Arrange some great battling with a blockade - and eliminate the need for a Marine pen!

The basic idea

Instead of using a pen to keep Marines held back until it's time for battle, you can simply use a blockade. You could have one across the central trough or across either side of the battlefield. When you lead them around behind it then head off to finish setting up the battle, the Marines are blocked from following you; they don't have enough intelligence to 'go around'. This spares you the fiddly task of getting Marines into a pen.

But the main benefit is that when it comes to the actual battling, blockades are a fantastic source of fun, just as they are in the spiral path megabattle. You can defend from close behind a blockade or you could stay back and just let it hold up enemies while you attack them; or you could let a horde gather then release it for some hectic fighting.

You can have fun with blockades in solo battling, but most of my emphasis here will be on using them with Marines. Bear in mind that you can always land away from the blockade and the Marines will come and join you, just like when you release them from a pen - except this time there's usually no releasing needed.

Trough blockades

The most obvious place for a blockade, and the first place I tried one, is right across the central 'trough' that runs up the battlefield. Five Ghosts are enough, though you can use other objects too of course. Trigger and kill the two passage Elites beforehand. You can have a blockade pretty much anywhere along the length of the trough, but you'll probably want to avoid a few places where the ground slopes steeply enough to make objects prone to slipping down.

Suggested first placement

I suggest you build your first trough blockade near the bottom where the ground is fairly level. To be more precise, I suggest placing it just past the side passages, towards where the enemy will come from. I think this placement makes for perhaps the best trough battling overall, and as a bonus, the blockade will just about be visible from the raised throne at the back of the battlefield, allowing you some long-distance chain reaction fun with a sniper rifle and rocket launcher, at the expense of gathered enemies.

Confining the Marines

There's a bit of a knack to getting the Marines confined behind a trough blockade (unlike side blockades, which are no trouble), so I'd better clue you in.

In your Banshee, first lead them to the back of the area directly behind the trough. You may get a few Marines that seem strangely reluctant to follow you, but persevere and you should be able to do it (especially once you get used to how your positioning controls Marine flocking behaviour).

The idea now is to fly off down the trough to draw the Marines along to the blockade. However, there's a hitch. Some Marines may come along the side platforms instead! So I use a more refined method as follows. Let your Banshee drift slowly backwards along the trough, keeping an eye on any Marines that initially seem reluctant to come down into the trough. If you see one starting to come along a platform, return quick before he gets far; you'll have to draw everyone back to try again. If all is going well though, keep backing off. Shortly after you reach the other end, your position triggers them to head for this region of the battlefield. If you see any coming along the platforms, return quick as before for another go. Otherwise you're safe; they'll advance to the blockade and stop.

Alternatively you could actually block the platforms to stop wayward Marines. Two Ghosts are just enough to block a platform, but be sure to block at least half of the raised inner lip, else Marines can squeeze through. The platform blockades wouldn't need to be at the back end, incidentally. You could have them as far forward as the enemy end, with the dual intention of keeping enemies back. In battle, blocked Marines will potentially withdraw and rejoin the main squad. Sometimes a few enemies might gather at the platform blockades, but that in itself can lead to fun: you can send in a rocket to give them a nasty shock when you're good and ready.

Battle comments

Of all the blockade types, a trough blockade will probably give you the most fun overall, particularly one near the middle. Within the confines of the trough the carnage is tremendous; check out BCM113 and BCM114 for example. It's glorious to rocket covies as they come down or stand around on the slope. The slope is part of why it's so good; it's perfect for rockets.

Trough battling is definitely better with a blockade. When there's no blockade, Marines tend to foolishly rush into the enemy and get swamped, which also makes it hard for you to grenade or rocket enemies without also damaging Marines. Things become chaotic pretty quickly. A blockade holds the Marines back and thereby gives you the chance of a more controlled defence - at least until the blockade gets blown to pieces by a fumbled frag or grunty grenade or whatever.

There are also some novel things you can do after letting enemies accumulate behind a blockade near the middle. For example, quickly nip around the side of the pipe structure that overlies the trough. At the enemy's end they'll start to filter out of the trough towards you, and because they're still so clustered together they make a great target. See if you can keep them held back, getting decimated before they can start spreading out and getting close. Rockets are especially good of course.

Left side blockades

You can have a blockade across the left side of the battlefield (the side with the door), stretching from the pipe block to the cliff. It could be anywhere up that side, though you'll need plenty of building material to cover the distance: upwards of seven Ghosts, or equivalent material. The Marines will still get blocked even if you have it right back level with the back of the pipe block.

You'll probably want to trigger and kill the door Elites before you start building. It won't matter that you're getting the door checkpoint this early; you'll later be able to use a delayed tunnel checkpoint as your battle start checkpoint.

Suggested first placement

I suggest you build your first left side blockade at the most advanced place you can. Stretch it diagonally from the front corner of the pipe block to a huge cliffside rock, and include the small rock part way across. Seven Ghosts will suffice: four between the pipe block and the small rock, then three between the small rock and the cliffside rock. A great benefit of this placement is that you'll be able to defend quite nicely from on top of that cliffside rock, a rather nice spot. But if you're more interested in a deep defence that permits leisurely sniping as enemies advance, build your blockade way back. It'll take more material though.

Battle comments

This is certainly my favourite of the two sides. You're out in nice bright light and it's easy to see enemies. A well advanced blockade should give you a lot of high-pressured fun, but I also enjoy defending deep, with more time to pick off enemies as they come.

Right side blockades

You can have a blockade across the right side of the battlefield (the side in shadow), stretching from the pipe block to the cliff. It could be pretty much anywhere up that side, but you'd best avoid a few places where the ground slopes up against the cliff, causing objects to slide down. As with the other side, a blockade as far back as the back of the pipe block is still ok for blocking the Marines.

Preferably don't have your blockade level with the front of the pipe block though, because when you get behind it, your position causes the Marines to back off until they're approximately level with the first pipe. It's better to have the blockade level with the first pipe, or further back. Actually you could also have it a bit further forward, in a diagonal design much like I described for the other side. However, the enemy are upon you a lot quicker and you don't have such a good view of them; so I wouldn't say the battling is as good as for that diagonal blockade on the other side.

Suggested first placement

I suggest you build your first right side blockade level with the fourth pipe back. Seven Ghosts are enough to reach the cliff. Back here, you'll have a fair bit of time to get ready for the enemy arrival. You'll also be able to perch up on the pipe block and use that fourth pipe for cover, attacking the arriving enemies from their side.

Battle comments

It's a pity this side of the battlefield is in shadow as it makes it quite hard to see enemies. But aside from that, the blockade battling is excellent. I particularly like defending from well back at the rock arc (the broken arc of three rocks around a tree, by the cliff). You can stand on a rock for a good view. Great for sniping enemies at your blockade then setting off a chain reaction, and so on. It's also a lot of fun to use pipes for cover.

Chain reaction fun

If you position yourself some way back from a blockade, you can snipe Elites and Grunts that gather there, then send in a rocket or grenade for a spectacular chain reaction. For this activity you won't want any Marines at the blockade of course, otherwise there's likely to be a bang sooner than you wanted! In fact it'll probably be best to have no free-roaming Marines at all. That would allow you to get closer to the blockade (if you want) without having to worry about bozos closing on it and lobbing grenades, and it would also allow you to gradually attract all enemies to the blockade, by flying about in your Banshee.

Handy checkpoint for repeated blasts

It's possible to set things up so that you've got a big crowd at the blockade and you've just had a checkpoint. This way you'll be able to repeatedly set off chain reactions with only minimal delay in between blasts. It's definitely the way to go if you want to really get into this chain reaction business. How's it done? Once you've eliminated any Marines at the blockade, just do the sort of thing described in Getting variations of a save for adjusting the initial enemy layout. It should be fairly easy to draw most of them over to the blockade, prior to finally getting your delayed checkpoint.

Although you don't want any Marines at the blockade, it could still be nice to have a few guys in a Marine-retaining hog some way back, so you can enjoy their comments when things go bang. You could also allow a chain-gunner and sniper to join in with the initial killing.

Blockade design

Certain blockade designs may cause the enemy to gravitate to a particular spot, allowing you to get a tighter concentration of loose grenades than usual. I haven't investigated this in detail yet, but here's an obvious idea. Suppose the blockade is an arc that curves your way. Enemies want to get as close to you as possible, so they'll probably be drawn towards the centre of the blockade, right? Watch this space for a possibly explosive update!

Creating a small hole

Something else you can do with a blockade is to create a small hole in it to let the enemy filter through relatively slowly. This can give you a chance to defend with a less powerful weapon combo than usual for example, which can make a nice change. Another idea is to snipe lots of enemies as they come through, to build up a concentration of loose grenades, then send in a rocket and enjoy the bang.

To create the hole, you could simply land near the blockade and drive a blockade Ghost off. Or maybe you could carefully rocket a hole from further back. A hole at one end of the blockade may be best for slowing up the enemy flow; I think they'll take fractionally longer to navigate their way through it.

You could perhaps elaborate this hole idea. A few carefully arranged Ghosts could form an alley the enemy will have to go down, maybe giving you longer to do your sniping or whatever.