The target audience of this guide is new players who do not understand Terrain Control concepts, and want to improve their play. The goal of this guide is to improve the strategic level of public server teams, which currently resembles lemmings. This guide will focus on Terrain Control because it is the most classically tactical game mode currently available. This is a high level guide for teams in general, and will not go into too much specific detail for single units. Please point the noobs this way. As always, many thanks to the developers and server hosts for making this game a reality.
Disclaimer: I understand that everyone has a different play style and there is no single right way to play the game.
Please don’t quote this entire wall of text if you post a response in this thread. Thanks.
Neutral bases are what define the Terrain Control game mode. Not all neutral bases are created equal. Bases with full hangar bays are better than bases without them. Bases in the middle are better than bases on the edge.
The Early Game
The start of a TC game is the most important. This is because of the c-bill system, and the ticket system. If you gain an early monetary advantage, you can use that advantage to leverage more c-bills by buying better assets, which creates a snowball effect. If you create an early lead in tickets, you can then play defensively for the rest of the game, forcing the enemy to attack defended bases.
The easiest way to create a lead in both tickets and c-bills is to not dick around in the hangar at the start of the game. People are incredibly bad at this. Know exactly what asset you are going to pilot, buy it QUICKLY, and get it out of the hangar and moving to a neutral base as fast as possible. The start of the map is NOT the time to browse through the assets and see what their variants are. If you look in the upper left corner of the UI you can see the assets that are being built in the order that they are built, and with this you can figure out in which hangar bay your asset will spawn.
Whichever team completely caps a base first is going to have an advantage, because of the way the tickets deplete. If one team has more bases than the other team, the team with fewer bases will start bleeding tickets until the bases are equalized or they have a majority. A way to exploit this to your advantage is to pick a fast asset (ASF, VTOL, Harasser, Owens w/MASC), and immediately sprint to the closest neutral base. This early ticket advantage is huge on the maps that have an equal number of bases because stalemates occur more frequently and this small advantage can last all game.
The goal of the early game is to capture as many neutral bases as possible. Teams should avoid engagement unless it is over the central “odd” base (D4 in DV). It is important here to mark the distinction between maps with an odd number of bases (Death Valley), and maps with an even number of bases (Marshes, Thunder Rift, Kagoshima, Mirage). In Death Valley, the goal of the early game should be to cap and hold 3 bases. In all other maps, the goal is to cap and hold the majority of the bases until you have a ticket lead, and then you can fall back to a stalemate with the lead if necessary.
The Middle Game
The majority of the game is the middle game. The middle game is reached when all neutral bases have been capped. At this point, your team is either losing or winning.
The Middle Game – Winning
Your team is winning when you have more bases then the opposing team, and roughly equal or greater tickets. When you’re winning, the goal is to preserve and increase your advantage. This means playing defense, and waiting for intelligent opportunities to expand your territory. Overexpansion is one of the things that cause teams to fail in this stage. They will get 4 of the 6 bases in Kago or Mirage for example, but they will neglect to defend them and end up swiftly losing their majority because 90% of their team all zerged to one base. This is because playing defense as a team is not intuitive and requires a small amount of communication and sacrifice.
To defend a large number of bases, scouts and brawlers are required. Scouts call out enemy movements, and brawlers respond to those movements. It’s that simple.
A scout is an asset with high speed and good radar/electronics. You can still act as a scout without speed and an electronics suite, but you will not be as effective. To scout, you need to patrol and cover the ground between the bases, and keep your eyes on the radar and the field. You also need to be willing to communicate. Something as simple as “Inc to G4” will suffice, but the more information you provide to your team, the better. For example, “Inc to G4” is inferior to “2 contacts inc to G4” which is inferior still to “Bushie and Owens inc to G4 from F7.” You should still communicate even if you have C3, because people are bad at looking at the map. One example of a good scout ‘mech is the Raven.
A brawler is a short range asset that can operate effectively in the confined spaces inside the bases. The reason that brawlers are desirable over support units (long range units) in the TC middle game is because they cannot fight as effectively in bases, which is where all the tactical fighting will take place. Support units can be effective in bad (non-tactical) “lemming” style play and situational stand-offs, but that is what this guide is trying to avoid. Most of the time weaker players will pick support units because they are fearful of brawling. Some support units can still be effective due to sheer offensive power, but these are usually not available in the early stage of the middle game. An example of a good early brawler is the Puma D.
The Middle Game – Losing
When you have fewer bases than the enemy, and roughly equal or fewer tickets, you are losing. When you are losing, you need to capture bases until you have the majority, and then defend. This needs to be done as soon as possible. Your attitude should borderline panic if you do not have the majority of the bases, because every minute that goes by makes it harder to win. If you are defending when you are losing, you will continue to lose and a win will slide further out of reach as time proceeds.
Scouts are still useful for the losers, but you mainly just want a crapload of brawlers. This is because you don't need to know where the enemy is as badly as you do when you are defending. It still helps to know the enemy troop movements to know which bases to attack, but it is almost always better to just zerg down a base with brawlers. Some scouts are decent brawlers anyway, such as the Owens C.
There are two ways in which bases change hands: peacefully, or with a fight. By peacefully I mean that you flip the base without a defender ever presenting itself (the “sneak”). This is usually how out-of-the-way bases are flipped (i.e. Death Valley C2/F7 and Kagoshima B2/G7). Out of the way bases that are flipped peacefully will usually get re-capped due to lack of defense, so these caps tend to be distractions. People tend to fight more over the central bases, so these bases generally don’t get flipped without a fight. If you’re a chess player, you know the importance of having a strong center. If you’re not a chess player then take it from me – having a strong center is important in any game with a map or a board.
A common scenario in TC maps is when the winning team caps all or most of the bases, and then moves to “base rape” the losing team. This is 100% the losing team’s fault for not using effective strategy, but unfortunately team stacking is the common scapegoat. When the winning team is camping on the front door of the losing team’s base that means that they likely do not have any defenders for their rear bases. Sending passive ninjas to cap the rear bases will pull assets away from the base rape, and suddenly the blockade at the losing team’s doorstep melts away. The worst possible thing you can do is try to “break” the enemy blockade line with a line of your own. This costs you time (which you don’t have as the loser), and it lets the winners keep their bases without having to defend their bases. It’s always better to flank than fight in that situation. The winning team should feel threatened by the losing team. The winners should be forced to defend all of their bases, not just the 1 base at which everyone feels like fighting.
If you are losing and you get into a pitched battle, you are just digging yourself a hole as your tickets bleed away. The losing team should NEVER engage in a pitched battle unless it is inside of the last base they need to obtain the majority. Remember that the goal of the losing team is to work to obtain the majority of the bases, and then hold. Guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run strategies are going to be favored for this at first, but keep in mind that you have to defend what you take. The enemy “rear” bases (i.e. Death Valley C2/F7 and Kagoshima B2/G7) are not conducive to defense due to a lack of repair facilities and/or remote location. Take rear bases as distractions only, and focus on getting a defensible group of bases that are clumped together. This means that you should ninja the rear bases and then make an organized push on the bases you really want soon afterwards. If you cannot hold a group of bases, the only other winning option as the loser is to constantly cap all of the bases without defending them, and try to keep a majority that way.
Example: Inner Sphere is losing on Death Valley. Clan currently holds 4 of the 5 neutral bases with F7 being the only IS base, but the tickets are still within 50 of each other. The winning strategy for Inner Sphere here is to distract Clan assets by capturing C2, and then push for G4, which has 2 full-service repair bays as well as a repair pad, or B5 which is almost as well equipped with 1 full service ‘mech bay and a repair pad. Either of these bases will be useful as a staging point for an assault on D4, which is the next step after securing G4. Having these three bases will form a neat and defensible triangle, with F7 being the weakest point. If the Clanners are playing tenacious defense at D4, the IS should switch to lightly but constantly aggressing C2 and B5 in small groups while trying to hold G4 and F7. If this doesn’t work, it will at least soften up D4 for a coordinated attack. The losing strategy for IS here is to engage the clan forces in the open desert (anywhere) or in front of the IS base. Participating in desert skirmishes only keeps the Clan lead secure without forcing the clan to have to commit assets to defense.
The End Game
The end game is reached when the ticket count is roughly equal, and both sides have large bank accounts and ranks to fund expensive assets. The end game is outside the scope of this guide, because most pub games are decided in the opening or the middle game. End games are generally reached when both teams are using a high level of strategic play throughout the match, or are making relatively equal strategic blunders.
Suggestions for Improving TC
This might need its own thread (there already was one IIRC), but I’m a lazy.
-Odd numbers of bases as discussed above.
-Equalize base distances from starting bases. This is really important.
-Use the “Yin-Yang” principle when creating maps. Death Valley is a great example of this in general (awesome job Shadowkiller!), however in Death Valley’s case in particular the slight disparities between G4 and B5 as well as the general terrain of the map tend to give the IS team a very slight advantage. What I mean by this is that G4 has a better base layout and has better facilities than B5, and the map is hilly up north and flat down south. Hilly terrain gives advantage to attackers because they can sneak up on the base without taking fire, but flat terrain gives the advantage to the defenders because they (and the base lasers) can pepper the attackers as they approach. This creates an advantage for the IS team because the southern two bases (G4, F7) tend to be controlled by IS due to F7 being closer to the IS home base, and the northern bases tend to be Clan since C2 creates a “draw” to the north for them. Since D4 has high buildings and flat ground directly north of it, and low buildings and hilly terrain directly south of it, the advantage is gained when attacking from the South because you can shoot down into the base from elevated terrain. Likewise attacking from the North is not as good, because the high buildings and low terrain create good cover for the defenders. These advantages are obviously relatively minor, but nonetheless they exist and should not if your goal is a fair and equal map. I would suggest roughly mirroring the terrain east and west as well as north and south of any central base. Maps in general should be roughly symmetrical along their x and y axes, something at which I think most of the TC maps do a good job.