Picking the Right Engagements
Wed 3rd Oct 2012 - 6:25pm: Starcraft II
Starcraft 2 is a strategy game and can be quite a complicated one at that. When you’re caught up in the action of an intense game and trying to direct your attention between building probes, pylons, supply, gateways, upgrades, general tech, dealing with harassment, harassing and making an army it can be really easy to forget positioning can be just as, if not more important, than your army itself.
There’s a lot to manage, and as a result, many lower level players simply get so caught up in everything else that when it comes down to fight they simply “1A” their army into battle and watch and just kinda hope for the best. The problem with that is it leaves yourself so vulnerable to positioning and in most cases will leave you baffled and confused at how your 200/200 army just disintegrated in 10 seconds. A lot of that confusion arises out of positioning mistakes, which is why this article is going to deal with positioning and picking the right engagements.
What is incredibly important is knowing the features of the map you’re playing on. Are there a lot of cliff lines? Are there chokes? Ramps? Being aware of these map attributes and knowing how to use them in your favor can go a long way to winning battles you might not have otherwise.
Be aware of your opponent, good map scouting can be crucial to winning positioning wars. Trying to maintain control of the Xel’Naga towers on the map will give you advanced warning about army movements or perhaps where they are establishing themselves on the map. If you’re playing a Terran opponent who is using Siege Tanks in their composition you need to be conscious of where they are sieging up so you can avoid as much of the splash as possible! As incredibly common sense as it seems, I have seen so many people lose massive armies while trying to attack up a ramp with a siege tank there. Honestly, for your own sanity, try and avoid doing this! Obviously, if there is only 1 tank or something sitting there and you have a vastly superior army, you’ll probably do just fine, but as a general rule of thumb, avoid doing this! Which brings me to…
Attacking on ramps:
Be smart about this, because this can be a game changer. Always try and avoid attacking up a ramp, when possible. There are a number of factors which make this a generally terrible idea. You’re going to have a vastly inferior concave than your opponent, your units will be clumped up making any splash damage exponentially more powerful, your vision will be impaired depending on which units get attacked first. Essentially, it’s just not worth it! Of course, there are tons of situations where you can break your opponent’s ramp (if it’s at their base) and get into their main and be on equal footing. If you really feel like that’s the case then go for it!
As you can see if you’re at the bottom of the ramp, there is little to no vision available to you.
There are a few things you can do if you feel forced into attacking at a ramp.
1) Look for other ways around. If the ramp has a long way around, try and get to it and be on a level field. This negates the vision advantage your opponent has and can prevent your units from clumping.
2) This works in conjunction with #1; if you are able to try and establish a flank (I will give a bit more detail on this later) by sending units both around the back way and up the main ramp, thereby attacking on two fronts which will give you the superior concave!
3) Use something to spot! Using something to grant you high ground vision can help out in these tough situations, floating observers overhead, scanning the ramp, overlords or any air unit can just give you enough vision to stay alive
Essentially, it’s best to avoid running up a ramp into your opponent. It generally doesn’t end well. You can use these quick tips though to help minimize your losses or even snag out a win!
Fantastic to use against your opponent, absolutely awful to get stuck in them. Chokes can either be map features (natural chokes) or be created by your opponent (artificial chokes). Artificial chokes can consist of Force Fields, structures or even some units. Essentially, chokes force your army into one clumped space which can be deadly. If you’re forced to attack inside the choke there is a good chance that the majority of your army won’t be fighting because they will be too far back to actually contribute anything to the battle. It makes dealing with your army so easy because your opponent literally only has to deal with the front line of your army at any given time. Avoiding chokes is an absolutely crucial aspect of making a good engagement in Starcraft!
If your opponent is sitting anywhere in the giant red circle, he can start attacking your units as they stream in, however, you can see the units highlighted in green will be too far behind to attack leaving you with a ravaged army.
Similarly, you can use chokes to your advantage. Forcing your opponent to stream his units in slowly gives you much more time to get your army in the appropriate position and puts him in a really bad spot.
As I mentioned briefly before, flanking can be an extremely effective way at dealing with an army. Essentially flanking is just engaging an army from multiple angles rather than just head on. Doing this allows you to get maximum surface area on your opponent’s attacking units while having many of yours not being attacked at all. Constructing flanks can be something of an advanced tactic because it involves some separate unit control. It’s noting crazy but executing the perfect flank can provide incredible returns. It may be difficult to get the timing of your flank just right, but if you do, you will see the results!
Splitting and Concaves!
Throughout the article I’ve talked a lot about getting good concaves with the assumption that everyone knew exactly what I was talking about, well, if you didn’t, then here it is! Concaves are the natural arch that your attacking units will generally form when they are set to attack. They don’t attack in a ball. Doing this allows every unit to fire at the same time while having the lack of a clump act as a defense mechanism. Essentially, a good concave is when most or all of your units are firing but your opponent’s aren’t.
There’s another reason to avoid letting your units (say Marines) sit in a clumped ball. Any area of effect (AOE) spell or splash damage attack will do so much more damage to a clump. If you spot a bunch of Infestors in your opponent’s army, when it comes time to engage try splitting your Marines up into smaller groups. While this does take some micromanagement skills, with practice it becomes much easier. The reason you want to do this is because if all your Marines are together, 1 Fungal Growth can devastate them, but keeping them split apart not only forces them to need to use 2 or 3 Fungals but also makes it more difficult to actually get them off in the first place!
You can see how all the units are much more fanned out, this makes for much more efficient attacking.
Really, it’s not all that complicated to get your army in a good position, the problem is the temptation to just say “screw it” and send in your army. Positioning and knowing where exactly to engage can help improve your game a lot!
Thanks for reading! I’m always looking for comments and feedback so feel free to leave them below!