Massive Assault Network 2 - AAR

I’m going through a bit of a MAN 2 phase at the moment and TBS games are fun to break down and discuss, so let’s give this a shot and see how it goes. I’ll be giving you my thought process as I play, as well as making comparisons between this and the original Massive Assault (two iterations exist between, but this was the first sequel worth buying IMO).

I was quite a hardcore player of the original, taking part in tournaments, uploading solutions to every scenario and the AI on every map as both sides for others to learn from. I love the mathematical purity of the game, everything (almost) is on the board and it’s up to you to out think the other guy. In the original I was a really good player, but not in the top tier, I sat just a step below the best player such as Tiger and Pitor. I also liked to drop some real clangers now and then.

For the basis of this AAR I have issued a public challenge, I dislike some of the settings other people choose, especially turn based time limits. The game is effectively PBEM but through a central server, so limiting how long someone gets to think within the configurable X days to play limit seems pointless.

The only hidden element in this game is which countries each player controls, you don’t know until they reveal them, which occurs at the end of each turn. Everything else is on the board.

We’re going to game on a medium sized map called Eden, this will give a good taste for land war, while adding the joy of island battles. I was tempted by an old favourite, Noble Rust (three islands) but the new maps tend to have a lot more terrain which I prefer as it forces a deeper level of thinking than the tank, bot and transport strategies of the original. I don’t like maps which put in high densities of medium and huge countries, those turn into a tedious grind.

Allied density controls how many territories you start with, in the original this was unconfigurable but was the equivalent of medium so you had to keep the back door covered in all your countries in case you found a nasty surprise waiting there. With low there’s less surprises, but this also means you’re less likely to be screwed by the opening set-up. I think I like this change, it keeps the games tighter. Not sure what that means exactly. It certainly reduces a negative factor of the original where if you had no allies adjacent to one another you were at a sizeable disadvantage to your opponent.

The unit set can be standard or extended, this controls whether the sides get their special units or whether both sides have all the units. I’ve gone for standard, but the most popular choice seems to be extended. I like the asymmetric units, they compliment the asymmetric maps.

The game has two ranking systems. Back when I was playing the original I got tried of the experience (first shot) system as it did little more than tell people how many games you’d played. A bad player who played a lot would outrank a good player who didn’t. Someone with some actual coding talent whipped up an implementation of Glicko which hooked into the player database, you had a Glicko rank per side per map (the player to go first back then had a relatively big advantage) which was averaged out to form your overall score, and it was that I cared about. Glicko is now, in some form, part of the game and is shown in the second shot. Alas, my score is not what it could be because when I stopped player a couple of years ago I had several active games time out and lose me points.

Anyway, we have a challenger, VOLK’s stats are as follows: Name, Country, Wins, Rank, Score, Place

You’ll see a big difference between the first shot (experience based) and second (skill based). You start at 1500 skill, so this would suggest VOLK plays a lot but loses to pretty low-end players so I should be able to take him. We’ll see whether experience or skill wins through here.

Throughout the AAR I’ll reference countries, so this map will help identify what I’m talking about. The yellow countries are my secret allies. L = Low and M = Medium, this represents income, guerilla force etc.

Low on the left and medium on the right. I’m sure you can figure out what a huge would be.

A secret army is how much money you get to spend on the initial force in a country if it’s yours and you reveal it. A guerilla force is how much money your enemy gets to spend on the country if you invade it, guerillas always fire on the turn they appear so you need to invade with enough to survive the initial barrage or else you’ll hand the country to your opponent.

The only item missing here is Indemnity which is the same as Secret Army except it’s the money a player gets if they successfully take over another player’s secret ally. Doing so on a game of this scale usually indicates you’ve won.

As I’m the Phantom League (space commies) I’ll be deploying first. In the original game you would declare two secret allies and the F.N.U. (the West) would then declare two but would do so blind. This led to situations where the PL player would find themselves sitting at the rear of an FNU country with the FNU force on the wrong side to resist a turn-one invasion. Game over. Now both sides declare one country and the FNU player sees what the PL declared before they deploy.

As you can see from the map my weakest country is also stranded by itself and odds are it’s outnumbered. I’ll be holding this declaration until last so I can better determine what to do and see how VOLK has set-up.

In my initial deployment I have the following units:

Or as I will call them, transport, bot and tank. The FNU has all three, these are mainstay units, we will probably see quite a few of them.

The stats are hit points, movement, attack, attack range, carrying capacity (transports only) and cost…

Transports are what will win you games. Every turn you need to maximise your fire-power, destroying as many units as you can since even a one health unit operates the same as any other. Transports combined with two move units allow you to rapidly redeploy firing lines and bring optimal firing conditions into play. He who underutilises the transport will always lose.

Tanks pop in and out of transports to maximise their damage and bots hide behind the tanks.

I’ve declared Logopas with the intention of invading China Country and then either sweeping through the centre to link up with Bai - Go or piling into naval transports and hitting Gunderland, it depends a lot on what VOLK does. Seeing as how I control two mediums in the South the odds are I will overrun it, but the most important thing is not to let him get too much control in the North, so there I will be fighting delaying actions and as soon as I have a monetary advantage and most of the South under my thumb I will pile across the sea to the North. It’s important I control the seas or else I could be delayed in carrying out the quick actions I need so money will be focused on battleships and aircraft carriers in countries no longer needing to produce ground forces, until I have the edge. Likewise, neutral mediums he invades will be a good source of battleships as these outlast invasion and can be combined to good effect with guerillas in other countries to produce a strong resistance, especially as I have the Bullfrog, a powerful ground unit at $6 which the FNU doesn’t have access to.

Should Gunerland prove to be FNU then I will move the bot back to cover and deploy a LAV line ahead of him. They can hold there until the end of time and meanwhile I’ll be taking neutrals to threaten the flanks.

if China Country is FNU then the transport will grab the tanks and head for Lukster and we’ll leave behind LAVs to hold, tanks are not cost effective at fixed line fighting, they’re for popping in and out of transports.

A quick run-down of the hex types (which I enabled for this shot). Yellow are normal, white are roads which LAVs and Mortars move two on (they normally move one), the green is woodland which takes two movement and prevents entry for hovercraft, while red is sand and also takes two but hovercraft only need one point to cross. Blue is the sea, ships and hovercraft only.

So ends turn zero (which is why there’s no recruitment). The $30 represents the $3 over ten turns which Logopas will produce.

Judging from my opponent’s deployment this is going to be an easy game. At first I guessed perhaps he was intended to jump into the naval transport and try hook up with the guerillas and overwhelm me in China Country, but if that were the plan his two bots (identical to mine) would be on the coast not on my front-line. Thus I can only assume he’s trying to threaten an invasion, a huge mistake on his part. Yet why have the naval transport then? He can’t load his units and invade my coast because the sand takes two movement, so it would be a two turn attack by which point I’ll block the coast.

I fear this isn’t going to make for a great game.

I have a few options here, I can continue with my invasion of China Country and try to destroy his troops as they land while maintaining a frontline to stop him invading.

I can invade with my tanks alone and leave my bot to join the fight against VOLK.

Or I can pile my guys into transports and head for the centre, looking to quickly threaten VOLKs other flank. While I believe I can handle VOLK in China Country I don’t like the idea of getting into a fight there and having Hurrgan turn out to be one of his (or Hurrgan AND Robster!), that could turn nasty. By heading into the centre I can use Bai - Go to support an assault and simply hold off VOLK with LAVs on the border. Should he reveal China Country to be his I can turn around or put more cheap units there to stop him.

A sign that your opponent isn’t very good is the purchasing of large numbers of expensive units, especially where they put ranged units like bots on the front-line. They’re not cost effective there.

Having headed for the centre of my island looking to either swing South and East and then go naval, or go North and lay siege, I deploy two LAVs to block his invasion (you can’t move through a unit corpse, so $2 just neutralised $12) and leave myself a dollar spending money in addition to the three I’ll earn next turn. He can only kill on LAV so I’ll probably buy a rocket launcher which can out range his bots and shell them. This will leave one space free for him to invade, but one bot won’t survive my guerillas AND rocket launcher so it’s no threat. If he sits in his transport I’ll buy a couple of LAVs.

I declare Bai - Go, but instead of going for large numbers of land units as I had originally planned I decide to do something a little riskier and build a Leviathan, a Phantom League super unit. Costing as much as two battleships it can’t quite do as much damage but it has a longer range and thus will be invaluable in supporting my Northern coast or shelling VOLK in Guderland. With his ineffective deployment there I have been given the breathing room to build this powerful unit, unusual for a small map like this. I hope it pays off.

The units from this turn, the first is generally called the LAV (the FNU name for it), it’s the most commonly seen guerilla unit and is invaluable for times you need to fight line against line or block up a border. It exists simply to block movement and take fire, you won’t ever concentrate their fire as effectively as a tank so they’re very much a defensive unit.

The Leviathan you will notice has two fire values, it can fire its two guns independently. Five is a special damage number, it’s enough to destroy a tank in one turn, a very handy number indeed.

Thirdly, the naval transport, a unit we’ll likely see more of later. Note that it moves faster than its land counter-part and carries more. Often you’ll set-up chains of these units, loading units, moving the transport, passing to the next transport and moving again. This kind of swift movement is necessary to keep beachheads open.

Finally, the mortar as seen behind the bots of VOLK. This is usually combined with LAVs to create powerful defensive lines. Two mortars bring more firepower than a bot, but they lack the manvourability so again are mainly defensive.

Jeez, nice AAR. Keep it coming. I will probably never play this game, but this is almost as good :-)

If you ever do, the trial is an unlimited number of plays of a map called V6 without access to naval units and hovercraft. Trial players can take on full version players (who have the same restrictions when playing with trial players). I’d be up for a game with anyone who wants one.

Some trial players have racked up hundreds upon hundreds of games on that one map. This is why playing a trial player is often the toughest game you will face, they know the map inside out.

Nothing interesting in the stats yet. I took my first casualty, losing a LAV as predicted.

As anticipated one of the bots was loaded into the naval transport. Note that he built a tank on the coast hex and moved the mortar coast side too. He’s clearly looking to keep his options open as to loading in the transport and setting sail. Nothing too worrying for the moment, either he lands in China Country and I bring my land forces back and crush him, adding fire from the cliffs of Logopas, or… well there’s nothing more he can do with that thing, I will have my coast covered and my Leviathan will shut down the possibility of sailing North. Right now all he’s done is remove a bot from the firing line.

At least he rearranged his line sensibly, still, a tank? Better to buy a LAV and work towards more long term firepower, though if I were him I’d have abandoned this entire flank and head for Sudetshire and hope it’s a neutral. He’ll need to destroy $4 of units in a single turn just to get into the country, that’s 12 points of damage perfectly allocated, no overkill. No chance. I intend to hold him here while I clean up as much of the rest of the island as possible.

New Bangalore turns out to be his second medium country, so only one low left to emerge. He’s poised to invade my secret ally in the North. So long as I haven’t declared it he has no way of knowing it’s mine and he only scores indemnity money from it if I’ve declared it. However, him owning the territory will get him income from it, and those ten turns worth aren’t replenished when I declare.

You’ll notice he has a new unit in his city, the rocket launcher. An odd choice for a mobile invasion IMO, more traditional would be bot backup at this point. The rocket launcher has great range, but lousy health and mobility and it will be exposed when the tanks enter Hurman. Not that I would worry about that if I were him, using $4 of guerilla to destroy a rocket launcher means handing the country to your enemy in one turn, more than worth it for them. However it will really be a liability if he invades the medium where you suddenly have $6 to spend, say a battleship ($5) which shells it from the coast, and a LAV to hide in the woods to ensure the territory remains disputed.

Anyway, that’s enough of what he did, on with my turn!

Naturally, I invade Lukster. Let’s run through why I positioned units the way I did.

Firstly, when I purchased my tank in Bai - Go last turn it was with the intention of keeping within range of the city hex while still keeping my options open (as much as I could) should VOLK declare Lukster. Since he hasn’t I moved my tank into the city. To conquer a territory you must eliminate all enemy units in the country AND hold the city. In a relatively open country like Lukster where you can’t hide in difficult terrain a typical strategy would be to position four LAVs with one in the city thus buying two to three turns instead of the one or two you would otherwise get. Alternatively you might place one LAV in the city and use the other three to eliminate the transport so the enemy take an extra turn to reach your city. It depends what invades.

I deployed one tank in the woods and another by the woods, this is to ensure there’s no wood hex where I can’t bring all my firepower to bear. Finally, my bot and transport are shielded by the tanks.

In this instances I’d place four guerilla LAVs around the city tank and satisfy myself with taking one unit down. This territory cannot last more than two turns.

Rather than guarding the Northern coast of the Southern island I am sending the Leviathan North to counter VOLKs invasion. Once he moves into my territory I will get $4 of guerilla, I can buy a rocket launcher and destroy his, then I can declare the territory and buy $8 of LAVs to hold the border and stop his tanks getting to my rocket launcher. It will depend a lot on how he invades and what he buys. Actually, I’m rather getting into the idea of putting a turret (range of four, two damage, nine health) in the sand and supporting it with the Leviathan. That would be a difficult one for him to storm and might even encourage him to take the city and then move on, thinking I can’t take the country because I have no mobile units. I then declare.

I could declare this turn and stop him getting into the territory, then use the Leviathan to shell his front line, but I don’t want to do this for three reasons:

  1. Tasmania might be his, then Hurma would fall and fall fast. Once VOLK had scooped up my indemnity and had the North to himself I suspect he’d make it to the South before I invaded the North. If I could have been sure it would have been a good declaration to make, four LAVs and a rocket launcher, supported by my leviathan I could really have chewed up his line and forced him to switch to a defensive LAV formation. My low holding his medium.

  2. Declaring is satisfying myself with a holding action, but by declaring after invasion I might be able to chew up his invasion force and counter-invade across an exposed border.

  3. The Leviathan won’t be in firing range of his frontline until the turn after next.

It’s going to be a little risky, I hope he declares his low on his turn and doesn’t figure out that Hurma is mine because I didn’t declare just as he threatens its border, but with the Leviathan I think I can pull it off.

I knock a point off his tank and then deploy to fight a cheap holding action, while also ensuring he can’t land on my coastline.

A tank to support the invasion, next turn I’ll buy two transports.

So far so good. I’ll feel more comfortable once he declares his low and I know how the gameboard lies.

Turns out I made the right choice in not trying to block the border of Hurma.

As you can see, Tasmania turned out to be an enemy in the worst possible position. Immediately my “reveal and surprise” idea is out and I switch to turret survival. Alas, his naval deployment means I won’t be able to do the tank damage dealing I wanted, instead I’ll need to take out those Amphibians.

Swift little buggers, they can cross water and ignore sand slow-down effects. Putting a naval transport there suggests he intends to chase down my Leviathan, since combined a transport and amphibian are a bloody fast combination, their move of three makes them prime candidates for transport chain moving.

So I’ve slapped my turret down as near the alcove as I can so I can support it with my Leviathan and we’re just going to have to do as much damage as we can. First to die will be an amphibian and then we’ll wound the other. They’re going to be a wasted investment soon enough.

In Lukster we witness a fairly traditional deployment. In the original Massive Assault you’d see a lot of LAV deployments, but in the sequels the bunker was introduced, it sacrificed the movement of the LAV for an extra point of firepower and I find most players use them as guerillas. It won’t help here, we’ll still have it cleaned out in two, though the positioning means I’ll be looking to attack South rather than North, I’ll probably take the medium to maximise my income since I fear I’ll be playing a Low down on my opponent due to my position on the North island.

Not much to report in the South-East, two LAVs down I’ll chip away at his tank and hold here. I will aim to bring in some heavier fire from Lukster as I can’t afford to take loses without reprisal forever, I need to force him to spend. Perhaps I should invade North so I can bother both his borders?

He’s added a chopper, this can move over units and ignores terrain effects. He’ll be attacking my mortar with it, which is odd since the mortar is going to win that dual and be more cost effective about it.

The units we saw introduced in this post.

Now, it’s my turn again >:)

In Logopas we keep the coast secure, damage his chopper and add a little more firepower to the line. Until he can shell my back lines with rocket launchers we will always be able to add more weapons to the backline.

We take down two turrets in Lukster and we’re ready to take down the next two the following turn. In the background I setup ready to invade the rear of Robster to stop VOLK delaying me too hard here.

My bot has been loaded into the transport and I was oringally going to pick up tanks from the neighbouring territories, however I’ve decided to use the naval option (I’ll need transports to go North eventually anyway) and I used all my money in Logopas solidifying the line.

In Hurma we sink an amphibian as planned. No way I can declare, too many units.

I’m weak!!

Okay, in all honesty I played around with this in the deployment phase and decided that if I focused enough hit points on the sand I could hold VOLK here for quite some time. I experimented with a second turret, a Bullfrog, lots of bunkers and LAVs. In the end I decided to deploy defensively around my turret while adding fire-power I can continue to use along the coastline in the form of my battleship. Its three damage along with the two from the turret equals one tank dead, and the Leviathan can kill a tank a turn.

I considered delaying deployment, springing on him later or using it as a surprise force when I invade from the South, but in the end I don’t like the idea of owning a drained territory and without it VOLK is free to conquer the entirety of the North. If I hold him here I can take the South and come North with a huge resource advantage.

It’s a real gamble, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it right now. I just hope he attacks, I have nothing mobile in the territory and since he holds the city he can drive off elsewhere should he choose to. I don’t think he will though, this would give me too perfect a beachhead later on.

The bullfrog and the battleship I actually bought. I love the bullfrog, it’s an awesome unit, but in this instance I think it would be too slow and vulnerable, the battleship has better range and so will compliment my leviathan and turret, and in addition should things go poorly I can retreat it South with the leviathan.

This makes things look grim on the control front, but it’s all going to even up as I start taking neutrals and VOLK throws troops into the meat grinder that is Hurma. At least I hope so. If he plays it smart with rocket launchers in transports he could take this territory faster than I intend him to, though at some cost to himself.

So VOLK plays pretty much as expected on the Northen island, sending his tanks and amphibians to attack my bunkers while buying himself another rocket launcher and putting his transport in place ready to pick them up and launch them against my turret. This will involve a turn of picking them off, another turn where he drops them off and fires (reducing me from 9 to 3 health) and then he loses both to my counter-fire. He’s going to wear me down, but it’s going to be expensive for him to take my low and should slow him down a lot. So long as I take his medium without too many problems and own the South before he owns the North, well, GG.

What wasn’t expected was him moving his chopper into Logopas to lure out my guerillas. He then buys another.

As a chopper clearly isn’t going to survive it’s obvious he intends to lure me out this turn and then land another chopper the next turn to deny me funding. Well that ain’t gonna work.

I buy a couple of LAVs – to replace the ones he destroyed last turn – and a rocket launcher. A LAV destroys his first chopper and my rocket launcher destroys the other. $6 of his units destroyed while I just got $6 of fresh units (though I won’t if he invades again). This has given me some much needed additional fire-power to chew up his line with. A poor move on his part, I can now savage his forces with my rocket launcher and mortars, chewing up his funds, and he still has no means to get into my territory.

I do exactly as intended up North, destroying both tanks, the amphibian and damaging one of his new LAVs. He should have moved to attack the upper bunker to allow his LAVs to destroy it the next turn, now all they will do is damage a bunker allowing me an additional turn to fire one.

Note the two rocket launchers which, as noted, are going to enter the transport. This is fine, he’s going to need to invest a lot of money into dislodging me, and as nothing in the game has a range of more than four everything that shoots the turret is in range of the turret and my fleet. He’ll wear me down, but if I cost him enough here then the game is as good as mine.

Think of Eden like a 2v2 RTS where it’s really two 1v1s, if I conquer the South before he conquers the North the odds are I win.

Over in Lukster I mop up the bunkers, claim the territory and buy a transport to help me move into Robster, while in Bai-Go I move one tank into the transport and buy another. Robster will fall fast.

Another mistake by VOLK, he moved his bot out of his transport which means I no longer have a threat to my coastline, the sand taking two movement means a unit with only two moves would need to start a turn in the transport to land. This means I can afford to buy only one LAV to plug the hole in the front-line – necessary because my guerilla force has been spent – and save $2 for the next turn. VOLK will destroy my LAVs, so I’ll spend $1 on a new LAV, move my reserve LAV forward and use the remaining $4 on another rocket launcher. As he has nothing like that I can begin to plug his mechs from afar. Should be buy an amphibian to threaten the coast I will probably just move a mortar back to block the coast hex rather than change my purchase strategy.

On a more long-term front, I will probably skip Hurrgan and China Country and instead focus on threatening the East flank of Gunderland. Once that falls I can move across the sea which I currently hold secure, and attack the North with a relatively undamaged ground force supported by powerful ships. I want to get up there before VOLK has too much time to get his boulder rolling.

May the great AAR silence continue :) On the upside “Massive Assault Network 2 AAR” in Google ranks this thread as number one.

Go me!

Anyway, we kick off with a note of incompetence, I utterly failed to notice that VOLK had two tanks in his transport on the North island. Not that there was anything I could do about that, but still, a bit of an oversight.

This leads to him taking down a bunker and getting a hit on my turret I hadn’t anticipated. With only seven health left I’m feeling pretty boned here, he only needs to move his rocket launchers forward and hit it with a single LAV for it to die. This will leave me with one wounded bunker to keep the $8 out of his hands.

Still, even if it does fall earlier than intended I think I’ll have inflicted more than the cost of my turrent & bunkers along with the indemnity, so I come out on top. Plus it will have succeeded in delaying his expansion as intended. I would like it to last longer if it can though.

So we blow up his tanks, another $4 destroyed totally $14 of destruction thus far, vs. the loss of two $1 bunkers. So far so good.

My only regret is that I didn’t nail the transport. Perhaps that would have been the better move? I’m unsure, he’d have simply replaced it but it would have bought me one more turn. On the other hand he’d have reduced my turret to four health and wouldn’t need to sacrifice both rocket launchers to finish the job. So in the end I feel leaving the transport and targeting the tanks was right.

In Gunderland he buys an Amphibian. About time really, now he can attack me from the coast as well as the land, forcing me to spend all my money on blocking units rather than anything which will shoot him back. Unfortunately I think he’s waited too long to do this, with $1 in the bank I’ll be able to buy another rocket launcher we well as secure my coast, so combined with a LAV I can sink an expensive $3 amphibian every turn (two every turn actually) and so allow my coast to remain safe and mortars to stay on the purchase sheet.

Having brought his bot forward to destroy my wounded mortar he has doomed his bot. Seems like a poor tradeoff, he nails my $2 mortar and he’s going to lose his $4 bot because of it, and I still have the units to destroy his LAV.

We invaded Robster this turn and placed units to prevent invasions of Lukster owing to its lack of guerillas. The mortar in the city is to prevent a helicopter invasion, with hindsight this was a unnecessary, I could afford a turns downtime and it would hand me Robster faster. This should take too long.

I’ve moved my transport around the coast with an eye to shipping some mobile units to Hurma. I haven’t calculated whether they’ll arrive in time to take the city and save me – I fear not – but I want to be in a position to try come next turn. I probably shouldn’t have bothered with the coastal attack on Lukster and should have simply setup a chain of reinforcements between Bai - Go and Hurma. Seeing how the situation is developing up there now, with many expensive long-range units and invincible unless their city is taken bombers, securing the territory looks very doable.

I plop another rocket launcher in Logopas as planned and secure the cost with a LAV.

I should take these at the beginning of the turn as I played first, but always forget. Still, things are looking very good right now and everything is going relatively according to plan.

quite a good AAR, still reading, and also wondering what happened to the american civil war AAR’s :(