Part 49: Campaign Mission 20: Enigma as MaxMission 20: Enigma as Max (or "Teapot Dome")
Longest update so far, this one. Here's hoping it's a fun one, though.
Howdy, Sonja! How y'all doing?
I've finally got our foe by the tail. I need you to convey some intel to Andy and his friends.
And what are you gonna be doing in the meanwhile, darlin'?
I need to survey the situation. Don't worry, I won't do anything foolish. Father warned me to take care.
The phrase "tempting fate" springs to mind.
You wouldn't be trying to pull the wool over my eyes, would you?
Of course not. You'll go, won't you?
Well, I reckon I have to. Stay put now, I'll be right back.
Grit's always been more useful than me... (sigh)
I dunno, you've managed to get to the bottom of all this nonsense and convince Eagle of what's going on. Still, why do I get the feeling that Sonja's going to try to be "useful"?
Anyway, here's Max, ready to start smashing things up. Now, about ten years ago when I first heard about Sturm, thanks to looking at a walkthough of the game (yes, I know, I know. I'd like to think I've reformed since), I built up a mental picture of him looking like a more serious version of Olaf or something. What I got instead was...
... this. Words cannot describe how shocking and funny I found this. I was going to be fighting a man with a teapot for a head. In AW2 they changed Sturm to look more intimidating in a Darth-Vaderish sort of way, but here we have... well. Compared with Grit and Drake staring into your soul, this is a walk in the park.
Still, at least he has a kick-ass theme song that I'm sure many you have been waiting for. It's not my personal favourite (Sami takes that award) but it is excellent.
I guess that's our mystery foe.
If we beat him, do you think my clone will vanish, too?
Well I don't know really, I mean it's a question of ontological inertia...
Yep. I don't think there's any doubt about it.
Oh. Well that's that settled.
We're counting on you, Paul!
No pressure then.
Think of this as Advance Wars 1's "final exam" mission, testing you out on everything you've learnt so far. We've got land, sea and air, we've got bases of all three types to fight over and eventually (especially with Max) it turns into a good old-fashioned steamroller. It's a bit longer than your typical AW1 mission (although nowhere near as long as the one coming up!), feeling more like an AW2 mission in terms of scope. Should be fun.
In any map like this, it's important to seize the means of production (# The people's flag is deepest orange / I can't think of a rhyme for orange #, etc.) as soon as possible. So we'll be sending out the transports to grab the bases and port circled in green. The airport will be a little trickier - we'll have to fight our way through Sturm's navy to get to it, with only a submarine to work with. On the plus side, it is a Max submarine, and Sturm's got no cruisers. As long as we keep from being spotted, we should be able to take those botes down one at a time. Eventually we'll need to take down the defensive fighter up there with a cruiser, at which point we can start churning out bombers to really put Sturm under the cosh.
Now then, a lot of transport-loading action to start with. First let's load an infantry and mech into our lander, and send it off to grab the base and port to the east. Once again I've got be a bit canny with what I drop off where: the infantry can reach the port from where I've dropped it, but the mech wouldn't be able to.
Sub moves up to give the lander some cover, and my APC and T copter load up and head out as well. Since it's not really realistic to try grabbing that airport with all these fighters and battleships around just yet, I'll just send the T copter mech to grab some cities.
Shifting everything else down, and building an infantry unit. Yes, I know I can afford a tank and it's Max, but hey, early game, gotta get that stuff captured. I might be able to leapfrog these two infantry units and the APC downfield to get to the base faster.
Not got much to say, have you, Teapot Dome?
He's got plenty to move, though. And look how far it's moved: despite the heavily broken terrain, his stuff's quite a bit downfield already. That's just one of the abilities of our newest and final CO...
Paul.Power's CO Notes: Sturm Sturm's Theme
In AW1 Campaign, Sturm gets a boost to attack (most sources I've read say +20%, DTaeKim at one point said it was +30%. ) but a -20% penalty to defence, making him someone you very much want to get first strike against. It's quite tough to get that first strike though, because one big thing about Sturm is that he doesn't suffer movement penalties from terrain. Forests and reefs? No big deal. Mountains and rivers? Well, his tanks can't go over them, but his infantry travel through them at normal speed. Plains? Pfft, please. It's really something than can catch you off guard if you're not careful. As for Sturm's CO Power, well... I'm not going to tell you about it just yet. Don't want to spoil the surprise.
Background/Personality: We've finally caught up with "him". Meet Sturm, the final boss of AW1 and AW2. Apparently he's some sort of otherworldly invader? It's kind of difficult to pin stuff down about him - heck, the only reason we can call him "him" is because that's what everyone in-game calls him. Anyway, Sturm's grand plan this game was to make clones of Andy (why Andy? Max clones would be pretty much unstoppable at this point) and send them out to fight the other nations with the goal of causing them all to get pissed off at Orange Star. After that, I guess it's a case of Step 3: Profit, but I suppose he'd have rolled in once everyone was weakened or something. Yer typical final boss, all dark and forboding and "You fools!" and stuff. The teapot spoils the effect a bit, though.
Anyway, let's get these infantry down here. No real chance for a "leapfrog" just yet (where the infantry at the back gets into the APC and uses it to get extra distance), but I should be able to do one next turn.
By the port, I get to capturing and use my lander to spot one of Sturm's subs. It's pretty suicidal for the lander, as it's now in battleship range. But it's mostly a case of either die to the battleship or die to the sub, and at least this way we can kill the sub. Because of Sturm's high attack power, we'll want to distract him from attacking our strong units as much as possible - get ready to see a lot of abuse.
Anyway, time to assault this sub. With Max vs. Sturm, 55% matchups (probably the game's most common value for attacks, especially when a unit attacks one of the same type) become 98% ones - which I think works out as a 4 in 5 chance of a one-hit kill? Pretty nice, certainly.
And down goes the sub.
Mech captures city, T copter goes to see if there's anything useful it can be doing up north, and the cavalcade continues making its way across the bridge (this turn, I do build a tank).
Lander goes down to Sturm's attack bonus as predicted, and... is that smoke coming out of his "mouth?"
Yep. I'll leave you guys to make your own maruijana jokes.
Meanwhile the T copter and capturing units have attracted the attention of Sturm's air force. Hmm. With no AA cover nearby, this could get messy.
But let's work on clearing up the seas first. Lander avenged with another 98% one-hit-kill, properties captured.
Back on the main front, we've got a recon to deal with. A light tank copes with it more than handily.
And here's where I do a bit of leapfrogging, putting the rear infantry into the APC while the front infantry has to walk. Not going to try grabbing the base just yet, though. Best to wait for Sturm to go for it first, then attack him.
The other tanks roll upfield, and I crank out my second medium tank.
Now then, I've got a chance to deal with at least one fighter here, although it requires a T copter sacrifice. We can draw a fighter out with it, then wail on the fighter with the AA and/or missiles.
And oh yeah I'd better move this rocket launcher I guess?
Note that even though we've done a lot of damage to Sturm, his power meter hasn't filled at all. Yeah, he doesn't get to use his CO Power this mission. Probably just as well, because it's nasty. You'll see why when we get to it. Anyway, with no CO Powers to worry about, this mission we can go all-out on Sturm without worrying about doing too much damage or anything like that. Pretty ideal for Max, really.
Anyway, there goes the T copter, and an infantry unit falls to bomber fire as well. Hmm. I get the feeling I might be losing a lot of units this mission...
APC at least manages to survive its attack, thanks to the city defence bonus.
The good news is, our power meter's now full.
And for once we're in an excellent position to get some use out of it straight away!
Time to cue up the Batman sound-effects.
KERRUNCH! Note that all these units are now sitting in range of Sturm's rockets. Could be nasty, but luckily we have the effect to protect us (many, many transports are going to die during the making of this update).
Let's follow up all that tank carnage by dislodging Sturm's infantry from its base-capturing attempts.
And bring the rocket launcher up, too. Not that it's likely to see much use, but you never know.
Time to switch focus to the north. Mech attacks mech, and I build another one - chiefly to stop Sturm blocking the base with one of his units. As a similar anti-base-blocking measure, I bring my sub back to port - where it can also pick up some more fuel and ammo.
Back at HQ, there's that fighter that decided it wanted to destroy my T copter.
Max's AA makes short work of it. Won't even need to use the missile launcher.
Medium tank moves up, and I build another APC in the hope of luring the bomber into the waiting arms of my AA.
Let's end this busy turn with another bit of footsoldier combat, as my last mech picks on an infantry unit.
. For those keeping count, I've now lost all my original transports.
A mech gets it in the neck from that bomber, too. But we still control the area.
Oh come on now Sturm, how is that even remotely good chokepoint management. I know I smashed up all your armour last turn, but you could at least try putting the infantry in front of the rocket launcher.
As it stands, it's time to bring down the hammer. 188%, good grief.
After that medium tank marmalisation, my light tank follows through by killing the infantry.
I guess ultimately it didn't matter about the poor chokepoint placement, since both units would have fallen under Max's tank treads anyway, but it's just one of those little things.
See now that's more like it as a chokepoint. Although I suspect we aren't even going to need our rockets just yet.
Enough of vehicles for now, let's check in on the mechs.
Looking good, but that bomber's still a threat. Can't really just deploy an AA though, because then the bomber'll just get first strike on it. We need a diversion. Hmm.
Unfortunately, this diversion doesn't quite work - the APC's just out of bomber range. We'll work something out, though.
Another mech falls to Sturm's bomber.
And our front tank takes a hammering too.
This is starting to get frustrating. I've got a plan, though.
Sub out of the port, lander built, infantry into the lander, APC built. The lander's for getting to the airport island, the APC is... well, . It might just survive a bomber shot sitting on the base - and if it does, that'll buy us the time to get an AA out.
3HP tank gets away from the front lines, and will be heading for repairs on one of the cities around here.
Meanwhile I take the opportunity to remind Sturm that while he can dish it out, he sure as hell can't take it.
Can't quite take this T copter out in one hit, but 80% is really good going for a medium tank targetting a T copter.
Everyone's sitting in range of that lurking bomber...
... but that's okay, we've taken out APC Insurance.
Ugh, reefs. I know the map designers wanted to showcase Sturm's abilities here, but it doesn't make life easy for us. The lander's also got to find a way to navigate through Sturm's bomber/submarine gauntlet.
Well, sort of. We can get rid of the submarine fairly easily, after all.
Which makes life easier for the lander. And we can finally get the AA built, with the 3HP APC to decoy for it (now I think about it, the lander's safe anyway because of the APC. But we've got to keep up appearances. Or something).
Down south, the infantry do infantry things as we consider our options.
Options like blowing up a T copter and an AA with overpowered tanks.
It does mean leaving medium tanks in range of that artillery, though.
Still, we can take a hit from an arty, right?
And there goes the APC. It did its job (okay, even I think the crying APC's overplayed by now).
All right, enough of this nonsense.
Let's see just how much damage we can d-
And even at 4HP, Max's medium tanks are still a serious proposition.
Speaking of "ahahahaha", we've got power to spare as we finally get round to taking down this bomber.
Submarine gets rid of Sturm's last starting naval unit. Just as he builds another submarine, but still, going well there.
Lander manages to both get away from the sub and deliver its passenger to the airport.
Finally some indirect action. Rockets don't get much use with Max in charge, but here we've got a chance to fire at something.
The rocket's going to be setting the tempo for an infantry war over this mountain range.
And we'll crank out some more infantry. I've lost a lot of units this mission, but we've got enough properties that an infantry spam should fix our technique score.
Diving sub alert.
Lander does its best to get rid of that sub, and I deploy a cruiser to take care of it. That cruiser'll be handy for getting rid of Sturm's airport-guarding fighter, too.
Anyway, what's on the menu today?
Well, we've got mashed APC and scrambled rockets.
Followed by fried missiles and diced infantry.
Well, it beats Smackdown Soup.
For dessert, creamed fighter.
More infantry-spamming for technique.
It's a bad time to be a medium tank, though. There goes the 4HP one .
Even with that medium tank down, though, we've still got a decent number of tanks in the tank. If you follow me.
First let's get revenge on the tank and mech that took out the 4HP middie.
I was actually pretty lucky taking out the tank - 80% expected damage against a 9HP unit. Fun stuff.
Medium tank finishes off the 3HP rocket launcher, while my own rocket launcher deals with Sturm's AA over the mountains.
With the AA crippled, that gives our infantry swarm a bit of reassurance.
Allowing them to keep crossing into the mountains and remove Sturm's infantry down there.
Big numbers once more as my cruiser deals with Sturm's sub.
My own sub moves in to block up his port. It's a bit low on fuel, so I deploy another APC - this time not as a decoy, but to load into the lander so it can go over and fuel the sub.
Sturm's AA carries on gamely, but I've got the high ground.
Starting fairly low-key by moving my cruiser towards Sturm's remaining fighter, while the sub, with nothing nearby that can threaten it, surfaces to conserve fuel.
Back on the ground, we've got an AA to finish off.
There we go. With the coast clear, this mass of infantry can keep rolling forwards.
Tank gets rid of missile launcher...
Lander loads up with the APC (to refuel the sub) and an infantry (to capture the port) and heads out.
Now then, Sturm's HQ units. We've already left something sitting inside medium tank range - it's doomed, but at least it can act as a lure. My own middie moves up to act as the snare.
Infantry spam continues, and my reserve tanks keep moving upfield.
Eesh. The tank did just survive, but eesh.
And Sturm actually pulls off something kinda clever by blocking my healthy tanks out with his APC.
Well, kinda clever. The APC goes down in one hit, allowing me to land a good hit on the medium tank.
In addition, the 1HP tank gets out of there. We've got reinforcements coming.
Down goes the final fighter. And with no fighters left, you know what that means...
... MAX BOMBER TIME!
*sniff* so beautiful. And the lander drops its troops off for supply/capture purposes.
Infantry keep rolling forwards, looking to provide distractions for Sturm's rocket launcher.
And the tanks and rockets head north.
Sturm's still got a few tricks up his sleeve, though. Infantry reduced to 1HP, and his medium tank manages to take out my retreating 1HP tank.
Hmm. You might have noticed that I didn't use Max Force last turn.
This looks like a good opportunity, though. As it stands, my bomber can't reach that medium tank.
But with Max Force, it can! And it can do crazy overkill damage to boot.
That middie's been something of a pain, but at last we can get rid of it.
Max Force also gives me the movement range to roll in and take out Sturm's rocket launcher (does leave me vulnerable to his artillery, though...). And, thanks to a bit of a derp moment taking screenshots, I don't have a post-attack screen for my light tank attacking Sturm's bridge tank. Sorry about that. Hopefully the dotted line is enough of an indication of what happens.
Hopefully this is, too.
Main reason I didn't get round to taking that screenshot was because I was far too excited about deploying my second bomber .
Infantry take out infantry.
And we've got the area between the mountain range and the river pretty much under control now.
The vehicles have to take the bridge, though.
And once more, Sturm's arty provides some nasty resistance.
Isn't really going to stop us, though, not now we're well into the endgame.
Bomber smashes up infantry...
... and my tank takes off most of this AA's hit points.
Even the 4HP middie gets to help out, knocking the artillery down to half health.
And my 9HP tank gets to do plenty of damage to this mech.
With the infantry preventing escape to the west, maybe we can finish this off next turn?
Sturm's at least going to do everything he can to stop that.
Right then. Bombers first.
Down goes the annoying arty that's been beating up our tanks.
This is about as overkill as it gets, 192% damage to kill a 1HP mech. But it's unfortunately the only thing this bomber can reach. And it gets the job done.
Tanks tanks tanks.
But I make a mistake in here somewhere.
Because I've left it so that the only units can hit that final APC on Sturm's HQ are the 9HP tank and the 9HP infantry... and they can only hit it from the same square, the one to the west of it. If I'd attacked with different units from different locations, I think I might have been able to win this this turn, but...
Ah well. I think I read somewhere that the speed limit for Perfect on this mission is 16 days, which is precisely the amount we'll take. So it shouldn't cost me anything. Still a little annoying, though.
Speaking of score, here's hoping I've spammed enough infantry to make sure I don't get penalised on Technique for losing all those units.
Doubt it. We've only faced him once, and he hasn't even used his CO Power yet.
It looks like it's finally...
'Course, no-one pays attention to me. Grit, help me out here.
Hey, it's Grit! Long time, no see.
"Those sure were some fun battles we had earlier, huh?" etc.
No time for that now, Junior. I found the snake's hidin' place!
Huh? Then this isn't...
Well, you know, the guy who can make fully functional clones might just have made a clone of himself...
That's just the tip o' the ol' boy's tail. Hurry! Sonja's in danger!
Oh boy. I knew Sonja was tempting fate...
Perfect score, woo. Enigma! is pretty much the perfect way to show just how crazily broken AW1 Max can be (as if you didn't know that already). In many ways, this mission set the template for how a lot of AW2 plays out, with long, base-heavy missions that can take a while to grind out but can be very satisfying as they move the focus away from tactical placement and towards a view centred on strategy and logistics.
We're almost at the end now, but there's a heck of a lot more behind-the-scenes work to get through before we can go any further. I've got to play through Andy Times Two! twice more and Enigma! three more times before I'm ready for that. Still, in the meantime, we've got a bit more voting to get done. Remember this?
At the time it wasn't a vote, simply telling you what my grand plans for the endgame were. But now it is a vote. We've got to work out what order I'm going to play these four alternate-timeline Final Battles in. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some teams have more strengths/weaknesses than others. I'm going to leave you guys to work out what those strengths and weaknesses are, though (bear in mind that I've only actually beaten TFB before now as Andy/Max/Eagle and Andy/Grit/Drake, though, so who knows how the other two runs'll go).
So yes, votes please for Operation Golden Ending, Operation Nap Patrol, Operation Dunderhead or Operation Orange Star, with a first preference and a second preference.
Whichever team we end up using first, tune in next time for...
... standard final boss banter!
... finally have someone halfway-sensible controlling the units of Blue Moon, Green Earth and Yellow Comet!
... and a captive Sonja getting all Negative Nancy on us!
But then, maybe she has a point. Sturm does have one more trick up his sleeve, after all. Will he have the last laugh? Will the guy with pink smoke coming out of his mouth yet have the merriest toke? Did I just try to do a silly anagram joke? Should I stop asking questions?