AAAI Publications, Eleventh Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference

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Using Lanchester Attrition Laws for Combat Prediction in StarCraft
Marius Adrian Stanescu, Nicolas Barriga, Michael Buro

Last modified: 2015-09-23


Smart decision making at the tactical level is important for Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents to perform well in the domain of real-time strategy (RTS) games. Winning battles is crucial in RTS games, and while humans can decide when and how to attack based on their experience, it is challenging for AI agents to estimate combat outcomes accurately.

A few existing models address this problem in the game of StarCraft but present many restrictions, such as not modeling injured units, supporting only a small number of unit types, or being able to predict the winner of a fight but not the remaining army. Prediction using simulations is a popular method, but generally slow and requires extensive coding to model the game engine accurately.

This paper introduces a model based on Lanchester's attrition laws which addresses the mentioned limitations while being faster than running simulations. Unit strength values are learned using maximum likelihood estimation from past recorded battles. We present experiments that use a StarCraft simulator for generating battles for both training and testing, and show that the model is capable of making accurate predictions. Furthermore, we implemented our method in a StarCraft bot that uses either this or traditional simulations to decide when to attack or to retreat. We present tournament results (against top bots from 2014 AIIDE competition) comparing the performances of the two versions, and show increased winning percentages for our method.


Artificia Intelligence; Real-Time Strategy; StarCraft; RTS; Lanchester; Games

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