Without doubt, most players tend to find team battles the most entertaining function of Red Alert 2. It is little surprise that some of the most entertaining games to date are team-based (Counter-Strike being the prime example). Playing with other players is something that helps form friendships - sharing victory, or defeat, is something that teams and groups have done for countless centuries. This piece seeks to provide advice on how best to work as a team within Red Alert 2, addressing the situation of a 2v2 game. Some of the concepts discussed can be applied to other games in the series, such as Generals, though specific strategies may not be relevant.
Firstly, the key to a good partnership is knowing the other player beforehand. This isn't possible all the time obviously, but certainly in the case of a clan, you should make sure that you spend a lot of time playing (and talking) with your team-mates. I've being playing Red Alert 2 for several years now, and some things never change. A well co-ordinated pair can easily beat two greater players, if they lack the same sort of fluency. There are many aspects to achieving co-ordination, as I will discuss.
I cannot stress enough the importance of communication. If you do not talk to one another during a game, there is no way you will defeat two opponents of a skill level anywhere near yourself. The most obvious method of communication is simply to use the messaging feature in the game. Hit backspace and type. This way only your ally will see your message. Whilst this may all be obvious to the seasoned veterans amongst you, what you say in your messages and how often is worth thinking about. You should talk to each other constantly - but obviously not to the level where it becomes detrimental to your game play. Keep your team-mate informed of what your main strategy is in, in terms of what you are producing and for what end. For example, if you plan to build a naval yard and pop out a dreadnought or aircraft carrier, tell your team-mate. You may wish to ask them for a bit of ground support while your spending those extra credits, or you may want them to provide you with some subs or dolphins to back your unit up.
Communication becomes even more important in battle scenarios. When it becomes obvious that you are about to become involved in a battle of significant size, quickly discuss who should do what and when. Doing so can be vital in winning the battle, and thus the game. It's also important that you are abbreviation savvy (our Glossary is a useful reference in this respect) - your team-mate does not want to waste precious seconds reiterating something that you should already be aware of.
This seemingly obvious aspect of team play is often overlooked. On the majority of maps, there may well be a collection of tech buildings that need to be captured. It is extremely important that you talk with one another and decide who is going to capture what - otherwise you run the risk of building unneeded engineers and taking over a building that may have proved more useful for your team-mate (e.g. an airport would usually be considered more suitable for an allied player, whilst soviet players need to capture derricks near ore fields so they can build refineries off them, saving the war miners long trips).
This aspect of the game may also be extended to providing structures for your ally. For example, if you are an allied player with a lot of spare cash (though any good player should never have a 'lot of spare cash'!), why not build a gap generator to cover your Soviet allies base? Doing so will help him fend off any naval attacks and plan other strategies with you more effectively. Another useful little trick, as often used by my good friend Paul, when playing as Allies with a Soviet team-mate, is to send an Engineer-IFV to watch your friends tanks and war miners (thus solving any droning problems and helping to repair those rhino tanks).
The beacon. Your friend.
This feature is absolutely vital to a well co-ordinated team-game. You must be aware of how to place a beacon, and how to do so quickly. Remember, if you see a unit that could threaten your ally, you must inform him. This applies even if it goes out of sight. Simply stick the beacon where you last saw the unit, and quickly inform him that you saw a dreadnought or whatever unit it was. You can type messages onto the beacons themselves, but this is time consuming. It is more effective to type a separate message, this way you will save time if you initiate a co-ordinated response. In long games, you will often find that beacons are left scattered all over the map as you frantically rush from battle to battle. When you do encounter a brief respite, be sure to delete them (look for them flashing on your radar). This is important as you will quite often run-out of beacons, and end up panicking, attempting to tell your ally where you saw that engineer rush etc.
This is a tricky topic. Whilst it is vital you maintain excellent co-ordination with your team-mate and try to do everything together, sometimes you simply will not have time to communicate what you are going to do if you see an opportunity arise. There is no way round this. You must balance the benefits of pursuing the opportunity with the possible consequences, reach an immediate decision and act on it. For example, in a recent game I was holding the middle of South Pacific with my team-mate fath0m. Our opponents were Paul and Chaotixs, who were both holding off the entrance to their respective bases (on the left-hand side of the map). For some unbeknown reason, I saw Paul move all his infantry over to Chaotixs' base. I knew I had more tanks than him, so quickly exploited his mistake and conducted a drive-by attack of his tanks and base, quickly sending my tanks to higher ground - eventually wiping out his army and base. I didn't have time to tell my ally that I was going to do this. I had to act there and then, before either of my opponents guessed what I was going to do. I built a few sentry guns to dump down in the middle to help my ally hold it (in the event of any retaliation from Chaotixs) whilst all this was going in. This little example shows how I was thinking about my team-mates situation, whilst also conducting my own attack.
The best way to win a 2 v 2 is to take out one opponent first, then the other. You can attack both individually if you wish, but devising a strategy to defeat one is often the quickest way to triumph. Why not try a joint rocketeer rush if both of you are playing as Allies? If the map is large, the opponent's team-mate will struggle to send help in time. If you know that one of your opponents is stronger than the other, try to defeat the weaker one first. It will prove a lot easier than attacking a more skilful player. Once you have defeated his team-mate, you can concentrate all your time and effort on disposing of him.
As this piece has shown, there is quite some depth to team-battles. Celebrating victory together is a great feeling. Learning how to play off someone's strengths and weaknesses is very important, often deciding who will be the victor. The better you know your team-mate, the better you will be able to devise solid strategies. There is a lot of scope to team-play, such as combining different units and structures, which is one of the reasons why it remains so much fun. Certain maps are better than other for such battles (South Pacific, Country Swing and Heartland being some of the most popular, given their respective choke-points). It's quite a challenge to adapt from being a purely individual player, to someone who must make sacrifices and keep their eye out for their opponent as well as themselves. But that challenge is most certainly one worth meeting.