A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

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A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 12:17 am


Opposed to the very popular 2v2 and 1v1 games, free-for-all games (FFA, each player plays on his own) tend to hunt away players for several reasons:

1. they take long (3 hours at least on a a 40x40 map)
2. random faction is a bad choice (since you have at least 2 opponents to face, with no ally helping out with units your faction cannot recruit)
3. avoiding 2v1 situations (you being the later) is difficult for beginners

So what can you do to improve the situation?

1. Don't start a FFA if it is clear you can't finish it!
a) This is a rather personal decision. If the play time is the only reason for you to don't play FFAs, try to partition the game into sets of 10 or 15 rounds per day.
b) Don't jump out once you get the feeling you lose. In FFA, it is not always the strongest player who finally wins. Game balance can change quickly, and it can even change in the favor of the weakest player!

2. Play your favorite faction!
You can still go for random, if that is your "favorite faction". But I would only recommend that for experienced FFA players or when all players agree to go with random faction. A beginner should go into FFAs with rebels, for they have some diversity and are good defenders.
The biggest advantage of random faction - others have to guess to counter-recruit your faction - may dimmish in FFA rather quickly: Since an (initial) rush against another player is normally considered a bad decision in FFA, your opponent, even if he got the worst units to counter you, still has some time to correct this. Even then, the chance that both of your neighbors got totally wrong recruits seems to be low. The other question is: do the units you recruited to just counter their factions in general really counter their strategies? Their strategies might not include an early attack on you, so your units can be totally useless!
(Thanks to sombra for forcing me to go more into detail here)

3. Conceal your true reasons!
Game balance can be ruined easily in FFA. A common fault in a 3 player setup is player A rushing for player B. In most cases, player B will be able to defend, but with high losses. As soon as player C sees A weakened his position towards him, player C will finish off A. On bigger maps, player C is of course advised to go for the stronger of the remaining players, which may well be player B. In both cases, player C will have better economy and more units than either B or A.

Player A has to take care that player C is unaware of the actual situation if he still wants to rush B.

The very basic FFA goal for player A should be to get C into attacking B, for exact the same reason pointed out above. Feint attacks on B will draw some of B units toward A's position. If C sees that, he could reason that B is going to be weakened by attacking A, going for B now.
However, if player A was recognized as too powerful, B and C will just form an implicit non-aggression-pact and go after player A.
Last edited by grrr on July 17th, 2007, 12:45 am, edited 4 times in total.

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map (replay dow

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 12:24 am

The replay of the FFA game used for the review (zipped).
King of the Hill replay (v1.2.5, players: awaw - rebels, bear - northies, hotflow - loys, grrr - loys)
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Post by Velensk » July 15th, 2007, 12:50 am

In my opinion the biggest problem with FFAs is that it is hard to mount an effective attack without leaving yourself vunerable to counter attack. This would apply to a 6 person FFA too
Player A attacks player B both are weakened
Player C attacks player B and takes him out
While player Cs forces are off killing player B player Cs leader is attacked by Player D
Player D allso finishes of A while he is at it.
Player E see's his opertunity and finsishes of the over extended player D
Player F who has been waiting and slowly capturing abandoned villages and building up forces launches his asault and ultimatly because players E/F waited they became the olny remaining players

An alternative example would be if everyone sat around waiting for others to expose themselves and thus the games lasted forever.
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 1

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 1:14 am

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 1

Initial recruits
Each initial recruit on this map should consist of at least 2 scouts. One scout should head for the center to
a) see whether an enemy king rushes for the center (remember, "King of the Hill"?)
b) grab some center villages

RED (awaw) starts as rebel in SW corner. Due to the abundance of forest here, RED has an advantage on defending his territory. This also means he needs less units to defend his borders.

* 2 scouts for village grabbing
* 2 mermen for grabbing village on 9,35 and perhaps to fight for 19,36 or 18,24. They can also be used to block an early river crossing of BLUE, but only in emergency situations. One variation would be to have 3 mermen, heading with 2 of them north immediately and only getting 9,35 with the other. The reason for this is that 2 mermen can make it easier to cross the north river if RED decides to attack NW corner.
* 1 archer - better movement than fighter and better against other faction's scouts
* 1 wose - slow unit, so if you plan to set up traps, you HAVE to recruit it early.

BLUE (HotFlow) starts as loyalists in SE corner. The desert tiles nearly count as grassland for cavalry and horseman, so loyalists find the open style of this corner to be to their advantage. Also, with the mountain tiles at 24,23 and 25,23 BLUE as an ideal assault position for the center castle.

* 3 scouts. Since cavalry has a good melee attack, they are better initial recruits than spearmen. Also, BLUE needs control over the villages 20,20 23,22 and 33,19.
* 1 heavy infantry. Once the village grabbing cavalry is threatened by pierce weapons, this unit has to take over the defensive role. Since it is slow, it needs to be recruited early to get into good defensive positions.
* 1 merman - for 27,36 and maybe 19,36
* 1 mage - if moved together with HI it makes a good shock combo

GREEN (grrr) starts as 2nd loyalists in NE corner. All the icy terrain considerably slows his units. Since the only open side is to the south, his main force should move there. For his economy, he is advised to fight for control over the villages at 22,5 and 24,1.

* 3 scouts. 1 goes west, the other 2 south. By using their max. movement points, they can reach the center very fast.
* 1 fencer. Goes over the mountain to grab western villages
* 1 Heavy Infantry. Could go south, but also helps to defend 22,5. So if you get 22,5 with cavalry or fencer, move HI there.

PURPLE (bear) starts as northerners in NW corner. Northerners like to defend from this sector. They can also attack the center and retreat easily. The south river is their best friend.

* 3 scouts. Since wolf riders are weak, this is maybe one too much. A naga would have been better, since you have to take care of 3,15. A good SW player may have sea units hunting for that village.
* 2 archers. Grunts are the better village holders and cheaper, too. Possibly wrong recruits.
Last edited by grrr on July 15th, 2007, 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 4

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 2:07 am

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 4
The race for the center

Village count:
* RED has 9
* BLUE has 8
* GREEN has 9
* PURPLE has 8

RED already has 2 units in the center while the others have only 1. That would allow RED to encircle a lone scout and bow it to death. The passive style of BLUE's sea units allowed RED to gain an early advantage over BLUE.

BLUE moved his mage and HI against RED (*1), but the HI would be of better use against GREEN since woses dont fear HIs. This also means the mage should go north. Furthermore, one mage alone is not a reliable wose counter. The village 27,36 (*2) could have been grabbed by the leader, so the merman could have went for 19,36 (*3).

PURPLE on the other side has lost the race for 18,9 (*4). He may get it back later, but his scouts could make more money in the center. For now, he has anti-drake recruits. Against loyalists, 1 or 2 grunts would be good.

GREEN used max. movement point of his cavalry to grab the important villages. He omitted other villages on their way that were grabbed by his slower units. Still he could not take 33,19 (*5) as BLUE also identified this village as a good defensive position.
Screenshot of turn 4, marked positions from *1 to *5
Screenshot of turn 4, marked positions from *1 to *5
koth_t4_w800.jpg (260.48 KiB) Viewed 6666 times
Last edited by grrr on July 15th, 2007, 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 8

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 3:02 am

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 8
A game-balance changing decision

Village count:
* RED has 11
* BLUE has 9
* GREEN has 9
* PURPLE has 10

Until now, all players try to stick to a rational calculus: they were choosing the few battles very carefully, having a close watch over their designated borders and bringing their armies into position. The game is in balance, although RED has an economical advantage.

The fight for the center villages is currently a "cold war". Although the villages there change ownership from time to time, no one is willing to start a heavy fight in center: everyone fears the resulting 3v1 situation. RED decided to position his main force in striking distance of the center, forcing PURPLE to give up his center villages soon.

Fearing the income loss, PURPLE decides to start a walk for the center. He choosed the right time of day, since his king will arrive at 16,15 in dusk (turn 10), meaning he has a full night to take the center castle.

But is it still a good decision?
Following point 3 from the introduction, he should conceal his plan as long as possible, since else he will not only be attacked at the center, but also has to defend the NW sector against red and green. So actually, PURPLE puts himself into a 2v1 situation, while he also has to watch BLUE's action now. He probably thinks that both RED and GREEN will take a long time to mount an effective assault on his sector. The problem are his recruits deployed towards GREEN's direction. No grunts and only one troll means PURPLE cannot delay an attack, while his heavy duty reinforcements from the center will take one turn longer to reach 18,9 than from his home castle. The situation is even worse for the other important village at 14,5.

The following turns will show how the game balance changes first in favor of PURPLE and then slowly but steadily against him.
Last edited by grrr on July 15th, 2007, 4:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 11

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 4:38 am

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 11
The King of the Hill

Village count:
* RED has 9
* BLUE has 10
* GREEN has 10
* PURPLE has 10

PURPLE's king has now reached the center (*1) and recruited mostly troll whelps to help defend his new home.

Although all other players could have delayed (RED, GREEN) or even blocked PURPLE's king from recruiting (BLUE), none intervened. Why? Answer: RED and GREEN would have most probably lost units in this attempt, and BLUE regards PURPLE as his natural ally (opposite corners: "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"), so engaging PURPLE could make it easier for RED and GREEN to take over PURPLE's sector.

So all other players just let PURPLE make his winning move without showing resistance?

For someone new to this map or even new to FFA, it might look like that: PURPLE is the winner, all others missed the chance of stopping him.

Actually, RED and GREEN adept very fast to the new situation:
* RED's new objective is to take over the villages at 6,11 (*2) and 3,15 (*3). The river crossing (*4) cannot be delayed effectively by PURPLE.
* GREEN's new objective is to take over the village at 14,5 (*5) since it is very far away from PURPLE's new castle. Control over 14,5 will also give GREEN easy access to the villages at 7,5 (*6) 12,8 (*7) and 18,9 (*8).

PURPLE has now to defend a total of 9 villages all exposed to the other players: 6,11 (*2) 3,15 (*3) 14,5 (*5) 18,9 (*8) 12,16 (*9) 16,16 (*10) 21,17# (*11) 20,20# (*12) 16,20# (*13) (those marked with # are villages near the center castle, so PURPLE will gain ownership soon).

Assuming a 2 unit defense for each village, PURPLE needs 18 units for village defense. He currently has 21 units, so strategically, he should already retreat from the center to shorten his defense line.

A new game balance has developed:
BLUE can't attack PURPLE and vice versa, since that only helps RED and GREEN in their effort to takeover NW sector. But if BLUE attacks GREEN around 28,16 (*14) PURPLE will take the invitation and kill any wounded unit there. So PURPLE guards GREEN from BLUE at the same time where GREEN plans to crush PURPLE's northern forces. That leaves BLUE with attacking RED, but he can only do that down in the south, away from PURPLE's forces.
RED can either choose to completely bypass the center castle when heading north, or he can fight for control of PURPLE's endangered center villages, moving only a small force up north. Although RED and GREEN fight for the same ressources in the NW corner, they are now engaging their common enemy, PURPLE. RED could also choose to leave the northern side for GREEN and PURPLE to battle for, heading for BLUE. But this means he loses 2-3 turns for shifting his units to the other front line.
Screenshot of turn 11, marked positions from *1 to *14
Screenshot of turn 11, marked positions from *1 to *14
koth_t11.jpg (265.32 KiB) Viewed 6659 times
Last edited by grrr on July 15th, 2007, 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 15

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 5:29 am

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 15
How to force others to attack you
In most situations, defending is easier than attacking. In FFA, where the efficiency of your troops is very important, you can often lure your enemy into attacking your entrenched position if the bait is big enough.

Here, RED choses his leader to lure BLUE into an attack on 14,30. Although there is a CTK (5/5 hits on 60% defense, CTK = 1%), the risk was well worth taking it: BLUE sees the CTK, probably thinking there is only one fighter to defend the king. RED also exploited the limited movement type of cavalry, so this trap was probably terrible to BLUE in a psychological way as well.

Meanwhile, PURPLE is forced to defend on two frontiers. With luck and some losses on his side, he forces GREEN into a temporary retreat. But PURPLE misses raw fighting power in the north to seriously harm GREEN's army. PURPLE also lacks units to prevent RED from taking the rough grounds to the west of his castle.
In total, PURPLE's losses start to eat up any economic advantage he might have had, since RED and GREEN engage PURPLE mostly unharmed.
Last edited by grrr on July 15th, 2007, 6:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by bert1 » July 15th, 2007, 10:10 am

This seems like a perfect time for a screencast! Would you like to make a video of the game with a commentary, then post it up on blip something? It would make all this more easily consumable.
Good is simply that which is willed. - Eugene Halliday

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 20

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 7:00 pm

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 20
The decline of PURPLE
RED has cut off PURPLE northern forces from the center, making a safe retreat to the NW corner impossible for PURPLE. That is why PURPLE decides to conquer GREEN's NE corner, realizing that GREEN will takeover the NW sector soon to defend his former sector against RED. He also hopes for BLUE to fight back RED, but BLUE should rather try to follow PURPLE into the NE corner since he can expect that PURPLE and GREEN will weaken themselves, giving BLUE easy kills and village takeovers.

Because of this considerable risk, a more realistic approach for PURPLE would have been to reestablish communication with his 10 units in the north, trying to escape with his king to his starting castle.

BLUE fears that RED becomes the next King of the Hill, but he is weaker than RED. Should he still attack RED?
BLUE might be able to weaken RED's presence in the center, but for little or no economic gain. Still, it slows RED down. BLUE's goal for the upcoming turns should be to prepare an assault on the NE sector, since fighting RED for too long would only help GREEN.
With the decline of PURPLE and GREEN's presumed takeover of the north, it is no longer rational for BLUE to attack RED!

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A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 25

Post by grrr » July 15th, 2007, 7:53 pm

A FFA Review on "King of the Hill" Map - turn 25
Outcome of the game
Village count:
* RED has 13
* BLUE has 10
* GREEN has 13
* PURPLE has 3

PURPLE's plan to move into the NE sector (*1) was rather obvious to GREEN: PURPLE's leader stayed outside its castle, drawing the conclusion it is no longer a safe place. Therefore, GREEN ordered most of his army back to defend the NE sector, since he not only expects PURPLE, but also BLUE to engage him there.
The savings GREEN made during his king's march towards the NW corner helps him to defend the NW sector against RED with new recruits (*2).
BLUE chooses to attack RED in the south now (*3), although GREEN is becoming the strongest player. The assault on RED seals the outcome of the game, since GREEN will soon go for the center after eradicating the remaining forces of PURPLE. By then, BLUE and perhaps also RED will be exhausted, giving the final victory to GREEN.
Screenshot of turn 25, marked positions from *1 to *3
Screenshot of turn 25, marked positions from *1 to *3
koth_t25.jpg (265.79 KiB) Viewed 6627 times

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Basic Considerations for a ffa play

Post by awaw » July 16th, 2007, 7:05 am

A ffa game is very different from a regular 2v2 or 1v1 wesnoth game. A key consideration for a ffa gamer is to let others fight for them. Also, the setup of the ffa game determines a lot on how a ffa game should be conducted. Over time, I intend to comment on the various aspects of ffa play in this thread
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Post by awaw » July 16th, 2007, 7:32 am

Regular play vs ffa play

1. In regular team/solo wesnoth games the objective is pretty straightforward: Destroy the enemy which starts at a strength similar to yours. This can "typically" be achieved via 2 common means:
a. Strategic assasination of opposing leaders
b. Slow adjustments to the other of battle to slowly gain an edge over the opponents.
Now, in a ffa, there are at least 3 players, possibly more. This means that the combined strength of your enemy will greatly outnumber your own. In regular play, normally if i kill a $20 unit at the cost of a $14 unit, it is "worth it" since this results in a net advantage in the force comparison. In ffa however, this is not true.
Using the same argument, in most cases, killing off anoher player in a ffa benefits your other opponents as much as yourself.

2. Use of fog. Fog is used to mask units movements. In regular play, it allows for surprises to a certain degree. However, there are 2 limitations in the use of fog here.
a. While you may not know the exact composition, you know to a certain extend to amount of enemy you are going to face. In ffa, everyplayer will have more than one front to defend/attack. You will not know if the opposing side is commiting more than the "fair" share of units on your front, hence there is always a lurking threat of more forces hiding just beyond the scouting range.
b. In normal games, once one party starts an attack, everyone knows since visibility is "shared". In ffa, that is not true. You can be using all your units attacking one player, and your other neighbour not know anything. This also mean that ffa play without fog is plain rubbish, since to attack you need to mass your troops. To mass your troops, means a weakened front on the other side. That will always trigger an unwanted attack, if there is no fog.

3. Diplomacy
In regular play, the line between allies and enemies are clearly drawn. In ffa, there is a grey area since the enemy of my enemy is a friend. That saying, if every player in a game is technically competent and uses diplomacy correctly, then a ffa game can never be completed except in instances of extreme luck. I will therefore not comment on diplomacy use in ffa game, though i very much like them :D

The first 2 considerations bring about 3 important fundamentals in ffa, which grrr had mentioned:
1. Aggressive use of defence. Make others attack you one way or other.
2. An attack should only be carried out if
a. it costs you nothing significant
b. it offers you strategic initiative
c. you gain a better economic base (that is more villes) that is proportionate to the losses suffered
3. Delay letting your opponents know your intentions as long as possible. Eg, if you are going to attack B, the longer C remains deaf to the attack the safer you are and the more likely your attack will work.

That is my first installment, being summoned to the games server 8) :D THe next installments will discuss some tactics that is specifically useful in ffa games.
PM me if you are a armchair general :D

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Post by Sombra » July 16th, 2007, 8:06 am

grrr I agree with you that you should only start a bigger FFA game is you have the intention of finishing it. Alas, usally after the first players start to take heavy loses they usally quit... "Mommy called me away for dinner"

I have problems with your basic assumptions, like play with a certain side...

Why on earth should I do it with fog of war turned on?

Especially on a map like king of the hill.. If I know what my enemies are better for me. ... I will stay random and have the advantage to chose my units while the others have to guess.

Basically I would say for a good ffa you need reliable players, a timer, and forg of war turned on.

The more interessting side of king of the hill is for me : should I take the center with my leader?

- IF I arrive to late and another player is allready there... => you are essentially dead.. till you get back to your recruitment home its over.

- Even if you are able to take the center you are setting yourself up to be the shinning target to be taken down. You get a boost in your economy but usally if the other players know what they are doign they will kick you out. They have to be cause the economic advantage is to big to be ignored. If you are forced out till you get home its over .. again a big risk.

My conclusion is: With skilled players stay home in the beginning, with unexperienced players you can allow yourself to go for the center.. be prepared that players will drop out of the game anyway when it goes downhill for them.

P.S: As another player noted playing the game without FOW is kind of senseless. Alas, my normal complain regarding the handling of FOW, here again its very hard to "bluff" or surprise you opponents with the excisting rules.

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Post by awaw » July 17th, 2007, 5:24 am

Concepts/Tactics specific to large ffa maps

There exists many threads already on how to use defensive terrain or unit types, etc to your advantage, so i will not talk about them. Rather I seek to share my views on some things that are specific to ffa play, and which are not commonly considered in regular play.

Concept 1: Recon in force/fighting scouts

Now, we all know in a normal MP game, it is not such a good idea to mass spawn one unit, since there are almost always counters. In large ffa maps, there are specific instances when this tactic may actually be useful.

On large ffa maps, ville grab in the opening stages is very important. Besides ville grabbing for your own use, denying the opposing sides of conducting an effective ville grab is also very important.

Consider a gryphon, as a combat unit it is not very useful. Most players use it as a scout, a radar of sort to get a heads up on the enemy composition. Producing more than a couple of these units is not very helpful. Now, on a LARGE ffa map, such as the KotH, an initial purchase of (arbitrarily) 6 griffons will allow a fast ville grab on the first 2 turns. After these turns, most of the villes that sit deep in respective players sectors should already be secured by the players themselves. This leave some villes in the "grey" or contested areas which will swing the economy of a particular faction. Positioning 3-4 griffons together near the contested area will make another player think harder if he were to move a solo scout in to an empty ville, since that scout may then promptly be surrounded and eliminated by a coordinated griffon attack. This may force more cautious but less effecient ville grab moves from the opposition. This threat is applicable becuase control of a village for one turn does not justify the loss of one unit from the $$$ perspective.

A ffa game magnifies this effect since the threat of a coordinated strike by the griffons applies to more than one player. If the other players stayed away from these contested villages, you would have gained a slight advantage since you can then take them for yourself, or at least deny the opponens from achieving economic parity with you. There is of course a limit as to how many "fighting scouts" you should produce for each map, since each additional scout beyond this limit gives diminishing threat and (as we all know) they are not value for money when it comes to relative combat power (for the $$ invested)

Of course as the map gets smaller, the value of massed griffons fall. So it is up to the individual to gauge when it is good to use this tactic and how much to use it. Note that this concept can easily be extended to the UD and that there are some other factions that do not have very suitable candidates for fighting scouts. Please also consider a situation whereby more than one group of fighting scouts meet, there are serious implications when that happens, I leave it to the players to figure out what these are :D

IRL the ability to scout and to degrade your enemies' ability to scout is still very applicable.

Concept 2: Mobility

grrr will actually be explaining later the actual usage of this concept in wesnoth, I am actually laying the stage for it. In my 5 mths playing this game, I found out that the most common comparison used is relative combat power (i will call it RCP from now on) for the relative cost of 2 units. In a saurian skimisher vs da fight, who will win, and why. The presumption is always a standup fight between the 2 of them, there is often very little consideration given for the ability to focus units at a crucial point of battle.

I deduce that this attention to RCP is caused by the maps currently preferred by the crowd. Most (and i am very tempted to say ALL) popular MP, 2 teams maps @ default settings present a high troops/defence area ratio. For example 4p Clash, it does not take a lot of effort to have a continuous line of units from north to south. These maps also present a very clear and distinct frontline. There is a safe castle homeland to rest & recover soldiers, a main line of resistance, and zone in the enemy rear which you cannot really touch. A player in this map will know for certain the strength (but not composition) and direction of the enemy.

This type of combat environment accentuates the value of "infantry", hence everyone is very focussed on getting the best or most suitable grunt for the map. The value of "motorised infantry" is severely downgraded and limited to the role of an expensive scout or a limited fire brigade. Notice that I used "motorised infantry" and not armour/tanks, since wesnoth scouting units are hardly capable of "punching" a normal grunt unit.

Now in a ffa, these rules may no longer apply since you will always have at least 2 fronts to attack/defend. Often these 2 fronts are not mutually supporting. Even if you were to split your units evenly between the fronts, there is always the threat of the enemy having more units than you since he can use up to 100% of his units in attacking your front. In such situations, the ability to react to sudden threats becomes very important. There is almost no chance a faction can totally secure one of his front without severly neglecting the other. Even if you are not threatened, the ability to exploit an opportunity quickly may also sometimes win you the game.

So essentially what I was saying is, in ffa games, the ability to focus superior firepower on a point of battle may well take precedence over the RCP.

In my next installment, I will like to do a map analysis of the King of the Hill.
PM me if you are a armchair general :D

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