Cantata 101: Supply

September 12, 2019

The backbone of your army

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For the first entry in Cantata 101, we briefly talked about Commanding Officers. Though they vary in how they are deployed on a battlefield, a Commanding Officer is essentially the leader of your army in any given round of the game.

For the second entry in Cantata 101, I wanted to focus not on who or what leads a battle, but instead, what gives that battle structure, what provides the backbone of your army. For the second entry of Cantata 101, I want to talk about Supply.

Supply is a weird one because in most tactics game it's relatively non-existent. In larger 4X games it's often abstracted away so that you don't have to manage it as much as you just need to know that it's there. In Cantata however, the underlying design principle is that every system in the game should feel immediate and connected, and as such, Supply, and the management of it, is one of the core aspects of how the game is played. Effectively managing Supply will be a major factor in determining who wins any given match. So lets get into it.

What is Supply?

At the most basic level, Supply is a limited resource in the game that is used build buildings and units. Though I'm calling it "Supply" here, what "Supply" specifically represents for an individual faction varies (and is still being decided!). For the human faction, Supply may very well represent a traditional idea of supply — think boxes of goods and services transported along a route from location to location. For the Alien faction though, Supply may instead be "cosmic energy" — the Aliens pull "Supply" from Shoal and funnel it to their various buildings in order to produce units.

"Supply" then is a catch-all term that describes the in-fiction way that a faction produces and builds inside the game.

Supply Types

Similar to how the word "Supply" is an abstraction, a "Supply Type" is an abstraction used to describe the what of a faction's Supply. For humans, Supply Types might be things like "Metal", "Heavy Steel", "Oil", etc. You know, human-y things. For Aliens it may be something like "Cosmic Dust", "Crystal", "Essence", etc. — things that are more space-y and mysterious.

Supply Types are then used to describe the requirements for building any given unit in the game (as well as Supply Lines). For example, a simple Human solider may need 10x Metal Supply and 5x Clothes Supply.

However, all Supply Types are not available at the start of match, meaning you can't just build the best units right off the bat. Instead, access to more "advanced" Supply Types occurs through the building of buildings that produce these advanced types.

What this means is that, through the building of more advanced buildings, you unlock more advanced supply types for more advanced units. This is similar to a "tech tree" in other strategy games, but with the important distinction here that your tech tree has a physical manifestation on the map that itself must be defended.

Base Nodes

But how do you start? Each match, a player immediately has access to a "Base Node". A "Base node", like "Supply", is a generic term to describe the starting building a faction begins with that "holds" all the supply a player has in a given match. This starting Base Node is able to create Supply Lines that can connect to other buildings that "accept" Supply of the Supply Type the Base Node provides.

So, the human Base Node may give out a generic Supply Type like "Materials". As a player, you want to turn "Materials" into something useful, like Heavy Ammo, allowing you to build a large artillery weapon. The Base node can then build a Supply Line to connect to a building that accepts "Materials" and with "Materials" is able to make supply of type "Ammo". That building can then build a Supply Line to connect to a building that accepts "Ammo" and turns it into "Heavy Ammo", and so on. It's through these connections that, over the course of the match, you build Supply Lines that together form your Supply Network. Your Supply Network is the backbone of your military that enables you to produce units across the map.

If a player's Base Node is destroyed, the game is not necessarily over, but players will no longer be able to funnel supply along their Supply Network to build any new units. Said differently, if you let your Base Node fall, you better have a backup plan!

Supply Lines

As mentioned in the previous section, supply is transported along Supply Lines. Supply Lines are the mechanism by which you you transport supply from one building to another in order to use that supply at the connected building. Though Supply Lines are not physically on the map, they do have the ability to be intercepted by opponents by having buildings in your supply network be attacked or destroyed. More on that in a future post :).

Supply is Limited

Every match, players start out with a limited amount of supply. Anytime they build a unit or a building it will cost some number of supply, pulling from this global pool and slowly ticking down the total amount of supply they have left. Once the supply counter reaches 0, you won't have any more supply to use! There will be some things in a given match that may award you with additional supply, but the core idea here is that every match essentially has a timer that players can choose how fast it ticks down. Small, intimate matches may have low supply pools, encouraging quick thinking and action. Large, sprawling games may have large supply pools, giving players tons of flexibility in deciding how to go about the given match.

This means there's a lot of strategy in how you manipulate supply. Do you initially burn a lot of supply to create a mass of units in hopes of overrunning your opponent, but at the expense of knowing you put yourself at a disadvantage in the late game where your opponent will have more supply?

Do you instead hoard supply, holding back using it until key movements of a battle where you can deploy some of your strongest units instead of paying the cost of having an idle standing army?

It's on the team here to ensure that in a given match of Cantata you feel empowered to make these decisions, and have each one be interesting and leave you wondering what would have happened if you decided differently.


I've gone over a lot here, and if you have questions I encourage you comment on this post in the forums! I've also only talked about the high-level idea of supply here, and not really gone into the nitty-gritty of how supply is managed, so look out for more posts on supply in the future. Until then, hope you enjoyed the post and looking forward to saying more in the future!

The guide has also been updated to reflect this post.