Background: Raiding, sometimes called Invading, is the term for offensive military gameplay. Raiders seek to take over a region, temporarily or permanently. Their motivations frequently include advertisement for their organizations, training, the total destruction of the target region, or pure enjoyment. There are many organizations dedicated entirely to this cause.
Raiding is not an in-character action (roleplay). Raiders operate using game mechanics, by joining the World Assembly with their nations, endorsing each other, then attempting to move into a vulnerable region to seize the delegate position. Should they move quickly enough, in greater numbers than natives and defenders can repel, they will succeed. The most vulnerable regions are those without living founders, because the delegate position in such regions automatically possesses total executive power.
Types of Raiding:
1. Occupations are operations in which raiders take over the delegate position of a region and hold onto it for some period of time. They can be permanent, ending in the total destruction and refound of the region, or temporary, planned in advance to last a week or two. Large-scale occupations can require more planning than any other type of operation, because of the need to contact piler forces, run influence calculations, and fight off liberation attempts.
To occupy a region, raiders first arrange to have enough endorsements to surpass the native delegate of the target region. They endorse one or two lead nations, then move into the target immediately before it updates. Once they have seized the delegate position, they dismiss all native Regional Officers and appoint some of their own. Regional Officers can only be granted Border Control authority once every 26 hours, but with all of them appointed at the start, pilers know which nations to endorse when they arrive. Finally, the WFE, flag, regional tags, and embassies are modified to promote the organization leading the raid.
Once a region has been occupied, the biggest question is that of the raiders' intentions. Some organizations refuse to damage native communities, while others have no such qualms. In the former case, the occupiers will usually make a public announcement about the operation, stay for a short time, then depart without ejecting anyone except defenders. In occupations led by the latter type, the region may still be handed back to its natives peacefully, but the raiders could also build up enough influence to eject all the natives and password the region, destroying it. In that case, should defenders be unable to liberate it, an SC Liberation may be drafted.
On rare occasions, stealth occupations are attempted, in which a region is taken over without any public announcement or fanfare, and none of the settings are changed. With all the potential for advertisement removed, these occupations are almost always meant to completely destroy (and possibly flash refound) the region. These are extremely difficult to conduct on active regions due to the obvious risk of natives noticing, but they can still be done if the raiders infiltrate the region and make the occupation appear as an internal coup to outside observers.
2. Tags are the most common type of raid, by sheer volume. At its core, tagging consists of small teams moving to regions and replacing their WFEs, flags, embassies, and regional tags with ones representing their organizations, with no intention of actually holding the region. To do this, raiders come online at update with a number of prepared puppets. They endorse a lead nation, then move into a target region, seizing the delegate position and appointing one of their own as a Regional Officer. If there are any native Regional Officers, they are dismissed. Then, they switch out and move onto the next region. After the tag run, they go back through all the successfully hit regions and modify their settings.
The primary purposes of tagging are advertisement and high-speed training. Large-scale tag runs are highly coordinated and may involve multiple teams moving to upward of a hundred regions in a single update, but most tag runs cover around twenty regions, turning them into virtual billboards for the participants and their regions. Targets are almost always small, inactive, and lacking a native delegate, so the only opposition to tag raids comes from defenders.
3. Flash Refounds are a stealthy type of raid that results in the total destruction of the target region. The raider lead, using a sleeper, infiltrates the target and builds influence, calculating how much they will need to eject all the other nations in the region. During this time, they attempt to gain Border Control authority. When they have enough influence, they clear out the region right before update, then depart themselves. When the empty region updates, it ceases to exist, and the raider refounds it.
Unlike traditional raids that require the delegate position of the target to be executive, flash refounds are technically possible in most regions, because they involve infiltration. However, they are extremely difficult to accomplish in older regions that have a lot of native influence built up, even with multiple raiders infiltrating the region together.
Targeting Regions: When searching for targets, raiders choose regions with executive delegate positions. In these regions, the founder has ceased to exist, has willingly deprived themselves of executive power, or is inactive and has enabled executive power for their delegate. Regions with delegates too powerful to overcome are removed from consideration. When seeking tag targets, raiders often use sheets because the proximity of targets to each other in the update is critical. For occupations, they may use the regional tag cloud. For example, this page lists all regions that are founderless, have no password, and are not feeders or sinkers.
Most passworded regions are safe, but sometimes raider spies can capture a region's password. In this case, the region becomes less safe, because defenders do not know the password and cannot chase the raiders into the region. Note: guessing or "cracking" a password, even an obvious one like "password1," is illegal. Stealing it from natives is not.
Background: Defending is the term for military gameplay that is intended to protect regions from offensive military action. When a region comes under attack from a hostile force of nations, known as raiders, defenders are there to stop them. There are many organizations dedicated entirely to this cause.
Defending is not an in-character action (roleplay). Defenders operate using game mechanics, by joining the World Assembly with their nations, endorsing each other, then attempting to move into a vulnerable region to support the natives in power. Should they move quickly enough, in greater numbers than the raiders targeting that region, they will succeed. The most vulnerable regions are those without living founders, because the delegate position in such regions automatically possesses total executive power.
Types of Defending:
1. Defenses are preventative operations--ie, they block raids before they happen. Defenders come online at update, cross up, and watch for raids. When they see raiders move into a region, they immediately move in behind them. This part is known as "chasing." If the defenders make it into the region before it updates, and they have more endorsements than the raider lead, they have made a successful defense. If the target region already has a delegate, the defenders will endorse that nation as well, to increase their likelihood of winning.
2. Liberations put an end to active raider occupations. To liberate a region, defenders often must plan the operation in advance and ensure that they have sufficient numbers to overcome the raider forces. The liberation force gathers at update, crosses up, and moves into the region. If there is a native ex-delegate in the region, the defenders will try to endorse that nation before the region updates. Adding difficulty are the raider leads, who watch for liberators at update and eject them as they arrive. As time passes in an occupation, raiders can appoint more and more Regional Officers with the power to eject nations. Because of this, most successful liberations take place in the first couple updates after the occupation begins.
3. Detags restore regions tagged by raiders to their previous state. These regions are usually inactive or are unable to appoint new Regional Officers themselves. To detag a region, defenders endorse a lead nation and move into the region at update. The lead nation becomes the delegate, appoints themselves as a Regional Officer, and dismisses any raider Regional Officers that remain. Later, they go back through all the regions they entered that update and reset the flags, WFEs, embassies, regional tags, and any dispatches pinned by raiders. To find old versions of the WFEs and flags, detaggers use the WFE Index and Flag Archive. When the detag is complete, the Regional Officer resigns, removing themselves from the WFE.
Defenders never leave any traces of their work in detagged regions, such as adding the line "This region has been cleaned up by The White Knights™!" Doing so is known as "retagging," and is frowned upon by other defenders.
4. Sieges/Attrition Runs are defensive operations that weaken occupations by forcing the raider leads to waste influence. Successful attrition runs can result in an occupation being drastically prolonged, keeping raider manpower tied up indefinitely, or even abandonment of the operation by the raider leads. They can also buy more time for defenders to gather reinforcements if adequate numbers for a liberation are not immediately available.
The usual method of conducting an attrition run is for a number of defenders to cross up and move in at update, just like in a liberation attempt. Every defender that updates before they are ejected gains influence. The raider leads must eject them, consuming their own influence in the process, which leaves less influence for ejecting natives or setting a password. If the raider leads have insufficient influence to remove the defenders, the defenders remain cross-endorsed in the region, forming a "beachhead" that gains influence every update and becomes increasingly difficult to remove.
Spotting Raids: In order to stop raids in progress, defenders must spot during update. To do this, raider jump points are monitored for activity before update. Raider puppets preparing for an operation are added to defender dossiers. Spotters then refresh their Reports pages constantly during update to be immediately notified of movements.
Experienced spotters may also use the World activity feed to spot for raids taking place outside of update (raiders moving in quietly during the day and waiting for update), and for raiders making clean puppets, which are not located in raider jump points. The activity feed can be used for ordinary update spotting, but it includes a three-second delay from real time, while the Reports page has none. This delay has a serious impact on defender response times, so most elect to use the Reports page.
Background: Most tactics are used on both sides of the R/D paradigm. At their core, both raiding and defending rely on the same game mechanics, with the only true difference lying in player intent. These tools and methods are common to all of military gameplay.
Discord: Military operations are dynamic and fast-paced. Most organizations coordinate via Discord, which offers much greater speed and security than RMBs and telegrams. To sign up, go to Discord.gg or download their mobile app. In the past, Skype and IRC were popular options, but they have fallen out of use in the last couple years.
Update: Almost all military activity on NationStates centers around the update, because that is the time when endorsements are tallied and delegate changes are possible. The site updates twice a day*, at 0000 (midnight) and 1200 (noon) EST / EDT. The former is known as the major update, and lasts one hour. The latter is known as the minor update, and lasts 45 minutes.
A lot of things happen during the update, but the most important is the endorsement tally. All the endorsement counts in each region are compared, and the nation with the most endorsements becomes the delegate. If two nations are tied, the tie either falls to the incumbent or is broken by an algorithm. Even if a nation has the most endorsements in the region for most of the day, if another nation suddenly has more when the region updates, the second nation will become the delegate. This is why raiding and defending always happen at the same time every day.
Other important events at update include Regional Influence recalculation (see the Influence section below), Ceasing to Exist (which can be important if a native delegate or founder is about to be deleted for inactivity), and occasionally, the passage of SC Liberations (see the Liberations section below).
*There is technically a third update, when regional averages are calculated and all regions are simultaneously re-ranked. This occurs at 0335 EST/EDT and has no effect on military gameplay.
Jump Points: Nations update when their region does. If a nation changes regions while the update is in progress, moving from a later-updating region to one that has already updated, that nation will not update at all. Nations can only update once per update, so if a nation updates in one region and moves to another region that updates later on, it will not update again.
A nation must update in the target region order for its endorsements to count, which is a critical part of military gameplay. So, how does one guarantee that their nation will not update before the target region does? This is where jump points come in. Jump points are regions that fall at the very end of the update order, after all available targets, and can be used for storing military puppets. These puppets "jump" out of the jump point and into a target region.
Most raiding organizations have their own jump point, and using someone else's jump point is frowned upon unless permission is given. Most defenders work together and use a single jump point. A limited number of jump points are available, due to the nature of update mechanics and the difficulty involved in creating them. To make a completely new jump point, one must create a large number of regions and hope one of them falls at the end of the order. Fortunately, a region's place in the update never changes*, even if it ceases to exist and is refounded.
*The update order has shifted a number of times as a result of technical changes. This is an infrequent and unscheduled occurrence, with the last reshuffling happening in April 2019, and before that, December 2013.
Triggering: Each region updates one by one, always in the same order, but with a randomized length of time known as "variance" inserted between them. Adding to the confusion, because each nation in a region has to update, large regions take much longer to update than small ones. This means that while the order is predictable, the exact times are not. To pinpoint the precise moment when a target region will update, minimizing the time between the jump and the specific region's update, operation leaders use a technique called "triggering."
There are multiple types of triggering. The most common involves the use of a program that downloads the list of regions into an Excel spreadsheet. The list is in order of update and clearly marks regions that are vulnerable for raids. One such program is Spyglass, available for download here. The operation leader checks the sheet for the rough time of the target's update, then finds a region that updates shortly before the target. A long trigger might be twenty seconds, while a tight trigger could be just one or two. Trigger length usually depends on the number of people making the jump and overall troop experience. Finally, when it is almost time to jump, the operation leader repeatedly refreshes the trigger region's page until the "Last WA Update" line at the top of the page indicates that the region has updated. The leader immediately sends a "GO" command to all their troops.
It is possible to completely automate triggering to the point that a program seeks out targets and sends the "GO" command without human prompting. The inverse is also true, in that a human can determine the update order by hand and pick out possible targets by checking individual regions' Regional Control pages.
Switching: Because nations can only update once per update, it is impossible to conduct multiple operations in a single update with only one nation. Switching is the practice of cycling WA membership through a number of puppets to circumvent this problem. Usually, a player expecting to jump many times in one update will apply to join the WA with all their military puppets, then join with one of them. Every time one of their puppets updates in a target region, they resign it from the WA and join with the next one. The ability to switch quickly is important in high-speed update operations where each target is separated by minutes or seconds.
Cross-Endorsing: Cross-endorsing is the term for a number of WA nations all endorsing each other. Raiders and defenders will frequently cross-endorse, or have a select group cross-endorsed, before jumping. This ensures that several nations have the highest possible endorsement count, just in case one of them is banned upon entry or misses the jump.
Sleepers / Clean Puppets: A sleeper is an anonymous puppet inserted into a region with the intent to use it for a military operation in the future, either a raid or a defense. Raiders may use sleepers to actively infiltrate regions and gain native trust, but raiders and defenders alike also use sleepers passively to gain Regional Influence.
Clean puppets are similar. Like sleepers, they are puppets that cannot be traced back to their creator's main nation. They have convincing flags and custom fields, answer issues, and follow recruitment telegrams, in an effort to appear like new players. Unlike sleepers, they are almost exclusively used by raiders for large, short-term operations where stealth would provide an advantage.
Piling: When the initial update force of an occupation is too small to hold the target region, the operation leaders will call in reinforcements to boost their endorsement counts. This is known as "piling," the nations providing reinforcements are "pilers," and collectively they make a "pile." Piling is more common among raiders, but defenders may pile to secure a region after it has been raided, or if a region is at a heightened risk of being raided in the near future.
SC Liberations: One of the World Assembly Security Council's functions is to pass Liberations, which remove the ability of a region to be passworded, so long as that region lacks an executive founder. Following the passage of such a resolution, a badge will appear on the region's page. Liberations are usually employed for defensive purposes, to prevent an occupying force from passwording and destroying a region, but there have been notable cases where Liberations were passed to allow regions to be raided, by removing passwords set by natives or defenders.
When considering the viability of a Liberation on a passworded region, it is important to remember that the nation which imposed the password has absolutely no impact on whether the Liberation will be effective. The game does not keep track of whether the password was put in place by a founder, delegate, or Regional Officer. All that matters is whether the region has an executive founder. If it does, the Liberation will still result in a badge on the region's page, but will have no other impact.
Influence Calculations: Calculating influence requirements for a major operation can be a highly complex task. To accurately predict costs and timelines, one must take into account decay, CTEs, inactivity plateaus, the influence advance, Regional Officer vs delegate costs, and other variables. Please see here for an in-depth explanation of influence.
Endorsements: Endorsements are a key element of military gameplay, as they determine which nation will become a region's delegate at the update. Please see here for an in-depth explanation of endorsements.