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The basic themes and principles of Mechabellum
Strategy– The units behave like they would in a real-time strategy game, like Starcraft. No unit is undefeatable. They are strong by working as a team and covering each other’s weaknesses.
Finesse – Both sides receive the same amount of base supply per turn. You cannot gain an “economic advantage” by having more workers or more bases. You need to work with the limited resources you have. The more efficient side wins.
There are some exceptions (Supply Specialist, Cost Control Specialist, Giant Hunter …), but this cannot be relied upon in every game.
Equality – There are two differences between players. First, both players are offered a different selection of specialist and units at the start of each match. Second, everyone may select their own unit modifications (maximum of four each) for each unit.
Those aside, both players have the same options each round. You are offered the same reinforcements. You can unlock and buy any unit. Your options may be modified by the specialists you pick up (higher/lower cost, greater/reduced stats), but the choice remains.
Deterministic behavior – There is relatively little randomness in this game. Units always move at a set speed, have a specific amount of health, and deal a specific amount of damage at a specific attack rate. These values may be modified in various ways, but the modifications are mathematically predictable.
There are random things (random reinforcements each round, natural inaccuracy of Stormcallers and some techs/abilities). In the case of reinforcements, both players are offered the same selection. In the case of damaging attacks, these abilities are often quite strong anyway.
Adaptability – There are some reinforcement and unit combos that are exceptionally powerful. Both players have the opportunity to take advantage of these, but you need the foresight to notice them.
Common pitfalls for new players
If you avoid these things, you will be five steps ahead of other new players:
Overconfidence – I recommend playing against the bots to start. The Insane bot is less difficult than low-level human opponents. If you can beat the Insane bot three times in a row, then you are ready for multiplayer. The Community Challenges are also good for practice.
The bots play kind of strangely and don’t have a wide variety of strategies, so there will still be more to learn. However, you will at least understand how the units interact with each other.
Placing too many units – Don’t place units just for the sake of placing units. Try to counter something on the opponent’s side, exploit an opponent’s vulnerability, or add balance to your army. For example, if your army lacks anti-air, it is not wrong to place down an anti-air unit or two, just in case. If you have zero justification for a unit placement, then don’t place it.
Having too many units spreads out experience too thinly. Your units will not upgrade very fast. You will have an army with a lot of volume, but individually little power because they cannot upgrade.
Placing too many of the same unit – It is tempting to think that more units is always better. But just blindly placing many copies of the same unit is very risky. Units tend to be good at one thing, and can be countered easily by something else.
Put another way, having two or three copies of a unit is sometimes betterthan having six copies.
There are some exceptions to this. For example, if your opponent is placing many copies of the same unit, you are justified in placing many copies of its counter(s), or else your units risk getting overwhelmed by more targets than they can handle. Just be certain it’s one of those “exceptional” times before placing that 8th copy.
Overusing devices – Sentry missiles and shields are there to help. They can help you win rounds and take out troublesome enemy units. But using too many will drain supply and deny experience for your units. Use with restraint in the early rounds.
Not upgrading – Once a unit has reached an experience threshold, they stop gaining experience until they are upgraded. Upgrading your useful units is one of the best things you can do with supply because it multiplies the unit’s attack and health at 50% the cost of a new copy of that unit.
There can be exceptions to this. For example, if your opponent is overdoing it on Marksmen, then having quantity over quality may help. But for the vast majority of matches, upgrades are excellent.
Upgrading useless units – Sometimes units that were great in the early rounds start to become irrelevant in later rounds. If your Crawlers, Fangs, and Arclights are no longer pulling any weight, they may not do any better at level 2. Don’t upgrade automatically. Think about it. Watch them battle. Check their damage numbers.
Buying too many techs on one unit – Each tech on a single unit type costs +200 more than the previous one. Buying all four techs on a unit comes with a total 1200-supply premium (ouch!). It may be better to buy one or two techs on several units rather than four techs on one unit.
Tunnel vision – You need to react to what your opponent is doing. Having a plan for your army is good, but committing to one path no matter what is risky. If something isn’t working how you expected, it may be better to sell the relevant unit(s) and go in another direction.
Spending all supply – Your unspent supply carries over between rounds. While you should spend it, you don’t need to spend all of it. If you are comfortably winning rounds and don’t know what to spend the last 50-200 supply on, it might be better to save it for later.
Not buying different units in the first round – In the first round, you are provided five units for free (plus a Marksman if you picked Marksman Pilot). Look at the opponent’s starting units and specialist, and think about what will counter it. Buy the counter if possible. Don’t just automatically buy more copies of what you started with.
Not watching the battle – The battle is not just for show. It is your chance to see what works and what doesn’t. Look out for your biggest weakness and make the corrections next round.
Giving up – The outcome of each battle often rests on a knife’s edge. The smallest changes can result in a one-sided loss last round becoming a one-sided win next round. As long as you are alive to fight another round, you always have a chance.
What to do each round
You have many options; it’s overwhelming to a new player. Well, there is no single correct thing to do. You win by balancing your actions, considering a little of everything.
Check out the community challenges sometime. How many would you be able to succeed at with the exact same strategy? Not many. Some need units, some need tech, some need a nuke. It’s the same way in normal matches.
However, for a beginner, this is a good way to consider your turns, starting from the top and working your way down.
Reinforcement – This is mandatory. You must select a reinforcement or skip it (and collect 50 supply) before doing anything else. Some reinforcements are good short-term, and some are good long-term. It is good to balance the two. Certain reinforcements can help you exploit an enemy’s vulnerability and win the round, which can help your units gain experience. If you are critical on health, long-term investments might not save you.
Don’t be afraid to skip if nothing is appealing. The 200-supply abilities are powerful, but consider whether that 200 could go toward an important tech. Consider if the opponent might take a short-term ability, and consider defending it against it by placing units or shields, especially in later rounds when more health is at stake.
Shields – In laterounds, if you are fearing an ability like Incendiary Bomb or Acid Bomb or Nuke from the enemy, you may want to place shields so that your forces don’t take massive damage. Shields completely block these abilities. Three or four shields could save you from defeat. Placing shields early is risky. It may help you win, or it may go down early and your 100 supply is gone.
Unit upgrades – If any of your units are eligible for an upgrade, then you should do so unless they are being strongly countered or are likely to be strongly countered. Check how much damage the unit did last round for guidance. If it was a decent amount, then an upgrade might be a good idea. If it was zero, then question how much the extra health will help.
You’ll get used to what should be upgraded or not. Just don’t upgrade everything 100% of the time. It needs to justify the supply cost.
Unit tech – If you feel that some tech is appropriate for the situation, it is generally better to buy tech than to buy more units. This is very situational as tech covers many different areas, but the right tech in the right place can be a great boost.
Unit placement – Place units that will 1. Counter whichever enemy units were most effective last round, 2. Exploit an enemy’s vulnerability, or 3. Cover obvious weaknesses in your own army. If you can’t justify placing a unit for any of these three reasons, then it might be better to place nothing.
Sentry Missiles – In the early rounds or to counter specifically troublesome units. Don’t place missiles just for its own sake. It needs to have a purpose.
Research Center Upgrades – If it’s about round 6 or later and you haven’t picked up the research center’s permanent upgrades, consider them. Attack is usually good. Health is decent. Nuke can help to win a critical (final) round. The others are good in the right time and place.
Command Center Upgrades – If you have a lot of supply to burn, the Command Center will help with that with its single-round boosts.
Unlock a unit – You can only unlock one unit per round, but there is no maximum number over the course of the match. If you’re about to start the battle and haven’t unlocked a unit yet, then consider unlocking one of the free ones. You can unlock one that costs supply, but it is risky unless you are absolutely certain you are going to buy it. The opponent could place something surprising, and the supply could be wasted.
About the starting specialists and units
At the start of each match, you are randomly offered four options that include one specialist, three copies of a tier 1 unit, and two copies of a tier 2 unit. The different specialists have different amounts of starting health (the ones strong early on tend to have less health). There are too many possible combos to talk about individually, but here is what I watch out for.
For specialists, the safest choices are Speed, Supply, and Quick Supply. More supply is always welcome. Speed helps your units get into position quicker and helps them dodge Stormcaller missiles.
Elite Specialist is risky. You are forced to buy only level 2 units at a premium cost. This will reduce your army’s volume and versatility, sometimes to a fatal degree. It is very challenging for a new player to work with.
Cost Control is not bad, but the extra supply will need to be spent on more sentry missiles than typical to make up for your less powerful units. In the later rounds, the downside is usually not as noticeable.
The other specialists are okay. In the case of Giant or Aerial, don’t feel compelled to place giants or air units just because you have them. If your opponent’s army counters giants or air units strongly, then don’t blindly walk into their trap.
For the Marksman/Rhino reinforcement starts, it can be better if the starting units complement the reinforcement. For example, getting Crawler/Phoenix + Rhino Reinforcement creates an awkward situation for the opponent because the Rhino’s early game counter (Quad Lasers) do not counter the Crawlers and cannot target the Phoenixes.
As far as starting units go, most of the options are okay. I tend to avoidFangs as they are quite weak without tech, Phoenixes because they are single-targeters and easily tied up by enemy Crawlers or Fangs, and Stormcallers because certain enemy starts can counter them very strongly.
Let me be clear. Fangs, Phoenixes, and Stormcallers are fine in the right time and place. But they are risky to blindly select as starting units when you don’t know what your opponent has yet.
About the Research Center
The Research Center has the following permanent upgrades:
Nuke – A very powerful ability but a big price tag at 400 supply. It can be good to buy on a decisive round or to save yourself from defeat. Don’t buy it early. The long recharge time means you usually get just one shot.
Field Recovery – Once per round, you can sell a unit and get refunded its base cost and upgrade cost. E.g. a level 2 Rhino sells for 300 (200 base + 100 for upgrade). It’s good for selling units that are serving no purpose or that didn’t do what you expected. Be careful about selling units that are acting as targets or distractions.
Mobile Beacon – Once per round, you may direct a circle of units to move a certain way. Melee units especially will stick to the path and only attack what they bump into. This tends to be more useful in 2v2, but it can make a unit dodge a bad matchup or have Rhinos and/or Crawlers blitz straight toward a vulnerable target (including a building).
Attack Enhancement– Not bad in the mid-to-late rounds.
Defense Enhancement– Less important than Attack, but okay to pick up if you have a tanky army. It doesn’t help low-health units like Mustangs and Crawlers very much.
About the Command Center
The Command Center has the following bonuses that last only for that round:
Rapid Resupply – +200 supply this turn, -300 supply next turn. You have to weigh if the loss of net 100 supply is worth it. Always use this in a final decisive round, and it might be a good idea to use if you are at critical health and might not survive the next round.
Mass Recruitment – Use this carefully. This game is not about unit spam. It is more useful for mass recruiting cheap units as a specific counter to something surprising the opponent did. Like if they suddenly put down two Overlords in one round and you have no counters. It might be a good idea to put down three Marksmen or something like that.
Elite Recruitment– Use this carefully. 100 supply is very expensive, plus you need to pay for the unit’s upgrade (e.g. a level 2 Rhino will cost 300). It is better in later rounds when many units are upgraded and you may need to place upgraded units to keep them relevant.
Enhanced Range – I usually only buy it if the round is must-win.
High Mobility – I usually only buy it if the round is must-win. Because it’s a flat bonus, it has a relatively stronger effect on slow armies (Fang, Sledgehammer, Fortress …)
About Unit Placement
There is no perfect way to arrange your units, but here are some thoughts:
On round 1, try out the recommended formations button. Not all of them are perfect, but most are fairly decent.
Depending on what the opponent has, position your units so that the tankiest units take damage first. For example, if your opponent has Marksmen, then make sure your Crawlers take the shots first. If your opponent has Arclights, then make sure your Sledgehammers take the shots first.
Don’t put your army so far forward or centered that you will be vulnerable to flank attacks.
Try not to put units on the edges. If your opponent places a counter, you might have no room to place a counter to that counter. (This is a problem with the small flank attack area.)
Watch out for Stormcaller missiles. They might miss their intended target and hit what was behind it.
Don’t clump everything up, especially in the early rounds. You are just asking for the opponent to use one sentry missile to take out more than one unit.
Generally, you want your army to act as a single, united force. You don’t want your Mustangs to charge way out in front while the Sledgehammers lag behind in the back. Slow units go more forward, and fast units go more back.
About Flank Attacks
From round 2 and onward, you are allowed to place units on the enemy’s flanks. The first time you do this per unit (or if you reposition an existing flank unit), the unit will take 10 seconds to teleport in, leaving it helpless against enemy fire. As long as the unit is not repositioned, it will not have the teleport on successive rounds.
If you notice that the enemy has left the flanks vulnerable, even one unit of Crawlers or Soldier Bees can result in their building being destroyed early in the battle.
Adding a flank attack can also distract and split up the enemy’s forces. Even if your flank attack doesn’t break through, just tying up enemy units for a long time can be valuable.
Because the enemy may flank attack you, it’s a good idea not to put your units too far forward or too much in the center. Otherwise, the enemy will have a clear path to your towers.
Try not to let your forces get distracted by a flank attack for long. Place enough units to deal with the flank attack swiftly and then get back into the fight. On decisive rounds, a sentry missile or two might help clear up the flank more quickly.
If you don’t mind sparing the supply, a pair of sentry missiles can deter the enemy from placing low-health units on the flanks because they will be immediately destroyed and have no element of surprise.
One option is to keep placing more and more units onto the flank, but this is only rarely a good idea. If you feel like the enemy’s flank is somehow vulnerable, maybe you should go for it. But generally speaking, the flanks are for trickery and distraction. The 10-second teleport is a big penalty.
Be cautious about putting Tier-3 units on the flanks. They move slowly, so are not going to engage the buildings too quickly. They also need support. A single giant with no friends is going to be easily defeated.
About Tier-1 Units
A brief synopsis of each unit follows.
A basic sniper unit. It has a slow rate of fire and little health, but makes up for it with long range and powerful single-target damage. It is very strong against singleton units such as the giants, Arclight, and Hacker. It’s also not bad against low-count units like Phoenix, Quad Lasers, and Sledgehammer. Adding upgrades and tech can make them extraordinarily good at single-target takedowns.
The best counter against them is the high-count stuff like Crawlers, Fangs, Soldier Bees, and Mustangs. The Marksman will get stuck shooting powerful shots against weaklings and get overwhelmed.
Basic infantry with small guns. Fangs are very bad without techs, but terrifying once they have some levels and techs. If the opponent happens to have a formation that is countered by Fangs (extended range tech can help a lot early on), then eventually they can level and tech up into a Fang/Fortress combo. Fortresses have a Fang-summoning tech, by the way.
If your opponent is countering your Fangs too well, Fangs can still act as targets. In very late rounds, you might consider giving your Fangs the personal shield tech so they can absorb two shots from heavy-hitters like Marksman and Fortress. They have the benefit of not charging forward like Crawlers do. Fangs placed in the back might reach the front line after the enemy’s Vulcans have been destroyed.
Basic melee robots. They move fast and pack quite a punch assuming they get into range. They are good at dodging Stormcaller Missiles, and can soak shots from slow-attackers like Marksman or Melting Point. However, it is rare for them to stay relevant as damage-dealers in later rounds. They are still good to have around so that the enemy wastes time killing Crawlers instead of killing your more important units, but the way they charge ahead means you will very rarely benefit from having more than about 5 units of Crawlers.
Basic AOE unit. The Arclight has little health, but it deals decent AOE damage that is strong against light units such as Fang, Crawler, and Mustang. With enough upgrades and tech (and the +100% Arclight experience specialist!), they can reach some serious damage output against even giant units, but they will still always be a bit on the squishy side. They tend to be all-or-nothing, becoming your main force or a paltry support unit after the first few rounds.
About Tier-2 Units
The Rhino is a medium melee bruiser that is fairly tanky, fast, and packs a decent punch. It is quite vulnerable to single-target attackers such as Marksman, Quad Laser, and Melting Point, but is fast enough to dodge Stormcaller missiles and tanky enough to take a lot of punishment from most other Tier 1 or 2 units.
Rhinos can be a bit risky because they are so easily defeated by Quad Lasers, which are also a good unit, or by Melting Point if that fails. The Rhino’s high speed and melee range tends to make it run far ahead of your army, where the enemy can easily set up their counter units. It is also quite vulnerable to the Hacker for the same reason.
A good unit in the right time and place, but you may regret over-reliance on them.
A swarming air unit. They deal decent damage, but are strong mostly by virtue of only a few things countering them. They are easily killed by Mustangs and won’t do much against Overlords either. You can try throwing a couple into your army to see what happens (the results may be surprising), or have them bounce around with Jump Drive on the flanks to keep your opponent guessing. It’s not bad to sell them once they’re served their purpose.
Fragile but hard-hitting generalist. Mustangs are good against swarming units (Fang, Crawler, Soldier Bee) and air units, and their fast speed helps them get close to Marksmen and Stormcallers. They have several techs that can help refine their direction, but they are still best treated as anti-swarm and anti-air. Their anti-unit capability will always be on the weak side, and they will always be fragile.
They can also take the missile interceptor tech, making them uniquely strong against Stormcaller and Overlord projectiles. Level 1 Mustangs missile intercept just as good as any other level.
Close-range single-targeter and tank. Quad Lasers are quite durable and are good at taking down other durable units such as Rhinos, Sledgehammers, and (to a point) ground giants. Because there are four of them per group, they aren’t terrible when multiple targets are involved, but you still want to avoid getting them tied up with Crawlers and Fangs because this is very inefficient.
Artillery AOE unit. Stormcallers are best against slow units that end up standing still in a prolonged slugfest. They will tend to miss a lot against fast units (especially fast melee), and they may do insufficient damage against giants.
They are definitely good in the right time and place, but if they start targeting enemy Crawlers or Rhinos, they are going to whiff the majority of their shots. They may also become useless if the enemy uses many Mustangs with missile intercept. Two or three can be great. Overbuy at your own risk.
A well-rounded anti-ground tank. The Sledgehammer is average in most regards. It is fairly durable, has a decent punch, and some splash damage. It does okay against most Tier-1 and Tier-2 ground units, tending to lose slightly against Quad Lasers and being rather weak against Rhinos. Their slow speed also makes them vulnerable to Stormcallers.
Their health scales pretty well with upgrades and the Field Maintenance tech. If allowed to upgrade freely, they can become very hard to kill, even in the later rounds. But if they get destroyed too often in the early rounds, it can be hard to reach that tipping point.
An airborne sniper, much like the Marksman. Its attack is single-target and powerful, but the Phoenix is fragile.
If you just treat it like Marksman, you’ll be fine. As an air unit, not many units can actually fire at it. Just watch out for the ones that can, as virtually all of them can easily defeat a Phoenix in a duel.
A very specialized unit, and you wouldn’t be wrong to ignore it most of the time, but when you do find the right place to use it, the result can be overpowering.
The Hacker has a few problems. It is fragile, very slow, has a middling range, and its “attack” does very little “damage” on its own. It needs the right target, and a lot of support.
I will usually use the Hacker plus Quad Lasers to counter an enemy Rhino that has the self-destruct tech. With the appropriate Hacker tech, the hacked Rhino will be restored to full health and get turned against the enemy. This is easier to do against Rhinos because they tend to run far ahead, whereas other juicy targets such as giants will be slower and have a longer range.
The Hacker costs 100 supply to unlock, which is more than the other Tier-2 units.
About Tier-3 Units
The Tier-3 units are strong, but their single bodies make them vulnerable to Marksman, Melting Point, and certain abilities such as Orbital Javelin. They are good, but do not feel compelled to rush to them.
Flamethrower AOE giant. The Vulcan can easily destroy swarming units such as Crawlers, but if the Vulcan gets stuck attacking something tanky, it’s going to be there for a while. Vulcans are often best placed slightly back in your army so that it can wipe out the Crawlers that rush ahead, and isn’t likely to get stuck on a shield or something like that.
Upgrades and the Scorching Flame tech can help the Vulcan to do surprising damage against even tanky stuff. But it’s still mainly anti-swarm.
The Vulcan costs 100 supply to unlock, which is lower than the other Tier-3 units.
Anti-unit tank. The Fortress has a cannon with minimal splash damage, mainly for single targets. It is also quite tanky for its cost (but watch for Quad Lasers and Melting Point), and has good support techs like barrier and anti-air missiles. It usually combos well with squishy armies so that the Fortress can soak some damage on their behalf, and make the enemy’s anti-swarm stuff target the Fortress.
Sometimes, Fortress can be better at anti-unit than even Melting Point, because its damage is done steadily without time wasted for the charge-up. This can make Fortress surprisingly resilient against low-level Quad Lasers, for example. Yes, the Lasers will eventually fry the Fortress, but the Fortress is one-shotting them right back in return.
Anti-unit specialist. Like a souped-up Quad Laser, the Melting Point can easily and quickly destroy any target — one at a time. The energy diffraction tech can help make the Melting Point a little more swarm-proof, but its specialty will still always be single targets. Unlike the Quad Laser, it can target air units.
Airborne giant. The Overlord’s cannon hits hard with some splash damage, and being airborne means that only a few things can target it. But it has the lowest health of the giants by far. They are good on support, buffing the army with their photon emission tech and taking down any target with their fantastic weapons, but try to keep them out of the frontline, and maybe reconsider if your opponent is packing a lot of anti-air (Marksman and Mustang especially).
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