Commands used in this guide
Aircraft have significant tactical value, being invulnerable to most land-based units.
Used correctly, aircraft can decide a game before it comes to t2. Early uses of aircraft rely on surprise, so must be orchestrated carefully. Give the game away, and your metal may go to waste.
Aircraft are expensive!
Aim for at least a 500 energy/second income before building air. Reclaim your primary t1 lab also.
The following guide will cover common uses uses of air in a pre-t2 game. Other strategies are seen, but are risky and situational, and would rather be covered in the "Beyond" series of guides.
One thing before we get there: Avoid flying over anti-air at all costs. Aircraft are extremely fragile and flying over even a few light turrets can make your assault completely ineffective. So I repeat, because many players mess this up:
Avoid flying over anti-air at all costs.
Scouting is crucial for all air attacks and utterly essential when using bombers. Tech 1 aircraft labs offer a fast and cheap scout aircraft with a large line of sight; two scouts is usually enough to scout across an enemy with no anti-air, costing a total of 100 metal. The writer of this article usually sends 5, as they can cover the same area in less time.
What to look for: Anti-air turrets (avoid!) and grouped valuable targets.
Air assaults are expensive, so avoid choosing isolated targets. Use your scouts to ensure you're assaulting the right place.
Caution: scouting alerts the enemy of your impending air assault, giving them time to prepare. Scouts should arrive only as far ahead as they have to! Depending on the speed and the distance, you may have to send your air assault before the scouts – but not too far before! (This technique will take some time to refine.)
Note that air scouts can be a convenient (but expensive) alternative to land scouts when seeking a target for a land assaults.
Bombers are the lowest-risk assault aircraft. Bombers have a large area of effect and are most effective when targeting grouped buildings. Bombers drop their bombs before they reach their target and have little line of sight of their own, so must be a suitable distance behind the scouts that are locating the target. Bombers do not select their own targets so must be supervised so that new targets may be selected manually.
The required number of bombers depends on your target; 1 bomber can destroy an entire group of tightly-packed wind generators:
- 2 destroys solar collectors
- 5 destroys advanced solar collectors
- 15-20 destroys a tech level 2 lab.
For larger attacks with multiple targets, split bombers into control groups (sized depending on how many will destroy your intended targets) before you launch your attack. This makes selecting further targets for your bombers infinitely easier.
Bombers take time to turn and re-engage, so you should generally assume you'll only have one shot at your target. Priority targets include grouped or expensive structures, particularly wind generators, advanced solars, nano turrets, and tech level 2 labs.
Bombers are most often built just before or at the transition from tech level 1 to tech level 2, and can single-handedly devastate an opponent's economy.
Note: RED bombers are more effective than BLUE bombers for the same cost, requiring fewer to destroy more heavily armored targets such as tech level 2 labs.
Banshees are more maneuverable than bombers, yet more vulnerable. A few banshees (6 for e.g.) may bypass the front to target undefended valuables, such as metal extractors. A larger group of banshees (e.g. 15) can penetrate a light anti-air defense and seriously damage an opponent's primary base.
When assaulting a location with anti-air, destroy the anti-air first. Your next priority is always their constructors, which they may use to build anti-air. Only after that is it safe to continue assulting other targets, such as economy.
Due to bashees' maneuverability, they require less precision than bombers. You only need to locate the general area of your target before engaging.
Banshee counts per target are similar to bombers, although it is usually better to keep banshees grouped than spread out. Grouped banshees are better at responding to anti-air.
Bladewings on the Front
Bladewings are a fast and cheap paralyser drone. A single drone (~50 metal) may keep a t1 unit paralysed indefinitely.
Drones are extremely vulnerable to anti-air, which must be avoided as much as possible.
Drones are further vulnerable to laser turrets, which should be assaulted with care.
Paralyser drones are useless on their own; they are intended to support an army. Their effectiveness scales with the size of the supporting army and the target they are assaulting. The writer of this article suggests a 1:1 ratio between assaulted units and bladewings. Take care if your opponent brings in anti-air support, and withdraw your bladewings as late as possible – before the anti-air arrives. Every missile from an anti-air unit or tower will destroy a bladewing.