It's happened to you before. Your soldiers have just entered the sector for an attack on an enemy position. Most of the men have had to huddle in a corner of the map, or maybe you're hoping to use the sector's edge as an impassable flank. A shootout quickly begins, as your men scurry into positions to put the pressure on the enemy. You end the second turn and wait to see your enemies' move, when suddenly you seem to be surrounded by enemies that seem to have come from bloody nowhere. They immediately open fire, killing or severely injuring a large number of mercs. If you were lucky, perhaps you even got an interrupt or two before your mercs were put to the grave by the overwhelming enemy force.
It's happened to most people, actually.
History - Death From Behind Edit
JA2 1.13 introduced a revolutionary reinforcement system. It allows enemies and militia in adjacent sectors to join the battle.
The idea is to allow battles containing more units than normally allowed. In JA2, you could have no more than 20 enemies in a single sector at any given time. Nor more than 20 Mercs and 20 Militia. If enemies from several sectors can join in, the result is a large battle between many participants.
This system went through several mutations, changing the way it actually worked in the game. Currently, what happens is that once the local team is alerted, enemy groups from adjacent sectors will appear after a round or two. They usually appear on the edge of the sector that connects to whatever sector they were in previously. Those enemies then fight together with the local group, often causing extreme discomfort for players.
Militia use the same system when reinforcing one another. You can see them streaming in from adjacent sectors, as room for them in the current sector is freed up.
While reinforcements do make battles much more interesting and intense, the method used for introducing them into combat is extremely overpowered and often deadly. If you weren't implicitly expecting them to arrive, they can kill mercs as soon as they hit the ground!
Naturally, with the current map system, it's impossible to have them "Gradually" approach, allowing the player to ambush them in some way, there's no way around that.
HAM's solution was to allow those enemies to appear suddenly, but not allow them to do anything during their entire first turn in the battle.
HAM 3 - Reinforcements Arrive with 0 AP Edit
The real issue to consider was how to fix the murderous capabilities of incoming enemies, while not turning enemy reinforcements into sitting ducks to be brushed away faster than they can react.
Fixing murderous reinforcements Edit
The #1 reason that enemy reinforcements are so deadly is that they act IMMEDIATELY upon arrival. Preventing then from doing so was the hardest part.
Enemy reinforcements arrive somewhere during the enemy's turn (I'm not terribly sure exactly when, please fill this in if you know), and they will always get full APs to act as they wish, before the Player's next turn begins.
They were not were not visible to us the previous turn, so we can do nothing to prevent them from arriving. The best we can do is mine a bit along the edge, and pull everyone back to a safe distance to expect their arrival. Then, we're going to have to battle both the reinforcements AND the local enemy force (which is, by definition, already on alert) having given valueable ground.
When they do arrive, interrupts are extremely rare. If your characters are too close they'll get shot at repeatedly, stabbed, or grenaded. If the enemy has a mortar, and the mortarman is not one of the first reinforcements to act during the turn, your mercs are in for a world of hurts. The enemy may come spread out, but they mean business and cannot be stopped. Only when their round is over, you can properly react.
Conversely, you can keep some distance from the edge and hope to tackle them only after they arrive. On most maps, this means giving up excellent cover positions and pretty much handing them over to the enemy, for no sound tactical logic whatsoever. You're about to fight two forces (or more), and need all the tactical advantage you can get. The way reinforcements come in now, it is impossible to plan ahead effectively against enemy reinforcements, even if you know well in advance where they will be entering the map.
Finally, due to some JA2 programming limits, it is possible to have enemies arrive as reinforcements from the same side as you (I.E. behind you). That is never pretty, and you cannot anticipate it in any way, either.
To solve this problem, I gave the player a reaction round. A turn in which the reinforcements are already present on the map, but which occurs BEFORE they got a chance to move.
This was done by giving each reinforcement 0 APs when it first arrives. So it is physically in the sector, but cannot move at all. The player can now see it, and in fact, once the enemy turn is over, the player's turn starts and he can try to kill as many of the reinforcements as he possibly can. Once the player's turn is over, the remaining reinforcements begin their attack.
Keeping it level Edit
This sounds like a serious exploit, of course. Instead of the enemy getting the advantage, now the PLAYER has the advantage? Isn't this making the game so much easier?
Well, surprisingly, no. Despite the fact that the AI has lost an important advantage, this advantage was illogical to begin with, and actually robs the player of the ability for tactical planning, which is something that HAM utterly loathes and seeks to correct with most its features. Players who know that enemy reinforcements are due will no longer be bound to hastily escape their reach. Rather, the wiser player will now be able to prepare much more easily for an incoming flanking attack.
The real balancer is actually already there. Due to the natural spread of incoming enemies along the edge, it is usually impossible to kill all of them immediately. In this surprise round, even when properly prepared, you can probably kill some of them but the ones you haven't killed are still going to be very dangerously close at the end of your turn. Not to mention that reinforcements only occur in sectors that already HAVE enemies in them, and those enemies are coming after you as well.
Therefore, the advantage that players get is minimal compared to more logical play. Reinforcements are bloody dangerous - they can easily and severely tip the balance of power against you, with an advantage that is almost impossible for the player to overcome. See also: Nintendo Hard, or The AI is a Cheating Bastard. numerical superiority is the Enemy's bread and butter, and allowing you to kill a couple of them for free is not going to help you much when you consider that you are about to be surrounded anyway.
And if that's not enough, if you're playing the Suppression game, a forced tactical concession of any kind can end your entire battle (BADLY). That is definitely enough on its own to merit passing some of the advantage over to the Mercs.
It's not all roses for the Militia Edit
Finally, consider that HAM's Reinforcements Fix can also affect Militia Reinforcements in the exact same way. This can be very important for defending important sectors from an enemy counter-attack, like the one in Drassen. Also the one that's about to be made available in all cities, all the time (I am referring to SpaceViking's new Strategic AI).
In such cases, you want your Militia to arrive rapidly from neighbouring sectors to help in your defense. Arriving without APs means they can get slaughtered as they arrive (and you would get surrounded), and delaying their speed of arrival in general.
INI Settings Edit
This feature has one setting in JA2_Options.INI, to control which kinds of reinforcements arrive with 0 APs.
Controls whether Enemies or Militia reinforcements arrive with 0 AP.
|Range||0, 1, 2, 3|
|JA2 Default Value||0||
All reinforcements can act immediately upon their appearance on the battlefield. They get a full turn with full APs to use before the player can react.
|HAM Recommended Value||1||All reinforcements arrive with 0 AP. They are still dangerous, but far less murderous.|
Enemy reinforcements arrive with 0 AP. Militia reinforcements get a full turn upon arrival.
Militia reinforcements arrive with 0 AP. Enemy reinforcements get a full turn upon arrival.