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CNC Generals Formations and Battle Tactics

By Medihev` - 11th May 2010 - 22:32 PM

Generals, attention! Today you will be introduced into the finest art of warfare. If you have internalized this knowledge it is exactly what is missing to become a really great General!

Let's start with our own little definition of formations and battletactics relating Command and Conquer Generals:
We can generally see formations as the way how and where we place our units right before a battle. A good/bad formation can influence the outcome of the battle drastically.
Battletactics on the other hand is quite a vague expression, I want to define it as the following, the way how you micro in battles. After all we don't want to sit by doing nothing while our army is fighting automatically. Same as formations, battletactics also have a huge influence on the battle outcome.


Geometric forms like a circle, a ball, a line, a triangle and more form the basis for our formations. De facto your goal will be to put your units into the most efficient formation for an incoming battle. Meaning; as much firepower as possible and on the other side as little as possible casualties.

1. The Circle
So what could possibly be the point of such a formation? In fact, a circle alone is weak, useless and inefficient in relation of firepower. However you can use it as a circle of protection, heavier armored units form the circle to absorb the damage in order to protect weaker armored units in the center. In the field you can test or perform it perfectly with Paladins and for example Humvees filled with Missile Defenders. A group of Paladins is like a fortress regarding the damage they can absorb from rocket projectiles with their defense lasers while Rockvees are able to deal immense damage out of their safe position.
Just for the record, it's not meant to be literally a circle - just the idea of it.

Here a possible example:

Author's Note - for further details click here

2. The Line
So most likely the easiest formation you can get is a line. The advantage: immense firepower since almost every unit will be able to shoot. But often an advantage comes with an disadvantage, so is this line formation very vulnerable to flankings. In practice you will find this formation the most since it is easy to perform, in relation of firepower it only gets beaten by a little variation of it: a slight curve. It even increases the possibilty of all units being able to shoot.

3. The Triangle
Again it is not literally meant to be a triangle but rather a spearhead formation (closed) and a reversed spearhead formation (open). The spearhead formation (closed) is weak in relation of firepower but has the capability to penetrate through enemy lines. The reversed spearhead formation on the other hand rather provides firepower and is good against surrounded units (similar to the slight curve).

4. The Ball
Unfortunately this is the most common formation in Command and Conquer Generals, we preferably gonna call it "no formation" since thats actually what it is. Just a randomly placed mixture of units without any deeper sense. Once again the problem is simply the low firepower and units blocking each other. Here a most common example: a bunch of Scorpion tanks is following 3/4 Paladins, the ball "formation" prevents that the Scorpion tanks get into an efficient fire position, instead they just block each other. It would be better if the Scorpion tanks try to hunt those Paladins down in the reversed spearhead or slight curve formation.

What's left to say?
Always keep in mind that you place your units with caution and prudence, it doesn't make sense to run with your Gatling tanks first into a horde of tanks. Always make sure that you place your units into a proper formation before you encounter your enemy. Also keep in mind your units type of armor, make sure that you place heavier armored units in the front to let them absorb the main damage while you place less armored vehicles like Rocket Buggies in the back where they are safe. Knowing all this about formations is one thing, but being able to put all this into practice in the heat of the moment is the craft.

An example of a decent order, ordered by their armor strength.

This video shows you that it is possible and useful to use a formation.

If you are heading that way into a battle it will end in a disaster, your tanks will be eaten one by one.

I want to go a bit further relating examples of unit placements in the field - as already mentioned above you can place your units in the way that the most heavy armored unit is in the front but there are also other possibilies aswell and rather unethical. You can use cheap and easily produceable units as meatshield, such as Reguards - we will call it "meatshield". The only reason why you should use meatshield is simple, they distract enemy units and by this absorbs a high percentage of damage. This may prove useful in a Gatling Tankhunter vs Scorpion tanks situation, Redguards are perfect in catching the attention of Scorpion rockets. In fact it is generally quite useful in cases of splash damage, such as Scorpion battles - send one or two Scorpions ahead of your army to catch the main damage dealt by the rockets.

A few scorpion rockets or scrapped up Technical will be devastating...

The Formation Function (CTRL + F)
When talking about formations, the question may appear about the formation function (CTRL + F). So is it useful? Well, this always can be answered with yes and no. It can be very useful if you want to keep "circle" formations such as the Paladin/ Rockvee combination, also if you want to equal the speed of your units. But as everything it also has its dark sides, several times I experienced that my units acted "differently", like units stop out of no reason. It can also turn into a disadvantage as soon as you have to change your movement direction and your units keep stubbornly their formation, and possibly even block in case of retreat. I personally don't use this formation function and feel myself comfortable with putting my formations manually, but I think everyone has to make his own experiences.


Now that you got an idea about formations, it is time to learn how to micro in battles (beside force fire). Your main goal in a battle should always be to win it, but it does look way better if you got a kill/ death ratio > 4, meaning kill as much as possible and keep your casualties to a minimum.
To do so, it is important that you can estimate your opponent's army and with it your chances of being succesful in the battle. You got two options in hopeless situations; the retreat, if you do so, make sure that you have a realistic chance in escaping (your unit/s should be faster than the one/s chasing you), then on the other hand if it is really hopeless and don't even have the chance to retreat it is better to face your opponent and try to deal some damage or even kill a unit or two.
To keep units alive is like meat and potatoes, to do so is the craft but it is possible.

Have a look:

You need an eye for the action and some fast fingers for the micro, further you should keep the indolence of your units in mind (possible delays and its indolence itself). So as soon as you see which of your units is targeted from your opponent you can pull it back and lure him into a trap or just retreat and save your unit. You can send it back, repair it, strike back with full force and overwhelm your opponent with unit advantage.

As already mentioned above, there are formations or situations that requires that you split your forces in order to flank. Such splitting or flanking can be very useful against "thin" formations such as the "line", you hold the ground with the main part of your forces and flank the opponent's formations with a couple of units.

This replay is a good example for formations, battletactics and micro!

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