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A Commander Is You

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There are many different types of factions that a commander can lead in strategy games. Factions that specialize will almost always have some sort of downside, such as lower firepower or increased costs for other units. The strategy game equivalent to An Adventurer Is You.

Sometimes the faction is specialized on the basis of their combat abilities, in both numbers and doctrine:


  • The Spammer Faction. This faction works by sending wave after wave of weak units at the enemy. Their units are cheap and disposable and are produced and die in huge numbers as they gradually overrun their opponent's defenses. The Spammer faction always has reserves.
  • The Elitist Faction. The opposite of the Spammer faction. This faction focuses on an army composed of a small number of powerful but costly units. The exact scale of Eliteness may vary, from nearly One-Man Army-level units, to units that are just a bit stronger than those of the Balanced faction. Sometimes they have very strong starting units, but not much variety other than that.
  • The Balanced Faction. In between the Spammer Faction and the Elitist Faction. Their units aren't as powerful as the Elitist units and aren't as numerous as the Spammer Faction. This faction can only exist if there are two or more other factions to compare it to or both factions in game can field roughly the same amount of units.


  • The Generalist Faction. None of the units in these factions specialize in anything, nor do they have any downsides. If they do have a specialized unit or two, then said units can still hold their own when outside their specific specialty, though they may not be the absolute best there is at what they do. This typically tends to be humans in a setting with multiple races. Basically, a "Jack of All Trades, Master of None" sort of deal. Tends to be easy to learn and play, and is a good beginner's faction for getting a grasp of the game mechanics. Often overlaps with the Balanced faction.
  • The Guerrilla Faction. This faction uses the element of surprise to their advantage, usually at the cost of raw offensive strength and/or staying power. They may have a myriad of odd stealth and cloaking or deception abilities. This faction tends to be the hardest to play effectively against the AI, since the computer is usually programmed to spot hidden troops, or just uses the same strategy regardless of where you position your forces. However, the Guerrilla faction can be absolutely infuriating for human players to face. Works best in its pure form with an elitist doctrine (small numbers of strong units bolstered by stealth), but there are balanced and spammer doctrines that rely heavily on guerrilla-type tactics as force multipliers.
  • The Brute Faction. A faction that pounds their enemy into submission with raw power, and does not partake in any sort of trickery, fancy tactics, or intricate micromanagement, excepting perhaps abilities that simply make them hit even harder. Common disadvantages are slow movement and a lack of special abilities. Along with the Generalist faction, the Brute Force faction tends to be easier to learn due to the lack of complex combinations and special abilities. May overlap with the Balanced faction or Spammer faction, and sometimes even with the Elitists.
  • The Technical Faction. The opposite of the Brute faction — lots of nasty special abilities, but poor base stats and/or relatively high unit costs. Typically requires a lot of micromanagement to use effectively, and therefore not the best faction for novice players. Often have the best tech trees of the game, which make them slow starters, but very powerful in the late game. May overlap with the Elitists or Guerrillas.
  • The Ranger Faction. This team has high movement speed, better ranged attacks, and/or both, usually at the cost of staying power. Expect a lot of Hit-and-Run Tactics. If it's a fantasy setting, this faction is probably elves of some sort. May overlap with the Guerrilla faction.
  • The Unit Specialist Faction. This faction is full of highly specialized units who will dominate in their specialty, but get curb-stomped when outside their specialty. They are usually disadvantaged by having their non-specialized units nerfed in some way, sometimes to the point of being useless. Their game tends to rely on holding out and manipulating the Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors so that their specialized unit(s) can be deployed heavily without fear of being hard-countered, and then steamrolling the opposition. Usually found when factions in a game have sub-factions, such as a brute faction having sub-factions that improve infantry power, vehicle power, or air power. Also found when a game has so many factions it covers all the other faction types and just takes the base idea of one faction and leans it to a certain unit type.
  • The Turtle Faction. This faction rely on heavy defense and in some case, the ability to engage the enemy in extreme range. Although they have low mobility just like the Brute Faction, they are usually not as tough as them. Also, Brutes often have a higher focus on heavy units while Turtle often focus more on static defense and long range support as those two types work well with each other. The common tactic of Turtle is to stall the game into late game and defeat the enemy through attrition battle.
  • The Berserker Faction. The polar opposite of the turtle faction, the berserker faction is often defined by very strong units that either have a very short service life, can only be used once, or are generally hard to sustain. Factions with this doctrine try to fight aggressively, or at least throw enough bodies on the problem that the amount of materiel they destroy offsets the costs.
  • The Gimmick Faction. This faction has an unusual quirk or trait that makes its gameplay very different from the others'. The nature of this quirk or trait is usually based on their lore or background within the game itself. Mastery of this faction often involves exploiting their quirk or trait to its fullest potential. Depending on how heavily the quirk or trait factors into their gameplan, they can easily end up as some form of Quirky Bard or Lethal Joke Character.

Other times, they are specialized on the basis of some non-combat strength, in which case they are one of the:

  • Unconventional Factions. These are similar to The Balanced faction, but have some non-combat advantage (see below for examples). More common in 4X Turn-Based Strategy than Real Time Strategy. Their downside may be that they are slightly weaker in combat. Sub-tropes of the Unconventional faction include:
    • The Industrial Faction. This faction is capable of building things very quickly. Their gameplay will inevitably have early-game rush strategies that use their fast-building advantage to get the drop on other factions who are slower to start up. They tend to overlap with the Economist faction or the Spammer faction.
    • The Economist Faction. High income and/or trade bonuses. This may allow sneaky tactics like bribing people or buying research and units from third parties. Disadvantages vary, but having slightly weaker units in general is a common one. May overlap with the Industrialists.
    • The Loyal Faction. Common in TBS games which require you to keep your citizens content (or at least brutally suppressed), this faction has particularly high morale, which lets you focus your resources on building tanks instead of entertainment complexes. Often a good choice for beginners since it makes it a little easier to keep things running smoothly.
    • The Research Faction: Usually only crops up in turn-based games, particularly the 4X type. This faction gets a bonus to research, allowing them access to advanced units and abilities which give them an edge early on. They may overlap with the Elitists, if their superior technology comes at a higher price.
    • The Diplomat Faction. Has no strengths except for the ability to make other people do their work for them. They're often able to push their agenda in inter-faction relations, cover up any dubious actions without morale loss, and generally get better deals in trading and diplomacy. In games with focuses on combat, playing as these on multiplayer matches is generally a Self-Imposed Challenge, since AI manipulative skills are rendered moot, Murphy's Law, and people being jerks, unless you're playing with friends, who will probably Troll you anyways.
    • The Espionage Faction. The Espionage factions are not particularly adept fighters. Fortunately, they can cripple everyone else through sabotage, spying, theft, bribery, hacking, and general underhandedness. This can overlap with Guerrilla, but there is a difference between the two; Guerrilla focuses more on directly killing enemy troops and slowly picking away at the opponent's forces, while Espionage focuses more on undermining an opponent's systems and debuffing their enemy's army to the point that a sneeze could be lethal.
    • The Pacifist Faction. This faction does not focus on combat, but on achieving some sort of non-militaristic Instant-Win Condition such as Victory by Endurance. They usually get either a defensive bonus in their own territory, some special units with strong defensive stats but weak offensive stats, or both. They often overlap with the Diplomat or Research Factions, depending on what alternative win conditions the game has to offer.

And then there are some exceptions:

  • The Pariah Faction. This faction relies on some not particularly useful gimmick or combat ability and tends to be disadvantaged with most everything else. For bored advanced players or Scrubs. Of course, an exception to this rule would be if their gimmick/ability were hard to use and/or apparently useless but gave a substantial advantage if mastered properly, in which case they would be a Lethal Joke Faction.
  • The Game-Breaker Faction. This faction is too overpowered, in one sense or another, because of a certain ability or (abilities) that shifts the game in their favor, or some other loophole, that makes self-respecting gamers avoid this faction like fire. Either these factions have no disadvantage to outweigh their broken advantage (in which case this is intentional), or their weakness isn't very noticeable, or easy to override. Often an unplayable "boss" faction of a campaign.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

Fan Works

  • To Boldly Go... A Starfleet Quest (Star Trek): Starfleet's Lone Ranger doctrine is Elitist, geared towards the preeminence of their Explorer vessels. Understandable, because Starfleet is the exploratory and military service of the United Federation of Planets.
  • Digimon World: Infamy (Digimon): Both Coal and Impmon are put in charge of their own group of underlings in the war against the remains of Puppetmon's army thanks to Impmon's position as a Demon Lord.
  • Mass Effect Altered Humanity (Mass Effect): The Terran Dominion is the Industrial Faction by virtue of being Crazy Survivalists that hoard as many durable goods (that are also exported), resources, and military infrastructure as possible in their very large industrial complexes — many more than they can hope to use. Its military ships included the mighty super dreadnoughts, Fragile Speedster Barracudas, and a variety of Mecha-Mooks. Among the non-combat oriented ships there are the Stellar Forges and Mobile Factories added to every ship. Its navy used to be of a more Elitist flavor but, after the Foundation War, a Generalist approach is more favored and specialization was never a thing.
  • Paradoxus (Winx Club, World of Warcraft): The Vakdrak are Guerrilla/Ranged/Elitist. Fittingly for the bodyguards (and also fanatic worshippers) of the Dragon's Flame current bearer, they comprise 50 units at most, each one reaching levels of one-woman armies. They are heavily trained and don't fear relying on stealth, dirty tricks, and Hit-an-Run tactics to succeed. Add to that any Vakdrak is quite willing to die protecting the bearer. Some of them won't stop even if the current one has fallen. Why? Because all of them minus one are war orphans who have nothing else left to cling to.
  • Red Alert 3 Paradox Expanded Universe (Red Alert 3: Paradox):
    • African League: High-ranged units with multiple uses and no conventional tiers, but all in all not very strong.
    • Technocratic Combine: Ranger/Technical. High range and armor overall, but low damage per second and slow expansion hampers offensive capabilities and requires alternative means of gathering strength through various upgrade paths.
    • Industrial Guild: Industrial Superiority. Units can be made in both Quality and Quantity flavors and are made to win a battle in one rush.
    • Southern Contingent: Classic Brute Force. Most things are powerful, but speed and durability are only secondary.
    • American Unionists: A mix of Technical and Unit Specialist. Their infantry might be powerful, but requires garrisons to work at the maximum efficiency. They also have shades of "Industrial"-gimmicks, since they can build their fragile bases fastly.
    • Greater Indian Commonwealth: Spammer/Unit Specialist. Large numbers of infantry divided into several different categories, with vehicles for support instead of the center of the force.
    • Cybernetic Federation: Support and Technical; many of their units need each other to be truly effective.

Films — Live-Action

  • Alien vs. Predator:
    • Extinction and The Hunt Begins balance the three factions in roughly the same way.
    • The Colonial Marines are the Balanced/Ranger faction. They have more units on the field than the Predators and a gun for every occasion, but they're practically helpless in melee.
    • The Aliens are the Spammer/Unit Specialist faction. They can have more units on the field than the other two sides combined, and they typically have units that have evolved to fill certain niches more effectively than anything else. That being said, they have little to no ranged options to speak of, and their more common units tend to be frailer than any of their equivalents from the other factions.
    • The Predators are the Elitist/Brute faction. While they do tend to have a trick or two up their non-existent sleeves, the overall schtick of the Predators is that they have just flat-out better units than the other two species but can't field even half the amount of units.


  • Great Interstellar War:
    • Reds are Spammer/Brute/Loyal; they rely on overwhelming numbers and firepower to win the day, and their morale and patriotism are unmatched by the Westers in general.
    • Westers are Balanced/Ranger/Economist. While their regular infantry is still very mooky, their vehicles and weaponry are noticeably more advanced technologically than those of the Reds. Additionally, their armor is better at hit-and-run tactics than the Reds' massive Dyakov and Yongkang tanks.
  • MELKOR Rome Role Play Season One: In the early game, the Republican Army has an adequate roster, with heavy and well-disciplined infantry being the backbone, and the flanks are secured by light cavalry, thus being the Generalist faction. In the late game, it changes to Brute and Elitist as the Roman Army starts to deploy slow, but effective legionary cohorts.
  • Open Blue: The playable factions are:
    • El Reino de Avelia is the Brute Force/Spammer Faction by virtue of frequently holding a big chunk of Arckenia under its thumb and having naval forces equivalent to those of Great Britain at its prime. Their ships tend to be Mighty Glacier Galleons.
    • Das Reich Sireners is the Elitist/Research Faction as its conquered territory and navy are often smaller but its marines are equipped with more advanced weaponry in a true Conservation of Ninjutsu fashion. Their ships tend to be Mario Frigates and Ships of the Line.
    • Het Groot Hertogdom van Remillia is the Ranger/Espionage Faction because it usually focuses on controlling strategic locations on trade routes and maintaining a network of spies and assassins. Their ships tend to be Fragile Speedster Schooners and Race-Built Frigates.


  • Drowtales:
  • Erfworld: Since the world is based on tabletop wargames, the various Sides fit into these roles. Traditionally, the Ruler of the Side decides on the Grand Strategy (unit production, etc), and the Chief Warlord chooses how to fulfill their goals using the provided units.
    • Gobwin Knob: Before they summoned Parson, they were something of an incompetent version of the Elite faction. They preferred specialty units, making use of their surprisingly large number of casters. Their Dirtamancer made golems, their Croakamancer made uncroaked. Their Ruler had the divine Arkenhammer, which allowed for easily taming dwagons. However, this was not working, largely because their Ruler was an idiot and his Chief Warlords incompetent. After they summoned Parson, he switched to a Generalist style, using absolutely anything at his disposal to win. He prefers guerrilla tactics and specialist units, but he can switch tactics on the fly as necessary.
    • Jetstone: They prefer infantry above all else, but balance them with siege and some golems made by their Dollamancer. While they prefer to act like an Elitist faction, when all else fails, they revert to a Spammer mindset, throwing waves of men at the enemy.
    • Transilvito: Unit Specialist and Spammer. They have two major advantages over other factions: Their warlords all have the otherwise quite rare Flight special, and they have a nigh-unlimited number of weak scouting bats. While bats are normally weak, you can put a ridiculous number of bats in a stack with a warlord to gain the warlord's bonus, which both makes them surprisingly dangerous and screens for the warlord. Furthermore, since they have a Thinkamancer, they can extend a bat's normally short scouting range infinitely, giving them a vast spy network.
    • FAQ: Unit Specialist/Guerrilla. They produce as many gwiffons and megalowiffs as possible to gain unmatched aerial superiority. Jillian eventually makes up for her otherwise lacking ground units by allying with the Western Giants.
    • Charlescomm: Diplomat/Espionage, with some Unit Specialist on the side. Charlescomm only uses archons, flying units with a variety of special abilities that make them suited for spying and surprising the enemy with unexpected tactics. Any archon can also open up a line to Charlie at any time, allowing him more diplomatic options than most Rulers. More than anything else, Charlescomm relies on deals, loopholes, and unique magic items Charlie created by hiring casters from the Magic Kingdom.


Video Example(s):


Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II

The campaign for Dawn of War II opens with the introduction of Sub-Sector Aurelia, where the Blood Ravens chapter of the Space Marines have been fighting relentlessly to defend their recruiting worlds against the invading xenos forces. Among these Space Marines is the player character, who has recently been promoted to Force Commander to lead the Blood Ravens to victory.

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