Trooper Wars (CC)
If you have played Star Wars the Clone Campaign on a competitive level you know that trooper wars are a large part of the early game. There are several reasons for this:
Troopers are very good at killing villagers
Troopers move much faster than recruits and are much more powerful
Troopers are inexpensive (35C/25F) and build fast (:16)
Building a Troop center early is a wise move because (a) it can defend against a mountie rush (b) you can use it as the required building to go to T2
A troop center can provide you with all the counters you need to survive a T3 attack (AA and grenaders)
It is pretty clear to see why players have quickly latched on to Trooper Wars as the strategy of choice. Before we go too far into things though, there are a couple small points in trooper wars that people should really take into account.
Objectives of the Strategy.
There are two key objectives that you need to keep in mind when engaging in a trooper war. The first is that you need to be the first to make a critical strike on your opponent. As mentioned previously, Troopers are very effective at killing villagers. A group of 8 troopers in an opponents carbon gathering can put an incredible dent in the other players economy. Often that alone is the killing blow that decides the game.
This is because carbon is the most critical early resource during trooper wars as it is used for farms, creation of troopers, and for building the required buildings to get to T3. Too many players have a stalemate game of attack/counter attack of their armies and neglect to use their military to strike an economic blow.
The second objective is to prevent the other player from attacking you. That isn't as simple as it sounds. You need to make sure that their force doesn't overwhelm yours and then raid your base. There are several key things that can allow you to win this military goal......
Techniques of the Strategy.
Troopers are ranged units and this means that whoever strikes the first blow gets a serious advantage. You can defeat a larger enemy by being prepared for it. Most often units will move directly to their destimation and not counterfire when fired upon. This means that you can ambush troopers by taking higher ground and firing on troopers as they walk past. Make sure that you are the first to fire and you will have success in battle.
Using a smaller troop force to defeat a larger force by being the first to fire
Be sure to upgrade your troops. This is a war of massing and having upgraded troops is a key factor. Going back to the above concept of first strike, you want to make sure that you are the first to hit the opponent and having a greater range than the opponent can make that difference.
Use medics. Troop wars often involve strike/counterstrike moves where you dont' commit your entire army to the battle. This means that you can do quite a bit of healing on your units. Take advantage of the early medic that you can build and heal your fighting force.
Pay attention to what the enemy is doing. Continue to make good use of your scout. Is he making a spaceport? This suggests that he will be heading to T3 soon. Is he mining nova? Again, a suggestion that he is going T3. Is he mining ore? Be prepared to face an onslaught of towers and don't worry about him hitting you with mass troopers at home. Information can also clue you in to where to strike. Many players are aware of the carbon vulnerablilty and will make good use of walls to defend that carbon. Consider striking their nova, or food operations instead.
Power your econ by using buildings correctly. We have already identified that carbon is a key resource, so be sure to make your carbon collection as efficient as possible. This means building 2 carbon collection sites early in the game and replacing your initial carbon site in TL2. Keep the distance that your workers walk to a minimum and you will find that you have a great deal of carbon on your hands.
All of this is fine until you hit TL3 and that is where the problems start....
Although Strike Mechs are the listed counter to troopers, there is a bit of a problem. Here is a quick synopsis of the problem.
Strike Mechs are much more expensive (100C/50F compared to the 35C/25F for troopers)
Strike Mechs build much slower than troopers (:30 compared to the :16 for troopers)
Strikes aren't that effective at countering a trooper mass.
Thy can take troopers at about a 4:1 ratio, but getting enough strikes fast enough to counter the horde of troopers produced in T2 is an almost impossible feat. Grenaders can be added to the mix to further deter the use of strikes. Most players will have two or more troop centers up by the late stages of TL2. In contrast, players often only have 1 mech center up.
The combination of build times and 2:1 ratio of buildings allows the trooper based player to easily keep pace with the 4:1 standards of trooper vs mech wars. Combine this with the increased cost of the mechs and you can see that a player will have a difficult time. Factor in grenade troopers which most players will face and you can see that difficult becomes almost impossible.
One of the most effective trooper countering unit is the fighter.
This is largely due to two things. The first is that troopers can do absolutely nothing vs fighters. The second is that players are frequently massing their troopers at home. This means that while they *could* make AA troopers, they have to get those AA troopers from their base to the enemy's base in time to avoid getting crushed by fighters. This can be enough of a respite to force the attacker to recall his force. Notice in the lower screenshot how I lost an entire army of h.troopers to 3 fighters simply because I couldn't get my AA there in time. This is a big contrast to the mech vs trooper battle because at the very least, troopers can do some damage to the fighters.
Here is a little bit of mathematical detail on the units to help understand the situation in a bit more depth: Strikes: 80HP, does 16pts of dmg to a trooper and 15pts of dmg to a hvy trooper*
Trooper: 35HP, does 3 pts of dmg to a strike
Heavy Trooper: 40HP, does 4pts of dmg to a strike
Fire rates of the two units are roughly equivalent; the mech has a slightly faster FR.
Hvy Troopers get an armor upgrade
Without upgrades, that means that a Strike mech takes 3 shots to kill a trooper and 3 shots to kill a hvy trooper. Upgrades actually change this very little. Upgraded mechs still take 3 shots to kill un-upgraded or upgraded troopers or hvy troopers. Upgraded troopers on the other hand do significantly more damage to unupgraded mechs. This is because the numbers are on the side of the troopers in most every case and those +1 attacks can add up very quickly. Consider this scenario, which is not all that uncommon in a game:
20 unupgraded troopers face 4 strike mechs. Each volley from the troopers will do a total of 60pts of damage to the mechs. This means that 2 volleys will kill one mech.
Now upgrade those troopers so that they do 4pts of dmg to a mech rather than 3pts. Each volley now does a total of 80pts of damage and completely kills a strike mech.
As both of these units are ranged, how quickly you destroy the opposing units make a very large difference. Running across a Troop War player who doesn't upgrade their troopers is a very rare thing indeed.
All of this adds up to the jump to TL3 giving you very few benefits that can help you to win the war. This has forced the game into a lull where players simply mass troopers back and forth and diminishes the strategic oppourtunities. While we don't necesarily have a game where you can TL3 fast every game and wipe the player out, it would be nice to be able to do a defensive start and then TL3 fast to suprise a player who stays in TL2 too long. It would also be nice to have a fast TL3 a viable option for team games. So what things need to be changed? The jury is still out, but here are some of my thoughst on this...
The most obvious factor that can be tweaked is the direct relationship between troopers and mechs. There are several variables that can be changed including:
Damage strikes do to troopers
Damage strikes take from troopers
Unit fire rates
Unit build times
Lets look through them one by one. For the first, a slight increase in damage may end up being ineffective as the key factor is to quickly kill troopers. For example, a +1 dmg really won't change things by much as mechs will still require 3 hits to take out a trooper. By upping the dmg they do to a base of 19pts on the other hand (+3pts), they will take out even upgraded troopers in 2 shots. I think that will change the dynamics pretty significantly.
It also doesn't weaken hvy troopers that much as it will still take 3 shots for a strike to kill a hvy trooper. This keeps the incentive to upgrade your trooper army there, which is a good thing. The second factor can also be a powerful way to make troopers ineffecitve against mechs. Lets assume that everyone upgrades their troopers (which is a fairly reasonable assumption). This means that troopers are doing 4pts of damage to a strike mech and your standard army of 20 troopers can knock down a strike mech in one volley.
I personally think that dropping the base dmg that a trooper does to a mech down to 1pt would be a good move. This would be very similar to the relationship between skirmishers and knights in Age of Kings. While troopers would retain the ability to fight back against mechs, they would do very little damage to them. That 1pt of damage is deceptive, because for most all players it would really be 2pts of damage. This means that the standard army of 20 troopers would take two volleys to kill a strike mech. Could make for some interesting games. Changing both of these dynamics more than likely has to be done carefully. As I understand, any changes have to be done to the entire mech line. That is a bit disconcerting as troopers are probably the best counter to Mech destroyers and I would hate to see that changed. I am actually suprised that they can't tweak the unit vs unit bonuses individually. For example, Strikes appear to have about a +12 bonus against troopers where as Mech D's only have a +5 bonus against troopers.
It seems to me that the Strike bonus can be upped to +15 without changing the Mech D bonus. Additionally, troopers currently have no attack bonus against Mech D's. Should their damage against all mech units be reduced, it seems wise to give them an attack bonus against Mech D's. The important point here is that troopers retain a valuable posistion now as a counter to Mech D's and it would be a shame to see that posistion removed due to balancing.
What about build time? As discussed, the ability to quickly mass troopers compared to the slow build up rate of strikes ia an important factor. However, changing the build rate of strikes has consequences beyond Trooper Wars. Strikes are currently in contention with Fighters as the dominant raiding unit. Strikes currently have a *slight* advantage over air, but not enough of an advantage to make Fighters completely useless. Dropping their build time may upset this already delicate balance.
Increasing the build time of troopers is also an undesirable change as it would esentially slow down the pace of the game. Right now it is enjoyable to be able to get an army out fast and begin combat. The Age of Kings engine was plauged with slow starting games and the good folks at Lucas Arts have done a superb job of speeding things up with Star Wars.
There is a similiar argument against altering the unit costs of either units. Suffice to say, it would make strikes that much more desirable as a raiding unit and would make the game combat that much slower to increase the cost of troopers.
At this point in time, I am inclined to suggest one or all of the following balance changes to the game:
Increase the base dmg that strike mechs do to troopers by +3 to allow strikes the ability to take out troopers in 2 shots, while taking out hvy troopers in 3 shots
Decrease the base dmg that troopers do to Strike Mechs to 1pt, allowing for upgraded troopers to do 2pts of dmg to mechs and upgraded hvy troopers to do 4pts of dmg to strikes. However, do so in such a manner that does not underpower the trooper line against mech destroyers.
The real path to take may be more obtuse than this. As the MFO Forumers have pointed out, the evolution of Trooper Wars came about from several seemingly unrelated factors. Troopers themselves were untouched by the xpack, but changes such as the increased productivity of the nursery and decreased power of the fighter were the driving forces. Perhaps there are changes that can be made such as that which would steer the game into new frontiers of strategy. You, the readers of this article and the players of this game are the people most qualified to make these suggestions. Lucas Arts has shown themselves to be a company that is out there on the zone and in the forums playing and listening to the gamers. Now all you need to do is speak up.