter to target dived subs or other hidden units. It just rams its troops into yours any which way. What Sonja did was less "lander cleverly finds submarine" and more "lander blindly crashes into submarine."
Mission 18S: Battle Mystery!
Last of the Fog maps! Hurray! Actually, this doesn't even feel much like a Fog map. You start out with a broad, corner-to-corner field of view, and there's not many forests to interfere with your vision. The only important thing hidden is Drake's navy, and that's fairly predictable anyway.
On the other hand, this is a rather sadistic map. :blargh: The infantry unit cannot possibly get out of anti-air range, and the only place where he might survive the attack (the city) is a dead end. (You can't go into a T Copter from there, because every possible position can be hit by ack-ack or cruisers.) Climbing onto the mountains will get him double-teamed. And if you run away and use the battle copters to shield him, the missile will shoot them down.
There's only a few routines that will get you out in one piece. My usual method is a little different from Paul.Power's, because I don't like relying on Double Time to save my ass. Step 1: move into the city on the first turn, take the hit. Step 2: Go northwest. Park a t copter on the mountain two tiles north of the infantry, and use the mechs, b copters, and the other t copter as ablative armor to keep the important units alive. Step 3: Jump into the copter and away we go!
Once airborne the infantry's pretty safe; it's goes faster than the anti-airs and ignores terrain, so it can easily make it to the northeast, from which it can jump into the waiting arms of a cruiser, Matroshka style. Drake has only one battleship so you can easily have the cruiser drop the T Copter onto your home island, and then you literally can't lose.
Basically this whole map is a gigantic puzzle challenge, which is refreshing (if a bit strange) after all the endless AI fighting we've been doing up until now. This is the one Sami map I actually prefer to the alternatives.