Believe it or not, the workers are often the most important unit in RTS games. The lowly worker who toils overtime without pay to gather the resources you need are also the ones you should be protecting the most.
Economy is key to success in RTS games. This means that if you can disrupt your opponent’s economy, you can gain a very sizeable advantage especially if you do not sacrifice your economy in turn. You do this by simply killing his workers but you can also effectively achieve it if you can keep your opponent’s workers from doing their job. Good thing workers can’t form unions in-game, right?
Kill the Workers!
This particular move is often called worker harassment or simply harassment (no relation to the terms used in the ongoing culture war across the internet). This is why losing workers is a big deal. Not only will it slow down your own economy, you would be spending resources to replace the workers you’ve lost rather than go towards beefing up your army.
Often, the units who are best used in harassing your enemy’s worker lines are the fast-yet-fragile units. Often, your ability to micro an important mechanic to brush up on if you do harassment. As the units are often the glass cannon type, you need to be able to micro them pretty effectively. The longer you keep them alive, the more damage they can potentially do. In games like Age of Empire III or Rise of Nations, this means using light cavalry to attack the overextending villagers. In games like Starcraft II, Hellions or Adepts are used to harass worker lines.
The goal is not to engage in a direct fight. Rather, simply kill your enemy’s workers or at the very least, pull them off the resources. Remember, the goal is to disrupt your enemy’s economy so even forcing them to stop gathering resources can be a successful harass.
In games without workers or with workers that do not actively gather resources such as in Company of Heroes 2, harassment can still be employed. Simply look at the game’s primary resource generation method. In CoH 2’s case, points you capture increases the resources you gain over time. This means that stealing points or even simply de-capping (turning them neutral) will slow down your opponent’s economy.
Harassment is most often done early game when there are not much units fielded yet. However, disrupting your opponent’s economy is a useful tactic throughout a game. Resources spent replacing dead workers are less resources spent making units!
In the process, make sure that you do not forget your own economy. Keep making units, workers, buildings, etc., while you do the harass. Multitasking becomes key. If you forget this, your harass would essentially be useless, you may even end up behind!
Defending harassment without lawsuits
On the other hand, defending a worker harass will also require quite a bit of micro and mechanical skill. Losing workers is arguably worse than being forced to pull your workers away from gathering resources, make sure to keep it in mind.
When on the receiving end of a worker harass, it’s important to never lose your cool. The moment you panic is the moment you lose. Mind your main army’s position in the map. Place them in such a way that they can quickly respond to harass should they need to.
Respond to the harass, then resume resource gathering. If you’re undergoing heavy harassment or your workers are at a particularly vulnerable position, static defense can be a good mitigation.