Portal:Beginners/Mechanics

From Liquipedia StarCraft Brood War Wiki

General Introduction[edit]

StarCraft Brood War is one of the oldest competitive games and therefore requires the user to perform tasks that are usually automated by newer strategy games. As a result Brood War is often characterized as more demanding game. This article introduces guides on mechanics that are not described elsewhere. The term mechanics describes any physical input a player does with the help of mouse and keyboard, in order to control the game.


Definitions[edit]

The mechanics of a player can be divided into several tasks. As there are no standard definition this paragraph is going to introduce own terms. It should be mentioned that the usage of the terms might alter slightly from guide to guide at third party pages, forums and Liquipedia itself, the general concept however can be extrapolated.

Basics[edit]

The mechanics in the context of this article can be seen as sum of three dimensions: Macromanagement (macro, to macro), Micromanagement (micro, to micro) and Multi-Tasking. Macro describes worker production, training reinforcements and anything related to resource gathering and spending. Micro is often used to describe actions performed that involve controlling the army or individual units. Multitasking roughly refers to the ability effectively juggle these two tasks.

Since these definitions might differ from the ones used in strategy discussions, it is recommended to also read the Strategy Guide.


  • Macromanagement


Macromanagement refers to those tasks a player performs relating to the gathering and spending of resources (Minerals and Vespene Gas). The basic goal of "macroing" is optimize a player's income - for example by making sure there are no idle workers - and spending his resources on structures, upgrades and units. Good macro enables him to build an effective force to keep the upper hand in the overall game.

Worker production, base construction, research of advanced technology and expanding (constructing a new base near resource fields) to obtain new resources are parts of this concept. Workers (SCVs, Drones, Probes are used to both construct new buildings and to harvest resources. The balance between harvesting and spending resources on army, economy and technology is important.

Base construction can refer to any building that is raised by workers. The kind of buildings being build is always depending on the strategy a player is going for. Whether it be to obtain a certain unit, or to muster an attack when the enemy is weak, a strategy always has a goal. High level players therefore will always build their structures and units in such an order that that goal is obtained as effectively as possible. The order in which the buildings are built is then referred to as a build order. Of course, a player must adapt to what his opponent is doing. The initial stages of macroing are therefore often referred to as the opening. When more information about the opponent is gathered, a player will oftentimes adjust his goal and therefore his build order. There is a lot of decision making involved with macro management. To read about this indepth, see the Strategy Tab. For now, only a basic understanding of the three options is needed. They are: eco(nomy), tech(nology) and army. The decision to go for eco means the player will focus his spending on building more workers or obtaining more resources. When opting for tech, a player will invest in researching upgrades or unlocking new units. When investing in army, a player will spend his resources mainly on training units or building production facilities.


In most situations a player wants to spend all harvest resources without saving them. However, there are situations that require a player to temporarily save resources (e.g. before expanding, when a certain strategy switch is prepared, etc.). These will be explained in the articles about the respective build orders. Generally speaking a player's macromanagement is considered to be good when he can perform all actions needed to not only keep his bases running, but also spend his minerals fast and smart on the required structures, technology and units.

The ultimate goal of a new player should be to shorten the time he needs to perform these tasks, as they allow him to both perform more micromanagement and to have time to reflect on the current game.


  • Micromanagement


Micromanagement can be understood quite easily. It is used to maximize the efficiency of the army. This goal can be achieved in various ways, mostly depending on the armies involved, their respective sizes and their unit compositions. While most of the methods can be picked up by watching replays or reading special guides, only few rules are true for every match up. When controlling your army, a player wants to maximize damage output and minimize damage sustained.


  • In almost all situations no army should engage a fight or an attack walking in a line. Spreading the units in a way that it creates an arc or line perpendicular to the direction of the attack allows all units to fire at once and avoids units blocking each other. If every unit is able to fight, you optimize your damage output.
  • Melee units can be used to surround units; this will maximise the surface area (and therefore damage dealt) while preventing them from retreating. Vice versa, ranged units should be microed in a way that prevents them getting in range of melee units.
  • Especially in smaller fights retreating damaged units before dying helps, while focus firing on the opponent's damaged units. To keep as much firepower as possible alive maximizes the value of an army. Retreating damaged units to save them from dying, before ordering them into the fray again is called Unit Dancing.
  • In later stages of the game army control becomes a lot more important than single unit control. It's most times more efficient to pay more attention on army position (arc vs. line, spreading against splash etc.) than on managing single units.
  • Usually the expensive units, especially spell casters, are the important units in a fight. These should be carefully protected and by the same logic sniped first.
  • Whenever an opponent is able to deal splash damage (area of effect damage - Siege Tank fire, Psi Storm and so on) attacking units should not be clumped if possible. By the same logic, spells should hit as many expensive units as possible and not be wasted on single targets.
  • Narrow points on maps (choke points) or ramps will automatically clump units. This way a small force might be able to defend against a larger force. All three races can artificially create such choke points by smart building placement, Sim City, or complete blockages wall-offs.
  • Units standing on top of a ramp, a cliff or under trees receive a defensive bonus. Units attacking uphill will have a significant miss chance. In addition, the vision of units will be limited. The combination of both gives the defender on higher grounds a significant advantage.

One of the limiting factors of an Real Time Strategy game is time. Every action that has to be performed takes time. This distracts a new player from actually reflecting about the current game flow. The goal of a beginner should be to learn how to automate the underlying tasks in order to develop a muscle memory. The less time is needed to perform the basic commands, the more time can be spent on the decision making.

Popular voices state that this was an impossible task when it really isn't. With the right approach this kind of muscle memory can be learned with few games and will increase relatively fast.


Command Shortcuts[edit]

All commands can either be selected via mouse or with the help of the keyboard. Since time is a viable resource, all actions should be performed with the keyboard helps, the so-called shortcuts. Below is a brief overview - a more extensive guide on micro commands can be found in the shortcuts article.

Command Shortcut Meaning
Attack A Attacks any unit in vision range and follows
Hold Position H Holds the Position and only attacks when opponent is in attack range. Does not follow units
Move M moves from A to B and does nothing else
Patrol P Patrols between two or more spots. Attacks and follows incoming units
Stop S Stops any action
Set rally point (Buildings) Right Click / F Sets up rally point


When a unit is selected these shortcuts can be pressed once. When left clicked on a spot on the map or the mini map the order will be performed. All of the commands can also be queued up when holding shift. This way more than two spots can be patrolled or a worker can be sent to mine again after building a structure.

When buildings are selected additional shortcuts can be used to either train a unit or research a technology. The shortcuts can be found in the Shortcuts article. If a building can train units, rally points can be set up by right clicking on the map / mini map. The units then will gather there after being trained. However, all units will move to this spot and not retreat from fire or attack incoming forces.


Hotkeys[edit]

Hotkeys can be used to bind units or one building to a number key (CTRL+Number when they unit is selected). All numbers from 1 to 0 can be used. However, the limit of a hotkey is 12 units at the same time. When pressed once the group will be selected. When a hotkey is pressed twice, the screen will jump onto the center of the grouped units / buildings.


The keys F2 - F4 can be assigned as hotkeys. These however do not save units on them, only screens. You can assign a screen by holding shift and pressing an F# key. When the assigned key is pressed once the screen will jump to where the hotkey was assigned.


Combined System[edit]

Only by using hotkeys and shortcuts will a player's speed increase significantly. However, since the number of hotkeys is limited, especially in late game, a few more tricks are needed to maximize the efficiency. Hotkeys can be used differently, mostly depending on the player's preference and the race being played. When combined, a system of hotkeys can be used that both increases speed and structures a player's game.


  • Terran and Protoss players often build their production facilities close together and only bind one of them to a hotkey. When this building's hotkey is pressed twice the screen will focus on the entire group. The other buildings get manually selected via mouse and units are trained via shortcut.
  • In later stages of the games it's often not needed to constantly produce workers; hence the old main building hotkeys can be used for army.
  • Rallying all production facilities to a single spot helps to gather all new units on one location and makes it easier to send them out as reinforcements and add them to existing army groups.
  • If there are too many units only the most important ones should be kept in hotkey groups.


Generally speaking macro is more important on lower levels than micro. Losses can be oftentimes be attributed to a defective economy or a failure to spend resources.

Additionally, there is the danger of getting caught in thinking about what action to perform next, as a player has so many things to do. A certain routine helps out to shorten the time that is needed to make decisions and again helps to develop an instinct for mechanics a lot. These kind of routines can also compensate for missing knowledge about a build order, as it dictates what to do next. A routine can look like this:


  1. Train workers
  2. send idle workers to mine
  3. Check supply (Pylons / Depots / Overlords) to avoid being stuck supply wise
  4. train units
  5. Check ressources
    1. build more production facilities or
    2. expand
  6. Add new units to the army
  7. Check army; attack, or if under attack:
    1. retreat or
    2. Micro
  8. Scout
  9. Repeat 1-8


Eventually, this routine will happen in the context of a build order or strategy. Depending on the chosen strategy a player will prioritise certain actions over others at given times, thus making the routine a lot broader and harder to master. This will be elaborated on in blah articles.

Further Literature[edit]