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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 2:02 pm    Post subject: Various Shades of Black Lightning Reply with quote

I'm reposting Black Lightnings postings that are on

Teamwork for Dummies
by Black Lightning and Samhain

From: (Matt Slot)
Subject: Teamwork for Dummies
Date: 26 Sep 1997 00:59:03 GMT

Hey you... DUMMY... yeah you!

Remember that game where your ally quit in a huff after messaging some obscenities about you, your mother, and a description of what your LGM was doing the night before? Maybe it's a hint that you NEED TO WORK ON YOUR TEAMWORK?!?!?!?!

*deep breath*

OK, I'm better now.

Here is a short list of commonly agreed upon tactics and strategies from the dawn of bolo time. Read them, print them, post them on the wall next to your computer. The next time you get allied with a much better player -- use them or make sure you have some asbestos camoflage.

Start Squares:
The "random" start algorithm avoids corners that have pills (esp. enemy pills) when possible. The reason you start on the far side of the map from the pillwar is that its usually the only "unspiked" corner. While its good to keep a pill in your corner to defend it -- it may be worthwhile to leave one unspiked so that you (or your enemies) come up there.

After the box is dead, the shooter holds the shot and the decoy picks up the box. The decoy does not drive in front of the shooter.

Don't drive into the middle of your ally's take. Hide behind a wall and decoy, wait, or go around -- but don't run in too close or you'll disrupt him. This is especially important when your ally is attempting a double-take, because killing one box too quickly may leave another damaged but pissed.

Pill Wars:
Don't kill your pillbox if you can't build it (no trees, no builder). Don't run in too close while someone's shooting it, don't use a pill to block while you shoot another -- or its just a gift.

Go Away:
On a conventional map divided into quarters, you should each maintain your own corner. First, you may disrupt your ally, and second you are leaving a whole corner open for spiking or capture. Sometimes you end up swapping corners for a while -- just make sure that someone is always watching the "back" side.

If you are carrying pills -- plant them. A good player can kill another tank quickly (vulturing, spikes, mines, etc). A planted pillbox is much better than one carried.

Can't Plant:
If you are carrying 2 or more pills, with no builder, then don't risk them. Stay on your bases, near some boxes. Keep fueled (with a few mines), and if you *have* to do something, then poke at a few enemy boxes on the line or kill a base. Run away at the first sign of trouble.

Do something useful. Rape bases, kill tanks, take a few potshots at nearby pills, decoy (but be ready to defend your own corner). You can even shoot an enemy who's setting up or performing a take, just enough to discourage him or ruin his angle. Even better, draw attention away from your ally (lots of shots and mines on the far side of the map) so he can work.

Rushing In:
You've gotten a lucky break and started to rush the enemy side -- don't go too fast. Make sure that you capture the bases and clean up along the way. Hard and fast is good while enemy is off balance, but a good player can make a rapid turnaround from a weakly spiked base.

Falling Back:
When the tide turns and you are down to 3-5 pills, its time to pull back. Find a corner (and some buffer space), and pull your pills back into defensive position. Its time to stop base raping, and to start patrolling your corner. Don't make risky builds, keep enough ammo and armor handy to quickly defuse a spike.

Enemy Spikes:
When you are down to a single corner, be ready for the enemy to spike you hard and fast. When they pick up 2-3 pills, they're likely to come in from 2 directions -- fuel up and start patrolling. Now is not the time to die or get distracted.

Pill View:
Pill View is your friend. Check it quickly whenever you fuel. Watch the indicators for a batch of pills dying, and then find them. Watch for your ally to drive by with pursuit so that you can protect him.

Spinning Tanks:
Don't say kill me... sit next to your ally and spin a few times. If he can kill you, he will -- if he doesn't kill you after about 2 or 3 rotations, then he doesn't have his LGM or can't commit to them. There are times when its best to NOT trade up. Be wary of vultures.

3-5 Seconds:
If you are waiting for your ally to join in on a decoy or other tactic, only wait for a short bit. Often, your ally may not have enough ammo or is on the way to another crisis. Trying to generate some teamwork shouldn't take more than 3-5 secs -- if it doesnt happen, go on your way.


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From: (Matt Slot)
Subject: Teamwork and tactical expectations
Date: 14 Oct 1997 00:46:14 GMT

[Here are some excerpts from the old Bolo mailing list -- I only saved a few articles, but they had some good but arguable content.]

I'd like to suggest some teamwork groundrules at the tactical level, based on problems, gripes, or just observations. Granted, many are "patently obvious", and many people on this list regularly practice a few... this is an *explicit* guide to these common sense issues. These are the expectations I have in my ally, and he should expect the same of me.


* The decoy picks up the pillbox. The shooter waits to kill the rebuild.
* Decoy is a command. "dec" or just "d" are abbreviations. Multiple pills are specified by "decoy for 2" or just "dd".
* The shooter can indicate he is ready by firing one or two shots near the pill. The decoy indicates he is ready by spinning in place or sitting still in place for 3-5 secs.
* The decoy can use trees, or just driving in circles, as quick substitutes for walls or pills, however this may result in damage to the shooter.
* The decoy should try to avoid completely killing a pillbox, and/or "piss off" a nearby green pillbox by firing or turning hard so that it gets hit. A few angry boxes (even rather damaged ones) keep the enemy from running in.
* If the decoy or the shooter fail to get in position fast enough, or if the shooter is under incidental fire that fouls his aim, the "decoy" should be stopped. Often one person decides to try to get in place while the other backs off, and then one or both tanks die in the flubbed attempt. If one tanks backs off (or isn't in place), *both* should fall back and regroup before retrying.

Running Interference

* If your ally is picking up a pillbox or escaping with some, then decoy the nearby pills or run in the path of approaching tanks. Even taking 2 or 3 shots of incidental fire or slowing down defenders can help an ally escape who may be running low on armor.
* A tank can enter a defender's corner and suicide him 1x1 or distract him long enough. His ally can follow ~10 squares (3-5 secs) behind with a spike and full load of ammo to grab the 2 corner bases, even if he has to "finish off" the weakened enemy. In a 2x2 or 3x3, this can be a rather quick way to spike and seal off a whole corner.
* When a corner is spiked, hopefully your ally has killed the builder, at the cost of some armor. A tank with 75% armor and some ammo can remove it -- as long as his ally can distract or chase off the "guard". (Of course, watch for the follow-up spike or base-rape in the other corner.)

Supporting Pill War

* As you run toward a front to support your ally, shoot 3-4 shots into a pill that is *near* but not *in* your allies gun sights.
* Don't make a rebuild to the clearly dead box right in front of your ally. Get into range and wait a sec to see who has his aim there, so you don't send your builder into certain death.


* The tank who is carrying a pillbox has refueling priority -- let him some some shields/ammo first.
* If you have no LGM, do things that require ammo -- base rape the corner that was just spiked, or suicide an enemy who is carrying pills.
* A tank who does *not* want to pick up the pillbox after a kill (maybe he doesn't have a LGM) should sit nearby and turn his back to it. If the ally doesn't come and pick it up in 3-5 secs, or at the first sign of an enemy, just turn and pick it up.

I know there are exceptions to these rules, and that most tactics can be screwed up by bad timing, incidental fire, or a suicidal enemy. Use the 3-5 second rule... that period is enough lead time to recognize or initiate an action. If you or your ally can't setup or respond in that timeframe, regroup or focus elsewhere. If you can provide cover for your ally for that long, he can begin a maneuver or make an escape.


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From: Samhain / Michael Masushige
Subject: Re: Teamwork and tactical expectations
Date: 14 Oct 1997 00:48:34 GMT

I'd like to expand on some of BL's points, which BTW were right on.

Decoying (defending against)

Most of the time, you will lose your pill because it's a double team. My main strength in 3x3 games is in drawing and beating them, though. But, how do I accomplish this? In a standard dec, one player hides behind blocks while the other shoots. The shooter is the only real threat at this point, so shooting him off-line will be your best bet. In doing that, the pill is no longer taking damage, the decoying blocks are destroyed (providing rubble to make a future dec harder to do), and can possibly kill the dec'ing tank and/or shooter. Whatever isn't killed, you can finish off.

If you come across a dec in progress from the opposite end of the red tanks, you can set up to swoop in and pick up the pill and drop it out of range, or watch the timing of the shooter and rebuild. This is less favorable as it invokes more risk, but, still better than losing the pill.

If you come across the dec'er first, and cannot get to the shooter quickly enough, kill the dec'ing tank. You can kill a tank pretty quickly, usually. Once the decoyer dies, the shooter takes damage. That damage gives you the advantage when you decide to kill the shooter (which allows you to rebuild the pill or pick it up).

If you don't have ammo, you're best bet is to try and pick up the pill and plant it safely. It's also possible to push the tank off-line physically and send a rebuild. While not likely to succeed, you can place your tank in front of the shooter, giving the pill extra time to shoot out the decoyer's blocks.

Other tactics involve pissing off pills in close range of the targetted pill. It's very important that you don't lose your man in these confrontations, though. Since, if you do, you'll probably lose that area. And once you lose that area, your man will be an easy target when he drops.

Running Interference

This is really really important. BL's points span beyond running interference as they also encompass the duties of a blocker/tackler. If someone is chasing your ally, go after that guy and kill him. Since he's not aiming at you, you'll have an easy time of killing him, and probably not suffer any damage.

My personal style is to go for the tank kill as much as possible. There are a number of techniques used to dogfight. If anyone has any interest in discussing them, start the thread.

Supporting Pill War

Keep the pills hot. If you get a chance, go for the tank kills and let your ally know when the line is undefended. Teamwork is essential to winning the pill war.


The tank who is carrying a pillbox has refueling priority -- let him some some shields/ammo first.

Also, if a tank is waiting on you to refuel, don't fuel up all the way. Fill up enough to kill a pillbox. If you plan on suiciding, just get enough to do what you need to do.

If you die and come back in your ally's area, assess the situation. If he's working off one or two really low bases, just make it back to your area. I can't count the number of times I was harvesting a couple bases in a remote area so I could kill a pill or base when an ally appeared, sucked up all my resources and closed my window of opportunity.


Strategy: Pillbox "windfalls"
by Black Lightning and Attack Salad

From: (Matt Slot)
Subject: Strategy: Pillbox "windfalls"
Date: 7 Nov 1997 09:36:07 GMT

Most of the better players will carry a pill or 2 as a handy tool when the opportunity arises. If you can catch such a player offguard, especially after taking down other pills, you can earn yourself a handful of pills. What do you do with them?

The best case scenario is that you are in/near the enemy backfield, and have free reign to spike and rape. You have certain options here: spike them out, claim a signficant corner or area, or plant them on the enemy side of a pill war you've been fighting.

* Spike them out - If you have enough boxes to span the spaces between *all* their bases, then do so. If you don't have enough to spike or rape one or more bases -- then don't try. A good player can turn a viable base and 30 seconds into a free corner. Only spike them out if you are certain you can maintain the stranglehold. You *must* babysit the pills to keep enemies from fueling or taking them down.
* Claim some ground - If you can't finish the game in one swoop, then pick an important strategic area and capture that. Double or triple spike the corner and rape those bases, or plant so that the enemy forces/territory or divided (and can't support each other). Even if they start pressing into that area quickly, you've a window of opportunity to reinforce or work elsewhere.
* Plant them near a pillwar - If there is a pillwar in progress, a few pills just past the enemy boxes may suffice to help your or your ally decimate the "surrounded" pills with little chance of rebuild. These boxes can then be used to push into (now undefended) enemy territory. Be careful, however, that you aren't cut off from defending them.

The next scenario is that you are near the front or near a dangerous enemy tank. You are still at risk of losing the pills.

* Duck and hide - Use a handy pillbox (heated up) to discourage pursuit. A few mines may also help.
* Build quickly - Risk the LGM while you are being pursued, just to shake off or kill the pursuit.
* Reinforce the pill line - Perhaps you could even set up an easy pill take, and leverage your windfall into even more pills.
* Rest on a base - If you have strong base, you'll have a chance to refuel while the enemy tries to shoot his way through. Be careful of nearby pills (esp green ones), and of leaving a corner of your tank off the base.
* Find your ally -- He can always distract or eliminate dangerous pursuit, while you gloat about your luck.

Finally, there are cases where you just have nothing pressing to do with this batch of pills.

* If you don't have a builder, be careful. Hide behind friendly pills at the first sign of trouble. Only trade with your ally if (a) he has an LGM himself, (b) there are no enemy tanks nearby (c) someone has enough shots or mines to make the trade fast, and (d) he actually knows you are about to die for him. (I can't count the number of times a newbie ally will ignore these common sense rules.)
* Support the pillwar - Drop a pill or two at key points in your pillwar. Maybe even donate a pill to your ally on his front.
* Defend your bases - Often pillwars will drain the defenses of your backfield. A box at a key base can prevent base rapes, and offer a measure of protection to fueling tanks.
* Just plant them - If you *really* don't know what to do with them, just build them on the ground. A cluster of pills in the middle of the backfield are much better defended than a single tank who may get vultured. You can always go back and place them in better locations when the opportunity arises.

In general, the first set of suggestions are only useful *if* you have a free avenue to the enemy backfield and time to exploit it. If you don't do it right, you may end up abandoning the pills because they are simply too far away to be defensible.

To this end, a player *must* be aware of the disposition of his ally. If one gets lucky behind enemy, the other should make a 110% effort to help exploit the advantage: fast rapes, killing tanks, defending hard spikes, or just making fast work of vulnerable pills.

If one player makes the enemy stagger, they will need to regroup: figure out which bases are viable, build blocks and fuel, find a target). This means a window of 30-120 seconds where they are almost entirely distracted, and you can deal the final death blow or prepare to harass them. At worst, defend the spikes so that your ally can go home and refuel.

Most importantly, don't get sloppy. Don't try for that last dead pill when you are already carrying a bunch. Watch for vultures and base-shooters. Carry enough mines to cover your ass, and enough trees to build on the spot. Keep tabs on your ally, so that you can support his work, or that he can help you shake pursuit.


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From: (William Uther)
Subject: Re: Strategy: Pillbox "windfalls"
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 10:22:33 -0500

Again a great post Matt. Thanks.

I have just one quick comment...

Matt Slot wrote:

>The best case scenario is that you are in/near the enemy backfield, and have
>free reign to spike and rape. You have certain options here: spike them out,
>claim a signficant corner or area, or plant them on the enemy side of a pill
>war you've been fighting.
> * Spike them out - If you have enough boxes to span the spaces between
> *all* their bases, then do so. If you don't have enough to spike or
> rape one or more bases -- then don't try. A good player can turn a
> viable base and 30 seconds into a free corner. Only spike them out if
> you are certain you can maintain the stranglehold. You *must* babysit
> the pills to keep enemies from fueling or taking them down.
> * Claim some ground - If you can't finish the game in one swoop, then
> pick an important strategic area and capture that. Double or triple
> spike the corner and rape those bases, or plant so that the enemy
> forces/territory or divided (and can't support each other). Even if
> they start pressing into that area quickly, you've a window of
> opportunity to reinforce or work elsewhere.

The main point here is fairly simple: Pills are actually fairly weak by themselves. Their power when grouped is more than the sum of the parts. Grouping them in one corner and REALLY taking that corner is often better than weakly spiking two corners and just giving them away.

Also note that it's not ONLY other pills that incease the power of a pill. A pill and a tank is worth MUCH more than either the pill or the tank individually. A loose spike in two corners, but also taking a single usable base in one of those corners so you can stay around to defend the spikes is also very effective.

\x/ill :-}


William Uther "I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!"
Dept. of Computer Science, - Anon.
Carnegie Mellon University

Tactics: Planting a support pillbox
by Black Lightning

From: (Matt Slot)
Subject: Tactics: Planting a support pillbox
Date: 7 Nov 1997 08:48:51 GMT

You come up to a front to find an enemy taking down a box, or you see one dropped via pill view and race over... you have a pillbox, but how can you use it effectively for support?


* Plant it in the pill line as a replacement for the "lost" box, and get to another pressing crisis or opportunity.
* Plant it within range of the dead pill, but safely away from lurking enemies. Heat it up for defense.
* Plant it aggressively, beyond the current pill line or within range of a key resource, while the enemy is busy watching or grabbing the dead pill.
* Use existing boxes to defend the dead box, but *don't* commit the one you carry in a risky situation. (1)
* Ignore the dead box entirely, and take down a convenient enemy pill elsewhere while he is busy -- tit for tat.


* Drive in fast to pick up the dead box, but quickly plant the carried pill before you get there -- so you don't lose LGM.
* Drive in fast to pick up the dead box, and drop a few shots at the enemy to discourage him. Perhaps drop a few mines -- but only on your way out/around, so that you don't get pushed back into them.
* Find an incoming angle *behind* the enemy. Spike his backfield and rush his tank with fury.
* Plant the box 5-7 squares back from the pill line, and prepare to move the whole front back the same amount. (2)

Tricky: (3)

* Perform a "fake" build, and plant it near the dead pill.
* Heat up a nearby box, and disguise your LGM under the stream of bullets.
* Approach the dead box, perhaps shooting, to lure in the enemy for the easy shot. When you turn away, he will likely do the same... use that instant to send the build.
* Drive right through the pill line at the enemy tank. Send a build at a 30-90 degree angle from your path, and make the enemy stutter while picking a target (you or your LGM).


1. Sometimes letting them capture a box is better than committing too many resources to a losing battle. Pick your battles, and flow like water -- away from enemy strength, toward enemy weakness. Usually an enemy will focus on a front that he's winning, leaving you a chance to make a break elsewhere.
2. Pull back just enough that he has to move his boxes forward for them to be effective -- slightly less than the length of a gunsight. Generally this means he has to cross/clean up the craters that litter the old front, and gives you a chance to pick off his man or take potshots at pills on another front. You may also be able to find a good base to shield a pill in your line.
3. These tricks can make you look like a BoloGod, or very foolish. Most players (even the better ones) are easy to fluster, and sneak in a good move. However, you'll find that the very good players -- the most consistent and methodical ones -- will see through your attempts. Be *very* careful who you try this against.

Finally, be sure to vary your tactics across the course of a game. Many players have a preferred trick, and will use it *every* time they can. After about the 3rd time, an alert enemy will pick up on it... and embarress you. Although many of these tricks work, you'll find that better players will be able to kill your builder -- be prepared when you try anything even slightly risky.


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Gameplay: Initiative
by Black Lightning and Hillbilly Bob

From: (Matt Slot)
Subject: Gameplay: Initiative
Date: 7 Nov 1997 09:58:51 GMT

On the tarmac maps today, usually the first game in a series of 2x2's is a 5 minute hyperspike upset. After that, the games settle down into more stable pillwars that make for very fun games.

On a tarmac map, you must take the initiative: rape, vulture, hyperspike. Hit the enemy fast and hard, and keep him from fueling. Beginnings are such delicate times, when no one has pills but everyone is jockeying for the early advantage. The pace of the game is often set by the first person to attack another -- so pick your battles, or they will be picked for you.

If, however, you don't get that advantage within the first 3-5 min of the game, then you must prepare for the enemy onslaught -- because they will be coming with strength. Space out a few pills for defense, and make sure to have a full load of ammo to unspike when necessary. Watch for enemies who pick up a bunch of pills at once in order to spike you out, and actively discourage them from doing so.

Initiative is actually 2 things: making the first move so the game progresses at your pace, and defusing enemy strategies as quickly as they are started. A player cannot be "taught" initiative -- they have it to start, they pick it up as part of the game, or they just don't ever get it.

My gameplay used to be entirely reactive -- and I still fall back into that mode sometimes. I was able to use passive aggressive play to recover enemy pills, unspiking my corner, and getting the pill advantage. However, today's games move at such a pace that I don't have time to prepare a defense.

I've started playing a game where I get the first pill, and make the first attack. I aim for the most vulnerable enemy (esp one taking down a pill), and dive headlong into the fray -- sending a hyperspike, firing bullets, driving for a dogfight, and spraying mines. Even if I am less than sucessful, I have slowed his progress and made him cautious. I can then use that chance to build my defenses.

Oops, I decided to amend these suggestions a bit. In a 2x2 you should talk to your ally, and go into the game with an understanding of what he's going to focus on (bases, pills, killing enemies). I recommend a mixed strategy, personally (one attack hard, one prepare home territory), but it's vital that each of you adjust your gameplay to the circumstances. A failed spike or vulture should signal the end of aggression, while a clumsy enemy who dies on a take may encourage you to pick up the pace. Complement or support your ally's play as appropriate.


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From: (Joseph Goodman)
Subject: Re: Gameplay: Initiative
Date: Sat, 08 Nov 1997 13:43:38 -0500

Right on! I just have one thing to add. I'm going to use some fancy words -- proactive and reactive. You can take the initiative proactively by doing something that your enemy has to defend against, like spiking him, or taking his base, or killing his tank (what BL said). Or you can do something reactively by countering whatever your enemy does so his net gain is zero, such as repairing a pill he's attacking or harassing his tank whenever he tries to do something.

I've found that if you do the former, you put yourself on the defensive. That is, as soon as you launch an offensive -- ESPECIALLY with pills -- you have to defend those pills, or re-take your bases, or watch for his counter-strike.

If you do the latter -- "reactive initiative" -- usually it just keeps your enemy busy. Why is this good? Well, you can pepper (shoot a few times) all the pills in your area, then go repair whatever he's going after. You both refuel, you pepper some more pills, then as he futilely goes for another pill you repair it. After 10 minutes he's made no progress, but you can take down 3-4 pills (all of which are almost all the way dead) at once then lay a mega-spike on him. Bam! All of sudden he's spiked out in a big way. About 50% of the time you get accused of hacking for taking down the pills so fast, especially if you're playing under a name no one recognizes; the other 50% of the time you win!

Joseph Goodman <>

Originals Here.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alas, has been sold - I suppose it was only a matter of time until that three-letter domain was too valuable to hold onto. Fortunately, a lot of it is preserved on the WayBackMachine, at least for now:
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2015 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The site is still online here
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent, thank you Nemosan Very Happy
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