Part 84: Advance Campaign Mission 16: Enigma AC as MaxAdvance Campaign Mission 16: Enigma AC as Max (or "Zero Punctuation")
Oh wow it's been a long time. But the finish line's in sight now...
Youtube video (44m44s)
The continuing enigma of the one mission title in this game that contains zero punctuation (yes ok, that was perhaps a title pun stretch too far). Looks like it really did set the template for Advance Wars 2... but moving on. After the big ol' C-Rank nightmare of Andy Times Two!, do I have any hope for redemption? Well... maybe. Though not if the length of this video is anything to go by. Three quarters of an hour, the longest video so far... and bear in mind that this is after editing: the video was over an hour long to begin with. But on the other hand... Enigma's always been a pretty long "bash your way to the goal until you can completely overwhelm Sturm" sort of mission, right? Maybe the Advance Campaign S-Rank Day Limit Gods will look kindly upon me this time. We can only hope. Joining me are Sylphid and Senerio.
Between NC and AC there is one massive difference: the fog of war. Fog always spices things up, and on a map like this that deliberately has a whole bunch of forests and reefs to showcase Sturm's ability to ignore terrain movement costs, there are plenty of places for Ol' Teapot Dome (and us, for that matter) to hide. But other than that, there isn't as big of a change as you might think. Sturm has a few more ground units to play with (most notably a couple of extra medium tanks that are obligingly set to defensive so we don't have to deal with them until the midgame), but his navy and air force are unchanged.
This makes the naval game - run around with a Max submarine smashing Sturm's cruiserless (until he gets that damn port) navy up - as easy as ever, while fighting off Sturm's initial fighter and bomber force is reasonably straightforward. As before, Sturm doesn't get to use Meteor Strike for Enigma (now that would have been a twist worthy of Advance Campaign...), so one can feel free to unload everything into him here. Speaking of Max, was there really any choice with this one? His ability to just mash Sturm's lowered-defence units to a pulp is most welcome, especially after using Andy for five missions straight.
Opening moves are pretty similar to Normal Campaign, loading up the transports and sending them on a journey to take the facilities here.
Meanwhile I fiddle about with infantry and APCs in the west, as before.
Day 2. As in Normal Campaign, using the lander to spot Sturm's first sub - but with a slight difference this time. In both NC and on my first attempt at this mission, I moved my lander into the square indicated by the dotted line - and consequently got the lander exploded by a battleship. It didn't amount to much, but this time I thought "wait a minute, I have fog of war and reefs now. I can save the lander!". So I started over and moved the lander into this reef. The result? A lander that lasts a few more turns. It's something, at least.
With the sub spotted, Max does his thing. Getting one-shots (or at least, 98%) from what would normally be a 55% match-up is amazing. Aside from that, I love the subtle changes of expression in Sturm's mask as he realises that his sub's a goner.
Back on land, the convoy continues its forward journey, with much infantry/APC messing around and a light tank taking point.
Capturing the base and port as Sturm's bomber and battleship wander up and try to project some force.
Running straight into a trap, in the battleship's case. More obligatory Max craziness.
In the south, everything starts building up around Sturm's fighters. There's a T copter hanging around in missile range off the top of the screen.
And the T copter falls. It's not a Sturm mission without at least one shot of him blowing smoke everywhere.
Sub and lander continue scouting, and espy Sturm's next submarine just chilling unsubmerged in open water. Ah, defensive AI.
While the missile launcher deals with that fighter from offscreen, a light tank takes care of its opposite number, and the medium tank and other light tank press forward - into a trap!
Then again, Max's attitude to traps is that once you're in them you may as well commit to them fully and see if you can't just blast through them with superior firepower.
And speaking of superior firepower.
BOOM (also: final battleship spotted).
The APC decoy is hard at work distracting that bomber while I scramble AA defence.
Maybe not making as much use of Max Force as I might've liked, but it's something. The 5HP medium tank got trapped by the AA, by the way.
And I start capturing the base. Probably shouldn't have left that APC in the woods, now I think about it. Hidden from sight, it's not going to be able to decoy that rocket launcher.
And the result is heavily damaged infantry. I get plenty of revenge though - although sadly, a 5HP Max medium tank isn't quite enough to one-shot a rocket launcher (expected damage 94% ). Most other stuff gets one-shotted though. Remarkably, Sturm's infantry in the mountains decided that it didn't want to finish off my capturing infantry. Thanks for that.
Sturm's final battleship falls, as does his bomber. We're making good work of securing the north, but there's a new problem - Sturm's port is now online.
Dealing with paratroopers dropped behind my lines, joining infantry together to help with the capturing process, and taking down a 7HP light tank at the bridge.
The first thing that Sturm's port does is produce a cruiser. Lander takes up blocking duties to protect my sub, and I crank out a cruiser of my own, ready to take out that defensive fighter.
'Course, the one thing about port blocking is that it does leave the lander open to attacks from ground forces. This light tank can only do chip damage, but I suspect that there may be heavier brethren hanging around. Meanwhile, the low-on-fuel sub heads back for supplies, and I build and load up a lander ready to take the airport.
In the south, this is a fairly routine chokepoint-busting situation for any CO, not to mention Max...
... but there is a surprise extra artillery hanging out that I can't reach this turn. APC decoying and rocket outranging will help with that, though.
We're up to Day 9 now, and it's time for Max to unfurl a second CO Power.
Not that he really needs them, especially against Sturm. But still. Lander takes a break from port-spotting duties, to allow my cruiser to take down that fighter. The skies are clear, and we can send troops in to capture that airport and deploy a crazy Max bomber force. The sub makes it to port so it can resupply (should be out of cruiser range this turn, at least).
In the south, once again a 94% shot that fails to one-hit-kill holds up progress - this time with my rocket launcher not quite finishing off a light tank. Dammit RNG, I just want to murder an APC! Okay, fair enough, a 94% shot only has a 40% chance to one-hit kill, but would have been nice to have at least one of them succeed. Ah well, at least that artillery's down.
Day 10, and the tanks roll on through Sturm's infantry and APC hordes, while our own infantry horde starts catching up with the vehicles.
Strollin' on through, and building another medium tank to help with that big ol' forward push.
Some controversial decisions in the north. I only drop one of the two mechs from the lander on the island - fair enough, the airport's the only property to capture up there, and there are no threats - with a plan to use the other mech to sneak a grab on that port. Speaking of that port, I use the cruiser and lander to block it up. Fair enough, right? Well, that's reckoning without Sturm's ground forces...
... which are quite significant. Hoo boy. Thank goodness those medium tanks can't reach this airport.
The tanks push onwards, although they've now entered that awkward narrow road that dominates the middle of this map. Progress through here is pretty slow.
I'd say "this is an incredibly stupid plan" but frankly I'm not even sure if it qualifies for being a plan. I really should have waited until the ground forces had caught up with this position. If it helps to explain my thought process, my initial idea was to drop the mech by the port... but turns out that all those reefs meant I couldn't reach it. Ugh. Now no-one's got the port covered.
And so, in the resulting carnage, Sturm gets a submarine built. At least I have a battleship now - even Max battleships are still very solid units. Most importantly though, that airport's been secured. Not long until bombers, now...
Taking down that missile launcher charges up Max Force. Well, may as well use it.
Max versus Sturm, in a nutshell.
Granted, that battle shot was more impressive in terms of how much damage that crippled cruiser managed to put out than crazy one-shots or whatever. But for that, we have Max's middies messing up mechs (and rockets and infantry, but they don't alliterate). Shame about leaving that one tank in arty range, though...
Day 13 now, and taking a turn to regroup.
Sturm doesn't care for that though, and his sub and cruiser work together to spot and swat my submarine. That sub's been on a grand adventure, but sadly its journey ended here. At least I get some spot 'n' swat revenge from the cruiser and battleship.
A mix of the sublime - rolling through Sturm's forces at the bridge - and the ridiculous - moving my rocket to let the medium tank attack that infantry, and losing sight of it in the process. Welp.
Day 15, a-INCOMING MAX BOMBER SPAM
Offscreen shenanigans from the AA and battleship, while one of Max's medium tanks crushes its opposite number. Good ol' Max.
"This turn brought to you by the percentage 234" - Senerio.
Of course, it's not all fun and games. Sturm has a lot of AA and missiles lined up for the final leg of this. A lot.
But, with a little ingenuity we can work our way through it. Battleship cripples AA down to 1HP, 1HP bomber finishes off. Full health medium tank destroys artillery, 7HP medium tank rolls through to blast a light tank down to 1HP, rockets finish off.
We seem to have the port area under control now, but that (formerly) 7HP medium tank took a beating from a rocket. A light tank scouting ahead manages to observe its position, on a bridge to the south.
Well, we know how to deal with that, don't we? BOMBERS. MAX BOMBER SPA-
- ah. Yeah, as previously noted, Sturm's kind of ready for bombers. Still going to keep building them, though - the fact that the airport's closer to the front lines than our closest base, and that bombers beat out medium tanks for speed and manoeuvrability, are bigger issues than their cost and fragility right now. In other words, we can pump 'em out faster than Sturm can knock 'em down.
Day 19 mostly consists of moving things forward to see what Sturm's welcoming committee has to offer.
Quite a bit, as it turns out. Still at least it means that Max Force is charged and ready again.
Battleship provides entirely inconsequential fire support for a bomber than can kill its medium tank target twice over, and my own medium tank returns the favour by taking down an AA. This is still hardly a safe land for bombers, but every little helps.
And there are always more bombers.
Saying that, somehow I got through Sturm's last turn without losing a bomber. Maybe his forces really are on the wane...
... or maybe I deliberately hid in his missiles' range shadow. It's hard to tell when I'm actually trying to be clever, writing this up so long after I played through the mission .
Either way, that missile launcher's down and I'm really illustrating my point about being able to out-produce Sturm here - with three bombers now on the field, he's going to have a headache dealing with all of them.
... then again, maybe he has two more anti-air up his sleeve. Damn it, Sturm. Still, at least it's more grist for the Max Force mill (we really are showing here just how crazy things get when one army has access to its CO power and the other doesn't... see also Campaign "mode" Sasha in Advance Wars: Dual Strike).
My remaining bomber yells "WHY DON'T YOU SOD OFF AND DIE?" at one of those AAs. Other than that, I'm putting my damaged units to good use - 6HP rocket takes down 5HP mech, 3HP AA takes down 2HP APC, and 1HP medium tank scouts out Sturm's rocket launcher, ready for the full-health middie to marmalise it.
Which it promptly does. APC blocks up a base (in hindsight, perhaps I could have transported some infantry down in it, if only for some extra meatshields. But oh well), and a lander from ages ago rolls in with that airport-capturing mech (remember him?) to provide a human shield for the bomber.
Which it does admirably, surviving with 2HP. Bomber destroys APC, medium tank destroys light tank, the 2HP mech goes scouting ahead to find a rocket launcher (if you're wondering what happened to the AA... well, that rocket launcher's what happened to it) and another mech. APC retreats a little to distract the artillery, while I knock a couple of hit points off of it with the 1HP middie.
Rocket down, artillery down. All that's left are these two mechs...
... which fall predictably. Victory!
And what a victory: an S-Rank. My first Advance Campaign S-Rank that hasn't either been a) mandatory thanks to a "survive for X days" time limit or b) gained through retrying because dammit I wanted an S-Rank (as with Battle Mystery!). Sure, this mission has a lenient time limit: 25 days for an S-Rank, when the previous mission reckoned that 21 days merited a C-Rank. But I'll take it.
It might just be the only succour I get from here on out...
... yeah. Feels silly to say it after how long I spent on Enigma but... this might take a while...