The key to RTS success?

I’ve been out of the real time strategy loop for a while now. The last RTS I played since semi-recently buying Rise of Legends was Warcraft 3. I really like RoL a lot, but I am finding that I’m absolutely terrible at the game. I have a feeling that this has more to do with the foundation of my RTS-playing in general than the fact that RoL just isn’t my game. I have an especially tough time trying to figure out what I should build/research/produce next for best results and spend too much time focusing on the next immediate task than looking at the big picture. I also stink at keeping track of all my units and bases at once and making sure everything is working as efficiently as possible.

My first question… are RTS skills something that can be learned, or should we who Suck be forever doomed?

Then, what is some good general strategy and organization advice? I know there are some really good RTS players around here. please show me the light.

In one of the RoL threads, someone mentioned how his key to winning the game is always stay productive. There should be no point in the game where you aren’t expanding your economy, building a military, and scouting the enemy. I found this to be extremely good advice and try my best to employ it, but difficult to do everything at once.

Zerg Rush!

I’m not that good with RTS’s but I have some success with general principles like “attack attack attack” and “never let up” and “if the other guy seems to be on the back foot, attack even more” etc.

“Harvest like a motherfucker” is my RTS aphorism of choice.

There’s a lot of meta-issues and abstract principles you can learn to improve RTS skill, but I’ll start with a very practical one: learn the hotkeys. Using hotkeys can reduce a task to a couple of simple keystrokes that don’t require much thought and free up your mind to do other things like plan, organize etc. RoL in particular has a very robust hotkey system. It’s been mentioned in other threads but heres the basics: use TAB to cycle through available upgrades - use C to cycle through cities, use U to grab your smallest city (cheapest to add districts). Use J K and L to access your primary unit building facilities (J is barracks, K is air thingie and L is siege thingie IIRC). Also use CTRL-Number to assign numbers to groups of units and use the number keys to control groups easily. If you go into options there will be a button to “display control groups” – this gives you a nice handy display of your control groups and their control numbers on the lower left of the screen. Also you can force new units to automatically join a control group: while you have the unit producing building selected, simply right click on the number of the control group (lower left of screen if you have the display toggled).

Theres more beyond that but if you learn some or all of the above, you will find you are “playing the interface” a lot less and playing the game a lot more. The less you use the mouse to drag select, click manually on orders and queues, etc, the more you can use the mouse to scan around the map, give precise orders to units and so forth.

I have learned that not only am I hopelessly inept at the constant build/rush frenzy, but even when I get it right by accident it’s just not much fun. It’s a mystery to me how this style of gameplay ever got so popular. I wished real-time games were more like turn-based games!

If you’re talking single player RoL, then do what I do: use the Pause key ALL THE TIME. I found that using pause played a big part in my single player success (please, nobody has to point out how I must suck at this to have to pause).

You can check all your cities, see where new units appeared, group guys, send your groups to choke points, make mines, miners, etc., while paused. When you’re happy, unpause. It works great.

Now if I could only convince people in multiplayer to let me pause… then I’d be hot stuff!

Here’s my list for standard RTS fare:

-Master the interface (read: hotkeys, shortcuts, command queuing).
-Scouting, scouting, scouting.
-Harass, harass, harass.
-Increase your clicks per second (in micro heavy games and if possible get some tracking software so you can see your CPS in graphical form).
-Learn the maps (if they aren’t random).
-Learn every unit counter.
-Read up on typical army composition patterns.
-Search the net for typical racial strategies and counters.
-There are typically three stages to any given RTS game, early, mid and late game. Have a plan for each of them.
-Decide early on an opening move and execute it as efficiently and as focussed as possible. The typical choices are rush, tech and expand.

And my personal number one general strategy for standard RTS is:
Outharvest and underspend your opponent.

Sharpe offers good advice, but many of the hotkeys he mentioned are not the defaults for Rise of Legends. Maybe he changed his, or maybe those were Rise of Nations keys? You can get a list in the game options, but not everything is listed there. Read all the in game hints as well, for additional hotkey advice as well as other info.

In any case, I’ve just been getting into mutiplayer RoL, and having a blast with it. I’ve discovered a few great resources that might help you. First, this site: It’s a blog on RoL, with associated video programs. Click on the link on the right side of the page that is labelled “TsN OnDemand” to see a list of all the videos. He’s got a series of 3 tutorials for beginners that I can recommend. Be warned, they are about an hour each. is another great resource. It’s got a pretty active forum, some useful articles, and a lot of replays you can download to see how better players approach the game.

My final advice is to watch the replay of every game you lose online. I set my view to the other player’s side, turn off the fog of war and speed it up to 4x. I find that it is generally quite apparent why I lost.

Shouldn’t that be outharvest and outspend? I mean, what’s the point of harvesting more if your not going to build a bigger army with which to crush your foes?

You need to first realize that there are many kinds of flavor’s of RTS games. Some types you may never master and others you might become the undisputed champion of.

Here are some properties you can use to categorize an RTS game:

Micro Management aka Heavy Micro or not:

Do you need to manage your troops heavily. Move this unit here and that one there? I do not mean groups of units, but individual ones.

Examples of Heavy Micro games:
Starcraft, Warcaft III

Examples of nearly Micro Free games:
RoN, AoE series.

My personal Preference: I can not micro units very well. My neural circuity simply is not up to the task. I was clearly shown this by watching Cecil (if you watch WCIII replays, you will know who he is) playing a few games at UCF LAN (in Orlando Florida). No amount practice could help. He would switch camera locations, issue orders, and move on before I could even comprehend what I was looking at. I do not play Micro heavy RTS games unless I am playing against equally micro gimped players.

Economic Complexity:

This has two aspects is how difficult it is to manage an economy. The simplest is to simply have a single resource and just throw more peons at the resource to get more of the resource.

The second is how the cost of units and structures impact your economic choices, especially with the rush. If putting together a rush only has a minor economic impact, then I would rate this second aspect as ‘simple’ because there no hard economic choices to make.

Examples of Simple Economic games:
C&C Generals, RoL, Starcraft, BFME2, or pretty much any RTS to come out in the past few years.

WCIII is kind of in the middle between complex and simple, although it is much closer to the simple side. A lot of rush tactics and long-term tactics do impact your economic decisions.

Examples of Complex Economic Games:
There are only some old games I can think of: Warcraft II and Total Annihilation (expanding your economy was not trivial, and you had to allocate a significant part of your economy to expand it).

My Preference: A complex economy. I like to have the economic impact of tactical and strategic decisions weigh heavily on players.

Unit mix and complexity:

This aspect is on both the quantity and quality of units. Does an RTS have a few kinds of units or a lot? Do monolithic armies work well (mass hydras, nothing but medium tanks, etc…) or do mixed armies do much better (aka the whole is much greater then the sum of its parts).

Examples of ‘simple’ games (few unit types, unit mix does not matter much or at all):
Starcraft, RoL, Red Alert 2, Kohan series (Each squad is forced to be mixed, but if you just look at this as a super unit, then there is no big advantage to mixed unit types).

Examples of complex unit mix games:
Total Annihilation: Huge array of units, and yes, their subtle flavors really did matter. Mixed armies were vastly more effective then monolithic ones).
C&C Generals: For the most part, mixed armies were much better then monolithic ones, however, there were a few imbalances that broke this rule such as mass Quads (gla), mass listening posts (infantry generals only), and mass stealthed choppers (airforce general only).

Strategic Options:

This represents special powers you could use that gave you a very strong advantage or let you do something ‘special’. The most mundane and common is the super weapon concept as a nuke. Most RTS games have something like this, such as the nukes in Starcraft (terrans only), nukes in TA, etc…

Examples of weak strategic powers games:
Warcraft Series (none)
Rise of Legends (one very weak power per nation, with the exception of the giant gun the Vinci can make).
Kohan Series (none that I can recall)

Examples of strong strategic games:
C&C Generals: Super weapons, Pop up tunnels, a myriad of air strike options such as fuel-air bombs, leaflets, EMP bombs, toxin bombs, instant rebel troop insertion options, the ability to make any group of units PERMINITLY invisible, etc… No game has ever come close to all the ‘toys’ you get as a commander.

RA2: Each side has a super weapon and a secondary faction power like a chrono sphere (lets you teleport anything anywhere), mind control, iron curtain (makes a group of units invulnerable for a while), etc…

My Preferences: I definitely like lots of strategic options. I want complex gameplay where you have to be creative. This is one of my prime reasons I love C&C Generals.

Anyway… Enough work time wasted here. You should look at this list and see what your likes / dislikes are and find a game that matches what you want the most based on that.

I can’t believe they’re still making these games.

Simultaneous turn based (i.e. plot turns then simultaneous resolve) FTW.

That’s a pretty good method of classification (although I disagree with you almost all across the board, Starcraft is one of my favorite games, definitely my favorite RTS). But as DeepT says, if you don’t enjoy micromanagement or just simply can’t do it, you can’t play a lot of RTSes that are very heavy on it.

Otherwise, if you’re okay with it, or like it - get better at it. You’re going to be using it a lot.

I just checked the default settings and I was off on two hotkeys: next city is I not C, and smallest city is N not U. I was remembering C from RoN. In any case, the rest of the hotkey info I gave is correct.

Also, L is research.

Using the control groups and Tab will help a lot, as will assigning unit producing buildings to control groups.

Use Kari Wuhrer in lots of fun cheesy FMV videos?

Oh I am sorry YOU wanted to do well, not sell lots of RTS product :)

So have there been any new patches for Rol in the last 2 months or so? I still never got custom play to work.

you forgot
Tactical Complexity

[/B]games that require positioning, formations, taking advantage of terrain and weather bonuses, balancing acceptable losses vs strategic gain.

examples: Ground control series, Myth series, Total War games, etc. upcoming Warhammer March of Chaos, Battlefront’s Theatre of War.

generally these RTS games are more focused, less hectic as there is much less (or none at all) back and forth with your base and harvesting, and tend to make you care more about your army. I

Spiffy: You forgot Kohan Ahrimans Gift. Great tactics in that.

Additionally I still disagree with you bastards about Kohan II being better. It murdered the series with its horrible METOOWARCRAFT attitude. It made me wanna barf.

Ever tried the less micromanagement-y RTS titles, like the Kohan series? Fewer units, fewer buildings, and fewer resources mean you have to focus on making fewer but more important choices than your average RTS. And there’s a greater emphasis on tactics like flanking, retreats, etc. A lot of details are handled by the game: e.g., units automatically use their special abilities, rather than forcing you to trigger and target them manually.

It makes me feel more like an armchair general and less like a dance choreographer.

You need to be aggressive, you need to scout out your opponent and be fully aware of what they’re doing so you can counter it, and you need to know all the counters and what unit can do what.

However, you will get that partly through practice, and mostly through reading forums and watching replays.

What you need, and what is more important than anything else, is a lightning fast and accurate mousehand, and the ability to process a lot of information at once and to prioritise it. The faster your mouse hand, the better you’ll do.

Everyone has access to all the same tactical information you do, every confrontation has been fought a million times and analysed to death. In most RTSs terrain simply isn’t a big factor, and what units you bring to the brawl is more important. In the end, you need that fast mousehand so you 10 units are doing more than his 10 units.