Monday, September 10, 2007

Armageddon Empires Play Guide: Part Five

Previous installments:
part one
part two
part three
part four

We begin this installment with turn twenty-one. I go third (surprise). I move recon units, discovering a Machine Empire base to the east.

Now I need to split the army ("Indies") that currently controls the resource hex to the northwest of my home base. I'll leave a few units to defend the base I've built, then send the rest to the south to claim the other resource hex controlled by the Independents. I name this new army "IndySouth," then transfer the Me-BUII Vengeance mech unit into the army.

With only 1 Action Point remaining, I deploy another hero (Eric Mai, a Master Strategist and Tactician) to my northern base (the resource hex) and transfer him into the IndySouth army.

Turn twenty-two, and I go third. I transfer the resource gathering Ozymandias unit into IndySouth, so that I will collect resources immediately when I control the southern hex. Once it leaves the northern resource hex, though, I'll need to build collection units to gather the additional resources beyond what the base can gather (a base can gather 1-1-1-1 each turn). I also transfer a Grenadiers unit into IndySouth, and that uses up all my remaining AP.

Turn twenty-three, and I finally win initiative after using resources to get four additional dice for the roll. I have 12 AP to use, and the first thing I do is move the IndySouth unit toward the southern resource hex. Once the army has moved (and the Ozymandias unit has left the hex, which means its no longer gathering the extra resources), I need to build collection units for all three resource types (Scrap, Energy, and Tech).

A brief refresher on what we've discussed earlier. A Base can gather 1 of each resource type available in the hex. A collection facility can gather 1 of its own type. That governs what kinds of facilities you need to build. In my case, in a 3 Materials-2 Energy-2 Tech hex, I'll need the base plus three facilities (one each of Materials, Energy, and Tech) to gather 2 of each resource type per turn.

Let's build one now. Heroes build collection facilities, so I click on the rectangle attached to my northern Base, which brings up my armies/facilities for the hex. Then I click on the "IndySouth" army, which shows me the unit cards in that army, including hero Ulysses Starke. His unit card is where I can issue an order to build the collection facility, so I right-click on his unit card and three types of buildable facilities pop up: Materials, Energy, and Tech. I'm going to build a Scrap Team facility first, which has a build cost of 1 AP-1 Human-2 Material-1 Energy.

The facility will begin gathering resources on the next turn. I have 1 AP left, so I move Kusanagi toward the southern resource hex. There's an Independent facility called a "Strange Gate" in the hex between my home Base and the resource hex, so I want to collect intel on what that might be.

If I had 2 AP remaining, I could do some interesting things--in particular, I could upgrade my Base, which would give it a higher defense rating and more hit points.

Turn twenty-four, and I go second. I move the Indy South army again, and it's one space away from the southern resource hex now. I should build another collection facility in the northern resource hex, but I really want to show you how research works, so I draw another card instead, hoping to draw a research facility. No luck, though, as I draw an Imperial Infantry unit instead.

With my last AP, I move Kusanagi into the "Strange Gate" hex, and discover an incredibly nasty unit called a "Corrupter" with an Attack-Defend of 13-13.


Turn twenty-five, and I win initiative. I move IndySouth into the southern resource hex and it's time to attack. With only a couple of 4-point Zombie units to defeat, the battle is over in two turns, and now I control the southern resource hex as well.

I have 8 AP left, and I draw two more cards, hoping (again) to get a research facility, but still no luck. I move Kusanagi away from danger in the Strange Gates hex, which leaves me with 1 AP left. I move Recon East and the turn ends.

Here's a screenshot of the area around my base at the end of turn twenty-five:

As you can see, I'm potentially controlling quite a few resources, and if I can defend those hexes, it's going to give me a substantial advantage in the game, both to deploy new units and have a better chance of winning the initiative roll each turn.

Risks? That Machine Empire base two hexes away from my northern resource point is going to be a problem, because I'm within reach of air attacks. That's going to have to be dealt with, probably sooner rather than later. And I really haven't done a good job of fortifying my Home base--I should have a few more units there, including one high-level unit, to discourage attacks. Remember, if your headquarters falls, it's game over.

Turn twenty-six, and thanks to trading resources for dice, I win the initiative again and get 12 AP to use. I build a Recruit Center (it's a resource collection facility for Human resources) on the southern resource hex. Then I deploy an Imperial Infantry unit card to my home Base. I need to deploy a few unit cards to clear space for drawing what will hopefully be a research facility. Looking for the lowest cost unit card to deploy, I see another hero--Fulton Strangelove. He gets deployed to the home Base, and I have enough AP left over to draw two more cards--and I get skunked AGAIN (I get yet another hero and a low-grade tank unit).

Turn twenty-seven. I'm third this team, which means both my opponents get two full turns in-between my last turn (I was first, remember) and this one.

Bad things can happen in those situations. Like sniper/assassins reaching my area, or an attack that destroys a recon unit. Or both.

My heroes survived, but I lost two recon units, and things are heating up very quickly.

My most immediate danger is in the southern resource hex, where my hero is being hunted. I move Kusanagi from the home Base, but she can't get there on this turn--she's one hex short.

In other words, if I don't get initiative on this next turn, I'm probably losing a hero (and he has particularly useful skills for researching tactics, so I desperately want to keep him alive).

I draw one more card--still no research facility, but I wind up discarding to low-level tank recon units (no AP penalty to do discard, but you'll lose that card permanently). I deploy one more Imperial Infantry to home Base with my remaining 2 AP and the turn is over.

If you're wondering why I didn't deploy additional units into the army that's controlling the southern resource hex (and whose hero is being hunted)--well, I can't. There's no base there--if there was, I could deploy any unit immediately. Without a base, though, the unit has to travel from the nearest base and join up with the army.

Turn twenty-eight. I do win initiative, maxing out the dice pool at ten (although it costs me a ton of resources), but Kusanagi can't find the assassin, even when she reaches the resource hex. I draw another card and get lucky--it's Mata Boyd, who has a high stealth rating and is also a saboteur and spy. I deploy her, create an army ("Mata"), transfer her in, stealth her, and move her as close to the southern resource hex as I can. Now I have two units with high stealth ratings hunting the assassin.

Who I still, unfortunately, can't find.

I only have 2 AP left, and I can't deploy any additional units or build collection facilities with the AP I have left, so I take a flier and launch an air attack against the Strange Gate Hex. Which winds up doing no damage.

The Xenopods launch an air attack against my Ozymandias unit, and unless I get it to a base immediately, it will be finished. Same goes for my hero, who survives another assassination attempt but is highly unlikely to survive a third.

I win initiative on turn twenty-nine, though, and IndySouth is just one hex away from reaching a base (and repair capabilities). I still can't find the assassin, though, and I'm still vulnerable to an air attack. My movement options for the units I need to move are exhausted, so I go ahead and build an energy collection facility in the northern resource hex. I also draw one more good--still no %**$* research facility. The last thing I do on this turn is to have Kusanagi travel with the IndySouth army--if a sniper makes another attempt, her stealth rating might detect the unit.

Turn twenty-nine, and I go first. I realize that I can go to either the northern or the Home base with IndySouth--they're both one hex away. As a general rule, though, when facing equal distances, always move forces to your Home base (HQ) for repair. You can't lose the game if a peripheral base is destroyed, and the extra forces at HQ might be critically important. So I opt for the Home base, and repair both the hero of the army as well as the Ozymandias unit.

I have 3 AP left, and with 1 AP I move Kusanagi and discover a Machine Empire unit north of my Home base. It's just one unit, and it's a weak one, but it could be a concern if it's gathering intel in preparation of a larger attack. I launch an air attack, but fail to damage the unit.

During the Machine Empire's turn, they launch an air attack against my Home base. The base isn't damaged, but they do weaken a Grenadiers unit.

On turn thirty, the Machine Empire wins initiative (two turns in a row again) and launches another airstrike. This attack finishes off my Grenadiers unit.

I'm still trying to balance playing the game with getting the research facilities cards (as part of the play guide), so I draw two cards, and while I don't get research facilities, I do draw a base card, which I could use in the southern resource hex.

I win initiative on turn thirty-one, have 12 AP, and immediately deploy the base card in the southern resource hex. I repair my Home base (cost 5 AP), draw one more card, and the turn is over.

What I've done now is use resources to gain dice for the initiative roll, but now my resources are very low, so I'm going to have to accept getting no additional dice and probably going third for a while. Again, this game is continual decision-making in an attempt to balance your action points, resources, and units so that you maintain as many strategic options as possible.

On turn thirty-two (I'm going third), the Machine Empire attacks my Home base with six units.

In many games, this could be a finishing battle, and it probably would have been if I'd moved IndySouth to the northern resource hex for repair instead of to HQ. But I did, which changes the odds substantially.

When there are multiple armies in a hex, you'll be presented with a "battle order" screen so that you can choose which armies (on your side) go into battle first.

This can be a tricky decision, particularly in this case, because I have one very powerful unit (the MeBU-II Vengeance Mech unit) and one non-attacking unit (Ozymandias) in IndySouth, but I have four low-level units (Imperial Infantry types) in the army that defends HQ.

The first instinct is to engage using the army with the higher number of units. Think about that for a minute, though--if I'm facing six high-powered units, it doesn't matter what I do--I'm goignt to get my ass kicked. So as a strategic consideration, I have to assume that most of the attacking units are low level. If I sent in my low-level army, it's going to be a battle of attrition, and I'll lose some of those units, even though in the second battle (with the Mech unit) I'll probably finish off the opposing army.

If I send the Mech in first, though, it's possible that those low-level units won't even damage it, and if they can't, there's going to be no attrition--I'll just methodically wipe them out.

So I move IndySouth up in the battle order, so it goes into battle first. Here's a look at the combat screen:

My MeBU-II Vengeance unit is more powerful, by far, than any unit they have except for one (the "Styxx" unit), so my decision was correct--I should be able to handle almost all these units unless I have bad luck in the combat rolls.

I don't, though, and even though the Vengeance unit takes some damage, it takes out all the units. Whereupon another army attacks, but its units are also low level, and while they do take out the Ozymandias unit, that's the only unit loss I suffer.

After a battle, the loser's hero will attempt to escape, and you have an opportunity to capture or kill him. Remember this: always try to capture when you're given the option. Each hero you capture is worth an extra 3 AP a turn, which is a huge advantage. In this case, though, I unfortunately don't capture either.

I know where the escaping heroes are, because they're in the same hex as one of my recon units, just above my Home base. I send Kusanagi (an assassin) after them. She can't quite reach the hex, though, so they may escape for good.

With my remaining 5 AP I repair the MeBU-II unit.

Turn thirty-three, I go third, and the Machine Empire manages to hunt and kill another hero. Damn.

Turn thirty-four, and I go third. I need lots of AP to do lots of things, and I'm not getting them, since I keep losing the roll. With only 6 AP, I decide to draw a card, even though I should probably deploy a unit. Finally, though I draw an Imperial Research Lab.


I can't deploy it until the next turn, but it's good news. I try one more card, hoping to hit a home run and draw a military college as well, but no go.

Turn thirty-five, and I go third. I immediately deploy the Research Lab by dragging the card onto my Home base. I also deploy a Technologist/Geneticist Hero, Hanibal Zarkov, now that I can do research.

I only have 1 AP left, and I move Kusanagi back toward the Home base. I need to protect that genetics researcher, because assassins will be coming after him.

Turn thirty-six, and an assassin terminates another hero, this time at the northern resource hex. When it's my turn, I send Kusanagi in that direction, trying to get in-between the assassin and my home base.

Since my Geneticist may not last long, let's do some research. Click on the rectangular attachment to the base. As an easier way to understand, just click on the base icon itself when you want to see facilities. Click on the rectangular extension when you want to see units.

Once the unit cards are displayed, right-click on the scientist that will be doing the research. You'll see a little pop-up menu with research options as well as their research level. In my case, both Technologist and Geneticist are available, both at level 4.

I choose "Geneticist," and here's a look at the search screen:

Research is a dice-roll challenge. If a research card is specified as a "5 dice" challenge, then your researcher must roll 5 successful dice to complete the research. Right now, my researcher gets 5 dice to roll, plus 3 Fate points (which can be used to re-roll dice). So my chances of completing a 5-dice challenge are less than 50%, and if the research fails, the resources and action points used in the attempt are just lost.

However, I just need to complete it once to significantly improve my research, and here's why. If I can complete the "Ascension Mutagen" research, get a unit enhancement card that does the following: +2 Fate, +1 Technology, +1 Tactics, +1 Genetics. I can only use this card on a hero, but that's exactly what I want, because If I use it on my genetics researcher, it will raise his research level from 4 to 5. He'll get 1 more die to roll plus 2 more Fate points for re-rolls. In other words, that kind of research enhancement is hugely useful, and this card also (if I remember correctly) gives the hero an additional hit point.

Again, AP and resource costs for research are non-refundable. This time, though, I get lucky and win the dice challenge. I immediately deploy the card onto my Geneticist, who is now level 5. This will make research substantially easier on future turns.

I'll probably have one more installment to the Play Guide to explain Tactics research (if I can draw a War College card!). After that, though, in combination with the excellent game manual, you should know just about everything you need to enjoy this outstanding game.

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