Competitive Guide

Strategy, feedback, or anything SUBTERFUGE-related
Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:19 pm

  • Intro
    This is intended to be a complete competitive guide to Subterfuge, so please forgive the length. Also because Subterfuge is such a nuanced guide, you will see it is not written as a narrative "do this, then this, then this" but rather as a large collection of concepts. I also hope to do a series of videos to provide examples of what I am saying, if I can find enough time.

    About Me
    At the time of writing this, I am currently ranked 13th on the global leaderboard. I have achieved this in 7 games (only 5 of which were ranked), which is the fewest in the top 35 or so. To me, that means two things: 1) I'm having great success with what I am doing, 2) I actually have much less experience game-for-game than most other other players. I point this out not (only) to brag, but also because I think it qualifies me to write a guide. I will admit however that I am not perfect, and welcome critique and additions to what I am saying.

    It occurred to me that perhaps I shouldnt write this guide, because learning players might use it to get better and beat me, while skilled players might use it to exploit holes in my strategy. Then it occurred to me that I have never finished below second place, and I could use the challenge! So, as a wise man once said, "Come at me, bro." (for real though, putting myself out here like this is somewhat terrifying, so please don't autogank me to prove a point!)

    Philosophy concepts/Misc
    -Always vs. Viable vs. Never: I will try to frame each aspect of my guide as one of these 3 things. One of the things that makes Subterfuge great is how many strategies fall under the Viable category, and how few fall under the Always/Never categories. Because viable strategies are so numerous, I may not be able to even conceive of them all, let alone fit them all in this guide. My focus will be more on the always/never for the sake of this guide. Also keep in mind this is a competitive guide, so while certain strategies might be very fun to try, many of those are not reliable ways to win and will not be found in this guide.

    -Offense is the Best Defense: This phrase is used commonly in games/sports, and its truth is determined largely by the game. In Subterfuge its pretty true. I'm not saying you should never go on defense, but I am saying you should never WANT to go on defense. The more successful your offense is, the more resources you have to defend with later, should you be forced into a defensive position.

    -Hot or Cold, not Lukewarm. Aka, Do or Do Not, There is No Try: This is something I find applies to virtually all aspects of Subterfuge. You are either attacking someone, or you are not. You are taking the outpost, or you are not. You are turtling, or you are not. If you are switching from one to the other, this switch needs to happen as quickly and deliberately as possible.

    -Don't play too many games at once: I see this a lot, and it hurts people's performance. I myself have only ever played 1 game at a time. The game may seem slow at times, but there is a TON to do and think about while your subs take forever getting to their destinations. Think about who you're going to attack next, who might attack you next, check your drill cap to make sure you wont max out soon, think about what specialist you want next, TALK TO PEOPLE. To win the most games possible, you should play as best as possible, and that can only happen if you spend a lot of time/focus on each game.

    Diplomacy concepts/strategies
    Diplomacy is a primo example of something that has many many many viable strategies, all of which I cant hope to encompass in one guide. Ill try to stick to concepts, and a few of the strongest strategies I have seen/employed. Some of these things might sound obvious, but you would not believe how often people do it wrong.

    -Talk to people (a lot): All diplomacy requires communication, and silence is a universal sign to distrust. This is especially true before the game has even started, as people are very easily spooked and/or looking for someone to gank. It also tends to be true that the more you talk to someone, the more they trust you and want to work with you (so long as you dont message them so often that it annoys them).

    -Negotiate with Neutral/Ally players: You can get a lot more from people than you might think, just by asking people for things that are somewhat reasonable and/or negotiating deals. The best example of this is negotiating border (to be discussed later). Other examples: Does someone have a scary number of drills on your border? Ask them politely to move them away. Is your drill cap way too low for your level of production? Try to trade a factory for a gen.

    -Be explicitly clear about diplomacy, or don't be (Hot or Cold): If you are explicit about your diplomacy, it makes it more likely that the other player will follow it, but also means that if you break it, you could start to earn a bad reputation (not applicable in anonymous mode). If you are purposely vague about your diplomacy, it can leave wiggle room to back out of assumed deals that were never actually made. The other guy will not be happy about this, but you can at least save some face by blaming him for not being more careful about what was agreed to. Either way, be in control of this choice- be deliberate with whether your diplomacy was explicit or assumed.

    -ANY hostile act by someone you have diplomacy with is justification for breaking it: This could be a direct attack, or reliable information that he has been conspiring against you. Likewise there are some borderline acts that might be enough depending on the context, like ignoring critical questions, moving a suspiciously large force to your shared border without good cause, etc. Remember to be Hot/Cold about breaking it though. Once you no longer need to investigate whether there is grounds to break your diplomacy, dont be suspicious or aggressive toward them until it is time to attack, and only then explain how they broke diplomacy to warrant your attack.

    -Dont be passive. It would be really cool to see someone win a game without ever fighting, and making all of their progress by negotiating trades and influencing the board through funding. Unfortunately I have never seen this work, and would never suggest attempting it as a competitive strategy.

    -Be aggressive but not reckless. An aggressive player picks a target, and destroys them quickly, and starts looking for the next target while quietly discussing with his allies who that target should be. A reckless player picks fights arbitrarily, without knowing whether he has allies or whether they will assist in his next war. Reckless players frequently find themselves the "asshole" and end up on the wrong side of 2v1/3v1s and get eliminated early. Good aggressive players often finish with a medal.

    -Fight with unfair numbers: Yes, always. If you think an honorable 1v1 is how you want to fight, you can, but competitively that is never ideal. Every time you are at war, you are distracted and vulnerable (the rewards make this worthwhile). You want to win every war as quickly as possible to reduce the time in which you are vulnerable, and also to grow the largest empire faster than others who are trying to do the same, so that your win condition can come faster than theirs. A 1v1 fight proceeds extremely slowly, and could turn into a standoff, or worse- into a losing fight. Embrace your allies, and seek out those 2v1s, or 3v2s, or 3v1s.

    -Once you are at war with someone, don't stop till one of you are eliminated. It is tempting to try diplomacy with someone youve been at war with, because you've come to pity/respect them, or to deal with other problems. DONT DO IT. They will try to kill you. While this might not be 100% true, it is so close that I would say as a rule you should always follow this. The only exception to this is if a player is so turtled up that you can not finish them- in this case, keep forces in place to ensure they stay contained.

    -Experiment with timed warning peace agreements. Ive had good (viable) success with time based peace, where if either side wants to cancel the deal, you must give an agreed to amount of time (24hrs being most common) after your warning before you will start your attack.

    -Secretly ally with everyone?: I personally do not have a lot of respect for this strategy, but it does seem to work (viable). The basic idea is to make allies with most of the people in the game, sometimes as multi-person alliances, and then pick which alliance you like better and betray the other alliance once it suits you. This does carry its own risk if you are not careful, that both sides will realize what you are doing and turn against you. It can also be bad for your long-term reputation.

    Military concepts
    -Use the time machine. Use it a lot. Run many many different possibilities until you have the move closest to perfect that you can possibly think of. If you need to get the brain juices flowing on your possibilities, try some puzzles (replay if you finished).

    -Control every drill: Every drill should always be serving a purpose- in motion or stationed at their purpose the moment they are built. This is probably the biggest single mistake I see people make. There is no reason to keep drills scattered all over your base "just in case" someone somehow instantly blasts their way into the center of your territory. Think of drills as the blood of your military- and pump that blood to where it is needed. Yes, it seems like those 6 drills are not a lot, and it seems like they will never get to where you want them. Have faith- 6+6+6 adds up quickly, and that travel time isnt as bad as you think.

    -Win your fights, but modestly: By modest, Im not talking about being polite, but rather not needlessly overkilling. This is because (unless you have King), it makes no difference how much you win a fight by. What matters is that you win. Send only what you need to win, and move the rest of your drills at a new target(s). (This gets tricky when specialists are at play, because you do want your specialists involved in as many productive fights as possible).

    -Keep close eye on your drill cap: Imagine that every cycle your factories miss because they are capped, that many drills just died. Thought about this way, you will realize that your cap might be killing significantly more drills than any enemy specialist could ever kill. You never want to be capped. Get more gens, get a Tinkerer/Minister of Energy, build a mine, or let loose on an enemy, but try to never be capped. Remember that clearing your cap takes time, so take action before the cap comes, not after.

    -Don't feel compelled to always fight constantly. Just because you can fight, doesn't mean you must to do it constantly for the entire game. One benefit of being the player on the offensive is that you are in control of when it happens, and who it happens with. Take advantage of this power, and only do it when you are confident in your choice, and are ready to fight. While you never want to be drill capped, you also dont want to willingly start a fight while low on drills.

    -Try not to "rubber-band" your own Nep when taking someone else mine. Its a hard rule that every time a mine is lost, Nep is only lost, and none is gained. This means that by back-and forth fighting over a mine, both players can suffer huge Nep losses. Avoid this problem by only taking a mine when either (a) you have no/little Nep to lose, or (b) you are certain you can hold the mine the moment you take it.

    -Know the strength of shields as what they are (no more, no less). Players can tend to either overly fear shields, or drastically underestimate them. I think those who fear them tend to do so because of the visual aspect of that scary white circle building up, and would not carry this fear if the outpost only gave a numerical indicator, like the way drills do. I think those who underestimate shields do so because of reckless tendencies.

    -Target factories on offense, generally. Factories are usually much higher priority targets over gens and even mines, because they are actively producing front-line drills which dont have to travel for a single second to defend that outpost, and have quick speed to counter-attack your assault. Therefore you generally want them out of the picture asap. The exception to this rule, is if your target has very high drill production rate, and very low cap space. Then you can take his gens first, which will ensure that he wont be able to produce from any factory, let alone his front-liners. I would apply the "hot-or-cold" concept to this- either go hard after factories, or go hard after gens. Don't be lukewarm by going after both with equal priority.

    -Understand the Specialists: (see the very end of this guide for a quick ranking and breakdown of each specialist). The specialists are so beautifully designed, and are possibly the most complex aspect of the game (beaten perhaps only by diplomacy). Read their abilities very carefully, think about how they might interact with each other, research reddit/forums/youtube to see how other people have utilized them. Specialist choice and usage is largely what distinguishes the great players from the average ones. Remember: most but not all specialists effects stack with themselves and others. Move speed bonuses do not stack, except that the Admiral +50% global effect will. Also, the martyr does not gain range from vision enhancers. Everything else should work together if logically possible.

    The opening is a terrifyingly critical part of the game. It is when players are most even, as drills and outposts are even, and specialists are at a minimum. Ironically because it is so even, this is also when the game can be most unfair, because the most militarily skilled player in the game might get eliminated and finish in last place, merely because he got outnumbered by multiple poor military players. Fear not! There are principles to follow that can help you survive this critical and unforgiving stage.

    -Review the diplomacy concepts outlined earlier. Diplomacy made before the game has even started can often last the whole game. At least make border agreements about who gets which outposts is a great way to start building a relationship with your neighbor, and has the potential to get you bonus outposts you wouldnt have even expected to get. Choose your friends well, make peace with those you need to, and find the one who I like to call... "the asshole."

    -"The asshole": Is a player who is sometimes, but not always, an asshole. More generally it is the guy who attacks or even contests outposts without allies to back him up. Often, this is the guy who tries to open aggressively, sometimes against multiple people. This aggression might come by being threatening in chat, but is more commonly seen by contesting outposts which are closer to other players. These people are great tools (and also why I strongly suggest not being overly aggressive during the opening unless you know you have diplomatic support). As soon as the asshole emerges, it because very easy to form a 2v1, if not 3v1 against him, because at the very least his target will fight along with you. It might also be viable to team up with the asshole instead, if you like his style. However be careful doing this, as being thought of as the "bad guy" can be dangerous both in this game, and for your reputation in future games.

    Sometimes the asshole is not so easily found. There are lots of viable ways to deal with this, like spreading rumors(viable but not my personal preference), being patient and waiting for someone else to attack, setting up solid diplomacy to ensure you are safe to open up the first attack, etc. Remember however, that conspiring to build a gank squad against someone is a quick way to become the asshole yourself if you are not careful about who you share information with.

    By the time the first 1 or 2 players are being eliminated, we shift into the midgame. If youve survived this long, what I consider to be the hardest part of the game, is now over.

    Mid Game
    As the first players are getting eliminated, you should already be thinking about what to do next. If you haven't had the chance already, you should probably build a mine soon. Knowing exactly when to build a mine is a tricky thing to time properly. One concern (I consider it overblown) that many people have is building a mine to soon, drawing attention to themselves, and ending up the next gank target. While it is a possible scenario to be mindful of, there are lots of easy ways to prevent the negative reaction and start safely pushing your way into first place.

    First, I would only mine once your drill cap is getting close- because capped drills are lost anyway, and the loss of drills near cap will leave you with enough left over to not be vulnerable.

    Second, let your allies know that they will get funded by you once you get to 20 Nep (this will have a secondary effect of extending your lead because your allies will likely wait to mine in order to get funded). Alternatively, if your ally is in better shape than you to mine first, reverse the roles and receive the funding to try to power your way back into position. If you are the receiver of funding, get a mine of your own once the funding is in, but beware of climbing too quickly and losing your funding by having less than 20 Nep between the two of you.

    Third, only build your mine on anyone else's border if you are extremely confident in your alliance/peace. Otherwise, build it in the center of your territory so that border player is not tempted to reconsider his loyalty.

    You will also have to decide where you want your mine- do you want to lose a generator, or a factory? My personal preference is to put the mine on a factory which is in poor position. For example, if you have an extremely trustworthy ally, you dont need a factory on his border building drills way out of position and wasting precious cap space. Alternatively, if you have a Tinkerer with a lot of shield, or a Minister of Energy, you can probably easily afford to sacrifice a gen.
    Now that your first target is down, you will need to review your diplomacy with the other players in the game. It is possible that you pigeon-holed yourself by being overly friendly and having too many alliance/peace agreements. If you took my previous advice, hopefully you might have left yourself some wiggle room by crafting some ambiguous diplomacy, or can invoke the 24 hour warning you promised in a peace-agreement that had the option built in. If not, you might have to get creative by accusing some small action from someone else as a hostile act to justify an attack. Or if absolutely no other option is available, you might just have to break diplomacy. This is not good for your reputation, but in the same token, this is Subterfuge, betrayal will happen. If you conduct yourself in a respectful way, this can possibly be enough to maintain your rep while you carry out this unpopular act.

    If you had a good first war and picked up a lot of outposts, but are pigeon-holed with peace, you could also just rush mines. You could also plan for this deliberately, but I havnt thoroughly tested this, so can't assert how viable it is (I myself prefer dominating the game through military action). If going mine heavy, you should look to hire solid defensive specialists, and only build each mine at safe locations in your territory. If you see anyone preparing an attack on you by massing up drills on your border, stop building mines and prepare for war-- congratulations, you are no longer diplomatically pigeon-holed.
    The mid-game is where your specialist choices are most critical, because of how multiples combo together, and how strong a global effect can be when you have a lot of outposts. Partially because of this, and partially because you can start to earn big outpost/drill advantages, the mid-game can be prime time to show off your military prowess.

    At a certain point in the mid-game, it becomes clear that at least one player (hopefully you) is getting close to victory, and we shift into the late-game.

    Late Game
    In the late game you want to keep an extra close eye on the Intelligence Reports window. Who is winning, and by how much? Who could surpass who, and how could it happen? At the end of the game, what place people finish in is the only thing that matters to their rating. Reputation and relationships matter also, but they tend to lose power when it comes time to decide who comes in what place.

    If you are in range of shifting upwards in the standings, you should look with hyper focus for ways to do that. If you took action now and achieved an upward shift in the standings, could you hold it before the end of the game? Could anyone below you in the ranking try to pull a similar move on you? Whether you stand to move upward or downward in standing, keep a close eye on the game end clock, and only think about what could possibly happen in that window of time, or what could happen if that window of time were lengthened by the leader losing a mine.

    Be suspicious even of your allies as the game comes to an end. An otherwise loyal ally could turn on you when it comes to gaining a spot in standing.

    If you are far enough in the lead with enough military might, you will find that you have the power to determine where every other non-eliminated player will finish. This is an extremely satisfying level of power :)

    If Things Go Wrong (aka Defense concepts)
    As I've said before, you basically never want to be on defense. Being in a truely defensive position should only happen if something has gone wrong. There's a number of reasons for this. The most obvious is that you only lose drills and outposts while on defense. Another basic reason for this is that you are always alone on defense. While an ally can fund you or gift you drills, it is ultimately you alone doing the fighting over your own outposts.

    I want to clarify that if you provoke someone into attacking you so they waste drills on your walls but you know full well that you have the military and diplomatic power to overtake them- this is not truly being on defense. This is stage 1 of an extremely effective style of attack.

    That said, if you do find yourself on defense, take solace in the fact that there are a number of mechanics that favor the defender:

    -The most obvious is shields. Shields matter because hopefully youve had time to fully charge yours, yet once an enemy takes an outpost from you, the sheilds will be low so that you can nearly trade drill-for-drill.

    -Distance/travel time can kill an offense. An attacker generally has to extend outward and away from his core of outposts, while the defender has the advantage of piling up at one edge of his territory- generally meaning defender has less distance to travel.

    -While it is the attackers advantage to dictate when the attack happens, it is the defenders advantage to be able to react. It is much more effective to be able to react than it is to launch an attack, where you need to predict how the other player will react. This becomes especially true when specialists enter the equation.

    -The power of specialists leans defensive. The vast majority of specialists, (even the ones considered offensive) can be utilized very effectively on defense. The exceptions, like infiltrator, are not particularly powerful specialists.

    -Factories under attack produce their own drill defenses without needing to travel.
    Turtling: This means that you draw back your entire army to a single base(usually a factory or mine), or a very small number of bases. At this point the objective is to stay alive and remain a thorn in the side of your attackers, because as long as you are alive, they can not fully forget about you like they can if you are eliminated. A sucessful turtle might even see you outlast someone else who fails to turtle and is eliminated. (at very least it can protect your "eliminated" stat on the global leaderboard).

    I would recommend turtling only as a last resort. If you can survive through normal non-turtle defensive measures, you will be much better off in the long run. But also dont wait too long. If you try to turtle too late, you will not have enough drills or you could be undercut as you move into turtle position.

    To successfully turtle, you want as many drills as possible, along with a combination of little per-fight specialists (Inspector, War Hero, Lt., King, etc), and some big single use specialists (Double-Agent, Sabateur, Martyr). At a certain point of combined specialists, along with a certain number of drills, it becomes virtually impossible to kill you, even in 2v1/3v1 scenarios. This is basically because with the benefit of reaction discussed above, you can completely destroy small waves without losing a single drill thanks to per fight specs, while also having the power to destroy massive single subs if such an army comes at you.

    Once you have reached unkillable critical mass with your turtle, your attackers might choose to contain you instead, and will have to waste lots of stationary drills/specialists to keep you from breaking out of your shell for a delayed counter-attack. If they underestimate you however, you can lash out and start recovering some of your lost outposts.

    Also remember these turtle concepts when it comes to being on the attack against someone turtling (in fact, it is from destroying turtles that I have come to learn what make them effective. I myself have never had to do it).
    That concludes the first half of my guide. Stay tuned for part 2, my breakdown on all the specialists.
    Last edited by kevlargolem on Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:20 pm

  • Specialists
    For just a quick list/ranking of specialists, see my thread here:

    The specialists are inevitably going to be a controvesial topic for people, because everyone has their favorites, and the usefulness of specs can sometimes be context specific to whats going on currently in the game. This list is built on generalities and the notion that the player has an average or large number of outposts. See the very end for specs as they relate to the turtle context.

    Ratings are base on a 5 point scale, O = Solo Offense, D = Solo Defense, U = Utility. Utility is basically a catch-all category that acknowledges value that they have because of how well the combo with other specs, potential to promote into something great, etc. Especially good combos and counters will be highlighted in green, especially bad "counter by" or "avoid combos" will be highlighted red. THEY ARE NOT IN ORDER HERE. I will make a quick list later where I rank them in categories.

    Promoted specs are scored by taking into account that they cost two hires, and also can be hired away from the queen. Promotable spec are scored taking into account the potential for promotion.

    You should presume Double Agent, Martyr, and other Specs who either kill your sub or have no combat roll should not be comboed with combat specs. I'm not going to write that for almost every spec for the sake of completion.

    Navigator -- O: 3 D: 2 U: 5
    Comments: Decent but not amazing spec used alone, but makes some of the best combos in the game. Use it to pull away from a losing attack and move instead to a vulnerable target, or just to get out of the lane to avoid sub-to-sub specs. This spec essentially shifts the benefit of reactionary moves from the defender to the attacker. If your turtle is about to be broken, use Nav to float queen forever, only to be stopped by pirate.
    Combos: Pirate, Assassin, Martyr, any local speed
    Avoid Combos: n/a
    Counters: sub-to-sub specs, slow defenses, fast offenses, surprise counters
    Countered by: pirate, smuggler, sentry

    Admiral-- O: 5 D: 4 U: 5
    Comments: I peronsally consider this to be the best Spec in the game. Speed does everything, and the Admiral grants more total speed than anyone else. His global boost is the only way to stack speed bonuses. To put this in perspective, if you have just 2 admirals, Lt./General move slower than standard drills, and Helmsman would add nothing to drill movement (basically serving only as a ferry for other specs). His only drawback on offense is that he is SO valuable that I sometimes dont want to risk losing him in a failed attack. Great with tycoon because together they can mass up the fresh 6s faster.
    Combo: self, tycoon, any local effect offense or defense (see: Double Agent)
    Avoid Combo: n/a
    Counters: non-speed boosted enemies
    Countered by: smuggler, assassin

    Lt. -- O: 3 D: 2 U: 3
    Comments: Just a solid worker, with modest speed and modest drill kills. Especially strong early in the game when drill counts are low, or if you can slip it in under an enemy trying to stream waves of 6. Keep in mind that people avoid drill killers by just avoiding fights with low numbers of drills.
    Combo: War Hero, Thief, Inspector, and any other per fight local drill killer
    Avoid Combo: faster specs
    Counters: small wave offenses
    Countered by: faster specs, admiral global, assassin, revered elder

    General-- O: 3 D: 3 U: 4
    Comments: I understand the potential of general, but I virtually never use him because I strongly prefer small numbers of strong promoted heroes and 1 stacked up death squad on offense. That's literally the opposite of how you want to play with general because of how his global effect works.
    Combos: self, saboteur, assassin, diplomat, war hero
    Avoid Combos: promoted specs(other than self/WH)
    Counters: Revered Elder
    Countered by: Assassin

    Hypnotist-- O: 0 D: 0 U: 4
    Comments: Extremely niche role. Even if multiple captured specs are available, the hire option needs to be available, and then Hypno needs to be brought to the location, with still enough time to make use of the captured specs. Yes the game is around 8 days long, but this timing is harder than it might seem. However, Hypno gains value by being promotable to an arguably OP spec.
    Combos: none
    Avoid Combos: assassin
    Counters: nothing
    Countered by: diplomat

    King-- O: 5 D: ? U: 5
    Comments: The defensive possibilities rely strongly on current drill count, how controlled your border is, and drill production rate. If war can be contained to small areas of border, the King drill bonus can be much higher value than the shield would have been, even more so if the drills can be quickly rebuilt. King self stack is OP because the negative effect can't stack. Also remember the positive effect kills drills, not shields. Generally I don't use King much because it doesn't really match my style, and because usually 18 hours with no use for a Hypnotist seems like a waste.
    Combos: self, engineer, thief, inspector+smuggler, war hero, tycoon, foreman
    Avoid Combos: security chief
    Counters: ...infiltrator
    Countered by: drill killing specs, general

    Foreman -- O: 3 D: 4 U: 3
    Comments: Drill producing specs are a bit better on defense than they are for offense, because you can place them on the outpost to be defended, whereas any offense will need to actually get the bonus drills to meet up with your attacking force, which gets further and further away the more success your offense has. Note that well timed Smuggler and other speed boosters can help avoid missing production cycles due to travel time.
    Combos: tinkerer, minister of energy, tycoon, King, speed boosters
    Avoid Combos: n/a
    Counters: n/a
    Countered by: thief

    Engineer -- O: 4 D: 4 U: 3
    Comments: If drill cap is hit, foreman transitions nicely into engineer, who helps keep drills alive now that they are built. Stacks extremely well with self, so if 2 are in a winning local fight, no drills are lost. A smart enemy will retreat from Engineer and avoid losing drills in losing fights, till certain of winning thus nullifying effect. The optimist view is the making the enemy retreat is a win.
    Combos: self, thief, King, revered elder
    Avoid combo: just standard martyr/DA
    Counters: nothing specific
    Countered by: assassin,

    Inspector -- O: 1 D: 4 U: 5
    Comments: This above average defender gets amazing when comboed with max shield specs and/or speed specs, so much so that it can be pushed into an offensive role that shuts down any chance of a counter attack.
    Combos: King/Queen/Security Chief+any speed spec
    Avoid combo: tinkerer without navigator
    Counters: small wave attacks. offensively- shuts down counter-attacks
    Countered by: infiltrator, offensively- surprise undercutting by speed specs, or pirate

    Security Chief-- O: 0 D: 4 U: 2
    Comments: That extra layer of white wall will visually intimidate any would be attacker. However, Im not convinced the effect is actually all that powerful. 10 extra drills killed per outpost isn't all that strong when you consider a war hero does twice as much with no need to replenish itself between fights. Obviously a war hero can't be at every fight, but usually defense will take place at only a few outposts at a time unless you're getting ganked, and if you're getting ganked, an extra 10 wall per outpost will likely not be enough to save you anyway.
    Combos: self, Inspector, tinkerer
    Avoid Combo: King
    Counters: King
    Countered by: infiltrator

    Smuggler -- O: 4 D: 5 U: 5
    Comments: Arguably the best specialist. 3x speed outruns everything. However, the downside is that while the smuggler can get your offense in position, it cannot itself grant speed to your attack. Promotes to another one of the best specialists.
    Combos: Inspector, Sentry, foreman, and most other defensive specs.
    Avoid Combo: none
    Counters: basic attacks
    Countered by: synchronized attacks on multiple locations

    Tycoon-- O: 4 D: 5 U: 1
    Comments: Considered by some to be the best spec. Defensively I agree, the number of drills he puts out is incredibly difficult to penetrate. Offensively... he's quite good. Drills are drills. However, he runs into similar issues as foreman, in that you actually need to gather the drills he makes together, and then actually get them to the fight, and that delay in time hurts his effectiveness.

    Tinkerer-- O: 0 D: 0 U: 5
    Comments: I can't think of how to properly rate his O/D ability, because his effect is so indirect. This spec is probably the most underrated when people talk about specs being "OP". In 90% of my games, I NEED this spec. It's not a matter of "oh, this spec would be great," no, I need this spec, and no other spec will do the job. Lots of specs are great on offense or defense, Tinkerer and its promoted counterpart are the only specs in the game who do what they do. I personally have more appreciation for Tinkerer than Minister, because Tink is only 1 hire, and can be buffed up with shield specs, and his negative effect is less negative.
    Combos: Tycoon, Foreman, self, King
    Avoid Combo: inspector without Navigator
    Counters: n/a
    Countered by: direct pressure on his outpost

    Minister of Energy-- O: 0 D: 0 U: 4.5
    Comments: I've noticed people are overeager to promote to this spec. Don't promote to this until you are right up on your drill cap. The negative of minister is significant. I'm not a math expert, but going from 6 to 5 is, what like a 15% drop to your total production? Don't take that loss until you must.
    Combos: Tycoon, Foreman
    Avoid Combo: self
    Counters: nothing
    Countered by: nothing

    Sentry -- O: 1 D: 4 U: 4
    Comments: Like Security Chief, the defensive strength of this specs largely comes from the perceived dangerous red circle, rather than from its actual damage it does. The damage is not something to underestimate, but I've seen this spec shut down an offense because of fear rather than strength. The promotion for sentry is one of the best promotion transitions in the game, because the logical way to avoid a percentage based attack is to attack in small waves. If someone tries this, all you need to do is promote to war hero and kill every wave. Because they already cant come in small waves, big wave killers are good combos. Note the range of sentry gets larger with help from vision enhancers.
    Combos: Princess, Intelligence Officer, Saboteur, Double Agent, Martyr, Smuggler, self
    Avoid Combo: none
    Counters: King
    Countered by: offensive speed enhancing specs

    War Hero-- O: 2 D: 3 U: 4
    Comments: Can be extremely strong early in the game when 20 drills is a lot. 20 continues to be a good amount late into the game, and can be further enhanced by combining with other specs. His low offense score is because he is too slow on his own, and needs to be comboed with a speed spec. When comboed hes great on offense, great on defense even solo. Like Lt. and other drill killers, if your target is smart they will back up to avoid losing free drills until they have enough in one place to win, while on defense they will likely attack in 1 large wave anyway and will just build up an extra 20 drills if thats what it takes to win (and if you have to withdraw, you dont get the 20 kills). The positive view on this is that forcing your opponent to delay and play around you is a win in itself.
    Combos: General, other speed specs, other drill killers
    Avoid Combo: n/a
    Counters: King, Tycoon, Foreman,
    Countered by: Assassin, Revered Elder

    Pirate-- O: 4 D: 2 U: 5
    Comments: Very fun and popular spec. Great value for 1 hire. Highly complex, and hard to cover all the facets of this spec in 1 paragraph. Takes some time getting used to this spec's targeting and mechanics, but if you are a new player I highly recommend you get to know them, because not only will it help you learn to play pirate, but it also help you learn how to play against it. Pirate is a great tool for killing fleeing queens or other specs. Great for stealing gifts. Great for saving specs lost in sub-to-sub combat. If paired with Nav, have an ally send out single drills to take best advantage of the 2x speed.
    Combos: Navigator and/or Assassin, Double Agent, General and other Drill killer specs, Martyr
    Avoid Combo: Infiltrator
    Counters: Navigator, self
    Countered by: self, Assassin

    Thief -- O: 2 D: 1 U: 3
    Comments: Onderwhelming on his own. His role is late game(Or other big drill situations), offense, combined with a speed spec and another offensive spec. Even in this ideal role, theif is only "sufficient". He has the potential to make a big difference, but usually doesn't. One good thing he has over the other per-fight drill killers, is that if your opponent continually backs up to avoid losing drills to the spec, the drills taken are % based, so a big stack is no worse than a bunch of little stacks (whereas war hero or Lt would much prefer lots of little stacks). Theif is not built for defense at all, but can sometime surprise an enemy by using him defensively against an incoming sub-- however this can mean losing the theif, or needing a pirate/diplomat to save him.
    Combos: Speed specs, Navigator, pirate, basically any offensive spec
    Avoid combo: defensive specs
    Counters: King, Tycoon, Foreman
    Countered by: Assassin, Revered Elder

    Revered Elder-- O: 2 D: 3 U: 3
    Comments: In most scenarios, 2x assassins are just better. However, she is still maybe one of the most forgotten about and underrated specs. She breaks and makes turtles. She can nullify an offensive death combo. She can crack really annoying defensive combos as well. The problem with elder is that she is the perfect counter to some specs, while conversely she does literally nothing to others. So if you choose Elder early, your oppponent can simply choose specs that are unaffected by Elder. Therefore, choose her late in the game when your opponent has already invested heavily on things the Elder can counter. The other problem with Elder, is that she does many of the same jobs as Assassin, but you don't get 2x.
    Combos: fits in any offense or defense
    Avoid combo: self
    Counters: all specs (except martyr) with direct combat effects
    Countered by: self, Martyr

    Martyr -- O: 3 D: 2 U: 3
    Comments: Really popular and fun, but one of the most over-rated specs, especially at low level play. Martyr is largely for making or breaking turtles. You should be extremely aware of how they work, because more often I see people accidentally kill themselves than get any value. One of the best ways to use the Martyr to break a turtle is to send it at a distant ally's base where the lane is within explosion range of the turtle base-- and have your ally send a single drill in the same lane but opposite direction to detonate it. The only way to stop this is with a sacrificial pirate, or to run away. If they run away, gift the martyr so it isn't triggered and see if you can line up another try. You can also pair the martyr with a pirate or navigator to escape the lane as well, but remember that those are 2 premium specialists who you will not get back. Defensively, avoid hiring the martyr till you actually need it, because any combat the martyr fights in will destroy yourself. Wait for the enemy to come with a massive army, then hire the martyr and look to inflict maximum damage in the lane.
    Combos: Pirate, Navigator
    Avoid Combo: most/all other specs
    Counters: large single wave attacks, comboed specs, turtles
    Countered by: Pirate

    Double Agent-- O: 0 D: 5 U: 4
    Comments: Maybe the best big wave killer. The down side is that usually after you use it, you've just given it to your enemy. This downside can be cleverly avoided by undercutting the outpost he is headed back to, or maybe with a pirate if you value the DA higher than the Pirate (not recommended). The DA is at his best when holding down a turtle. Often the danger of this spec will mean you won't have to use him up. For an offensive combo, you can pair him with a Pirate and use them to kill a big drill queen sub, or force a favorable trade for a stacked up offensive sub, like engineers, war heroes, or admirals.
    Edit: If you can pull this off, you probably didnt need this guide in the first place:
    Combos: Pirate, Admiral
    Avoid Combo: Diplomat, General
    Counters: large single subs
    Countered by: Navigator, Revered Elder, Saboteur(?), Pirate

    Helmsman -- O: 5 D: 3 U: 5
    Comments: Its easy to forget about Helmsman because he's not as fast as Smuggler, and doesn't have the global like Admiral. Keep in mind though, Smuggler can only be used on defense, Admiral costs 2 hires, not to mention Smuggler/Admiral are two of the absolute best specs in the game. The fact that Helms compares to them should indicate how valuable he is. Helms can be more effective on offense than Admiral because he represent less value, therefore he is more expendable. Also Admiral coming into play has a way of making Lt. feel (nearly) worthless, where Helms still would have an important role. Offensive specs need as much speed as possible to ensure they get maximum exposure to combat, and Helmsman does that very effectively. Speed is important not just because it gets you to what you want sooner, but also because it significantly reduces the opponent's chance to get defenses in place in reaction. Also has best portrait!
    Combos: all offensive specs
    Avoid Combo: n/a
    Counters: everything but smuggler
    Countered by: Smuggler

    Assassin 2x-- O: 1 D: 4 U: 3
    Comments: People generally try to use this spec wrong-- they try to use it offensively. While it does fit in some offensive combos like Pirate/Navigator/Assassin, this spec does not do well alone on offense, and even struggles to be useful in offensive combos excluding the previously mentioned P/N/A. Yes, it can force something like a War Hero to move, but scenarios like that are not common. Yes, you can get more action out of your general because of the 2x. In general though, Assassin is best on Defense, where with .5 of a hire, you can shut down a killer offensive combo, basically making them go with drills alone if the offense is to proceed. Especially effective against specs who have higher combat priority.
    Combos: Pirate and/or Navigator, General, Smuggler
    Avoid Combos: Hypnotist
    Counters: General, direct effect offensive specs
    Countered by: Revered Elder

    Saboteur 2x -- O: 0 D: 2 U: 2
    Comments: I must be missing something, because I struggle to find real value with this spec. 2x makes it another good combo for General I guess. Theres a really bad downside of losing your Sab whenever you use it, and not all the great of an upside in just redirecting their attack temporarily (without doing any damage to it). The downside can be minimized by recovering it with a pirate or diplomat. So theres ways to make it better, but do you really want to start basing choices around something that isnt very good in the first place? Edit: Use them at the last possible moment to ensure maximum travel time.
    Combos: Diplomat, General, Sentry, Pirate
    Avoid Combos: most local effect specs
    Counters: buys time, doesn't really counter
    Countered by: Navigator, Revered Elder, Martyr

    Intelligence Officer -- O: 2 D: 2 U: 1
    Comments: Vision... is nice I guess. The spec is a luxary I would not use a hire on unless my other choices were extremely bad. Some people use his vision to extend the range of Sentry, but the amount you get is not much from this guy.
    Combos: Sentry
    Avoid Combos: Nothing
    Counters: Nothing
    Countered by: Nothing

    Princess-- O: 2 D: 3 U: 3
    Comments: Princess technically grants less total vision, but because theres usually only 1 or 2 players who you need to keep a close eye on, the Princess does a pretty good job at focusing the vision where you actually want it. Serving as a backup Queen is something you'll hope to never have to use, but will be glad you have if it comes up. She also does a much better job of giving bonus sentry range.
    Combos: Sentry
    Avoid combos: Nothing
    Counters: Queen killer combos like Pirate+Navigator+Assassin
    Countered by: Nothing

    Infiltrator -- O: 2 D: 0 U: 2
    Comments: I keep hiring this spec thinking I just got unlucky with it last time. Mistake every time. He lacks any defensive capability, has no effect on drills, doesnt even get the 20 value on most outposts because at max, most have 10. He has no speed, yet needs to be the first into the fight, so without a speed spec (or sometimes with one), you need to decide if you want to wait hours for infiltrator to get there first, or continue to let infiltrator be worthless. If you attack from multiple sources and actually needed the infiltrator to win because the sheild makes the difference, a smart defender will just send the drills out to kill the infiltrator in sub-to-sub combat, so you lose because the infiltrator doesnt take effect. Thus he's only really useful if you can get him out of the lane, or if you didnt actually need him anyway. He technically hard-counters Security Cheif, but not well enough because then many of the shields will be 30 or higher. This spec is much better on paper than in action.
    Combos: Maybe general?, Speed spec is required
    Avoid Combo: Pirate
    Counters: Security Chief
    Countered by: King, Assassin, Revered Elder, Smuggler

    Diplomat-- O: 0 D: 0 U: 4
    Comments: The ranking system I came up with doesn't accurately represent this spec, because he inherently only interacts with other specs, and doesnt do anything on his own. He is pretty good. If you build around him, and just kamikazee your specs into your enemy, it probably a very viable spec offensively. I don't play this way so I can't really say how strong it is, but conceptually does not seem as great as just a standard stacked up 3 spec offense. On defense I think he's much better. You can actually land hits in losing fights with drill/spec killing specs, then get your specs back again for the next fight. Note: Never had to test this, but I think queen can save a captured queen, which is pretty amazing.
    Combos: General, Saboteur, drill killers, Revered Elder, Pirate+X
    Avoid Combo: Double Agent, Martyr
    Counters: Pirate
    Countered by: Assassin, Double Agent
    Last edited by kevlargolem on Mon Jan 18, 2016 11:41 am, edited 10 times in total.
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:17 pm

  • Very nice, but I had a moment of too long/didn't read. The parts I read were very accurate and very helpful. I can only imagine how long it took you to read this. I especially liked the part that said don't play more than one game at once. At my highest, I had 20 games on the go :D . Maybe that's why I'm not too good of a player... :oops:
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    Earth's Mightiest Discord Server!

    A new challenger appears! Come join the revolution!

    P.S. Those are actually 3 different links!
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:18 pm

  • Very nice! Though I will personally experiment around a bit before testing out this guide. You may want to post this on the wiki as well, as this is all very solid strategy. Thank you for your effort and dedication to this game!
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:03 pm

  • mathwhiz9 wrote:Very nice, but I had a moment of too long/didn't read.

    Yeah, I thought maybe it might be too long, but theres a lot of stuff that goes into a game. The only way I could make it shorter was to either leave things out that might be useful, or break it up into multiple guides. I thought multiple guides would be too disconnected.

    I hope people use the bold headings to skim to the areas they are curious about, or only sit down and read the whole thing if they are really really interested.
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 7:23 pm

  • Mad respect.
    I've been waiting until someone made an actual guide like this.

    It might be worth to mention late game mining, because you have to time it so you build late game mines at the perfect time.

    For example if the closest hostile outpost is 16 hours away then you can built that mine 16 hours before the game ends (assuming you're not going for first)

    If you're going for first then you can build it so that the time machine reads you winning in 15.9 hours maximum.

    Amazing job
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Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:46 pm

  • Good detail. This is a great guide for a new and even some experienced players.
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Tue Dec 29, 2015 12:30 am

  • how come you got such a name like "the asshole" xD *interesting guide
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Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:20 am

  • Kevlargolem, thank you for sharing this guide with us! I really liked it and I'm looking forward for the second part!
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Tue Dec 29, 2015 7:14 am

  • I have a very similar record to yourself (currently 14th in the rankings and yet to finish anywhere but first in any match) and I would wholly endorse what you have written here.

    Key factors in my success

    Playing 1 game at a time
    Talking lots - even to my enemies
    Offering deals that other players want to accept
    Being ruthless - when you have to be mean - do it - and don't look back (but always do it from a position of strength).
    Use your queen - bring her to the front lines when needed - specialists then enter the fray much quicker (but obviously be careful here!)
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