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EDCE Monster Planet – Recon Comparison

I recently played through a mod on EDCE called Monster Planet written by gryphin.rampant.  One of the items that came up during our recent tournament a few weeks back was around calculations of Recon Spectrum Points (RSP) and why they have such high value.  One of the things I did during my playthrough of the Monster Planet was to put the units through the RSP calculator and the results showed some clear differences.  I want to share those results with you as it shows how powerful Recon Spectrum can be in your game and why this mechanic has such a high point value in the tournament scoring.

What is Recon Spectrum?

The full explanation can be found in the EDTC Strategy Guide, including the formula and its use in specific strategies/scoring.   In short, Recon Spectrum (RS) is the maximum exploration or patrolling capability a unit can do over a specific period of time.   It is most often associated with exploration/expansion in early game, but its true value is in assessing your ability to spot and track enemy units and then engage that unit in favorable conditions.  In games with experienced opponents, the player that holds the highest recon spectrum score typically controls the initiative, and thus is at a significant advantage once units start engaging.

To use RS properly, you start by estimating how many turns you will need to find a high value enemy unit to begin recon tracking.  This is known as RS capability and is the focus of this post.  For example, if you expect to find and track an enemy unit in 50 turns, you don’t want to build a unit that costs 40 turns to start tracking.  Flooding an area with cheap units with low vision might be better for you.

Once you find a target, your ability to track and retain the initiative against it becomes your RS score.  In effect you, are taking the RS capability and turning it into a real advantage for you.  In games against experienced players, controlling RS over an area can result in a 25%-50% combat advantage which is significant in a game of numbers like EDCE.  For this reason, RS score is one of the most important measurements of a players success in a tournament and has significant weight in the scoring mechanisms.

Monster Planet Recon Comparison

Now, for the reason you are here.  I recently compared various recon units in the Monster Planet mod and wanted to share my results.  This analysis shows the various recon units in the set and how their RS stacks against each other.  I’ve removed non-recon units to help reduce clutter.  I only measure RS up to 100 turns, but you can follow the trends to see how each perform beyond that if you wish.  RS is always exponential based on your movement per turn.  Note that all charts shown are RS capability, not actual score, as the actual score will vary based on play style and map.  This is purely a statistical analysis of the unit set only.

There are 10 recommended recon units in the set.  The table below shows their respective RS score at turns 50 and 100.

Unit Name (Domain) @ 50 Turns @ 100 Turns
Jager (Land) 25 pts 10 pts
Armor LT (Land) 25 pts 11 pts
VAB FO (Land) 48 pts 21 pts
F104 (Air) 44 pts 18 pts
Hustler (Air) 40 pts 20 pts
B2 Bomber (Air) 25 pts 12 pts
Recon Long Range (Air) 3 pts 2 pts
Destroyer Stealth (Sea) 13 pts 7 pts
Destroyer + Black Box (Sea) 16 pts 11 pts
Cruiser + Black Box (Sea) 10 pts 7 pts
Carrier + Black Box (Sea) 1 pts 3 pts

This chart shows the top 11 recommended recon units in the game and how they compare against each other.  I will be breaking them down into their domain categories and talking more about how each compare against each other.

Comparison of Land Recon Units

Comparison of Ground Recon Units. Notice the VAB FO has twice the performance and only 25% drop in attack, and same defense as a tank making it the best option overall.

There are three ground recon units.

  • Jager – This is effectively infantry from the default set with a movement of 3.  The change puts them on par with Armor.
  • Armor LT – This is the same as Armor from the default set and it’s RS score is nearly identical.  The improvement of other land units reduces this unit’s advantage.
  • VAB FO – This unit has the best recon range and maintains the same defensive stats as a tank.  In other words, it is an effective offensive and defensive unit.

VAB FO is the top performing unit here, hands down.  It should really be reviewed as an air unit as it has the highest recon score in the game, a recognition usually reserved for air units only.  In fact, if you compare the VAB FO as an air unit instead of a ground unit it’s performance is even better as it becomes the only air unit capable of city capture.  In this respect, the VAB FO is also the only unit that should be at or close to its maximum potential on every map, with its only limitation being availability of land tiles to explore which other air units don’t have.

Going back to land performance, its combat stats are best in every scenario except city capture.  It maintains a 2x advantage in RS capability over every other ground unit.  Even after taking into account its reduced offensive capability, the VAB FO score will only drop down to be on par with Jager, as it will the same number of Jager and VAB FO’s to capture cities.  This means the potential value of this unit his higher in nearly all circumstances, with the only detractor being it is limited to land movement only.

The VAB is hands down the best all around ground unit.  Moreover, its ability to carry two Jager for the lack of city capture capability means you can fully eliminate the disadvantage to city capture, and yet again allow the unit to reach its full potential.

Comparison of Air Recon Units

Comparison of air recon vehicles. The jagged lines are due to the impact of range limitations.

All air units can be considered recon units.  The top tree performers were selected as well as the dedicated recon aircraft in the set.

  • F104 – Touted as the best early game choice by the unit descriptions.  This is largely true, as it is a top tier performer, but outclassed by the Hustler by turn 50.
  • Hustler – The top performing air unit and a close second place behind the VAB FO for best performing unit.  On maps with large amount of sea, Hustler is the best unit in the game.
  • B2 Bomber – The best performing bomber.  A good choice overall, but falls into a distant third in terms of aircraft choices.
  • Recon Long Range – Poorest performing unit overall.  Outclassed by all other aircraft and very little offensive capability to make up for the difference.

The F104 and Hustler are both overpowered in my opinion due to their ability to dominate the battlefield.  The real issue with the F104 is the extremely limited range in comparison to the Hustler.  You can actually see this in the chart with the sharp jagged lines.  This is meant to show the top RS capability of the unit, and in reality this limit in range means it will be lucky if it can obtain half of its full potential.  This is because it has to be re-based every 8 turns (this in itself can require several turns) or it starts losing potential recon spaces.

The Hustler on the other hand doesn’t face this problem as often.  You can see this reflected in the “smoother” look of the line which is due to more forgiving DFS loops.  Once the Hustler begins to eclipse the F104 at around turn 50, it remains consistently the best unit in the game.  Its lead will only increase the longer it can survive, so using these in pure recon roles is ideal if you in a game where that is being scored.  It also means that if you do not expect to encounter a new enemy in the next 50 turns, you should be building the hustler.

Comparison of Naval Recon Units

Comparison of naval units. Black box indicates the unit is carrying the Black Box unit when scores are calculated.

Naval units are usually the last type of recon unit you want to build because of their slow speed and terrain limitations.  As a result, they are usually the worst performers.  In Monster Planet, the idea is to use a Black Box on certain units to improve their recon capabilities.  Let’s see if that actually works as intended.

  • Destroyer Stealth – This is the best stand alone naval exploration unit.  Other units need to carry a Black Box to have comparable performance.
  • Destroyer + Black Box – The black box significantly improves the performance of the destroyer.  This is the best option for naval units.
  • Cruiser + Black Box – This combination performs nearly identical to the Destroyer Stealth.
  • Carrier + Black Box – This is the second worst option in the game.  The Carrier performs better when paired with recon aircraft than a black box.

The destroyer is one of the most unique exploration vehicles.  Much like how pairing a VAB FO with Jager improves the performance of both units, the Destroyer and the Black Box are able to nearly double their scores overall.  In fact, as far as naval recon goes, the Destroyer + Black Box combination is the best.  It was also the only combination that could move a unit up an entire tier.

The Cruiser + Black Box combination showed that it becomes the top naval unit, outpacing the Destroyer Stealth, after 125 turns.  However, that is a lot of turns to invest before you reach this goal.  In the meantime, placing the Black Box on the destroyer nets over two times as much return on investment.  Thus I would stay away from this combination and just build destroyers only.  The same goes for carriers.

The Best of Breed

The best air, land, and sea units side by side. Note that land and sea units are nearly comparable while the best sea unit is struggling to reach even half the total value.

Now lets take a look at the top performing vehicles from each domain and see why these units are considered the best units to build, depending on your circumstances.

  1. VAB FO – 1st Place – This should be the most feared unit on land and has the best overall score of any unit in the game.
  2. Hustler – 2nd Place –  The ability to traverse freely through the air means it has the highest chance of obtaining its maximum RS capability.
  3. Destroyer + Black Box – Only reaches half the potential of other units, but is still the top performing naval unit regardless.

It’s great that the Hustler and the VAB FO are so close in RS score.  However, it’s more likely they are overpowered.  I think this set meant for strategic combinations like putting a Black Box on a destroyer to hold a heavier weight.  I can’t emphasize enough that maximizing your RS score is how you win the game.  The Hustler will hands down be the unit to pick because the VAB FO and Destroyer Stealth have significant movement limitations which the statistics cannot show.  In the end, you will be able to dictate the battle far better if you spam produce Hustlers than any other unit in the recon tiers.

Final Thoughts

If you look at this chart which shows a side by side comparison of all units in this analysis, you can clearly see their are 4 tiers of value.

  • Tier 1: These units are borderline overpowered.  They are more valuable than any other units and should always be the first ones you consider building for recon.  This includes the VAB FO, Hustler, and F104
  • Tier 2: Above average options.  These are your only real choices for specific needs like city capture.  This includes the B2 Bomber, Armor LT, and Jager.
  • Tier 3: These options are below average.  Don’t build these unless you have a specific circumstance that requires it.  This includes the Destroyer Stealth and Cruiser + Black Box.
  • Tier 4: These units are “broken” and need fixed.  They are too under-powered and will not factor into your score.  This includes the Carrier + Black Box and Recon Long Range.

There is one unique case.  The Destroyer + Black Box combination starts as a tier 3 option but becomes a Tier 2 option after being active for 75 turns.  This is the only unit I measured which switches tiers long term.

In terms of Recon Spectrum Points, this set shows how the different points add up and can impact your end game score.  Moreover, if you play the mod you can see how making good recon choices vs. bad ones will impact your ability to win the game.  It’s like making a bad move in chess where you can spend the rest of the game trying to recover.  It’s why RSP is an important factor to our tournament scoring.

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