ACU attacking – the current dominant strategy, and how to beat it

Both other players’ views on the GPGnet forums and my own experience indicate that ACU attacking is the current dominant strategy. I’m not referring to ACU rushing in 1v1 games, which is easily defeated with proper scouting and judicious usage of point defense hidden behind shielded factories. No, what I’m referring to is ACU attacking in games with 4 or more players. As far as my experience goes, it’s an incredibly effective tactic that is very difficult to counter.

Here’s how it always seems to go. Two players who are friends join a multiplayer game together and play on the same team. One of them will use the classic ACU rush strategy (lots of laboratories from the beginning with full-on ACU upgrading). The other player takes a more measured approach, building utility units (mobile AA, mobile shields, etc.), while still getting lots of the ACU upgrades, maybe just not quite so quickly. Once the main ACU rusher has his ACU decently upgraded, they both attack together.

This kind of attack is really hard to deal with. Two strong ACUs attacking in concert, especially with lots of the upgrades (the Cybran artillery upgrade especially is absolutely brutal to any land units you try to use against it) are incredibly hard to defeat. And keep in mind, since they are ACUs, they can also heal each other rapidly and build point defense or air defense as necessary. And if at any point they have a resource glut, they can build a land factory on the front lines and get their units into battle immediately attacking your base, while all your land units are being killed by their ACU.

The strength of this strategy comes from two main aspects. One, upgraded ACUs are the most powerful unit in the game, moreso than any experimental by far. And two, since the two players are working together, if you don’t show an equal amount of teamwork in response to the threat, you’re really screwed. Two ACUs attacking a base that is only defended by one ACU is almost a foregone conclusion; once the rush is detected, you need to immediately figure out which base is being attacked and get both of your ACUs there.

I can think of some possible counters that I haven’t had the chance to test out in full just yet. If you do end up in a situation where you’re being attacked by multiple ACUs (and you detect it soon enough so that you have a chance to respond; scouting is essential here), try some of these things. First, you absolutely need to coordinate with your teammate. The enemies are working together as a team, and if you aren’t doing likewise, you’re dead.

A shift to air seems like the best defense in a case where you’re attacked by upgraded ACUs (although it doesn’t help that the UEF’s ACU anti-air upgrade was inexplicably made more powerful in the latest patch). I simply haven’t had any luck with using lots of ground units here. ACUs can be upgraded with lots of health and attacks that kill land units in one or two hits relatively early in the game, while you will not be able to counter with a similarly effective force in land units. You would need roughly twice the resources as he does, both to upgrade your land units in the same amount as he has upgraded his ACU and to build a large army in the first place. The ACU attacker has the advantage here because he only needs to spend the resources on research — he already has the ACU!

So make a shift to air. Stockpile gunships along with your partner and only send them in when you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll take out at least one of the opposing ACUs. Coordinate carefully to make sure you’re both attacking the same ACU (and if one is weaker than the other, go for that one first). Spend as many research points as possible to increase your gunships’ damage. Also, use gunships or fighter/bombers to kill the laboratories, mass extractors, and power generators that the enemy left behind in his base (far too few people do this, even though 90% of the time, they’re completely undefended). Or, even better, if you can spare the research to unlock transports, transport in some engineers and capture his buildings.

Since both of your enemies’ strength is at the front, send your forces in on their rear and tear up all of their infrastructure. If you can concentrate both of your ACUs in one of your bases to defend it, do so. If not, abandon the base that’s being attacked, and detonate its buildings instead of letting them be destroyed to deny your opponents the research points. The important thing is to stay alive while your air units do their job. The enemy does have the advantage now, but they don’t have the same economic base, so if you can just survive, you should win in the end-game.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to test out these strategies soon with Grokmoo as a partner. He’s gotten through enough of the campaign that I think he’s itching for some proper multiplayer action.

3 Responses to “ACU attacking – the current dominant strategy, and how to beat it”

  1. Sacha Ligthert Says:

    I’ve encountered several of these rushes. The only thing that appear to stop them is slow research and limiting the fun to a landwar.

    Yet these two exclusions really bring forward the gameplay I am looking for: team work, strategy and a bunch of units going toe to toe! :-) But usually a lot of artillery or a Noah cannon kills the game. :s

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