Since Brood War was published in late 1998 the strategical dimension of the game has shifted and evolved greatly. This article tries to summarize and teach more abstract principles, laws and mechanics that are not mentioned elsewhere. Thusly, this guide should be read and understood in the context of the overall build order guides in the strategy portal. In a more general sense two dimensions are needed in order to be successful in competitive gaming. The actual control that is needed to perform actions is mostly referred to as mechanics while the actual thought processing / decision making is referred to as strategy in the context of this guide. Both dimensions interact with the others, limited ability to perform actions also limit the strategic choices a player can make and vice versa. An advanced understanding of both is pivotal. This article focuses on the thought processes rather than the mechanical performance.
- To learn more about the mechanis, see also Mechanics Tab
Strategies dictate how the actual style of a player and can range from aggressive to passive. Ultimatively, a player's goal is to force his will on the opponent and make him react in one way or the other. As a result strategies indirectly dictate which units to build, when and where to expand, when to attack and so on. Choices for strategy can be picked before the actual game starts or during the game. The importance of reflecting on the game while playing is the most important part of Brood War. Constantly receiving information enables players to process more information and lower the margin of error (misinterpreting the ongoing game) significantly. Obtaining information is called scouting (to scout; no relations to the Protoss unit).
Ideally the information input should be unlimited during the game. Any kind of information helps to react and influence the game. Information that should be gathered are:
- Spawning position of the opponent
- Opening and build order
- Expansion behaviour
- Economical potential
- Unit composition
- Army movement
- Technological status
- Army size
Even without further understanding of the actual strategies this kind of information at least provides the player with some starting point he can use to adapt his style. His timings might be off, but offer at least a window to react, rather than being forced to do last-second decisions.
Build Orders, often also called openings, are important to determine a strategy. These tell a player which units, buildings and the amount of workers he needs to train/produce during the game. Usually these instructions enable special timing attacks, enable a player to counter a different build order and help to understand the game flow. Build Orders can be designed for aggressive play or defensive play. They can aim to end a game in the early stages (Rushes, to rush) or pepare a player to gain advantages in the mid and late game.
Since Brood War has no in-game clock the player uses the supply counter he has. The notation is as follows:
- 9/18: Spawning Pool
This means a player should start to morph a spawning pool at 9 out of 18 supply and when he has sufficient minerals. The advantage of this notation lies in its independence from the actual game flow. If a player is under constant attack and hence has to build more army than the build order actually dictates, he can still rely that certain timings would work.
For example: a player needs to build additional Zerglings in order to prevent Zealot attacks and thus delays his Lurker Aspect upgrade. He can still be sure that if he morphs his Hydralisk Den when his Lair is 50% done, the building will finish as soon as the Lair is done morphing and he can start the Lurker upgrade without delay, regardless of whether or not the actual building was morphed later than initially planned.
Build orders changed over time. Those depend on the most commonly used maps. Almost every kind of map (Island Map, Maps with narrow passages, Two player maps) have different characteristics. With changing size, the overall skill of players increasing and the game being discussed into detail, the build orders became grew larger and lasted longer, often dictating the game until the late stages. However, that doesn't allow players to actually judge their "worth". A build order describing the game until the 100 supply mark is not automatically better than a build order that ends at forty supply. Usually all openings can still be used, the effect however varies from map, opponent's and player's skill. Completely outdated openings are usually not added or named accordingly in this Wiki.
All build orders listed in the strategy portal are the result of a long term evolution and thusly might be misinterpreted by rookies. Usually a build was developed to force a special situation and a second build order was invented to counter the first one. The most popular build orders offer a great versatility. This means that strategy shifts (and thus changing build orders) are almost always an option.
However, the ability for a build order to hard counter and thusly end a game directly, also decreased over time. Consequently, the use of a build should not be underestimated. On the contrary, old build orders which are only rarely used might confuse an opponent that did not prepare against this special build.
New players should keep in mind that build orders require a certain knowledge. This means that openings often leave out information that seem obvious to players with more experience. Editors have always to do some sort of trade off between describing all kind of situations and adaptions that are possible and keeping the build order focussed on their main purpose. Hence, nobody should trust a build order blindly and use them more as basic advice he should follow as long as possible; but also be constantly aware that the actual game flow might require him to think outside the box.
The term All-In is taken from Poker. It refers to build orders that force both players into situations which will most times end the game in very early stages. As a result a player compeltely commits his entire economy and starts to produce one or few kind of units and tries to instantly kill his opponent. If he doesn't succeed he most likely will lose the game after the initial attack, as he won't be able to transition into an ordinary game afterwards. A prime example of such a build order would be the 5 Pool.
Cheese (or sometimes Semi-All-Ins) are a variation of all-ins. The term refers to strategies that are somewhat exotic and rarely used. Most times players hide their technological advantage in order to trick their opponent into false beliefs. The key is to pretend to use an ordinary opening while secretly preparing a massive attack from high tech units. If these attacks fail or don't do enough damage the game is most likely already lost, but transitions into ordinary games are still possible, if a player is able to defend the immediate counterattacks. Examples of such strategies would be Elevators.
Macro Build Orders
The most recent build orders slow down the first minutes of the game, in order to prepare a player for the later stages of the game. They offer many options to react to aggressive strategies or strong expansion behaviour.
Limitations and Trade Off
If a player is indeed completely new to the Real Time Strategy genre the huge amount of build orders and strategies might be confusing, especially when the mechanical part of his game is less developed. This limitation (lack of experience) might be scaring, but can be learned relatively fast.
Instead of free styling build orders should be picked. Obviously, a player has to recognize that he cannot learn everything at the same time. As a result it is recommended to skim over many build orders and eventually selecting only few of them to start off. This however does not mean that a player will not need or must not adapt to unusual situations.
Generally speaking, it is most efficient to focus on more macro oriented games, since the mechanical aspects of the game can be trained accordingly over a longer time frame. However, the option to pick aggressive strategies is still viable. Longer build orders have the advantage of actually teaching a player how to react to difficult situations and enable him to survive the first minutes without putting to much pressure on him. It is only natural to lose most of the initial games against other and more experienced players. With the right mind set this will change relatively fast, contrary to popular belief the basic understanding can be picked up very fast. Especially on low levels a complete understanding of details is not too important.
It is also only natural to face problems that are not discussed in strategy guidelines. If a player needs to decide between aggressive and economical (gathering more minerals, raising more structures, expanding) play, it is recommended to go for the second. Uneven fights result in more losses; these can be reinforced and evened out with more units. Also, this way of playing helps to improve overall control more efficiently than short lived games that end after uneven fights. Better controls in return offer the player more time to reflect on strategies in game. Training is key to competitive play!