Rules of Play
The first thing to consider with general strategy is to have one. Having no overall battle plan - simply striking at targets of opportunity - will lead you into a muddle of constantly changing priorities, and a concerted effort by your opponent can catch you off guard and overwhelm you.
Remember to be flexible in your plans. If it appears that a campaign is not going well, abandon it or send it additional resources. Don't throw away an army that cannot win simply because "it was in the plan".
Patience is a virtue that cannot be given enough praise. If you don't have the local force to take a city, for instance, and your nearest city won't be available for building for ten rounds ... wait. Throwing away armies on a risky attack will only weaken your overall situation. If in ten rounds your opponent has gotten stronger, then at least that strength is not being used to harass you elsewhere. Tying forces up can be as effective as destroying them.
As you move from theater to theater, ask yourself: is this theater worth fighting for? What am I trying to gain? Do I need more resources? What is the priority of this theater over other theaters? And don't forget to keep moving from theater to theater, to keep abreast of what is happening all over the world, instead of getting focused on a single battle.
Don't stagnate. If you find yourself in a situation where neither side seems to be doing much of anything (recovering from a large battle, for instance), see if there is anything you can do to break the deadlock. A good chess player knows about pinning, protecting, and counter-threats. (If you know such a player, ask him.) Can you attack another nearby target such that the forces opposing you must choose which to defend? Can you bring up additional reinforcements to counterattack a weakened foe? Can you open up a whole new theater for your opponent to worry about?
In summary, having a strategy is important because it allows you to allocate resources quickly and decisively. A few extra units can usually turn the tide of battle, and a sound strategy will help you use all your resources to their utmost.
A single air strike can often decide a battle, or even the game, in favor of your side. Concentrated air power is one of the most potent forces in the game. However, air units are fragile and hard to replace, and by war's end they tend to wear away to nothing. An entire war can be decided by the loss of a handful of air units.
Don't squander your air. Don't try to run missions near active enemy air units, or you run a huge risk of being shot down. Instead, first gain air superiority in dogfights by bombing or striking targets within three spaces of the enemy air.
Strike first. Hit at his air before he hits at you. It's a fifty-fifty shot on who gets shot down, and if you succeed you get the added benefit of the bomb or strike. Even if nobody is shot down, you can run missions when all the local enemy air is unready. It's still risky, but not complete folly. Even if you are shot down, at least their aircraft will be unready for a while and you will be safe from retaliatory attacks.
You can destroy sea units with air strikes, but it's almost impossible to do so with land units. For land units, strike only when the loss of strength will be decisive in a battle and when the land unit is at a fairly high strength - the stronger the unit, the more it will lose. Sea units far from home are worth striking at any time. Once damaged, the sea unit is more vulnerable to your own sea power.
Don't be afraid to transfer an air unit. It puts the planes out of action, but that's better than keeping them in an unimportant theater, striking at targets that make no difference. To this end, check your routes. You may find that you need to capture a particular city or a city in a particular area in order to transfer an air unit from one front to the other. (This is especially true in 1942 for the Red player.) If all else fails, build a carrier to transport your air to where it is really needed.
Bombing is useful when assaulting a single city. When a city is bombed, production is delayed. If your timing is good (or you have two air units available) you can suppress the city long enough to take it without a fight, or at least without reinforcements popping up just as you are about to occupy it.
Don't overlook paradrops. They are risky, but in certain situations (equal forces and an attacking enemy) having even one unit in the opponent's rear can swing things your way, destroying two or more of the enemy before he can react effectively. Paradrops are best used sparingly, but don't forget their existence. Also, paradrops are a good way to take a city surrounded by attrition-causing terrain, since you can avoid some of it by flying over.
Sea units, unlike land units, have differing attack ranges. Try to use this to your advantage; if your opponent is not paying attention, pulling back your cruiser when it meets his sub can be devastating: the longer range of the cruiser allows it to sink the sub without suffering any return fire. Ditto for carriers, which can stand off and sink even cruisers if the cruiser does not pursue properly.
Conversely, if you are on the losing end of a "range contest", either get out immediately (and suffer the long range fire as you leave) or bull ahead right into the enemy's throat. Otherwise, he'll stand off and sink you.
Never, never, never send unescorted transports into an unknown sea. A single enemy sub can sink a dozen transports without working up a sweat. Three or four submarines spaced strategically can blockade the entire Atlantic. When you send out transports for a naval invasion, send carriers or cruisers just ahead of them to clear the way, and have them stop occasionally to scan for moving subs. If your warships encounter enemy vessels, stop or reroute the transports immediately, lest they continue sailing blindly into a raging naval battle.
Combined arms use of naval power to bombard coastal defenders can be a devastating tactic. A defender who is otherwise unkillable can be reduced to 20 per cent of his strength and is then easy prey for land attack. This takes time, but patience is the key. Meanwhile, beware enemy vessels appearing from nowhere to lift the siege. Try to protect your bombarding units with other sea vessels nearby.
Moving subs are pretty much like any other sea unit - worse in fact, since they can't bombard, and have a shorter range than other sea units.
Motionless subs are your secret weapon.
Use to see who can see your sub. Move it if you have to, but don't move within scanning range of an enemy or you'll be spotted. Instead, use the cursor to find out the general direction they're heading and try to cut them off. This can be especially deadly against transports.
Overload the enemy. Never use one unit where two will do; he can only engage one of your troops at a time, and the other dishes out punishment and takes none in return.
Flank the enemy. Position counts - check the enemy unit's engagement arrow, and attack from a different angle. That attacker deals out extra damage. This is what makes paradrops so deadly, dropped in the enemy's rear flank.
Don't over-engage. Two land units fight when their icons overlap. There's no need to go deeper into enemy territory - you might end up engaged with additional enemies who will be giving you damage and taking none in return. Also, if you start losing the fight, it is harder to disengage if you are in too deep.
Exhort your troops. A pinned unit can be unpinned by reiterating its movement orders. Sometimes you can save a unit's life this way, extricating it from a losing battle just in time. It may take several new orders to succeed, though.
Know the strengths of different units in different terrain. Can a tank defeat an entrenched infantry in the open? In a city? Can a weakened infantry take an unoccupied city? Once you learn the usual victor in a variety of situations, you will be better able to judge your relative strength in an impending battle. (The answers are: Yes, No, Usually not.)
The tactics for land units also apply somewhat to sea units, although "line" battles are rare at sea.
Satellites and Nukes
In the modern scenarios, you should remember to utilize your new weapons to greatest effectiveness. Don't forget about satellites and nukes.
|Keep your eyes open! Don't let a killer
satellite get launched without moving your satellite! And try launching a killer of
your own occasionally.
Satellite "sweeps" can be very effective - and can reveal a secret invasion fleet moving in on your capital! Use them sparingly, though, because moving the satellite uses up its fuel. When things seem static, try a sweep. You might (not) be surprised by what you find.
Nukes are a basic exercise in economy: they cost 10 to wield, and lose income permanently in the form of cities that leave your side. Most games last 200-300 rounds, so losing even three cities can cost you as much as 45 billion over the long run. Are you destroying 55 billion worth of the enemy (or saving as many cities as you'll lose)? If not, maybe it's not worth it.
In general, you can cut down on the ill will from a nuke by avoiding cities and not killing any of your own units (always a good idea). Otherwise you can see seven or more cities leaving your alliance! Avoiding first use is also a good idea.
To defend against nukes, try not to leave your troops too bunched together. Since you need to group up for effective attacks, this can be a problem. Still, you can avoid being too obvious a target by spreading out an immense invasion fleet, or refraining from putting three or more airplanes in a single city. Remember that you get a nuclear umbrella when on your opponent's home country or when quite close to anyone's capital. Also, if you have the nerves to let your opponent bomb you three times without replying, you are safe from nukes for the rest of the game, as long as you don't use any nukes of your own.
In some scenarios that use oil, it is the most important factor in the game - until you have enough, at which point it becomes completely unimportant.
The first thing to do is secure enough oil to keep going. This could involve foreign aid for nearby bases since you can't build new units on oil fields. It could also mean heavy garrisons in threatened areas.
You can't run a war without oil. Once you've got it, defend it, and get on with other things. More oil fields could be useful if your army (or your city holdings) increases greatly in size, but unless you feel that's likely, stop when you have enough. Unless, of course, your strategy is to try to deny your opponent of oil. By causing an oil shortage for your enemy, you can disrupt his army's capability to wage war. If you have enough oil, it's probably not worth going far out of your way to capture a distant and isolated oil field, but if you are short of oil, go for it while you still can.
Foreign Aid is also a question of economy: is it worth getting these cities for the cost? A single city could produce 15 billion during the course of the game - but if it's captured halfway through, you've lost money.
On the other hand, a base to build units near threatened oil fields is a must. Balance the value of the city strategically with its vulnerability and economic value before spending for foreign aid. But if your opponent spends, you should try to block him. You never know what he might have in mind!
A cash reserve is a wonderful thing. It's like having a mobile army reserve that can appear anywhere in the world.
On the other hand, cities can be put out of commission for a long time by building, and you might not be able to build quickly enough in an area where you need reinforcements. If only you had built elsewhere earlier, and shipped the reinforcements to that front!
In general, shipping units to the front is fraught with dangers: enemy subs, attacks in other areas, attrition - all take their toll. Unless you're absolutely sure an area is or will become a hot spot, a cash reserve may be a better idea.
But it's vital that you know when your cities will be ready to produce. Select and check the readiness numbers of unready cities in vital areas, and store that number in your memory (then Escape build mode without actually purchasing the unit). As soon as that round comes up, drop what you're doing and go produce that unit.
Remember that a newly liberated city will take 15 rounds before it can build, but once you build there, it will probably take more than 15 rounds before you can build again. Therefore, a good way to build up an invasion force is to take a city, wait 15 rounds to build then quickly capture another city. Wait 15 more rounds, then build and capture yet another city, etc. Your first city won't be able to build for a while, but your newly liberated city will.
Another tactic is to produce a unit in a city that is already under siege. As soon as the enemy is well and truly engaged (where it will be difficult for him to retreat, and he's already taken attrition loss) pop the unit in. This may involve buying the unit and holding it "in hand" until just the right moment, but it can be worth it.
Don't just produce defensively. Build tanks for offense, planes to counter enemy air power, and sea units to control shipping lanes. It takes combined arms to win a war, not just a preponderance of infantry!
Don't ignore "Carrier Engaged" warning messages. This can sometimes mean that an enemy sub, not yet spotted, has been detected somewhere in the area. It's probably about to attack! Reverse course! (This is a good reason to keep it at Message Level 3, just so that you get these warnings.)
You can bombard from the sea more effectively but suffer damage in return by moving close to land units (within one space). As a last push, this can be valuable - but it is costly. A ship can be sunk quickly by coastal fire.
Watch the sea lanes. Without your help navigating through treacherous waters (moving slowly, a few spaces at a time), ships will take the "safe" routes when navigating near islands. This could mean going the long way around, sometimes in the exact opposite direction you expect.
Watch for the first hit. In sea battles especially, where units have even strengths (there is no terrain and entrenchment to complicate matters) whoever gets the first hit will usually win. Although there is no guarantee, it is probably better to retreat if you take the first hit rather than risk the 3-1 chance of a loss.
Don't believe everything you don't see. Don't launch an invasion just because you don't see any defenders. You may run into hidden subs or land units just out of scanning range. Try using air reconnaissance or a sub to spot the enemy presence before moving in. Satellite reconnaissance can be good, too, but if the enemy looks at his satellite map, he may wonder why you moved your satellite over there.
Keep a sense of perspective. Of course, all of the preceding hints are wonderful things to know - but most of them involve careful attention to detail. As the game passes you by, you'll find that some theaters get left to their own devices, while you concentrate on others. And when you return to a theater, you can sometimes be surprised by what you find there! Try to move around and give equal attention to important places - and even an occasional check of the minor theaters can reap big rewards.
Command HQ was originally designed to run on the original, slow, 8086 or 286 processor. At the time, this software would push those machines to their limits. All machines sold nowadays are plenty fast enough to handle the game, so speed will probably not be an issue for you any longer. However, if you are using one of these very old and slow machines and you wish a faster game, you may try one or more of the following:
(1) Turn off the animations in Monitor Two, at least when the action is hot and heavy. Time is lost when the game has to run the animation "film".
(2) Decrease the size of your zoom window. A large zoom window takes more of the computer's time to keep updated.
(3) Speed up the game speed. If you are using the default speed, you may be moving too slowly for advanced players. The top speed may be too fast for you, but speed 4 or 5 should be acceptable.
(4) Believe it or not, slowing the game speed may help out. This won't actually speed the game, of course, but it will speed the responsiveness of your units. When the game speed is quite fast and the computer speed is quite slow, it can sometimes take more than one click on a unit to select it. At a slower speed, your clicks will always hit home.
|World War I
Paris is the key to the game, so don't let it be taken by a sneaky attack. Get reinforcements into France as quickly as possible, and don't unentrench unless absolutely necessary. You must withstand the initial onslaught, and staying entrenched in the cities is a good way to do it.
Get the convoy over as quickly as possible, but look diligently for enemy subs. Stop your cruiser occasionally to scan for moving subs, and try to follow the cruiser with the transports. Even so, you'll probably lose one unit. Just try not to lose more. And don't neglect those other units scattered around. They may look far away, but their timely arrival can mean turning the tide near war's end.
An early strike at Paris looks tempting, but don't do it. It's tough to succeed, and failure involves the loss of many units (it's what the Germans did historically, and look where it got them). Better to wait for all your strength to arrive.
But the Allies have more income than you - so you can't wait forever. Your advantage is a local preponderance of strength and quicker response time in building. He must often build in distant corners of the world, then ship the troops to Europe. Use that to your advantage by nipping at his units, turning his flanks, and generally harassing him until you're ready for the grand assault - and hunt down that Atlantic convoy! Without American soldiers, the Allies are in big trouble! Also, get your subs out of the North Sea (you may need to engage his fleet in a sea battle to escape his blockade) and out there to lurk for his incoming transports, most of which won't be escorted!
|World War II
Time and income are on your side, if you can avoid losing too soon. Yours is a defensive war at first, until your scattered forces can join together in one or two areas. The strategic question is, which areas?
The Australian fleet can move to Pearl Harbor and face the Japanese navy, or it can sail up the Suez and join the attack on Europe. Your British forces can try for an early landing in Europe, or wait for the Atlantic convoy to arrive. And how heavily you defend the Suez partly depends on your plans for the Australians.
Russia is probably the key to the game. A good defense there will buy you the time you need to mobilize and win. A quick defeat means a powerful Germany that wheels to face D-Day with overwhelming strength.
You've got a lot of force, but a lot of fronts to fight on. Taking Russia is useful, and ultimately necessary, but a losing battle there means a losing war. Sometimes switching your troops west and not making a big push in Russia until after Britain falls can be tempting, but so can attacking Russia quickly and trying for a quick strike a Moscow.
The Japanese are your ultimate ace in the hole. The Germans are beleaguered, but the Japanese are strong and have lots of options. The west coast of the U.S. beckons, as does Australia and even Europe. Watch your air lanes! Transferring planes between your two fronts can be difficult unless you take Pearl Harbor or Diego Garcia. Capturing Pearl Harbor is enticing and will help in an invasion of the U.S., but can be extremely difficult.
|World War III
Do not be overconfident, just because you have many more cities than your opponent. It takes some time before your larger money supply can take its toll. In the meantime, you're facing overwhelming forces on several fronts.
Balance is especially important: oil is vital, but taking Havana can forestall a possible nuisance raid on the U.S. that could turn into a full-scale invasion. Taking new cities slows your opponent and gives you income, but you'll need to defend your city clusters as well as attack his.
Speaking of clusters - don't. A clump of units is a prime target for a nuke. Spread out a bit, try to slow your opponent as you build and ship, and strike for oil and key targets. If the Warsaw Pact groups for a mass attack, nuke it quickly! The time you buy and the defensive units you save are usually worth the cost in cities changing hands.
You start out at a significant strategic disadvantage. You have two-thirds the oil of NATO, and only a third of the cities. You have a larger army, equal air power, and an inferior navy. Fortunately, in the initial stages of the game, ground strength is more important than naval strength. Your army surpasses NATO's so much that you can attack successfully in several directions at once.
One of your top priorities is to capture significant amounts of oil before your oil reserve is used up. Thus, you must invade the Middle East and take the oil fields there in the opening stages of the game (or launch a worldwide effort to capture several other fields elsewhere).
You need to neutralize the huge NATO superiority in cities as well. The two easiest targets are Western Europe, which boasts 8 cities, and Japan and Korea, which have 6 cities. If you can capture the Far East as well as Europe, the strategic balance will tilt in your favor. Note also that capturing the bulk of the world's oil cancels out the income of many of NATO's cities.
Capturing Western Europe simply requires competent use of your overwhelming ground forces, with a little air support. Capturing England is more difficult than the continent, but should be attempted unless NATO sea strength cannot be overcome with air power or your own local naval forces. Watch out for nukes! Don't bunch up!
World War IV is very much like World War III, except that the strategic situation is more fluid. Some things to keep in mind:
1) Use foreign aid to establish bases to protect oil fields.
2) Be aware of the enemy invading neutrals during the war. You can give foreign aid to the remaining cities in that nation, and usually get them on your side with less effort than it would normally take.
3) Don't hold too much of your money in the reserve, or you'll be unable to use all your wealth due to cities being unready.
4) Launch some recon satellites to keep an eye on your enemy.
5) Choose whether you wish to spend your money on getting lots of cities, or on a huge army. Building an army and then capturing lots of cities may appeal, but remember that if you start without many cities, it will prove difficult to build new armies, as your production capacity will rapidly be used up.
This is an unusual game that requires unusual tactics, but it has proven to be by far the most popular.
Originally, the advise given here was to start slow, because you'll quickly need oil. Don't take more than a city or two until you've gotten several oil fields. After years of play, top players agree that this advise may now seem at best misleading. Do NOT start slow - move out quickly. Your first priority must be to quickly spread out in all directions to establish bases in all four corners of the world as quickly as possible. You may not want to take more than a couple cities initially, because your men are moving past many of the 'local' cities with their eye on distant cities on other continents, from which you can establish a foothold for your empire.
Use geometric expansion to your best benefit: don't let one unit take seven cities in a row when building another unit would let you take them in half the time. Speed is of the essence!
Once you've got a good base (an income of 1.4 or so is the best you could ever hope for), build sea units to catch transports and to scan for enemy cities. Don't forget carriers and air power! They're expensive, but nothing's better for reconnaissance, and they can provide needed air strikes at key moments.
Keep in mind that every city on the board looks like a neutral city until you've explored. Scan before you attack! If your oil situation is bad, don't go after cities. Bases are better to capture in low oil situations. And watch for the enemy capital! That's how you win the game.
And don't forget to protect your Capital. Be on the lookout for a "Cap Kill" by your opponent. You may be winning on all fronts, but if he suddenly shows up at your Capital's doorsteps with all he's got, he may be able to capture it and win the game before you can recall your units for reinforcement.
Next Chapter: Two Player Connections