The New Players Guide to OpenRA

shangkuanlc edited this page Feb 20, 2018 · 5 revisions

TODO: replace screenshots with glitchy player colors.

Welcome to the wonderful world of OpenRA online multiplayer!


This is a Guide to explain how to play OpenRA if you are just a starting novice or a very skilled player.


OpenRA is a clone of the old-school popular RTS Command & Conquer Red Alert. If you haven't played Red Alert, you probably should, because you've missed out on an amazing piece of gaming history.


Yes, If you have played old-school Red Alert or Aftermath and have come to OpenRA to play, you will notice MANY things are different. Don't Fret! OpenRA was set to balance the Online gaming universe of Command&Conquer. Basically, Allies have certain Units/Infantry/Building/SuperWeapons that the Soviets don't have and vice-versa. You will also notice different units that were not included in the Original RA such as the Flak Truck and Supply Truck. Game-play is also a bit tricky and difficult to understand if you haven't played OpenRA at least a couple times, which I recommend if you haven't already. Well, Lets get cracking on how to make you an overall better player and team player in OpenRA.

Chapter one: Game Theory

When you get right down to it, the entirety of Game-play can be sub-categorized into two parts:

Micro - the ability and capacity to command and control many units, aircraft, infantry, naval vessels, etc. at different times in a controlled and strategic manner.

Yaks in Base

Look at this picture, could you imagine how difficult it would be for a novice player to micro all of these units into battle? Most novice players would get so overwhelmed with the size of their army, believing that size is everything, and will throw these units into battle without any real strategic thought. There are few players that actually do this since, if you are a great player and are able to get an army of massive size, you should be able to micro them equally as well.

Macro - the ability to build and construct buildings, defenses and ore refineries in strategic places that serve your economy and base defense.

macroing difficulty

Now, look at this. Could you imagine how difficult it would be to a novice player trying to macro all of these ore trucks efficiently? Although Macroing is difficult to get down at first, it is way easier to understand how to Macro your building and defense's placement than Microing your troops efficiently into battle.

Mapping theory, Expansion, Economic building placement

Mapping Theory

Basically, When starting or in a multiplayer lobby about to play a game, examine the map you're about to play on; check spawn points, geography of the map (Rivers, Lakes, Mountains, Ore placement). Check to see which spawn is situated closest to the most ore. (for the sake of this chapter we'll assume this is a Free For All match and will cover teamplay later) Determine where other players are situated if possible; understand their motives, goals and objectives. There are a number of questions you want to ask yourself:

"Which spawn has the most ore?"

"Are any of these players next to me better than me? Should I be worried If they attack?"

"Does the player next to me want the same ore pile that I want? Would I be willing to fight him for it to gain the upper-hand?"

"Is this mostly a land or a water map?" Should I be worried if an adjacent player were to get a naval army?"

"How would I go about taking the adjacent player down? Do I want to attack him fast? (3-10 Minutes in-game) Or do I attack him later? (10 Minutes - ~ )"

Those are all great questions to ask yourself. Remember, If you know you cannot beat the adjacent player next to you, it is a good idea to either not spawn next to him, or not attack him in-game. (maybe he won't attack you)



After you found your first ore field and your harvester starts collecting, you will notice: those resources won't last forever. Ore mines can regrow gold, but that takes time.


It is therefore recommended to scout new ore patches early and plan new expansions so you never run out of money for new buildings and units.

In the early game it is usually enough to reveal the area around your base with some light units such as infantry, jeeps and yaks. This will also secure the next ore patch a bit.


Now for the actual expanding. You have the following possibilities to do so:

Base Walking

When you click on your main building with a left-click, you will notice a build radius which marks the area where you are allowed to place buildings.


In the inner of this build radius you can construct buildings at a distance of one cell vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Beyond this distance placement is impossible and the area will be marked red.


Tip: If an ore field is in your build radius, place the next building in that direction so next time you can build a refinery on the edge of the ore field.

Base Moving

Should there be no further ore fields within your build radius, you need to move it. Your construction yard can be deployed into a mobile construction vehicle (MCV) that can be redeployed everywhere with enough space. To do so select the main building with the left mouse button. You will see a green crosshair on it. Now click with the right mouse button again on it to start the transformation into a truck than can be ordered to move around.


Drive it next to a new ore field and right-click on it, to convert it into a construction yard again. Your build radius has moved with it. You can repeat this indefinitely.



Important: Moving your build radius with your MCV, will have you lose the right to build on the old place. It is therefore advised to keep some defense turrets ore mobile units there to keep your buildings defended.

A less risky method is building a weapons factory and a service depot. Together they grant you access to build additional MCVs. Not only will this allow you to construct while one truck is on the move, you will get additional build space on the map and buildings are constructed a little faster with more than one construction yard active.



Important: Enemy construction vehicles are easy targets, because they have weak armor and drive slowly. You should never leave it undefended and if under attack, deploy it into a construction yard to get better armor and to initiate repairs. It is advised to scout and secure the area before moving, to avoid getting the core unit of the game in trouble.


Economic Building Placement & Expansion

Doesn't it seem like common sense to place an ore refinery CLOSEST to an ore pile? Doing so will improve faster Ore truck path time, higher income of money AND less overcrowding of your base. (I only mention because some new players that play 45 min to 1 hour long games produce really overcrowded bases) At the start of a match, after deploying MCV, you should already understand where you want certain buildings to be placed. I.e., ore refinery should be placed closest to ore pile, Barracks should be situated where most of the opposing players might attack from, power plants in a safer place until enough time passes where you can build defenses.

Upon Expansion, Ore refineries should be placed closest to ore with care. You never know who is on the other side of the ore pile hiding in the fog of war trying to take the ore too, Could be a veteran player, could be the whole team, who knows? Always remember to defend the advancing path of your expansion with defenses or units. Use team chat to inform your fellow teammates about your expansion goals and motives; team-chat is vital for victory!

Expansion also comes with a price. Expanding too early, before setting up at least a base Economy, will cause you to suffer minutes later. Be it you run out of money, or you get attacked very soon 2-4 minutes into the game. Remember to think about expanding before you do it and think of all outcomes and remember, let your teammates know what is up!

In conclusion, expansion and strategic building placement is vital to your macro economy and for victory! Almost all OpenRA veterans use base expansions to win. Stay in your base at your starting point and you won't last long.

Chapter Two: Time, Build orders and shortcuts!

In theory, time is the single most game-winning aspect of OpenRA. Time determines everything. How quickly you build your base, how quickly you micro-manage your army into battle, how quickly you construct a nuclear missile. It determines the entire outcome of the game.

economy and early harrasment

Look at this picture. Which player do you think will win first? At about 3 minutes, Player "Polish Army" (blue) has expanded to two different ore fields and has a secure base with a Yak. Player "British Army" (Purple) has his ore refinery situated far from the intended ore field and most likely has no money! On top of that, he also has a submarine pen in a small lake which serves no purpose. A waste of time and money! All Polish Army has to do is fly his yak over and attack "British Army's" one power plant and bam! Low power for him, making him even more far behind than he already was. Polish Army did a very good job of planning, placement and expanding. He ended up winning that one easy.

Time Zones

Their are certain "Time Zones" you need to recognize in-game.

"Starting" Timezone - player has just started to build his base, has very limited structures, seldom has defenses and has only a couple infantry. Starts to build economy. (0:00-1:00)

"Expansion" Timezone - player's base is still under construction, player has some defenses and infantry out. Economy is increasing, Player is expanding to conquer more ore. (1:00-3:00) In some circumstances if fast aircraft build order is used the player might have a yak or hind.

"Production" Timezone -player's Base has decent Defenses and has a small amount of units and infantry. Light tanks, Artillery, V2 Rockets are possible in this time Zone, player is looking to expand and produce armies for attacking. (3:00-7:00)

"Standard" Timezone - All Players have adequate defenses and economy. Has an army built up for attacking, Has successfully expanded. (7:00-13:00)

"Attacking" Timezone -Players Economies are in full time. Players are engaged in attacking, super weapons are possibly used at this point. (13:00-18:00)

"Standstill/Endgame" Timezone - The teams at this point are at a standstill, (ore is used up, no armies left, all super weapons used and have been destroyed) teams are most likely balanced because of this standstill. Endgame point. (18:00 - ~)

Time most importantly encompasses how fast you build your base and still have a strong structured economy. Almost ALL players have a certain way they build their base. This is called a "Build Order".

Build Order - A certain order a player uses to create his base, defenses, units and super weapons in a fast timed manner and still maintain a structured economy.

Most players have perfected their build orders. Experienced players have several build orders for different factions and map layouts, which allows the players to be dynamic in any game and in any circumstances.

So you're probably wondering, well what's a good build order? Well, here are a few sample ones you can use:

For a fast tank build order (allies or soviets) go: Deploy> Power plant >Barrack>Ore Refinery>War Factory>Ore refinery>Service Depot>Start Producing Tanks!

yak rush build order

For a fast aircraft build order (soviets) go: Deploy> Power plant >Barracks>Ore Refinery>Radar Dome>Airfield> Yaks

These are just a few simple ones but in order to establish a great Build order you must do some experimenting yourself. Find out which Build order fits you; what kind of player are you? A defensive or offensive Player? Do you like to use naval units or aircraft? Infantry or vehicles? Find out what works for you!

Let's say you have a build order that works and you want to perfect it. First off you should understand the use of shortcuts.


"Shortcuts" are keyboard commands that you can use to cut your build order time down by seconds! An example would be after you deploy your MCV, instead of clicking the "Build Power Plant" button you could just press "P" instead, Then when it is complete press "P" and Right click to place it in desired spot! The next step is to re-memorize your build order's Building Shortcut keys!

Using the Example "Fast Tank" Build order: Deploy> Power plant >Barrack>Ore Refinery>War Factory>Ore refinery>Service Depot>Start Producing Tanks! The "shortcut" keys would work as followed: Deploy> "P" >"B">"E">"W">"E">"D">Start Producing Tanks! Try doing this build order without the Shortcut keys and record your time, then try it with shortcut keys and compare the two, I promise your time will increase by at least a couple seconds using shortcuts.

Chapter Three: Player Personality

There are many OpenRA players from all over the globe. The interesting thing is, they all have different ways of playing, different build orders and different personalities.

Types of OpenRA Players

Offensive Players

Players that play dangerously offensive use an aggressive build order solely for attacking and destroying other players early in-game with deadly rushes. Their disadvantage is the middle- and late-game where defensive players have more ore trucks up and running if they defended successfully.

Defensive Players

Some players like to play defensively, building up their base and defenses and conquering the map forcing the other player to run out of resources and then finally, using Super Weapons (Chronosphere/Nuke) To destroy the player later into the game.

Supporting Players

Some players keep an eye on their friends and tend to support other team-players by helping them expand, Attack, Defend and just helping them out. This is often the key to success. Having one those characters in your team game is often more helpful than lone wolves.

Power Players

These types of players usually go for Fast and Dangerous build orders like getting out tanks and aircraft fast. These players usually need teammates to help them in case of an early attack since they do not build any defenses early game. Nuke'm Bro. and Buddha are good examples.

Players will always have a distinct personality when It comes to playing. So keep that in mind. If an enemy player likes to use tanks, Build rocket troops to counter-attack. If the enemy likes planes, get AA or Sam Sites. ETC.

Chapter Four: Defense Theory and Placement

This chapter will enlighten you on how to defend successfully in OpenRA.

When first starting your base out always make sure you have a couple troops or small defenses handy in case of an early attack. Early attacks can really set you back time-wise on your build order, even if it is just a couple of infantry attacking your base. Always watch out for early attacks in the "starting" and "expanding" timezones.

Always make sure you are building defenses in the paths that an enemy might come through. If the enemy has any type of long ranged Units (Artillery/V2) use aircraft to destroy them. Keep your power plants and Ore refineries safe! You can always build another War Factory or Barrack.

Defense Placement

Air Defense

In the Expanding and Production Timezones you might be faced with Yaks or Hinds. In this case, Try to build some AA's or Sam sites. When a sam Site or AA is built don't just hurry and throw it down. (unless needed) Wait till the enemy aircraft is in range of your base and then place your Sam/AA down at a spot that is in range of the enemy aircraft that way you have a better chance of shooting it down. Also DO NOT place two AA's or Sam sites next to each other it is a total waste of money! Spread your Sam Sites/AA's around your base to conceal it from Aircraft attack. Make sure to also try and place AA's/Sams where they are not easily destroyed by enemy V2s/Artillery.

Ground Defense

Flame Turrets/Pillboxes and Turrets/Teslas are good defenses in the "Starting" and "Expanding" time zones. Just like Sams/AA they should be put in places where they are not easily destroyed, and should be put down right as the enemy is attacking. Most of the time if you place a flame turret/pillbox right as Enemy infantry approach the base the player sometimes will retreat and find a different approach. When this happens, you will need to make use of the most ultimate defense in OpenRA.

The Almighty Concrete Barrier

Concrete Barriers (CB) are the most useful defense in OpenRA. One can go from winning to losing with this defense. It has many uses from Walling up a side you don't want an enemy to go through, to walling up your entire base.

mines and concrete walls

One can also wall up important Structures like Tech Centers, Superweapons and MCVs. CBs can also be used to wall up enemies that are basewalking towards you, or you can use them to wall up an Enemy's defensive structure like a Flame turret or Turret so they can't attack you. They can also be used to "Attack" in a sense.

If a player walls up a bunch of enemy tanks from advancing into his base, the enemy has to find another way around! This strategy works even better if you have some Artillery or v2s that you can use to safely attack from behind your walls.


Artillery is a very good Defense if you know how to use them. If your base isn't totally walled up you might see that if an enemy comes in range the artillery will attack them, and follow the enemy if it runs away. In this case, you should highlight the Artillery/V2s you want to be stationary and defend and press "V" to cycle to the Defense stance. This way the arty will attack anything that comes it's way and won't move from its spot!

Naval Defense

I've been playing for a while and there is no real "defense" against naval attacks other than getting a naval army yourself. That's basically about all you can do.

"Turtling" Up

A term used by players In OpenRA. In other words, A player places concrete barriers up his base and conceals it. Then places many Sam/AAs around his base and defends with lots of Teslas/Turrets/pillboxes/flame turrets. Commonly the player will also use Artillery to fire over the wall. It is usually very hard to attack this player, but one very well placed Nuke will usually do the trick since the base is usually compact.

Super Weapons

If you're about to get nuked, I am sorry as there is really nothing you can do but estimate where the nuke is coming down at, so move any units in that area away and sell any buildings before the nuke hits. Although getting nuked sucks, there are preventative measures:

  • Don't put structures too close together. If you put 7 Advanced Power-plants together you are going to have a bad time.
  • Spread all your structures out when you are building.
  • Be sure to Concrete barrier up all your important structures as I said before.
  • Also, use Gap generators to hide important structures and AA/Sams, that way the enemy player has to guess at what the nukes and nearby aircraft will get shot down.


Mines are an easy way to defend against tanks and other vehicles but you need to have very good microing skills to use the Mine layer. Mines are only sometimes used in games.

placing mines properly


Sometimes the use of a level's Geometry can help defend a player's base. If a player's base is surrounded by rivers, lakes or mountains, he can use them to his advantage.

Preventing Engineers

Engineers can be easily prevented if a player is keen, watchful and fast to react. Firstly you could always have a defense structure Queued up to throw down at any given moment an engineer approaches via on foot, or by vehicle or Chinook. Always keep a couple of Rifle men handy and always Concrete barrier up your important structures! Remember, there is no avoiding it. You will be Engineered eventually, it happens to all players, so just try to be ready for it at all times!

How to be a successful Defensive player

Remember, A successful defensive player will Never attack early game because it will only hinder Economic production. Therefore, A defensive player will Construct a base with good defenses (Ground/Air/Concrete) and will expand his base as far across the map as possible with maintaining strategic control of that area and being able to still maintain a stable economy. The player will also construct super weapons such as nukes, chronospheres and iron curtains. When a respectably sized army is constructed, the player will weaken the enemy with his super-weapons, Then attack directly. Destroying the enemy player. Most of the time when a very skilled defensive player expands and conquers a large portion of the map he usually suppresses the enemy's economy by taking all of the ore.

Chapter Five: Offensive Theory and Common Strategic Knowledge

This chapter will enlighten you on offensive measures and how to devise perfect attacking plans. Most of it is common sense, but a lot of it requires fast thinking. You will come to understand all offensive strategies.

Types of Offensive Strategies


Attacking with infantry is a cheap way to offset the player in early game. Although they are inexpensive and motile, they can be easily stopped by a well placed Pillbox/Flameturret early game, or by Walling up with concrete in which the enemy player would have to find an alternative way to reach the inside of the base. The use of infantry past the "production" Timezone requires very honed microing skills to evade deadly long-ranged units like Artillery/V2.

Rifle Men

Not much to say about Rifle Men. Cheap, easy to use, motile. In most cases just cannon fodder.

Rocket Soldiers

Rocket soldiers are a very valuable asset to have on the field in the range of any type of tank attack. Although they are a bit expensive and slow, when they are behind Concrete Walls they are extremely dangerous! You can easily lose a dozen heavy tanks when out of the fog of war a squad of rocket soldiers appears. So remember! Rocket soldiers are deadly versus tanks!


Grenadiers are tricky units to master. If you are in early game and can send a few over to an enemy's base to attack, they can take out a power plant exceptionally fast. In fact 4 grenadiers can take out a single power plant with two grenades thrown by each unit. Very motile and cheap but they also share a "Chain Explosion" much like when you shoot a group of artillery and they all blow up.


Cheap, very motile, great range, an Ideal scouting unit. If you are playing soviets, you are in for a treat! Producing two dogs at the beginning of the game to scout is a great strategy. If you can make it into an enemy's base fast enough early game, you can move your dog in-front of an enemy's barrack and the dog will auto-attack any units that come out of the barracks. Beware though, dogs can only take one hit from a Rifleman.


Expensive, slow, but very dangerous in taking out other units. Have a very far range and can take out some structures in a fast manner. Can't really say I know any players that really use this unit other than Bellator, who makes very fine use of flamethrowers.

Shock Trooper

Not really the best choice for infantry. Slow, small ranged and slow Rate of fire. Also can be killed easily. I can't recall any regular players using Shock Troopers. You are better off buying flamethrowers, Enough said.


A spy is expensive, but can be compensated for if it infiltrates an enemy radar dome or ore refinery. Upon use of a spy it disguises itself as an enemy's unit and can be used to infiltrate structures or assassinating other enemy units. Once inside an enemy ore ref the spy takes half of the player's credits (or 500 credits if the player has low cash). If it were to infiltrate a radar, it disables an enemy player's radar dome. Dangerous unit.


The ultimate test of a great microing player. If you can master the use of a medic (keeping him out of harms way to heal infantry), then it is a very valuable unit to have in the battlefield.


Expensive, very motile and armed with two Colt. 45's and C4. A very valuable unit if you have the money. Can mow down units fast at a large range and has much health. Can also blow up buildings with secondary attack. If one were to drop a few off in an enemy base with the help of a transport helicopter, the results are catastrophic, but you can only make one at a time, so be sure to make good use of her.


This slow moving, easily preventable unit is ultimately the biggest game changer. One can go from losing a game to winning by capturing enemy structures and building off of them in the enemy's own base. Most novices will use engineers as a main strategic move to set back a player in early game. A good countermeasure versus these is to wall up structures like MCV's and super weapons. Most players use it as a last measure to downfall the opposition. Note that some players may feel offended if you focus solely on a tactic that can be considered trolling and have to surrender after a few minutes played, because you have no plan B.



Yaks are VERY dangerous early game. If one can manage to get one out Sub 2:20 minutes than he can fly it over to an enemy's base and take out a powerplant and set back the player severely. Next to Dogs, Yaks are the best scouting unit in the game because of how early they can be produced! Yaks compared to the MiGs are slow and easy to take down. Yaks would mainly be used 2-6 mins into the game and would be used for infantry, light Vehicles and small structures.

Yak Damage Calculations Only Important Structures

Yak Structure

2 Powerplant, Advanced Powerplant, Soviet & Allied Tech Center Chronosphere,

3 Ore Refinery, Barrack, Radar Dome, Service Depot, Nuke, Gap, Tesla Coil

4 War Factory

6 Con Yard


Yak's bigger brother. Fastest aircraft, most dangerous and has decent amount of health, but expensive. MiGs can take a while to get used to. When attacking with MiGs notice how if you don't click anywhere else while they attack, they will just fly over and circle around still attacking the enemy until it is destroyed. This is fine, but there is a better way. Once you've gotten used to it, you can click to attack and once the missiles shoot out to attack, quickly pull your MiGs away to avoid any rocket soldiers or Sam/AA fire. This is the best and most effective way to strike with MiGs. MiGs are also risky, if you see a structure you want destroyed that is across an enemy base, be aware the enemy may throw down a Sam/AA at any time, so be careful! Always try different approaches every time with the MiGs, try not to attack the same position over and over again as the enemy will recognize this and throw up an AA/Sam. Also MiGs are very deadly at taking out ore trucks!

MiG Damage Calculations Only Important Structures

MiG Structure

1 Allied Tech Center Chronosphere Nuke Tesla Coil

2 Powerplant, Advanced Powerplant, Con Yard Soviet Tech Center Ore Refinery,Barrack,

3 Radar Dome, Service Depot, Gap

4 War Factory


Slow moving helicopters, cheap and have decent health. Mostly used to wipe out Rocket soldiers and various infantry, along with some small structures, like power plants and other small defenses.


Hind's bigger brother. These balance out the MiGs. They are moderately fast and shoot rockets. Good for taking out structures, ore trucks and vehicles. They can also shoot down Yaks, MiGs, Hinds, Chinooks and other Longbows. Useful for taking out MiG's by hiding in shroud awaiting MiG's to fly by.


Slow, low health, somewhat cheap. Used to move infantry into battle, can hold up to eight infantry. Very useful for dropping Rocket soldiers, Flamethrowers, Tanya, Engineers into an enemies base. Can deliver a lot of damage if micro-ed into an enemy base wisely. Notable players that use Chinooks: Hamb and WurstSalat.

Remember to always try to avoid Sam/AA as much as you can and never send Aircraft straight into rocket soldiers or Flak. Only fly-by Sam/AA when it is vital to get by or to destroy something near them. With a little experience with Aircraft you will realize they are VERY valuable in the battlefield. Note: Aircraft do not require money to reload

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