AW4 101

New to multiplayer? Welcome to AW4 basics, where you’ll learn everything from how the controls work, to all the nitty-gritty mechanics explained. Most people reading this already have an idea of how multiplayer works, but this section will assume absolutely nothing. It’s better that way in case you learn something new.

There are three ways to win in AW multiplayer:

  • Rout: Destroy (KO) all enemy units.
  • HQ capture: Each player has a specific property called the HQ (headquarters). If that is captured, the player loses.
  • Property count: Most games have a turn (day) limit. At the end of the day limit, whichever side has more properties is the winner.
    • If property count is equal, whoever has the least loss value (as shown on the results screen) is considered to be the winner. This rewards a player who has dealt more overall damage than the other.

Singleplayer missions occasionally have different goals, but those three goals are the only ones in PvP (player vs. player) play. Each side chooses a CO (commanding officer) that tailors to a specific playing style. COs provide specific boosts, and most of them have a chargeable COP (CO power) meter. Once this is charged, the CO can invoke it to cause a map-wide effect.

The first three games took place in a land called Wars World. The fourth game, Days of Ruin, is a near-complete reboot. All COs from the first three games are gone, and many mechanics were changed, but the essence of AW gameplay remains intact. AW4 is the first title to feature online internet play, and was thus the first game in the series to receive substantial PvP play.[1]

In a PvP map, players typically start with a low income. They build inexpensive units and capture neutral properties to earn more income, which allows them to build more powerful units. Battles are fought over who can hold more properties than the other.

How attacking works

Units can attack in one of two ways: direct or indirect. A direct unit must be adjacent to the enemy unit to attack, but may move into place before attacking. An indirect unit can attack from afar, but cannot have moved that day.[2] If a direct unit attacks an enemy direct unit, the defending direct unit will receive the hit, then counterattack if able. Indirect units cannot counterattack, nor can they be subject to counterattacks.[3]

Extra boost

In the first three games, the CO boost applied to units regardless of where they were on the map. In AW4, the CO boost is only applied to a limited area around the CO. A CO must first attached to a unit. That unit, called a COU (CO unit), will have an aura around it called the zone. Units in the zone, along with the COU itself, are boosted according to what the CO provides. Zone units are able to charge a CO’s COP meter. More details on zone mechanics will be explained in other articles.

Stylus control

The first two AW games were on the Game Boy Advance, so those games only had d-pad control. AW3 (Dual Strike) was on the DS, so it introduced stylus control, and AW4 refined it. Though AW4 supports both d-pad and stylus control, it is highly recommended to use stylus control exclusively. Stylus control is faster than d-pad control, and if there’s ever an AW5, you’ll be all set! There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never go back to d-pad control again.

There are three possible actions while using the stylus:

  • Tap: Touching the screen momentarily.
  • Press: Touching the screen and holding.
  • Drag: Touching the screen, then moving the stylus in a direction.

To select one of your own units, tap it. A transparent green set of squares shows the possible movement area. Any enemy units that can be attacked are highlighted in red. There are different ways to control the stylus at this point, so this will be tricky:

  • Non-menu cancel: Tap away, which means tap a non-highlighted tile.
  • Menu cancel: If you are in a menu and wish to cancel, you must tap the B icon on the lower right, or press the physical B button. The non-menu cancel method doesn’t work, and this is a peculiar bug of AW4. The attacking methods below avoid menu canceling.
  • Move and not attack: Tap the tile you wish to move to, then tap Wait to confirm, or menu cancel.
    • In fog games, you may wish to drag a manual path in order to avoid an ambush.
  • Move and attack with a direct unit: A direct unit must be next to the enemy unit it wishes to attack. Drag from the attacking tile towards the enemy, then tap the enemy. The damage box will appear. Tap the enemy to confirm, or tap away to cancel.
    • The reason for doing this instead of going into the menu to fire is that in the menu, you cannot tap away to cancel! You must press B or tap the B button on the lower right. Learn to minimize menu canceling in order to play faster.
  • Attack with a direct unit without moving: If your unit is already next to the enemy unit, simply tap on the enemy. The damage box will appear. Tap again to confirm, or tap away to cancel.
    • You could also do this if the enemy unit is far away, but then the game will auto-assign a path, and you may wish to attack from another tile. Use the move and attack with a direct fire unit method unless there is only one attacking tile.
  • Attack with an indirect unit: An indirect unit can only attack if it hasn’t moved. This is exactly the same as attacking with a non-moving direct fire unit. Tap on the enemy, then tap again to confirm, or tap away to cancel.
  • Load a unit into a transport: Tap on the transport, then tap Load to confirm. If you wish to cancel, you must menu cancel.
  • Attach a CO: The unit must be on the industry used to produce it, or on the HQ. Tap the unit, then tap CO. This costs half of the original price of the unit. The new COU may then perform another action.
  • Build seaplane from carrier/launch from carrier/shoot flare from flare: Units with these actions must not have moved already. Tap the unit and select the action from the menu.
  • Build temp structure from rig/supply from rig/unload from transport/raise or dive submarine: These actions can be performed after moving. If a cruiser or lander has two loaded units, one or both may be unloaded.

The only reason to see the menu is for non-attacking actions. Therefore, menu canceling should almost never happen for expert stylus users. Think of non-attacking actions as being subject to touch-move in Chess: don’t do them unless you are absolutely sure. Canceling attacking actions are forgivable because players need to constantly check the damage box.

There are a few actions which involve pressing:

  • Check attack range: Press on the unit. This is used on enemy units almost all the time, but can be used on your own units.
  • Check enemy unit movement range: Tap on the unit. This is nowhere as useful as checking attack range, but is sometimes used to check non-attacking units. Non-menu cancel to leave.
  • Dim all units: Press on a tile without a unit.

The only action that cannot be done with the stylus is select next unit. You must press the physical L button for that. The “L-check” is a useful technique at the end of the day to ensure that you haven’t missed any idle units.

Dual screens

The lower screen is the main screen, where all of the action takes place. You perform all stylus actions here.

AW4 has two viewing modes which can be toggled on-the-fly. Always play in zoomed-out mode. Not only do you see more of the map, but the units themselves are more aesthetically pleasing because they aren’t angled.

The upper screen is the info screen. Basic information about units and terrain are displayed. If the cursor is on a unit, you may toggle between terrain and unit info pages by tapping the page icon.

The unit info page shows the unit vitals, and a very simple chart listing what units it’s good and poor against. On offense, there are only three indicators: an up arrow for effective, a down arrow for ineffective, and a dash for cannot hit.  Defense is a little more detailed: units on the yellow warning line deal 75 to 85 BD (base damage) to it, while units on the red warning line deal at least 90 BD to it. As these charts don’t detail the important nuances of all the matchups, don’t rely on them. Instead, use the base damage charts as your main resources.

The terrain info page is much more important because it has player information. All players are listed along with their chosen COs, COP meters, and total unit count. If fog is off, property count and current funds are listed for all players. If fog is on, they are only listed for the active player.

Pressing the menu icon brings up the main menu. This is accessed to end the turn. The only practical options you may use is Delete Unit and Surrender, both of which for some reason are hidden in Mission Info. The other Mission Info options are rather superfluous because the terrain info page is good enough.


[1] Advance Wars By Web is an online version of PvP AW. However, it’s not faithful to any version of AW. It’s a mashup of AW2 and AW3 COs with AW2 mechanics, and is thus considered an unofficial spinoff.

[2] The battleship is the exception: it is the only indirect unit that can move and fire.

[3] One exception: An antitank attacking into or defending from an enemy unit 1 tile away can counterattack or be counterattacked by direct units and other antitanks.