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Posted on Jun 8, 2007 in Electronic Games

Theatre of War (pt.3) – Defensive Tactics Primer

Jim H. Moreno

Theatre of War
Walkthrough 3 (of 4)

This is the third article in a series of tactical guides based on the Training Missions included in the game Theatre of War by 1C Company and

Now we get to experience an assault on a fortified position from the other point of view, namely that of the defender. The attacking Germans in this scenario will follow the same course of action as we did as attacker in the previous Training Mission – attempt to suppress our position frontally while using their tanks as mobile assets to exploit our flanks.

This is the starting setup for this training scenario. In TOW, each battle begins with a Setup Phase during which both opponents are able to deploy their available forces (in the campaign mission these would consist of the core force plus purchased units) in the assigned setup areas.
Those areas are marked with a checkerboard overlay, and all units can be moved freely within such a zone, e.g. by left-clicking and dragging the unit into the desired position.

The default setup is not ideal, because one of the two available anti-tank guns is located in open ground. By clicking on the icon and holding the left-mouse button, we drag the gun over to the right flank where it will benefit from a little more cover of the trees and brush on that flank.

This has the additional benefit of strengthening the right flank of our defense, which is where we expect the main assault to aim at. Why, becomes clear when we look at the defensive position from a different angle – there is another trench line covering our left flank. This trench line will be important for the second objective in this training scenario, but more about that in due time.

Since anti-tank guns cannot set up inside a trench, they have to rely on trees, brush, high grass, walls, debris or even other tanks as well as simply terrain undulations for cover and concealment. On some maps, special fortified gun positions are available as well, usually consisting of sandbags with camo netting to improve the chances to remain unspotted by enemy air. But we don’t have the luxury on this map, and the sparse tree and grass cover will have to do. Luckily, the low profile of most anti-tank guns makes spotting them fairly difficult to spot, at least as long as they do not open fire.
That’s what the “Hold Fire” button is for, which is exactly the command that we issue to both guns. We want them to hold fire, engaging the enemy with the infantry only at first, and only joining in with the guns when the first tanks closed distance and are easier targets (and easier to penetrate and destroy, too).

The enemy appears on stage! We identify a few infantry squads and three light tanks.

My infantry opens up with rifles, firing aimed shots at the infantry, while the two squad members equipped with the Anti-tank rifles take pot shots at the enemy tanks. At this distance, the chances to disable a tank are close to zero, but a lucky hit could knock out a gun sight or damage the tracks.

A good option would also be to order the Anti-tank rifles to hold fire until the enemy has come closer, of course.

We make use of the unique “eye level” feature of TOW and jump right into the trench by selecting one of the soldiers and hitting the Enter key.

Some fascinating “first person” impressions are possible in this way. You also can jump from soldier to soldier using the Tab key and of course issue commands to the currently selected soldier (through whose eyes you’re observing the battlefield); playing exclusively from this perspective provides a special challenge for advances tacticians.

View from the trench at the approaching enemy…

As the enemy is coming closer, we order the anti-tank guns to open fire.

…and are rewarded with first casualties on the enemy infantry…

…and tanks. Notice the piece of equipment flying off from the tanks front. You can shoot up disabled tanks in the game to prevent its further use by the enemy (or shoot up your own to prevent the enemy from capturing them).

But there is a price to pay. Anti-tank guns are much easier to spot once they begin shooting, as this screenshot proves. The white plume of smoke from the gun’s muzzle attracts immediate return fire by the surviving enemy tanks, with the expected result:

A direct hit with a high-explosive round takes out the left gun (in the background).

[continued on next page]


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