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Posted on Jun 8, 2007 in Electronic Games

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

Jim H. Moreno

The third line

The third and last trench will be the most difficult to crack in this tutorial. While the distance to be covered is manageable and there is more cover available than for the first two trenches, this time the enemy is more aggressive, and has more firepower available – both anti-tank guns as well as tanks.

Luckily, the player forces are stronger, as well. Two infantry squads and one light tank are supported by two medium T-34, mod. 1941 tanks, during its time a formidable enemy against the enemy forces. The T-34 are superior to the enemy anti-tank guns and tanks in the tutorial, but a well aimed shot can still immobilize or otherwise damage them. Therefore, a clever approach using the tanks’ speed and maneuverability rather than its armor will be again essential in mastering the last objective.

In TOW, as in real life, it is more difficult to hit moving targets than to hit stationary targets (speaking in game terms: the hit chance increases with each subsequent shot on a stationary target).


The enemy forces consist of two infantry squads manning two trench lines, supported by a couple of anti-tank guns and two light tanks in reserve. The two trenches support each other by fire, and – should one trench be occupied – the enemy will even counterattack.

This time, the anti-tank guns are also more dangerous opponents. Firing at shorter distance, and manned by more experienced crews, swift action will be required by the player as the attacking infantry and tanks will not be able to hold out too long in the face of such strong enemy firepower.

First casualties and wounded accumulate quickly, and even the light tank is suffering light damage and a demoralized crew soon.

Since a static shootout is not going to lead anywhere, the core plan is to use the mobility of the tanks to gain the initiative in the attack. We order the two medium tanks T-34 forward and over to the left flank. This will hopefully reduce exposure to the two anti-tank guns (by moving on one flank it is more difficult for the other gun to engage) while allowing the tanks to use some of the available cover plus their own speed to spoil the enemy aim and at the same time to close with the enemy and open fire at the guns.

At the same time, this move also draws fire away from the infantry towards the enemy right flank.

Just in time, really, as the infantry lines already begin wavering from the incoming enemy firepower. The flanking maneuver allows to stabilize the infantry, and together with the support of the remaining light tank, to keep up frontal pressure on the enemy.

Which is more than needed, because if the anti-tank guns would be able to focus entirely on the flanking tanks, their maneuver would quickly be stopped by a hail of anti-tank fire. Due to the combined pressure from the front and the flanks, the enemy has to decide which targets to engage, thereby splitting its fire.

And still, the advancing T-34s have a hard time, and have to take several hits and a number of near misses. Even the misses can have a demoralizing effect on the crew.

But the infantry has a harder time yet. Trying to advance in short bursts, the casualties are mounting anyway, and the only hope is to silence the enemy guns quickly.

More dead comrades on the ground!

But it gets worse…

As soon as the flanking T-34s finally manage to suppress and take out the first anti-tank guns, enemy reinforcements appear on the map – tanks! Luckily, it’s none of the formidable German heavy tanks like the Tiger or Panther, but some older pre-war models, lightly armed and no real threat for the T-34s.

Nevertheless, the T-34s lose no time and engage the enemy armored units. Since TOW is using a full blown physics engine to track hits and effects of nearly every shell and bullet, anything with a gun on it can become dangerous – and even a lucky MG round can damage a tank system or even immobilize it, which can be just as effective as destroying a tank.

It is especially in tank duels (and even more so if the tank duels are not as uneven as this one) when the ability to set a high, medium or low aim point can become very useful. With this feature in TOW you can instruct your own tanks and guns to target specific weak points of the enemy armor. Some units might have strong turrets and hulls but be vulnerable to hits on their tracks (sometimes the only way to at least immobilize a tank; but an immobile tank is often almost as good as a dead tank), for example. Of course this feature is more useful for short engagement ranges.

But the biggest danger still comes from the remaining anti-tank guns.

[continued on next page]

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