The Most Beautiful Game: How Supreme Commander Stole my Heart
On Creativity in Strategy
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“In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else. For whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and opening must be studied in relation to the end game.”
-Jose Capablanca, "Chess Fundamentals" (1921)
On Fleeting Beauty
There is not a move more celebrated in the history of chess, or really any game, than the Queen Sacrifice. It’s a thing of unparalleled beauty.
Of course as a metaphor it is incredibly rich. The lesser Pawn Sacrifice in itself is one of the richest metaphors in fiction, appearing in The Wire and countless other works, even lending its name to a biography of Bobby Fischer… so rich the metaphor is with the tragedy of being a piece doomed in a larger game played by men who care not for your survival.
But the Queen Sacrifice? On another level.
The queen is your most powerful piece in chess. Depending on which school of theory you subscribe to, a pawn is usually valued at 1 point, knights and bishops 3 points each, a rook 5 points, and a queen, with all the diagonal capability of a bishop and the vertical/horizontal capability of a rook… is valued at 8 points, or in some schools even 9 points, more than a bishop & rook, or all pawns combined.
But if anything this might understate it’s significance. For most unskilled chess players a queen might be closer to 12 points. Unskilled players often cannot win a game without one… literally, they’re incapable of doing it. They don’t have the pattern forming skills to create a checkmate without a queen.
Thus when both queens die many amateurs will have these obscenely long drawn-out games, and shred through each others pieces whilst missing opportunity after opportunity until FINALLY one of them can get a pawn across the graveyard of a board, have it promoted to queen… and then form a checkmate in the last moments before exhaustion overtakes them.
Thus a lot of hot headed new players will simply quit the moment they’ve lost their queen and are staring down the living mistress of their opponent. “Can’t win now anyway”.
And even though as one gets skilled you slowly learn to value the queen more realistically… that instinct, to treasure the queen, it never goes away. Chess players have all developed an instinctive flinch from dozens of foolish games in their youth where for want of their wits they lost their queen, and for want of their queen they lost the game…
Thus the incredible beauty of the Queen Sacrifice. Setting aside every hard learned instinct, the master chess player sends there queen into certain death… and in slaying the queen, usually an achievement second only to victory, their opponent seals their fate… because you aren’t going to sacrifice a piece that powerful unless you’ll win something even greater.
Its a move incredibly pregnant with symbolism. Even the name implies a sacrifice on a par with one’s spouse (the king representing the player), and one can, and endless amounts of fiction does, compare it with any number of great heroic sacrifices.
Religious men have even see the tragedy and triumph of the crucifixion in the Queen Sacrifice. It is so symbolically rich.
But the most potent symbolism of the Queen Sacrifice is what it says about chess… that which any number of famous Queen Sacrifices are meant to teach eager young amateurs when they are replayed: That in the end, only the checkmate matters.
All the theory, all the abstractions, all the mathematical models of optimal play, all the mental habits of what makes a good move or what’s a good objective… all that is out the window if you find a mate opportunity, or you give one to your opponents.
Its an abject lesson on the glorious mercilessness of chess, of the creativity that is possible when genius meets just enough folly…. that for all the the lessons on how to create forks, and skewers, and zugzwang… for all the tricks to carve out little 1/100th of a point micro-advantages in position… it is invention and creativity and brilliance and sheer will to win that are the real currencies of the game.
Or at least that’s what we want to be true when we watch one of these rare spellbinding matches….
As a kid I had a chess disk with a basic program and some lessons (not Chessmaster, a failed competitor), I remembered being enraptured and spellbound by its lessons… In the back of my mind I remember the faux medieval artwork, and the vaguest hints of some games still activate a flash of nostalgia. When you’re just learning those 64 squares are so big and mysterious. A game will take an odd turn and it is as if you discovered a great river valley or dark forest that was somehow a brief walk from home which you had improbably never noticed. My little 10 year old mind poured hours and hours into chess… and before long I’d come runner up for my age group in a county wide tournament.
The Trophy was much bigger than the achievement.
I wasn’t any great prodigy and I certainly wasn’t disciplined enough to actually become a serious player… but I revisit chess every few years to try and recapture the magic… play some games, do some online courses, read some theory… and the magic always fades relatively quickly. After a few weeks back playing online chess and getting into form I usually peak out around a 1400-1500 ELO in whatever app I’m playing then I get bored and hang it up another few years.
When you play not just chess, but any strategy game the fantasy is that you’re Alexander ordering the decisive cavalry charge, or the construction of the great causeway to besiege Tyre… that you’re Hannibal crossing the alps or double enveloping the romans at Cannae, that you’re Caesar building the double walls about Alesia, or Napoleon ordering the “One Sharp Blow” at Austerlitz…
The dream is that you’re the 1000 IQ anime protagonist of history finding some impossible mind bending pro-gamer move that no one thought was possible… this is of course really easy to capture when you and your friends are new, and even the really obvious stuff you’re just discovering for the first time… but once you know most everything that’s possible? well there’s a reason everyone keeps buying new strategy games.
Its just a fundamental property of what it is to be a game… Unlike real life with its unlimited possibilities where a Caesar or Napoleon can invent entire new ideas and dimensions of conflict or draw up a memory from something hundreds or thousands of years ago… games are limited. Chess has 6 piece types and 64 squares… for all the billions of combinations you just aren’t going to be finding much new stuff in your 1000th game… Games don’t and can’t go weird and suddenly reinvent the entire wheel for something that never happens again… chess has no equivalent of the alpine front in WW1, or the Uboat war, or the Falklands…
There’s a fundamental contradiction in the entertainment/reward loop of strategy games… they’re meant to be played up to a high level of skill… tons of the reward and depth can only be gotten at those high levels of skill… but the joy of discovery, the wonder at new tactics… that necessarily diminishes or even disappears as you develop that skill. The thing that’s fun and gets you to the point of high level play necessarily gets lost once you arrive…
Once you are a pro-gamer who knows all the moves then those 1000 IQ pro-gamer moves are just moves. You aren’t even going to use the cool ones because they’re probably sub-optimal in some boring manner.
This is inevitably true of all games…
Or atleast that’s what I would have thought before I encountered Supreme Commander.
What the F@*k am I looking at!?
Supreme Commander more specifically the fan maintained Expansion + Mod + community + league + international ratings/tournament organization Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance Forever frightens off a lot of gamers or would be spectators with one glance…
What the hell is all of this!?
One glance at a still of Supreme Commander is enough to invoke information overload in the casual observer, who often immediately conclude its not for them…
But I cannot emphasize this enough… THATS THE POINT. Its supposed to be madness.
Hell there comes a point in alot of high level games where even the 2400 ELO Galactic IQ super players have no idea what the hell’s going on:
Achieved Jaguar is a 2000 rated player, and he’s been ranked higher when he was at his peak… and he’s laughing in disbelief at how absurd this match got even as he plays it.
The information overload is the point.
Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his crew of hyper skilled tier one special forces go into the Jungle armed to the absolute teeth with advanced military equipment right down to a man-portable minigun (Jesse Ventura is just that jacked)… there they encounter the Predator… An advanced alien lifeform, likewise armed to the teeth, that hunts great-warriors across the galaxy for sport. They do battle with the Predator and over the course of the film both they and the Predator have all their tools and Advanced equipment stripped away or expended until Dutch and the predator are the last two standing, shirtless, muddy, and bloody, deciding the final fight with blades, fists, and primeval booby traps.
This is the exact same structure as chess. You go in equipped with 16 neatly arranged pieces and infinite options only for you and your opponent to have them slowly stripped away, such that if you are both equally skilled (or unskilled) you will reach the endgame doing battle with your few surviving pieces and very limited options.
You start off matching armies, you end out in a knife fight.
This is why Capablanca instructs you to study the Endgame before everything else… It’s simultaneously the simplest and most important part of the game. Basic, essential, and representative of everything else.
To Quote the Cyborg ninja:
Thus why Chess is so predictable. It gets simpler as you play it.
Supreme Commander is very similar to chess. There is a king piece, the titular Supreme Commander or ACU (Armoured Command Unit), and there are various Queen pieces with vastly more firepower, the Experimentals that dominate so much of the art and memes and, like the Queen in chess, are basically designed to effectively hunt down the king/ACU… But this core narrative arc is inverted.
Supreme Commander begins with just the rivalled ACUs warping onto the Field, the simplest it will ever get, and then it expands and expands as the ACUs build factories, the factories build engineers, and everything builds everything, becoming exponentially more complicated with each minute… until eventually the information overload becomes too much, mistakes are made, and one player pulls ahead or sees some insane opening, and then their play either secures the Comm-Kill, the checkmate of the opponents ACU, or it becomes vastly more complex for the failure…
To represent the plot of a Supreme commander game, it’d look like this:
You cannot study the endgame of Supreme Commander…. there isn’t one. Things just keep getting more and more ridiculous… and yet it can end at any time with one clever strike.
But how’s that different from every other strategy game with a tech tree!?
Because in SupCom you unlock the final tech level (3) around minute 10-15 of an hour plus match… Hell in team games the Rear Air player usually spends the first 10 minutes just eco-ing (Economy…ing) like mad to rush Tech 3 (T3) and then goes nuts if he manages to get a T3 Strategic bomber out before his opposite can get T3 Air superiority fighters. At minute 8 in some matches the T3 Engineer has been built and every unit is now available.
The complexity and development doesn’t come from a Sins of a Solar Empire style Endless Tech-Tree, but from the inherent complexity of the gameplay, and whatever insane galaxy brained Anime protagonist schemes the players come up with…
SupCom has over 200 distinct units!
Seriously this is the List!
Now to be fair all of these group into subtypes which are fairly similar… T1 main tank, T2 submarine, T3 Anti-air site, T1 Radar, T2 Sonar system, T2 Gunship, T3 strategic bomber, T1 Scout, T2 Cruiser, T3 Engineer, Support-Commander…
But every faction is incredibly unique… a T2 Battleship or Sonar Station can be entirely different between the factions despite nominally filling the same role… Hell the Cybran Battleship can sprout legs and become a spidery land based artillery piece, or just step on an island to escape Torpedo attack… The Cybran Sonar station… a building, is mobile and can be given move orders. No one tells you this. There’s almost certainly some highly ranked player reading that going, “What the Hell!?”
Speaking of the factions They’re all quite unique…
The UEF (United Earth Federation) are perfidious Anglos with a penchant for high imperial glory, naval warfare, turtling, and warcrimes. They engage in Gunboat Diplomacy, Noob friendly direct attacks, obscenely large defensive emplacements, Napalming defenseless civilians, and more micro-nuclear warcrimes than everyone else put together (which is a lot). Play them if you wish everywhere could be East Asia 1854-1975.
The Cybran are what you’d get if crazed Silicon Valley Left Libertarians shopped at hot topic. A transhumanist blend of Man and Machine, everything they do is creative, unique, stealthy, and weird, and fairly objectively worse by any normal standard. Except normality is right out the window in this game, and in any battle of 10,000 IQ meme maneuvers starting out as an edgy-autist freak gives you a massive advantage… You know, aside from the massive disadvantage. Play them if you want a faction to match your Fedora and Bitcoin Tshirt.
The Seraphim are Aliens… who are Also Angels…. who are also canonically demons that were created because the regular Seraphim can’t commit violence, and so created damned souls to do it for them? They field a much shorter unit list than everyone else, but all their units are incredibly versatile…Especially their ACUs and Support Commanders who have far more powerful upgrades than most… they’re also quite visually distinctive, their units are all asymmetrical and every bot has legs with inverted almost avian joints… Play them if you’re a noob who also wants to be a biblically accurate chicken.
And finally the Aeon Illuminate… are women. So like all women the second they encountered an Alien culture on Seraphim II they immediately adopted all their spiritual practices, cut out all the the things that didn’t suite them, and turned it into a bizarre women’s abomination even the original culture doesn’t understand. Like the Seraphim they’re peaceful, and they want everyone to embrace their loving peaceful ways… by force.
Play them if you’re a confident giga-chad who wants an army of exceptional, beautiful, efficient, heavily specialized girl-bosses… who will immediately collapse into bundles of self-doubt the second you stop micro-managing them and giving them gold stars and approval.
Can you start to see how weird some of this stuff could get?
This fan made trailer if anything is underselling it:
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To get a feel for how deeply this oddness effects everything:
A “Brief” digression on The Tactics of T1 BattleTanks
(do skip this if you’re not interested)
To compare just the basic T1 Battletanks of each faction:
The Aeon “Aurora” outranges every other tank by over 33%, has the highest raw damage shots, and is tied for the highest Damage per Second (DPS), and it arcs its shells such that it’s very hard for a shot to miss due to the landscape. Beyond that it hovers and can go over water allowing it to outmaneuver all the other T1 tanks, and launch attacks for which it’s really hard to anticipate a defense since in the early game it’s almost impossible to lock down the coastlines. But it has the slowest firerate of the 4 and the lowest health, with less than Half the Hit Points of the Striker or Thaam. It’s Epithet “Tinfoil Auroras” is extremely accurate.
Not only that The Aurora’s maingun’s range exceeds it’s vision, meaning it can’t use that range unless sighting is provided by radar, scouting or other units… and it is hindered in hit and run tactics by the fact it’s the slowest of the 4 tanks and is unable to merely retreat to stay out of range but must do complex splitting off and flanking maneuvers which are heavily Mirco-intensive and massively Drains a player’s Actions per minute (APM) in the early game when a lack of attention on Eco can ruin you for the whole game.
By contrast the Cybran “Mantis” Has the fastest firerate of the main battletanks having a rapid fire laser that fires 3 two projectile shots per second. A mantis missing a shot doesn’t really matter because more rapid fire is right behind it. Combine this with the fastest landspeed of the 4 and the mantis is amazing for maneuver warfare, running in long zigzagging pattern laying its first rate dps down consistently while other tanks fire and miss it… the thing is though thanks to Lanchester’s Square law this divided dps makes the Mantis terrible at stand and fight formations. The first volley from an enemy tank formation firing their heavy guns in matchlock volleys will shred through a significant percentage of the mantis in a formation if they aren’t dodging, killing a good percentage long before that rapid fire gun can lay down enough dps to inflict any casualties, a mantis formation standing still or forgotten about will just be cut to shreds by any other main battle tanks that catch them napping… Which is probably why the Mantis comes with its own T0 Engineering suite… sure it can’t actually build anything, but it can reinforce and aid any engineer or unit that is building or upgrading… so if you have a massive Mantis formation, you just need 1 Engineer in the mix to start a Point Defense build and the massed Mantis will practically Insta-complete it.
The UEF “Striker” by contrast is the Noob friendliest of the 4… With the most Hit Points of the 4 a formation of Strikers is unlikely to take fatal casualties from all but the largest of enemy formations on the first volley, which is good because the Striker has the fastest reload time of the 3 volley fire tanks, meaning that despite having the lowest true DPS of the 4 tanks in any straight engagement it will get off 2 high damage volleys whilst the Aurora or Thaam are still reloading or the Mantis is still tickling away… Meaning in any straight and even fight the Striker is going to win despite having the lowest DPS, because large segments of the enemy formation will already be dead, and dead men have a DPS of zero. This is why they’re so great for noobs, you just get a lot of them together and charge them straight at the enemy in glorious formation across flat and even ground.
Finally the Seraphim “Thaam” is just like the UEF Striker… but faster, higher true DPS, slightly lower health, and slower to reload at 0.75 shots per second… so it is effectively better than the Striker in most scenarios… but the Striker will beat it in a straight fight thanks to that double volley trick. So how do you beat the Striker? Well its a simple little micro trick, you charge at the Strikers, Fire the first volley/ receiving the Strikers’ first volley, then you quick use your superior speed to reverse out of there for 1.5 seconds while you reload. Then you charge in again… wash-rinse-repeat until the UEF formation is broken. It is a very simple bit of micro but do it right and you’ll be doing 32 dmg per tank per volley to the Striker’s 24.
So you have 4 vastly different set of tactics: APM intensive standoff-cover-amphibious assault tactics; speedy maneuver and strafing attacks combined with a really powerful ability to dig in; glorious charges combined with fast reload discipline; and powerful cycling charge-retreat tactics.
THESE ARE THE 4 MOST BASIC UNITS IN THE GAME.
Everything is like this!
This is the early game cannon fodder! Absolutely everything else only gets more complex. There are units with 5, 6, 8, a dozen, not unique attributes… unique abilities! Each with their own unique attributes! there are units with 6 weapon systems all with attributes slightly unique and that would require distinctive micro to use optimally… some are simultaneously amphibious and/or able to submerge allowing them to hide in the ocean… that have a unique factory suite on board! There are units that have entirely distinctive one off weapons systems that don’t occur in the rest of the game, and I’m not talking the massive experimentals or any of the weird ones…
For example as far as I can tell the UEF T2 Fighter/Bomber, the Janus, is the only unit in the entire game that deals fire damage… fire exists in the SupCom universe just so the Janus can do Napalm strikes
So What? What is the significance of this? Nothing… nothing at all. There are no units vulnerable to fire damage, not even the thickest metal provides immunity… Its damage is just like everything else….Except:
The Napalm takes 1-2 seconds to fully burn, if you’re trying to dodge your unit might step out the flames before it can burn the full amount of damage… but likewise a clever UEF player can strike a formation on the move at the front of the formation, and before their opponent realizes what’s going on the entire formation will be damaged or destroyed by continuing to march into the flames, effectively killing 5-6 times the units caught in the initial blast… likewise notice that long stretched out attack pattern? that old-school unguided bomb pattern? Smart players will position their vital infrastructure slightly apart so one bombing run can’t take out two key assets… Valuable T3 power generators (PGens) especially usually get positioned slightly apart from each other, so if one goes critical they wont chain react… but if you line up a few Janus just so, you could could clip both, and make both of them go critical, damaging not just the two of them, but destroying any buildings adjacent to either of them, and possible killing the enemy Commander if he was caught between the two…
EVERYTHING IS LIKE THIS.
There are TWO HUNDRED UNITS once we add the buildings and weird shit. And every one of them has endless amounts of weird finicky detail to them… that no one, not even the 2400 rated Gods of the game, are ever going to learn all of… even a legend like Tagada is regularly surprised.
Put otherwise The potential for cheesing and 10,000 IQ ridiculous pro-gamer moves is functionally endless… And because there is a King Piece in the ACU, and just like chess, only the mate/comm-kill matters… you can lose the resource war, lose your armies, lose air control, lose the entirety of your main base, lose all your team-mates, lose 99% map control, lose your access to the surface world and have to hide out in rock bottom (because battleships can ground-fire bikini bottom)… And still find some ridiculous cheesy anime ass-pull to kill the enemy commander first.
A witness account of Crazed Anime Bullshit
The Ghetto-Gunship family
Cybran are the only faction with T1 gunships. Every other faction has to wait to tech up to T2… now gunships are important because they can’t be targeted by land units aside from Anti-Air… But they’re very vulnerable to enemy interceptors and air-superiority fighters, so if you win the Air Fight gunships allow you to immediately translate that into ground victories. And in the early minutes that will invariably mean attacking the enemy commander (who can’t shoot back), since commanders basically have to be on the front line in the early game owing to the fact they have as much firepower as the rest of the army put together at that stage. This means Cybran have a built in tool that can take out an enemy commander minutes before their opponents can hit back in any comparable manner… well unless they get creative.
The T1 light assault bots the UEF, Cybran, and Aeon have are the only units in the game that can fire whilst loaded in an air transport. Their little guns are so light they can still target… so you build T1 air transports and load them with Light Assault bots, and kerpow! Ghetto-Gunship.
But the madness is only just beginning: the Seraphim don’t have light assault bots, they can’t build Ghetto-Gunships… but they do have the best air transports in the game with two extra slots at the T1 and T2 level… so if you manage to steal enemy tech by capturing an engineer or factory, or if you have a teammate who can gift you light assault bots (a very cheap gift) you can build the secret deluxe Seraphim Ghetto-Gunships with more DPS than any other faction can muster.
But we’re just getting started.
The UEF are unique in that they have a T3 Heavy Air Transport The Continental.
The Continental has its own missile compliment, 4500 health, its own Bubble shields with an additional 3000 health… and it can carry up to 28 units.
Load it with light assault bots and you have the Gucci-Ghetto-Gunship, with DPS equivalent to two regular Broadsword T3 gunships.
Then there is the Cybran Ghetto-Gunship…
But why would Cybrans build Ghetto-gunships? They have Regular gunships at all tech levels?!
Well dear reader, the Cybran, being the sneaky stealthy trolls they are, have a unique land unit, the T2 Deceiver, which when turned on jams radar in a wide circle around it…
You build T2 transports, load them with Assualt Bots and a deceiver… presto!
Pair them with regular gunships and maybe even some T3 cybran strategic bombers (with their own personal stealth), and you have the makings of an entire hidden air assault.
But you can go even further… if you have both UEF and Cybran tech, say an ally gifts you some engineers, or gets knocked out and you inherit their base, or you managed to capture an enemy factory or engineer…
Then you can load a Cybran Deciever on a UEF Continental…
Because the Continental is specifically designed to survive most air defence, only a late game 50+ unit airwing can take them out in any reasonable amount of time… so if they’re hidden and have insane DPS… You’ll probably slip them in and destroy whatever target you’re after (T3 artillery, infinite resource generator, supernuke launcher, strategic missile defense, enemy comm) long before the enemy airwing makes its way back across the map.
A Tempest in a Teleporter
The late game of supreme commander is defined by attempts to protect the Comm (ACU) from various snipe attempts. Armies are built, defenses arrayed, air wings expanded, and then safely maneuvered, shields built and then reinforced… All to create an impenetrable wall of defenses around, not just the ACU, but the other high value assets: The strategic Missile Defense that keeps enemy nukes out of your base, the T3 and experimental artillery you use to batter down enemy bases, the infinite resource generator (Paragon) the Aeon are able to build, or the vast Mass Fabricator farms/power grids other factions opt for… Reinforcing and defending these is a vital part of the game.
Thus, It’s really noteworthy then that there exists units which can teleport anywhere on the map and render these defenses useless.
ACUs (commanders) and SCUs (support commanders) can be upgraded (at significant expense) with personal teleporters, and then sent anywhere on the map (by powering said teleporter and crashing your power grid).
This is obviously both devastating, and incredibly high risk.
The most common and Iconic tele-play is the Cybran TeleMazer-snipe.
Cybran commanders (ACUs) can be simultaneously upgraded with a teleporter and with a powerful microwave Laser “Mazer” that does 4000 dps.
All one need do is then Teleport your comm into the heart of the enemy base and you can take out core infrastucture, the enemy commander, volatile T3 power generators your comm is standing next to.. sky’s the limit.
This is devastating and done right can swing or even win the whole game… at great risk.
Because of course flinging your king piece you need to survive into the heart of the enemy formation is a quick way to get it killed. Thus you’ll often see players who have maybe only 30-45 minutes for a match choosing Cybran… since you know if it goes to long they can always go for a tele-mazer and end the match one way or the other… you’ll also see complete blends of desperation and stupidity where a cybran player teleports into the enemy base without any scouting only to run into banks of point defense and for the enemy Comm to be in a pond half the map away… but on the other hand you can get really inspired play.
You can get Clutch perfectly timed strikes that warps in right next to the enemy commander and immediately begins the teleport out, taking out the enemy comm, and completing the teleport out a mere split second before a dozen Strategic Bombers payloads were about to land… Only HE DIDN’T TELEPORT HOME! He teleported next to another enemy commander, and bags him as well! Only to finally teleport out on mere hundreds of hitpoints right before a dozen responding bombers were about to drop their payloads… the final enemy commander capitulating mere seconds later when he realizes what’s occurred.
“But Kulak! I’m playing Seraphim. And I’m losing. How can my chicken looking commander get in on this crazed Anime bullshit?”
The Tele tac-missile snipe is done by teleporting your commander behind the enemy immediately building a stealth field generator, and then building row upon row of point-to-point unguided tactical missile launchers…
The trick is most high value targets… Experimental buildings, Strategic missile defense, forgotten about commanders, etc. Are stationary.
All you need to do is wait for the tac missiles to load, fly a spy plane over the enemy base, teleport out… and fire the missiles.
sure your opponent just has to issue a move order to get their commander to dodge… but if you’re looking at the other side of the map engrossed in something else, and suddenly you here “COMMANDER UNDER ATTACK”… are you going to quick hit the hotkey and think to issue an instant move order? Its theoretically possible… but I’ve never seen it done. I have however seen 20+ tac missiles burn through multiple overlapping shields and kill a comm more times than I can count.
Speaking of missiles…
UEF commanders can build tactical nuke launchers on their backs… now these can be shot down by ordinary tactical missile defense, but not strategic missile defense (they fly too low), so a late game base or comm might be safe from strategic nukes… but not tac nukes. The thing is the slot to build a missile launcher is the exact same slot as the teleporter, but a very daring UEF player can build the teleporter, teleport just outside the enemy base or just with in range of the commander, build a stealth generator, delete their teleporter (and all hope of escape), then build a tactical missile launcher and upgrade it to a billy nuke… sure this is nigh suicidal, its now basically a quickdraw duel of who can attack the other first… but you have the element of surprise and your sidearm is a nuke.
also important: support commanders (SCUs) can teleport. Now they’re weaker than ACUs, and they’re ridiculously expensive, doubly so to equip with teleporters… but they have a complete T3 build suite, are very sturdy, and are loaded with surprizes.
The craziest Tele-SCU play I’ve seen involves the Aeon SCUs… now Aeon have a faction unique ability. Being a collection of women with martyr complexes all their build units can sacrifice themselves, destroying their unit to instantly add their mass and power values to the unit under construction. This includes their SCUs.
The Aeon also have Experimental game ender building The “Paragon” an infinite resource generator that will supply as much power and mass as your build units and factories are physically able to process….
So late one game resources ceased to mean anything for this Aeon player… but time was pressing! Enemy heavy artillery was bombarding his base from across the map, and he had no way to hit back… so he embarked on one of the most wasteful and glorious plays I’ve ever seen.
He took his already obscenely expensive upgraded Aeon SCUs… Built the Ridiculously expensive teleporters on them, expended obscene amounts of power to run the teleporters all at once, teleported them into a small pond next to the enemy base. And sacrificed them for their base un-upgrade value to start instantly building Experimental (T4) “Tempest” super-battleships.
I swear to god, this actually happened! In a high level match game! The largest units in the game, battleships the size of football stadiums were teleported into a small pond to batter down the enemy base right next to it…
What happened next? Watch and find out. (great intro to the game BTW)
And the Thing is: the Madness is Endless
I’ve seen 500 fighter air battles decided by one clever turn, and other’s by one second’s hesitation. I’ve seen great armies defeated by one tenth their number on the subtlest of maneuvers. I’ve seen great sea battles turn on land based unguided missile strikes, the vast fleets blocking their own capital ships from maneuvering out of the way. I’ve seen commanders charge into the very jaws of death, walking purposefully into the range of lethal experimentals and great armies that they might finish of the lead with one well placed overcharge. I’ve seen said armies subsequently stall and face slaughter on the broken momentum. I’ve skilled players rush their vulnerable and unarmed engineers into this cauldron so they can harvest the mass of reclaim all those wrecks represent, and I’ve seen iron willed attackers cut their losses instantly, and nuke their own formations to deny their enemy the resources.
I’ve seen Commanders hold impossible forward positions for 10s of minutes after they’ve become completely untenable, only for their frustrated opponents to launch a nuke at these positions they’ve already won… only for their enemy to load their comm (ACU) on a transport and escape mere milliseconds before the nuke lands, their transport taking secondary (but survivable) damage from the blast. I’ve seen players rescue their Comm from orbital laser fire by charging their air transports into the beam, blocking the damage with their own airframe, and I’ve seen players batter down the enemy base shields with a half dozen orbital lasers whilst taking T4 experimental artillery fire on their own base, only for the shield to blink off in a brief gap in their firing pattern as super artillery still fired… so instead of waiting for the lasers to recharge the player self destructed the Novacs centers directing the Lasers… and purposefully crashed their satellites into the enemy base destroying the artillery.
I’ve seen feat of incredible teamwork, I’ve seen players commit to the most suicidal unsurvivable attacks on the knowledge the damage done in them will allow their teammates to claw out a victory… and I’ve seen most horrendous spite filled rage quits of any contest I’ve ever seen, I’ve seen players purposefully destroy all their own buildings so their teammates could not inherit them, and then ctrl-K their comm… leaving their teammates as unsupported as they claimed their team left them… and I’ve seen the last surviving member of that team somehow fight their way back and claw out a win anyway, in one of the best comebacks I’ve ever seen to the dawning horror of the rage-quitter.
I’ve seen players utterly defeated, reduced to 1% map control, complete a Aeon “Paragon” the infinite resource generator… something doomed to never stand, as the enemy fleet is already bombarding their shoreside base, the inevitable explosion of the Paragon guaranteed to take out every remaining unit with it… only for the last player to manually target the shields with his engineers and support commanders, reinforcing them with the last of his build power and his now infinite power… and he kept it up! For 15 minutes. As every unit which has just destroyed everything else on the map bombarded these shields constantly, he manually target new sheilds every 3-4 seconds to reinforce them whilst at the same time building everything he possibly could to somehow hit back from land against T3 battleships dauntless range and firepower… For 15minutes he kept this up, as his oponents stared on in disbelief not thinking they should be building shield disruptors, or preparing landing forces, or experimentals, or rapid fire artillery… And he won…Under 15 minutes of the hardest bombardment I’ve ever seen… he won.
I’ve seen players fight the most nuke intensive, artillery intensive, resource intensive battle I’ve ever seen, utterly destroying each other’s bases and forcing each other to fight from the seabed, using their aircraft carriers to build new wings for air assualts’ and their strategic missile subs from hiding to keep bombarding the enemy ocean at random, even as everything on land is gone… only for this latest most resource intensive stage to become entirely irrelevant… as both players moved their commanders to hide on the ocean floor within a hair of each other… a mere cough out of sensor range… and now the entire battle turned on who walked ever so slightly left or right first and noticed a sonar signature pop up.
I’ve seen other players ignore all the advanced weapons, out of time and resources, they did not teleport but walked around the map through connecting oceans, and build a steath gen… then factories, then units. And even as their final defenses around their main base fell they attacked! All their effort in sustaining their base and all the risk they just endured walking blind under the ocean… all serving to buy them this brief window where the resource war wouldn’t matter, where they could just FIGHT!!! and even as every other unit on the map now wheeled about on desperate attack commands, even as the entire world turned to attack this now revealled commander, it was too late… the ploy had worked. And all the resources in the world could reverse the opportunity the ploy had bought, the precious seconds long opening it had created. where nothing else mattered, and it just came down to the two commanders and what few units they had on hand, the hour long battle of massive armies, super technology, and economies come down to a knife fight…
I love this game…
I’ve watch countless hours of GyleCast and other streamers, I’ve studied the tactics and strategy, I’ve learned various unit values, and I’ve often internally lamented at bars and family gatherings that I am forced to watch soccer, or Hockey, or Football… when I know not even the craziest happening in those games could match what is merely ordinary in SupCom.
I love this game… and I’ve followed it for 2+ years… Which is quite the thing to say, because I’ve never played it.
A few years ago I had a horrific motorcycle accident whilst on a transcontinental moto-camping tip. And while I miraculously survived, my mouse arm was pretty much destroyed… for almost two years I couldn’t feel or manipulate my fingers. After almost a dozen surgeries and reconnecting the nerve endings its improving… but still imperfect. I’m just now starting to type and play basic games with my now slightly functional fingers.
I don’t know when/if I’ll be able to actually play Supreme Commander nor if I’d ever get to the point where I could be “Good” at it…
But during two years of seemingly shrinking possibilities there was something simply spellbinding about SupCom… something about seeing even the most desperate situation survived through some combination of wit and will, or watching the grinding hand of inevitability defied so many times… seeing creativity and daring win out so often when it seems to get slapped down so many other places.
Aside from being seemingly amazing to play, This might just be the greatest spectator game ever invented. I’ve never gaped so disbelievingly nor laughed so uproariously for anything else. It really is special.
Check it out.
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