How to Beat a Real-Time-Strategy
Time is More Important Than Efficiency
When I first started playing, I was very careful with my resources. I would have as few gatherers as possible, as few factories as possible, and as many warriors as possible. I couldn't understand how the hell I was getting beat so badly all the time. Two reasons, one of which was speed of play.
You see, I was being as efficient monetarily as I could be. Why build a second factory when that factory costs money? Save the money for another warrior unit. This mindset would be great if wars were infinitely slow.
Not the case for today's wars or for games simulating it. I struggled to make it through the campaigns of Starcraft for a long time. I then started competing with my roommates and some random people online and I realized that they were recovering from their battles quicker than I was. They would build six factories and have them all cranking out units at the same time. By the time I had five units to defend with, they had thirty units to attack with. In the end, my efficiency lost me the war.
Money, Money, Money. And Then Some More.
Another thing I noticed while my ass was always getting handed to me was that I was always broke dispite the fact that I was so efficient with my money. My roommates were always rich dispite their inefficient use of it. I asked myself, "What the fuck?"
Then it dawned on me: have more gatherers. The more money you have, the faster you can crank out units. The more money, the better units you will crank out. More money meant larger armies.
I immediately noticed the difference. When I started dedicating roughly one sixth of my units to gathering resources and also building more factories, I started beating the shit out of people who normally were equal matches. I would beat them so fast and so solidly that we would look at each other with looks of surprise on our faces.
And when I ran into someone who was again an equal match, one of the only ways I could beat them was to take away the one thing they were absolutely dependent on: Money. I would send out units to take out their gatherers. In starcraft I would set a seige tank to take out probes and drones. In warcraft I would set up a catapult to take out lumber harvesters. Literally I would starve them for resources to the point where their infrastructure was a sitting duck.
By the way, America understands the importance of money very well. Whoever has the most money (America) can afford the best weapons. Whoever has the most money (America) can afford the largest army (WWII, America's armed forces exceeded 12 million soldiers). So why are we fighting "to protect America's interests?" The answer is simple: so that money either speeds up circulation and amount, or slows the loss of circulation or loss of amount.
Units and Infrastructure
Strength in numbers is not a fairy tale. Imagine people being able to get shot twice. If there are enemies facing each other one on one, they shoot each other twice and both die. But if you have two against one, the two shoots the one dead while the one shoots person A. The situation repeats and person B gets shot. The enemy has two dead now and neither A nor B on the allies side is dead. A third solo enemy shows up and shoots A again, but not before A shoots him back. B shoots him a second time, killing him. Three dead to one, allies favor. A fourth enemy shows up and shoots B and B shoots him back. the fourth enemy is wounded and B is finally dead. The allies killed almost twice as many enemy because the allies fought battles where they outnumbered the enemy two to one. It's almost exponential. Now imagine if you outnumbered the enemy four to one. Have as many soldiers as you can.
Infrastructure is also incredibly important. When I am attacking a base and I can tell beating their defenses isn't going so well, I weigh my options. If I can recover from a complete loss of my offensive troops rapidly, I will switch my offense from beating their defenses to beating their infrastructure. In essence, I am cutting their legs out from underneath them so that the next battle they are sufficiently weakened. If I beat their defenses initially, then their infrastructure is vulnerable and I devour it like good desert.
I once heard a great tactic. Person A would send a single unit to base B and attack for only a few seconds, then retreat that single unit to base C. B thinks C attacked them. They fight, leaving A untouched.
It also helps when your enemy locks onto a unit that they cannot shoot at. If they can shoot at it, they probably won't hit it. My unit of choice: aircraft. I love it.
Finally, a tactic I love is to lead away twenty five of your enemies units with just five of yours. This leaves their base defenseless and before you know it, you've had your desert again. By the time their units get back, there is nothing left to defend.