Part 92: Let's Commentate Advance Wars by Web! - Part 1Let's Commentate Advance Wars By Web! (or "March of the Penguins") - Part 1
So this is probably a very silly idea, but it gives me something to until Rivals! AC. Recently Slur's been trying to organise some discussion about Advance Wars in the main Games forum - as well as trying to organise some goons into playing of an online browser-based AW clone, Advance Wars By Web. I wasn't able to get a place in the game what with going on holiday and all, but hey, I can spectate it and I may as well do a write-up of what happens. The particular game Slur and co. are playing is this one.
In a way, this is "live" commentary, in that for the most part, I'll be writing my thoughts on what's going on in the moment, with no idea of how things will pan out in the long run. Think of it as really slow e-sports commentary (that reminds me, we need more e-sports that can be commentated on in a relaxed or hushed tone, in the manner of cricket, golf or snooker: I nominate Worms Armageddon). Saying that, I have no idea if I'm qualified to commentate AWBW, since my knowledge of high-level multiplayer strategy is sketchy at best. But hey, I've quite possibly written more words about Advance Wars in the past few years than anyone else on the Internet (I've certainly drawn the most arrows), so maybe I am qualified. I dunno. Let's just get on with it.
The map for this contest is called TheLandOfTheBeginning, a four-player map with both land and air bases. A couple of things to note: players 3 and 4 (Green Earth and Yellow Comet here) have been given an extra infantry to start with. The idea of this is to counter something called First Turn Advantage (FTA) - put simply, all other things being equal, earlier players in the turn order will get key properties captured earlier or get first strikes in more often than later players. 1 v 1 maps might be set up to give player 2 some starting infantry (typically half as many as the number of bases they start with). 2 v 2 maps might be set up as Player 1 and Player 4 vs. Player 2 and Player 3. On this 1v1v1v1 map, players 3 and 4 got an extra infantry to play with.
The other thing is the flat white tiles. These are pre-launched missile silos (missile silos being something introduced in AW2) and can basically be thought of as "cities you can't capture". They're like cities in that they have three-star defence and low movement costs, but they can't be captured and they don't provide anyone with any money. It's just another tool to make map creation more interesting - think of them a bit like the ruins tiles from Days of Ruin, but without the Fog of War hideyness.
Conditions before the match were as follows: Banned COs were Hachi, Colin, Kanbei and Sensei. Banned units were all the ones introduced in AWDS. Since nobody happened to pick a CO introduced in AWDS either, this gives this game a very AW2 flavour. Random weather, no fog of war, 1000G generated per property per day.
Here's how things stand at the start of Day 3. Notice how the colours have changed: in addition to the standard five Advance Wars armies, another nine have been invented to bring the total up to fourteen: this allows for 14-player games of Advance Wars. Yes, 14-player games of Advance Wars are messes of week-long turns, dropouts and other chaos. But hey, that's fangames for ya.
In the Teal Galaxy corner, we have Slur, playing as Hawke. Representing Amber Blaze we've got Roonespism, playing as Jess. KennyMan666 has taken Pink Cosmos, playing as Sami, and the adorable penguins of Cobalt Ice are being commanded by darealkooky, playing as Lash. Now if your only exposure to Advance Wars has been this thread, then you're probably going "Hawke? Jess? Lash?" right now. These three COs were all introduced in Advance Wars 2 - feel free to check the ol' LP if you need a refresher on how they tick. I'll post some summaries of them here, though.
Hawke is a Black Hole CO, and becomes Sturm's second-in-command in AW2. He gets a flat 10% firepower bonus to all of his units, which gets balanced out (sort of) by some pretty expensive CO powers. Note the boxes under the play names - each box, small or large, takes 9000G of damage to fill. Fill all the small boxes, you get to use your CO Power (COP). Fill all the large boxes, you get to use your Super CO Power (SCOP), a concept introduced in AW2. This system (with stars rather than boxes) was also introduced in AW2, and I feel it makes the whole business a lot more transparent.
Hawke's COP, Black Wave, is like a hybrid of Hyper Repair and Tsunami - dealing 1HP of damage to all opponents and healing 1HP on Hawke's own units. His SCOP, Black Storm, is the same but with 2HP. This makes Hawke seem like a pretty good choice here: the more opponents you're facing, the stronger mass damage powers like Black Wave and Black Storm become.
Jess is a Green Earth CO, and to complement Eagle and Drake she has a ground specialism - specifically, an extra 10% attack to all vehicles. Her weakness is that her ships, planes and footsoldiers get a 10% penalty. Note the 10% penalty on footsoldiers - no other CO gets a penalty on them (well, other than Colin or AW1 Vs. Sturm - but they have other benefits to make up for it). Since infantry are so important, this can be quite the problem. Jess got buffed quite a lot in AWDS - 120% attack on vehicles, and the footsoldier penalty removed - but AWBW is a bit of a chimera, and all COs (other than Sturm) introduced before AWDS have their AW2 stats. Which is bad news for Jess.
Jess' CO Powers - Turbo Charge and Overdrive - are pretty nifty though, boosting her vehicle attack but also refuelling and rearming all her units: land, sea and air. This means that her planes and submarines - despite being underpowered - have quite a bit of utility value. A sub or stealth plane that can stay permanently hidden without needing to go back for supplies is easily worth a 10% penalty. Shame neither is available here.
Sami you know already. A couple of points - her footsoldiers now have a 30% attack boost rather than 20%, and she has the rather spiffy SCOP Victory March, which gives her footsoldiers +2 move and lets them capture any property instantly, regardless of HP. Keep a close eye on your properties (especially your HQ) when fighting AWBW Sami.
Lash is another Black Hole CO, and like Hawke has no real weaknesses except an underwhelming COP (damn good SCOP, though). Lash's thing is that she gets an attack bonus as well as a defence bonus from terrain - plains provide +10%, cities provide +30%, and so on. Lash's aforementioned underwhelming COP, Terrain Tactics, eliminates terrain movement costs a la Sturm. Her SCOP, Prime Tactics, does this and doubles the defence stars she gets from terrain, giving her crazy boosts to both attack and defence.
Probably the biggest move so far in these very early days is that darealkooky has decided to deploy a recon as early as Day 2. You haven't seen me use recons that much in Campaign, but they make for an excellent early-game unit in multiplayer, with their low cost, high speed and good strength against footsoldiers and indirects making them fantastic for charging into an opposing base and harassing capturing infantry. They are especially effective in AWDS, where the power bar mechanics got changed so that some units (including recons and infantry) filled the power bar proportionally faster than others.
Whoever ends up on the receiving end of this recon (I'd guess Slur or Roonespism, since they're closer) will get their capturing disrupted until they can field a tank to take care of it - which will reduce the amount of funds they can pour into capturing infantry. Of course, darealkooky now has fewer infantry on the field themself, so there's a risk-reward element to it.
Slur and Roonespism take their turns: at the start of Roonespism's Day 3 it began to snow. We've got random weather turned on for this match - in fact, it snowed at some time durning Day 2 as well. The snow will continue to fall until the start of Roonespism's next turn, where the weather will go back to clear.
Note that Roonespism's played a mech on the board, possibly to deter darealkooky's recon. I'm not sure if that's the best move - sure, a mech will beat a recon with first strike, but with an easy road to Roonespism's HQ, the recon's speed will probably allow it to get first strike. In fact, given that this is a Jess mech - and Jess has the weakest footsoldiers in AWBW - you'd have to say that's a mistake.
KennyMan666 and darealkooky take their turns - both finish capturing their first property, a base. KennyMan is still content to keep building infantry for now - as I say, being diagonally opposite kooky, he's unlikely to get hit by that recon. Kooky's recon advances - if it hadn't been for the snow, it could have got one more tile further forward. Probably not a big deal, but sometimes details like this can make a big difference.
The snow may have hit Roonespism a little, as right now they can only reach one base and the airport - compare Roonespism's position with that of Slur, who's in position to start capturing two bases and the airport this coming turn.
The snow clears as Slur, Roonespism and KennyMan all take their turns. In a fairly classic move from a Sami player, KennyMan has an APC - and surprisingly, Roonespism has a second mech. I'm really not sure what Roonespism's plan is here, if anything as a Jess player it's them who should be reaching for the early recons to try and harass their opponents - Mechs are the last thing you'd expect a Jess player to focus on.
Slur's started capturing his "forward base" - on this map, with very few properties in the middle to fight over, that base is going to be the heart of each side's supply line. Slur getting his a turn early may well come in handy. KennyMan doesn't have their forward base under control yet, but they're making better progress towards grabbing those cities by the bridges - no-one else has got close to those side cities yet.
Moving on to the start of darealkooky's 5th day (goddamn, so much snow. Someone should've picked Olaf), and it looks like we might be about to see our first bit of combat as that recon sizes up Roonespism's infantry. The southern one currently capturing a base looks good to me, although kooky may wish to exploit Lash's terrain advantage and attack from the woods. Either way, Roonespism isn't really in a position to respond, as with their slow movement the mechs are still too far away from the frontline. Kooky can attack with the recon this turn and then retreat if they want, or keep pressing the advantage.
Roonespism has another problem, on the eastern bridges: KennyMan is better positioned to capture cities there, and three Sami infantry are easily a match for one Jess mech: hell, one Sami infantry is more than a match for one Jess mech. With pressure from both west and south, I do not envy Roonespism's position right now.
And with KennyMan and kooky both applying pressure on Roonespism, that means a little less pressure on Slur, who has a small funds advantage right now. He's got enough to plonk down a tank, an AA or a pair of recons next turn. Will he go with that, or keep building infantry and mechs for economy purposes?
Kooky decides to... retreat the recon a square. Yeah, I don't know what's happening there. That recon pretty much had a free shot on one of Roonespism's infantry. It could have delayed the capture of the forward base by a turn Now Roonespism can move a mech forward and give those infantry some cover. Actually, now I think about it, kooky could be metagaming: they've seen that KennyMan is also in a strong position against Roonespism, and don't want to do anything to help Kenny take down Roone, potentially handing Kenny a whole bunch of extra resources on a plate. Retreating the recon looked like bad tactics, but it could be good strategy.
Slur decides to go with an AA, which is a decent move with the number of footsoldiers currently on the field - in fact, might serve as a signal that he's turning his attention towards KennyMan. Not sure why he didn't build it in the base closest to the front lines, though. But that might just be a simple error - the AWBW interface isn't always the most straightforward.
Roone, Kenny and kooky take their turns - and kooky now decides to attack with that recon. Still not quite sure what's going on there, to be honest - if they're still going to attack, why attack now, when an earlier attack might have been more effective? But hey, since we've had our first attack of the battle...
... let's make the most of it. Arrows, the slow-mo replay of Advance Wars. Worth noting that right now, after everyone's had six turns, KennyMan briefly leads the property race with 8 (kooky has 7, Slur and Roone tied on 6). Also worth noting that Roonespism decided to shore up the front against KennyMan rather than sending a mech towards kooky's recon. Given kooky's indecision, this might be for the best. Either way, Roone really needs some vehicles up soon, and they now have some funds in the bank (they'll have 10,000G to play with next turn).
Our first piece of action is followed swiftly by our second, as Kenny and Roone's footsoldier war begins. I might've expected better results from a Sami infantry attacking a Jess mech, but I guess the mech does have some nice defensive terrain in the form of that city. Roonespism has evened up the numbers here by bringing those mechs across, at least - and they finally have their first Jess tank, too.
Elsewhere on the board, we have KennyMan making a play for the middle with that APC. The middle of this particular map is pretty sparse, with only a handful of cities and nothing that can produce troops - on the one hand, this does mean that whoever takes the middle doesn't immediately dominate the game. On the other hand, it can lead to some grindy stalemates - without something in the centre of the map to act as a forward base, the side on the attack ends up with supply line issues that the defender can exploit pretty well. For instance, although Roonespism's in a bad spot against KennyMan right now, they do have one advantage: shorter supply lines. It's a little easier for Roone to pour more units into those eastern cities right now than it is for Kenny.
KennyMan's also fielded our first air unit - unsurprisingly for a Sami player, it's a T copter. Slur's AA is around to keep it in check though - as well as keeping some of Kenny's footsoldiers in check, too.
Slur gets into his first fight, with kooky - an attempt to transport a penguin forwards is nipped in the bud by an infantry assault.
Kooky and Slur both then deploy B copters. With the only anti-air on the board right now belonging to Slur, this puts some new pressure on the others.
The battle over the eastern bridge cities continues - first, Roonespism joins their two mechs together in order to make sure they secure that city - this does mean a bit of a drop in firepower, though. Roone also attacks KennyMan on the other city. Not that 3HP of damage will make much difference to a Sami capture. Roone pulls off another bit of joinery to keep that attacking infantry fresh - but both of these joins reduce Roone's numbers at the bridge. At least Roone now has a tank ready to intervene next turn.
KennyMan's response involves some infantry shuffling, and oddly enough leaves his troops in the bridge area looking pretty much the same - plus an extra 7HP infantry headed westwards. I've just realised that said infantry has a hidden extra goal: slowing the advance of Roonespism's flanking tank ever so slightly.
KennyMan's also using transports to secure a stronger position in the centre, too. Question is, can the others do something about it? Slur's AA waits for an opening...
Kooky and Slur's turns follow, and Slur launches a number of strikes aimed at dislodging KennyMan's control of the centre. AA attacks a capturing infantry, positioning itself so that the mech on the other side of the infantry can't attack without KennyMan cancelling the capture. The other mech nearby takes a hit from an infantry unit, neutralising its threat to the AA. Slur also takes down kooky's 1HP infantry penguin, clearing the way a chip damage shot on KennyMan's APC.
Here's some other stuff kooky and Slur did: kooky built an artillery, looking to meatshield it with infantry and that recon, and Slur built a second B copter, indicating a clear plan to push with B copters. With KennyMan in particular looking like a target for Slur, you'd imagine it won't be long before Kenny deploys some anti-air.
And you can see that KennyMan does have enough saved up to potentially build two AAs on their next turn. Granted, they will lose some of that 16000G to repairs, but they'll also be able to join a couple of units together to recover some funds as well. One thing's for certain - they'll need at least one AA.
We can also see the power bars gradually filling here, although nobody's filled even their first pip on the power bar yet. In addition, Roonespism's really lacking for properties right now, though they should be able to even that up a little on their coming turn.
Start of KennyMan's turn, and that 4HP Pink Cosmos infantry was 2HP at the end of Roonespism's turn. Given it was at 7HP before, kinda surprised that a Jess infantry unit was able to do that much damage. Oh well, I guess a 10% defence penalty isn't that much.
Roonespism's new tanks definitely change the dynamic of the battle for the eastern cities: with no mechs anywhere close to this area, KennyMan's now got as many problems as Roonespism could have had with kooky's recon earlier. Kenny does still have a few turns before Roonespism can recover that city that's "rightfully" Roone's, so some sort of scramble defence may still be possible there. We shall see. In other aspects of the conflict, one of kooky's capturing infantry gets beaten up by a couple of Roonespism's infs. The conflict for the centre is heating up.
KennyMan's response to Slur is a little complicated to draw out given I only have end-of-turn screenshots and a movement log to go off of, but I'll try my best. Here's a shot from the start of Kenny's turn again: after this shot, he starts out by suiciding his 5HP mech and 2HP infantry into Slur's units to soften them up...
... before clearing them out with full-health reinforcements, hitting one of Roonespism's centre infantry for good measure.
Back on the eastern front, Kenny clears out Roone's mech before going for a capture on the city it took. I'm not sure this is the best move for KennyMan here: all it takes is for Roonespism to send one of their tanks over there, and that capture attempt will be doomed (specifically, 9HP infantry destroys 2HP infantry clearing the way for the tank and full health infantry to take out the capper).
Speaking of moves that don't seem like the best move for KennyMan, he goes and builds a rocket launcher. As a counter to B copters, I cannot think of a single unit less effective than a rocket launcher. I think this battle might be a dream from one of Sensei's naps.
To be fair to KennyMan, the rockets are probably there to ward off Roonespism's tanks. Perhaps he reckons that darealkooky's B copter will keep Slur's copters engaged. Perhaps he's right.
Kooky goes on a bit of a March of the Penguins (gotta shoehorn that alternative title in somewhere), moving forward from the defensive position that had been building up and striking some of Slur and Roone's units. The B copter, though, stays weirdly quiet - bad news for KennyMan.
Since it's been a while since I've been able to catch a turn between darealkooky's and Slur's (and therefore at the start of a full day), let's take a look at the power bars and incomes again. KennyMan still has a bit of a funding edge, but Roonespism's caught up with the others by being the only person so far to successfully capture a centre property. Power bar wise, the pips are certainly starting to fill now. Not sure how long it'll be until our first CO power, though - depends partly on if KennyMan feels they need a quick Double Time boost right now, or if they're still playing for the Victory March long game.
Slur now sets up a big push on KennyMan, in a way that ol' man Sensei himself would be proud of: B copters and infantry combining arms to ruin Kenny's forward line. Slur also continues to cheerfully show his hand with a third B copter: surely the others have to start deploying AA now.
Things are going less well for Slur against darealkooky: sure, Slur took down an infantry unit, but if kooky brings that B copter into the western bridge war next turn, then - much like Roonespism's tanks in the east might - it might prove decisive.
Slur's push against KennyMan and defensive frailties against kooky look like they're going to lead to a "twisting" of his quarter of the battlefield. Meanwhile, KennyMan's position earlier as top dog has taken a big hit - perhaps partly because Sami is a strong starter but weaker in the midgame, but mostly because of Slur and Roonespism both deciding that it was in their best interests to focus fire on Kenny before he became too dominant. As in any game with more than two "sides", politics is key.
Roone's turn sees another bunch of attacks (things are starting to heat up!). As predicted, the tank sweeps in and helps to dislodge KennyMan in the east (but the big question is, can he reclaim the city?). Roone also takes out one of KennyMan's infantry hanging out in the middle here. Against kooky, Roone looks like he's setting up a big ol' meatshield. Roone also builds an AA, sensible with all these copters flying around.
Something weird happens here that you might have spotted - suddenly we're using Advance Wars 1 graphics rather than Advance Wars 2 (check out things like the cities and the forests). I'm guessing that either they decided to change the graphics engine during the days I was travelling back from Austria, or the laptop I was using on holiday had all the old graphics left over in its cache, and didn't download the new ones. Hmm. Either way, I approve of AW1's more rounded graphical style, so that's cool. Amber Blaze also now have feathers in their caps.
KennyMan's response seems fairly muted, but he does pull off one very clever move here: T coptering that mech up to the eastern bridges. It's now close enough to strike Roonespism's tank, and the infantry and T copter surrounding it make for a very nice meatshield that prevents Roonespism getting first strike in on the mech.
Speaking of clever moves, Kenny also builds an AA. Suddenly the world is looking like a less friendly place for B copters.
Kooky decides not to bring their B copter into the conflict for the western bridge cities. Huh. Okay. I mean, he still has the upper hand here, as Slur's forces look in pretty bad shape, but the copter could've helped move things along there. Instead, Kooky opts to have the copter cover as many bases as possible, rather than have it get dragged into one particular skirmish. Quite a cautious player, it seems. We've also got some unit joining and a bit of an infantry wall of kooky's own to counter the one that Roonespism is building.
End of Day 10/Start of Day 11, let's take another look at the "scoreboard". Kenny's got Double Time charged up, but will he use it, or save up for the more powerful Victory March? Victory March's one-shot captures are fantastic, but would a Double Time now help dig Kenny out of his current hole?
Slur dislodges KennyMan's APC from one of the centre cities, enabling him to start capturing it. Also in the centre, a suicide move from a 3HP infantry chips one hit point off one of kooky's infantry - delaying its capture of a city by another turn.
Slur's also in a good position against KennyMan at the bottom of the map, with infantry poised to go for that juicy pink city. And a B copter moves west to the bridge war there, as a counter to kooky's copter. Has kooky missed his chance to land a decisive blow?
Here comes a complicated assault from Roonespism on darealkooky's front line. First let's start with a few arrows on the previous turn screenshot, showing a bunch of Roone's more damaged infantry attacking a capturing infantry and joining together.
But then we have some drama, as Roone punches through kooky's front line and lands an attack on his artillery piece! Man, I was looking forward to drawing some curly arrows . On the eastern bridges, Roone plugs away but can't find a way through the infantry wall to Kenny's mech.
Which might present a problem. Especially with Kenny gradually getting that rocket launcher into position (maybe I was a little too quick to judge that move?)
Kooky counterattacks Roonespism pretty handily (looks like I've got egg on my face again, him hedging his bets with the B copter worked out pretty well here, letting him use it on Roone instead of Slur), and gains some dominance over the western bridges against Slur. But hang on... there's something weird about that APC. Let me check the log...
... huh. So... he loaded one infantry onto the APC, dropped it off immediately, but the APC was still able to move back up to be loaded again. That's... that's quite the bug you've got there, AWBW. Hmm. I should probably report that bug at some point.
Anyway, here's how things start at the start of Day 12. Roonespism joins KennyMan in CO Power range.
Having completed the capture of the southern central city, Slur moves his copters and tanks back to the south, the tank and the river giving some nice cover for the B copters from AA fire. Slur also takes out kooky's attempt to grab the western central city, and retreats his western bridge B copter out of AA range.
Roonespism pushes back at kooky in the dance of the infantry lines. On the bridges against Kenny, the tank manages to recover some poise...
... but another coptered-in mech, and that rocket launcher reaching a position from which it can threaten, keeps KennyMan's wheels turning.
Kooky counterattacks on Roonespism once more. Some decent attacks, but nothing really breaking through the infantry wall here. And Roonespism has some interesting-looking units in reserve.
Start of day 13, and you get a sense that the battlefield is twisting on its axis. Slur has the upper hand against KennyMan666, darealkooky has it against Slur, Roonespism has it against kooky and Kenny has it against Roone. It could all change again, of course. We'll find out how this continues next time.