Boring but Practical/Video Games/Real Time Strategy

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  • In strategy games, the basic combat unit is usually more efficient than the larger (and cooler looking) counterparts. Tournament players will often make heavy use of rather basic units in general. Any type of rush depends on this trope.
  • Again, in strategy games, Worker Units. These guys have little or no combat capability and present easy targets for your enemies, but without them, you have no economy, and without an economy, you have no army.
  • Age of Empires series has all sorts of cool units—war elephants, ballistas, suicide bombing petards, bombard cannons, guys who throw axes etc., but the best units are the cheap and efficient archers, cavalry archers, and catapults.
    • A line of thirty or more Longbowmen supporting a siege weapon is always a winning tactic. Good ol' Britons.
      • That pales in comparison to the later Sappers upgrade. Leading an army through their town? Cool. Leading a peasant uprising against their reinforced iron-bound walls and crumbling their castle with knives and giving their king the Julienne Ceasar treatment? Priceless.
        • In The Conquerors Expansion, upgrading the Spanish unique technology (Supremacy) will make your villagers exceptional at combat, combine with sappers technology, stone to build castles and towers and siege weaponry that can be repaired by your soldiers.
      • Similar to the Longbowmen/siege weapons combo, when playing as the Mongols I'd always try to get a handful of Trebuchets escorted by two groups of about 20-25 of the elite Mongolian horse archers. A bit challanged for range, but they could get out of the way of any attack because of their speed. One group of horse archers escorts the Trebuchets, the other scouts and eliminates small threats, and they can combine for larger assaults. Of course, their production is also queued up to replace any lost horse archers, so by the time each of the two original squads is reduced to 10 units, a new squad is there to replace them; combine the decimated units into one and wait for reinforcements. They didn't work so well against large amounts of Knights, and wouldn't be able to take advantage of their speed in segmented terrain, but on the steppes (and similar map types) they had no equal.
    • Age of Mythology features various mythological units from a simple valkyrie all the way up to the Titans themselves. But due to their favor costs and vulnerabilities to heroes, their numbers will be limited in comparison to the basic human units. Speaking of heroes, those aren't without limitations either.
      • Research the myth unit healing effect (as an Atlantean player) and your Titan immediately goes from Awesome but Impractical to Boring but Practical, as the Titan slowly marches its way to your enemy's base and proceeds to turn it into rubble in slow motion.
      • Really boring. A determined attack will still cut its health in half, and it regenerates at exactly the same rate as other units- about 4 hp per second. It has over five thousand of them. If you want your titan to be up to full power, you'd better be ready to let him just stand there for a couple hours.
        • Well, doing the math, just over ten minutes.
  • Command & Conquer features units that literally erase enemies from existence (making them helpless while they're doing so), evil geniuses who can mind-control enemy units, giant battle bases that can literally run over enemy tanks, giant tanks armed with AA missiles, commandos who mow down infantry and destroy buildings singlehandedly, and of course the Ion Cannon and other superweapons—yet the best force for destroying ground units/buildings is dozens upon dozens of standard tanks.
    • Subverted in RA2 (the one with the battle bases, troopers who eliminate enemies from existence, and mind control) where if you combine the Battle Base with either the erase-from-existence troopers OR the Genius mind controllers you get a pretty badass unit that can either instantly erase anything it hits or mind control an entire legion of enemies, while being extremely hard to kill without a similar Awesome but Impractical Unit, making them very practical actually.
      • Except against aircraft. But a battle base tank filled with four anti-air infantry (Guardian GIs) and a Commando (unit that instakills infantry in massive quantities) is even more practical. The Guardian GIs can destroy tanks and aircraft with surprising speed, and the commando is all you need against any amount of infantry. You can substitute the commando for the sniper if you're afraid if mind-controlling infantry. The only thing this combination needs support for is a mind-controlling tank.
    • In Command & Conquer Renegade, the most useful GDI tank is the plain medium tank, as opposed to the Mammoth. Also, the elite version of the sniper is a huge overkill in the hands of anyone that is good at sniping, so a good player will stick to the cheaper basic sniper.
    • Tanks and something that can shoot bullets is all you need for any C&C mission. Infantry in the game dies way too easily because the enemy is smart enough to run your guys over. And anything else would just fry them in groups.
  • StarCraft is the RTS king of this trope. The humble Zergling is a feared Zerg unit throughout the game against a wide variety of tactics; its upgrades ultimately make it three to four times as effective as the initial version, and they still only cost 50 minerals for two. The mighty Zealot is the mainstay of the Protoss army, able to absorb massive blows that would fell lesser units of other races. While the Terran Marine isn't quite as valued, it is an indispensable tool against the Zerg when paired with Medics and is the only basic unit that can take on air. But the true winner for this trope is the humble Terran SCV. A worker unit with enough Hit Points to actually be used in combat offensively in rush strategies. There's nothing more humiliating than getting killed by an RTS worker unit.
    • For those who doubt the humble SCV, I give you The Emperor Slayers_Boxer's infamous SCV Rush.
    • And of course there's the Zerg Overlord, notorious for raining Zerglings into the core of your base if you've left any gaps in your defensive network.
  • Meanwhile over in its sequel StarCraft II because medics can now heal at range, in the campaign the most cost effective solution to every problem is now a X medics, X marauders and 2X to 3X marines. Vehicles are too prone to wear and tear, but so long as a soldier still clings to an inch of life he'll be good as new again in no time.
    • StarCraft II rides this trope just as hard in the competitive scene, as well, with most of the duration of the open beta being marked by excessive use of the above formula, just replacing medics with medivacs. Much of the metagame seems to be a war of cost-effectiveness, as early iterations of the Zerg Roach demonstrated so successfully.
  • Total Annihilation has a tiny scout unit called a flea, with the weakest weapon and fewest hitpoints of any. Because it's small and fast, though, and the game allows for huge numbers of units, the Flea Bowl AI was created, which builds only fleas (and supporting resources), yet is surprisingly hard to beat.
    • This is in large part due to the AI system being rather limited, so tuning it to the exact specifications needed for a specific unit made it very effective, and a computer can handle the huge number of units.
    • It should be mentioned that, aside from exceptions like this, the game spectacularly averts the trope. With a no-early-rush gentleman's agreement (because Thou Shalt Not Play TA Like Starcraft), after the first few minutes of gameplay tactics usually switch from basic tanks to badass robots with rayguns and nuclear weapons. At that point, Boring but Practical basic tanks very quickly become Boring And Dead.
      • Even then, once you get to tech level 3 your basic level 3 units are better then nukes and the more expensive units.
      • This is somewhat averted by its spiritual sequel, Supreme Commander. Tier 3 units are awesome, no questions asked, but they have trouble dealing with high tier defensive structures. These structures however cannot keep up with a huge swarm of cheap, fast, tier 1 units who are way too numerous for the guns' slow rate of fire to keep up with them. Similarly, of the game's mega units called experimentals, the cheaper ones tend to be the most useful (if only because you have a reasonable chance to be able to build one at all) as you can use them as beefed up tier 3 unit to reinforce groups of tier 3 units.
  • Homeworld allowed you to produce some truly amazing and all-powerful cruisers and heavy destroyers, but due to the types of enemies and AI found in the single player mode, using nothing more impressive than ion cannon frigates, a few multicannon and salvage corvettes, and basic interceptors is not only a very effective strategy, but generally the best use of resources available. The most impressive looking ships can be taken down by a few salvage corvettes you had to build for level 1, albeit slowly and quite boringly. The non-canon canonical spinoff averts this, though, as the various mothership superweapons and upgrade paths make non-upgraded acolytes little more than cannon fodder.
    • This troper has found that the extremely difficult second to last and last missions (destroying an asteroid with an engine strapped on it and its escort before it disintegrates your mothership and defeating various waves of incoming Imperial ships without any message telling you of what's happening to your ships) become much easier if you have a group of mine-layer corvettes. Small, cheap, and their minefields do an helluva damage to any enemy ship unlucky enough to stumble in them.
    • In Homeworld 2, this trope is used straight, especially with the Vaygr race. An example amongst many is that while the Hiigarans use the corvette class ships for nothing but defense (and minor offense), a specific type of Vaygr corvette is known to be a nasty carrier and destroyer killer.
    • A further point is that while the giant carriers and capital class ships are immensely powerful in Homeworld 2, the humble bomber with a single, instantly available upgrade can cripple them completely in groups of five. Nothing funnier than pinning the enemies' best capital ship in place with five small one-man fighters.
  • In Hearts of Iron 2, you have your tanks, motorised infantry, paratroopers, mountaineers and the like, but the most cost-effective strategy remains to crank out masses of foot infantry and militia.
  • Probably deliberately averted in World in Conflict with the Support role. With slow-moving, fragile AA and repair vehicles, Support players see very little flashy action, like the Armor and Air players (and the role doesn't get any considerable attention in the single-player campaign). However, without good support, the team will lose pathetically. No exceptions. And it just so happens that since the recent patches, Support role nets the highest scores in 90% of online games. Quite fitting, seeing how the game is ALL about teamwork. Interestingly, Support also has the most Awesome but Impractical units in the game - the artillery.
  • In the original Commandos, it was often possible to get rid of most of the enemies on a map by studying their paths and placing a spring trap on them, repeat ad nauseam. It took forever and was boring as shit, but its efficiency was rather impressive.
    • Not so practical, considering that the game scores you based on Health Lost and TIME SPENT.
    • In Commandos 2 you can often wipe out scores of enemies by getting all your commandos into a room with one or two doors, having your men aim at them, shooting once and then just letting them shoot every soldier as they ran in one by one. Then just take their machine guns and repeat until everyone is dead. Depending on the objective this won't always work though (and you'll get a terrible score if you care about that sort of thing).
  • The Defense of the Ancients sub-genre of Warcraft maps: While the main goal of the game is for your heroes to go through mooks like hot knives through butter and fight each other with big flashy spells, even the most heavily armored of foes will fall under the weight of numbers. Particularly apparent in the ones that allow you to build siege units like catapults: high splash damage, long range and slow speed ensure that while melee units move in front to heroically sacrifice their lives, the enemy finds himself with a dozen catapults firing at his towers while safe from retribution.