Ryan Thomas is a university student with an extensive interest in history that heavily influences his gaming preferences.
I have grown to really despise Supremacy 1914, in a curious blend of hatred married to addiction with nothing but contempt for the subject. Supremacy 1914, as I covered in a previous review, has some glaring weaknesses that make it super frustrating to play. At the same time, its in-depth nature and huge scope make it rather addicting. I've been playing this game on and off for a while, and I think of myself as a pretty good player, though far from perfect—I have a grasp of where my problems are with the game. It is from this observation that I have the confidence to write a review about some of the crucial things I have learned about waging war in Supremacy 1914.
This assumes that one knows a bit about the game already, and if not, there are some very basic introductory guides that serve as a good introduction. This entire guide assumes that one is playing the game relatively vanilla, with only a small amount of gold that can be used and without membership in high command. If one has both of these, then the game becomes substantially less time-intensive, and some of the tips, such as artillery management, become less vital.
Capturing Enemy Provinces Quickly: Forced Marches and Manual Targeting
Supremacy 1914 is a very slow game. Anything that can accelerate the speed of one's advance in enemy territory is a huge benefit, or otherwise, advances can take painfully long to happen. In the absence of enemy opposition, one of the most useful tactics that can be carried out is that of forced marches, either by infantry or armored cars. This makes their speed 50% faster. Doing this with an entire army would lead to the morale quickly declining, However, doing it with singular troops means this morale impact is far smaller, and once enemy territory is taken, then troops proceed at friendly territory speed, making the advance far faster. Of course, if the enemy has even a light screen of troops, this makes the advance far slower, but air support and the range advantage of artillery can reduce these garrisons and help keep up the speed of the advance.
The other way to accelerate attack speed is by ordering units to attack enemy cities, either by drawing the attack order on them again or by clicking and unclicking forced march. When infantry units are within 15 minutes in forced march speed, or 22 minutes of non-forced marched speed, of an enemy city, they will instantly capture it and be stationed in it—improving the speed, and perhaps enabling cities to be captured before enemies can take them. For faster units, they need to have reduced travel time to capture the city. The same applies to attacking enemy forces.
Outflanking Through Neutrals: Exploiting Right of Passage
One exploit which can be used against inactive and AI nations is granting them right of passage or map-sharing. This will improve relations with them, and eventually, they will reciprocate. It is then possible to advance through their territory, enabling the enemy to be outflanked. As a clarification, if enemy troops are located in neutral cities, and both sides have a right of passage, it appears that fighting can occur and the enemy troops are both bombarded and attacked without these endangering relations with the neutral power. Of course, speed in neutral territory is only 70% of that of friendly territory, but this tactic is still useful. Furthermore, this raises morale in bordering cities through good relations with their neighbor.
Perhaps the most important thing about Supremacy 1914 and its armies is that army attack power does not increase in a linear fashion. It is capped at around 50 per category, and above this figure attack figures remain the same—thus an army of 50 infantry has the same attack as 500. Furthermore even below the figure of 50, adding additional troops does increasingly little to increase attack strength, and adding troops provides a small and smaller effect as one reaches 50. Smaller but more numerous groups thus have a higher attack. However, there are certain times when this figure can and should be ignored. The addition of other categories of units—such as tanks— means this cap can be surpassed. Thus an army of hundreds of infantry and a complement of tanks is an extremely dangerous foe—it has the huge combined attack from the tanks and infantry, and the infantry soaks up damage by enemy forces. Furthermore, when infantry is being used as bullet shields, such as for artillery, the more troops the better. This 50 rule applies to artillery as well. Dividing armies into smaller units can thus make sense to try to win battles faster and increase attack values (concentrating units makes sense in contrast for buying time), although if armies are stationed together in a single place, they will merge. Thankfully they can be separated in combat.
High morale does a lot to positively effect your units' fighting capability. In one game, I was attacked be equal enemy forces, mine having much better morale than their units, and admittedly some beginning fortifications. The results were a horrific slaughter for them—something around 10,000 to their 50,000. My advice is to keep units in high morale provinces, or if this is not available, to have them on enemy territory—where they won't lose morale as fast, ironically, as one's own low morale provinces. This is a much better and less expensive way than using Goldmark to raise up their morale.
Supremacy 1914 is technically a WW1 game, and the most powerful and important branch of combat arms in WW1 was the artillery. Artillery was the great killer, destroying enemy fortifications, breaking up their attacks, pulverizing and destroying men, and in this game, it is just as important as it was a hundred years ago. Generally, in a battle between two sides, the one with more artillery will win, although there are plenty of exceptions to it. One can simply put, never have enough artillery.
There are two types of artillery in Supremacy 1914: artillery and railguns. The two are dramatically different and thus require different explanations.
- Artillery is the basic element of the army, being relatively cheap, the first industrial unit other than armored cars which can be built, and providing ranged attack. In general, one wants to build artillery as soon as one can and build as many as one can.
- Railguns are, by contrast, advanced, late-game units, requiring railroads to operate on, and possessing extremely long range. On the positive side, they serve as good defensive units, providing a dissuasive effect. On the negative side, they are easily immobilized, since if their railroad is destroyed, they cannot move, they are slow, are extremely vulnerable to air attack or decapitation. and their damage output is rather lethargic. In general, rail guns can have some utility but are a niche unit which needs to be used as part of a larger army and which I would, in general, advise against placing too much focus on.
Artillery tactics focus on maximizing the damage done to the enemy and minimizing the damage done to oneself. Beyond having as much artillery as possible, and not grouping it into units larger than 50—and even this is too large, and sizes such as 30 or less tend to be better—artillery, when there are enemy artillery, air, and other ranged units present, should be protected by—and here, when infantry only exists to cushion their damage, as much as can be feasibly added. A common exploit which exists is to move artillery stacks into just out of range of the enemy, and then order a manual attack which for some reason enables them to outrange the enemy and do damage for nothing. Another tactic is to take the artillery stack and separate it from all but 1 infantry, which will then serve as enemy artillery's target—this being expanded on at greater length in the section on aircraft. Unfortunately, since artillery attacks instantly without the flight time, this isn't as much use against artillery as against aircraft. Both, in any case, require substantial micromanagement.
There are three armored units in Supremacy 1914: tanks, heavy tanks, and armored cars.
- Tanks are a step up, and have high HP and attack, and are somewhat faster than infantry while being slower than armored cars. They also have faster production times than heavy tanks. However, they are somewhat of an uncomfortable medium, unable to carry out the ultra-fast blitz of armored cars and lacking the same firepower and armor of heavy tanks.
- Heavy tanks used to cost blueprints, but now that this has been removed, they are the best tank units to use, with high attack and very high HP. Generally a solid core of heavy tanks, supported by a number of tanks, and a large body of infantry to soak up enemy attacks, makes for the most powerful offensive body in the game.
- Armored cars are the cheapest, weakest, and fastest armored unit, being slightly stronger than infantry. In the early game, they may make for a somewhat viable combatant, especially since they are unique among industrial units in being produced not from factories, but from the workshop. Their great advantage is however, that they are extremely fast—at 72 kilometers per hour on a road, plus force march, they can cover extraordinary distances very quickly. Generally having a few on the front helps to quickly exploit breakthroughs. In early games they are also useful for their heightened defensive values in cities, making them excellent defensive units.
Thus by the late game, having tanks in your army is a highly important thing, as it can enable dramatically improved close combat potential.
Air combat provides incredible flexibility, with units capable of quickly following up
- Fighters are capable of offensive, defensive, and reconnaissance missions, and have the advantage of high speed. They can be used to carry out patrols which engage enemy units which attack their patrol areas—although enemy forces passing through the patrol regions are not attacked. These patrols also provide reconnaissance and in addition detect submarines. In general, I have a preference for fighters given that they can also attack ground units surprisingly well—a unit of say, 10 fighters, will only sustain marginal casualties to enemy ground units, while inflicting severe casualties on them, and being effective against air units as well. Of course, bombers are even more devastating in such regards.
- Bombers are capable of much more damage per attack than fighters, and have greater range. However, they are also slower, more expensive, require more industrial preparation, and lose fights to fighters.
A particularly useful object for aircraft is to serve to assassinate key enemy units, such as artillery stacks, railguns, battleships, etc. While these can be guarded by infantry, sufficiently large stacks of aircraft will not take much damage to this, and furthermore, this naturally requires a diversion of enemy strength. Furthermore they can take out isolated enemy garrisons to enable ground units to keep pushing forward at high speed. Or launch air raids on enemy cities. Regardless of which one is being used, they are dangerous units which can wreak fearsome havoc on enemy troops and should not be neglected: a powerful fighter force at the very least is an absolute necessity for self-defense.
Of course, air combat requires air bases, and these airbases need to be constructed. One potential reasonable use for Goldmark is rushing air bases to enable their construction. Aircraft can rebase from aerodrome to aerodrome, but when traveling overland are slow and vulnerable to enemy attack.
Defending against aerial units is a tricky prospect since the zone requiring defense is so dramatically expanded. With cannons, one only needs to defend the front line, and railguns, with their limited strategic mobility and their shorter range than fighters, while a potent defensive platform, have much less offensive values. There are three fundamental ways to minimize the potency of an enemy air attack.
- Mass. By far the simplest, grouping together large numbers of your units provides for sopping up the damage of enemy air units against your forces, by meaning much of the attack is pushed out onto inexpensive and numerous infantry instead of onto valuable and few artillery, ships, railguns, or other military material. Furthermore, large groupings of forces can shoot down some enemy forces, since ground units have an anti-air value. However, be aware that the tendency of unit firepower to become inefficient at large values penalizes ground units as the scale of air vs ground operations increases. A plane attacking 15 infantry will face proportionally far more ground fire than 10 planes attacking 150 infantry, as the latter have individually lower firepower. This makes defense against massed air attack difficult. While this tactic may be useful in the early game, by the late game it becomes increasingly ineffective.
- Displacement. It is a process which requires much time and micromanagement. However, it is fully possible for an army under attack under enemy air units to be split into 2—one containing the presumed target of enemy attacks, and the other a small force which serves as the target for the enemy: As an example, there are some pictures below, where I would have created a new unit shifting the entire army save 1 unit, which is the original formation. Enemy aircraft will continue to attack this single soldier, instead of the "new" formation. If this soldier is still placed in the same location as the attacked army, the attacked army too will sustain damage, but one can quickly move him away. Against artillery, this can sometimes result in artillery missing if the enemy player isn't aware: against aircraft, who take a long time to arrive at their target, this tactic can effectively minimize losses to almost nothing. Its downside, however, is that the enemy can simply attack one's cities if one is quartered in them, requiring one to move out of them to prevent this target area effect, and furthermore that it requires constant attention. One can not leave the game, but has to check back on it constantly to determine what is happening with the armies. Eventually one has to sleep, work, study, eat, etc. and one can no longer do this degree of micromanagement. Nevertheless, it is still a highly useful way to minimize enemy airpower.
- Ultimately the most effective way to shoot down enemy aircraft are fighters. By stationing fighters on patrol at locations that might come under attack, one can prevent enemy air units from ruling the skies. Furthermore, aircraft on patrol offer reconnaissance and anti-submarine bonuses, spotting enemy submarines. Building up an effective fighter force is extremely important if one's enemy has a potent air force of their own.
Naval warfare revolves around four units: submarines, light cruisers, battleships, and infantry. Submarines are invisible and can be used to ambush enemies, enabling them to be immobilized, and as scouts. However, they can be discovered by spies, Goldmark reveal, and aviation patrols, which poses a serious risk to them. They are deadly to light cruisers. Light cruisers can function very well in the early game, being used to cause AI garrisons to attack them and to chase them around the seasons, and then disappear when the AI nation collapses. Furthermore, they are extremely fast on the seas, and relatively cheap. Large packs of them should not be underestimated, and they can even be used as aggressive melee units against battleships, and to bolster AA defense of battleships. Battleships, however, are the general jewel of naval combat, with very powerful artillery with a range of 75, enabling them to outrange artillery, and if they get into range of a railgun can win a 1v1 fight with them. A powerful force of battleships is not to be underestimated. In any case, massive forces of infantry given to these units can enable them to soak up enemy damage, if at the expense of their speed.
For the defense of the coasts, I would suggest this is one of the few areas where railguns can have some use, to counter enemy battleships. However, they need massive infantry protection to defend themselves against enemy battleships, since battleships, one on one, will win a duel with a railgun. Bombers and fighters should exist to provide naval striking power against enemy battleships and cruisers, and close combat forces to then strike any enemy landing, supported by artillery held somewhat in the interior, where it isn't vulnerable to immediate attack.
Fundamentally amphibious defense gives the great advantage to the defender, those infantry units landing attack at a 1–3 disadvantage against ground units. This means that well-prepared counter-attacks can inflict grievous damage on the attacking enemy. The only way for an attacker to overcome this is with massive superiority in firepower.
Making Goldmark Count
Goldmark is a dishonorable and cheating way to play Supremacy 1914 in my opinion, one whose removal would benefit the game a lot. But doubtless, it does much to help the finances of Bytro Lab. The thing about Goldmark is that it becomes more efficient, the more you spend. Consider building up the factories and railroads required to build railguns, presuming you have all of the resources needed. Starting from 2 workshops (a generally reasonable assumption to make), 4 factories requires 16 850 gold installments. A railroad then requires 6 850 gold installments. The result is 18,700 gold spent just to build up the province. The railgun itself then costs 5100 gold to build. In general, there is a clear scaling effect in Supremacy 1914 - the more gold one spends, the larger its effects. Useful small expenditures for gold can be things like repairing railroads to enable rail-guns to pass through, raising morale in crucial provinces to prevent defections, revealing enemy armies, and rushing critical troops. Most of the rest is too expensive to justify it, unless if you intend to spend hundreds of dollars.
Choosing Targets to Attack
Choosing which nations to attack relies upon a few indices. An easy one is looking at their number of troops and casualties, the first requiring spies, range of vision, or Goldmark usage. The second is freely available in the world newspaper. In the beginning, if a nation has taken 80 troop losses, then one knows that their entire army is destroyed.
Another crucial feature is that nations can be checked to see the combat stats of the player playing it. This can easily show how good of a player they are. Be wary of players with very high kill ratios - they may be much more of a handful than their relatively small-sized nations would appear.
In addition to usage of Goldmark against enemies to reveal their forces, intelligence should be leveraged with the usage of spies to determine if enemy armies are present in border regions, to conduct sabotage missions against the enemy—thus forcing them to deploy defensive spies at least—and to defend one's own territory. I think that the mission of reconnaissance and detailing enemy troops is the most important, and here spies, for the non-gold-mark user, are very useful.
© 2019 Ryan Thomas