FFA for Dummies – by notas

Ever wanted to learn FFA, or want to step up your game? FFA legend and SWL grandchampion notas has kindly provided us with his insights on how to quickly learn to play arguably the most complicated mode in Sauerbraten.

~ notas’ Informal FFA Guide ~


– Items –


YA: 30 sec , 200 armor, absorbs 75% of damage

GA: 20 sec, 100 armor, absorbs 50% of damage


Weapons: Every 16 seconds in 1v1

Health: Every 20 seconds in 1v1

Health boost: every 60 seconds, +10 permanent health

Quad: every 70 seconds, x4 damage


Time the YA to the second, subtracting 30 from the clock every time you pick it up or see it picked up. Keep a general time on HB and Quad, and rotate the GA. Make absolutely sure (if possible with this retarded mechanic) that you don’t let your opponent get more than maybe +20 health advantage over you with HB pickups. Remember that HB in the last minutes of the game does not matter (no time for the small health advantage to make a difference). Always turn up for quad – take it, die on it, kill the other guy or at least leave him weak. Remember, weapons are items too. You need them and they will give you an advantage if you can keep them from your opponent. On most maps it’s most important to deny rockets and chaingun.

– Playing in Control –


When you’re in control (meaning you have the larger stack and know when items are coming up) your goal is to keep it this way, and rack up frags. The biggest mistake I see new players make in control is running from item to item with no plan. This is not enough. Because sauerbraten maps are usually small and because everything does so much damage, the only way you can perpetuate control is to keep the pressure on your opponent. This means figuring out where he is off every spawn, rushing him down before he can get items, trapping him with spam, staying in charge of which items he is allowed to have, leaving him weak until it makes the most sense to kill him (so that he doesn’t get a fresh spawn to attack an item that’s coming up, for example), etc. Of course it’s still very important to be aware of when all the health and armor spawns so that you can keep your stack up (make sure you get the most out of every health and armor pickup – don’t take a 25 health with 97 points of health out of 100, for example, unless you’re trying to deny it from the opponent). But remember, being in control isn’t just about controlling the map – it’s about controlling your opponent.


– Playing out of control –


Get a weapon and chip away at your opponent till he’s dead or weak and you can get good items. Try to stealthily figure out when the YA is coming up. Avoid letting your opponent find you easily without you being able to deal damage in return. DO NOT RUN FROM FIGHTS WITH YOUR BACK TURNED GIVING AWAY FREE DAMAGE – PISTOL IS FUCKING OP SO RUN BACKWARDS DOING PISTOL DAMAGE IF YOU HAVE TO. This is the absolute biggest mistake I see from players learning FFA. It’s way, way easier to gun down a fleeing opponent.

– Baiting –


Sometimes you want to trap and bait items. Don’t underestimate the power of doing this. For example, if you take the YA, the other guy will probably try to take the GA, so you can bait it. If you’re out of control, you can bait the YA rather than trying to jump in and take it and losing. If you’re in control and very stealthy, you can bait the YA, kill your opponent when he thinks it’s free, then take it. Bait weapon pickups. Intercept an opponent going for health. Bait the quad if you think you have more to gain from killing your opponent as they take it than you have to gain from trying to take it yourself. Bait HB if you already have a huge starting health advantage (or use it as an opportunity to take an item you need more).

– Positioning –


High ground is usually good, both for observational purposes and for attacking and being able to retreat. In general you just wanna get a good attacking angle on whatever item or position you’re fighting for. Choke points in sauer are easier to rush through than in quake, but they still exist. A choke point is a point that your opponent can’t rush through without you being able to deal huge spam damage, like an archway or a corridor. Metl2 is almost all choke points. Use these to your advantage, and be wary of moving through them yourself.


– Using Sound –


It’s important to be aware of sound cues, both to figure out where your opponent is and to avoid being heard yourself. Jumping, landing from height, item pickups, jump pads, weapon firing, taking damage… all of these things make sounds that you need to be aware of.


– Movement –


Make sure you know the fastest way to get where you’re going, and make sure you can execute it every time. Practice your weapon jumps, and practice preserving the tiny amount of momentum you get from jumping in a straight line. Maps like nmp8 (mostly just nmp8) take a lot of practice just moving around the map, so just take ten minutes running around. Metl3 has a nifty rifle jump from corridor to HB. Hades has that bullshit quad steal nade jump. Corruption you need to know how to get up the pad to YA smoothly. Almost all maps have *something.* Figure out what these are and get them down.


– Map knowledge –


You won’t be able to apply any of the things I talked about above if you don’t know the map. Every pickup, every angle, every movement trick. Which pickups are more or less important. What positions are strong and weak. Message me in IRC if you want help with a specific map, and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts.


That’s about it. Remember, there is no one right way to play the game, so take everything here with a grain of salt. The only way to learn what works best for you is to play! I recommend you find a practice partner who is about the same skill as you, so that you aren’t just getting owned all the time but you’re being pushed enough that you improve. Watching demos of top players is really helpful as well. Have fun!


  1. Alu

    we need more maps with only one YArmor and 1 GArmor
    They are easier when you want to start playing ffa
    i dont know something with good space and basic structure.

      1. swatllama

        If you don’t mean SVN, it would be helpful if you could list some of those.

        Alu, academy and memento2b aren’t too bad to practice. Frozen and frozen6a have healthboosts, but no quad and are along the lines of academy. I can’t think of any small maps (cause academy is teeny tiny) that don’t have any powerups though. Feel free to modify them, save them as like elegy_nopowup and grab some practice buddies to play with though!

      2. Alu

        estoy trabajando en un nuevo mapa pequeño para ffa, pero editar es muy dificil. señora llama.

      3. swatllama

        Hey, I understood what that meant! I’m glad you’re working on maps. If you ever want me to critique stuff, lemme know and I’d love to.

  2. Adelaide

    Interesting guide. The only part I dont get is the metl3 “rifle jump from corridor to HB” Do you mean quad?
    I like the mention of the pistol, haha. I would rather have it do 25 and not spread tho :(
    A list of the good ffa maps to learn would be helpful.
    Are there any specific tactics for other modes with pickups, like teamplay and ctf? imo these are more interesting than ffa :) It feels like this guide was written specifically for pickup mode 1v1.

    1. notas

      if you’re coming out of the center corridor (coming from the rifle pickup near quad) you can rifle jump straight to the health boost. It takes good timing to not hit the ceiling but still make it all the way.

      I agree about the pistol!

      Completely stream of consciousness list of good FFA maps off the top of my head: nmp8, metl2, metl3, metl4, corruption, tumwalk, elegy, skrdm1, hades, phosgene, fragplaza, deathtek… shadowed… aard3c… certain capture maps… i was wondering lately about gubo, i’ve never seriously tested it… i’ve had ggs on ruby with degrave… fanatic_quake….. probably others

      This guide is specifically about 1v1, which is my area of expertise. Some of the stuff here applies to any mode with items. Teamplay is about rationing items between two players and picking fights together. CTF is about controlling the enemy’s items and rationing your own items between offense and defense, then fighting for powerups.

      I am finishing up an updated version of this guide, so stay tuned.

  3. Lyle Bieniek

    That s about it. Remember, there is no one right way to play the game, so take everything here with a grain of salt. The only way to learn what works best for you is to play! I recommend you find a practice partner who is about the same skill as you, so that you aren t just getting owned all the time but you re being pushed enough that you improve. Watching demos of top players is really helpful as well. Have fun!


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