Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Star Wars Empire At War AEM 5.1 - Part II

Hello friends,

When we last let off, we'd gone over the basics of understanding Star Wars Empire at War. Now let's check back in with our heroic Rebels.

This update is a long one. No plot here, just three battles in a row, crushing two worlds under our heel. Also, some urban renewal!

We dispatch Artoo and Threepio on a mission to Kuat. They're stealth units, so if there are ships in Kuat orbit, they won't be detected and destroyed. They'll also give us a quick look at Kuat's surface defenses.

This is what a stealth fleet looks like in motion. We can't see enemy fleets attacking us for the most part.

Let's leave the droids to it for now.

We turn our attention to Dantooine. Becuase Mon Mothma is here, let's start here. We queue up four Barracks and our level 2 Space Station upgrade.

This costs 2,400 credits, and would have cost 3,200 without Mon Mothma. The cost reduction bonus is too significant to build without.

Dantooine's role is simple - it produces the least money of our planets, so it's a poor candidate for mining facilities. We only have one land military building available right now, and even if we had more, its low number of building slots make it a poor candidate for high-tech manufacturing. So, this is now our infantry recruitment world.

Now to Yavin IV. We move Mon Mothma and the Dantooine garrison, and pick up the Yavin IV garrison. We queue a Lvl 2 Space Station and our Financial Center, for a total cost of 2,400 credits thanks to Mon Mothma.

Yavin IV produces more money than Dantooine, but it's still a poor candidate for mining facilities. We don't need more than one infantry world at the moment, and we cannot construct more Light Factories. In addition,  we need Yavin IV building T-2B tanks at all times until we get the aforementioned factory. Taking time off to build anything less valuable than a Financial Center is a big no.

Right now, our tanks are worth way more than 500 credits.

We move on to Alderaan. Alderaan produces 85 credits a day normally, so it is a very good candidate for mining facilities. The Empire can't invade on the ground without defeating us in space, so there's no need to even have that barracks on the surface. In addition, the civilian population of Alderaan provides tactical support to the Rebellion in land battles.

Naturally, we queue up our space station upgrade and five mining facilities. We also send the Alderaan garrison into space.

Checking on the droids, Artoo and Threepio are looking at Kuat. They have absolutely nothing in space, and one light factory and one mining facility on the surface. They also have four mystery units. This is a battle we ought to be able to win.

Looking at Kuat on the strategic map gives us a bit of a clue - the strongest unit in their stack has the TIE Mauler model. TIE Maulers are lightning-fast tracked anti-infantry vehicles with three rapid-fire laser cannons and the ability to self-destruct in a devastating explosion. Because they're tracked, they're also lethal at squishing infantry. On the plus side, they're fragile.

We arrive in orbit of Kuat. The Corvettes aren't going to help us win the battle at all - they're just here to guarantee the interruption of any space station the Empire might be building here. And also for moral support. We're gonna need it.

Seriously. We have six infantry, eight Plex troopers, and two tanks. Even outnumbering the enemy like we do, this is going to suck so badly. However, our alternative is letting the Empire fortify Kuat, and I'm not okay with that.

The reason we have a tank on the surface of Kuat is because I dragged it down there. It's possible to invade planets by dragging fleets on the strategic map, but it's better to drag a single unit in the planet view because then you know for sure what unit you begin the battle with.

Huh. Looks like I was wrong about the Empire getting powerful unique ships here. Turns out WE get a unique ship here. And both of us get unique ground units here.

The T-4BS and T-3BS are upgraded versions of those respective tanks with more firepower and shield generators, but they're only available at Tech Level 5. Furthermore, they need a unique building to even build them that's only available at Tech Level 5, and those buildings take several days to build. Each individual tank is hideously expensive and takes several days to build unless you've stacked two or more of the special production facilities together (Which I recommend if you're going to bother), but...

If you can put them together, T-4BS are the ultimate Rebel ground unit, period. If you can get more than two of them in an army, you've got a gamebreaker on your hands. And if you can support them adequately, you will never lose. However, we're very far away from that. And I'm pretty sure we're not going to be using the BS tanks this campaign for...reasons I'm keeping to myself right now.

Incidentally, the AT-ST Mk II and AT-AT Mk II are to the AT-ST and AT-AT what the BS tanks are to the T-3B and T-4B. The L.A.A.T. is genuinely unique, and we'll cover it later.

See? Our tanks start the battle landed. Let's get everybody else down here. Starting with our other tanks. They're easily our most valuable units.

I order a bunch of units down. I think it was two tanks, four infantry, and four Plex troopers. If you come across a landing zone and you see enemy troops landing, shoot them. Landing units can't fight back, but don't receive additional damage like ships exiting hyperspace.

We get some infantry out to this build pad and capture it.

Anti-vehicle turret, please.

We do the same here. This way, if we have to make a tactical retreat, we'll have some help. Turrets are very powerful for their minimal cost in AEM.

We can also call down C-3PO and R2-D2. They have no combat capability, so they take no population. But R2 can repair vehicles and take control of enemy turrets.

We get the rifle infantry formed up, and have them take cover. Slower movement, but improved defense. Worthy trade. The first squad of Stormtroopers finds us, but they're no match for us.

We do something similar with the anti-tank infantry. They're going to be vital this mission.

However, with the Stormtroopers dead, haste wins out over caution.

The second squad of Stormtroopers arrives. Oh please, don't keep coming at us one at a time.

No match for our force concentration, but this one gets to fire back.

Some human partisans arrive to shoot at us. This is all too easy.

Sithspit! That was all too easy! Scout Troopers on speeder bikes, TIE Maulers, and Stormtroopers showed up all at once. Plus that turret. Then I screwed up by the numbers.

Scout Troopers have the ability to drop a timed charge, and the AI knows to try and get Scout Troopers in the middle of formations to do it. That explosion on screen? A Scout Trooper charge I failed to evade. It killed something like 80 troops in one explosion.

However, never let it be said we're smart enough to retreat. There's a 2-M Repulsor Tank there shooting at us.

Unfortunately, there's more 2-M tanks and TIE Maulers.

Why the Empire is building rear-area recovery stations on the front lines, I do not understand. Our Plex troopers are in the battle now, and their missiles hard counter the 2-M tanks.

Unfortunately, a TIE Mauler gets past us in the confusion and detonates in our midst. It kills all the Plex troopers and most of the tanks. Damn Imperial suicide bombers!

With only three tanks of mine left and most units on either side dead, I start looking for other routes of advance. We find the only civilian structure on the map.

This human house spawns Human Civilians, and on Kuat those are loyal to the Empire and controlled by the Imperial player. The Rebellion gets a cash bonus if we blow it up.

Unfortunately, it's protected by an anti-infantry turret. We may be attacking with tanks, but turrets are scary and this one can definitely beat through our shields in time.

Turrets may be scary, but they're immobile and they can't deal with shielded units rotating who's being shot at.

We've already destroyed four or five 2-M Repulsor Tanks, but here's another one.

Another two. And some Stormtroopers. And a turret being rebuilt. Our shields are weakened and we only have three tanks. We must pull back.

We retreat to our turret.

Both tanks are now destroyed. Reminder that turrets are scary in AEM. We call down Artoo & Threepio.

This is an instant repair to maximum health. On a T-2B, that's not much. But it's what we need right now.

Still more 2-M Repulsor tanks. These only come four to a squad.

This one tries flanking us, but is shot at by the turret.

They replaced their anti-infantry turret. I have no idea why, but they did. So we start fighting it.

Unfortunately, there's an anti-vehicle turret just over to the right.

So instead, we hover over the water and burn down the homes of the Human Civilians. It's the only one on the map, so we score a cool cash bonus for it.

Ordinarily, turrets cannot be repaired. But Artoo can do it.

With the elimination of the respawning waves of Human partisans, I now believe there's a solid chance we can win this battle, so I call down all of our remaining soldiers. Losing here now will be extremely painful to recover from.

We wipe the turret out. Again.

Time to pull back for repairs and shield recharging.

That little droid did it! Again. Notice that our objectives say we get an immediate cash bonus for taking the planet. This will help us get a head start on building on it.

With the human partisans cut down to size, let's use our highly mobile hovertanks to look for points we can press an attack. Hover units can travel over water.

Oooh, lookie here...

Meh. That way was stupid anyway. Full of 2-M Repulsor Tanks and two anti-infantry turrets. Let's see what's this way.

There's an unmarked island out here, with two build pads on it. We can't capture them with T-2Bs, so we move on.

AHA! An undefended beach!

As if I care that there's a 2-M Repulsor tank north of us and an anti-vehicle turret to the west. This way's stupid too!

We've tried being tactical and failed. New plan: We march the infantry over the corpses of the fallen and call it a day.

We target this tank for repairing even though it doesn't really need it.

The blaster infantry go first, because they matter less to us.

There's that anti-vehicle turret! And a 2-M tank!

Plex Troopers hard-counter 2-M Repulsor Tanks. In this Star Wars game, missiles go straight through shields.

The blaster infantry overrun the turret and we move forward.

Our T-2Bs knock out this repair station.

A better example of the power of Plex troopers. Full shields, still dead.

We capture our second reinforcement zone, not that we have anything to reinforce with at the moment. At about this time, it occurs to me that the only Imperial units we're seeing are 2-M Tanks. And 2-M Tanks, like T-2Bs, cannot capture build pads. So any turrets we destroy are gone for good.

This plateau. I know from my long experience that buildings on Kuat are on this plateau.

Anti-infantry turret to the west, anti-vehicle turret to the north. I know a fight my tanks aren't designed for.

I'm sick of waiting for Artoo to recharge, so order a repair station.

Good as new.

Let's try that again, only more cautiously.

Thankfully, the Empire is less cautious and charges Plex troopers with 2-M tanks.

With the battlespace clear, we need to keep moving.

There's the anti-vehicle turret. It's a lot less dangerous against infantry.

This 2-M pulls a sweet evasive maneuver, buying itself about two more seconds of life.

At last, we come across the problem.

I believe I told you about garrison units last update. I believe I said that in AEM, garrison units have limited numbers. Well, shockingly, I was wrong - at least in land battles. Land production buildings will produce limitless garrison units (Well, not limitless. They'll produce one of the specified unit type at a time - this factory will maintain the existence of four free 2-M Repulsor Tanks and replenish those four if they die.). This is one of the advantages of a land defender, along with first grab at fixed defenses and up to ten predeployed units.

Because we were eager to begin the battle, we don't have the main advantage of a land attacker. So we had to fight this battle the hard way.

Suffice to say, three T-2Bs can't keep killing constantly reinforcing 2-M Repulsor tanks fast enough to stay alive, let alone win. So the Plex troopers come up to target the 2-Ms, and the blaster infantry to level the structure.

However, the Plex troopers wind up blowing the light factory up. We quickly gut the remaining tank. One building left.

Last target. We're not killing it just yet, though.

First, Artoo captures these two build pads and we order anti-vehicle turrets. Turrets are persistent across battles, so these will start firing at any Imperial landing forces immediately if there's ever an invasion.

We also mobilize the tanks, since turrets persist across battles. Also, the game reminds us that we can retreat. This is important and useful advice, but we're fine for now.

Because turrets persist across battles, next time we fight on the surface of Kuat, we'll have two Imperial anti-infantry turrets and a bacta tank here in this choke point unless we deal with them.

Fortunately, T-2Bs counter exactly two things: Stormtroopers, and Anti-infantry turrets. Everything else is just a side benefit.

A look at exactly how much damage a burst from an anti-infantry turret does to an unshielded T-2B.

Repaired instantly.

I bring Artoo up to see if his control turret applies to bacta tanks, and sadly it does not.

So we blow it up instead.

Our initial landing site, surrounded by three anti-vehicle turrets. If I was being smart about this, I'd build on ALL the build pads, but I feel like being lazy.

The structure can't fight back, but it will have a Stormtrooper squad that will leave it when it blows up.

Well. That could have gone better. Lots of dead Rebels today.

Sometimes the after-battle screen glitches and doesn't accurately count losses. For instance, we definitely lost one of our tanks (Five tanks, you say? One strategic map tank is four tactical battle tanks for T-2Bs).

Also, all of those 2-Ms and Human Civilians were free garrison units.

Land battles in Empire At War for the attacker are about breaking through to the defender's base as quickly as possible and smashing their buildings. Without powerful siege-breaking units, we couldn't do that. We had to fight step by bloody step until we were a stone's throw away from the one building that was giving us hell.

Kuat is now under our control.

Kuat has a planetary income of 75, only slightly less than Alderaan. It can also have a financial institution. We don't especially need the build slots for military units and we aren't tech level five (And likely won't be for a long time), so the best use for the planet right now is mining facilities.

We return to Alderaan. Somber news - we lost five each of Infantry and Plex troopers, and one of our valuable tanks.

We sell the Barracks on Alderaan to focus on credit production.

Our Space Station upgrades are complete. We can finally construct additional fleet units. We have three more ships we can build. We order a bunch of T-2Bs at Yavin IV, and some Y-Wings.

Y-Wings are versatile starbombers. They have laser cannons to defend against fighters, but can't be relied on in this role. Their main purpose is to carry Proton Torpedoes, and launch them against corvettes and larger ships. Proton Torpedoes go straight through shields, and most capital ships have issues targeting starfighters and starbombers.

Y-Wings have a special Ion Cannon attack that damages shields and temporarily cripples a unit's movement and offensive abilities.

We grab some obsolete Z-95s at Alderaan.

Kuat is about ready for its Space Station upgrade, and more mining facilities.

As is Alderaan.

Dantooine's Barracks are complete. It takes roughly five seconds per unit for Dantooine to train either Infantry or Plex troopers.

Last stage of Kuat orders.

Moving everything in orbit of Yavin IV for the next phase.

The final new ship we can build is the ARC-170. These obsolete pieces of crap were flown by clones in the opening of episode III, and function as much shittier Y-Wings with no special attack. What they are, though, is cheaper and faster-building.

We also ordered some new Corvettes on Dantooine.

The Droids go ahead and take a look at Korriban. It's controlled by a regional warlord who doesn't care about our conflict, but you know something: Neutrality isn't an option right now.

Yavin IV continues to build T-2B tanks.

Yavin IV has managed to construct a surprising number of T-2B tanks, all things considered. We're also at our population cap.

You may notice there's some Y-Wings mixed in with the ground units. We'll get to that later.

Korriban actually has some space units defending it, so we send the fleet first. We could send the ground units now, it's not like they'll overtake the fleet. But in general, you wanna avoid that. This way, if the fleet gets its ass kicked, we DON'T lose the army on top of it.

Nah. We're not auto-resolving any of the battles in this campaign.

Apparently, Imperial heroes are also stronger here. The sooner we can guarantee the Empire doesn't have control of this planet, the better.

Also, we can train Jedi here at Tech Level 4. Since we don't get Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Rebel Campaign, I'd appreciate a Jedi Knight. We'll see when we can make it happen.

A selection of units balanced across all our types arrives out of hyperspace above Korriban.

We group them up - fighters as squad 1, bombers as squad 2, and corvettes as squad 3.

When you have an overwhelming advantage over the enemy, the game clears the fog of war. It's an anti-frustration feature that keeps you from hunting that last Human Civilian or starfighter.

Right now, it's triggering because we have a major hero, 8 corvettes, and more than thirty squadrons of starfighters and starbombers while the enemy has, ummm...

A single frigate and two squadrons of starfighters.

We send the Z-95s to directly engage one of the fighter squadrons.

They receive fire support from the corvettes.

As an indicator of the strength of Z-95s, here is 65 Z-95s vs one or two pirate starfighters.

We send the bombers after the frigate, starting with the missile launcher. Note that one of our corvettes has taken hull damage but no shield damage. This is because pirate frigates have a concussion missile launcher that penetrates shields and is fairly effective against starfighters as well.

With the missile launcher gone, it really doesn't matter what we target now.

The red blobs that are semi-tracking are our proton torpedoes. But even a frigate can't stand against a bunch of corellian corvettes.

Heh. No problem.

Last squadron of starfighters. All units are ordered to attack it.

Conclusion: Inevitable.

As often as possible, this is what you're looking for in Empire at War. Victory without attrition on your side. Some units are very hard to replace.

We have control of Korriban's orbitals.

Again, start the battle with the unit you want first.

The overhead view of the map isn't super useful, but it's better than nothing.

We start with the tanks...

This battle, we're bringing in three tanks, four infantry, and three plex.

We can zoom way out for a strategic overview if we wanna.

We group the units together. 1 for Infantry, 2 for Plex, and 3 for Tanks.

Now this is more like it. We have enough firepower to do some serious thwacking. But we can train ten or more squads of infantry in the time it takes to build one tank.

So we advance cautiously, infantry first. If we're gonna be ambushed, I want it to be the infantry.

Also, our secret weapon is halfway charged.

Wow! We're actually in the Valley of the Dark Lords now! I remember aimlessly wandering around this place in KOTOR and KOTOR II!

Oh, and it looks like there's a human settlement allied with our enemies. So we'll make sure to burn it down.

No, I don't want to look in that mirror!

In the northwest, the local warlord is securing a landing zone. That's fine. We already have one of our own.

Some pirate infantry soldiers! They don't have the firepower to hurt the tanks, so the tanks crush them!

Then a pod walker shows up! Our combined firepower brings the Clone Wars relic down.

So, our secret weapon, the Bombing Run, is now charged. Remember earlier when I was talking about how defenders in ground battles got free garrison units and first pass at build pads and units that start out ready to fight and special strategic defensive structures and how that's really difficult to beat?

The attacker gets two advantages in ground battles. First, the attacker can field more than ten units total, just only ten units at a time. Second, the attacker can call for starbombers to annihilate anything in a part of the map. For the rebels, only Y-Wings can perform bombing runs, and while additional Y-Wings improve the charge rate it caps at three. Hence the three Y-Wing squadrons following our army around.

The Empire uses capital ships to do the same thing, and the cap is still three.

That said, bombing runs destroy almost EVERYTHING in the target zone, and we're not facing that kind of resistance yet.

This looks kind of heavy, but we have the firepower to beat it if we have the guts to keep advancing.

Reminder that T-2Bs beat anti-infantry turrets, and at worst stand on even terms with the best pirate vehicles.

I don't know why they're bothering building that.

Some human partisans attack us. They're actually allied to the Empire, not the pirates.

First, though, we kill some more pirate soldiers.

Because I've fought on this map before, I know where the Human settlement is. Pictured: More partisans vs tanks.

So those landspeeders? Signs of human habitation.

There's three Human Dwellings here, each one occasionally spawning two squads of human civilians. Since they're Empire-allied, the pirates were killing them too.

One down. More dead partisans around us.

And we're done here. We get the 500-credit reward for destroying the structures, regardless of the status of any surviving partisans.

Meanwhile, our infantry kill another Pod Walker.

AT-APs, or Pod Walkers, are interesting units. They have a decent amount of firepower and armor, but no shields. Their most dangerous attack is simply walking over infantry.

With the return of the tanks, we can get this offensive on the road again.

Pirate Swamp Speeder. These things are lightning fast and good against infantry. But they have almost no health and are doing nothing to our T-2B shields. Should you ever command some, their best use in AEM is capturing build pads. They can't do that in Vanilla though, so if you ever have any in Vanilla, their best use is being sold to afford better units.

Sweet fucking Goddess, two anti-vehicle turrets and an anti-infantry turret. If we pressed a conventional assault here, we would suffer serious casualties. I call in a bombing run.

We pull back. We don't have to - there is no friendly fire in Empire at War, even for bombing runs - but we've already lost a tank and if we stick around there for any longer we'll lose half a dozen more.

Three bombers. Overlapping waves of explosions. Tons of damage. Looks like an enemy Swamp Speeder advanced just in time for oblivion.

The entire attack corridor was scourged of enemy units. The tanks knock out an AT-AP, and start on the rest.

Pirates are not foes to be taken lightly. But against a well-ordered force, the half-assed units they use stand no chance.

Another anti-vehicle turret. We stand and fight this one.

We get past it just in time for another AT-AP to emerge from the building over there.

It starts to get a little hot, so we pull our tanks back and send in infantry.

So, pirate base facilities. If yellow planets have a building on them, it will be one of these. These are especially dangerous buildings, in that they generate garrisons consisting of: Pirate infantry, Pirate Plex troopers, Swamp Speeders, Sand Skiffs, and AT-APs. If you get bogged down in attrition against pirates, you'll regret it.

A good tip is to try and use your bombing run against garrison-producing structures whenever possible.

Fortunately, they are not invulnerable.

Building down, so now it's infantry vs AT-AP and Swamp Speeder.

Really not a problem.

Infantry vs anti-infantry turret! We also now have such a crushing advantage that the game is saying "Look, you won."

But I don't want this turret hanging around in the middle of my base area if this planet is invaded.

The last set of pirate soldiers.

Sledgehammer vs mosquito, go!

Was there ever any doubt?

This screen is a liarrrr. We definitely lost way more infantry than that. My evidence?

Our population dropped from 99 to 94.

I dither for a moment on what to do with Korriban.

After doing some quick mental math, I decide to build mining facilities on it.

Korriban has a crappy income. 30 credits per day? Pfft. A mining facility would only produce 60 credits per day on this world. Not worth it, there's better things to do with those build slots. Especially since Korriban has a lot of slots, so it can easily mass-produce high-tech units.


Right now, though, there isn't anything better to do with those build slots. We do not need a second infantry world when Dantooine can train 12 infantry units a minute or so. We can't foist vehicle production off onto Korriban so we can build the mining facilities on Yavin IV instead because we can't construct vehicle factories. We don't have the technology to build upper-chain units, hell we don't even have the pre-requisites for the pre-requisites for upper-chain units. We're not tech level 4 so we can't train Jedi Knights, and we probably won't be tech level 4 for a while. On top of that, Alderaan is producing 1200 credits a day and Kuat is producing 1575. We have 15,000 credits in the bank and nothing high-tech and expensive to spend them on yet. Our economy is much better than fine for only having five worlds.

There's nothing critical we need Korriban for right now, and even though our economy is fine...there's no such as too many credits. It would be trivial to put off the attack on Wayland until we had, like, 200,000 credits and trivialize the rest of the game, but we're not going to do that. We're going to keep moving as fast as we can, and that means rate of income is important too.

Mining facilities cost 500. It'd pay for itself in nine days on Korriban. With Mon Mothma, it'll pay for itself in seven days. It took us fourteen days to conquer Kuat and Korriban. Who knows how long it'll take to deal with Fresia? Especially if I screw up and have to rebuild the army?

So, we're building mines on Korriban even though they provide a comparatively minuscule benefit and we certainly don't need them, simply because this is absolutely the best we can do with Korriban right now.

On an interesting note...

The Rebels are the good guys in this setting. We're aiming to liberate the galaxy from fascism, and restore the glory of the Republic - which includes ending the Empire's racism and slavemaking, plus we're not the ones willing to commit genocide. But one of the realistic things about Empire at War is that some people benefit under the Empire, and are willing to fight to preserve the status quo. Thus forcing the Rebels into a position where, on two worlds now, we've had to blow up the homes of civilians who disagree with us for a tactical advantage. Now, these people were taking up blasters and shooting us and had a realistic chance of killing our soldiers, so they were valid targets in every sense, but still. In an idealistic world, the Good Guys would find a way to avoid killing non-soldiers.

And as a further interesting note, this is not an AEM thing. This is a vanilla thing.

Next update, we'll deal with Wayland.

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