- 1 General tips
- 2 Strategical tips
- 3 Tactical tips
- 4 External Links
This section contains tips applying broadly to all games.
Read the set
This is the most important advice of all. It is the key allowing one to take advantages, win games, and improve in the long run.
Units in the random set are the core of Prismata: knowing their individual characteristics, main strengths and uses is the basis of good play. However true mastery comes from knowing about their relationships with each other, and how they fare against each other. Being able to tell which attacker is most efficient is one step, but you should learn what other units work well with it. Being able to tell whether two units work well together and how to execute their combo is one step ahead, but you should also learn what counters exist and check for their presence. Being able to tell what the outcome of a given board state should be is looking even further, but you should learn how to break the common patterns and take the initiative if that outcome is not a win for you. And it does not stop there. All of that depends on your ability to read the set and determine which units can serve your purpose best.
Understanding of sets is the reward of experience and analysis. Practising is the most obvious way to progress, as you will get to play different sets every time and experience one of their outcomes, giving you an idea of how they play out. Making frequent use of the Analysis tool is also crucial. By forcing you to play the opponent part it will make you explore different paths of play, including counters to your own strategies. Finally, a note about thinking out of the box: Prismata involves no luck, but all players are human, all games are not perfectly played, and not all winning strategies are known. Sometimes pulling something crazy against all odds just might work, if only through sheer audacity. Enjoy the game as much as you can, and even though no luck is involved, sometimes fortune might smile on you.
Take your time
The timer of a player in Prismata is made up of a turn timer, visualised by a white line in the middle of the screen and a white number at the bottom, plus a time bank that starts at the same value that your turn timer, visualised by a red line after the white one and a red number. As you take time playing your turn your turn timer goes down. If it reaches 0, your time bank starts ticking down. If it reaches 0 too, your turn ends. Lastly, if you have remaining time on your turn timer (white line) at the end of a turn, your time bank receives 25% of that time (it will increase even if it was untouched, there is no maximum). Since opening moves generally take little thought once your strategy is decided, what naturally happens is that you stack up your time bank in the early game, giving you more think time to use later when choices become harder.
A good practice exercised by a lot of top players is to use your full turn timer on your first turn to think about your strategy for the game. While it may seem forced or annoying, it leaves time to comprehensively read the set and analyse it. Keep in mind that time 'saved' by ending your turn early is only 20% of what you could have spent thinking on the spot, so do it during your turn timer while you can rather than 5 turns later on your time bank. And that's not even mentioning the possibility that you could have made a tragic mistake in those 5 turns because you didn't think the set through.
The actual length of the turn timer is determined by your queue settings. It can be 90s, 60s, 45s, 30s, 15s, 6s or 3s. The above advice is less and less relevant as you go lower in time available, as experience and quick thinking/execution start weighing in more and more.
In order to have your economy and attack grow you need to be able to defend your units. The Defense Phase allows you to do so by letting you split your opponent's attack between your blockers. If you have blockers with absorb () it would be best to use them last to block as much attack as possible (their health - 1).
In late game, your opponent will have enough attack to destroy some of your blockers each turn. From that point on you will have to build defense every turn to replace them. Fragile blockers such as Forcefield then become useful to save your highest health blockers from being destroyed by breaches.
You should try to take advantage of preventive defense if there are good units for it in the random set, as it is a very efficient way to defend. On the same note, having defensive granularity available will also help you against opponents trying to use offensive finesse to take advantage of your defense.
Tempo versus Econ strategies
Prismata games are enjoyable because they can often be played in a lot of ways, according to the available random set units; the strategical diversity leads to a large variety of paths. When trying to characterize the different strategies, a useful criterion to use is whether they aim for a short-term advantage (to end the game quickly) or a long-term one (to overwhelm your opponent eventually). Strategies aimed towards the short term are labelled tempo, when those geared towards the long term are labelled econ.
Choosing to go for the tempo play or the econ play is a matter of both experience and taste. Sometimes one of those two ways seems clearly favored by the unit combinations present in the set, sometimes sets look evenly divided between tempo and econ units and the best unit combo isn't obvious. Every strategy is part econ and part tempo anyway, the label it gets only depends on its main focus. You can personally prefer fast, tactical games to longer, more convoluted ones. Your liking of units or game paces will definitely affect the quality of your play, but it shouldn't get in the way of devising the best strategy for a given set; one should strive to improve in and appreciate all kinds of games.
Dealing with anxiety
Playing games on a ladder can be a stressful experience, especially as a beginner. This phenomenon, known as ladder anxiety, manifests itself through surges of adrenaline that can cause reactions of fear and general loss of enjoyment to those unfamiliar with it. Luckily it is quite straightforward to fix!
First simply being able to identify an adrenaline rush is already enough to temper its effects; noticing the symptoms (sweaty hands, cold body extremities, higher heartbeat rate and focus) and accepting them not as the consequence of fear, but as a natural physical reaction should already mitigate them. With time you might even welcome it for its upsides of improved concentration and faster thinking.
Time and practice will also help removing unreasonable expectations you may have placed on yourself originally. Once you've played hundreds of games clicking the "Play" button won't feel as much of a challenge, and losses or even losing streaks will matter less. Take heart, the first steps are the hardest!
Another good thing to attempt is trying to talk to your opponents. With good manners, you might be surprised by the positive feedbacks you will receive; truly understanding that your opponent is just another human being like you, and possibly very much like you, can certainly stop you from feeling like 1v1s are matches to the death.
Still, even with practice and all, anxiety is likely to happen sometimes (for instance before or during tournament matches). If you think you could be subjected to it, taking preventive measures could be a good idea (wrapping up in a blanket, stretching). If you experience it after losses, the best course might be to take a break (by playing another game for a while for example) and come back with a fresher mindset later. Keep in mind the point of the game is to have fun. Remaining aware of that is the straightest path towards improvement, since you'll be able to learn from your defeats as much as your wins!
This section contains tip regarding long-term thinking and anticipation.
Build offense over defense
Attack threatens your opponent while defense only sits there waiting to be destroyed.
This is very basic advice, but some of its implications are not so trivial. In Prismata, you win after destroying all of your opponent's units. That means dealing damage to them should always be your first priority. This doesn't mean that defensive units are useless or that going for a high economy is a waste of time, though,;the game is more complex than that, but when you have the option you should generally build units dealing damage over units for defense (unless you are planning preventive defense through appropriate units).
Take the initiative
Simply mirroring your opponent will almost always lose you the game. You have to initiate moves to your advantage.
If you do the same thing your opponent does one turn late, they will get their damage first and need to defend one turn later than you. Unless there is a very large economical difference between you and them, it will usually mean your loss. To avoid this ending you have two solutions:
- Break the symmetry. Think about something your opponent hasn't, go for another unit, change your plans. As a rule, if you find yourself in a losing position, try something else.
- Be first. If you can attack first without sacrificing a lot of economy, you put the burden on your opponent to figure out how to get back in the game.
Determine key units
Key units in Prismata are the backbone of whole strategies. Reading the set and determining which of those key units to go for is one of the most important aspect of elaborating a build order and eventually winning games.
Not all units were designed equal. A broad distinction can be made between key units, which are win conditions, and support units, which assist you in your execution and protect your key units.
Examples of key units
- units requiring a huge initial investment, but with an even bigger payoff after construction (such as Zemora Voidbringer or Centrifuge)
- units able to provide huge bursts of damage out of nowhere (Odin, Tia Thurnax)
- units that require large economies but provide durable pressure (Asteri Cannon, Lucina Spinos)
- and lots of others which allow for strategical power plays if you prepared correctly.
Examples of support units
- defensive units (Energy Matrix, Plexo Cell)
- units providing utility (Militia, Trinity Drone)
- situational units (Auric Impulse, Protoplasm)
The trick to devising a strategy in Prismata is to go for key units in the most efficient way available while getting access to support units and putting them to good use when they are necessary.
For instance, let's imagine the three units under are in your Random set. Those three units all have different technological requirements. At first you should try to go either for Electrovores or Drakes, because they deal damage. Regardless of which one you chose, it would probably be a good choice to invest in a Conduit somewhere in the mid game to be able to afford Plexo Cells later. In a mirror matchup between a player with Plexo Cells and their opponent without, the one with Plexo Cell has a way higher chance of winning because it's such a good defender. The lesson to be learned is while Plexo Cell was definitely not a unit to rush in that match, getting access to it at later stages of the game can be crucial.
It is important to say that the distinction made here between support and key units is not always clear or appropriate. Omega Splitter is both key and support according to the definitions given above. In some situations, units usually key can be only support, or the reverse. Prismata is way too complex for such a hard classification to always be meaningful, but it can be useful as a guide to help formulate strategies, especially for beginners.
Tailor your economy to your needs
At the start of the game you have to start by increasing your drone count. How much you should increase it and how fast you can (through buying additional Engineers) depends on the key units you choose to go for. You should build up your economy to match the requirements of the units you want to buy.
In the case of units which can be rushed efficiently, you also have to decide when you want to cut Drones to start their production. While you generally want to take the initiative in damage if you can, rushes can be easily defeated by strong defenders (Polywall, Doomed Wall), so watch out for those and build up your economy first if they are present.
In cases where you want to go for very expensive units such as Drake or Asteri Cannon, having at least enough economy to produce one every turn is best. If the units you are interested in are cheaper, the question becomes more about how large your economy can grow without getting too late at building up damage.
To sum things up, what economy level is adapted is set-dependent: if the random set is very defensive, early damage will be easily deflected and having the drone lead will be paramount. Conversely if the set is aggressive econing up too hard will generally lead to a swift demise. In mixed sets, it will depend on the players' technological and strategical choices.
On syncing your Exhaust attackers
The reasoning behind this is that you both increase your breach pressure and deny absorb to your opponent. If you only go for Iso Kronuses and flexible attackers for instance, you can literally do 0 damage to your opponent half the time, while bursting them hugely the other half. This strategy forces your opponent to prepare defense in advance in the off-turns where you do no damage or risk being breached the turn after for lack of enough Prompt defense. Your opponent also gets no absorb from their big blockers half of the time (on the off turns).
This strategy is not without weaknesses though. The two main drawbacks is that you cannot get as much value out of your non-exhaust attackers, and that you are vulnerable to well-planned preventive defense.
If you build mainly exhaust attackers, the damage you do on turns where they don't fire is likely to be negligible. This means that your regular attackers will probably have their attack completely absorbed. For example, if you have 10 synced Iso Kronuses and 4 Gauss Cannons and your opponent has an Energy Matrix, the 4 damage produced by the Cannons will be absorbed perfectly by the Matrix on the Iso off turns, meaning effectively that they only get half their value. As a result if you want to combine exhaust attackers with regular attackers it might be better to sometimes willingly buy them unsynced, splitting their attacks over multiple turns. This is not as much of a concern with flexible attackers like Scorchilla since you can just not click them for a while when they come out of exhaust and sync them at will.
If you find yourself on the other side of the board, against an opponent syncing exhaust attackers, your best recourse is probably to go for preventive defense. Since you can anticipate turns in advance the amount of damage coming your way with Iso Kronuses for instance, you can make full use of units like Chieftain or Doomed Mech to both attack and defend on their last turn (this doesn't work with Scorchillas though as they can simply not attack for a turn). Non-Prompt defense like Infusion Grid, Shredder or Xeno Guardian also reward you for building them in advance and can help you punish the exhaust attack. Blood Pact's drawback is also less severe against an otherwise full-Exhaust attack, since the produced Grimbotchs damage will probably be totally absorbed on off turns. Finally big blockers that can also attack such as Omega Splitter or Arka Sodara are also decent counters because they can attack on the off turns and only block damage when it comes.
There are games where breaches are unavoidable. In other the game just lasts so long that the defender supplies run out, or the damage ramps up too fast. Either way, when a breach happens, your opponent will probably aim for your most vulnerable backline units first. If you have both Vivid Drones and Iso Kronuses for instance, your opponent will target the Vivids. To avoid giving easy choices to your opponent when breach time comes, it is best to build your strategies around backline units with similar amounts of Health. Trinity Drone and Iso Kronus is a good combo (possibly even leading to a breach me I don't care strategy). Vivid Drone and Shadowfang is a good combo too, since getting breached with either of those in play is of similar impact.
This section contains tips about combat and unit-to-unit interactions.
Units that may be clicked or not to generate damage are said to provide offensive finesse (also known as offensive granularity or flexible attack). It is sometimes possible to make use of it to abuse lack of granularity in your opponent's defense, by attacking for an amount that they can't absorb well.
For instance, let's imagine an opponent defending with two Energy Matrixes and a Forcefield against your two Scorchillas and one Pixie. If you attack with both Scorchillas only, they can defend Forcefield -> Energy Matrix (absorbing 4) and have the two Energy Matrixes survive. Now if you also click your Pixie, this doesn't work anymore. Your opponent has to defend Energy Matrix -> Energy Matrix, absorbing only 2 and losing a Matrix. This is the power of offensive finesse: in this example, a Pixie (worth 1) turns a Forcefield kill into an Energy Matrix kill (worth respectively 4 and 9), giving you a benefit of roughly 4.
Chill can be used to create holes in your opponent's granularity by freezing relevant blockers. You could for instance recreate the scenario explained above even if they have sufficient granularity originally by freezing the Engineers in their defense through Cryo Ray.
Another case in which it is possible to make use of flexible attack is against high-health blockers or blockers with Lifespan on their last turn. If you have clickable units with Stamina, or self-sacrifice and you realize that you would be doing no damage anyway because of absorb, you are better off leaving them unclicked for a later turn where they would actually do damage.
Counters to Blockers on their last Lifespan turn
A common use for units with both Lifespan and Block is to keep them in defense on their last Lifespan turn and use them to block in front of other units (to make maximum use of their Health before they die naturally). There is a number of circumstances in which you should be careful about doing this however:
- If your opponent has flexible attack (from Scorchillas by example), they can decide to just wait a turn for your Lifespan unit to die before attacking full force, denying you absorb that turn.
- If the set contains units with Chill effects, your opponent's freeze can effectively be converted to damage on that turn (since your Lifespan unit will die without having absorbed damage). This is even worse if the available freeze is constant (from Tatsu Nullifiers or Shiver Yetis for instance).
- If the set contains alternative ways to spend attack such as Thermite Cores and Bloodragers, your opponent can at the same time deny you absorb and build up constant damage, usually swinging the game hugely in their favor.
Counters to huge absorbers
As per offense over defense, you should not build huge support defensive units before your opponent's constant damage reaches the defender's absorb. However those can still be exploited by your opponent if they have access to units reducing their attack.
This is as much of a tactical concern as a strategical concern, but when integrating big defenders like Energy Matrix into your build check for the presence of units like Bloodrager or Arka Sodara in the random set. If they are available to your opponent, they are liable to reduce their attack on the turn you build your defender, denying it absorb on its first turn and increasing hugely your opponent's constant attack. It's not only about the wasted absorb: the fact you had to put most of your resources in a defender during your turn is probably giving your opponent the leeway required to build up more attack at your expense. In sets where that move is a possibility, it is likely best to put pressure earlier and only invest in big defenders when your opponent both has too much constant attack to completely deny the absorb and has to commit a lot of resources to defense anyway.
Note that Arka Sodara, being a defender itself, is weak to this technique. As a consequence you should generally prepare for Arka but not go for it yourself first.
Defend for the correct value
The estimated Attack value shown during your turn also includes units that are currently blocking. Always consider which of them have to die on defense to calculate the actual amount of attack you have to defend against.
For instance take this situation:
- your opponent is threatening you for 5
- your opponent is defending for 7 with 2 active Rhinos and a Wall
- you are dealing 6 to them
- Rhino -> Rhino -> Wall
- Wall -> Rhino -> Rhino
(1) lets them absorb 2, but they lose both Rhinos, resulting in a potential attack value of 3, while (2) absorbs 1 and results in 4 potential attack. The bottom line is you definitely don't need to defend for more than 4 here. You may even gamble and leave only 4 points of defense on your turn (if you think your opponent won't be able to attack for full anyway).
The trick to determine if a unit can survive in defense without being the last absorber is to substract its Health from the total defense, and see if the defense is still superior to the opposing maximum attack (another way of thinking about it is "if this unit didn't have block, would this be a breach?"). If it is not superior the unit has to die in defense, or be last defender. This works both for your defense and your opponent's.
Drone consuming units anti-synergies
You may have a lot of Drones, but if you use multiple units that consume them you are still likely to run out earlier than you'd want.
For instance, if you plan on using Plasmafiers, it would probably be a mistake to build Trinity Drones (or even worse Vivid Drones), since they will lower your base Drone count significantly and ultimately reduce the number of times your Plasmafier can attack.
This also applies when you want to make use of Plexo Cell or Forcefield to defend. Think twice before consuming your last base Drones; having at least a couple leftover will help you defend in an emergency with the Prompt that those defenders have (not to mention that Plexo Cells are excellent defensive value overall).
Finally, if Deadeye Operative is in the set, keep in mind your opponent might shorten your Drone supply even faster. Vivid or Trinity Drones can be a counter to Deadeye in that they remove targets to snipe, but conversely Plasmafier or Plexo Cell defenses get countered hard by them.
- Prismata Game Analysis #6: Offensive Finesse, a video by Argeiphontes. (December 27th, 2014)