General 1v1 Guide
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with basic instructions on how to play 1v1, specifically ladder. It's implied that you have already read the Beginner's Guide to Forged Alliance, the Three Essential Habits for the New Player, and the Unit Micro guides and have a general understanding of the basic game mechanics and terms.
You should start by building a land factory and following up with one of the basic build orders shown in the Beginner's Guide to Forged Alliance. Depending on the size of the map you spawned on, the queue of your first factory might vary greatly. If it is a 5x5 you will need some early engineers and units, but later on your first factory can mostly build tanks (assuming you can keep your engineers alive). On 10x10 maps you will require some more early engineers along with a few units, but later on the factory can just build engineers. On 20x20 maps your first factory can make only engineers, leaving the combat units for factories built later. Your first engineers should build the mexes in your base that your ACU will not, begin building a hydro if one is available, reclaim any large rocks/wrecks near your base, and begin expanding to mexes outside of your base. Expanding engineers are vulnerable to your opponent's units so they should have an escort. A single tank escorting an engineer should be enough early on, but do not forget to bring along a scout for extra vision and radar.
The very early portion of your build is now complete. You have completed your 2nd factory, and have one or two engineers expanding with escorts. What now? Depending on your build and on the map you may have some mass still stored up. Look at your ecobar and see how much mass you have remaining. If you have more than 100 mass stored up and are not losing mass rapidly, feel free to build an additional pgen and a land factory or if you chose to go for 2 land factories, 2-4 more pgens and an air factory.
So now your ecobar should be mostly out of mass, whether after your early build or after constructing some extra structures. Your ACU should leave your base now. There is no more mass to spend until your expanding engineers build more mexes or reclaim. But where should it go? Often there is a cluster of mexes somewhat close to your spawn, your ACU is perfect for securing that. Remember your ACU is about as strong as 20 tanks! Make sure when you leave your base that you will have some engineers ready in your base by the time you get mass, in a pinch you can build a factory with your ACU while it's on the way to the expansion, but you would rather not.
After a while you will get some mass from your newly built mexes, and you will have a couple engineers in your base waiting to use it. The best thing to spend your newly gained mass on at this point would be extra land factories. Be aware, as you spend more and more mass, you will need more and more energy. You should be generally okay if you build 1 pgen for every land factory you build from this point on. For each air factory you will need 4 adjacent pgens. You should also begin building a row of pgens at the back of your base with 1 or 2 engineers, these will satisfy your new engineers building things, various upgrades, etc. Sooner or later you will be spending more mass than you are gaining, at that point you will need to manage your economy. You can either pause or cancel projects, depending on your preference. The first thing to pause would be the engineers building pgens (assuming you aren't stalling power). If you are still stalling mass after pausing pgen production, pause engineers building factories and if you are still stalling a lot of mass, pause some of the factories. You can unpause them once you get more mass.
You should find some use for the units you build, don't let them just sit somewhere doing nothing. Either send them to raid your opponent or protect your expansions. Once you start accumulating more units you can do more daring raids to your opponent's expansions, try not to waste the units though. Or if your opponent is raiding you, send your units to defend your expansions. Some PDs are okay at defence, but you shouldn't build too many of them, 1 or 2 on an expansion should be more than enough if you also send your units. Consider PD more of a support unit rather than your primary defense force. You can also take your ACU on the frontlines, its power as a combat unit should be used, but be careful. Keep your army close to it and if you are clearly winning, consider sending it back to your base so you don't accidentally get killed and lose the game.
If T1 land and air alone won't win you the game or you wish to gain a tech advantage or just build higher tier mexes, see below in “teching” for some advice on when it is okay to tech.
If you wish to be aggressive very early on, you can make some LABs. If you use LABs, make them somewhere in your first 5 units. They are considerably worse than tanks so they can mainly kill engineers without an escort. Consider pairing them with scouts to find engineers more easily.
- As stated above, pausing the engineers constructing pgens and factories is a good way to get out of a small stall or at the very least make you stall less. You can use reclaim to build more stuff than your income would normally allow, just don't rely on it too much as you do not want to stall once the reclaim stops. Keep an eye on your ecobar and adjust your active buildpower (engineers) accordingly. If you need mass for a specific project (tech, upgrade, ecoing, emergency PD), you can temporarily pause something that is taking up a lot of mass, such as mex/factory upgrades or some of your land factories. Just be sure to unpause your factories and/or continue upgrading your economy once you complete the new project.
- If you decide to spend your mass by building T2 mexes, be ready to spend the mass once the mexes finish. A T2 mex will give you 6 mass per second, which is as much as 3 T1 mexes. You should make sure you are not only spending your newly gained mass on more and more mexes. You should prepare engineers for a project of your choosing. This could be units, factories, pgens, or ACU upgrades.
- The best way to avoid overflowing mass is to have large amounts of buildpower available (engineers).
- You want enough, but not too much. Why? Because the cost of pgens adds up, and every extra one you build will cost you mass you could have spent on something else. On maps with little mass, you may want to build a row of pgens with just 1 engineer. On maps with more mass, 2-3 engineers making a pgen line should be enough. On high mass maps 4-5 engineers on the pgen line is usually enough. If you stall power, you can take some idle engineers and build a few pgens with them to fix your stall (do note that they will also take power to construct pgens, so your power stall will get worse temporarily). When stalling power, it is often a good idea to pause air factories so you can get your pgens up faster. This is because air costs more energy while land costs more mass. You can also disable any radars you may have. Once your stall is fixed remember to unpause these things.
- If you find yourself overflowing power, you have a couple places where you can quickly spend large amounts of it. Air production and ACU upgrades are the two major ways to spend energy. For air you can assist an existing factory with engineers or build new air factories. Since air costs very little mass, it is a good way to use your extra energy without hurting your mass income too much. ACU upgrades are a bigger investment since you have to complete the upgrade to get the benefit and it means your ACU will not be active but they have the potential to be extremely strong.
- Take great care building T2 pgens once you gain access to them. They are quite expensive and building extra ones can make you stall enough for your opponent to take advantage of your smaller armies.
Half of the map belongs to you, the other half to your opponent. Not taking your own half is a sure way to lose the game. Your ACU can expand after your early build order to 1 or 2 expansions, depending on the map, and your escorted engineers will take the rest. However, your opponent will try to deny these expansions on your side of the map by raiding them and you should do the same. While your ACU is expanding, your units should be either defending your expansions or raiding your opponent's. Once your ACU is done expanding you can send it to attack your opponent (along with a land army of course).
It can be quite difficult to gain control of mexes that are on your opponent's side of the map, thus, it is often enough to just deny them from your opponent (raiding). If you can keep your expansions intact and raid some of your opponent's expansions, you will be in a good position to win the game. Sometimes people might sacrifice map control for higher tech or a snipe. If you are able to scout well, you can avoid these nasty surprises (more on that below).
Reclaim can be seen when holding down ctrl and shift. Reclaim gives you a brief mass boost. Two types of reclaim exist. The type that is there when you spawn, and that which is created as you fight (wrecks). Natural reclaim consists usually of a few big rocks and from a large amount of small rocks spread around. Sometimes there are some wrecks near the middle of the map. You can boost your early mass (you are able to build more in your base before you leave) with reclaim that is close to your base.
You can either reclaim manually (best saved for high-mass things), or with an attack move or patrol. Engineers with an attack move stop reclaiming if your storage gets too full but they will also become idle once the reclaim runs out. Patrolling engineers don't lose the order if your storage gets too full but they never stop patrolling.
Destroyed armies leave a lot of reclaim. It is in your best interests to reclaim as much of the wrecks as possible, especially if they are T2 or T3 wrecks. Any nearby engineers should head for the reclaim field and begin reclaiming it. If there is a lot of reclaim, you can build a factory near it and use it to build engineers that will use the factory attack move for extra range.
Wrecks that are in water lose far more of their original mass value compared to if the unit died on land.
Trees give a miniscule amount of mass and some power. You should concentrate on rocks and wrecks first and once they run out, you can start reclaiming trees.
When should you tech and what should you tech? Generally it's a good idea to do some teching if you don't lose anything while getting it. For example, you start building a T2 mex, but you start stalling and get less units. Now your opponent can raid your expansion of 3 or 4 T1 mexes. You get your T2 mex but you actually have less mass income than before. Same applies to T2 factories. One of your factories goes T2 (can't produce units while upgrading) and you also get less units because you stall. Your opponent can again raid your expansion. A temporary loss of an expansion is already quite bad but if you can't get it back, you can enter a downward spiral that you might never be able to recover from.
You might have noticed that teching usually causes stalling. It is often a good idea to tech when you have a fair bit of mass stored up, be it from reclaim or from poor eco management. Avoid teching in the first minutes of the game though. If you tech too early, your opponent might be able to overrun you with T1 units.
Scouts and radar will be providing all of your intel. Land scouts in your armies allow you to get more vision on the area you are moving to. This gives you some extra time to retreat from a larger army or from a PD before you take significant losses.
Air scouts allow you to see your opponent's base and expansions. This allows you to see his defences and tech without having to get too close with your armies. After the scout has completed it's initial scouting run, you can have it patrol somewhere so you get a bit more intel. It is important to react to what you see. Do you see a raid coming? Move units to defend. Is your opponent getting T2 land or navy? Get your own if you can't prevent him from getting it. Is he ecoing a lot? See if you can't raid one of his expansions.
Radar lets you see the immediate area around your expansions (and base). A T1 radar will give you some warning of enemy raids but it is not too useful in helping you raid. You can build radars on harder to reach places (plateaus, closed off areas) or you can build them close to your advancing armies. These will allow you to see more and aid you in raiding but they are vulnerable to bombers, and the forward radars will likely be lost once you retreat. You can later get T2 and T3 radars, which allow you to see further, but also cost more power to run.
General guidelines for different map sizes
Small maps where every mex matters, very dependent on map control so teching early is rarely a good idea, build order matters a lot. Often very good maps for auroras. Using ACU in combat is a must-do. General gameplay consists of spamming T1 land and gaining map control with a slow switch to t2 or ACU upgrade (if they are made at all).
Medium size maps with every aspect of the game included. Spam T1 to hold your part of the map or try to attack, T2 stage is reached nearly always and is most of the time the "main" stage of the game, but T3 can be reached with relative ease too. Teching mexes is a lot easier than on 5x5 because you have more mass to work with and the distance between you and your opponent is bigger. Air can be used but rarely as your main weapon, it's good for raiding and snipes though. Be careful and watch out for those pesky ACU upgrades from your opponent, as they can be a very effective tool to push with.
Big maps with no water are rare and each one of them is quite different in how it plays. Generally speaking air is important as it's a lot more mobile than land, but on some maps like Emerald Crater T1 land spam has proven to be a very effective weapon just because of how little mass there is to work with and how land units provide a much better tool for securing map control (air is good for raiding but not for holding). With big amounts of mass on maps like Ditch (the navy on it is irrelevant), it's very important to tech quickly since the amount of mass allows it.
If the water doesn't have a steep shore and can be accessed by land, hover units are very good. So get your own hover or frigates. Fast ACU through the water to the enemy base is also good. If it's inaccessible its importance decreases and it plays more like a 5x5 with no water (Balvery Mountains for example). But on maps like "TAG Voi Vittu" you have mexes underwater so it's still necessary to hold navy.
For example eye of the storm and white fire. If there is a land connection, it can be used for raiding and attacking. Air can be used for killing mexes or for aiding navy with torpedo bombers. Usually winning navy on these maps wins you the game.
Plays somewhat like a 10x10 land map, except you swap land and navy. Most important thing is to grab the map, especially on an island based map like Roanoke Abyss. Thus it's important to not stall eco early on and get a fast transport. Then you can play a "normal" game with eco and navy. Ultimately the goal is to win navy, air and hover units shouldn't be neglected. (A more detailed explanation below.)
Most naval maps are 20x20 and require a transport rush (see this video). Usually there are multiple islands/land masses that must be dropped to get the mexes in a timely manner. After or during your expansion with transport(s), you will build some naval factories. Early frigates can raid your opponent's mexes that are on the very edge of his island(s) and raid his engineers building naval factories if he gets them up too late. Once you have a bit of T1 navy and your expansions are secure, you should get T2 navy. Destroyers are able to shell your opponent's navy from afar and they can also kill mexes that your frigates can't reach. Often the player who has the most destroyers will win the naval game. This requires a good economy (you need to make some T2 mexes sooner or later) and ample build power on your T2 naval factory (engineers). You must not forget frigates though. A destroyer requires an escort of frigates. The destroyers main power comes from its range. If many enemy frigates get close, it will die quickly. A mix of destroyers and frigates is needed. Torpedo bombers can be used to kill destroyers, allowing you to swing the game in your favour.
UEF players should build some shield boats once they get T2 navy, it will increase the survivability of your destroyers. They should also consider getting T3 navy and battlecruisers once they have enough mass income and time to upgrade the factory.
A note on submarines. While they are ok against frigates, they are bad at raiding shore mexes (bad deck gun, have to surface), and have very low damage, which can allow your opponent to wreak havoc on your naval yards with a frigate before your subs can kill it. All destroyers also have torpedoes that will quickly deal even with large submarine groups (UEF has the torpedo boat for this purpose).
Get T3 sonar once you can build T2 pgens. With seraphim you have to build T2 sonars around the map.
General strategy/tactics/approach tips
- Before attacking evaluate if the attack will pay off or the reclaim left from units will only feed your opponent.
- Try to always know what your opponent is up to, as then it's only a matter of knowing the counter to his actions and good micro/macro.
- Don't "learn" maps, instead learn the game. A good player with deep game understanding will do great on any map, a player that focuses on map learning won't improve nearly as fast.
- Use your faction's advantages. You will learn about them as you get more familiar with the game but a lot of them are already in different guides, including the ones I linked above.
- Don't overcommit with ACU. Even though not using your ACU for its firepower might seem as the mistake, and often it is so, in many cases it's too dangerous to use it aggressively, you need to "feel" when to play passively and when not.
- Build power is also a resource, sometimes killing a group of engineers can make more difference than raiding mexes.
How do I improve?
- You won't improve fast just by playing a lot. You have to learn the mechanics first. You should have them covered by now, if not - read Beginner's Guide to Forged Alliance, and play a couple games to get a feel for the game. Next step would be to read this guide.
- After every game go and watch the replay, see what caused you to lose and be honest with yourself. Watch replays of people ~300 rating above yourself, I would say it's the best range to learn from. Those players are clearly better but also don't have a massive difference from your gameplay so it's easy to pick up things from their games. You can also watch replays of high level 1v1s, but picking things up from them will be quite difficult, but they are often a good source of build orders.
- Watch POV streams and videos, those will help you pick up things you couldn't pick up yourself from watching replays. It's a great way to entertain yourself and learn by watching a different point of view.
- There is a whole lot more to talk about, but those things will be talked about in future guides, or you can learn these more advanced things yourself as well.