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General Strategy Principles

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Tactics are moment-to-moment decision making. Strategies are broad decisions about the course of the whole game. Principles, however, are decisions about what those other decisions are supposed to accomplish. Before playing the game, I identified eight principles that I thought I should follow to become a strong player. These are largely borrowed from other strategy games or in a couple of cases from military theory, and only the last is Zero-K specific. However, from my outside view, they seemed to be both significant and relevant, and my recent game experience has borne them out.

Metal spent now is worth more than metal spent later, and stored resources and idle or otherwise unproductive units are slowly losing their innate value.

Return on Investment
After essential defensive spending, invest in things that will produce a profit in a short time. However, as the game progresses, the best options generally become bigger expenses with longer payback times.

Forward Unit Value
Units in a position to do useful things are more valuable than identical units far from where they will be used. In other words, necessary travel time is a cost.

One Big Project Rule
One complete project is worth more than two half-complete projects. Don't attempt several minute-plus construction projects at once, pool your build power on one of them.

Nash Defense
Defensive investments should mitigate your weaknesses, not reinforce your strengths. The severity of a weakness depends both on how difficult a place is to defend and how harmful a successful attack on it would be.

Concentration of Force a.k.a. Lanchester's Square Law
In a pitched battle, units that fight together and support each other trade proportionally more efficiently than those same units fighting one at a time.

Frontage Limits a.k.a. Lanchester's Linear Law
When the enemy units are inaccurate and/or have splash damage, or your units block each others' attacks, your units trade less efficiently in proportion to how much attacks damage units other than the intended target. These effects can go so far as to negate the entire benefit from Lanchester's Square Law of adding extra units to your army. All these issues can be reduced somewhat by fighting over a wider front, so long as all your units can still attack.

Theory of Victory
Games are won by denying the enemy the ability to produce, either by defending every metal spot on the map simultaneously or by killing all their energy structures or build power. The former option is generally a more reliable endgame.

These eight principles aren't exhaustive, and I welcome more principles of the same significance. But they seem to form a good basis for all the other rules of thumb to build on. They all have their own rationale and corollaries, enough that each should be discussed separately lest I overwhelm my audience.
+10 / -0

36 days ago
Nice list. I have a rule similar to Forward Unit Value that I've been citing for a while, specifically about constructors. I think constructors get more valuable the further they are from your factory, so if you have an idle constructor, just move it outwards.
+2 / -0
35 days ago
AUrankAdminGoogleFrog's repetition of the Forward Unit Value principle for construction was how that rule entered the list in the first place, but it obviously applies to fighting units too, so the list uses a more general form.
+2 / -0

35 days ago
A note on Inflation as related to opportunity cost and economy growth:
As the economy grows fast in the early game, a units cost represents a higher percentage of your total economy output early game, than it does later in the game when your economy is larger.
+2 / -0

34 days ago
Would Inflation happen even with static economy if both players increase their available assets?
If I only have 1 Glaive, that represents 100% of my army. If I have 10 Glaives later, that initial Glaive now only represents 10% of my army.
+1 / -0
33 days ago
If you flatten the game to just a small number of Glaives and a flat metal income, inflation becomes comparatively unimportant. Instead, Lanchester's Square Law dominates by giving your tenth Glaive several times more combat power than your first.

The easiest proof that inflation exists is as the opportunity cost of not overdriving a safe mex - building a Solar Collector and then a Glaive leaves you with more resources than building a Glaive and then a Solar Collector, so in the second case your Glaive needs to have been used in the meantime or else you're behind the first case for no good reason.

Inflation seems to rapidly decrease over the first ten minutes or so as unexploited metal spots dry up, exploited ones become more difficult to defend, and overdrive hits diminishing returns on each mex while connecting new mexes to the grid requires more and more resources building grid links. However, it seems to make a bit of a comeback later as long-term attrition investments like artillery get better and denser targets.
+2 / -0

33 days ago
So that's why I was losing so hard. Good tips.
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