Strand of the Ancients has two 15-person teams. The ultimate goal is to be the team that captures the prize, known as "The Titan Relic", in the shortest possible time.
The game is split into two rounds. In round one, the Alliance team is on offense, and tries to capture the relic, while the Horde team must defend the relic. In round two, the teams switch sides.
In round one, the Alliance team is given a clock with a ten minute countdown with which to make the capture. The Horde must match or beat their time in the second round, so the Horde clock starts with only as much time as it took the Alliance.
(I'm unclear on what happens in the event of a tie, such as both teams failing to capture. I've never seen it happen. In practice, if the Alliance team fails to capture in 10 minutes, it is probably because the Horde team is vastly superior, and will slice through the defense like a hot knife through butter in round two.)
The Titan Relic is housed in a building called (oddly enough) The Relic Chamber. This chamber is fortressed behind three separate walls. The first (outer-most) wall has two gates: Blue and Green. The second wall also has two gates: Red and Purple. The third and final wall has a single gate: Yellow.
The following diagram provides a crude overview of the layout:
The offensive team is given tanks (up to four at one time) that they must drive and use to blast through each of the gates, and finally into the relic chamber. The round is completed only after they break through each wall, then break into the relic chamber, and one of the players right-clicks the relic to capture it.
Each gate is protected by two gun turrets, one mounted on either side. The defensive players can control the guns to try and destroy the tanks before the tanks destroy the gates.
Both tanks and gun turrets can also be used to attack players, and are also vulnerable to assault from player attacks.
Start of Each Round
The offensive team starts the round split up on two boats somewhere out on the ocean. The boats will eventually travel to the beach, where the players can grab the first set of tanks and head to the outer wall. There will be two tanks located at each of the docks to start the game.
The defensive team starts on a platform between the first and second walls. From there they must take up their defensive positions while the boats carrying the offensive team are heading towards shore. This period lasts about one minute.
(Note: don't fall off the boat before the start of the game. It is a LONG swim back to shore.)
An offensive player can get in an available tank by right-clicking it. Once mounted, he gets a control panel that has two abilities: shoot and ram. Ram is used to do damage to enemy players nearby who are attacking the tank. Shoot is used primarily to bring down the gates, but can also be used to damage enemy players.
Tanks can also carry up to two passengers. Passengers mount by simply right-clicking a tank that already has a driver. The passenger positions are good for ranged attackers or those with crowd-control abilities who can go after enemy players that are attacking the tank.
On the defensive side, gun turrets are also mounted by right-clicking. In a strange quirk, you can get on a tank while mounted on your horse (you will automatically dismount), but you must manually dismount before it will let you get on a gun. Guns have just a single ability: shoot. It is good for dealing damage both to tanks and enemy players.
Tanks and guns both have similar aiming mechanisms. Simply right click and drag your mouse to move the target, then shoot. The shot will go wherever the target was at the time you shoot, regardless of where you move the target after you get the shot off.
There is a teleportation chamber located outside of each gate that defensive players can use to get inside the gate. (Just right click on it.) Offensive players cannot get inside a gate until it is destroyed. To get outside an intact gate, defensive players must run up the steps to the gun turret, then jump down to the ground.
Strategies and Tactics: Defense
The goal of the defense is quite simple on the surface: prevent the advance of the enemy tanks, keeping each gate intact as long as possible. However, it takes a good bit of planning to coordinate an effective defense.
In total, there are ten gunner positions between the five gates. It is possible for gunners to be positioned at each gate right from the start of the game. However, this is a terrible tactic, because anyone positioned behind the first wall is worthless until that wall is breached. Good teams will only man the guns at the outer gates (Blue and Green) at the start of the game, and only send gunners to the next set of gates after the outer gate is destroyed.
All players who are not manning a gun should start the game on the beach, ready to attack the tanks. As soon as the game starts, the tanks are immediately vulnerable to attack. You should have ground forces ready to start beating on them right away (the more DPS the better).
All fire from both players and guns should be focused on tanks whenever possible. Enemy players can do no damage the gates; only tanks can damage the gates. Therefore, unnecessarily engaging the enemy players is a waste of time and energy that would be better used on attacking the tanks, which are the only real threat.
Before starting the defensive round, you'll want to split the team into two roughly equal groups. One group should head to the Blue gate, and one to Green. Try to determine:
- Who will be the gunners at each gate (anyone but your healers; their skills are more useful on the ground)
- Who will be the ground-based defenders at each gate
Once a gate is destroyed, all players assigned to that side should fall back to the next level. Two players should man the guns at the next gate, and everyone else should continue attacking tanks on the ground, trying to keep them as far from the gate as possible. This repeats all the way back to the relic chamber.
Once the yellow gate is under attack, ALL players from both groups should fall back on defense (even if only the gates on one side were destroyed). The reason is that when the yellow gate falls, you will have two things to defend, and you will need your entire team to do it effectively. First, you need to continue to attack the tanks to keep them from entering the relic chamber. Second, you need to prevent offensive players from planting bombs in front of the chamber.
On the right side of the courtyard (as you are facing the relic chamber), there are bombs that offensive players can pick up and place in front of the chamber door in an attempt to destroy it. At this point you want to do the following:
- Prevent the players from getting to the bombs and picking them up.
- If they pick up a bomb, prevent them from getting to the chamber door and dropping it.
- If they get to the door and plant the bomb, try to disarm it by right-clicking it before it explodes.
Strategies and Tactics: Offense
The offensive strategy is simple:
- Get tanks
- Drive up to the first gate (blue or green), destroy it
- Drive to the next gate (red or purple), destroy it
- Drive to the yellow gate, destroy it
- Drive to the relic chamber, destroy the front door
- Run inside the chamber, right-click the relic, done.
As I said, simple strategy. Tactics are another matter however. (It will help if you've read and understand the defensive tactics first.)
If the defensive team is well coordinated, they will already be on the beach attacking your tanks as soon as your boats dock. It may help to know in advance who will be the tank drivers (really anyone but the healers). Everyone else has just one job:
PROTECT THE TANKS.
That's it. If you see an enemy player attacking a tank, stop them! Well-geared enemy players can inflict far more DPS on the tanks than the gun turrets can. You need to use every ability you have to keep the enemy away from the tanks. Kill them, freeze them, snare them, stun them, fear them, death grip them… anything to stop their attacks on the tanks.
If enemy players are ignoring the tanks… let them. They are worthless. If someone wants to just sit on the beach and get a tan, they are doing your team a favor.
If your tanks are destroyed before the first gate is destroyed, they will respawn on the beach after a short period of time. Someone needs to go and grab the next one as quickly as possible. Time is everything in this game, and cannot be wasted.
Shortly after the first gate is destroyed, a "shop" opens up between the first and second walls where the tanks will respawn. (An in-game announcement is made, something along the lines of "Grigsby's vehicle emporium is now open for business.")
Alternate Offensive Strategies
Some teams find it useful to send all tanks to a single gate in the beginning, either blue or green. This tactic might work against a badly coordinated team. However, I personally am dubious of this strategy, especially against a good opponent. The reason is simple: by attacking both sides simultaneously, you force them to divide their defenses and fight a "two-front" war. If you attack just one side, it may actually make it easier for them to stop you because they'll have more players.
A slight change to this that might be useful would be to begin by attacking just on one side. But when the first set of tanks is destroyed and respawns on the other side of the beach, then start to split the attack. This could confuse their defense by forcing them to go back and forth between the two sides, and might open up one side completely.
Once inside the yellow gate, you need to have players trying to pick up the bombs and place them at the door to the relic chamber. If you fail to do this and only attack with the tanks, a good team will have your tanks destroyed long before they get close to the relic chamber because they will be able to focus all of their energy on the tanks.
There are two graveyards located inside level 1. These are initially controlled by the defense, but can be captured by the offense by clicking the flags located directly in front of the gates. Because the battleground is not that large, these graveyards represent minimal strategic importance. Capture them if the opportunity presents itself, but not at the expense of your primary offensive goals of protecting your tanks and destroying the gates.
Defensive Gunner Tactics
The primary focus of gunners should be the tanks. All other targets are a distant second on the priority list.
It takes a few seconds for your shot to reach the ground, so you need to anticipate the movement of the tanks and lead them a short distance. I've found that if you place the target directly in front of the tank, your shot will usually be right on. If the driver is smarter and is zig-zagging quite a bit, you may have to improvise.
If there are no tanks in range, you can shoot at enemy players. Your shots do a very effective AoE attack and inflict quite a bit of damage, and can help out your ground forces quite a bit. (Fortunately you are using "smart bombs" that only affect enemy targets and do no damage to friendly targets.)
Once your gate is breached, it often makes sense to remain at the gun turret for a period of time because it is still possible to prevent additional tanks from advancing. However, your turret is now reachable by enemy melee attackers. The best and often-overlooked strategy is to call for help from the gunner on the other turret. He can target your turret and kill the attacker without inflicting any damage on you.
Red and Purple gate gunners should keep an eye on the flag in front of them that represents the graveyard. Pummel any enemies that attempt to capture this flag, but not at the expense of drawing fire away from the tanks. Tanks are always priority number one.