Advanced Tactics

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This is a guide written for players new to the game. Nothing is assumed, it's not even assumed that you've downloaded the game. So consider this a tutorial for first-time players. Players with some experience may benefit from it, but players with a lot of experience will likely not benefit at all. You should have already read the Object of the Game and be familiar somewhat with the concept of a light cycle, walls, and so forth.

The Jargon

To understand what other players are talking about, and to understand the rest of this tutorial, some definitions are in order.

Grinding;Grinding is what happens when you rub your cycle against a wall. If you are running parallel to a wall and you are very close to it, you will be grinding. A sound effect and sparks will normally accompany a grind.
Doublebind;Doublebinding is what is referred to when more than one key is bound to the same action. A detailed discussion will not be provided here.
Rubber;Rubber is a mechanism that helps to account for lag. An understanding of rubber is only of arguable use, a detailed discussion is available on the Rubber page.

TODO: More jargon

Introduction to Movement

Armagetron Advanced works on the unique concept that a cycle can only accelerate by riding on another player's wall. The close you are to a player's wall, the faster your cycle will accelerate. Brakes are provided, but they are disabled on many servers. Your cycle turns in right angles, typically, and leaves a long wall behind it wherever it goes. With this in mind, let's talk about movement.

By default, movement keys are z and x, where z turns left and x turns right. v is your brake control. This stuff is fairly self-explanatory, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Turning slows your cycle down. This is a useful fact on servers that disable braking because you can use a series of rapid turns to slow your cycle down if needed. As already mentioned, you make your cycle go faster by getting close to another player's wall, or your own wall. The closer you can grind the wall, the more speed you will gain.

Basic Tactical Discussion

The tactical options available are numerous and new tactics are being developed all the time. The fundamental goal is to cause other players to crash, gaining points for each player you can cause to crash. In this way, Armagetron Advanced is a passively aggressive game. There are no guns, no shields, no fists, nothing. There is no way to physically assault another player. All you can do is get the other player to crash into your wall, if you can do that.

One of the first ways players learn to cause other players to crash is probably the most direct way you can attack somebody. It's simple, grind enough walls in succession that when you approach another player, you can drive a square around the player, leaving him in a small box from which he can't escape. This is generally called a speed kill, for what are obvious reasons.

Many strategies are just variations on the box attack described above. Through a combination of trickery and smart moves you can convince many players to enter an area closed on 3 sides, and then quickly close the fourth side. The larger the box, the longer it will take for that player to ultimately crash. Even larger boxes will fail because many players are skilled at getting out of them. In order to close a player into a box, an important skill called "sealing" is required. Sealing is just a matter of grinding closely enough to the walls you're trying to seal that another player can't get out with a closer grind.

The speed kill and the box attack are fairly simple and easy to master. Unfortunately, you'll find that many players aren't susceptible to them. The speed kill has the advantage that it is possible on some servers to gain so much speed that no player, no matter how skilled, will be able to counter the attack. But the more skilled a player is, the higher your speed must be to succeed. It's the same with the box tactic. The more skilled a player is, the smaller the box that is required to ensure a point for you. The smaller the box, the closer you have to be to the other cycle, and the closer you are to the other cycle, the higher the likelihood that they will attack you successfully. Nevertheless, these two tactics are the two from which all other tactics are derived, and it's important that you work with them and learn the underlying tricks to use them successfully.

Advanced Tactics: Feinting

In combat terms and in sports, a feint is a fake attack. It is a movement of misdirection that, when executed well, causes the other player to commit themself to a defense. If you know what their defense will be, you can follow the feint with a real attack that attacks their weak point.

If that babbling doesn't make any sense, don't worry. Feinting is a critical skill and we'll spend some time with it.

Let's look at the speed kill described above. The normal way this is executed is by grinding the target's wall for a long time. As you approach the target cycle, you will turn out from his wall, then three times in the opposite direction, then one more time to bring you grinding against the other side of his wall. TODO: get a picture of this. A feint that builds on the speed kill might be to turn out and then make the first of the sequence of surrounding turns. At this point the other cycle is forced to make a defensive move of some sort and you know in advance that he will do that, because if he doesn't defend against your feinted attack, you will kill him. The normal defense against a speed attack is to turn in the direction of the attacker, interposing a wall. If done late enough, the attacker can be tricked into crashing into this wall. So knowing that the defender will make this defensive move, you can turn slightly earlier and then make your rapid second turn in the box. At this point, you know that the defender will attempt to defend against the box attack. Another turn away from the attacker is all it takes to finish the deed. TODO: get a picture of this too.

The best feints are feints where the defender must take the attack seriously not because he believes it to be an attack, but because he has no choice. This is comparable to a sword fight, where you feint towards the other fighter's heart. If he doesn't stop the thrust, you will kill him. But if he does, he may open up his side to an attack. A good feint will be followed through by an unpredictable attack, but making unpredictable attacks requires a certain amount of experience.

If the speed feint didn't make sense to you, consider this one, based loosely on a basketball move. In basketball, it's common for the person who has control of the ball to turn towards one teammate and start a passing move. This usually brings the defender around to try to prevent the pass. Many players will then pass the ball in the opposite direction to a different player. Consider the fake involved there. Now apply it to a light cycle. You are approaching more or less head on to another cycle. If you turn right or left, he'll follow you. If you go straight, he'll turn a wall into your path. What do you do?

You fake him. You turn left, then quickly turn right twice. This brings you in the opposite direction that he's expecting. Many players, upon seeing the left turn, will also turn left, intending to pass you and grind your wall, knowing they'll come around to an attack on you at the other end. Some players will turn to grind on your new wall and try to chase you. These players will be killed by your two quick right turns when they find themself in a dead-end. The other players, the ones intending to grind your wall and come around to fight, will be going the same direction as you. Two more well-timed left turns will bring you against his wall and leave him in a very small box.

The Battle of the Grinds

There are two excellent tactics associated with grinding. Very often you will find yourself traveling parallel to an enemy cycle at a distance where neither of you can mount a successful attack. Neither of you can advance, either, and if you turn around, you will be pursued, possibly at the pursuer's advantage. So you both drive straight, waiting for the other to make a move. Eventually you will come upon a wall and you will have to turn. What do you do?

The first thing that comes to mind is to tap the wall and turn away from the enemy cycle. This is a good move for new players because they will usually not be pursued, and the stalemate is very hard to break. Unfortunately, many players will grind closer to the wall and turn towards you. This means they will pursue you through that little space, shooting out between your cycle and the wall you're grinding and coming out at a considerable advantage to you. In this case, turning away is a bad move if you don't know what to do about it. While there are definitely counter-moves to deal with the player who turns towards you and attacks, there are other ways to deal with this.

One way is to turn in towards the other player. This doesn't make sense if you can't possibly grind closer to the wall than he can, does it? Well, it does. The trick is to turn again and get on his wall and grind away. While you usually won't kill the other player, the stalemate will be broken because when the two of you reach the ends of your walls, you will be going faster than he, and that speed conveys a considerable advantage.

Turning towards the other player also shows him that you're not scared to fight him. While it may not yield a kill right away, that player and any who are watching will remember that you did that. The next time they come against you, they will be inclined to try to grind as close to the wall as possible, and that is their mistake. It is more common to lose the Battle of the Grinds by overextending your grind and dying against the wall than it is to lose it by not grinding close enough.