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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: A Treatise on the Tactics of Timing and Tempo

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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    A Treatise on the Tactics of Timing and Tempo

    Timing is a very important tactical concept which most people seem to ignore or not think about. Tempo can be seen as a sub-topic of timing, dealing with the flow and movement of the game. A mastery of these is necessary to ensure that your units are used the most effectively, and greatly influence your chance of winning.

    I will break down timing related tactics into the following sub-topics:
    -Initiative Order
    -Interaction between your initiative order and the enemy's
    -Manipulating/taking advantage of the turn order
    -Momentum in battle


    Each sub-topic will have its own post. Warning: walls of text.

    TLDR: be aware of timing and tempo. It heavily contributes to winning games.

  2. #2
    Member Yth's Avatar
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    Initiative order:
    A large part of your success in battle depends on your preperations before the battle even begins. Aside from picking your units wisely and setting their stats up efficiently, it is important to make sure that your units will take their turns in ways which support each other.

    The general rule is to have your important armor breaking units go before your high strength "hitters". However there are also several specific interactions which need to be considered, to take advantage of class synergies.

    For example, a Strongarm who goes before your Warhawk has the option of pushing your Warhawk forward to do a decicive blow to the enemy. If the order were reversed, such a combo would not work at all as the enemy would have a much longer time to react and cripple the Warhawk.

    So you need to set your initiative order up in a way that your units support each others strengths, and to allow for specific combinations of abilities. Logical.

    Once you have the order for your units worked out there is a very important secondary thing to consider: the timing of your units' turns versus those of the enemy.

    Consider the following: you have decided to set up your unit order in the following sequence:
    A --> B --> C --> D --> E --> F ---> ...

    What you have actually done is create a chain sequence which feeds on itself or repeats:
    ABCDEFABCDEFABC...

    As discussed above, this is your desired sequence for very specific tactical reasons. The thing left to consider is that while the sequence should follow in that exact order, the timing of which unit goes first can be variable. You could instead shift the initiative to read:

    C --> D --> E --> F ---> A --> B --> ...

    Or

    F ---> A --> B --> C --> D --> E --> ...

    Or any other variation. All that this would do is change which of your units will act first versus your opponent's sequence. This is important because if your opponent has a predictable opening sequence (armor breakers ---> archers ---> high strength warriors), you can set your armor breakers to act after theirs (desirable if you want to play passively), or before theirs (desirable if you want to play agressively).

    This reaches the point of "meta-gaming", where you try to take advantage of what opponents will commonly do with their turn order, and if enough people shift their turn order then you need to counter-shift and then counter-counter-shift...

    Also note that since the game determines who goes first randomly, shifting your initiative order does not give a 100% reliable advantage. But I still think it is worth considering.

  3. #3
    Member Yth's Avatar
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    Interaction between your initiative order and the enemy's:
    The way the turn order in Factions works is that each player takes turns moving a unit, regardless of how many units are alive on each team (with the exception of pillage mode, when only 1 unit remains on a team).

    This is intuitive to understand when all units are alive on both teams, but becomes much more complex when the numbers are unequal:

    6 units versus 6 units:
    1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 ...

    5 units versus 6 units:
    1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 1 6 2 1 3 2 4 3 5 4 1 5 2 6 ...

    2 units versus 6 units:
    1 1 2 2 1 3 2 4 1 5 2 6 1 1 2 2 1 3 2 4 1 5 2 6 ...

    The easiest thing to see here is that if one side has severely less units than the other, their lesser side's units act much more often. In the worst case (2 vs 6), a unit on the smaller team will act 3 times for every 1 time a specific enemy unit can act. This leads to the well-known "Berserk Warhawk/Warmaster" effect, where an untouched unit can suddenly destroy your whole army when you have a massive unit advantage over your opponent.

    But if you look closely, in the 5 versus 6 example there is a very specific, tactically important situation. Pay attention to the 2 unit compared to the 1 unit:
    1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 1 6 2 1 3 2 4 3 5 4 1 5 2 6 ...

    To put what is going on here into words:
    -If there is a 1 unit difference in army size, your unit who goes immediately after an enemy unit will be able to act twice before that enemy unit can act again, as long as no enemy units are killed in between.

    I cannot overstate how tactically important it is to be able to act twice before a specific unit can retaliate.


    Therefore, it is very important to understand how the turn order changes when units are removed from either side of the field. Purposefully manipulating this effect is our next topic.
    Last edited by Yth; 04-11-2013 at 07:46 AM.

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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    Manipulating/taking advantage of the turn order:
    As described above, mis-matches in the turn order can lead to very tactically rewarding situations. It is therefore good to make sure your opponent does not get one of these key advantages before you kill any of his units, and it is OK to sacrifice a unit as long as you take advantage of the 'speed bonus' you get from having less units on the board.

    Manipulating the turn order is done in two different ways:
    -killing enemy units
    -having your own units be killed

    Since you do not have direct control over your opponent's actions, there is no way to force him to kill one of your units. There are, however, several gambits which usually result in the death of one of your units:

    -Putting a siege archer (or other kind of archer) far ahead in the front line of your army.
    -Diving into their back ranks with a unit who is still a threat when crippled (Thrasher or high break unit)
    -Blocking a very useful enemy unit (high strength warrior) with a unit you want to get killed.

    Aside from this, there are a few specific ways you can have your units commit suicide (stepping on a friendly RoA when it ends, stepping on coals, getting hit by friendly fire from a Warhawk or slag & burn).

    Generally speaking, by looking at the turn order of all units at the start of the game, it is possible to see 'sacrifice opportunities' by looking at the order of your opponent's units versus your own. If you see that their high damage warrior takes his turn immediately before yours, it might be a good thing to sacrifice a unit at some point to allow your warrior to do a double-action immediately after his.

    Turn order advantages or speed advantages are the primary reason why it is inadvisable to kill enemy units. It is extremely dangerous to start slaughtering the enemy's units wholesale if he still has one or two untouched units on the board. On the other hand, it can be good to finish off an opponent to change his turn order in some specific cases.

    Most of the best ways to take advantage of turn order are completely intermixed with the subject of positioning, which is such a complex topic that it deserves its own post (to be done later?).

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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    Momentum in battle:
    This topic is almost 100% about intangibles and I have trouble coming up with specific in-game examples. Consider this the philosophical/theoretical side of the timing topic.

    A famous samurai wrote about 'breaking the rhythm of your opponent'. Most stronger players will have some kind of general gameplan coming into a game (you can usually get a read on their basic win strategy by looking at their unit lineup), and once the game has started they will have a plan on how they want the game to go.

    In a recent tournament game, I was against an almost mirror-matchup in the great hall, and we deployed on other sides of the fire pit. We spent almost 20 minutes carefully maneuvering across from each other, with archers delicately playing for range and hitting each other for 1 str damage via coals/BM ability. Finally I split my force into 2 teams of 3 and pushed across the gaps at each side of the pit. When my opponent split his forces as well, I managed to do a surprise sprint with an archer to make one side of the fighting a 4 on 3 while my other units delayed his 3. Tactically, the situation seemed to be about equal, but my opponent's plan of 2 separate 3 on 3 engagements was disrupted, and this seemed to cause him to make some errors.

    By surprising and breaking his plan I was able to (barely) secure a win.

    This psychological effect can work if you disrupt the enemy's plans, but you can also disrupt his timing and momentum. You can play mindgames by taking a long time to make an obvious move, or to very quickly move a unit to an apparantly bad position. The king (queen) of such mindgames in the Skystriker.

    Sometimes it works to break your opponents rhythm by simply having your units pass instead of moving up. Sometimes they become impatient and make positional errors.

    The one tournament game I have played against Tirean the Klutz ended in me losing. It was interesting because we both discussed my moves and found no mechanical fault in any specific action. The one thing I did wrongly was fail to control of the tempo of the game, and since Tieran's units acted with better timing, he carried the game.
    Last edited by Yth; 04-11-2013 at 08:49 AM.

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    Senior Member Butters's Avatar
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    Very cool read.

    Turn advantage, while completely pivotal to the game, seems to be one of the less understood mechanics of the game. I secured so many wins against otherwise very capable opponents because they did not realize that killing one of my units (which could very well be a good move by itself) would mean having my warrior's turn coming up before his instead of the contrary, giving me the all-important first strike (in the typical case of warrior duels anyway). In all fairness I lost quite a few matches to this myself, can't say I'm above such failures, but I feel my success ratio went up dramatically since I started to try and think about the initiative queue as much as possible. It should probably be your first concern whenever a unit death is considered.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Yth View Post
    Most of the best ways to take advantage of turn order are completely intermixed with the subject of positioning, which is such a complex topic that it deserves its own post (to be done later?).
    I wholly endorse the writing of such a post/thread! It would be nice to have some way of diagramming/representing board positions in a forum post...Maybe DaveMo or some other enterprising coder will give us something like this tool, with exportable/linkable images.

    I really think you've done an excellent job on the topic at hand, which hadn't really gotten an in-depth treatment in earlier guides.

    The one really cool use for killing an enemy unit I've seen was as follows:
    • Warriors on both teams were on the flanks as we approached (but just out of range of each other, unlike Butters' example).
    • Luckily (I thought), each of my warriors moved after the enemy warrior he was facing.
    • I advanced one or more raiders in the middle, thinking "My opponent cannot retailiate without letting my warriors get the first hit (against the opp's warriors)!"
    • (Can you see where this is going?)
    • My opponent focus-fired one raider, so our situation (vis a vis the first-hitters) switched for that round (with my opp's warriors being in a position to retaliate against mine).

    I can't remember who pulled that move, but they told me it was a conscious decision and that they thought about the warrior-initiative metagame in setting up their team. That was like a month ago, and I haven't seen it since, but maybe that's just because I don't rely on first-hitters so much any more.
    Last edited by franknarf; 04-11-2013 at 08:16 AM. Reason: saw Butters' post

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    Senior Member roder's Avatar
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    Very nice read. I've developed a few "rule of thumb" guidelines after reading this thread and learning as I've played.

    1. Leave "gimped" units, especially if they have a very strong unit (warrior)
    -I often attack armor before health, but at least one unit I'll damage only their health to 1-2 hp so that they dont do damage, but leave them alive so there's just 1 more unit to be used before their big units come around

    2. Attack the unit (health-wise) coming next in rotation
    -if you can damage the unit next in rotation you can also lessen the damage you're about to receive

    3. from 6 to 4 enemy units I play normal, 3 enemy units I dont try to kill anyone unless I'm sure I can kill 2 within the next two rounds. Not always the case, but at 3 units you still have time to weather the "Berserk" effect as OP calls it, you want to transition to and stay at 2 enemy units the least time possible because 1 enemy unit (Pillage) is the most beneficial state you can be in.

    4. Lastly, playing the numbers game, you can see a big difference between the class' stats.
    Archer - 25 total stats, Promoted 26-28 (depending on rank)
    Raider - 28 total stats, Promoted 29-31
    Warrior 30 total stats, Promoted 31-33
    Shieldbanger - 32 total stats, Promoted 33-35

    A team would try to minimize the low stat units (ie. 2 archers) and maximize the high stat units. There are some farout strategies that deviate (3 siege archers, or only 1 varl) but those are hit-or-miss builds imo

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    Senior Member Kletian999's Avatar
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    Regarding your stat points (#4) yes archers have the lowest base, but their puncture manifests as bonus strength later in the game, and the fact they can nearly always make an attack each turn instead of having to pass ensures their value. There might be something to be said for the Arm/Str sums though, as the loss of strength is the ultimate end of your game and your ability to end your opponent.

  10. #10
    Something I've noticed in most (not all) of the games I've played is that there will be a period in the beginning where everyone moves slowly forward, and then there will be a big charge in a big clump, often with a unit held back to flank / protect archers / held in reserve for clean up. Exception to this is when a BB comes charging down in a suicide mission on the archers or a RM sitting in middle to break up the flow of the opponent's movement. I found that every time I broke this pattern I lost, and every time an opponent tried to just charge some of his units they lost. The lesson to be learnt here is that letting units get isolated is a sure way to get them killed / maimed.

  11. #11
    @Yth: You could have this added to the list of guides if you wanted: https://stoicstudio.com/forum/showthread.php?874

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    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    Added, thanks for the reminder!

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    Art Director Arnie's Avatar
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    Very, very cool read. Thanks for posting this Yth.
    You know...when we're done with the game someone should collect all of these and categorize them in chapter form so we could print a 'The Banner Saga: Tactics' book, online or print.

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    Junior Member kgosser's Avatar
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    Well done post, thanks!

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    A very nice post, indeed. Thanks!

    This topic of tactics and timing is, for me, closely related to the... timer! The 30-45sec timer currently in Factions is perhaps the most limiting factor during a battle, especially at mid- and late-game. As EvilLaughter says, when all hell breaks loose and vikings & giants start banging each other, it's really difficult to keep track of the initiative order. That's where rodereve's rules become handy. I have taken the habit of recording my matches (just like you snapshot-storied yours), just to be able to study such delicate situations. I don't think a longer timer for PvP would be viable (I recall the non-expert being 60sec and then dropping to 45sec), cuz I understand the following necessities:

    • The average match length should be kept in check, e.g. 15-30mins.
    • Each player has his own timer. Understandable. Some players just wanna think a lot while others wanna play faster.
    • Some players' think "mathematically" faster, doing all these subtractions, calculations etc. These are supposed to be the winners
    • The game is so balanced that you strive for one thing: having the last unit standing. You don't "need to care" for all your characters at each match.
    • It's a viking brawl, after all. When a Varl sees someone hitting his lads, he goes up and smashes them, not caring what's next!

    What I want to say, is that when battles vs AI are implemented (Saga or future Factions), all these aspects will become much more accessible & useful to the majority of the players. Also, in the Saga, where you really need to protect your units from actually getting killed, all this turn-initiative/advantage theories should be reconsidered.
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 10-18-2013 at 05:26 AM.

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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aleonymous View Post
    A very nice post, indeed. Thanks!

    This topic of tactics and timing is, for me, closely related to the... timer!
    The timer is something I didn't talk about much (at all) in my post, because I see it as a separate topic to timing. In theory, every turn you have has a "perfect move" which will profoundly impact the game and maximize your chances to win. A deep understanding of tempo (and the other strategy topics like positioning and team synergy) will allow you to better identify the perfect move.

    The only difference the timer makes in the game is that it forces you to do the thinking process to find the perfect move quickly. Of course, this is actually a very big deal. It forces the game to be less "tournament chess" where moves can be thought out and planned up to 8 or 12 steps ahead, but instead more like "blitz chess" where the objective is more to find solid or "good enough" moves.

    There are even some tactics which can be used to attack the enemy's turn timer. Things which bring uncertainty into the game, such as taking an extremely long time to make an obvious move, or moving extremely quickly to a confusing or sub-optimal spot can mess with your opponent's mind and make him wonder what you are up to. If you want to get into shady territory you can send your opponent chats which are designed to interrupt his flow of thought or waste his time while he replies.

    If the game had 0 time limits on either side it would be a 100% cortical strategic/tactical game. Instead with the timer we have elements of psychology and time-economy mixed in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aleonymous View Post
    Also, in the Saga, where you really need to protect your units from actually getting killed...
    From what I've read, this is false. My understanding was that there will be little to no penalty for letting your units die during the tactical combat portion of the single player game. Characters can permanently die, but only as a result of choices you make in the story version of the game.

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    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    You know what's funny, is a lot of these same points brought up in Yth's posts reflect a number of things I've learned from competitive fighting game play, which universally apply to any number of competitive games across all genres. Controlling momentum, meter management, maintaining a life lead, spacing in the neutral game, styles of play and how to counter them, etc. Whether it's Street Fighter, Dota, Senko no Ronde, or this; the basic understanding of fundamentals like these are pretty integral to playing at a high level.

    It makes me wonder just how many high level players in TBS have had prior experience in competitive gaming to give them a head start in grasping the fundamentals.

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    Member Yth's Avatar
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    LoliSauce you have pointed out what is for me a general life principle. I don't try to get good at only a single thing, I try to understand the fundamental principles behind the thing I have learned and apply it to as many other elements of my life as possible. Thus when you pick up a new game, you don't need to reinvent the wheel, but instead just figure out how to apply the strong principles of competetive success to fit to that specific game's ruleset.

    I was never into the competetive fighting scene, but I do love reading about it, especially from sites like sirlin.net which use the same approach of applying broad lessons across various genres.

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    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    For note I was quite an SC2 and SFIV enthusiast - a competitive hobbyist. I used a lot of what I learned from both those games to play TBSF as well

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    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    I only wish I could stream this game without slowdown. I'm used to talking to people while I play, so I'm always full of lively in-game banter that refers to things via fighting game terminology. It's probably pretty entertaining. Well, unless a game gets REALLY HEATED or I find myself at a disadvantage. Then I tend to shut up as I convert all of my focus to pulling a win.

    Alternatively, once spectating becomes an option, I want to stream live commentary. See how close I can nail what the players are thinking. haha.

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