AI War:Fast Facts

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Fast Facts: A Crash Course On AI War 5.x

Want to get up to speed quickly? This list is aimed to help you do just that (and will be refined over time and probably become part of the manual eventually).

1. Caps Are Per-Ship Type.

You build thousands of Ships at once in AI War, but to do so you need to unlock more ship types via knowledge. The per-type caps cannot be increased. You will keep building even your weakest ship types all throughout the game, unlike most other RTS games, even as you add stronger ships to your arsenal. Deciding where to put your weaker stuff is part of the strategy.

2. Knowledge Is Gained Per Planet.

Knowledge lets you unlock new techs (ship types). You can capture 3,000 knowledge per planet. There is not one best unlock order, but rather the ships you unlock will vary based on the circumstances and your preferred playstyle. This is basically build-your-own-civilization.

3. The "AI Progress" indicator is super important.

Things that increase AI Progress are very bad, and make the AI stronger and more aggressive. Taking planets, destroying warp gates, and using the missile silo are common causes of increases. If you find Data Centers, you can reduce the AI Progress by destroying them. In the late game of an 80-planet map, common AI Progress levels are 400-600.

4. Games are very long. Bigger maps are more strategic.

The bigger the map, the longer the game lasts (usually ranging from 7-16 hours per game, but it can be more). Strategy is at its best with 40 or more planets, 80 is probably the sweet spot (and is the default). Very small maps (10-20 planets) are often harder due to the scarcity of knowledge.

5. If the pacing is too slow, use a faster combat style.

The current default, Normal, is actually pretty fast and is the preferred speed of most RTS fans. The old default, Epic, is generally preferred by Grand Strategy and TBS players. There is also a Blitz combat style, which is even faster and is designed for fans of really click-frenzy RTS games.

6. Mixes of ship types are crucial.

Fighters -> Bombers -> Frigates -> Fighters. Bombers also kill big structures like force fields incredibly faster than other ships. And frigates are great for pounding on dangerous things from long distances. Bombers are also critical for taking down the final command stations of the AIs (there are always two) and enemy fortresses.

7. There are different ship types in each game.

Each player chooses one type at the start, and you get up to 5 more from capturing Advanced Research Stations from the AI during the game. There are 27 types in the base game in total, so there's a lot of variety between games.

8. Scouting is really crucial.

Scouts fill in your intel summary, which can be seen on the galaxy map. This lets you use the priority buttons along the left side to mark what relative priority each of the planets is to you. Look for Data Centers, Advanced Research Stations, Advanced Factories, and the AI home planets (which have a different icon, same as your starting planet(s)) in every game. Plus other unique structures. Scouts are also needed to fill in the minimap and the right-hand sidebar when at enemy/neutral planets.

9. There are a lot of important hotkeys.

The most critical ones: X+right-click for attack move; V+right-click for free-roaming defender move; G+right-click for group move; hold Z to see attack range overlay; hold Z+X to see enemy attack ranges; hold Alt to see movement lines; Ctrl+right-click to send ships through wormholes; Alt+right-click for the context menu.

  • HotKeys are now programable. In the Game Lobby use the "settings" button, then "view controls" button(lower left), In-Game hit "escape" then "view controls" to see/make changes.

10. Galaxy map display modes help you find stuff.

Familiarize yourself with the buttons on the left in the galaxy map. Some of the filters, such as Knowledge (K), My Ships (Q), Hostile Wormholes (W), and Incoming Waves (I) are absolutely must-haves and will save you a ton of time.

11. Zoom is critical.

The individual planetary maps are huge. You will be zooming in and out constantly to see different levels of information.

12. Micromanagement is out, group tactics are in.

Don't try to micromanage your individual ships in most cases, there are too many. But also don't just move all your ships around in one big blob. Several smaller groups can create diversions, distractions, or flanking maneuvers. You can also do feints, keep artillery at a safe distance, have multiple waves or reserve forces that are held back from initial contact in a battle. This stuff really works, does not require any hotkeys, and definitely matters. If you want to beat the better AIs, you have to really use tactics.

13. Automate your economy.

There is no need to micromanage this, either; periodic tweaks will suffice. Set your build queues to loop, and check the controls documentation out for other ways to automate how ships come out (in control groups, to another planet, in various modes). You can also Ctrl+click harvester build buttons to auto-build all of them at the current planet. You have a very fine degree of control over your economy, but you do not need to hand-hold it as you do in many other games.

14. Waves are inevitable.

The AI will attack you periodically, no matter what you do. The strength of these attacks depends on the AI progress. You will get a warning of where and when the attack will come, and then you need to defend. There will also be larger cross-planet attacks (with several thousand ships in them) that will come much less frequently. If you don't defend against these, the AI will kill you.

15. Defend your wormholes.

This is a huge topic, but the basics are to put defenses around every hostile wormhole. Turrets have the disadvantage of being immobile, but are extremely powerful for their cost. Mines also work. Tractor beams are completely invaluable, because they stop most (but not all) ships from moving, thus letting your other turrets do their work. Against ships that are immune to tractor beams, consider gravitational turrets.

16. Do "Gate Raids" to protect yourself.

To prevent waves from coming into your planets all over the place, you can go into adjacent planets and destroy the warp gates there. A planet you control with no adjacent enemy warp-gate-bearing planets will not be subjected to the periodic waves. However, cross-planet attacks and the smaller batches of wandering ships can still arrive anywhere.

17. Channel your aggression.

Don't just take everything because you can. If you do, the AI Progress will get too high and you will seal your own doom. You must do surgical strikes, sometimes hopping over an undesirable planet to take a desirable one. In an 80-planet map, you will usually take at most 20-30 planets before winning, if you win. Figuring out which planets to take is where the grand strategy of this game comes in, and this is also why scouting is so important.

18. The real game begins at difficulty 7.

Playing below difficulty 7 is cool if you want a more relaxed game or if you are new to the genre. But don't complain about how stupid the AI is if you are playing on even difficulty 6. The increase in difficulty and intelligence is quite sharp between even 6 and 7. The AI at that level is becoming increasingly well-known as some of the best, if not the best, in the RTS genre.

19. Understand that AI War is not just an RTS. Really.

It controls like an RTS, but don't let that fool you. It's got a lot of elements from grand strategy, turn-based strategy, 4X, and tower defense in there. The flow and feel of AI War is unlike anything else out there, so if you find yourself foundering you might want to play the Intermediate Tutorial to have it help guide you through the execution of a number of unique strategies and tactics just mentioned in this brief guide. For a detailed guide on this subject, see Like Chess, A Game Of AI War Has Three Abstract "Phases".

20. This game is huge.

There is enough content so that you can still be discovering ships you've never seen before after 100+ hours of play. All of them interact and combine differently. If a ship seems weak, it's probably good in combination with something else. If you want to really "get" the strategy of this game, expect to sink a good number of hours into it. The more you play, the less it will feel like other RTS games. And that's before you even get to any of the expansions.

21. Minor Factions are optional.

The game is complex enough for new players without a bunch of minor factions running around, so these are turned off by default. If you're looking for a bit more personality and more going on, be sure to use the lobby to turn on any faction(s) you want to include in your game.

22. Tower-Defense-type gameplay is optional.

AI War takes inspirations from the RTS, 4X, grand strategy, and tower defense genres. Most players really enjoy how this comes together, but if the tower-defense-like "announced waves" mechanic is not to your tastes, you can use AI Modifiers in the lobby to make the waves non-announced and cross-planet. This results in a much harder game in some ways, but a subset of players prefer this style of play. There are many options in the lobby for tuning the entire experience to your tastes.

Further Reading

AI War:AI War