Age of Wonders: Planetfall Guide - The Best Early Military Tech For D'Var

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Check out this guide for starting military tech for the D'Var faction in Age of Wonders: Planetfall.
Check out this guide for starting military tech for the D'Var faction in Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Paradox Interactive

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is finally available now across all platforms, and the initial consensus for this 4X turn-based strategy game has been very positive, with players noting Planetfall’s incredible depth and its interesting and unique factions. In my review for Planetfall, I noted how its successful integration of various mechanics along with the gripping sci-fi narrative was a big success for developer Triumph Studios, as this is their first foray into the setting.

It’s also notably easier to get into than other 4X strategy games, despite the vastness and particularly deep mechanics involved. That said, some players may find some aspects a bit daunting at first, in particular the very expansive tech tree, which allows you to cater your gameplay and strategy to how you see fit.

For this piece, we’re taking a look at my favorite faction in the game, the D’Var. A group of spacefaring industrialist dwarves, the D’Var find themselves in a precarious position after the fall of the Star Union as they are stranded on a brutal and harsh mining colony. Over the years that follow, they learn to survive by transforming the survival suits that were once only needed on that planet into armor that protects them from everything – from enemy forces to natural hazards. They have no real allegiances or ties, and only seek to further themselves in the cause of something that eludes even themselves. It’s poetic in a way, and if you truly want the Planetfall experience, there’s no better way than through the eyes of a faction that’s only out for whatever helps them achieve their cause.

The D’Var’s industrial feel and wonderfully brutal way of doing things is why I have the most fun playing as them. There’s something so rewarding about calling up cover in the middle of flat ground to laugh in enemies’ faces, as well as flat out devouring resources from uninhabited sectors with just a single unit. The D’Var are masters of industrial management and machine warfare, and if you’re a big fan of space dwarves in any conceivable space game there is, then you’ll absolutely love playing the faction. It's kind of a bonus that they sound Russian as well, instead of the stereotypical Scottish.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at some of the best early military tech upgrades to get for the D’Var during the starting phases of the game. You can also check out the best starting military tech upgrades to get for the Vanguard here, and the Kir’Ko here. If you want a guide on some of the best society tech upgrades for starters, check that out here.

Tier 1

The D’Var have four tabs in their military tech tree: General, Firearms, Explosive and Promethean. Explosive is great if you’re running more than a few Prospectors in your stacks, but since it’s first upgrade falls under Tier 2, the only real option is for Perimeter Security under the General tab, which has two mods and an op:

  • Fortification Tools (mod) – a defensive mod that can be applied to units that have the Entrench ability, namely the Trenchers, which is the most basic unit for the D’Var. With this mod, the unit’s trenches become Fortified Trenches, an upgraded fortification that can only be destroyed by Demolisher abilities. D’Var units inside these fortifications will also heal them for 15 percent of their max HP per turn. It also grants the unit +1 to their shields. Early game, this mod is an absolute beast, giving your Trenchers a pretty huge leg up over everything else in terms of defenses. If you can put units with these mods in a place with a proper overlook, you can zone the map fairly well – just watch out for jumpers.
  • Ironbreaker Modifications (mod) – an offensive mod that can be applied to all units with a Melee ability. This mod allows melee attacks to bypass three shield units, which is the highest in the early game stages. In theory, you can equip both of these to Trenchers for a very well-rounded unit at the start of the game, but I’d advise against it since the Production cost can be very hard to justify. However, if you’re lucky enough to prospect a few Cosmite-rich sectors and started up your own base with Production rather than Food, then this can go hand in hand with Fortification Tools to power one of the most powerful starting armies in the game.
  • General Alert Protocol (op) – an op that allows for some very clutch moves, especially if you find yourself overwhelmed. After a bit of priming, all D’Var units in turn-based combat will gain Alert Protocol for one turn, allowing them to enter defense mode even if they spent all of their action points during the same turn. You’ll find its uses limited early on, but once you start facing higher-tiered troops, this op can be a lifesaver.

In general, the other Tier 1 options suck for D’Var, which makes Perimeter Security one of the safest choices to go with. Fortification Tools is a great early game tool for zoning, thanks to how versatile the fortified trenches can be. Besides providing your Trenchers with excellent cover, you can leave them as obstructions to choke a point successfully, allowing you to easily outmaneuver enemies. Even later in the game I wouldn’t rule out carrying a Trencher, if only for their Fortified Trenches. The Ironbreaker Modifications are also pretty good, but only if you’re using a fair bit of melee units. I found that going for about 70 percent ranged (with some hefty explosives in each stack) and 30 percent melee does the trick, although you will obviously have to tailor it to each faction you end up facing.

Under the Firearms tab you’ll have access to Subjugation Ordnance, which is the same as the Tier 1 options for the Vanguard. It’s not that good of an option, although I can see the uses for Flechette ammo for units with Firearms early on. It’s not bad per se, but it’s beaten in all aspects by Ironbreaker, even though the latter works only for melee. The Shredder Bomb is also there for scorched earth tactics, but I found that it’s best used with a super aggressive play style rather than a counter-reactive one.

As for the Promethean, well, the tab can be useful if you’re planning on going up against any status-reliant faction early on. The Purification Field defensive mod has its uses as a status-clearing deterrent (save for Psionics), but its importance over Perimeter Security is debatable, to say the least. Emergency Shielding is also a proper block that only makes sense if you need to absolutely protect an important unit like a Hero, but outside of that I don’t think it’s useful at all.

Tier 2

By now you should already have a settlement in place, as well as established some of your units. If you’ve got some Covert Ops in place, use them to figure out unit compositions in nearby enemy bases, just so you know which military tech upgrade to invest in next.

There are two very distinctly useful choices to invest into for Tier 2, and both of them can be found under the General tab. What you go for is certainly up to you, and will largely depend on your situation after a few turns.

  • Aerial Division – if you find yourself turtling your own sectors and prospecting in nearby places without much resistance, then this could be a good choice. Aerial Division comes with a new Unit plus a Vehicle for your hero.
    • Ramjet – an aerial Tier 2 unit that’s really strong at early to middle stages of the game, thanks to how powerful its skills are. The Ramjet comes with an Aerial Ram to displace any unit within melee range, while the Ramjet Rocket deals a ton of damage through spectacular explosions. Getting these up in the air early on will help you establish your empire much more easily.
    • Ramjet (Vehicle) – this lets your Hero unit ride a Ramjet, if he or she has the ability to pilot vehicles. It’s certainly useful in some regards, but the high costs can be off-putting early on, not to mention that there are better options for vehicles.
  • Drudges – if you find yourself expanding rapidly, with a lot of other factions and neutral groups vying for control, then this might be the better option. Drudges comes with two ops that let you exert a bit more zoning control in the strategic map, although both of them can be a bit taxing on the economy.
    • Factory Overdrive – this op works as a double-edged sword and should only be used in the most dire of situations. In a nutshell, this increases your overall Production for a chosen colony by 30, but at the cost of four happiness. I’d only ever consider it once there’s more than enough happiness to go around, as you’re basically trading one thing for the other. It also costs six Energy per turn to maintain, so keep that in mind while you’re planning your next moves.
    • Deploy Trenchers – this op is a bit better to have in my opinion, and for early game skirmishes far away from your main colony this could be an amazing back-up strategy. It works as the name implies: after a period of priming, you summon a Trencher unit on any targeted hex on the strategic map. The hex has to be revealed, so in theory it can replenish your stack even if it’s pretty far from the nearest colony. The price is something to keep in mind, though, although there’s an obvious tradeoff in that you don’t have to waste turns trying to merge it with your stack.

Both of these upgrades are useful, and what you choose will ultimately be up to what your situation is during these stages of the game. I prefer the Aerial Division more since having a Ramjet or two in your stacks can turn a lot of battles in your favor, but there’s also something to be said for the fact that you can call down a Trencher unit at any revealed hex with Drudges. Turns are very important in 4X games, and you can usually pinpoint the turn in which everything starts following your plan or falling apart accordingly, so make sure to look beyond to your next few turns and try to know how it will pan out before choosing what to get.

Under the Explosive Tab you’ll find Enhanced Payloads, which is also a decent starting tech upgrade to have if you want to focus on getting the most out of your Prospectors. It’s not as ideal as focusing on Trenchers, but it could work in a few cases. Flash Payload is an offensive mod that has a four-strength chance to apply a Blinded debuff to any non-Ethereal unit for two turns, making it fairly useful against ranged stacks. You’ll also find an op called the Advanced Munitions Provision here, which gives any friendly unit a buff on their Explosive attack, adding +1 to range, 25 percent more damage and gaining Massive Impact for two turns.

Under Promethean you’ll find the Phoenix Op Station, which carries two offensive ops. Incineration Strike can be cast on the strategic map to preemptively damage a stack equaling to 20 percent of their current health, as well as weakening their fire resistance by three in turn-based combat for one Strategic turn. The other op is called Plasmoid Deployment, which does what the name implies, and summons a mechanical Plasmoid on the strategic map. The Plasmoids are fast and deadly units which can deal Bleeding damage to enemy units. The overall usefulness of this upgrade is also debatable, although I can see Incineration Strike being a definite game changer during later stages of the game. Having the ability to preemptively strike an enemy stack before engaging them in combat is very useful, especially considering that your Hero can usually carry weapons that deal Burning damage.

Stay tuned here for more guides on Age of Wonders: Planetfall.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall
Age Of Wonders: Planetfall Review - Creative Space Empire Building Limited Only By Your Imagination
It might be too expansive for its own good, but for players who can look past that and place themselves in the shoes as a commander leading a space-faring faction to salvation there's no better 4X title out there. Age Of Wonders: Planetfall is a success for Triumph Studios, proving the developer can deliver on proper world-building to take their acclaimed series to the vast reaches of space.
  • Expansive turn-based and 4X elements, with tons of freedom of choice.
  • Diverse races, with lots of distinctions between each one.
  • Strategic gameplay rewarded and limited by your own creativity and imagination.
  • In-depth tech tree with a ton of branching paths to go through.
  • Easy to get into for casual players of the genre.
  • A bit daunting at first, which may put off and overwhelm some players.
  • Lacking in sound design and the music department.
  • Not very intuitive at times, with some tedium setting in once your empire gets bigger.
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