Hey, everyone! Welcome to our new piece of Daily Content! Every Tuesday, we will be releasing articles about our games! These can range from simple things like analyzing the base pentagon in BattleCON to complex card counting in EXCEED. This week, we have a newbie BattleCON guide from Aliphant! Credits to D (Daniel Zeiger) for helping with the editing!
An Introduction to Positioning
This is the first of a two-part series about positioning in BattleCON. This article is aimed at people who have never really thought about positioning before. It will provide a basic understanding of the fundamental concepts behind positioning and a toolbox of heuristics to help you apply them. The next article will cover more advanced concepts, including the basics of counterplay.
This article presumes familiarity with basic BattleCON mechanics, especially how the Standard Bases interact. If you're rusty, you may want to use Marco's article about the Base Pentagon to brush up.
What is positioning?
Positioning refers to the relative placement of fighters and Markers on the board. Positioning is one of the most basic aspects of the game, but it's often overlooked by newer players.
In the image above, Eligor has played a Burst, while Shekhtur has played a Drive. All too often, players confronted with such a position tend not to think too hard about their options.
"Shekhtur will hit me no matter what," thinks Eligor. "so it doesn't matter whether I retreat one or two spaces at Start of Beat." This line of thinking, although intuitive, is blind to the importance of positioning. It ignores the fact that Eligor might be stronger in some positions than others.
If he's going to get hit no matter what, he needs to choose the most advantageous positioning for future beats. Understanding positioning means knowing how to compare the difference in positions and choose the better outcome.
Why positioning matters
Even if we acknowledge that there is a technical difference between Eligor retreating one or two spaces, we have not yet seen that this actually changes anything. After all, in either case, Eligor will get hit for the same amount of damage. Selecting the number of spaces to retreat may seem like a meaningless formality.
This is not true. The importance of your choices and the impact of positioning is rooted in a simple axiom: it is good to hit your opponent. Behind all the fancy mid-beat maneuvering is a desire to hit the opponent with your attacks, thereby inflicting damage and, eventually, eliminating your opponent. If one position makes it easier for Eligor to hit Shekhtur than the other, that position is in some way superior.
From that axiom, we may derive two similar principles: setting things up to hit your opponents in the future is just as good, and it is good to avoid getting hit. Just like the first axiom, these goals can be achieved far more easily with the help of proper positioning by Eligor.
Keep these goals in mind at all times when selecting your moves.
We've talked about what positioning is and what a good position should accomplish. But you won't understand how to set up a good position until you understand how the board acts as a natural structure or framework to help you achieve your goals. Every fighter is slightly different from every other in terms of the way they wish to set up, but every game of BattleCON is played on the same board (excluding Arenas). A strong understanding of the spaces on the board and how they contribute to positioning is important no matter whom you wish to play.
The Corners / Edges
The corner spaces, or edge spaces, are the spaces at the very ends of the board. They possess one unique property that no other space on the board shares: they have a wall behind them. Under normal circumstances, no fighter may move beyond the edge of the board. This restricts two important movement options – one for the fighter in the edge space (the "cornered fighter"), one for that fighter's opponent (the "cornering fighter").
- The cornered fighter may not retreat. Bases like Burst will not help you evade your opponent while you are in the corner. Since opponents do not have to be wary of your Burst, they can more easily hit you with Grasp or Strike. This ability to hit a cornered fighter becomes even more important when the cornering fighter has an effect that counters Dodge by preventing the cornered fighter from moving past them. In that situation, both of the typical evasion Bases, Burst and Dodge, are effectively unplayable.
- Opponents may not move past the cornered fighter. Just like being cornered prevents you from Bursting, cornering yourself prevents your opponents from Dodging you. This natural Dodge counter persists until you move out of the corner, which makes it possible to repeatedly deny your opponent access to their strongest base. However, be aware that opponents may still retreat with Dodge and, if your range is insufficient, evade your attack by doing so.
Since cornering yourself reduces your ability to evade opponent attacks, but increases your ability to land your own attacks, you should try to corner yourself when you are the more threatening fighter and have the upper hand. If you have no need for playing Burst and they are unable to Dodge, they will have no choice but to trade blows, which benefits you since you have more powerful attacks – and the ability to Dodge past them if you deem it necessary.
Think of the corner as a Dodge counter that every fighter possesses. It's an especially useful way to ensure that particularly devastating attacks can't be dodged. By positioning yourself in the corner, you force the opposing fighter to do something or risk taking your strongest attack pair to the face.
The center space is the space in the very middle of the board. The center is in a position to easily hit any other position on the board, making it difficult to evade attacks from the center. At the same time, it ensures that your own fighter will always have space to retreat. There are a few important things to note about the center space.
- The center brings every other space within reach. No space on the board is further than 3 spaces away from the center. In other words, if you want to have full-board confirm (i.e., the ability to hit any space on the board), you merely need a maximum range of 3. This is far more powerful than standing on spaces 3 or 5 (the spaces to either side of the center), from which you need a maximum range of 4 for full-board confirm. Range 3 can be achieved by both Shot and Drive, and a +0-2 range Style puts it within the reach of Grasp or Strike.
If you have a powerful Drive or Shot pair, you can play it safely without worrying that the opponent will avoid your attack. The only way for them to do so reliably is with Dodge, since Burst doesn't work against either of those two Bases.
- The center prevents corner crosses. Generally, when a fighter is standing in any space other than a center or an edge, the board can be divided into two "halves" – one smaller, one larger. For instance, examine the board below.
For Eligor, the red spaces comprise the smaller "half" of the board, while the blue spaces are the larger "half." Because the most basic evasion technique is to move out of range of the opponent (e.g., with Burst), you generally want the opponent to be in the smaller "half" of the board. This leaves them less room to maneuver out of your range while still leaving you space to retreat if necessary. An opponent in the smaller "half" of the board can be hit by a Range 1-2 attack, which is trivially easy for most characters to achieve even with a Range 1 Base (like Strike).
The counter to this technique is simple: "cross over" them to the larger "half" to gain more space at your back, allowing you to retreat out of range later. Even if you are unable to get out of range this beat, it is good to avoid getting hit, so you should position yourself in such a way as to make it easier to evade your opponent's next attack. For example, crossing over this beat (with Drive or Dodge) will help you set up a Burst the next beat.
When either fighter occupies the center space, the board's two halves are equally within reach, which renders corner cross tactics useless for gaining space to retreat.
For these reasons, the center space is heavily favored by heavyweights who are excellent in close combat or trading, but who may lack the ability to reliably hit their opponents (aka "hit confirm"). Taking the center space is aimed at achieving the first goal of positioning – to allow you to hit your opponents on future beats. Even characters that struggle with range can make up for their weakness if they are able to take and hold the center space.
For an evasive character facing a counterattacker or heavyweight who plonked themselves down in the center of the board, it's necessary to evict them from that prized space as soon as reasonably possible. Do not be afraid to use pushes or other movement effects to get them off the center space and into a less favorable position.
Positioning is tricky because it demands a certain amount of human judgement – judgement that only comes with experience with the character. In order to know what positions are most favorable for your character, you need to know both fighters well and have a strong understanding of how the matchup works. Since this is a guide aimed at newer players, not everyone may be able to do this. Therefore, I will attempt to provide some rules of thumb for gauging the sort of positions that any given character will prefer.
Characters want to be in their own preferred Range, and out of their opponent's preferred Range.
What is a "preferred Range"? The preferred Range of a character is the Range that brings online the vast majority of their most threatening attack pairs. Range bonuses, movement options, and options specific to particular Ranges all tie into this. Generally, fighters can be divided into four archetypes, each with its own preferred Ranges.
Melee fighters have a preferred Range of 1 or 2. They tend to be best when both fighters are close to each other.
As a melee fighter, you should...
...seek to close in, naturally. Drive and Dodge are key to maintaining pressure and closing distance. If you hit with a Grasp, pull the opponent closer or move them into the smaller "half" of the board. Do your best to corner them if you can – just watch out for a Range 1 Dodge, which can both put you at a distance and move them into the larger "half" of the board. Melee fighters should attempt to "chase" such Dodges with their own Advance effects.
In situations where you're stuck at Range 6, consider biting the bullet and Dodging to the center space. Although you will probably get hit, it could be worth taking 2 or 3 damage to seize the center and set up properly for the next beat. Otherwise, you'll end up taking a lot more than that as you try to get closer to your opponent.
Melee fighters prefer...
...the center, for reasons covered above.
Mid-range fighters have a preferred Range of 2 to 4. They're reasonably good in close combat, and their attack Ranges can stretch across the board when pressed, but they prefer to have a small gap between them and their opponent in order to maneuver or activate any assorted shenanigans that they may have.
As a mid-range fighter, you should...
...seek to maintain distance, and adjust your distance if you get too far or too close. Mid-range fighters tend to have a decent amount of mobility options, and they usually have an easy time maintaining their preferred Range.
Mid-range fighters prefer...
...the center, if the opponent is on the edge. If that's the case, they can Drive into rangers while Bursting away from melee fighters. Other than that, they don't really have a single preferred space.
Rangers prefer long Ranges – usually 5 or 6. The natural advantage of the ranger is that although most fighters are equipped to fight at spaces 1-3, most fighters that aren't rangers themselves become more awkward or limited at Ranges 5 or 6. In extreme situations, they may be unable to hit you no matter what they play.
As a ranger, you should...
...create distance. It's hard to maintain Range 5+, and since fighters start at Range 2, the onus is on you to create it in the first place. Getting to a reasonably large Range is of vital importance, as rangers' options tend to be sharply limited in close quarters, usually due to high minimum Ranges on their Styles. The "default" state of the game is close to medium Range – to compensate, rangers use potent mobility tools that let them retreat or push opponents away to get to the Range they want.
If you get caught in melee Range, remember that you can use Dodge either to retreat or to perform a corner cross. Most rangers have some kind of direct movement, as well. This is your "recovery movement", allowing you to regain long Range if you become cornered at melee. Punish your opponents for trying to get close, and if they succeed, move directly to Range 5+ to regain good positioning.
...the corner. While an advantage of the center space is that no opponent can be further than Range 3 from you, this can actually be disadvantageous for a ranger with high minimum Range. Rangers prefer for both fighters to be on the edge spaces. If the opponent tries to get close to you in the corner, they're only moving further away from the other corner, which you can (hopefully) move to in response.
Recognize that the dream of locking an opponent down at Range 6 and keeping them there for the rest of eternity is not always possible. What a ranger should strive to do instead is maximize the amount of time they spend at long Ranges, make it as painful as possible to close the gap, and when the gap is closed, try to create space immediately with corner crosses or direct movement.
Range generalists, or just generalists, are a rare archetype in BattleCON. Generalists. They refer to fighters who are able to operate well in every Range.. They tend to have a wide variety of tools, well-balanced Styles, and/or a large amount of hit confirm (in the form of movement effects or bonuses to maximum Range).
As a generalist, you should...
...get out of your opponent's preferred Range! If you're lucky enough to have the whole board as your preferred Range, then the only thing that's left is getting out of your opponent's to make life hard for them. If your opponent is a melee fighter, copy the advice given to rangers above and play keep-away. If your opponent is a ranger, use the advice given to melee fighters instead and close in!
...whatever their opponent doesn't want them to have. The preferred spaces of a generalist are heavily dependent on the matchup and their opponent. Take centers against rangers and corner cross from edges against melee fighters. However, blocking Dodge with the corner and threatening the whole board from the center are both generally useful things, so if you have an opportunity to do either, don't be afraid to seize it.
Positioning Cheat Sheets
Hopefully, you now understand the basic concepts underlying the nature of positioning in BattleCON and how those concepts can help you hit your opponent or make it harder for them to hit you.
The next question is: how do I apply this in practice? Sure, it sounds straightforward on paper, but knowing that mid-range fighters have a preferred Range of 2-4 doesn't help you when you're trying to figure out what pair to put down and whether it can even hit the opponent. In fact, this information can even be confusing if you have no idea how to apply it in actual games.
To alleviate these concerns, I've written a cheat sheet to help you come up with a solid game plan and some rules of thumb to make positioning decisions easier for you. Use this as a reference card until you've internalized the concepts of positioning.
Fill out for both fighters, then try to land in your favored positions while denying your opponent theirs!
Thanks so much for the article Aliphant and D! If you're interested in applying these concepts, visit our store and get BattleCON HERE!