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The Rules of War: A Basic Guide to Battle Situations - Part 1

By lordpeter3 - 9th October 2012 - 13:55 PM

Hello everyone, and welcome to this blog-infused-guide where I will talk about the rules of war in general and how to use them on the RTS battlefield. In this series I will go through some old knowledge from 2000 years ago right up until knowledge gained in the Second World War.

I hope this series will give you a wider view on how battles are fought and won, what the rules of thumb are and overall that sometimes RTS games do come close to real warfare and some don't.

The Rules of War: A Basic Guide to Battle Situations - Part 1

In this first episode we will talk about some basics that are set up by the Chinese general and statesmen Sun Tzu. This master of warfare lived 2000 years ago and some people do refer to him as the inventor of war as we know it to date. This is because he was the first who wrote a book about military tactics and strategies.

You might be surprised to hear that his book is still common literature in most military academies around the world. Having said all this, below is a composition of quotes taken from his works to highlight how such information is relevant to RTS gameplay.

Sun Tzu said:

All warfare is based upon deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make them believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush them

LordPeter3 says:
Pretending to be or have the opposite of what you do can give your opponent the wrong idea of what they're facing, and therefore they will prepare their next move wrongly. So in such cases, not being able to counter-scout an opponent isn't always bad as long as you know what your opponent has seen.

For example, hiding vital part of your army or a tech' structure in unusual places of a map can be a crucial step in securing a surprising victory later on. In tactical sense, RTS can incorporate a psychological aspect through letting an opponent believe something you want them to believe so that you can take advantage of their presumptions.

Sun Tzu said:

In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.

LordPeter3 says:
If you're planning to attack a certain point, then try to conceal your unit concentrations for that attack as good as possible (i.e: counter-scout to deny such information). This way you have the advantage of surprise when you attack, thus leaving your opponent unable to adapt as fast as they may want or need to.

Faking a push before retreating back to your stable position can draw the opponents army and attention away from the part of the map that you might intend to attack, or serve as a distraction for a harassment/hit and run tactic.
Sun Tzu said:

Try to look weak when your army is strong; try to look strong when your army is weak.

LordPeter3 says:
It can be fatal in a battle to pretend the opposite of what your army is. If it is badly damaged or simply outnumbered try to look strong so your opponent will hesitate to attack you. If you do this well then the opponent may choose the delay their attack, which buys you time to repair and build units.

Creating the illusion of being stronger than what you may be can be achieved through using the remaining units of your army to run in guns blazing at your opponents weak spots to hit them where it hurts. Also running around the map with some units may make them think that you stronger since most players will hide in there base if they are reinforcing, repairing or building up forces.

Looking weaker when you are strong on the other hand is a very lethal and hard-to-master skill. As mentioned earlier, hiding part of your army can make up for some nice surprises later on but it can also lure your opponent into an even larger trap.

If your opponent thinks you are weak while you are actually strong they may try to attack you head on and with most (if not all) of their forces while neglecting heavy casualties since they can be led into thinking victory is on the horizon. This puts you in the position of having the premature-push that you wanted them to make, and since defending is easier it opens up an opportunity for an effective counter-attack.

Pressuring your opponent and keeping momentum up can put your opponent on their toes and on the defensive, which can add to the illusion that you're stronger than what you may actually be.

That concludes this first part - stay tuned for the next edition. Also, feel free to head on over to the forum topic to join the discussion!

Author: lordpeter3

lordpeter3 is a respected RA3
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Strategy Specialist who for over 4 years has written guides, made VODs and laid down advice for members of the Red3.org