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Posted on Jun 8, 2007 in Electronic Games

Theatre of War (pt.2) – Assault Tactics Primer

Jim H. Moreno

The enemy, obviously, is shooting back.

We start off by sending forward a couple of tanks. They will draw some fire away from the infantry which will be following shortly, and will be able to improve the aim of their own guns when firing from a shorter distance. At the same time, they are largely invulnerable to enemy fire at this point, since the enemy has no heavy weapons available.

Of course this tactic would be suicidal during the later stages of World War two, when infantry anti-tank weapons such as the Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck become available.


Behind the tanks, we order the first squad to get up and advance. We’re going to order them down the hill and to form a line down by the road. Only advancing one squad at a time while the other squad remains in firing position increases our suppressive firepower, making the enemy less likely to shoot back. It’s essential to keep a good balance between “firers” and “movers” when applying this tactic – usually at least a 2 to 1 ratio is considered good, where two units provide fire while 1 is advancing, but even 3 to 1 is used frequently.

As soon as the first squad reaches their positions, squad two ceases fire and is ordered to move alongside squad one. You could also order them to pass squad one and advance further, but this might exhaust the soldiers and make them slower at the end of their movement.

Besides setting the formation, you have also several other options to choose from which have an additional effect on how your troops will get from A to B. For example, you have the choice of three “stances” (only available for infantry units) – namely “double-time”, “dash”, and “crawl”. These are set by clicking one of the three buttons at the bottom of the interface to the left of the formation buttons, showing a standing, kneeling and prone figure.

Double-time means that the unit will move from A to B as fast as possible, without stopping and firing at spotted enemy soldiers only on the move (if at all). Dash means that the soldiers will move in short sprints, stopping occasionally to fire off a few rounds.

And “crawl” means that the unit will move stealthily and cautiously, usually in prone position and crawling… like the first squad above which now arrived at its first waypoint and is now covering the advance of squad two.

The two squads and two of the light BT-7 tanks provide a strong wall of suppressive fire. We’re keeping one tank back on top of the hill in overwatch as well however. Keeping a reserve is a good idea in any military operation in case something unforeseen happens (even though the chances of that are low in the tutorial mission).

After letting the guys from squad one catch their breath for a minute, we set the next waypoint, ordering one squad of infantry and two tanks to move forward.

The above screenshots nicely shows a line formation set for the squad. You might notice a little arrow in the middle of the formation – this indicates the direction in which the formation will be facing. You can change this by holding your right mouse-button and moving the mouse while setting the waypoint – this will rotate the formation around the center, so that it’s possible to order it to move forward and, e.g., face to the right or left side.

Since we’re getting closer to the enemy, we set the infantry to “dash”: moving in short bursts, going prone (or kneeling) and firing off a few rounds occasionally.

The tank conducting overwatch from the rear is spraying the enemy trenchline with accurate MG fire (tanks fire more accurately when not moving), and when the first line of infantry arrives near the first trench, the tank is ordered forward as well, in for the close kill.

Squad two scrambles now as well, and dash forward, stopping a litle in front of the trench line to throw grenades and allow the tanks to move in for close support.

Besides formations and stances, a third option for the player is to select an “Assault” order instead of the regular “Move” order. Unlike Move, the Assault order instructs the formation to use maximum force during their advance, firing on the move, targetting any enemy soldiers in sight, tossing hand grenades and the like. This is the perfect option for storming the last meters into the enemy trench. Normally it’s a good idea to also select a “tight” formation for the assault, closing the gaps between the assaulting soldiers, thus maximizing the available firepower at the point of assault. But since the enemy resistance has already been broken by the tanks, we leave the line formation. As can be seen from the screenshot, it is automatically adapted to the layout of the trench. A special “trench” cursor indicates that soldiers are ordered into the trench, appearing always when you issue a movement command at or near a trench line.


With squad one already assaulting, squad two is ordered to do the same. There is no time for second thoughts now, the enemy will be overwhelmed with the combined assault.

[continued on next page]

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