FAQ/Walkthrough for Desert Commander (NES)
by Mike Jenista
mjenista@math.duke.edu
February 2008
Version 2.00



Contents
--------

I. Introduction
II. Controls
III. Units
IV. Tactics
V. Scenarios
VI. Legal Mumbo-Jumbo



I. Introduction
---------------

Desert Commander puts you in charge of Allied forces in the North African desert
campaign during WWII.  Basically, this means you are Patton or Montgomery.
You can play two modes: one-on-one with a friend or versus the computer.  This
guide is mostly geared toward playing the computer opponent in the five
scenarios provided.

If you play Advance Wars, this game will seem like a really simple version.  But
this one came before AW, and there are probably even games that came before this
one.  



II. Controls
------------

D-Pad: moves cursor around the screen
Start: brings up map (press any button to exit)
Select: brings up unit totals menu, and you can change game music 
A: choose an action/target
B: undo an action or move to nearby active unit



III. Units
----------

Both sides (blue and green) have the same units.  At the end is a chart showing
how they match up against each other.

Tank
----
The basic fighting unit, it attacks everything pretty well except planes and
other tanks.  With other tanks, you can sometimes do very well and sometimes
do very badly.  


Armored Car
-----------
The armored car moves faster than the tank, but attacks weaker.  It is very poor
against the tank and only moderate against other armored cars.  The armored car
is very good at taking out artillery, especially AA guns since they don't fight
back very well.


Transport
---------
Transport trucks can pick up infantrymen and carry them much faster than they
walk.  I find that infantry and trucks together make a nice "secret mission
force" for sneaking around the main battle and ambushing the enemy HQ.  See
the Tactics section for more details.  The trucks themselves are pretty good at
fighting lesser units, such as supply trucks and artillery.


Supply Truck
------------
Supply trucks restock ammo and fuel for adjacent units but do NOT replenish
unit strength.  They are generally poor attackers.  To be honest, these units
stink, especially if you are playing the computer.  Switch them out for other
units and use towns to resupply instead.  The exception is in versus mode; your
buddy will not be as dumb as the computer and you could run out of ammo or gas
at the wrong time.


Field Cannon
------------
This artillery attacks well against ground units but can get beat up really
fast.  But with a range of 4 spaces, you should keep it behind better units
like tanks and pummel the enemy's front line units.  Great with oasis.

Also--this is very important: when artillery attacks, it never takes damage in
the return fire.  The enemy wastes ammo trying, but I have never seen attacking
artillery take return damage, even when attacking from an adjacent square.  So
you should NEVER pass up the chance to attack with artillery--in fact, they 
should be the first things you use.


Anti-Aircraft Gun
-----------------
Rips planes to shreds, does moderate to poor damage to ground units.  Like the
cannons, they have poor defense, but only a range of 3, so keep them behind
better units to avoid damage.  With their slight movement advantage over field
cannons, I find that AA guns are the artillery of choice when you are facing
an enemy with A LOT of planes.  Even if you kill all the planes, the AA guns
are still pretty good at taking out weak ground units, and when placed on an 
oasis they can do good damage to armored units also.

AA guns have the same attack immunity as the field cannon.


Infantry
--------
To load infantry onto transports, just end the move next to the truck and choose
"yes" when given the option to get on the truck.  Infantry are good at attacking
certain strong units like tanks, armored cars, and the enemy HQ.  However, they
are very slow, so usually trucks come in handy with infantry.

Infantry consume no fuel, only ammo.


Fighter
-------
The fighter squadron does moderate damage to other fighter squadrons, but really
rips bomber squadrons apart.  They can do moderate damage to some ground units.
Fighters do not spend fuel to stay in place, so don't worry about leaving them
hovering in the same square.


Bomber
------
Basically blows up anything on the ground.  Stinks against other planes, and
also has low ammo so it needs to restock.  Bombers, like fighters, spend no fuel
when staying still.


Headquarters
------------
The headquarters unit is a bunch of jeeps, but for some reason it is really
powerful.  It is like the king and queen of chess put together: strong unit but
you lose if it dies.  The HQ does not expend fuel.


This chart shows how the units match up.  Attackers are on the left, defender
along the top.  I measured the strength by attacking with full strength from
neutral ground (desert), so keep that in mind when attacking with modified
terrain or damaged units.  These ratings are averages, so sometimes you might
get totally surprised that your bomber hit two infantrymen and they took out
four of your planes--it happens sometimes!

+ = good attack (more than half of enemy destroyed)
* = average attack (between two and five enemies destroyed)
- = poor attack (between no or three enemies destroyed)

   AA  TA  AC  TR  IN  SY  CA  BO  FI  HQ
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
AA| * | + | * | + | * | * | + |++ |++ | + |   AA = Anti-Aircraft gun
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
TA| * | * | + | + | + | + | + | - | * | + |   TA = Tank
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
AC| + | - | * | * | * | + | + | * | - | - |   AC = Armored Car
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
TR| + | - | - | + | + | + | + | - | - | - |   TR = Transport Truck
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
IN| * | + | + | + | * | + | - | - | - | + |   IN = Infantry
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
SY| - | - | - | - | + | + | * | - | - | - |   SY = Supply Truck
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
CA| * | + | + | + | + | + | * | * | - | + |   CA = Field Cannon
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
BO| + | + | + | + | + | + | + | - | - | * |   BO = Bomber Plane
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---. 
FI| - | - | * | * | + | + | - | + | * | * |   FI = Fighter Plane
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.
HQ| + | + | + | + | + | + | + | * | - | * |   HQ = Headquarters
  .---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.---.




IV. Tactics
-----------

Terrain features
----------------
Oasis (palm tree): When attacking from an oasis, the attack power is increased.
	So parking artillery on an oasis is really good.
Bunker (brick wall): Increases defensive power; usually you want to put your HQ
	unit on one of these to endure long attacks.
Town (white building): Restocks ammo and fuel AND adds five to your unit
	strength (up to the full 10).  Also, battling from a town shows the 
	bunker graphic, and I am pretty sure you get a similar defensive bonus
	when you are on it.
	You can also do a neat trick to attack enemies next to a town.  Move to
	the town and attack.  If you don't die, you will resupply like normal	
	and replenish your losses!  If you already on the town, you must move
	off and back on to do this.
Airport: Like a town for planes; fits two planes at once!


Terrain Itself
--------------
Ocean: Only planes can pass over water, and this is actually a great thing for
	sneak-attacking your enemy.
Road: fastest movement
Desert/Grass: moderate movement
Rocks: slow movement


Here are some general tips of combat:
* You can move and attack if you end your turn next to an enemy, but not the
	other way around.
* If you make a move but don't like it, press B when the dialogue box comes up
	with "We've made our max move" or "Would you like to attack?" This will
	cancel the move.
* Keep artillery behind stronger defensive units, preferably on oases.
* Make your enemy come to you.
* Enemy units that have less than four men left will rarely attack, so ignore
	them and concentrate on healthier units.  It is hard to keep track of
	which units have what health, but do your best.
* When attacked, it costs you ammo to defend yourself.  So if you are low on
	ammo, keep in mind that you could lose all your remaining rounds just
	defending yourself!  Resupply before you get low.
* The win condition is the death of the enemy HQ--so attack it at all costs.
* You don't need to have every kind of unit in every battle; focus on units that
	will give you the advantage versus the enemy units listed.
* Use the towns and airports often to boost unit strength.
* The real advantage of the transport truck is that once you put the infantry
	down, it gets a turn of its own.  This means you can put the truck in
	a place to block the enemy HQ's movement, then use the infantry to 
	attack, ambush style!
* Enemy planes will not stick around AA guns, but you can chase them down by
	using a little trick to "boost" your move.  If the plane is just out
	of reach of your movement, try to reach another enemy unit, then attack
	the plane by using the extra range of the AA gun.
* Don't use a unit to attack an enemy if you know it will have a big
	disadvantage--unless you are attacking the HQ!
* Always try to get "first strike" advantage; count the squares between you and
	your enemy before moving.  If you can get a bunch of your units into
	a good position to attack, go for it.  If you would extend yourself 
	without getting many attacks in, pull back so the enemy over extends and
	you can strike first on the next turn.



V. Scenarios
------------

The only thing that makes later scenarios harder is that the enemy has more
units than you.  The actual units and computer intelligence does not increase.
The enemy's main tactic is to barrel straight at you with a large bulk of its
forces, saving only a small gaurd in reserve to protect the HQ.  If you take 
out a lot of the initial wave, the gaurds will leave and the HQ starts to move
around a lot.

The general strategy is to absorb the initial attack to either deplete the 
enemy forces or to distract them while you send a few sneak attack units to
try and take out the HQ in one round of combat.

I will describe three strategies: one for simply winning quickly, one for 
winning by destroying all the enemy forces, and one for winning with the units
you are given by default.

Also, the maps are all cut from the same big stretch of coastal territory, so 
you may recognize areas from one level to the next.


****************
* First Battle *
****************

Really, this battle is very easy.  Just let the enemy come to you and replenish
your weak units often.  In particular, the planes should reach you a turn or two
before any other enemies, and with two AA guns and a fighter you should have
no trouble destroying these.  Then you can start creeping your artillery toward
oncoming enemies while using tanks and ACs to mop up.

You should be able to face the enemy HQ with zero casualties if you are being
conservative.  You can win this mission with the default forces and destroy all
enemy forces without breaking a sweat.


******************
* Way to Victory *
******************

Winning Quickly
---------------
Switch your supply trucks to something else--more artillery is a good choice,
but bombers would be good too.

Set up a base in the oasis/bunker area to your right.  That little batch of 
enemies will get to you quickly as well as planes from the main base, but you
should easily waste them with artillery placed on the oases.  Use the two towns
to restock your units.

This battle is too short to use your transport trucks for a longterm mission, so
use them to ambush enemy artillery and supply trucks.

Once you clear out the planes and initial attack wave, refresh your troops and
go after the enemy HQ.


Winning Fully
-------------
Use the same strategy as above to destroy all enemy forces, although you may
wish to convert troops and trucks into planes to take out the enemy planes
faster.


Winning With Default Forces
---------------------------
Set up the same type of base, but leave your planes out of reach of the enemy.
The enemy will move up all of his forward forces, then his rear planes and some
other units.  You must give this initial force a serious whooping to win.

Use artillery and fighters to take out BOMBERS first, then fighters.  Ground
units should use the towns to replenish and take out the two tanks that come at
you--use the bomber to help with the tanks.

Don't chase enemies too far east; stay near your own airport and towns to keep
your unit strength up and let the enemies come to you.  Your infantry will be
great at mopping up artillery, and their transports can slow down enemy ground
units while yours heal up in the towns.

If you destroy all the planes without too many casualties, you will have an
easy time picking off the remaining ground units as they advance one by one.
Eventually the enemy HQ will make a run at you and get crushed.


*********************
* Offense & Defense *
*********************

Winning Quickly
---------------
The enemy has no planes so convert your fighters and AA guns into more 
appropriate units; I like to make four bombers.

Take your HQ and head west toward the oasis/town spot near the lower left part
of the map.  Send some artillery and tanks to protect it.  You should be able
to lure a lot of units this way.

Your other units should head right and take the oases and bunker before the
enemy does.  The enemy only sends part of his forces because the rest are 
protecting his HQ.  With artillery on the oases, you should get lots of kills
and you can heal your tanks in the towns to the left.

To win, park your bombers over the ocean.  When the HQ's gaurds leave to attack
your forces, move in and destroy the HQ with multiple bomber attacks.  If the
gaurds won't leave, use your bombers to help out your oasis forces in the middle
of the map to draw them away.  You should be able to isolate the HQ as long as
you don't get your butt kicked in the oasis battle in the middle of the map.


Winning Fully
-------------
You should make at least four cannons, no AA guns, a few bombers, and the rest
tanks.  You are going to sit down and let the enemy come to you.

Start retreating your HQ and other units nearby to the west.  Many enemies will
try to catch you--use your bombers to intercept and maybe a few tanks to help.
Use artillery and tanks to pick off other units not going after your HQ.

Keep your HQ going west, but your other units should be able to tear up the
initial onslaught of ACs and tanks--make sure to fire with cannons first, then
bombers, then your own tanks.

Just keep your head and you should quickly gain the upper hand.  Make sure to
keep your artillery forward for when the enemy HQ and his last units make a run
at you.


Winning With Default Forces
---------------------------
Send your small HQ force west as always.  Your HQ should head for the bunker
in the southwest corner of the map.  The other units should get to the lower
town as fast as possible.

Use your tanks and ACs to make a wall in front of the two towns, but don't make
it more than one space beyond the towns because then the enemy AC's will be able
to reach you on their first turn.

Your planes should head out over the ocean to wait for a chance to strike the
enemy HQ.  Load on infantry onto the transport truck and send it around the 
southern road to come from behind the enemy HQ.

Diligently defend the two towns, using them to heal up.  Preserve the artillery
as long as you can because it is the most precious attacker you have.  Remember
that if you are on a town already, you can move off then back on, attack and
then resupply after the battle!  This only works if you move off then back on,
and it works best with artillery since they don't risk death from return fire.

Eventually, even if you are losing the defense of the two towns, the enemy HQ
sends his gaurds to further the assault and you will have your chance to attack.
DO NOT attack until you can use one of your units to plug up the town next to
him or until he heads out west with his units.  If you attack too early, the HQ
will use the town as a defensive position that heals him and his gaurds will
stay to defend him.

I can usually get my truck close enough that I get to attack with a bomber,
fighter, and infantry all on one turn, which is an easy kill unless you are
really unlucky.


*****************
* Bloody Battle *
*****************

Winning Quickly
---------------
When playing this level, I switch my bomber to a fighter and then make my
armored cars into tanks.  Also, supply trucks are useless on this level--make
them into a third infantry/transport pair.

Bunker up your forces around the big oasis behind the rocks or even right where
you start.  Make sure to keep your HQ protected.  Load troops into trucks and
send them along the southern road.

The enemy will send lots of planes; attack the BOMBERS first.  Take down bombers
as fast as you can with fighters and AA guns.

As the enemy ground units roll up to you, pull back and just bunker down.  In
the meantime, send your troop trucks all the way around the road and then ambush
the enemy HQ, which should have been abandoned by its gaurds if you kill enough
of the units attacking your own HQ.

Alone and unable to resupply, you should be able to kill the enemy HQ in one
turn (three infantry attacks).


Winning Fully
-------------
Keep your tanks and ACs, but switch everything else to 3 fighters and a mass of 
AA guns--you may want two field cannons.

Make a massive group either in your starting town or in the four oases in the
nearby mountains to the east.  The advantage of the oases is the boosted power,
but you can also stretch your enemy farther by using the starting town area.

Concentrate on weakening but not killing enemies--attack with an AA gun, and if
you kill all but 2 or 3, don't attack that unit again.  It will retreat on its
own, which has the bonus of blocking other advancing units.  You can be much 
more effecient if you damage most of the enemies rather than destroy half of
them.

Your tanks and ACs will take the brunt of the aerial assault obviously, but this
is okay.  A few will survive to help fight off the slower ground units.  As they
leave the enemy HQ behind, always hit first with artillery, even heavily damaged
artillery since you know you won't get hit with return fire.

Your fighters should concentrate on enemy planes trying to sneak over the ocean,
but once the planes are all destroyed you can use your own fighters to attack
weak enemy ground units like supply trucks and infantry.


Winning With Default Forces
---------------------------
Load up your two transports with infantry and send them with a supply truck 
along the southern roads and then back north when they pass the town and airport
in the southeast area of the map.  They should be heading north around the same
turn that the enemy HQ starts moving.  Also send your bomber north over the
water to strike from the north side of the enemy HQ--I sometimes wait to send
the bomber until I have engaged the enemy planes; this keeps the enemy from
looking for your bomber.

Everyone else should set up defensively around the initial area.  Make sure to
squat on the airport to keep enemy planes from using it.  The onslaught of
planes can be rough, but if you can keep track of which planes have less than
5 strength, you can avoid attacking weak units in favor of strong ones.  This
means the weak ones will retreat and get in the way of fresh ones.

You're not trying to destroy all enemy forces--just delay them long enough that
your enemy's HQ starts to move and his gaurds leave his side.  When that happens
you can pounce on him with your bomber and two infantry units.  It should be
enough to kill him.


***********************
* North African Front *
***********************

Winning Quickly
---------------
Okay, following my strategy from the last three missions, get three bombers and
shift all remaining resources to tanks, AA guns, and cannons.

Make a massive block of units in your starting area.  Surround your artillery
and HQ with a wall of tanks--you will want to make sure you can keep enemies
away from the airport and town.  As your enemies come to you, use your artillery
to soften them up and then use tanks to finish them off.  Stay in a tight 
formation; remember, these units are the DECOY.

The enemy planes will take a lot of time to refuel, so don't chase them.

Your bombers have enough fuel to get all the way across the map, so send them
along the rough southern terrain until they the edge of the map.  Then go up
and wait until enough units leave the HQ for you to get all your bombers in to
attack at once.

With three bombers, you should be able to kill the HQ on the first try.  But if
the HQ survives, pray your bombers don't get totally destroyed.  The HQ and his
gaurds will use up a lot of your ammo but you should have at least one round
per bomber to try again to kill the HQ.  If your bombers get destroyed, you are
in trouble because you will most likely not weather the storm with enough units
to attack the HQ, if at all.


Winning Fully
-------------
Planes: three fighters and one bomber
Artillery: three cannons, four AA guns
Ground Units: make the rest tanks

Bunker down on the road next to the bunker and town--stay here for a long time.
Your bomber should hang out over the southern rocks to ambush stray ground
units and your fighters should go north over the ocean to intercept enemy planes
and drive them back to the airport.  They will often go back anyway to refuel.

This is actually easier than you might think because the map is so large.  Your
enemy will run straight across the terrain, find he has low fuel, and back up
to a town or a supply truck.  Those units that do make it to your position will
probably be alone.  You can easily wipe out the first ground assault.  The only
hard part is to keep the enemy bombers away and shoot down any attacking planes
with your AA guns.  

Feel free to branch out toward the enemy since he will most likely be so strung
out that you can rnu up to a group of two or three ground units and destroy 
or maim them before they know what happened.

After about six or seven turns, the enemy artillery starts to show up.  These
are easy pickings since your artillery can get a first strike and then tanks
can clean up the remainder.

If you have lost a lot of units by the time the enemy HQ approaches, retreat to
your own original base again and make him come to you.


Winning With Default Forces
---------------------------
For some reason, the computer sometimes adopts a totally different strategy
when I choose the default set of forces.  Sometimes he moves only a small force
to come after me and the bulk stays to defend the HQ in a massive block.  This
is really hard to deal with because you have to slowly fish off one or two units
at a time to come after you and if you are not careful they will suddenly swarm
you.  

Anyway, if the enemy does the normal thing, which is to send most of his units
directly at you, you should send your bombers and infantry/transports around the
main horde of enemy forces to ambush the enemy HQ.

Your main forces should surround your HQ and stay alive as long as possible.  I
find that attacking only with artillery makes my units last longer and therefore
allow more time for the ambush to be successful.



VI. Legal Mumbo-Jumbo
---------------------

Copyright 2008, Mike Jenista

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