Planetary Annihilation Naval Warfare by bobchaos

HOWTO: Naval Warfare

  • Date: 16th August, 2015
  • Updated: 10th July, 2016
  • Category: Advanced

Planetary Annihilation Naval Gameplay

Naval warfare; the bane of many players. This guide will provide both strategies and tactics relevant to winning on water systems such as Pacific. Like my previous guides it is targeted mostly at intermediate and advanced players.

It’s not uncommon for water planets to lead to strange games, even with high level players. As far as I can tell there never seems to have been an established meta for naval, leaving quite a few players confused as to what to do. As usual I’ll try to lay out strategies that will remain valid even if the game balance changes. I’ll try to keep sections with tactical information updated for relevance should the game balance be significantly altered. This will also be a shorter guide since a lot of relevant information is already in my previous guides.

Global Strategy

This one is much simpler than you might expect, it’s the same plan as always – expand, scout, raid, be a bully, find a weak spot, then strike hard and fast. That last one is understandably much more difficult to accomplish given the movement speed of ships and their inability to use Teleporters. Those same characteristics mean that static defenses and air will see more usage than usual.

Understand that your metal eco will grow at a slower rate than you might be used to on account of naval fabber’s slow speed. Adjust your build order accordingly. Your production growth outpacing your eco growth is a more common occurrence on water maps and should be avoided.

Use your air force and Piranhas to raid MEX fields and deny enemy expansion. Mobilize your fleets early. Considering the speed of ships in PA, it is critical that you get your hard hitter in position as fast as possible. Having a single Narwhal messing with your edge buildings in the first few minutes can really throw off your game, so be sure you’re the one on the offensive early. Maintain the initiative, the same as you would with land warfare.

Planetary Annihilation Naval Warfare by bobchaos

As always, you should be scouting regularly. Since your forces cannot be mobilized with significant speed it is critical that you see the enemy coming as early as possible. If a fleet is coming for your main base, it is entirely possible that you can build a counter to it before it gets on site, allowing you to continue with your own offensive operations uninterrupted. You’ll also need to scout ahead of your fleets to locate torpedo launchers. Of all the static defenses, torpedo launchers are the nastiest. They’ll kill your ships just as fast as a laser turret would destroy tanks, but the ships are far slower and far more expensive than the average tank. Torpedo launchers should be avoided until such time as you can outrange them. Your airforce may come in handy if your opponent neglected AA defenses.

When attacking enemy bases, the usual tricks apply: attack from multiple angles, further divide the enemy’s attention with simultaneous raiding, etc. If you can’t win an engagement or do some eco/production damage, retreat and regroup or find a more appropriate target of opportunity. Have scouts handy or radar coverage to get maximum benefits from the long range weapons mounted on most ships. Expect heavy usage of static defenses by the defending player, bring appropriate counters or sufficient numbers to break through if you can’t find an undefended flank.

When defending, you’re likely to be relying a lot more on static defense than usual. Since you need to mobilize your fleet ASAP that means they won’t be at home if your opponent finds a way in. If you scout them early you’ll have plenty of time to setup Torpedo Launchers and produce a counter to the enemy fleet.

Don’t neglect land: islands are a great place to hide your air factories and power. Don’t use vehicle factories unless there’s a large landmass with enough eco to pay for itself. All those tanks will be useless once you control the landmass. Just like a lake on a land map, an island in a water map should be taken with the least resources possible. Consider using bots instead of vehicles so you can switch to Dox after you cleared the land. If you do use vehicles and there are multiple land masses, don’t forget to use Teleporters and Pelicans to extend their usefulness. Keep an eye out for trees: combat fabbers can cross water to go reclaim them from islands, and water planets can be much more demanding on metal if you intend to dominate multiple battle spaces since you cannot redeploy fleets with ease.

Unit Mixes

First, let’s have a look at the unit roster:

Piranha

Sometimes known as the sea Dox, this is the only naval unit with significant speed. It also does a fair bit of damage considering it’s such a cheap and fast unit. These guys are your raiders and are useful throughout the game to keep harassing the enemy eco. Just like their land counterpart, they’ll need air support to reach maximum effectiveness.


Narwhal

The most versatile of the naval units, these cruisers are armed with a torpedo launcher, an AA missile launcher and a surface-to-surface cannon. Being a jack-of-all-trades, it’s not that great – especially considering the metal cost – but make surprisingly effective escorts for more powerful ships such as Orcas. A must have in any naval strike force, it can also fill the raiding requirements of your strategy to some extent thanks to the combat autonomy provided by it’s varied weapons.


Orca

The ship killer and land bombardment destroyer. Sports four surface to surface cannons arranged in pairs mounted on turrets. It packs a much bigger punch than the Narwhals and has some serious range on it’s guns but is extremely vulnerable due to its lack of AA and anti-sub weapons. You’ll want them escorted by Narwhals and/or Barracudas depending on the situation, and maybe some scouts too since its guns can shoot further than it can see.


Barracuda

A small submarine. It’s cheap and efficient and can’t be targeted by anything but torpedoes and air units. It’s the best unit for sea denial, but is unable to fire on (or through) land or at air units, limiting it’s usefulness without air support. Be aware of the water’s depth when using Barracudas, sometimes the torpedoes can arc too close to land and fail to hit their targets.


Leviathan


Eight extreme range artillery guns strapped on a capital ship. With an appropriate escort, this ship can win games on its own. It is however very vulnerable to air and Barracudas, hence the escort requirement. Since they far outrange their own sight radius, you’ll want to use them with scouts or with radar coverage. Ideally, have an advanced fabber follow the Leviathan when deploying so it can put up an advanced radar in range of the enemy base.


Kraken

The only unit in the game with stealth abilities, this submarine can sneak right up to an enemy base and unleash a hellstorm of surface missiles on it. If your enemy can’t get eyes on it you can wreck their base with total impunity. However, once spotted it will be rapidly be destroyed since it’s a very fragile unit. It has a single torpedo launcher to defend against submarines, making the Barracuda the best unit to counter them short of a bomber force.


Stingray

This capital ship has a ridiculous number of air and surface capable missile launchers mounted on it, making it a great AA option to escort your fleets. They have a much shorter range than Leviathans but also a higher DPS. If it gets in range the Leviathan will sink in seconds in a 1v1 engagement.

Reading through these you should come to the same conclusion as for land units: unit mixes are the more powerful solution. A force of Narwhals will be torn to pieces by a handful of Orcas, the Orcas will be sunk by Barracudas without firing a shot, the Piranha will dodge enemy fire and run away from major threats and the Barracuda lacks the range and survivability required to operate alone in enemy territory.

As usual, scouting will determine the exact composition of your fleets. If your opponent is heavy on Narwhals, you’ll want more Orcas in your mix for instance. If for some reason you can’t get an eye on your enemy’s unit composition, it’s usually a safe bet to build lots of Narwhals, a few Orcas and a handful of subs until you make contact. If you have air superiority start replacing Narwhals in your queues with more Orcas and Barracudas since your air force can protect your fleets from enemy bombers.

Teching Up Naval

Naval combat happens at a much slower pace, this makes early pushes to T2 a much more valid strategy than it usually is in ground games, not to mention the massive superiority of T2 naval. Even if you start it with just a pair of fabbers and your enemy sees it, they likely won’t be able to deploy a fleet in time to stop it. It will however prompt them to start work on their own T2, so you should put some effort into counter-intelligence. Whether it’s accomplished by wide air patrols, static defenses or patrolling Narwhals, you need to maintain secrecy until you get the first capital ship out and in firing range of the enemy’s base.

Those capital ships are extremely expensive, make sure they have a proper escort. They can all be countered by Barracudas, so if you find yourself under assault from T2 ships consider switching some of your production to subs.

Planetary Annihilation Naval Warfare by bobchaos

Air Supremacy

Conquering the skies is even more critical on water planets than anywhere else. This is due to the very slow response time of naval units. Having a good air force is the only way to respond rapidly to enemy threats. They can also destroy entire fleets if they don’t have proper Narwhal escort, or if your own fleet can focus fire the escort first. Bombers can make short work of submarine hunting packs, lone capital ships, remote expansions, etc. If you already own the skies, considering making your first T2 factory an Advanced Air Factory. Kestrels and Hornets can sustain a fair bit of damage from Narwhal AA fire before going down and are fast enough and have a long enough range to perform hit and run attacks. Stingrays are your only real worry.

Air fabbers really shine on water planets. If you can maintain air superiority it’s the only way to expand at rates that compare to ground games. Do use naval fabbers, but you should certainly have a few more air fabbers than usual until it becomes clear you’re losing the air space.

Orbital Supremacy

Since only the Stingray has anti-orbital capabilities and naval fabbers are slow, Anchors and SXX lasers can be used to great effect. As usual you don’t want to rush it, otherwise you’ll soon have to hide your Commander in orbit because you were kicked off the surface. If you do manage to get those up you’ll be able to use them to deny entire areas with Anchors and destroy fleets in complete safety with SXX laser platforms. Ships are simply too slow to push through an Anchor’s firing radius and they can’t outrun an SSX either. If the game progresses past 15 minutes, you’d do well to get an orbital radar online to monitor such shenanigans. If you scout an Orbital Launcher, get your own ready ASAP so you can send Avengers to counter.

Bots And Naval

If you can find a tiny piece of land to host a bot factory, do so; just the one will usually do. From that factory you’ll be able to produce Dox and combat fabbers, both amphibious units. The Dox can be used for island raiding, and even if there are no islands to raid they can be used as torpedo fodder. It’s a cheap and effective way to protect your fleet from torpedoes while they get some free hits.

The combat fabbers can lay underwater mines but they are completely useless as at the time of writing. Even units walking on the ocean floor will not trigger them. They are however excellent combat support since ships are expensive and have excellent armor, meaning you’d benefit greatly from keeping them alive and at full health. Just have a combat fabber walk under your fleet to keep them in good shape, and pull him back when you see Barracudas or Narwhals approaching. By extending the life of your ships, you can have a presence in more locations and achieve map control faster. Since there are overall fewer units produced for the same metal cost as land units, every ship counts.

Static Defense and Naval

Static defenses can play a much bigger role than usual on water map. As you probably guessed it’s because everything is slow, giving you more time to setup before a counter can be mobilized. You can expect less raiding but more powerful strike forces, so you’d do well to focus your defenses accordingly. You should prioritize making the space between your base and the enemy’s a no man’s land through liberal use of Torpedo Launchers and AA Missile Launchers. If you can take out a single enemy fleet with Torpedo Launchers you’ll have an immediate advantage on mobile unit count. If you press it, you can claim an early victory.

While you should focus defenses more, it doesn’t mean you should neglect anti-raider defenses entirely. A single Torpedo Launcher with an AA turret and a radar will prevent most raids, just choose your placement carefully.

As always, resist the urge to go full turtle, if you’re not out there then you’re not getting metal or denying it to your enemy and will lose in the long run.

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Got eco and production nailed down? Been winning more games than losing? Still feeling that something is missing? This guide offers you insight into that missing something: an understanding of the greater mechanics at work on such large scale battlefields, information that transcends the current meta.

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