Outline of the Guide

So, you wanna be a Commander...

The first thing you have to realize that you are the hinge that will make or break the Marine Team. The rest of your team may not follow your orders, they will constantly be giving you feedback whether you like it or not, and in general it's a very stressful job. However, it's also one of the most rewarding roles in NS since you get to control the flow of the game and the RTS part of Natural Selection really comes out. Just be warned, this is not your typical RTS. Your units are more independent, and instead of “microing” multiple fronts you'll be giving orders, dropping buildings, and doing the infrastructure support.

You're the Comm. Do Your Job

So, what are the Comm's roles?

Besides dropping stuff for the poor helpless Marines, you're also responsible for giving your team its direction. Formulate a strategy, tell your Marines what it is, and then help guide them towards it. However, the problem is you have to leave the actual execution to them. This means that you have to give them the means and guidance to carry out your plan, then trust that they can actually pull it off.

Let's give an example. You want them to take an Alien Hive. If that's all you said, your Marines will run wild. Now, if you said that you want a particular hive, like Eclipse, that's better, but still vague. The best move it tell them the goal and a general idea of how you want it done. Do you want them to run in and shoot it down? Do you want them to setup a siege location? If so, where? Communication is key.

Also, try to give specific orders to specific people. Simply telling the team as a whole could end up with varying results, but telling a specific person to do something is much more direct and ensures that the role is being fulfilled. This can be illustrated when someone cries out for people to phase to base to help clear out a skulk. Now, you probably don't need the whole team coming back, but sometimes that's the effect. Other times, people might think someone else will deal with it. However, telling the person in Hive Eclipse (locational identification works as well as names) to phase back puts the responsibility on that one person, and they're more likely to do it since they know it's specifically expected of them.

Once you give the commands, give your marines every opportunity and possible means (within reason) to carry it out. This means that if you said you want a siege point, make sure you have enough resources to build the Phase Gate, Turret Factory, and all the other accessories you need. Then, build them in a logical location, and make sure your team has the equipment to deal with whatever the Aliens send at them.

This is the distinction between Strategy and Tactics. As the commander, you're responsible for giving the overall strategy. The Marines on the field are responsible for using appropriate tactics to carry out your plan.

Remember this as well, the rule of thumb is that if you're not working to control the Hive Points, you're doing something very wrong. Too many Comms get caught up in trying to control the resources points or teching up, but these are simply means to an end.

Aliens vs Marines

Understanding yourself and your enemies makes you all the more useful.

Aliens in general are quicker, more agile, and more deadly. Good Alien players can do tremendous amounts of damage to the Marines by themselves. They also are exceptional ambushers and have nifty abilities like cloaking. However, their biggest drawback is the lack of a central system. Since resources are divided amongst each player, they can't pool them together for special tasks. This means that each Resource Tower they place is more important and harder to replace, and it's sometimes harder for them to plan together as a cohesive group. Finally, due to the Hive nature of the race, they are required to tech in a very specific and granular fashion, once they choose an upgrade chamber they are stuck with it for that Hive.

Marines have a few distinct advantages. Firstly, they have ranged weaponry. While Aliens have to get close to deal significant damage, Marines can shoot from a distance. Also, they have pooled resources. Because of this they often can expand very quickly in small teams, each group capturing resource nodes, and can sustain a few lost nodes without too much worry. Also, teamwork is their blessing and curse. With the addition of more marines in a squad, their strength increases dramatically to the point of being overwhelming at times, but an individual marine (unless they're really good or the alien is really bad) will lose to an individual alien. Finally, their tech tree is much more flexible and almost any path has a reasonable chance of victory. However, they are lacking in speed and raw damage until they get improved weaponry. Usually a single Marine is unable to take down a squad of Aliens, and even in the higher techs individual Marines are subpar to an individual Alien. Also, they do not have resilience to losing the early game. With a weak early game, the Marine Team will find it very hard to gain ground for the rest of the game due to the Alien team's nack for ambushing the open routes and progressively getting more powerful lifeforms.

Also, even the map is important for each side. Sure control of more resource nodes helps, but I'm talking about choosing your battles. Note that I mentioned that Marines have ranged weaponry. To take advantage of this, try to keep engagements in open rooms where the Aliens have to cross long distances to reach your Marines. But, I also said the Aliens can climb walls and reach vents, so rooms with lots of vent access are bad, giving more opportunities for Aliens to ambush from different directions, causing panic among your team. Also, Aliens can go extremely fast, so open rooms are worse if your team has bad aim and Fades continually Blink in and out without taking hits due to the room giving plenty of room to maneuver.

Perfect example on ns_tanith. Cargo Storage is open, has entrances, and also happens to control a large portion of the map. It also gives plenty of room to setup a nice open base for plenty of firing lanes. Setting up base there is a good idea for the Marines. However, Reactor Room (double res) is a deceptively bad place to setup base. Why? Even though it's a large room, the location of the res nodes is actually quite cramped, and the large structures and vent access provide plenty of options for the Aliens. However, with a little foresight, you might notice you could setup a small outpost on the upper level, opening up the lines of fire and restricting the access routes, and a quick jog to the resource nodes. However, space is limited, and if it gets cluttered by your own buildings then you've shot yourself in the foot, restricting Marine movement and fire. Finally, Acidic is a very bad place for a base. Cramped quarters, several vent access points, all in all worth the trot to Cargo instead.

OK, you got in the Chair (no more philosophy for a bit)

Congratulations, you've taken the first step on a long journey.

First things first, acquaint yourself with the HUD. You've got the general controls, displays of resources, a constant mini map, and lots of shiny buttons. If you've played NS before, you should be familiar with what each building does.

If not, here's a quick rundown:

The basic controls are the same as in most RTS games. You can drag and select units and hotkey things using Ctrl and a number key. You only get to hotkey 1-5, though. It's generally a good idea to hotkey important buildings like your Observatories and Arms Labs, as well as dedicate a key to your whole team so you can give quick commands to the whole team. There is also a button at the top of your screen with a Marine icon. Clicking on this selects the entire Marine team.

When placing buildings, sometimes certain buildings must be in a certain proximity to another building. For example, the Infantry Portal has to be within a certain distance of a Command Chair. Be sure you leave room for such buildings, especially Siege in tight quarters. Also, new weapons and items must be dropped within a certain distance of the Armory and Prototype Lab. Luckily, Medpacks, Ammo Packs, and Catalyst Packs can be dropped anywhere on the map, and used to be a nifty method to determining the Alien Hive in the beginning of the game.

Also notice the minimap in the lower left. This will help you keep track of your team and what's happening on the map. So, if you see a large number of red dots heading somewhere, you probably want to tell your team to prep for a mass assault.

Let's be Bob the Builder

First things first, the core of your buildings are Infantry Portals and the Armory. The order in which you build these at the start is up to you. If you want a little head start on upgrades, drop the Armory first. If you expect early casualties (like a skulk rush) and need marines back in action quickly, put up one or two Infantry Portals.

Remember, though, you need other marines nearby to build these buildings for you. So don't drop them after everyone's run off, unless you want to get out of your comfy chair to build them yourself.

After you've got your basic infrastructure up, paths start to diverge. Some players want to start upgrades ASAP and start putting up either an Observatory or an Arms Lab, or even both. Others might want the res flow especially if their team is being aggressive and winning the first few battles, so spend the rest of their resources on Resource Nodes. Others want their base to be more secure and get early electrification and get a Turret Factory and a few turrets in the base.

In general, a nice mix of these three is the best policy. Early upgrades depend on how your team is doing. For example, if they're getting ambushed by cloaking skulks, you might want to invest in Motion Tracking to help them out. If you've captured another Hive and want to get back and forth quickly, get the Phase Tech. If you want your marines to win more battles, give them Armor or Weapon upgrades so they can handle combat situations better. Researching Grenades for vent cover and taking things down around corners is also helpful.

This is the Traditional Build most players use online:
Arms Lab
->Armor 1
2nd IP
->Phase Tech
->Weapon 1
->Motion Tracking/Adv? Armory ->Weapon 2/Adv? Armory

Variations to fit your situation and playing style are many and varied. Note that most online players do NOT put a Turret Factory in the base. This is usually because the marines who spawn can take down invading skulks fairly easily. If your team is not able to do this consistently, a Turret Factory might be your only chance. However, the more prudent method is to use mines. They cost a few res, and you get that res back from the kills. Also, almost no one is stupid enough to die to a turret farm. However, even pros die to well placed mines on a regular basis. Finally, they are much, much more cost effective. The usual turret setup requires at least 3 turrets, plus the factory, coming out to 45 res. That's another upgrade, even an Adv Armory for crying out loud. However, turrets do give a nice advantage to firing at targets. This means if it has line of sight, it will shoot. So, this makes surprises less likely, but then why are you not checking up on these things anyways.

Also note that the Arms Lab upgrades usually follow this pattern:
Armor 1
Weapon 1
Weapon 2
Weapon 3
Armor 2
Armor 3

The reason weapon focus is so large for early game is so you can have the firepower to deal with Fades. Weapon Lv2? allows a pair of marines to usually deal with a Fade with a few Shotgun blasts. However, getting Armor 2 doesn't give you extra time to shoot the Fade before you die. There are some builds that put Armor 2 before Weapon 3 and sometimes even Weapon 2, but these are situational.

However, you'll also notice that Armor 1 is first. Why when you just said upgraded weapons are the key to victory? It's because that extra armor is the difference between 1 parasite from afar then 2 bites to kill, to forcing 3 bite kills (or a lot of parasites). It's also the safest counter to most Alien upgrades, giving your Marines that extra time to react to ambushes, no matter what kind.

Also, note that in competitive play, the rule of thumb is to get upgrades ASAP. This is again because they take a long time and winning battles is more important than getting to the battle or seeing the battle coming if you still can't win them. Thus, often the drop patterns have an Armory first, and an Arms Lab follow-up.

Your "Incompetent" Team...

One of the biggest things you'll have to learn is that the Marines DO NOT have to follow your orders. So, telling everyone to go somewhere doesn't mean they all will go there. Also, giving someone shiny weapons doesn't mean they'll follow your orders more. Sometimes it even causes them to try and go rambo somewhere completely different from your orders. So, be nice to those who follow your orders, and just put up with those who don't. You have the CHOICE to not support the morons who don't follow orders.

On the other hand, you probably can't give orders to everyone for everything. So, if someone decides to take initiative, DO NOT condemn it. Taking initiative by heading to strategic points is a good quality for a marine to have. It takes the load off of you and lets them decide a little bit more how to deal with stuff. They probably will grow up to be a nice Commander too someday. Just don't get them too excited. Random ramboing and ninjaing when they're needed elsewhere is not necessarily helpful to the team, so make sure you reign them in if necessary.

Commanding Planning

As with all real-time strategies, each game has its own progression. As the Commander, you are actually in the best position to control the progression of the game. However, this takes planning.

You need to consider risks and rewards of every decision. I know this sounds trite, but seriously consider this. Too many Comms take a back seat role and simply support their Marines. A good Commander actually directs, plans, and plots how to lead the team to victory.

Here's an example, when do you start researching the Advanced Armory? It's a sizable investment (35 res) and takes a long time to complete. However, the reward is access to Heavy Weaponry and the Prototype Lab, perhaps the two win items for a Marine Team. There's other serious risks involved, though. What happens if the Armory is destroyed before it finishes? Oops, there goes 35 res. Also, the smart Alien will realize it is upgrading if they take a little time to notice it shaking, and so it just might become number one priority and not your Observatory or Phase Gate. So, now it's also become a serious liability in your base, and we all know how Aliens like to sneakily strike your base every now and then. This brings up the question of defending your base. Furthermore, is now the right time? What if you need that res for a couple of shotguns or welders instead? See how one decision has set off a domino of decisions and risk analysis? These are the things that should be running through your mind.

Furthermore, there's the timeline. As a Commander, you should begin to develop an intuition of when certain things should happen in gametime. For example, when will the second hive be dropped and fully built? When will a Fade appear? An Onos? Notice that these, as are most things, are res dependent. Thus, a key factor is knowing how many res nodes the Aliens have and how many kills they've made. The record is a 88 second Second Hive drop, but let's be practical. For an Alien Team with only 3 res nodes, on a 6v6? game, you can expect the Second Hive to be dropped at the latest about 4 minutes and to be fully built at 7 minutes. Note this doesn't include kills, which you need to adjust for, as well as not all the games you comm for will be 6v6?. Note that if the Aliens drop and maintain one extra RT in the above situation, the latest drop time is about 3:20. Now, 40 seconds doesn't seem like alot, but that's about a full upgrade time. That also translates into 10 res/node, and since you should have at least 4 nodes that's one full upgrade of your choice plus usually a little extra. This means that 1) you MUST know how many nodes the Aliens have and 2) you plan on the appropriate counter to be ready by the time the next major problem arises.

The timeline also applies to little things. How long does it take for an Alien to get from point A to point B? Where are the skulks in the early game so you can eliminate starting Hive locations? These things can be built up intuitively, and should be learned to help you plan better your strategy.

The Basic 6v6? Strat

While you almost never will be commanding a 6v6? game, this strategy can be easily adapted to fit your needs. For this small section, I will assume we are working in a 6v6? game.

Now, since one player (you) is the commander, the Marine teams is actually fielding five players against the Alien's six. Commonly, these five players are split into two groups. The pressure team, and the capping team. The pressure team usually consists of three of the best fighters on your team. Their main job is to attack the Alien nodes and engage them directly, hopefully winning engagements and gaining ground. The capping team is the remaining two players and will go around the more or less empty part of the map capping nodes and defending against sneaky Aliens.

Starting off, typically two players of the pressure team will leave the base immediately heading towards a vital portion of the map, usually near the center with good access to several Hives. Also, hopefully you've read up on how to find the starting Hive, and will notify the team. Quickly drop an Infantry Portal and an armory. Once the Armory is built, drop for the third member of the pressure team who stuck around a Shotgun and a welder, and send him off to help his fellow pressure members. The capping team should build an Arms Lab or Obs next, then commence to go around to where the Aliens are (hopefully) not, capping nodes for you.

The reason the extra player is on the Pressure team is they will probably see more and harder engagements, and will most likely lose a player now and then. One Marine, as mentioned before, is relatively weak. Two Marines, though, can usually take care of themselves. Granted, in the right locations, one Marine can mow down several Aliens with impunity, provided the player has enough time to reload between waves.

From then on, things get a bit more dicey and you'll have to call it as it comes. For example, say the entire pressure team gets wiped out before the Shotgun gets to them. Well, depending on who has the Shotgun, you could send him Rambo-ing around the map (usually a bad idea unless they're really really good) or ask the player to wait for reinforcements somewhere they can defend them self. Perhaps the pressure team has won all their engagements, kept each other welded, and maybe even lost a player who later caught up. Then your goal is to prevent the second Hive. Perhaps the Aliens played Sensory first. Well, you probably will have to drop an Obs at the pressure team to help decloak Aliens so they don't sneak up on them.

However, whatever you do, try to keep your players in teams. Solo Marines can get picked off by ambushes relatively easily. But a pair of Marines watching each others backs is a much deadlier force.


Yeah, yeah, I know I said it's up to your team to implement tactics while you give the strategy, but building placement, order, and such are important tactics that some Commanders simply do wrong. These bits of advice tend to be for advanced commanders, so if you don't have the experience, come back another day after you get the basics down.

Speed, Speed, and OMG MEDSPAM

Time is always against you. If you waste time, the Aliens will tech up and begin pwning your team. Don't let this happen if at all possible.

Your hotkeys for building and dropping things are actually quite intuitive. They're positional.

That's right, that lower right-hand button area corresponds to the position of their hotkey on your keyboard. So, 'Q' goes to the “Basic Buildings” while 'R' gets you to the “Equipment” submenu. If you learn this, then your reaction time will be much faster.

The upside? How about being able to drop 7 Shotguns for that quick rush for your team in about 2 seconds? Emergency Beacon is select the Observatory (you hotkeyed it, right?) then hitting 'Z' to activate the Beacon. Someone yelling about ammo and health? Quickly tap 'E' then rapidly hit 'A' and 'S' while clicking to drop them all the ammo and health they could want. This leads to the infamous MedSpam? that potentially could save a Marine from impending death while under attack. It also means support happens quicker and you don't have to move your mouse as much, always a good thing.

Also, note that most Marines expect help from their Commander in the Field. This usually takes the form of a few Medpacks when they're injured, Ammo when they're out, or a quick Scanner Sweep. Giving these to them as soon as you can often is the difference between their life and death.

Phase Gate (PG) placement

I cannot stress how important PG placement is in Natural Selection. Good PG placement is the difference between sieging down that second hive or losing.

In marine start, there are two good areas to place the PG. One is between the IPs and the armory. If the PG on the other side is getting attacked and you need marines to get to the front ASAP, tell your marines not to hump the armory and phase ASAP. The time this saves can mean the difference between saving or losing a PG under heavy pressure.

Another good place is to put it in the dead center of marine start. This is because the starting positions of marines (at the beginning of the game) are spread out across marine start. If you beacon and need everybody to phase as soon as possible, a PG in the middle is statistically the best way to minimize the time marines waste by moving to the PG.

In the field, good PG placement will dramatically cut down the time it takes for a marine to move into a hotspot. PG placement in the field should be in an area that is relatively defensible, but also is a short way away from any crucial point (a hive spot, double res, or an important chokepoint). For example, Primary Access Corridor 1A in NS_Eclipse is relatively wide open, and offers quick transport to South Loop, Maintenance Hive, Computer Core Hive, and Power Sub Junction, which is effectively half the map. Another example is System Waypointing in NS_Veil. It is wide open, and offers easy access to double res, Sub Sector hive, Cargo Hive, and Overlook. Again, to hold System Waypointing is to hold half the map.

It is also important to note that crucial places might not have res nodes in the room. Both Primary Access Corridor and System Waypointing do not have a res node in the immediate vicinity, but they offer access to many nearby nodes. One mistake many commanders make is to put PGs right next to res nodes. The problem with this is that there are vents at almost every res node on the map, offering easy alien access to the PG. This allows skulks to bridge the gap to bite your marines very easily. Another handy feature is that many time the Aliens will ignore "unimportant" phase gates outside the room proper when they retake a room, allowing easy access when you decide to return. Most common is in one of the rooms just outside Double Res in NS_Veil. Punish them for this mistake.

If you have to siege a hive and the siege spot has a vent that allows lerks easy access to spore, make sure to place the PG directly under the vent. This forces the lerk to expose itself in order to spore the PG. And NEVER put PGs in corners. It makes it very easy for aliens to surround and destroy the PG.

In a hive, placing a PG there early on is usually retarded. The reasons are numerous. Hives are located at one end of the map, hives have lots of vents, which makes sporing incredibly easy and fast access for skulks. Marines phasing to hive spots have to walk a long way if they want to reach another part of the map and defending hive spots from a competent lerk and a good fade is impossible. That being said, it does provide you with a very secure base of operations, and it forces the Aliens to clear the entire room before dropping the Hive, lest you beacon your team and send them pouring through the Phase Gate.

At a siege spot, always place the PG away from the actual sieges. Ideally, it should be placed on an elevated surface that is at the direct opposite part of the room where you place the sieges. For example, in NS_Tanith, placing the PG on the highest box or just on the upper level makes it hell for skulks to bridge the gap, and offers a convenient overlook on the sieges. Do not block line of sight if you can to the sieges, or else the Aliens can divide and eat your team. But when noob commanders place PGs near the RT in Cargo, it makes it easier to spore (from that damn vent on the western entrance into fusion) and it takes a shorter time for skulks to bridge the gap. The longer it takes for a skulk to reach the PG, the better.

Do You See What I See?

One major distinction is the way we view the battlefield. A commander views from the top down. Players in the field see from a more personal and ground level.

Who cares?

Being able to see from top down is great for positional knowledge. Also, height doesn't matter as much to you, so you can see sometimes what's hidden to your Marines, say that skulk on the ledge above them. Also, positioning buildings to take advantage of a certain room is a fundamental advantage.

Seeing from the ground, though, is also important. They can see further down hallways and often can spot stuff moving towards them. Also, line of sight is important for things like Offensive Chambers, and often times your Marines can see part of a structure that you can't (for example a Hive).

Now, if you combine the two, cool things start to happen. The key point is to remember that you may not always see what they're seeing, and vice versa. Just because it seems obvious that there's an Onos coming in from behind them, doesn't mean there isn't two of them keeping your Marines looking down the hall. So, let them know. Also, they might see something like the whole Alien army coming for them, and you might not. So, perhaps yelling at them to build something isn't the best option. It's all about perspective. Also, don't get too comfy in your chair. Just because you're not getting eaten or shooting or jumping doesn't make you more important. You can only do so much, and they're probably more concerned about their lives than you are. So, take a moment to think about the precious lives you're sending on suicide runs for that res node. Don't forget your days of being a grunt under fire from a horde of aliens.

There's another thing. Use the map. Checking your map, you can see where you are and where your buildings are and such. However, something that is often forgotten is what you don't see also matters. Basically, this has to deal with player intelligence and filling in the blank areas. For example, one of the best ways to know that a base rush is coming is if suddenly everything goes quiet. No engagements probably means the aliens are being sneaky and converging on a particular location. Also, if you don't control a portion of the map, try and guess what the Aliens are doing there. Is there a bunch of lame there? A res node? A Hive?

Don't forget also what you can see. If you happen to see lots of activity on one side of the map and you happen to be elsewhere, it probably means that you can push through their weak spots. Perhaps cutting off a Fade that just cut down a few team members but is probably heading back to the Hive to heal, maybe you can trap him or just scare it to go the wrong way. If there was a large engagement that you lost, you can probably expect a good push coming from that same area. Paying attention to what is where is vital. Don't forget to use Scanners Sweeps as well to expose more of the map for you and your team to see.

Finding the Hive (and other bugs)

Here's a neat trick. You can find the starting Hive using waypoints. Since the waypoint is actually an entity on the map, it is obstructed by things in the map, such as a Hive. Placing a waypoint where a Hive is will cause it to land high and in the air. If there's no Hive, it will simply reside on the ground.

Here's another one. Buildings being dropped make a loud noise, and sometimes you want to be sneaky. A neat trick is that by placing a building “through” a wall such that you can't see it from Commander view for some reason causes it to be dropped silently. As long as the center of your view goes through a visible wall, that's a sneaky drop spot.

Siege goes through walls. Wait, that's a feature. But seriously, take advantage of the range and through wall abilities of siege. Also, research wall hacks. NS is the only game where's it not only legal, it's a feature.

Variations on a Theme

There is the usual way, and then there's the fun way.

So, some interesting strategies to consider:

The Shotgun Rush: Basically you build the Armory first, then spam a bunch of shotguns, a few welders, and some mines. Have the whole team head to the Alien Hive and shoot it down while the Aliens are scouting around the map for your guys, capping nodes, etc. It really is a one-time shot, and if you join them to add firepower or stay in your chair to drop health and ammo, it's your choice. Also, the key part is knowing where the Alien Hive is ASAP. This can be accomplished by some scouting, or a nice trick of listening for aliens and trying to drop a res node in the Hive node. If it doesn't drop, there's already a node there.

Relocation: One of the riskiest moves in the game is to send the entire team somewhere you want to hold (such as an Alien Hive or Double Res) and setup your base there. The rewards are you spawn in a nice location helping you control more of the map. The downsides include the fact that the Aliens will rush that location if they figure it out soon enough, usually killing everyone since you have to build a Command Chair and THEN Infantry Portals before you can even spawn back in. Also, when you Beacon, it sends the team back to Marine Start, not your relocated base. So it's usually a good idea to have Phase Tech ASAP so you can get to MS and back to your base if a Beacon is required. However, if you pull it off, it usually gives you a huge advantage. Ensuring you hold Double Res allows you to hole up for a bit while getting a decent res flow. Controlling more of the map is always a good thing. Holding an Alien Hive, especially if you get that middle hive, means the Aliens are hard pressed and almost forced to have to control the last remaining hive, or just flat out lose. Controlling the middle hive with a relocation is a 90% victory for the Marines.

Super Tech: Lots of strategies fall in this category. This includes trying to use two Arms Labs to tech up extra fast as well as the early Adv Armory, and of course the Jet Pack Rush. Essentially it's a gamble to set yourself back a little in the early to mid game to jump ahead in the tech tree for an early late game. Getting HMGs before their second hive? Usually an assured victory. Heavy Armor before the 7 minute mark? Quite deadly. The problem is you will be hurting for res in the early game, and that usually slows down expansion and getting good equipment for those early game battles. Also, better tech requires more res flow, so you had better control enough nodes to make your extra tech worth it.

Ninjas: OK, so it's not really a true Commander strategy, but it's still tricky. Essentially you help (or direct) a marine or team of marines to sneak into a strategic location, usually a siege point, build a small base with Siege, a Phase Gate, and all the goodies, then suddenly the Aliens no longer have a Hive. The key element is the Commander supporting them ASAP once they're in position, since it's the surprise that makes it all worth it, and the Marines being sneaky enough. This means that if you need to, setup a distraction to draw the Aliens away from the ninjas, using your Commander View to listen for Alien movement, and just generally being tense waiting for the awesome to unfold. No, you can't research Katanas for your Marines.

Helpful Hints

1. Speed is important. Learn to use those hotkeys.
2. Place buildings in such a way as to leave Aliens as few hiding spots as possible. This usually means putting buildings like the Arms Lab against a wall or in a corner with line-of-sight to most of the base.
3. Plan ahead. Sending your Marines out without enough Res or equipment to succeed is a waste of time and free kills and Res for the Aliens.
4. You get Res from three things. Resource Nodes, kills, and time. Don't forget about that whole time factor.
5. Stay calm. Marines don't like a panicking Commander. Nor do they like a whiny Commander.
6. Have Fun.
7. You can't research aim hacks. But, you can research wall hacks (MT).

For a more pro and comprehensive guide, check out http://ns.desidius.net/comguide/?page=1. It's written by a competitive NS Commander who's led quite a few teams to championships. However, it's a little outdated (3.1.3 version) so keep that in mind, especially when he talks about blocking things, which you can't do anymore. There is also http://nslearn.readyroom.org/?doc=TheoryCommanding.php from NSLearn, another very good guide that covers a lot of theory behind Commanding and the game in general.

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