The Theory of Gaming

May 11, 2008

Scouting and Map Control in Warcraft 3

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: — spotpuff @ 22:42

This is another article I wrote a while back. Its title is fairly self explanatory.

Scouting and Map Control

By Spotpuff

Intro

Scouting is perhaps the most undervalued tool available to Warcraft players. It provides you with information on where your opponent’s army is and is not, what buildings and units they possess, and whether or not they have expanded. This information is vital to the outcome of the game, and superior scouting is often the reason for victory.

This article is aimed at the beginner to medium skilled player, but I hope that players of all skill levels find it helpful. This article seeks to formalize the advantages of scouting and discuss the possible advantages that may arise from it. I’ll try to be as general as possible, but I’ll use examples where I think they’ll be helpful and where the scope is specific enough to warrant them.

Scouting is important because it gives you an information and map control advantage. You can turn those advantages into further advantages in expansion, unit counters and map control. In my previous article I discussed different advantages players seek to create while playing a game; you can refer to that article at https://theoryofgaming.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/creating-advantages-in-warcraft-3/. It would be a good preparatory article for this one, as this article and the previous one will use some common terminology.

Map control is impossible without scouting. Simply put, if you do not know where your opponent’s army or base is, you cannot win the game. If your opponent has superior scouting skills, they will have a huge advantage over you.

Scouting can be divided into 2 categories:

Dynamic: Dynamic scouting refers to scouting with a unit or building that can move. For example, a gyrocopter (er, “flying machine” *rolls eyes*) provides a large sight radius and can move around the map. Dynamic scouting is useful for scouting bases and expansions.

Static: Static scouting refers to scouting performed by a unit or building which does not move. For example, a farm built by a peasant provides a limited scouting radius but cannot move. Static scouting is useful for scouting expansions and key paths on the map.

During the course of a game, you will most likely have to use some form of dynamic scouting to win, but static may not be used as extensively. Different races have different scouting methods, with some being stronger at one form of scouting than the other, but generally making up for that with unique advantages over other races. Some races are weaker than others at scouting entirely, but again this is compensated for in other racial strengths, although that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Now let’s discuss each of the above in detail and explain how to transform them into map control.

Dynamic Scouting

Dynamic scouting is most useful as a tool for information when you are planning on assaulting your opponent’s buildings, rather than their army. The reason is simple: the chances of your scout running into your opponent’s army are rather limited compared to running into your opponent’s base or expansions. Armies move, buildings don’t. Maps have a limited number of starting locations and expansion points, and it often makes more tactical sense to locate an expansion closer to their base rather than farther away from it. The number of locations you need to scout are limited, compared to where your enemy’s army is, which changes from moment to moment. With the exception of shades, which are permanently invisible, you will be unable to scout the location of your enemy’s army continuously without being detected and most likely having your scout nullified.

Dynamic scouting is the most common type of scouting as it is the most flexible as well as the most valuable form of scouting. Typically, you send a unit that is expendable or fast to check out an opponent’s base or expansion points to gain information about what buildings they are producing or where they are expanding.

Dynamic scouting gives you an informational advantage over your opponent at the cost of resources and time. The exact resource and time costs are dependent on what unit you send (peon or knight?); peons do just fine as they cost little gold, no lumber, 1 food and are worth little experience to your opponent.

Unfortunately, peons are slow. Really slow. It takes them a long time to get anywhere. Still, in situations where you want to just scout the map and time isn’t of the essence, peons are often the best choice. Just shift click a peon to the various points you want them to scout, and make sure to avoid creeps (or scout at night while they’re sleeping, except for golems) and return it to your base (or wherever you want them to be) at the end of the click order.

For early cheap scouting each race has numerous options available. Skeletons, wisps, and spirit wolves are all good options, however you may have noticed that humans in particular lack an effective renewable scouting option that doesn’t require a significant resource cost. Skeletons from a rod of necromancy and spirit wolves have a limited life span anyways, and wisps can acquire lumber from anywhere on the map. Peasants on the other hand walk slow and typically die once they are discovered, making them one-shot scouts. So humans are left with basically dedicating a peon to scouting, or at least not using one for a short period while he runs to a location and back. Blizzard did take this into account however, as we shall see in the static scouting section.

Late game dynamic scouting options remain the same for most races, although some interesting new options do open up with the use of magic immune units. Because of their magic immunity, dryads, destroyers and faerie dragons can be used effectively in scouting/harassment and cannot be immobilized except by web and ensnare. All of these units have a fast movement speed and can therefore scout enemy bases and expansion without fear of being lost except through carelessness (spellbreakers are not included because they are slow and can easily be killed by faster moving units). Faerie dragons and destroyers also have the added advantage of being flying units, which means they can easily evade defensive forces by flying over tree lines.

These units demonstrate the need for anti-harassment measures at expansions such as towers and/or stationary unit defenses such as crypt fiends and riflemen. If your opponent was foolish enough not to place anti-harassment defenses at their expansion, make them pay by killing his peons with harassment forces, running away and waiting for him to make some more, and then killing them again. In this way, your opponent’s expansion actually becomes a resource drain rather than a resource gain. The exception of course is night elf expansions, whose wisps are nice and cozy in an entangled gold mine.

A special form of dynamic scouting is Faerie Fire, which gives you the sight of whatever unit you cast it on. This can be extremely annoying as, besides the huge -5 armor penalty, units with Faerie Fire on them must be microed away from buildings or your regular army lest they give away your army’s position. While Faerie Fire is extremely annoying, good players can completely nullify its scouting potential using various anti-magic spells or with good micro.

So, you’ve located your opponent’s base and/or expansion. Now what? Attack it! Your scout gives you information on whether or not your opponent’s army is located at their base, and what fortifications are present if any. Use this information to your advantage.

This “lead scout” is often a good idea when assaulting a base. If your army is already near your opponent’s base and your lead scout walks into your opponent’s army, then you know that it’s not the best time to attack. This is a simple idea many players overlook, as confronting both your opponent’s army and their base defenses at the same time is a bad idea.

Your objective in attacking your opponent’s base or expansion will shift depending on the state the game is in; that is, what your plan is and what your opponent’s plan is. Destroying your opponent’s barracks will prevent him from making reinforcements, tech buildings will counter his teching, peons their economy, and destroying their expansion late in the game will prevent them from making anything. So which buildings you target will change depending on what your game plan is.

Dynamic scouting in the later stages of a game is important because if you don’t know where your opponent has expanded, you can’t attack that expansion. If your opponent knows where your expansion is, you can bet they will harass or attack it to prevent you from obtaining more resources and building more units. It’s important that you do this to him before he does it to you.

Static Scouting

In contrast to dynamic scouting, static scouting’s primary function is to determine the location of your opponent’s army at a specific time. A unit or building is placed at a bottleneck on the map such that when enemy units pass by that point, your can determine with relative certainty where they will be shortly thereafter.

Again, peons make a good choice for static scouting as they are cheap and only cost one food. However in the early game wide scale static scouting is not possible, simply because you need peons to gather resources, and wasting money to build a bunch to statically scout will put you needlessly behind your opponent. Night Elves are the undisputed leaders of scouting with workers. Not only are their worker units medium speed, so they can outrun some heroes and most units, but they can harvest lumber at any location on the map without having to return to their town hall to return the resources. This gives Night Elf players a large scouting advantage when playing as they can put wisps at every expansion point and bottleneck on the map with little or not effect on their economy. The only drawback is losing wisps to your opponent’s army, but then you know where they were, and if you detonated your wisp before it died your opponent didn’t gain any experience, and you gain the opportunity to destroy summons or drain mana.

In contrast to dynamic scouting, static scouting is the one area Humans excel at. While Night Elves may rule static unit scouting, Humans rule static building scouting. This is due to the fact that Humans have two of the cheapest buildings around: scout towers and farms. Thankfully scout towers’ cost were reduced to the point where you can actually use them for scouting (prior to a recent patch, scout towers cost the same as a farm). Farms are even better than scout towers as they are quick to build, fairly cheap (80/20), possess fortified armor AND provide you with 6 supply. The drawback of course is that if you use farms for scouting and your opponent destroys them, you have to build another farm to replace it. The Orcs, Undead, and Night Elf all lack cheap buildings that can be used rather recklessly for static scouting purposes, as they all carry significant resource costs or provide your opponent with experience. The Undead can’t even build on regular terrain without blight, which is probably why they get superior dynamic scouting in Shades in order to balance out their lack of static scouting.

Static scouting is a powerful tool for scouting the location of your opponent’s army as well as its composition. It is also useful to some extent for scouting an enemy’s possible expansion points; in most cases where you want to scout an enemy expansion statically you can place a peon at a probable expansion point, most likely their natural expansion, and if they build an expansion you’ll know about it.

In addition to peons, certain units designed for scouting or otherwise also make good static scouts, particularly gyrocopters as they are cheap, have a large sight radius and can detect invisible units; plus flying units can be positioned behind tree lines such that they are invisible to ground units. On some maps like Scorched Basin if your opponent is located on the top portion of the map and the terrain slopes upwards towards the edge of the map, a gyrocopter can be placed right on the edge of the map on higher terrain such that it is invisible on the minimap, but you will be given a nice view of a large portion of your opponent’s base. Other good cheap units for this type of scouting are Shades, Gargoyles, a Beast Master’s hawks, Batriders, Hippogryphs and Faerie Dragons, although none quite match the resource economy of the humble gyrocopter (They came from… behind!).

Special forms of static scouting include sight wards and reveal from the Goblin Lab. Both of these are temporary, and have their unique advantages.

Sight wards are great because they last a long time and are invisible. Other than their telltale sound when activated, sight wards are hard to detect. They have a large sight radius and can detect invisible units. An orc player who uses sight wards properly will have important bottlenecks scouted at all times, giving him a huge advantage. Some low level creeps drop sight wards, which can be placed in an enemy base early on to give you information on what types of units they are building and what their game plan might be, as well as at bottlenecks or possible expansion points to scout army movements or expansion.

Reveal is a versatile tool in the right hands. A wisp or farm placed at a goblin lab gives constant access to the Lab at negligible cost, and allows a player to scan an area at will say in the middle of a fight to detect invisible units, or to check an enemy’s expansion. At 50 gold a pop, it’s not cheap, but then again it has no cooldown so multiple locations can be scanned quickly and it does not require you to be proximally close to the area you are scanning. Humans can gain this incredible ability for “free” by upgrading their arcane towers with Magic Sentry or Mortar Teams with Flare. While also only lasting a few seconds, these abilities are both renewable after a short cooldown and most importantly free, providing a large scouting advantage to you.

So how does static scouting help?

Well, first of all, while your opponent may destroy a scout farm or peon, keep in mind that those buildings or units are fairly cheap. Trading a peon which cost 60 or 75 gold or a farm that cost 80/20 to know the exact location and composition of your opponent’s army and the level and inventory of their hero (if your micro is good enough to click on him quickly) is a fair price. Contrast this to a reveal from a Goblin Laboratory, where you pay 50 gold to scan an area on the map, where your opponent may or may not be.

Secondly, it puts pressure on your opponent to actively finish whatever they are doing quickly. If your opponent feels that you know the location of their army, they may feel like they need to change what they are doing or where they are going so that you don’t interrupt them. For example on Lost Temple if you’ve fast expanded and then placed a scout farm at the bottleneck leading to your natural expansion and your opponent decides to go destroy your expansion, he’ll have to run past the farm or through your main base. Either way, you now know where your opponent’s army is, and where they are most likely headed (your expansion). Now you can race your army back to protect your expansion and Call to Arms at your main, saving yourself a Town Portal and flanking your opponent’s army, most likely killing units in the process.

Also static scouting gives you the opportunity to creepjack your opponent, and no one likes being creepjacked. Knowing this, you should creepjack your opponent as much as you possibly can over the course of a game if you have employed a lot of static scouting.

As you can imagine, knowing when your opponent’s army crosses through key bottlenecks around the map, especially near your base, is a huge advantage and can win you games.

Conclusion

I hope this article has been informative and has given you a new look at scouting. Most of the information in this article you may have known, some of it you may not have. Hopefully this has provided you with a brief glimpse into the importance of scouting and how you can use it to help you win.

If you have questions or comments, you can direct them to spotpuff@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

April 20, 2008

Creating Advantages in Warcraft 3

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: , , — spotpuff @ 3:01

This is a repost of an article I wrote several years ago and submitted to warcraftstrategy.com (which is now defunct). It won article of the week and I won $50. Woohoo!

Anyways, here it is. Enjoy.

Intro

Warcraft 3, as well as any other game, can be viewed as a homeostatic system, meaning that it begins in equilibrium (although that could be debated, until the next patch comes) and both players try to create disequilibrium in their favour, while responding to the disequilibrium their opponent creates. A player will try to create advantages in his favour while eliminating his opponent’s advantages, ultimately trying to destroy all of the opponent’s buildings.

This article is intended for Warcraft players who are of average skill level who would like to improve their play. Improvement will be reached hopefully by changing the reader’s mental perception of the game by formalizing some concepts and examining how those concepts affect the outcome of the game.

To be successful, you don’t have to understand what you’re doing; you only have to find someone else who is successful and copy them. While you could theoretically become a very good Warcraft player just by copying what other top players are doing, you will learn faster by understanding why it is those top level players do what they do.

Build orders and micro/macromanagement are important; however they can be practiced or copied from good players. After outlining some basic concepts, this guide will take a look at various strategies that can be used and what kinds of advantages they create.

The System

In Warcraft, advantages and disadvantages tend to fall under the following categories, in approximate order of importance (though this order may vary by race and strategy):

1. Material: possessing superior units to your opponent in number or function

2. Tech: possessing a superior technology level than your opponent

3. Hero: possessing heroes of superior level or function than your opponent

4. Resource: possessing a superior amount of resources than your opponent

5. Scouting: gathering more information about the map than your opponent

6. Micro: possessing superior micromanagement than your opponent

7. Macro: possessing superior macromanagement than your opponent

8. Space: controlling more of the map than your opponent

9. Time: decreasing the amount of time necessary to gain other advantages

10. Damage: being able to deal large amounts of damage quickly to a unit(s)

Games will revolve around gaining these advantages for yourself while preventing or countering the advantages your opponent creates for themselves. A common saying is that “Warcraft is a game of counters”, meaning that advantages in the game can be eliminated provided the correct actions are taken.

An important note is that while these advantages are distinct, they are not isolated. A resource advantage in gold and lumber by itself is useless unless converted to a material advantage. Similarly, a tech advantage is useless if not converted to a material advantage. There is no point upgrading to tier 3 if you do not plan on producing any tier 3 units or researching any tier 3 upgrades, as you have spent resources that could have been used elsewhere.

These advantages form the basis of any tactic or strategy employed during the game. The more of these advantages you can create for yourself, the greater your probability of winning will be. If you are not actively creating these advantages at all times, you are giving your opponent an advantage. The idea here is similar to that of chess, where players take turns moving pieces; do something every move. Every move is one that cannot be taken back or undone, so something productive must be done with each and every move or your opponent will most likely win the game (unless they too make similar mistakes).

In Warcraft, the same is true. If you are sitting at your base with your army and your opponent is creeping with theirs, then they are gaining a hero (XP (experience)) and resource advantage (gold, experience, items). If you are sitting on a stash of gold and lumber while your opponent is spending his resources to tech or produce units, then they are gaining a material advantage over you.

If you are a fairly novice player or very new to Battle.net you may be overwhelmed at first by the dramatic increase in complexity that playing an actual person poses rather than playing against the computer. People can be unpredictable and don’t follow the exact same strategy every game. One thing you may notice from viewing replays of “top” level players (available at www.replays.net, www.replayers.com, www.warcraftstrategy.com, www.wcreplays.com and other sites as well) is that they are constantly doing something, be it creeping, harassing their opponent, or spending their money. They don’t hold a reserve of resources unless they need to for strategic reasons e.g. to tech or avoid upkeep. Good players are always actively creating advantages for themselves.

Now, let’s take a look at some strategies and examine why exactly they are effective at giving the player that employs them an advantage.

Harassment

Harassment is one of the most devastating tools at a player’s disposal. Almost everyone has played a game and went creeping only to be interrupted by a Demon Hunter (DH) or hear that their base is under attack by a Farseer (FS) and his wolves. Depending on the opponent’s skill, they may be able to creep and fend off your harassment at the same time, although you are usually able to inflict some casualties on your opponent’s base.

Knowing the advantages outlined initially, the effectiveness of harassment may be a little bit clearer to you. Worker harassment provides the harassing player with an indirect resource advantage and gives them a time advantage. Your opponent must respond to harassment either by moving worker units out of harm’s way or by constructing buildings to help eliminate the harassment threat; both these options take up resources. Peons cannot gather resources while in burrows, nor can peasants while engaged in Call to Arms.

Night Elves (NE) and the Undead (UD) have less of a problem with harassment; NE by spacing wisps around the map (which provides a scouting advantage as well as being an anti-harassment measure) and UD because of their Nerubian (frost) Tower and the usually present lumber ghouls to attack any units threatening acolytes.

The UD frost tower is particularly effective as an anti-harassment tool due to its slow effect, making it easier to surround heroes and forcing them to either die or town portal (TP). An enemy hero’s death gives you a small resource (revival cost) and experience advantage (100xp + any xp gained while the enemy hero is reviving) and forcing them to TP gives you a resource advantage (350g for another TP).

As the harassing player, you should keep those things in mind. Level 1 heroes revive very quickly, leaving little time for your opponent to increase their experience advantage. Also, reviving a level 1 hero is cheaper than buying another TP; although if the time you save by TP’ing over reviving can be more constructively used through further harassment, then by all means do so. This is a judgment call based on experience and the countermeasures your opponent has taken to your harassment.

Should you choose to creepjack your opponent rather than harass their workers, you are attempting to gain a resource advantage by picking off injured units or creeps, giving you XP and possibly gold and items as well. This tends to work best with heros with a nuking spell (Death Knight (DK), Warden, Blademaster (BM), etc.) as it allows you to deal the final blow to a creep, after your enemy has done all the work and taken all the damage from fighting it.

Another function of harassment is to divert the attention of your enemy from your base. If you are trying to tech early, you will most likely not have adequate base defenses or troops. If your opponent is good they will scout your base and attack it, while relying on their natural base defense to hold off your harassment and hope they can use their material advantage to overwhelm your base defense.

Generally speaking, HU bases are the most prone to harassment, especially later in the game when heroes level up and area of effect (AOE) spells increase in damage. Large numbers of peasants may be dispatched extremely quickly, leaving the HU player’s resource inflow crippled.

Next weakest are Orc bases, whose primary defense, burrows, only have heavy armor until upgraded at tier 3 with fortified defenses. As such they take full damage from all damage types and extra damage from magic attacks (as many Orc players will attest from the dreaded destroyer rush, which was thankfully fixed in 1.16). Once burrows and watch towers are upgraded to fortified armor, however, they become extremely difficult to kill. Spiked barricades also prove extremely effective against light melee units such as footmen and ghouls, and totally useless against all NE tier 1.

NE wisps are prone to harassment early from heroes with a nuking spell and later in the game the entangled mine is also a target for harassment as it prevents the NE player from mining gold giving the harassing player a resource advantage.

UD bases are very difficult to harass as frost towers and ghouls tends to limit the amount of time a hero can spend in the base. A popular strategy is to kill acolytes while the UD player upgrades his Necropolis, as an upgrading Necropolis cannot make new acolytes. A frost tower, combined with moving acolytes around the base and forcing the harasser to run between buildings while taking damage, tends to make this rather difficult. Another option is to destroy the haunted gold mine, as without this the UD player is unable to mine gold and it requires considerable resources and time to rebuild. If you manage to kill a UD player’s mine and all their acolytes, and they didn’t save enough cash to build another acolyte, they will be forced to creep or sell items to afford an acolyte and a new mine.

Countering harassment is usually a matter of increasing base defense or diverting a few units to attack a harassing hero. For example, an AM and 6 footmen creeping may be harassed by a DH; create a new control group with 2 footmen and send them to attack the DH while continuing to creep with your AM and 4 remaining footmen. While most heroes have fast movement speed, this will still prevent them from hanging around too much while you go about your business.

If you are being harassed at your base early in the game, it may be prudent to leave 2-3 units there to attack any hero that may try to harass you.

Teching

Teching provides you with a functional material advantage over your opponent at the expense of resources. The units available at tier 2 and 3 offer much better functionality than tier 1 units for their cost. Knights and abominations are more generally more effective for their cost than footman or ghouls.

Generally units at tier 2 tech are support units and cannot function as the sole units in your army; the notable exception being wyverns, which can overwhelm opponents if timed correctly with harassment.

Tier 2 support units should be used to augment your army, not replace it. Everyone remembers the mass shaman days but those days are gone. Casters can augment your army, but are easily countered and shouldn’t be used as an army.

Tier 3 units will typically replace tier 1 units because of their increased damage/cost ratio, and several tier 3 units can completely dominate the game if obtained e.g. frost wyrms, tauren, chimeras.

Teching provides you with the advantage of having access to superior units than your opponent. To counter teching, you must nullify the advantage it creates by either teching yourself or not allowing your opponent to construct buildings that allow him to take advantage of his tech level. For example, destroying your opponents arcane sanctum, tauren totem, or slaughterhouse when almost finished constructing puts them even further behind. Having already sacrificed resources and time to gain a higher tech level, you can use those resources instead to build additional units, creep, and destroy his tech buildings. This nullifies his tech advantage, as he wasted all that time and money with nothing to show for it.

Hero Killing

Hero killing provides you with an experience advantage. Different races have different hero “nuking” strategies, with UD and HU typically being the most feared.

The premise is simple: if your enemy has no hero, you can trade units, even at a huge loss, and still have an experience advantage over them, since their heroes won’t be getting experience while they’re reviving. It frees up a temporary time advantage for you to creep and gain an even further advantage in experience over them; in addition to the gold advantage caused by them having to revive their hero. Killing your opponent’s altar will further cripple their response, as this provides you with a further time/xp advantage and they will be hesitant to trade more units with you for fear of allowing your heroes to level up.

UD players use this strategy a lot. They quickly tech to tier 3 to get frenzied ghouls, statues with healing and 3 heroes (typically DK, Lich, CL). The idea from there on out is to impale your army, surround your heroes with ghouls, and then nuke said heroes to death. Once that happens, the remaining ghouls and heroes mop up the priests/sorceresses/rifles sitting around, or the human runs away, and the UD creeps. Even if you do lose some ghouls, because they are tier 1 units they are worth less and less XP as your enemy’s heroes level up, and even less than the typical units you will be killing in the process (rifles, casters, grunts). Either way, the UD has a significant XP advantage over the human, and UD heroes are extremely hard to stop at high levels.

Expansion

Expansion gives you a large resource advantage at the cost of time and a temporary resource outlay. If you set up an expansion and it goes unchecked by your opponent, you will have double their gold income, which leads to a unit/tech advantage. Expanding also puts pressure on your opponent, as he will want to take your expansion down quickly to minimize the economic advantage you gain.

Countering expansion follows the same ideas as countering teching: use the resources that your opponent spent on expanding to build additional units and then attack his expansion to gain an advantage yourself. If you are unable to do this, you can also expand yourself, or remove your opponent’s unit building structures such as barracks. This way you prevent your opponent from exercising his economic advantage (unless he decides to dump all that gold into a lot of peons and peon rush you). This gives you a time advantage to build even more units and continue attacking his expansion to take it down.

Expanding is important since resources on any given map are limited; if you control more resources and are of equal skill to your opponent, you will win. Typically if your opponent has not expanded and you have, you can defend your expansion while scouting the map and destroy any expansion he tries to build. Expanding gives you a huge resource and material advantage late in the game because you can continue building units while your opponent cannot; every unit you lose is replaceable (to some extent) while every unit your opponent loses without a source of income is gone forever; eventually this leads to your victory.

As a player looking to expand, put up a lot of towers at your expansion and wall them in with other structures, such as item shops, farms, or barracks. It is my opinion that putting up three or four towers at an expansion is a worthy investment if it prevents your expansion from being harassed. I cannot count how many replays I have seen where, in the face of constant harassment at an expansion, a player will refuse to build towers simply because they do not wish to allocate the resources to do so. Unfortunately, losing peons at 75 gold each and possibly the expansion itself should be enough reason to defend it, but other players disagree with me.

Defending your expansion forces your opponent to allocate more resources to destroy it. If you have 4 towers at your expansion, your opponent will not be able to kill all your peons with a few ghouls or dryads; they will be forced to send a larger group of units to it. Given the fact that a player’s micro resources are limited, most players will use their whole army to attack your expansion if it is well defended, as they cannot co-ordinate an attack on a sufficiently large scale as well as creep at the same time with their hero or another section of their army.

Scouting

Scouting provides you with an information advantage which may lead to a unit advantage, a resource advantage, or a time advantage. If you see that your opponent is hard teching to tier 2, you can rush their base and destroy it before they even get there. If you see your opponent is investing heavily in casters, you can get anti-caster units and inflict heavy casualties on their army, giving you a material, hero and time advantage.

Further, scouting gives you control over the map. That is, you can creepjack your opponent, destroy his expansions, and time your attacks against his base if you scout well, as well as properly counter any units he may produce. If you see your opponent heading towards your base, you can also defend your base or attack your opponent’s base and destroy some structures before TPing back to your base to defend it.

Scouting is extremely important but oft times not done well. In the early game, it is well worth sacrificing a peon to gain information on where your opponent’s base is and what units they are building. Knowing your opponent’s base location gives you an idea of the creep order they may proceed in as well as giving you the opportunity to attack their base and destroy critical tech structures (sanctums, spirit lodges, tauren totems, etc.) before they can be used.

Later in the game, sending a peon to scout expansions (shift clicking) is simple and easy to do and provides you with lots of information about where your opponent is and is not. Often times late game victories depend on expanding successfully while denying your opponent an expansion, or destroying any peon lines that he may be using to get gold from a distant mine.

Constant Offense

In any game where you cannot determine the position and/or actions of your opponent’s army at any given time, the person who is constantly active and attacking will win. Constantly creeping or attacking your opponents base creates a situation where your opponent may be hesitant to leave their base for fear of it getting attacked. If this is the case, you are almost assured victory, as you are free to creep at will the entire map.

Coupled with adequate scouting, you can time attacks on a player’s base that inflict enormous casualties. If you destroy 4 burrows and then TP out, while your opponent was walking, then you have gained a huge material and resource advantage. If your opponent TPs you will generally have SOME time to destroy buildings and/or units and then TP out yourself; in which case you have traded TPs and the only way your opponent can come out ahead is if the resources and experience gained creeping (or whatever they were doing when you attacked their base) outweighs the resources lost in your attack.

Never get stuck in a defensive mode. In solo or AT games, if you are stuck defending, you will lose, as you are wasting time while your opponent may be creeping or expanding. Simply put, you cannot defend your opponent to death, you have to destroy their base. If you sit at your base and wait for your opponent to strike, they may simply send in a scout first (always a wise idea) and if they see your army is defending your base and not willing to leave, they can creep the whole map. In AT games, only one base may be adequately defended against a concentrated enemy force, forcing you to waste a TP and time which may cost units and/or buildings. If you do TP to help an ally defend their base, then you’ve spent a TP and your enemies can attack another base, forcing you to spend more money on TPs simply because they took the initiative to attack you.

You can see that being the aggressor in Warcraft holds many advantages, both tactical and strategical in nature.

That being said, this does not mean you should throw caution to the wind and attack your opponent’s base at every opportunity. Sending in a scout first to ascertain the situation is advantageous as if your opponent has a large force at his base you can spend time creeping rather than rushing in and losing units. If your opponent does not have units present, feel free to run in and kill some peons or important buildings. If you can catch them without a TP far from their base, you will have gained a huge advantage.

Conclusion

I hope you found this guide informative. I am not a great player and there are many top players who probably know all of the above information intuitively or through practice (that is after all why they are top players), but I hope this guide will help you increase your skill level and maybe think about the strategy you are aiming for and what advantages you hope to create or nullify in the course of a game.

Good luck and I hope this guide has helped!

March 30, 2008

Unit Costs Including Food Supply in Warcraft 3

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: , — spotpuff @ 6:38

Food isn’t free.

When looking at how much a unit “costs” in Warcraft 3, few people consider the costs associated with unit food supply into the cost of the unit. In most cases the most relevant data is simply the unit’s listed gold and lumber cost. Food usage does effect the unit’s final cost though since food supply is not free. Like any other resource in an RTS game, food costs you something to supply and that cost can be calculated.

This table illustrates the “actual” real cost of each race’s food supplying building.

Table 1: Food buildings with modified lumber cost

Building Food Provided Gold
Cost
Lumber Cost Build Time Lumber Cost+
Farm 6 80 20 35 55
Moon Well 10 180 40 50 90
Burrow 10 160 40 50 90
Ziggurat 10 150 50 50 50

The Lumber Cost+ column indicates the actual cost of lumber given the fact that a worker unit must construct the building and while they’re doing that they could have been harvesting lumber. This is of course assuming that you use a lumber harvesting worker to build a building and not a gold harvesting worker, which I think most would agree is a logical assumption.

Feeding the troops

So you’re ready to build a bunch of units to go crush your opponent’s base. Unfortunately for you, you have gold and lumber, but no food. What’s a player to do? Build some farms, of course.

Assuming you’re already at your pre-set food limit (all players start with a town hall which provides 10 food), you will be required to build additional farms (or town halls, which is less efficient than buildilng farms) to build additional units. Additional units do not just cost their listed gold and lumber price, they also incur an additional cost due to food costs. If you don’t believe the above is true, hit the food cap and try to build some more units. I promise it won’t work unless you spend some more resources to build some farms.

Now of course each race’s “farm” unit costs a different amount, and provides a different amount of food or function to each race. Burrows and Ziggurats can be upgraded at an additional cost to towers and Moon Wells double as health and mana restoration. But for the purposes of this article I’ll be looking specifically at the cost of the farm buildings and not their “value added” features, which at the end of the day don’t really matter in terms of food production. Regardless of how many static defenses your base already has, if you hit your food cap and need to build more farm units, a Ziggurat still costs the same amount even if you don’t need more defensive towers.

Given the food supplied by each farm building, you can calculate the additional cost involved in building any unit in Warcraft 3. That little food icon that each unit costs can be converted into an additional gold and lumber cost associated with each unit. Below is a table that shows the cost of each unit with the cost of their race’s farm building added in.

Table 2: Modified unit costs considering food cost.

Unit Gold
Cost
Lumber Cost Food Cost Gold Cost+ Lumber Cost+
Dragonhawk Rider 200 30 3 240 57.5
Flying Machine 90 30 1 103.33 39.17
Footman 135 0 2 161.67 18.33
Gryphon Rider 280 70 4 333.33 106.67
Knight 245 60 4 298.33 96.67
Mortar Team 180 70 3 220 97.5
Peasant 75 0 1 88.33 9.17
Priest 135 10 2 161.67 28.33
Rifleman 205 30 3 245 57.5
Siege Engine 195 60 3 235 87.5
Sorceress 155 20 2 181.67 38.33
Spell Breaker 215 30 3 255 57.5
Archer 130 10 2 166 28
Chimaera 330 70 5 420 115
Druid of the Claw 255 80 4 327 116
Druid of the Talon 135 20 2 171 38
Dryad 145 60 3 199 87
Faerie Dragon 155 25 2 191 43
Glaive Thrower 210 65 3 264 92
Hippogryph 160 20 2 196 38
Huntress 195 20 3 249 47
Mountain Giant 425 100 7 551 163
Wisp 60 0 1 78 9
Demolisher 220 50 4 284 86
Grunt 200 0 3 248 27
Kodo Beast 255 60 4 319 96
Peon 75 0 1 91 9
Raider 180 40 3 228 67
Shaman 130 20 2 162 38
Spirit Walker 195 35 3 243 62
Troll Berserker 135 20 2 167 38
Troll Headhunter 135 20 2 167 38
Tauren 280 80 5 360 125
Troll Batrider 160 40 2 192 58
Wind Rider 265 40 4 329 76
Witch Doctor 145 25 2 177 43
Abomination 240 70 4 300 90
Acolyte 75 0 1 90 5
Banshee 155 30 2 185 40
Crypt Fiend 215 40 3 260 55
Destroyer 0 0 2 30 10
Frost Wyrm 385 120 7 490 155
Gargoyle 185 30 2 215 40
Ghoul 120 0 2 150 10
Meat Wagon 230 50 4 290 70
Necromancer 145 20 2 175 30
Obsidian Statue 200 35 3 245 50

Of course food is not unlimited; there’s a cap of 100 food supply in Warcraft 3, so there is an even greater cost associated with using food than just looking at the resource cost. When you start getting close to either of the “soft” food caps at low and high upkeep (50 and 80 food, respectively), or the absolute food cap at 100, the cost of each unit becomes significantly more clear.

Perhaps you need to set up an expansion but you’re currently at 95/100 food used. Do you spend the last 5 food supply making 5 more peasants? Or do you build some more units to fight your opponent? Without food constraints you wouldn’t have to make that choice: you could make both. But food limits are in the game and so you have a decision to make. In the future I’m hoping to examine and quantify the costs associated with each unit more closely in order to look at effectively managing resources.

Generally speaking, the food limit will never be reached in a game since you and your opponent(s) will be trying to win. Low and high upkeep may be reached but both players usually do not allow each other to “build up” and hit the absolute food cap. Still, many players do not take into account that little food icon each unit costs is essentially a resource that costs gold, lumber, time and micromanagement resources as well.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading!

*Edit*
Rick commented that the cost of food supply is amortized over the lifetime of the farm building and this is true; I should have made it more clear that I am talking specifically about hitting the food limit and building more farms.  Assuming you’re going to build a NEW unit (which hopefully won’t die, but in all likelihood will) the costs are accurate.

Things can get even more complicated when you consider low and high upkeep, since in that case gold becomes even more scarce and costs are essentially inflated since you are making 7/4 gold per worker trip instead of 10.  I’ll hopefully look at resource management in a future article.

Thanks to Rick for the tip.

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