Search and Destroy Theorycrafting:SI

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Welcome Soldiers. Pull up a chair and lets discuss the complexities of a little game we call Search & Destroy.


The calculations in this section are gleaned from analysis of in game battle results. Plarium has not and will not release their actual battle algorithms. Use this information at your own risk.

  • Regarding the accuracy of this information.

The actual Search and Destroy mechanics are by necessity a trade secret known only to Plarium. We have done our best to postulate exactly what happens in Search and Destroy missions. Evidence seems to indicate we are on the right path, but we can’t be 100% certain we’ve nailed down every detail. In fact we’ll come right out and say we haven’t, but this information should help prevent novice commanders from utterly wiping their forces on S&D and should hopefully give you an answer as to why after five S&D victories, you still haven’t seen that reward you were looking for.

  • Regarding Search and Destroy Calculations

A recent change to ZGH unit statistics as accessed from a search and destroy report confirms that there is a bonus adjustment to enemy unit combat values. This value is likely based on the type of location but further testing is required to reveal these bonuses.


Search & Destroy is not a gamble, it is an investment. That right there should clear up a great deal of confusion. Alas, one of the quirks of the game is that the early S&D quests give the impression that you send a few troops out, roll some dice, and if you’re lucky you see good payouts. Certainly those payouts early on are very good for a new player. In fact, as long as you are sending offense to offense sites and defense to defense sites, there is absolutely no reason not to clear every single S&D site you get on day one, and maybe even day two without a second thought. This is a very quick way to get yourself some solid troops and jump right in to the game feet first.

Alas, what generally ends up happening to novice players is that they keep going back to S&D as if it were a guaranteed payout to build up your forces. It can be, but you can’t just keep blindly throwing your forces at it and expect to grow. Early one this strategy will slowly erode your forces until you don’t send enough troops and your army is gone in an instant. ‘’’Don’t do this!’’’

This brings us back to our initial statement. S&D is an investment. An investment of what, you might ask. Plarium has confirmed that your payouts are roughly equivalent to your total losses on S&D plus a bonus multiplier. However testing has shown that payouts tend to occur under certain circumstances and the amount of payout is affected by the level of the site and possibly the level on your mission site in relation to the site you took down. We will discuss this shortly.

Strategy I: Maximizing Losses

Plarium has confirmed that your losses are the primary driver of your rewards. We repeat, this is an investment system. You get out what you put in with some interest as long as you play smart. That doesn't mean you should blindly throw troops at the sites however. This is for a couple of reasons. First, without troops you are severely limited in your raiding and defending capacity. You want troops on hand. You don't want to win with a 50/50 split (which in S&D means you lose everything but 1 troop). Second, Global quests necessitate tackling as many sites as you can for tokens which equal more troops to invest. Also tackling more sites equates to more experience if that's something you are interested in. Regardless, you could indeed simply throw troops away with the full expectation that you will eventually get a return on that investment.

Strategy II: Maximizing Kills

We know that your loses powers your rewards. However if you want to minimize losses (to tackle more sites in succession) you should aim to over power the site by about 4:1 strength. Keep in mind that the strength of the sites scales faster than any bonus multiplier will reward you troops. You will need to constantly churn out troops to keep up. That said, site strength is predictable if you pay attention. For example, level 50 offense is about 150k average defense and level 52 is roughly 175k. Total offense strength on defense sites seems to be a slight amount larger (about 160k for level 50) for defense sights than offense sights perhaps as a trade off for the fact that you can find out exactly what the strength of a defense site is by sending a single mercenary and adding up the offense values of the troops shown in the failed battle report.

Payouts / Rewards

The timing of when exactly you receive a payout seems to be affected by two things primarily. First, your current loss pool (how much you've lost total on S&D so far since your last payout) and second how close the site you take down is to your current quest level. If for instance you have 0 loss pool, you aren't likely to see any rewards no matter what site you attack. If you have loss pool equal to your last reward, then you have good chances of a payout, but you might not get a payout for attacking a lower level site. That said, whether you get a payout or not does seem to be random. What is affected by the above variables is rather the odds of a payout happening. Even when all things seem favorable for a payout though, you might still not get a payout. Keep trying, you will get one eventually and your loss pool does keep adding up.

Mission do seem to affect both payout chance and your loss pool. First you seem to have a much greater chance of a payout for a mission win. Second, a mission win never seems to payout your full loss pool. It is postulated that the Drill Instructors that you win (and can only win for beating a mission) are counted against your loss pool, but never removed from your loss pool. So say you have 100k in your loss pool and a DI is worth 50k. You would receive the DI and 50k worth of troops/resources. Your loss pool will still read as 50k for when you tackle the next site. This might explain why after a long succession of mission wins, you can hit a lower level site for a virtually guaranteed payout. Also the higher chance seems to explain why if you only do missions, you will eventually see wins on nearly every mission you beat (though not at your full loss payout of course).

Payouts seem to be capped based on the level. So even though you drive up a 200k loss pool, if you hit a site that only pays out 50k...don't expect more than 50k worth of troops. Thus beware of hitting low level sites AFTER you hit higher level sites and fail to receive a reward.

Sweet spots

The following table demonstrates what a sweet spot is and why it exists due to confirmed battle mechanics. We know, for certain, that losses are straight percentage applied to each unit type present. So, regardless of how the percentages are actually calculated the fact that they are percentages based on the units present means that there is a certain point where anything less is a loss and anything more is a win but with higher casualties than necessary. Here for example, we show that in a straight match with no modifications that defending with less than 20 sappers is a loss due to having the higher loss percentage but defending with 22 sappers actually results in ‘’more’’ losses (11) than if you defend with 21.

Sweetspot as Illustrated in a very basic PVP matchup with no modifications
Riflemen Offense Total Offense Loss Offense Lost Riflemen Lost Sappers Loss Defense Total Defense Defense Sappers
10 40 400 0.46 5 9 0.54 340 20 17
10 40 400 0.47 5 10 0.53 360 20 18
10 40 400 0.49 5 10 0.51 380 20 19
10 40 400 0.5 5 10 0.5 400 20 20
10 40 400 0.51 5 10 0.49 420 20 21
10 40 400 0.52 5 11 0.48 440 20 22

Unfortunately, battle calculations are not as simple as what is presented above, and S&D complicates things even further. It has been demonstrated that the losing side always loses everything. It has likewise been demonstrated that barely winning a match on either the player or ZHG side results in a loss of all but 1 unit. We further postulate that marginal wins (i.e. not just barely, but still not enough to kill the vast majority of the enemy troops) results in attrition for the winning side. In other words, it is likely that the game penalizes you for every troop you didn’t actually kill, by killing off extra units on your side. The last man standing results above would be just taking that concept to the extreme.

So what is the sweet spot for S&D? There are several possibilities. One is the point where you have sent just enough troops to kill off every enemy unit without triggering the penalty. Another is to so overpower the site as to take zero loses. Both cases are harder to do the higher you push ZHG sites, the latter more so than the former. Overpowering a site takes an enormous force even for moderate sites. Another thought is to consider aiming to win with just one troop still standing. Further testing is necessary to determine which of these is worth aiming for, if any at all in S&D.

There is however, a special case of overpowering early on where you can send one of every unit type (By what you still need with diamonds from early quests) and win with zero losses. This is because the game uses rounding when applying the loss percentage and thus if you win with a significant force, the loss percent is not high enough to cost your single unit of each type. Be careful with this, as if you miss calculate, the result could be one of those minimal wins where you lose all but one unit (say bye bye to those units you just bought with diamonds).

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