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» Jim versus Rob


Saturday, January 15, 2005 - a day that will live in infamy. Or not.

I've got to give you a little background for the report. Rob never fails to mention how good he is at Red Alert 2. There's no subtlety about, it just seems to slip into conversation: "when I played in the top 100", "that would never work against a good player", "I think the standard of play on WOL is too low for me". What's even more sickening is that Rob is indeed an extremely talented player, and used to flutter around the higher end of the official ladder.

Little Big Lake The principle reason I hadn't played Rob at Red Alert 2, despite having been writing at CNC Series for almost four years, is that I learned everything I know about online play from his own Ultimate Strategy Guide. Playing him wouldn't be a matter of whether or not I could win the game, but how long could I survive and how embarrassing the certain defeat would be. There were a couple of additional reasons why we hadn't played; Rob managed to come up with a stream of improbable excuses: "Sorry, I'm Washing my Hair / Watching the football / Cutting the grass". But one Saturday night in bleakest January, just after dinner, but just before Ross Kemp's "Ultimate Force", Jim and Rob met in David and Goliath-esque battle.

Last minute excuses were exchanged, there was bickering over the map selection and my mouse wasn't feeling quite right. These hitches couldn't stop the ensuing battle. It was to be Jim (Iraq) versus Rob (Iraq) on Little Big Lake.

A frenzied scouting period opened the match. Rob, placed at the top of the map, successfully overcame my own dogs to reveal the left half of my base. I managed to get dogs up the right side of the lake, and round the other side allowing a full view of the battle. Due to a slight scheduling mixup, my own build order was about 30 seconds behind "meaning (thanks to the scouting) I saw Rob's war factory going up, and saw terror drones popping out. Having read Rob's strategy guide, I decided to forego building a tank, and popped a sentry gun at each end of my base, close to each of my refineries. It was obvious both of us were going to try and rush, and at this stage Rob already had a second war factory, and was outproducing me to farcical levels.

The ineptitude of my own defeat was all I was worrying about at this stage "I hoped that somehow I could hold off the mass of tanks that was preparing to attack me, and maybe stretch the game to 15 or maybe 20 minutes. By that time surely Rob would be forced to quit to watch Ultimate Force. After all, nobody can resist ITV's excellent combination of tits, guns, military inaccuracy and bad guys getting their heads taken off with the single chop of a machete.

The tit-for-tat attacks with terror drones were on the whole pretty unsuccessful, but they ensured the pressure remained on during apparently subdued moments. Rob's tank production gave him a clear advantage at this stage, but his economy wasn't quite up to scratch. Terror drones continued to scuttle across the map, but I was still struggling to produce enough tanks. By this stage Rob was focusing on the finer points of his rush; dogs and tesla troopers began to stream from his barracks. The tension was rising, and taunts were flying around.

It was Rob who made the first move. Using a terror drone attack to the right of my base as a diversion, he managed to move his tank force of nine or so rhinos up the hill on the left side of the lake. Having been distracted, I was now penned in completely. I halted tank production altogether (having built only 6), and concentrated on pumping out terror drones and conscripts. It this stage it was clear that I was fenced in. As I waited and waited, more tanks were streaming out of Rob's factories and joining the force preparing to strike.

The game being as good as over, I decided to take a risk. Rob's units were streaming down the left hand side of the lake " dogs, conscripts, flak tracks, desolators: All preparing to finish me off. I knew that Rob's scouting had been poor, and decided to gamble my tanks to exploit this. I popped up a few sentry guns and lined up my terror drones to deter Rob's forces, and began to move my tanks around the right side of the lake to assault his base.


Screenshot
Jim's victorious forces.
Rob was outproducing me, and by this time his economy was well ahead as well. By the time my tanks had started attacking his factories, he sent his force into action. It would be a race to see whose base would survive. I clicked the conscript build number until it would go no higher, and frantically built as many sentry guns as possible. When money became available I'd pop out a Rhino. Structures began to fall, but crucially I managed to take out a war factory at the other end of the map. My terror drones were reducing the large number of tanks, and my conscripts and sentries were drawing fire away from the buildings. Yet it didn't seem like it would be enough. Structure after structure fell; but Rob's base was crumbling as well. He began to send terror drones up, and built up some tesla troopers to fight the tanks.

It seemed like it would be tit-for-tat all the way, but somehow the sheer numbers of conscripts managed to dent the rush sufficiently for Rob to panic (ever so slightly) and withdraw. His structures continued to fall. The tanks that had spent so long perched above my base, waiting to strike, found themselves flung into a last gasp attempt to save Rob's base. It wasn't enough. All of the tactics written about in the Ultimate Strategy Guide seemed to go out of the window in this dire situation. The tank force that seemed to tilt the game in Rob's favour so early on were defeated as they approached my own veteran tanks one at a time. It was game over. Rob had been defeated.

In fairness, Rob did absolutely hump me in the two matches we played later that night, (After Ultimate Force, naturally) but we'll gloss over that for the minute. My strategic genius combined with Rob's unusual tactical incompetence combined to give me an historic victory. It also showed how despite its age, Red Alert 2 is still an outstanding example of real time strategy. In classic Command and Conquer fashion, a handful of units can turn the tide of (almost) any battle. It also highlighted just how poor Generals is as an online title.

I'm never going to let Rob forget the day I beat him. You shouldn't let him either.

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