Note: I am by no means an awesome player and this guide is as much a set of reminders for me as it is help for others, some of the things on this list I know I definitely need to work on. We can all benefit from brushing up on our basics from time-to-time. If you feel any of this advice is bad then please comment. I consider this a work in progress and will be making alterations based on feed-back or more thoughts. Cheers.
Downloadable PDF version of the whole article
Patch version: 2.4.0 - 28.10.2010
Contents: (The spoilers tags below need to be opened up before the content links will work)
- Overall Strategy & Economy
- Hero Usage & Wargear Selection
- Skirmish Tactics & Unit Management
If you're totally new to Dawn of War 2 then this huge article may seem a little daunting and that you'll never learn it all. Don't be put off by this. Have a read through and pick a couple things to work on for a few games, then when you've got those down have another look and pick a few more things to work on. Gradually build up your repertoire of skills and have patience, many of these things are good habits rather than specific strategies and it takes time for them to sink into your play style. Even if you successfully utilise just a few of these tips you will likely notice a strong difference at lower TrueSkill levels.
Overall Strategy & Economy
: Overall Strategy & Economy :
Know the Races
You should know your army inside out. You should know all the costs of the units and all the tactical options they open up out of the box and also what they bring to the table with upgrades. You should be equally aware of the units’ strengths and weaknesses, what they counter, what they are vulnerable to – both in general terms, like knowing it's unsuitable for big fire-fights, and more specifically such as which particular units wipe the floor with them and should be avoided at all costs. In games you can find out what race your enemy is on the load screen, though you will have to wait until in-game to find out which hero they are using. Even if you don’t play all four races, you still need to know all the units in them and be able to recognise them at sight. This task has been simplified somewhat by the identifying decorator icons (see below) and they inform you at a glance what strengths and upgrades the units have. These are useful certainly, but they are no substitute for specific, detailed knowledge and combat experience of the troops.
You need be thinking ahead: What units am I likely to see? What units do I need to watch out for? Are they likely to have loads of setup weapons or not? If so do I need to scout ahead before rushing? How soon do vehicles normally come into play? You also need to have tactical responses to the answers of those questions; if you’re facing a Space Marine player and you think ASM are imminent, it’s good to know that but you also need to know how you’re going deal with that too. Stick with one race for a little while so you can learn it, but do not simply stick with Space Marines forever and hope for the best, do try to play all four races for periods and not just against the AI (I find it hard to break out my Eldar comfort zone in ranked play, so I need to fix this too). Basically you need to know all four races inside out. Consider - if your enemy knows exactly what your troops’ strengths, weaknesses, upgrades and abilities are but you don’t know theirs then you are at a strong disadvantage.
Furthermore you need to be aware of how to synergise (what an awful word) with your team-mates. If your Space Marine team-mate has missile tacs already then perhaps it's not a good idea to get a Brightlance too unless the enemy has gone particularly vehicle heavy. If you understand your team-mates force at a glance then you can tailor your own to dovetail into theirs and cover each others' weaknesses. This is very relevant on tight maps like Argus Gate or the southern part of Capital Spire, but on maps like Tibor Outpost self-sufficiency is a stronger concern than on others due to distance and potential separation from team-mates.
In the 1.3 patch, Relic re-vamped the decorators from race specific icons to universal, generic icons in order to make it easier to tell what kind of unit it is. Personally I preferred the old ones as they had more flavour, but they were pretty hard to decipher at times so what the hell.
a. Melee Anti-infantry (AI) - Basic
b. Melee AI - Strong
c. Melee AI and Anti-vehicle (AV) - Basic, w/upgrade.
d. Melee AI and AV - Strong
e. Ranged AI - Basic
f. Ranged AI - Strong
g. Ranged AV - Basic
h. Suppression unit, w/setup time.
i. Ranged AI and AV - Strong, w/setup time and area effect
j. Sniper unit, w/detection
k. Ranged AI - Basic, w/area effect (clearer pic of the AoE target)
l. Grenade/Explosive unit
Extras (the little ones on the top)
m. Squad with an upgrade (could be anything)
n. Jump unit
o. Squad with anti-vehicle upgrade
p. Squad with flamer upgrade
q. Squad with grenade upgrade
r. Hero icon (the big white bars). Hero has Melee AI - Strong and is a jump unit.
s. Random example: Ranged AI - Basic, w/additional grenades and detection.
Know the Maps
This seems obvious, but it’s worth stressing how important it is. There's only a few maps to learn for each play style so it's not such a big task. You must be familiar with where the crucial, typically hard-fought areas are, which points should definitely be yours and which are contested, and also in 2v2/3v3 you must be aware which points your troops should be going for and which you should leave for your team-mates. As soon as you see the map you need to decide which point you’re going to make a play for, don’t shilly-shally around. Generally this should not be a point that’s should be yours by rights; you should usually head for a contested one with at least one of your opening units. It might seem like this will leave you without any resources but your following squads should cap ‘your’ points on their way to the frontline. If you leave the contested point then your enemy will likely take it without interference, cap their own points at leisure, will be better prepared and harder to dislodge when you arrive, and will then already control more points than you leaving you at a disadvantage. When the enemy pushes forward they will be fighting you for points that should be yours for certain, while the points in their half of the map remain uncontested; you will be fighting to hold on to your minority rather than fighting to gain the majority. You should know the little kinks in the maps, like how the top of the Typhon Arena map has a requisition point that those on the right-hand side can get to easier than those on the left, or the infamous Trench O’ Plasma-Spam Doom on Capital Spire (though this is less potent now as the map has been tweaked). In fact Capital Spire is notorious for these little things, like buildings that are a pain to remove troops from etc.
You should also know (though this is really obvious) when you’re getting close to their base. The obvious threat is the turrets, but there’s also the issue that proximity to their base makes it quicker for them to reinforce and come back, making it harder for you. Also, you’re pretty far from your own base, so it might take you a while to get back to reinforce. Pushing too far into the map is easier to do than you might think when you're chasing a retreating enemy, especially with melee troops; however, the desire to just finish off that squad can easily lead to your doom wondering quite how you lost it all. Be aware of the balance between pushing the advantage and running yourself into a disadvantage.
Lastly, in 3v3 don't just look after your part of the map. Help out your team-mates, hop over to their area and lend a hand for an attack or defence. Some maps are very 'laney' and it's very easy to get stuck in your own lane. Some lanes are tighter than others or lend themselves to group play a bit more, so think about which areas are hotly fought and whether you need to go help out at them or whether you need your team-mates help you out at your own area.
If these images don't send you into a 'Nam flashback sequence complete with black and white filter and shouts of "Charlie's in the trees!! Dakka dakka dakka!!", or make you curl up into a ball sobbing for your momma at the horror of remembering your most crushing defeats.....then you're not ready trooper!!
The build order is a pre-planned list of which units, upgrades, wargear and structures (gens etc.) you're going to build and in which order and can span from being only the first two or three units to mapping out deep into Tier 2 depending on how involved and bold your strategy is. As soon as the game starts you need to make a call as to what build order you’re going for, you can’t waste valuable seconds “umming” and “ahhing” at this crucial point in the game and you won't have any idea what the enemy's plan is yet so you have nothing to react to - you need to be decisive and build orders are the solution. I generally spend the map loading time pondering which build I’m going to go for, and then make slight alterations when I know what starting position I’m in. This means you need to have several build orders that you know how to handle and are ready to go. As you grow familiar with them and experiment they'll blossom into branching and changeable trees which can respond to enemy choices, and while you might queue up two Slugga squads at first, you can easily change your mind, cancel the second Slugga and swap it for a Shoota etc. With base building missing from DOW2, however, build orders are not as long as they are for other strategy games, but still the point stands: you need a plan.
Build orders, in combination with which point you go for, are much like opening plays in chess, they become slightly formalised and recognisable, and they also take practice to execute well, not just clicking the build squads, but timing your battlefield tactics to match the expected arrival of new troops. The relative strengths and weaknesses of different builds versus different races and commanders need to be noted, what to watch out for, what type of positional play works well with it, which maps and starting positions they work best on and so on. You should stick with a build order until you get the hang of it, don’t sack it off after one attempt, keep trying different ways of playing until you get comfortable with it or until you are sure it’s not going work. Once you are happy with it and have done well with it, try another one. This way you’ll soon build up your repertoire of build orders and will be able to chop and change much more easily as well make judgment calls at that crucial moment upon map loading. When you have a few build orders under your belt then you'll also be much more use to your team-mates in the early game as you can fit your build to match theirs. Tag-teaming the bottom section of Angel Gate? Let your Marine player go ranged and you can handle the melee with the 'Nid swarm for example.
VPs, Power & Requisition
So, VPs are the most important point right? Or are they...? What points you go for really depends on what's going on in the game at the time and will boil down to some primary considerations: how easy will it be to capture it, how long am I likely to hold it for, and how much will I gain by simply denying to from opponent. These issue are all interlinked.
It's important to grab your VPs early on, this much is obvious, but their importance in the game won't become apparent until later on. If you neglect to grab them - or rather never really push the contested points - and focus instead on power points and combat then it can go pretty well, but you can soon find yourself way behind on VPs having been victim to a strong bleed. It's not the end of the world, but you are now forced to concentrate on the VPs and your enemy, if they are smart, will know that. The battle will start to focus around the VPs but the onus will be on you to attack and camping will be the luxury of your opponent. What material advantage you did have can soon be smashed on the walls of a good defence, and power is often not such a limiting factor late game as it is in the early game.
There will likely be much to-ing and fro-ing over the VPs (as I presume was intended by the designers) due both to their position and lack of capping node. VPs can often become fortified with troopers in building, multiple setup teams, and deployed turrets and you should be aware of which VPs are easier to defend and camp at, which are tricky to hold, and which should belong to you at all times. These are not your only considerations though, as often the flow of the battle is a big factor. Typhon Arena is a textbook example of distraction - the fight will be raging over that equidistant bottom VP, maybe with some D-cannons setup, a couple of plasma cannons, and you might as well toss in some Nobz Squads and Termies while you're at it. "Smashing battle wot wot, eh chaps? We'll give these guys a damn good thrashing!" you retort to the executive officer as your frontline troops are mercilessly mown down by heavy bolter fire. However, the canny commander across the way meanwhile has taken the top VP from your side. Sure, taking it back will often not be that hard, but a continually nibbling at VPs such as this can nullify any hard-fought advantage you've gained on the main frontline, as well maybe drain a surprising amount VPs.
Often, simply de-capping a VP can be enough, and many close battles can be decided on things like this. Fast, speed-buffed troops , webways and infiltrators are all obvious tools for a job like this, just be sure to keep a careful eye on them in case they run into some surprise defence as they'll likely be wiped out in short order. The reverse issue around this is how to prevent the enemy capping your own VPs - not just keeping them from it in general, but actually physically stopping them - and for that job you'll be using tools like knockdown weapons, walker chargers, Warlock's warp throw and of course the global nuke. Perhaps counter-intuitively, but late game units like Terminators often making surprisingly good cappers and they resist many of the knockdown techniques and can also usually withstand enough firepower to get the job done. Still, you'll soon find that a desperate, last-minute nuke to keep the enemy from re-capping a VP can just seal that game for you.
Having said all that about VPs, generally it's best to go after your opponents power early game. Tibor Outpost is a classic map for razing generator farms as both teams make a mad dash across the map for the upper node on the left-side and the lower one on the right-side. All of a sudden the flamer tacs appear on the mini-map and boosh - those gens are gone as there's simply not enough time to get back to defend them on such a huge map.
While the VPs will win you the game, it's really the power nodes that will ... win you the game (if you see what I mean). In a close game, really tight spending strategy might help you a smidgen, and making sure you don't botch your micro will help, sure, and picking the right counters is just a given. What will make the real difference in a game is if you manage to gain a power advantage allowing you to slowly pull away up the tech tree. Of course you still need the micro-management chops to capitalise on this advantage as it's all too easy to lose your troops in a blink of an eye with those big sausage fingers of yours mashing the keys like an orangutan, but getting that power advantage is the first step.
Equally, defending your own farms is important, as a gen-farm trade-off gets us nowhere. So you need to win that first encounter in order to both push onto the gens as well as protecting your own. The first initial skirmish is a crucial factor in the game and can easily dictate the flow the battle for the early game, so get you need to get your tactics sorted for the first three or four minutes and get your execution down hard - nice 'n' crisp, no cock-ups.
To return to VPs for a moment: power is more important initially, but the thing is it can be a gamble. You might make a big push and only manage to get one of the gens down - well done, not to be sniffed at - but if you don't manage to make the most of any advantage you get, or even worse you get caught off guard on the counter-attack and get a spanking, then the fact that you didn't grab any VPs along the way will bite you hard. So it's not that you shouldn't go after the power - if you can get some down solidly then great - it's just that you need to judge the situation a bit and make sure you don't do yourself a disservice by going for it.
These are a tricky one. They are seemingly innocuous and not really worth troubling over seeing as your HQ churns out so much requisition already. However, this doesn't mean you should ignore them. Every little helps in a close game, and when you're feeling the upkeep burn from all those troops and your reinforcement bill is getting out of hand that extra requisition can really help get the boys back on the field sooner rather than later. Mid to late Tier 2 is when I start feeling a real requisition drain - the big guns have started to arrive and casualties are high combined with large standing forces demanding larger upkeep bills. So, yeah, ok, way to state the obvious, right? More req is a good thing, tell us something we don't know.
The real question you're wondering is whether you should go after them? Well, yeah you should. But again that comes with caveats and judgements.They are certainly a lower priority than VPs and power, but that can work to your advantage too, in so much as you can often get away with ninja-ing req points relatively unscathed. Remember that req points are worth more over time, so often simply de-capping your opponents points can be a worthwhile venture, something they'll not really pay attention to at the time but, hopefully, will come round to bite them on the ass later. One of the things you'll notice the AI doing is de-capping all kinds of req points deep in your territory. While this is really only a minor annoyance, it can cause a significant drain on your req over time and more significantly it can cause you to chase all over the map trying to re-cap the points near your base, thus diverting your attention from more juicy targets like the VPs. This diversion is pretty hard to pull off against good players who'll often annihilate any squad trying that in no time - whoops - but successfully distracting and diverting the opponents can be invaluable.
Should you capture a req point instead of a power node? Almost certainly not. Should you just capture the req points near you and leave it at that? No to that too. Use every advantage you can because you might just need it.
Floating is when you have excess resources kicking around that are unspent. You should avoid this; you should be spending your resources as soon as you get them. This doesn't mean you should spend it on anything as soon as you've got it just to get rid of it, it's fine to save up for the more expensive things, but unspent money => less troops/less tech => weaker force overall => you falling behind. So spend that crap as soon as you have enough to buy what it is you want, and if you can't think of what to spend it on or what to save up for then just spend it on something!! Resources are useless on their own and are meant to be transformed into strength for your force (be it tech, troops or upgrades) - the sooner you convert it the better. Knowing your build order will help this a lot in the early phase.
A common issue is having an imbalance in requisition or power. Overflowing requisition in the early game is not unusual, and later on - if you're doing well - you can riding high on power. If you have too much requisition then you should start slamming down power gens. If you've done that already and you're waiting for enough power to buy a T2 unit then do some quick maths - can you squeeze out another basic req-only unit while waiting for those twenty power points to trickle in? Probably, so do it. With too much power kicking about then you probably need to buy more high-tech units and upgrades, perhaps you're focusing on low-grade infantry too much.
"What's the diagnosis, doctor?" - "Hmm, well nurse, it looks like he's got a bad case of......TEH FLOATZ!! Prognosis: not good."
Don't fall too far behind in tech. If you see your opponent is T2, then you need to be gettin' yo azz to T2 as well ASAP. In DOW1, the "something" which you spent your money when uncertain about troops was tech researches and upgrades; however, this isn't really the case in DOW2. A classic pitfall of the inexperienced player is that they want to have a sizeable force at all times, and so continually replenish their troops before teching up. This is usually a mistake. Even if you have just taken a beating and lost a fair few troops, if you can afford to it's usually best to tech up, though this is not always the case and it can take some judgement. You only have to tech up once, and when you do your whole army benefits (not necessarily directly, but they have better upgrades, more troop choice etc). Even if you're losing the skirmishes, don't get too far behind on tech otherwise you really will get mangled. Avoid having a series of mental checkpoints like "well, I need a decent army of two ranged units and two melee units before I tech up, and I need my commander too" that are outside of your build order because to some extent you should be planning when to go to T2 as part of it.
Be aware of what costs power in T1 and consider the effect spending power will have on your teching. If you keep buying things that cost power you'll never make it to T2 and you'll get walloped, so weigh them up carefully. Keep an eye on the rates of income too: You may have 300 requisition and 75 power, but instead of simply waiting for that extra 50 power there's a good chance (at the stage in the game) that you can spend that requisition on troops (but not the power), and by the time you've got 125 power you're back at 300 requisition. The race to T2 has certainly slowed down somewhat since the 1.5 patch. Now T1 is much longer than before and it's advisable to go into T2 strong rather than rushing there as fast as you can. The same guidelines apply though, it's just the timing is now longer. The main point is to be proactive with teching.
As mentioned in the teching-up section, a common error is to just churn out the troops and hope that troop-mass will win out. Consider going for the opposite approach, consider have fewer but better troops. DOW2 rewards players for having fewer troops as your upkeep costs will be less, so in many cases it's better to purchase upgrades and leaders than it is to get more troops. It's easier to manage fewer squads than it is tons of squads too, and better squads will kill more/survive longer becoming more experienced and thus performing even better still. Also, upgrades will stick around on a squad forever so long as at least one trooper survives and thus they are money well spent. The same is true for commander wargear too (note that they only cost 250 req 0 power to revive). Another small detail is to, I find, buy any upgrades first, before the leaders. The reason being that the upgrade is permanent, where as the leader may require repeated purchasing. If you are strapped for cash and keep only being able to afford the leader, you could've spent all that time in possession of the upgrade too and had a better chance of keeping your leader. Admittedly, not a very common scenario, but it was brought to my attention in the days of very weak Warp Spider Exarchs who would die all the time. These points are not a rule, just something to consider, and they are only useful if you are suitably proficient at keeping your troops alive otherwise it will just be more money wasted! There are times when getting all the upgrades first will prevent you squeezing out another squad, and it might have been better to get that squad out and upgrade the first squad while the other builds. There's also times when getting the squad leader first may be preferable, such as with Guardians and their awesome performance-for-cost Warlock leaders.
Another tip for the canny shopper is timing. When you're building something with a long build time in the HQ - most notably the tier upgrades - I find it's often best not to queue anything up behind it. The reason for this is the upgrade is so long that by that time it's completed you will have gathered a load more resources (especially power) and so this may affect your troop choice. I have often queued up what I thought was a much needed unit behind the Tier 2 upgrade, only to cancel it before it started as I realise I now almost have enough for a better vehicle or whatever. You will also have better knowledge of your opponent’s troops too, as the fighting during the long upgrade will reveal more of your opponent’s strategy and you can pick a better counter. Still, either way it's a balance - on the one hand there's potentially time wasted if you forget to build something when it's done, on the other you can accidentally build a unit that's not actually that useful because you forgot to cancel it.
Remember that upgrades and leaders on your troops can be built at the same time as troops of course, so if you need some extra Pow! as soon as possible then don't waste resources on queued items, get some quick upgrades. However, holding off on upgrading your troops is worth considering when they have a choice of upgrades to pick from; you should refrain from just going ahead and buying these weapon upgrades based on assumption. Leave your tacs un-upgraded until you see what kind of play the enemy makes in T2, that way you can ambush them with just the right counter. You can upgrade in the field relatively quickly, so it can be very reactive. Even so, there is advantage in upgrading early, especially with commanders, as it gives you that offensive boost, but holding back until you have more info is often useful, if only so you know which of your normal upgrades to get first. For example my default setup on the warlock is Merciless Witchblade and Warpthrow. I'll hold off for a little while to see what's shaping up: if the enemy is apoth, farseer or is using energy dependant troops then I'll go witchblade first (it drains energy), if they're going setup teams then I'll get warpthrow first, but the chances are still that I'll get both in the end. The key point, however, is this: make informed choices when you go shopping.
In 2v2 and 3v3 it is very easy to get all wrapped up in your side of the map - the battle over the power node is intense and there's plenty of back and forth. That's great, but remember you're part of a team so use each other! Make sure you're keeping an eye on what your team-mates are doing by looking at the mini-map and also just hovering over their part of the map to see what's going on. This way you can see what troops are being fielded (by both sides) and get a better idea of what to counter, or if you see them standing around wondering what to do you can yell "Get your big, sexy dreadnought over here pronto, I'm getting my ass busted by nids and haven't even got to T2 yet!!"
If you’re feeling boxed in and stuck, don't stay that way: mix it up a little and change lanes. It's amazing how many games get turned around by simply swapping lanes and fighting a different enemy. It catches them totally off guard and they're often ready for all the wrong counters. Also consider pushing forward in concert with your team-mate and in the same location. You might have to hold back for a few seconds while they get ready, but it's much better to attack simultaneously. This is readily observable on the central mezzanine of Capital Spire. I can remember numerous games where we've lost due to both going up the bottom stairs in relay one after the other rather than simultaneously. The enemies, on the other hand, are both sitting there together and get to fight us individually with their combined strength. Often on that map the early plays can be game deciding and I remember vividly thinking that I should've just waited for my team-mate before charging up the stairs. To balance this there's always the risk of losing your side of the map while absent from it. However, it often doesn't go as badly as you'd think as the other players may rush to help out in the area that you and your team-mate have ganged up and then turn up in a staggered fashion, getting pounded each in turn, rather than heading off for the vacant areas. Also, teaming up with a big hard race when you're wussy Eldar makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, and the big hard races love having plenty of Eldar cannon fodder shielding them.
Lastly: revive commanders!! I'll say that one again: revive commanders dammit! This is so helpful to your team-mates and is also beneficial to you as your commander will automatically go up a level without having to kill a single thing. The main benefit for your team-mate is not so much the 250req cost (when the counter has run down) so much as the time spent without the commander; the commander is the spearhead of their force and is often decisive in a skirmish. If you're communicating well with your team-mates then there's even times when you won't need to retreat; your team-mate is backing you up and will come to revive you to save you the wasted time of retreating and healing. (Kudos to Arbit and Troubleshooter)
Repairing each others vehicles with your cheap troops mass can help out so much it's not even funny
If you're getting really fruity then you can try hitching a ride in each other's transport vehicles. Don't do it just for the hell of it (then again maybe you should just for the lolz) because it can be pretty fiddly and requires very good coordination. It's best done with headsets and microphones, and when successfully pulled off it can be a real shock for the enemy when two ASM squad pop out of an Eldar Falcon or the boyz swarm out of a razorback. I would stress though that good communication is key as similar attempts have backfired on me badly due to misunderstanding and misreading the field.
Scouting & Reconnaissance
This used to be considerably more pressing a concern when you didn't know what race your enemy was playing before you started, but now you can see what you're up against on the load screen and it takes some of the pressure off. However, this is still a very important technique in the game and greatly underused. Scouting is not solely the domain of infiltrators, even uninfiltrated capping units can be useful too, but it's much better if the enemy doesn't know that you've seen them and thus they won't change up their plan. The point of it all is to give yourself the best information for preparing a defence and an offense. An obvious demonstration is with the most slow to react of units, the setup weapons: just scouting out ahead of your main party a little way can give you a very simple bit of information namely which direction the enemy are coming from. With this information you can tweak your setup weapon's position accordingly for the best defence, rather than hurriedly trying to re-setup as the enemy charges you which is usually doomed to failure. The unit make-up of their force is another very important aspect and certain units will stick out like a sore thumb such as jump troops or vehicles. Even if you aren't prepared for them with a good counter yet it's much better to know in advance that these things are coming, and you can queue up your counter that much quicker and hopefully without needing to replace many troops. Another lifesaver is when you prevent yourself from walking into a big suppression trap by just scoping the place out first, you can then go round the back way and nullify their defences. Even just the sight of overwhelming force can be enough to go on - seeing two players blobbed up together and hungry for kills - and can save you from utter annihilation, either by calling your mates over quick-sharp or by just pulling back out of the way before they strike.
The benefits of knowing in advance what your opponent has and where they are huge. Also important is knowing where the enemy is not - that way you can safely go ad ninja their points, forcing them to perhaps split up their forces to chase you off and take it back, or maybe just giving you an extra VP for a while. The benefits of good information are so strong (see Sun Tzu's The Art of War for confirmation of this) that I tend to rate the Farseer's Farsight ability as the best global in the game - it's cheap and useful at all times in the game. The amount of times I've scoped out VPs and resource clusters to find them totally unguarded is just awesome, as well as scoping at that exact position of that bloody irritating D-cannon battery and the direction they're facing. You should share all your information with your team-mates: what commander they've gone for, what special troops they've picked up that you might need help with, location and name of the of the first enemy vehicle to hit the ground, places where they enemy is massing and blobbing up with more than one player, dug in weapons teams and campers - all sorts of stuff. Having no information makes you a dumb bunny ready for killing and eating. Don't be a dumb bunny. Information is vital, so go get some!
Hero Usage & Wargear Selection
: Hero Usage & Wargear Selection :
There’s no doubt about it: heroes are crucial. Heroes and their wargear should generally form a large part of your strategy and to lose your hero early on can often be crippling. You should be keenly aware of your chosen hero’s strengths and weaknesses, what situations they excel in and what situations they need to run like buggery from. If you’re used to a big tank hero whose job is to leg it into the enemy and knee them in the face then it’s going to take some adjustment in style to play a support hero who has to hang back.
These guys generally perform the aforementioned application of knees to opponent’s faces. Largely their role consists of keeping the enemy’s melee troops off of your soft, squishy ranged troops or disrupting their ranged squads. Watch out for that initial gap-closing sprint as your hero can (and will) take a lot of fire here and this short period of time will be very influential in deciding the outcome of the ensuing scrap. Even if you reach the enemy, if you’ve taken too damage on the way there it’ll be time to scarper before you can really do anything effective. Be particularly aware of setup teams of course – while it may seem at first that you’re going to reach them under suppression, generally you’re not and you’ll take a lot of damage trying. Your hero will generally be tough as old boots, but you should be wary of running across big, open areas to get to the enemy, those clear lines of fire will let them gun your health down pretty quickly most likely.
With this more fragile class of support heroes, distance and timing is key – they can potentially be tough and it’s often fine to wade in, but you must know when to pull back to your supporting troops otherwise you risk losing your commander too easily. This is partly due to comparative weakness when faced with an offensive hero, but it's also due to the fact that their main strength is in boosting your troops combat effectiveness with their auras and abilities rather than their own offensive capability. While attack is often the key to victory in this game, there are certainly times when it pays to actively hang back and have your hero support the troops from there. Be aware that these will not be as straight forward as offensive heroes and often very powerful, buff-laden wargear combinations. There'll be a lot more clicking of abilities if you want to get the most out of these chaps and plenty more careful timing and situational use, so if you feel you're a sausage-fingered button masher that just likes to go and bosh stuff in the face then you might want to approach these hombres with caution. On the other hand, there's only one way to get better and the heroes only get more fiddly from here on in.
Even though these guys are all ranged, they are still very useful in melee. Rather than standing off with your ranged troops and laying on the hurt, it’s often very useful to teleport into melee combat with the enemy ranged troopers to prevent them firing, especially with setup teams. The ranged troops won’t bother your hero especially in melee and this saves your squishy squads plenty of bother. Make sure you tie-up the most powerful ranged squad of course, and this will help you out a ton in the early stages of the game. If you’re going to shoot people up then remember to ‘port behind cover and don’t take your eye of your hero as they aren’t that tough. Teleporting behind enemy lines is very useful and tempted, but it also leaves you potentially vulnerable to unseen troops at the back and might leave you a bit too close to some melee troops. Also, you're deeper behind enemy lines and so successfully retreating is more problematic, especially as teleporters will lose health rapidly as they are weak. Naturally these guys are good for ninja-capping points too, as well as hopping between lanes to help out team-mates. High battlefield awareness is key for these guys as you'll be instantaneously darting about all over the place. Lastly, watch your energy level as you don't want to get caught with your pants down when the banshees come a-charging - that's a schoolboy error, don't get a smacked bottom.
These boys are sneaky, very sneaky, and they take a fair amount of finessing to get right. It can take a bit of practice to get the timing off their disruption abilities right so they work in harmony with the troops properly, and this is something you’ll need to do as the hero won’t last long against any real force. Similar to teleporters, keep a close eye on the energy level, as the infiltration will drain it consistently and often stop you using your planned ability if you hang around too long, so even though you’re invisible you haven’t got all day. Sneaky missions deep behind enemy lines are quite fun too, so have a go ninja-capping when the battle seems lop-sided to one side of the field. However, be aware that you’ll have to split your attention across two distant places to pull this off which can be tricky, and a sudden attack will likely wipe out your hero too far away for any chance of getting revived.
Here the Force Commander is doing his stuff, getting stuck into some troops with the ranged fellas hanging back. I'll admit my guys are all blobbed up there, but I had to run them over quick smart for the shot, you'd be amazed how hard it is to get the AI to hang around so you can take a screenie while you bash their face in. Note also the wargear box - there's green ticks on the items that I've already purchased at the early stage in the game. Clicking on these will switch me back for free
You should also be clued up on their wargear and have a firm idea about your options from the start. Your wargear should ultimately be woven into your strategy in a pretty integral way. In case you don’t know, the basic lowdown on wargear is that you have three slots – weapon, armour & accessory – that you can fill. If you fill one slot, however, you can still buy further pieces of the same type. The new piece will replace the existing wargear which will then appear with a green tick in the UI (see above picture). You can now switch between these pieces (of the same type) that you have at no extra cost – the only drawback is that it takes time for the switch. Wargear stays with your commander when they die and never need to be re-purchased, and so in one sense they are a very cost effective thing to purchase because when your hero dies you will only have to pay 250 req (if you wait for the timer to go down) and 0 power, or for free if a team-mate revives you.
There are arguably three main things to consider when pondering the wargear options and it will be a compromise between these:
- Your positive attacking strategy and how to strengthen it. A classic example of this is the Warp Spider Exarch’s group teleport wargear which can be extremely deadly when combined with two banshee squads and fired right behind enemy lines, especially against Marines. Two banshees plus the Warp Spider Exarch is good, but the group teleport just takes this tactic to the next level.
- The deficiencies in your troops and how you can plug those gaps. You might take an anti-vehicle weapon such as the power fist or the power klaw in order to make up an anti-vehicle shortfall that you’re not planning to plug with troops.
- What your opponent has brought to the table and what will help you counter that. The Apothecary’s power axe might spring to mind if you find yourself toe-to-toe with a spellcaster that’s getting on your nerves and want to stop them being a nuisance, or the Mekboy's Electric Field is great when facing massed Guardian blobs.
However, these three things are heavily interlinked and pretty much triangular in nature so don’t dwell too much on which one is which: what race the enemy turns out to be will strongly affect which strategy you choose, your strategy should pre-empt and work around any troop deficiencies it will entail, and your troop deficiencies will largely only become relevant if your enemy decides to exploit them with their strategy.
A simplified example: Warlock Immolate – Area of Effect damage-over-time spell. This is good for dealing a lot of damage to a large mob and also for forcing setup weapons team to pack up and move out. The ability to dislodge setup up teams means you can probably hold off buying Rangers for that purpose. If you’re immolating the enemy, then you probably don’t want to have your fragile Banshees getting burned as well while in combat with them, so consider that in your purchases and strategy by perhaps keeping the Banshees by your Guardians, burning the incoming mob on the way in and then mopping up survivors outside of the immolated area with the Banshees. Another way your execution will be affected is that if you’re trying to eradicate a mob at range you should use it to aid your Guardians damage output and cut it down in no time. Now, on the surface these just seem like “duh, that’s just how you use it surely?” and largely it is, but it’s the focus and clarity of purpose that’s important. It’s perfectly possible to use it at the same time as everything else in a way that seems acceptable, but when your army is focused and works together complimenting each other in simple ways it becomes that much more effective. You need to think not just whether the wargear is good on its own, but in what way it works and synergises with your troops for maximum effect. Once you’ve found a connection, don’t just timidly use it, capitalise on it and exaggerate it, see how far it goes. If you're really lucky and find yourself in serious imba territory then the sportsman will probably dial it back a little from there. Abusing the imbas is of course legitimate play and often benefits the game significantly by highlighting design and balance flaws, but it's not something I'd positively encourage doing on a regular basis as repeated mass abuse will catch on quick and often just makes the meta-game dull and frustrating.
Another consideration is that of the tech-tree and whether you should wait for a later piece of gear or go for an early one. However, this is really more of a conflict between two or more of the above elements rather than a unique factor; wanting the later piece of gear is part of your game plan and wanting to snap up an early one instead is likely a reaction to the situation at hand or just some indecision about your strategy. A fourth consideration I would point out though is to look for combinations of wargear that work well together and you can have a really powerful hero on your hands. In early patches, the Force Commander was notorious for his Daemonhammer and Iron Halo combination, affectionately known as the “Lolhammer Bubbleboy”, who was nigh on indestructible and could disrupt melee all day while scratching his ass and yawning. The Force Commander is also the bane of Eldar with his Teleporter and Power Fist combo, against which vehicles melt like butter. Another notable combo in days gone past was Fortune and Doom on the Farseer which was great for watching your Wraithlord or Banshees surprise the heck out of the enemy with the old "Surprise motherf*cker! I'm invincible and I'm smashing your face in!" gag, especially with Guide piled on top too. There’s plenty combos out there, and on one level they have a pleasant synergy and just feel comfortable together which is certainly good, but there’s others on another level which add up to a lot more than the sum of their parts and become real power plays. I’m not insisting you go for them every time, but at least experiment and have a look for them because you might find some real gems.
This is from a replay of me getting my ass kicked with the fiendish Providence + Witchblade of Kournos combo. This allows Warlock repeatedly spam those nasty AoE melee attacks while completely invulnerable. Dang.
A big issue with wargear is when to buy your it and how much to spend on it – spank your cash too early on fancy wargear and you risk stunting your growth and teching. On the other hand, maybe it will give that crucial early game edge. Maybe it would’ve been better spent on more troops rather than hero specialization though...? Maybe it would’ve been better to wait for the better T2 wargear rather than knee-jerk reacting to the enemy’s strategy? Who knows the answer to all these questions? You do. Or rather, you WILL do. Wargear purchasing is a pretty personal thing and depends on a great many factors, some factors are stable and predictable like teching rate or your overall wargear strategy, and some are improvisational and reactive like how the battle is faring and what you’re most in danger from. Unfortunately I cannot give any hard and fast rules as to when and where to buy wargear other than to say that of course you should only buy wargear if and when you intend to actually use it. It’s all too easy to think “ooooh, sweet I’ll get the Blade of Holy Righteous Pummelation” and then totally forget to use it – that’s 115/25 wasted right there. The better you know and understand your wargear the less chance you have of wasting it. If you really really really must have some kind of rough guideline because you're a neurotic, OCD type of person then go for one piece in the middle of each tier: in T1 after a few squads, in T2 after your first vehicle, in T3 whenever, but that in no way is any kind of hard and fast rule to follow as wargear really does depend on a whole heap of stuff.
Global abilities are those little badgers that sit down there bottom-right just above your resources. Each commander has four abilities and these are handily assigned to the function keys F2-F5. Space Marines, however, have five abilities and this is basically due to the fact that one of their T3 units, Terminators, are always a call-in. Other than that, each commander has two overall race abilities and two commander-specific abilities, meaning that two are unique to that commander and the other two are the available to all commanders for that race.
The Kommando Nob's line up here with Call Da Boyz (F2) and Roks (F5) being the race abilities and the infiltrate (F3) and Kommando call-in (F4) being unique to the Nob.
Global abilities come in several tasty flavours:
Buffing all relevant units at once is very potent, but even more so in multiplayer. You should pay particular attention to these spells in multiplayer as they can be real tide-turners. I can't count the amount of times the techmarine's global repair has saved my bacon (love you Trubs!), or how many times I've seen several enemy commanders all jump up at once with Larraman's Blessing. Eesh. Remember to think about your whole team when using these. You might want your own commander resurrected as soon as possible, but with the other two in the thick of combat you should probably hold off. Tell them you've got Larraman's ready and that they can feel free to suicide their commanders, you'll get them up a few seconds later.
Again, multiplayer can make these a little bit more interesting than in solo. People are pretty used to seeing Banshees get the old Distortion Field treatment on the way into combat - yeah, yeah, you're not some RTS genius, you're just copying some guy that is - but perhaps using them on Space Marines to make them nigh-on invulnerable would be a more unexpected use of it. Or perhaps the Kommando's infiltrate ability on the some Banshees would go down a treat. That's not to say they aren't effective on your own troops - they are - but multiplayer just opens up so more options and has a lot more surprise value against your opponents, and surprise value counts for a lot. It is more difficult to not only consider your own position, but to consider your team-mates position in detail too, so don't kill yourself trying to cast spells on them, it's just something I thought I'd bring up as not only is it effective but it can really make a good impression on your team-mates if you're playing with strangers.
Being effective on only one unit is the greatest limitation of these of course, and it's really easy to forget about them in the heat of the battle as they can seem a bit fiddly. The nukes, call-ins and global abilities always seem much more appealing as they are much easier to weigh up and execute. However, squad specific buffs can really make a considerable difference in the fight. I know myself that the unexpected appearance of a Nob Squad that's just appeared out of infiltration right next to my D-Cannon nest is a real shocker and the fight is over before it even started. In all honesty I don't see the squad specific ones being used a great deal because they're often a tough decision to make and often not very exciting consisting only of extra damage or durability for just one squad, but what they do do well is flip the tables on what would usually be predictable result. If you're in a firefight and have weighed up the two forces, some extra ranged DPS or damage reduction on a key squad could well swing it your way, and the enemy will stay in the fight longer than usual (allowing you to do more damage) because they'll be expecting to win and be surprised when they don't. Of course these abilities have their identifying visual effects, but as I said they often aren't used so much and so many people won't notice or recognise the effects, or perhaps they are used all the time it's just that I don't recognise them myself and so miss their use! Anyway, think about these, they are good.
Call-ins & Units
Call-ins are units that are thrown down directly onto the battlefield at any point within your sight. Note the need for sight, which means call-in units can often be combined with the Eldar Farsight ability for maximum surprise. Not all units teleport in though, some appear at base and it's important to know which is which. Some call-ins take the form of standard units that are in fact cheaper than their regularly built counterpart, most notably the Warp Spiders and Kommandos. These units only cost requisition and not any power, but they do obviously use up your zeal equivalent. However, they have the further bonuses of having no build time and also of being 'ported in right where you need them. These are important things to remember, and I can think back to quite a few occasions where I've built warp spiders the old fashioned way and then smacked my head when I realised I could've just called them in for cheaper and quicker. Dang. Don't make that mistake. That's not to say you should always buy them in that way, you might want the zeal for something else, but it's generally it's a good thing to do. Warp Spider Exarch scooting round with two really early warp spider squads is very effective. Usually it's pretty easy to afford one regular warp spider at T2 and then you can get the other by way of zeal, giving you two in no time (bear in mind it's unlikely you'll have enough zeal for two call-in squads at this point). Other than that they are identical to their bog-standard counterpart.
The other type of call-in is unique units. These are units that you rarely see on the battlefield, but when you do you know it's about to kick off and someone's going to get booted in the nuts. The Seer Council is something to be feared and can really catch you out, thank God these guys only come into play at their base, but the Venerable Dreadnought will deepstrike in right next and start breaking some knees straight away. The zeal cost of these units is often horrifically expensive and so it really is something to weigh up before buying; however, extra units can have much longer lasting effects than the spells you might otherwise spend it on and so can be a very worthwhile investment. Just bear in mind that the enemy will likely shit their pants when they see your shiny, new mega-unit and bring all guns to bear, so often keeping them alive can be frustratingly difficult - you finally got to see them action only to see them get pummelled to dust by enemy fire. Mint. Plan carefully and guard them well.
Tempting as these are, they're really easy to cock up and will basically wipe out all your zeal. In the early months of release, you could easily see up to half a dozen nukes in a game because of the pricing system. The other abilities were much more expensive comparatively and so much poorer value. The only real choice was to wait for a nuke and lay the smack down on that cheap, blobbing son-of-a-bitch. Nowadays it's much better and it's really a choice, though perhaps it's swayed a little in the favour of non-nukes as you don't see them hardly at all anymore. Whether you want to save up for a nuke or give yourself an early advantage by whipping some lesser abilities out is a choice you'll have to make depending on how the game is going. I know that I find the Warlock's Swift Movement invaluable and so use it very often (much to my team-mates' delight), as well as Farseer's Farsight, but it really depends on what else is in the arsenal of your commander and what you personally like using. Call-ins need a fair amount of saving up for too, so don't forget them either. Just be aware that there's more to globals than just saving up for nukes.
As mentioned, it's very easy to balls them up. If the enemies clocks it early enough then they'll know to just get out of dodge as soon as possible and you'll quickly find your Roks smashing barren earth. Oh dear, you suck. Setup weapons are an obvious targeting candidate. Something to think about is the value of casting globals on units in combat. Units in the thick of a fight will be being watched by their owner very carefully and so they'll react much quicker than those idling near a point they just captured. Think about that, but also consider that nuking some units is much more effective when you have troops close by to capitalise on it. Most of the time though, all you'll get out of a nuke is a large scale retreat, something which roughly equates to 'time', but this is not quite the case when you target vehicles, which are actually pretty good to go for if you can nail them.
These are basically the miscellaneous category and are hard to talk about other than going into specific details about each and every one. Abilities like Farsight and Stalk, which don't really have any other directly analogous equivalents, are what I'm talking about here. These you'll just have to try out and fit into your strategy and style.
Skirmish Tactics & Unit Management
: Skirmish Tactics & Unit Management :
Strength In Numbers
When venturing out onto the battlefield it is wise for your troops to stick together. This might seem obvious, but in the heat of battle it's very easy for you to get distracted and end up with your troops separated on the field and arriving to the fight in dribs and drabs. The problem with this is that while you may have your economy sorted and have the same amount troops and resources, if your troops are spilt up and the enemies troops are in a big hunting pack then they will crush your smaller forces whenever they encounter them and take very few losses in the process. They will remain on the battlefield while you are forced to retreat and so cap all the points making fall further behind. If, however, you encounter the enemy with your entire force to hand then you'll stand a much better chance of doing yourself justice and putting up a decent fight.
Important: Note that by sticking together I do not mean staying in one big attack-move blob ready for a single suppression team to neutralize you in one fell swoop. What I mean by it is that the troops are close enough to lend their strengths to each other and get the synergies and counters flowing, basically that they are all close enough together to be involved in the same fight, not spread all over the battlefield scratching their asses while their mates get hammered by a TS30+ death march. Still, blobbing up at some point or other is inevitable (and you'll be devastated by a blob or two as well), but with practice your micro will improve and you can stop being a big blobbing noob.
There are more considerations to this though and these change depending on what game type you're playing. In 1v1 it's much less practical to cruise around in a big bruiser gang because there's more ground to cover relative to the amount of players on the field and you'll find yourself getting out-capped. In 3v3 you often only have to look after your channel or lane, and so forming up into a pack to meet the enemy head-on is usually much more advisable. How much you bunch will take some getting used to, it'll take a bit of judgment. If you're looking to ninja-cap some distant points then yeah, you're going to have to break up your force to some extent. But if half your force has just retreated and you want to make a push forwards, well it's probably advisable to sit tight until your hombres return from being patched up back at base. This will allow you to make a proper push forwards and actually have a chance to gain some ground, otherwise you'll find your partial forces just crashing against the opposing troops repeatedly as they get increasingly dug-in. In team-games you will often find that it's advisable to group up with one or both of your team-mates also and chug round the map in a giant blob of death, a tactic that is both simple and surprisingly effective. You'll usually completely steamroll any opposition you encounter so effectively that it will counteract the drawback of leaving a lane unguarded (see Teamwork section). If you play any amount of games you'll inevitably be on the receiving of this at one time or another and you'll understand how it feels - a doubled-up (or God forbid tripled-up), late T2 force will vaporize your precious marines quicker than you can say "Holy shit, I'm getting lolled on!"
Not only will staying a group increase your punching power, it also reduces your micro-management concerns - having everything in one place makes it easier to keep track of what's going and which troops are being damage heavily etc. As you get more advanced you'll find more and more instances where perhaps you don't want to keep your forces together. The more efficient you get at using them the more potent they become as a fighting force and the more tactical options this present to you, you'll want to harass the enemy, ninja-cap, use stalling and territory denial tactics as well as group up with team-mates. So, in the long-term don't take sticking together as a concrete rule, but in the short-term - while you're still learning - keep the pack together, even if that involves waiting for some troops to return (see Idling and Keeping Your Troops Alive sections) because doing so will greatly increase your longevity and battlefield potency.
Focus Fire & Target Selection
Focus fire is when you get all your troops to focus their fire collectively on one target at a time. Hypothetical situation: Four Tactical Marines face off against four more tactical marines. Each Marine has four health and does one damage per attack (those are made up in case it wasn't obvious). Side A uses focus fire, Side B all fire at different units. In the first attack, Side A does four damage to one Marine and kills it; Side B does one damage to each Marine on Side B. Next attack, Side A moves on to another marine and kills it, while Side B only does three damage to Side A. Before the next attack, Side A still has four Marines left in varying states of health while Side B only has two with full health. Side A continues to kill one Marine from Side B with its four troopers and Side B does just two damage to Side A, which will now have two troopers with one health, one with two and one with three. In the end after the fourth attack, there'll be three Marines left on Side A with less than 100% health and no Marines left on Side B. The moral of the story is focus your fire! Mathematically, the four marines won't kill the other any quicker using focus fire if those marines weren't firing back, but by focusing your fire you'll kill individual units off quicker which means you reduce the incoming damage and so keep your troops alive longer. This of course then increases your damage output over time relative to your enemy.
Target selection is the next issue. I generally tend to go for the most fragile units, in particular the glass cannon units (high damage output, but very weak). If I'm facing marines I will go for the Scouts, the reason being I will kill these off quicker than the marines and so start reducing their damage output more quickly and start racking up the reinforcement bill too. Another example is that it's very easy to point everything at the incoming vehicle, even if it's not doing much damage - the vehicle is big and imposing and has that "oh shizz! Panic!!" factor about it. It may well be the best move to go for the vehicle, but make sure you scope out the rest of the force too and judge for yourself what the best target is. Tough to do in the heat battle I will concede, but still do try to do it. Rangers are another juicy target are easy to decimate once detected, so sometimes it's more important to consider not which unit is the largest threat, but rather which unit can you hurt the hardest and the quickest. However, there are of course times when the weaker units will be doing hardly any damage at all and so it's not worth it (say for example if you have all vehicles and they have Scouts in with their missile tacs). It's a balance and you'll have to learn more about the units to make better judgement calls.
Another factor is of course what counters you have. There's no point firing your dedicated, specialist anti-vehicle weapons at that infantry as you're wasting its potential damage. Make sure you're point the right weapons at the right targets. Of course this will push you over to the Side B in the previous focus fire hypothetical situation, the side with spread fire, but your total damage output will be much greater as a result and the longer it goes on the more it will pay off. It's worth also noting that some weapons are soft counters and are useful against various things, in which case you'll have to make a quick decision. Know which counters you have on which troops, and knowing your opponents race and troop make-up in advance will give you more time to make your choices.
There are times when you will want to fire things at inappropriate targets, the most obvious situation being one where there is nothing left to fire at of course. These 'rules' are really just guidelines and suggestions. Follow them for now until you get the hang of them, see how effective they are and in what situations, and when you get comfortable with doing all that - choosing the right targets and focus firing - then you can start bending the rules and using them in exceptional circumstances.
The marines are focusing all their fire on the power node, and the Eldar are focusing on the FC to get him to retreat as soon as possible.
Your troops have many different and powerful abilities that fill a wide variety of functions. Use them. You should be familiar with all your units abilities of course and should be able to spot viable targets for them straight off. For example, if you see some enemy troops in a building then the viable targets should be programmed so deep that your low-level reptilian brain instantly hisses "grenadessss". If you think you're still pretty new to all this then don't worry too much about the feints and fakes mentioned in the grenades section lower down just yet, first you need to get into the habit of using them regularly before worrying about all that shit. If you see an opportunity to use an ability then do it, as frequently you'll not get another chance (unit dies, target dies, or target legs it) or the battle will get hectic enough that there's more important things going on to consider, like mashing the retreat key. Abilities are powerful, and if you get them in there quick you can often win the battle before it's really begun. Don't wait until you realise you're deep in a heavy bolter's suppression territory before wondering if perhaps this would be a good time to use your grenades, just reach for the pineapple as soon as you clock the Devastator squad's presence, leg it into range and chuck it before they know what's hit them - bam, job done. Rushing into combat with a few of da boyz? Use the waaagh on the way, don't tentatively wait to see how it goes, just use the waagh straight off the bat and crush them. At the early stage of the learning curve don't "umm" and "ahh" about whether you might need it later, abilities charge up real quick so there's no real issue of needing it later.
Like I said earlier, at this point you simply need to get into the habit of using abilities frequently as there's lots of them and they need learning. After a while you'll start to spot which viable targets are the best to go for, and whether to save your abilities as a response to a suspected secondary attack where they will be more effective. But for now, don't worry about that, just go out there and use them!
Look at all those juicy abilities that make the Farseer so goddam sexy: Guide, Doom, Fortune, Mind War.... Use them. Or she'll come round your house and kick your puny, nerd ass!
Just a small note about squad numbering: DOW2 numbers your squads automatically. Don't just leave them with the numbers they are given. If you do, midway through the game you'll end up with 1. Hero 3. Guardian 5. Platform 6. Banshees 9. Falcon or something similarly ridiculous. This is hugely cumbersome and time wasting. Change them to your preferred numbering method. Get comfortable with that method and stick with it so you don't have to think so much about what numbers your troops are. Use the numbers, do not waste time by clicking on the squad images on the right, keep your left hand over the numbers on the keyboard. My preferred setup is Hero, GU, GU, Banshee/Spider, Plat/Ranger, Vehicle, then depends from there on (it also depends on the build I go for of course) though strangely my D-cannons always end up as number eight - go figure. Re-consider the numbers when you lose a unit - why have GUs in 3 + 4 when 2 + 3 makes more sense? Also bear in mind how long they've been running with their current number as that will affect my decision to re-number, if I've been whacking five for the Spiders of Unholy Justice for the past ten minutes then changing them to something else could prove costly. Once you get used to using numbered squads, don't leave any squads without numbers otherwise they will likely just get left somewhere and unused.
One aspect that you may have never explored is the Company of Heroes style selection method which requires you turn it on in the options menu outside the battle. With this switched on, when you have a squad selected you can tab through all the units as a sub-selection and give them individual orders that won't affect the other units in the group. Pressing tab will eventually cycle through all the units and bring you back to having all of them selected at once. This allows you to give much more precise controls without having to unselected yourself from the group at large. Personally I don't utilise this a great deal, but I do have it switched on and use if it some stuff. It's on my to-do list of stuff to get used to. This feature wasn't originally part of the game, but players were slightly baffled as to why it was present in Company of Heroes yet this game uses an iteration of the same engine but omitted this great feature. It was added at a later date due to popular demand.
You don’t always need to capture a point for the venture to be worthwhile. Sometimes you just want to harass the enemy, and thankfully it's not the kind of harassment you'll get arrested for. Early game this is important when there will often be troops exposed, vulnerable and unsupported (oh dear, the puns are just flowing now) trying to capture a point in their own territory. If this is the case, attack them before they finish capturing the point so they have to stop to fend you off, and then run off before they do any real damage. They’ll lost interest, stop chasing you and go back to the point to try to capture it again, at which point you go back and harass them some more so they have to stop capturing again. You have no real intention of actually capturing the point at this moment, your goal simply to stop them capturing it. Now, the force you attack with should be as small as necessary, but large enough to pose an actual threat to their health. This an extreme late game example but it illustrates the point: a squad of Terminators is not going to stop capping because a lone squad of Guardians are shooting at them as you’re never going to do any real damage to them in time. So, ideally you trying to make the enemy spend an inordinate amount of time and attention (because all the time they’re dealing with this squad they’re distracted from other things) trying to take this one measly point which they hopefully they don’t ever mange to capture. All the while the rest of your troops get up to other monkey business and general hi-jinx in other parts of the field. The eventual outcome is either that they give up on the point altogether or decide to commit more forces to take that point, more forces which are now not where they used to be. Just be careful not to lose your own troops, especially if the enemy cavalry arrives. Use harassment as a tool to slow down their economy and also to distract and divide their attention allowing you to do other things elsewhere.
Another key part is in attacking undefended points yourself. It’s often much easier than you think to simply run in, de-cap a point and leg it back out. While it might seem like Big Bad Enemy Territory where There Be Monsters, they simply cannot be everywhere at once. You don’t need to capture their points necessarily though, as this can be time consuming and leaves you dangerously exposed and deep in enemy territory, it is often preferable to just quickly de-cap a couple points and move on without taking them for yourself.
Power generators are another issue. You should weigh up whether you think you can hold the generator point successfully or whether you’re just going to lose it straight back. If so, consider destroying the generators and just leaving it de-capped. However, you should watch out in the early game, don’t waste a ton of time having weak Tier 1 squads shooting generators as this can be a huge waste for no real gain due to their often terrible building damage. All this time the enemy is gaining strength elsewhere. If you have nothing to destroy stuff then consider moving on and harassing their troops or a requisition point.
This ravener alpha knows full well that it won't capture the point itself in this situation, but it can at least force the orks to stop capping and get them to chase it, dragging them out of position of slowing down the resource collection/map control.
Never leave your troops idling. Why aren’t they doing something? A classic to watch out for is troops idling by a point after capturing it. Queue up commands by holding the shift key in order to help prevent this, tell them to capture that point, then the one next to it, and then join you on the frontline. However, do keep an eye on them because by the time they get round to those later orders you might want them doing something different or the enemy might have turned up to kick ass.
Another typical scenario: small skirmish occurs over a point and you win with your hero and a squad un-retreated. So you stand there and catch your breath while you wait for your troops to come back, right? Wrong. Push forward because the chances are they don’t have any backup and you can take a point off them and harass them. When watching replays there’s been tons of times where this happens and the opposite side of the battlefield is utterly devoid of troops because they’ve all retreated. I mean, think about how often you yourself end up retreating everyone right? Well, there’s a good chance they’re doing the same, but you won’t know unless you push forward into the fog of war (the bits of the map you can’t see). Just be on your guard and be ready to run back if necessary. Press forward into enemy territory if only to find where they are, but be on your guard too. Information is vital and the fog of war hides many things.
I once read a book on poker and it had this tip in it: "try playing by only folding or raising, never equalling the bet or checking, you’ll be surprised at the results." It sounds pretty damn brazen and risky, but hubris can really pay off at times. So in DOW2 terms I would suggest you try this: at all times you should be either attacking or pulling back. Attacking doesn’t necessarily just mean "making an attack", it can mean de-capping unguarded points, re-positioning to where the enemy isn't so they must up-sticks and follow, or simply adding your surviving forces to your team-mates force and helping them out as they make a push. Likewise pulling back doesn’t just mean mashing the X button, it includes giving ground, manoeuvring to elsewhere and tactical withdrawals. Now, as the poker book also commented, this isn’t something you should take as an absolute rule and adhere to it 100% even to your detriment, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Be proactive, you can't win the game standing around, so keep on the offence when possible. You will be indeed be pleasantly surprised at the results, be don't surprised when you find the rhythm and pace hard to keep up, just keep at it and you'll develop the stamina and battle-sense for it.
"Can you hear gunshots...?.....naaaah, I'm just imagining things........hey, got any cigs?"
Keeping Your Troops Alive
You should try aiming to not lose any squads at all. Yeah, you might think that sounds ridiculously obvious, but you're the one reading a strategy guide! As soon as you start focusing on keeping your squads alive their longevity will increase dramatically and you’ll be surprised how much longer they live, and in turn how much resource this saves you and how many more squads you can afford. You will likely still lose some, especially in the late game as the T3 carnage kicks off, but you’ll get better and better and the satisfaction of having your initial three Guardian Squads still running around at the end all levelled up is to be savoured, not to mention the tactical benefits and how much your economy will thank you. There's a variety of considerations and techniques where this is concerned.
Reinforcement: Dawn of War 2 differs from Dawn of War in that the cost of squads vs. reinforcements have been flipped around. In DOW the Imperial Guard were known for their infamous squad tax as most squads cost less than the sum of their reinforcements, so reinforcing was expensive and not recommended in the early game. DOW2 switches this around and keeping them squads alive is crucial as replacing them repeatedly is an expensive and time-consuming business. To this end, no squad is ever a complete write off, even if you're only going to escape with one member then you should make an effort to do so, especially if the squad has upgrades purchased for it. Squad leaders are usually really tough and will often be the last surviving member, they help greatly in increasing squad longevity and allowing you to reinforce rather than buy new.
Knowing when to run: It is extremely important to know when to stick around and fight it out and when to get the hell out of Dodge City (as in moving away rather than retreating). This of course ties in greatly with knowing all the races too. In the early game this consists of knowing individual match-ups: Force Commander against your Guardian Squad usually means run, for example. As the scale builds you have to judge combinations of troops against yours in an instant, as well as their positions (are they in cover and spread out or are they in a big blob). This is a hard skill to acquire and takes lots of playing to learn so don’t get disheartened, just pay attention to what just beat you in the skirmish and how. Try to leave conflicts before it gets too late and turns into a total rout. Don’t let your ranged troops get swamped, try to move before they reach you as you’ll be buggered once they’re in amongst you. If all this fails then...
Retreat: Use the X button, lots if need be. If you don’t already know, troops get 80% reduction to ranged damage when falling back and so this will save you a lot of kills and allow you to reinforce cheaply. Melee damage is increased by 30%, however, and while you might think "oh so I shouldn't retreat out of melee" the thing is if you’re getting pasted in melee to the point where you’re thinking about retreating already then staying in melee isn’t too appealing an option either. Moral of the story is watch out for melee units, they have big pointy things!
Whaddya reckon? Did they retreat too early?
Cover: Right clicking on a piece of terrain will command the unit to take cover around it (the piece of terrain should flash). The other signs are the coloured dots on the floor - green for good cover, yellow for ok cover. If you get your players behind cover they will stay alive for a lot longer. Units in cover will generally pulverise units that are out of cover, it's really noticeable. Cover also reduces the effect of suppression, or rather it takes you longer to get suppressed (once you are suppressed though the effects are the same). It can be hard in the heat of battle to remember to stay in cover, often because you'll set a unit to attack and as it's out of range it'll run forward leaving the cover in order to get a shot, but if you manage to get your units in cover all the time you'll really reap the benefits. However, it's worth noting that cover does not affect flame weapons and has less effect on grenades, so watch out for that. Grenades are also useful for dislodging enemies from cover too.
These Guardians are all set. Now all they need is some dumbass enemy to wander into their trap.
Cover is also directional. In the picture below the warp spiders have teleported over the wall and so are now behind the scouts, on their side of the cover. This eliminates the cover bonus, even though the scouts are still hugging it. However, if the scouts run around the other side of the wall - they may do this automatically as part of unit AI - then the cover will take effect again. Remember this when the shoe is on the other foot too: if the cover isn't between you and the enemy then it isn't going to do shit.
Positioning: The picture above the last also demonstrates another important point, that of spreading your troops out. Each Guardian squad is sitting behind a different piece of cover. Area of effect attacks such as grenades, ASM knockdowns, barbed strangler suppression and Tankbusta barrages are really nasty if they catch the bulk of your force. To combat this, spreading your troops out dramatically reduces their collective vulnerability to these dangerous attacks, and after having used their powerful attack you can focus fire on the temporarily weaker unit. It also prevents a melee unit running in and tying up your whole blob (eg Howling Banshees with War Shout) and you are nicely set up to dance the target squad around while the others pour on the fire. If the melee squad targets another squad then change your dancing unit and let the others continue to fire. However, this defence doesn't come without sacrifice: it requires much more intensive micro-management to consistently pull off and effectively execute and it lowers the damage output of your force sometimes as it's unlikely all your troops will be fully in range all the time. It does set you up for layered retreats etc. though, but another drawback is that you have to be careful who you tell them to attack as they will leave cover and position if their target is out of range. Overall though, try to spread out more, it's for the best.
Dancing is a micro-intensive technique you employ to distract enemy troops while wearing them down with other units. The basic premise is that while the enemy – often a lone commander, or a commander and a squad but it can be anything – goes after one of your squads your remaining squads pelt the enemy while the targeted squad runs away and around, leading the enemy by the nose on a merry dance while keeping it in range of your other squads. The aim of your dancing squad is simply to not get caught and to let the other squads do the actual damage. The enemy, if they are not dumb or distracted elsewhere, will not keep following the same squad forever, they will change target after a while. At this point you should then switch the roles of your squads; the newly targeted squad will take up the dance with the attacker and the other will settle it to shoot the proverbial ducks in the barrel.
To dance most effectively requires a good initial setup, a quick hand, intuitive guess work and fast planning - this is advanced stuff and hard to pull off. You should spread your troops apart when setting up in an area, if they are all bunched up then you’ll have to break apart to begin the dance which will likely use up any time you have and the dance will be over before it starts. Think about where you are leading the enemy, where your guns are, where there’s cover, where there’s space to manoeuvre properly etc., try to keep them in range of the guns but also at a distance otherwise they’ll get picked on and caught. Also, when re-positioning during the dance remember cover positions, take note of where they are ahead of time, plan where you’re going to next so you can hop into cover as soon as the attacker changes target. Try to second guess the enemy, think about which squad they are going to go for and get ready to move it. React early!! This may sound intimidating as hell and impossible in the heat of battle, but once you master the basic idea in simple scenarios with only a few troops (e.g. two squads of yours vs. one commander) you’ll start reaping the benefits.
OK, not exactly what I was trying to demonstrate, but anyway: Rather than running back towards the GUs in a classic "oh noes!" style, the Farseer is running across the GUs drawing the Warlock with it. This means it prolong the amount of time it's under fire while keeping it at maximum distance from your squishy troops. The Warlock gets pummelled with Farseer taking barely any damage. Note that though if the Warlock has supporting troops this won't work and your Farseer will also get pummelled.
When using a vehicle to attack troops at range it's usually a good idea to keep it at maximum range to avoid walkers/melee troops charging towards it and tearing it to pieces. All the vehicles (though not walkers) have the ability to reverse in DOW2, to get them to do this you need to right-click and hold behind them and then drag the mouse forwards, you should get a marker like this: o-----> on the ground, with the arrow obviously indicating the way in which you want to vehicle to point. You may find that you need to click just behind the tank repeatedly in tiny little steps to get it perform this as it generally provides more consistent results, but the trade-off is obviously that it requries more micro to perform. The point is basically so that your vehicle can move away from the threats staying out of their range while still pouring fire on the enemy - as the walker charges for it you reverse away, all the while you fire AV gunnery at it: the result is that the walker never reaches you and can't make a single hit, while you have destroyed it out right or forced it to turn around and retreat. Note that the falcon actually has 360 degree firing, but if it's pointing the wrong way it may take a fair while to turn around before scarpering. Don't forget you can queue up a series of positional commands too using the shift key so that you don't have to keep such a close eye on the vehicle, but beware it may well continue to move out of range if you send it too far back. The pathing can get a little wonky sometimes, especially in tight situations, but with a little forward planning and positional consideration as to where your vehicle will reverse out to before you actually start attacking you can get very good results with this technique.
Heeere boy!! Here boy!! Come on!
So, you got tired of grouping all your troops in one blob and running to the frontline, getting mauled, then retreating them all again yet? Just keep getting jumped by ASMs at the front and are forced to mash the X button? Maybe you should think about layering and overlapping. Take two Shuriken Platforms for instance: set one up behind the other one and have the back one covering the front one. If your front one gets jumped by the inevitable ASMs hopefully the back one will teach them a lesson. The front one should be more-or-less directly in front (cover allowing) with respect to where the enemy will approach from, rather than having one off a bit to the side in an attempt to cover the front and attack the enemy. The back one should be placed along the path you will be retreating down. Now, you want to move forward so you pick up both your plats and march on right? Nope. Leave the front one setup where it is and bring the back one up into a new position that’s directly covered by the front one, the benefits of this covered approach should be self-evident and this style of approach makes you feel much more confident when going forward. Rinse and repeat.
When you’re faced with an oncoming hoard you should try to avoid hitting retreat by reacting early (but not too early though) and strategically falling-back to a covering position behind the other plat, being covered by it all the while. Repeat this with the new front plat when necessary. Two plats is just an example, you can do this with all kinds of stuff and probably find it easier, but they emphasize the need for good positional planning due to their setup times. Where will the enemy come from? Where will I retreat to? Getting the spacing right, especially when retreating, is crucial: if you retreat too small a distance then you won’t have to time to setup before the frontline is overwhelmed and it will be a rout; if you retreat too far then both layers will be running in no time. There is also a balance to be struck with regard to troops at the front: if all your troops are spread in a four-tiered layering throughout the map then you’re going to be wasting your firepower. An over the top example, but you get my point.
Note: this tactic was much more common/viable pre-1.5 when setup weapons didn't cost any power and were available from the word go. Now that suppression teams cost a chunk of power this is risky, but the theory is still usable and can applied to other troops and situations too.
Observe the Lictor. He may think he's able to rescue the situation with a quick leap into the platform, but he's mistaken. The shuriken has friends, and in this business is not what you know that counts, it's how big your friends are. (Remember that the Lictor can't see the second plat.)
Setup Weapons Teams and Suppression
I'll try and keep this advice pretty general, but I should mention that most of my experience is with 3v3, so some of this advice may be bogus for 1v1. These are very powerful tools when used in the right way, but are at the same time extremely vulnerable. You must be very aware of the counters to them, and boy there's a lot of them! As of 1.5, the common setup teams (Shuriken Plats and HB Devs) now cost power, so you don't have to worry about running into one straight away at the VP or whatever, but you do have to be sure that they will be worth getting before splashing out the power. Setup teams can be very useful for countering blobs and melee troops and for covering nodes and choke points, but the key is gaining the element of surprise. If your enemy knows where they are then you can safely assume they will build a counter and wallop it, but if their lovely, juicy melee horde charges into your suppression arc that's backed with additional supporting fire then they are in for a world of hurt. The great drawback of weapons teams if of course their lack of mobility, so the way you achieve maximum effect is through clever positioning.
There's several ways to be a sneaky setup team wizard. My first tip is to move your setup team after every attack that you repel. Move it to the side so they come at the wrong angle; move it into a building; push forward to catch them off guard again; pull back to make them think you've left the area (until they push too far) - these are all fine. The repelled enemy will often wait until they have a counter before returning to your area with the plat; they will assume that you probably won't move it all that much. This gives you area control for free really, and if they aren't coming back there then there's little reason to keep the plat there. But of course this is not always the case, and that's where the mind games come in. You have to be sneaky.
The second tip is the Fake Retreat, and is very useful once they've have counters out. With counters crashing about the field it can be useful to set your teams back a bit as a retreat point (note this is different from covering your troops with an HWT team as it is further back than that). They will miss the initial skirmish sure, and this can seem like a waste, but those ASMs will jump in your Guardians and you run back shouting "oh noez, you haz got me fo' shizz, look, I'm retreating m'kay?" and then the ASMs try to chase you down. This strings out the enemy force making them weaker, just as they walk right into the suppression arc. Remember to run backwards rather than retreat though, so you're in control, and do it before you start taking a bashing. A similar tactic is great for Brightlances/Plasma too - lure the walkers towards those AV guns (two Brightlances are often best as the walker will usually not be able to get away in time), concede ground for a larger gain. This seems pretty over the top and fiddly, but it's surprisingly effective and easy to achieve. You just have to remember where they are and get used to the appropriate distance to set them back.
Third tip: Know the map and find those little crevices. I'm not particularly good at this one, but I frequently come up against people who are have found this awesome little spot to put their setup team in and it's just sooooo teeth-gnashingly frustrating. A good example of this is on Typhon Arena at the back of the top-left VP where you can barely see them and there's very limited approach methods making them incredibly hard to dislodge even when you know they are there. Whoever it was that setup for 3 HWT teams up there that one time: I HATE YOU!!
Fourth tip: The Honey-pot. Use them as covering support as opposed to the frontline. As mentioned in "Layered Retreat", you can use 2 teams in a sneaky way, covering one with the other like a honey-pot trap for jump-troops, but you can use other troops as the bait too. Tired of ASMs ruining your day? Well set the platform back a bit and cover your troops with it - "Oh herro boys!!". A double Brightlance setup can work really well for drawing in those walkers too, but again, just the one set a bit further back behind the troops is great too. As I mentioned before, the key here is surprise as they are not expecting it so jump/stride in with presumed impunity. A variety of setup teams can work really well at covering each other too with their various ranges and they can really lock down huge portions of the map with neither vehicles nor infantry getting a look in. However, the team are still extremely vulnerable, even more so in later tiers, and they will die in seconds if you're not careful.
Two examples from the sneaky HB-pro Troubleshooter:
Taken from a replay, this shot demonstrates the out-of-sight setup team at the bottom (arc displayed). The scouts are visible to the charging banshees who are hoping for an easy kill. I doubt they'll get it.
Setup teams are as much as about second-guessing your opponent as they are about good positions. In this pic the top plateau is empty other than these troops and a scout squad by the req point. Troubleshooter has setup in a pretty unorthodox position that is vulnerable to approach from the North, but he's correctly guessed where the enemy will come from and was setup well in advance here: Heavybolter 1, Banshees 0. Much of your choice will depend on the attacks and feints of each specific battle.
There's various troops with grenades and bombs (both referred to as just grenades from here on in) sprinkled throughout the races and they can be either particularly potent or a complete waste of time depending on how effectively you use them. Grenades differ from spells in that they need to be thrown at the target and then generally have a visible countdown, giving the intended victim a fair amount more time to dodge the blast. Because of this fact, timing and tactics are of much greater importance when lobbing thy holy hand-grenades around than with other abilities.
Note: if you play as Eldar then you must pay attention as grenades are often crucial to their game.
Anti-infantry grenades are the kind of grenade that you'd expect - pull the pin out, chuck them on the floor and wait for the bang. However, they come a in few flavours: direct damage grenades (Guardians and Scouts Sergeants) which deal all their damage at once; damage-over-time grenades (Kommandos) which do damage slowly and punish troops that neglect to move out of the area; and stun grenades (Kommando Nob and Stikkbombaz) which render the victim basically helpless and also - somewhat controversially - unable to retreat. (There's a couple of other types that I'll go into later.) All these grenades have an area of effect, so they obviously get the best results when landed in the middle of a mass of troops. The other natural victim is of course set-up troops who have a hard time escaping the grenade due to their pack-down time. On release, grenades did only 20% damage (I think) to retreating units, but this meant that actually catching any setup units and doing any damage very hard and also caused a lot of the infamous 'nade spiking (see later). Now units take a lot more damage from grenades when retreating than they did before.
Standard Throws & Feints
Grenade throwers usually come equipped with some means to getting into position too - Guardians get Fleet of Foot and Embolden, Scouts and Kommandos get Infiltrate and Stikkbombaz use long range to hit their target. Hitting Fleet of Feet before legging it up to your victim and chucking a grenade down their cakehole is an effective combo. However, be aware that at higher levels of play players will see this coming a mile off and often instinctively retreat from them, leaving your grenade on empty ground and used up. You can use this to your advantage though, and there's times when two Eldar players may be performing a series of feints and fake rushes against each other in order to dislodge the opponent without wasting their grenades. When this type of play occurs it makes landing that grenade all the more satisfying. To help you achieve this, throw multiple grenades at once but in different places. One at their feet perhaps, and one behind them, or just three spread in a nice triangle for maximum coverage. It might seem like a waste, but it's much better to hit them with one or two out of three rather than waste all three on one spot. Again, higher level players will also be aware of this spreading technique too and you'll find them running forwards out of the way rather than retreating. If this happens then you're in a game of wits and you need to throw one in whichever place you think they'll run to.
Say g'bye to those devs pal.
The other main type of shot to practice is the defensive lob, but this is inherently trickier as you're less in control of the timing. Basically, when the Ork mob is legging it towards you with all cylinders firing you need to place a grenade on the floor so that explodes just as they're running over it. It seems obvious but it can be harder than you think to pull off. You need to allow yourself plenty of time as there'll be a throw animation, a grenade lobbing arc, and then the countdown timer. Furthermore, each grenade times slightly differently so it depends on what unit you're using. The other concern is the panic factor, and when faced by the charging horde the panic factor can be quite high and cause you to lob grenades willy-nilly, or become a sausage-fingered mouth-breather temporarily and press all the wrong buttons resulting in you finally chucking your grenades where the enemy USED to be 2 seconds ago, even though they're already mashing your face in melee. Bottom line - you don't have much time to play with to get this one right, but it's great when you do, and hotkeys/gridkeys really help you get your speed up for this.
'Nade Spiking is when you throw a grenade at the feet of your own squad (specifically the one which is throwing the grenade) in the hope that you do more damage to the opponent, or at least enough to scare them off. This is used as a last ditch measure when caught in melee, perhaps by jump-troops for example who can naturally avoid the well-timed defensive strike. As mentioned, this used to be more effective for the damage-on-retreat reasons stated above, but at release grenades would not affect the squad throwing them, so 'nade spiking was a great way to win in melee with Guardians who would just love it if the Marine jumped in with ASMs - "Get a load of this boys!! Boom! Oh look, you're dead and I'm not! Magic!" Still, 'nade spiking can be useful in several instances, for example where your other ranged support can finish them off for you, or you have a transport nearby to reinforce at where as they must retreat to base etc., or perhaps you whittled them down with ranged on their way over and this will finish them, or maybe their troops are worth a lot more resources than yours and so it's a fair trade off.
The final use for anti-infantry grenades is as a counter to buildings. Hurling a grenade into a building and watching the corpses fly out is great fun! Grenades are perfect for it, the only trick is that almost everybody knows this and can spot an incoming grenade squad a mile off. If you throw the grenade into the building and the squad have started leaving then it will do no damage to them, a wasted grenade. If they have any sense they will then get back in the building and start shooting again, at which point you promptly execute the guilty grenade thrower publicly and run off to wait for the timer to cool down. So what to do? Well, you can either throw two grenades at once - one in the building and one outside at the floor by the entrance (you must know where the actual entrance is) - or better still, just chuck one at the entrance floor as it will damage them in the building anyway (though not 100%).
Anti-vehicle grenades are goddam useful. If you have paid for them and realise you haven't used them at all then I demand you punch yourself in the balls right this instant. The main wielders of these babies are Assault Marines and Warp Spiders and as if by some stroke of genius they both can jump too which makes up for the extremely short throw range. Accuracy is not a problem with these though as they will stick to the vehicle as it tries to escape and either immobilise it or slow it down, so these are particularly bad news for walkers as tanks should be set further back. You don't always have to go for the jugular and take out the vehicle, sometimes it's better to just incapacitate it, and then deal with the weak fleshy troops instead, uninterrupted by the walker or tank. If you have two anti-vehicle nades on the go then try to resist spanking them both at the same time, consider using one after the other to maximise the time the vehicle spends crippled. This way you can, if you choose, temporarily ignore the vehicle, wipe out the surrounding troops. Be aware of how much energy your jump troops have, especially the Warp Spiders, as jumping in to use their AV grenade will draw a lot of fire, and they'll need to get out as soon as possible. Still, even if you can't make the jump out it's usually better to AV-nade the vehicle even if you do have to retreat straight after doing so.
Stun-grenades are almost exclusively available to Orks. These suckers are really nasty and you can't even retreat out of them. This leaves you extremely vulnerable if caught mid-retreat. Kommando Nob comes with stun grenades out of the box and there's various sneaky ways to use them. A textbook manoeuvre is the opening gambit: sneak up the K-nob infiltrated to the contested middle power point and just hang tight off to the side without capping it. Keep your sluggas out of sight too and wait for the enemy to cap. When they're good and busy capping it and your sluggas are in position, pop out the stun grenade and go to town. It has a slow arc, so don't blow your wad by charging in too early. They'll be stunned for a fair while so you'll have plenty time. Stikkbombaz have long enough range to hit people from out of sight. Send up some infiltrated spotters or even just use the frontline boyz' line of sight to your advantage, just be aware that they have a long air time and moving targets may be long gone if you don't think ahead.
Some Heroes have special grenades available to them too, the Warp Spider Exarch's anti-gravity grenade is expensive, but great when you pull it off. The Techmarine's AV Orbs are very tricky to pull off at best and some people really don't rate them though they can be used to good effect (it's just hard). I'm not going to go into any great detail about these here.
The Kommando doing what he does best: da sneaky stuff.
You must be keenly aware of which troop types have grenades or not, and also which particular squads have bought the upgrade as you'd rather not get feinted by a squad that doesn't actually have grenades (you can tell by the little grenade identifier at the top). Really you need to think the reverse of all the above info. Be much more tentative with your vehicles when you see those AV jump troops and pull it back, lure them deep into your territory. There's not much you can really do to prevent jump troops having a go at your tank/walker, but drawing them in deep means you have a better chance of doing significant damage to them and also reduce the chance their ranged support will have of finishing it off. Still, an approach like this can really gimp a walker's usefulness. It's a tough balance to strike and depends a lot on the situation at hand.
When facing notorious grenadiers such as Guardians, Stikkbombaz or Kommando Nob you'll frequently need to play cat and mouse to lure them into using their ability up and then move in for the kill. You can't just wait until you see a grenade fly, you must mentally highlight the grenadiers and keep responsive and mobile until they've used it up as grenades can be devastating when landed properly. As far as setup teams go, if someone decides they're going to 'nade your setup team there's not a huge amount you can do about it other than make sure you get the hell out of there as soon as they make their play. Being in a building can make you a sitting duck when those guys are around, so you need to have your mouse finger ready to leave that building at any moment - don't hang around until you see the grenade fly before getting yourself ready, be ready in advance. Be very watchful and anticipate the enemy's moves. Once you've spotted the grenadiers then watch for the tell-tale forward rush into lobbing range, try to second guess their play and outwit them.
: Miscellaneous :
Watch replays. Watch your own replays and watch the replays of others. Watch how you played and watch how your enemy played. If you forget to save a good match (as I often do), go into Documents/My Games/Dawn of War 2/Playback and rename temp.rec to “ijustgotpwnzerised.rec” or something similar. The important ones to watch are, of course, the ones in which you lose. It's fun to watch yourself pwning the n00bs so to speak, and soaking up all that glorious eye-candy, but if you want to improve don't bother with that, watch the ones where you lose. Also, pick useful replays from other people's games at these forums, and at gamereplays.org
If you're playing 3v3 (it's obvious but I'm going to say it anyway) for God's sake communicate with each other! Headsets with mics are the best for this, don't be concerned about the ultra-nerdy, "flight-control to eagle-one, the nest is clear and ready for landing, over" aspect of them: you're a gamer, wear them with pride soldier!!!! The GFWLive component is pretty poor for mic chat to be honest, it just seems to make a right hash of it and doesn't have a "Push to Talk" option. However, there's a few things you can do to fix this: there's a voice threshold level in the GFWL settings>Voice, lower this to minimum. Also, in the Windows Control Panel > Sound there should be some option for increasing the input gain on your microphone, something like a slider or tick box with +10db, try that too. Be careful you don't overdo it or you'll sound like some kind of heavy breathing sexual predator, which I'm told is very distracting in game! Lastly, you can do what all the cool kids are doing and use Steam chat with people on your friends list, it just seems to work better and you can set a "Push to Talk" key rather than voice activated. You may find you want to mute everyone in GFWL though otherwise you'll get delayed echoes etc (or set your mic to mute in GFW). Serious dudes tend to set up Ventrilo chat servers too.
Other than that, it's a case of making sure you watch the chat box in the bottom. There's been several times when I've been umming and ahhing about what troops to get, where to attack next and just generally thinking about how well I'm doing and how smoothly it's all going only to notice:
"Octo, up top now."
"Octo, top, plz"
"TOOOOPP NOOOOWWWW - 2v1"
"oh ffs, I'm dead now anyway"
and I've no idea how long ago it was at all because that dude is not up top any more, it could've been ages ago!!! That is poor form on my part. Listen out for those pings too, but don't overuse them by continually pinging one spot as it will piss your team-mates off (however, note that if the AI takes over a dropped team-mate it will ping the map like crazy in stupid place like the enemy base and drive you INSANE!!!)
Hotkeys & Gridkeys
Hotkeys are very useful for getting your speed up once you know where they are. You'd be surprised how much time you can waste moving the mouse back and forward from the battlefield to the buttons. A great example of this is when retreating: it's much quicker to press 1,x,2,x,3,x,4,x,5,x, etc. than it is to click on a squad then click retreat over and over. However, even quicker would be to drag a box around all squads on the screen and then whack 'x', or possibly even press the 'retreat all' keys, though this is a somewhat blunt too and strategically assumes that all your army is in one place. So consider the hotkeys.
However, the difficulty with hotkeys is that primarily that they're positioned all over the place. Luckily you can customise your hotkeys relatively simply now. Vintage has done a handy guide to show you how to do it. There are a lot of hotkeys though, and so remembering what you put for each one can be tricky. This is where gridkeys come in. Gridkeys are essentially just custom hotkeys, but the purpose of them is to map the keys to the keyboard in a scheme that relates to the button's position on the UI, rather than in relation to its name or your favored spot. While at first it might seem illogical to have the ASM jump as 'Q' it will soon make sense as all the items placed in the first square will use the 'Q' key - you only have to look at its position to know the key, so you don't really have to remember anything. The next benefit is that normal hotkeys are spread across the keyboard, where as gridkeys are bunched up in a little grid meaning you don't have to look at the keyboard to make sure you hit 'P' properly or whatever. This means less errors and more speed, which means better performance for you. Hotkeys, and then gridkeys, lower that user-interface hurdle so you can spend more brain power thinking about strategy and tactics rather than how to physically execute your plan.
Gridkeys have to be manually edited by someone who must go through and figure what key needs to be assigned to each button. This used to have to be done as mod, but thankfully Relic have listened to the masses and gridkeys are simply a text file that you need to put somewhere in your My Documents folder. My set of gridkeys can be found here but I make no guarantees as to their comprehensiveness (they're not exactly the set I use either). Note that you do not need to update them after every patch as before though you may need to rename the text file after each patch.
Compare the labelled hotkeys to the layout of your keyboard
The skirmish AI is really dumb. Seriously. The crucial difference when playing the AI - other than the unpredictable nature of human and the addition of fevered competition - is that it largely has a different goal in mind. The AI is out to capture points; humans are out to kill yo' azz. The AI will spread its forces around in a game of whack-a-mole (that can actually be pretty hard to keep up with at times) and you'll frequently only meet one or two squads at a time. Human players, on the other hand, are much more likely to cruise around in a big hunting pack looking for fresh meat to kick the living shit out of. I guess the point of this section is that playing the AI is really no preparation for playing humans, even if you can manage expert level. Humans will not fall for the same trick twice (well maybe twice, but not thrice) and will play much harder, much more erratically and much more aggressively. On the plus side, humans will also do stupid stuff too. It's all too easy for humans to get distracted by a whole big mess of pew pew lazors going off in the middle and will often not notice that one side of the map is completely undefended, something which the AI will always capitalise on.
Overall: the bottom line is that while playing the AI is certainly good for learning the ropes, familiarising yourself with the units and abilities and just getting comfortable, it is no substitute whatsoever for getting out into some ranked play (or public games). Don't worry about having a crappy TrueSkill, it doesn't matter. Play some teams games, have some fun and make some mates!
Classic AI behaviour: capping a VP in enemy territory using a setup team without any support whatsoever. *facepalm*