Scouting

The importance of scouting - Your first scout - Flying machines - Defensive scouting - Offensive scouting - Magical scouting

The importance of scouting

Newbies often neglect flying machines. The think, "what's the point of building a unit that cannot attack". Because newbies usually play defensively, they don't realize how important good scouting is. A good recon normally makes the difference between winning and losing. Particularly if your opponent is trying a special strategy and mainly relying on one unit type (e. g. sappers or dragons), knowing about your enemy's plans can complete annihilate it. You should also survey critical spots on the maps (points that armies must pass if the want to attack you) and mines.

I hate nasty surprises, especially in Warcraft. If your opponent has taken over most of the gold mines or oil wells, you'll be in trouble. However, if you see he's trying to take them, you can still react and launch a counterattack. Good scouting lets you build the mages, towers, archers and destroyers you need to face a mass dragon attack (i. e. 20+ bloodlusted and hasted dragons). You will also notice when your enemy gathers his troops for an attack. Most games are lost due to poor recon.

Your first scout

Your first scout on land maps should be a grunt, no matter what tactics you're trying out. On naval maps, it will automatically be an oil tanker. Don't scout with peasants because this will slow down the development of your town (unless you want to play very offensively).

Use your first grunt to find your opponent's base; if you are successful, launch an early attack if possible. If your opponent has had a bad start, you can already destroy him. If not, you will know where he will be likely to expand.

If you can't find his base early, try to find it with your next two grunts. Don't spread them too much, though, for you will want them to defend your town when you're under an attack. Always scout the environment of your town and the area where you will set your next buildings. It is so annoying if you can't build your next farm because you have to explore that area first. You will lose valuable time while exploring the land with your peasant.

With ships, the situation is quite similar. As soon as your first jugg is being trained (or your transport, depending on what you're trying - see also sea strategies), sail around with one of your oil tankers. If your opponent is behind you in the race of building a naval force, you can easily crush him. If not, you'll know what to do.

Flying machines

These are the real scouts. The have a very far sight and can explore the map quickly. However, you can't cover the whole map with scouts; you can't afford to build that many. The following table shows this:

Map size part of the map a flying machine can see
32 * 32 25 % = 1/4
64 * 64 6.25 % = 1/16
96 * 96 2.78 % = 1/36
128 * 128 1.56 % = 1/64

You should produce at least 5 flyers in a 128 * 128 map. The actual number you need depends highly on the map. I recommend building more than just one or two gnomish inventors or goblin alchemists; use one for flyers and the others for sappers. Since you should have multiple sappers together for an attack, you will not want to wait a long time for your next attack.

The table shows that even flyers don't see too much. That's why your flying machines should be moving around. Important spots should be permanently covered by a flyer. Always have a flyer with your naval force. Even though submarines are weak, that doesn't mean your opponent won't use any. And you should be aware of a naval attack before it reaches your fleet so you can set your ships in motion (otherwise, they will overshoot the enemy ships and be hit by them - which means you lose the battle). Take a look at my Sea combat section if you don't know how overshooting works.

Always keep in mind that you're flyers can easily be driven away be a single axethrower or tower, so check their position regularly. Take special care of your flyers over the sea, for they can be quickly taken down by a destroyer.

Defensive scouting

This means preventing surprise attacks and the inability to conquer new mines because they are already taken and defended by your enemy. To check the mines, use (preferably injured) grunts. You can easily afford to lose them and you will be warned if your opponent tries to capture a new mine.

Use flyers where a larger area needs to be overlooked. Narrow passages are a prime example. The sight range of your other units is too short and won't warn you early enough. Also keep flying over unexplored regions and over parts with fog over it. I think this should be obvious. Check the enemy territory for expansions that are not adequately defended and take these out.

Offensive scouting

You should always thoroughly check the area before you attack. Locate crucial defense works such as walled in towers or groups of knights packed together and take them out with ships, sappers or mages. Then launch your main attack. Sometimes you see a chance to attack his peon line, but don't be too hasty and attack before exploring the surrounding area. This takes only a few seconds and should not hurt your plans.

Magical scouting

There are three ways to use magic for scouting:

I hardly ever use Eye of Kilrogg because the Ogres' mana is too precious; you'll need it for bloodlust and runes. Use flyers instead.

Holy vision is a spell that reveals a large area for an instant. It is useful to check unexplored regions, but your opponent will see and hear the spell. Because you will probably have mages before you build a church, this loses to the third option if stealth is what you need. Holy vision is always useful before an attack, though. And you can check unexplored regions to see whether sending a flyer to that spot is worth the time.

Invisibility. This awesome spell has so many uses and makes Warcraft interesting to play. You cannot only cast it on transports or mages for sneak attacks, but also on flyers. The point is not that your flyer can pass hostile territory scatheless. Flyers are so cheap that it doesn't matter if you have to replace any. The trick is that your opponent won't know that you have seen his base. This is crucial when your opponent tries a dragon or sapper rush. Then you'll have a huge advantage. Build up defenses or launch a preventive strike or do whatever you have to do.
Another point is that if you fly over an enemy town, he will probably see that and organise his defense there. When you attack, you won't find the units clustered around the barracks any longer (this always happens because you don't have the time to seperate the new units each time when a new one appears). Any good chances to attack will probably be thwarted.
You see that invisibility means also an advantage for humans over orcs on land maps. Orcs have no way of scouting unnoticed. Another reason why "orcish" players must play more offensively. However, you should use this trick only if you have enough mages with full mana; you should still have mages with full mana for attacks.

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