Steel Panthers series battle plan guide V1.

10 (August 11, 1998) Table of Contents:
I. Introduction 1. Guiding philosophy 2. General caveats & disclaimers Intelligence & planning 1. Razvedka 2. Overall planning 3. Organization 4. Posture (offensive) 5. Posture (defensive) 6. Identifying units 7. Reserves Unit types 1. Armour 2. Artillery (yours) 3. Artillery (theirs) 4. Infantry 5. Cavalry 6. Engineers 7. Assault guns 8. Air defense 9. Air attack 10. Heliborne assault Strategies 1. Battlefield engineering (yours) 2. Battlefield engineering (theirs) 3. Amphibious assault 4. Terrain types 5. Setting engagement ranges, selective fire, and suppressing weapons 6. Ambushes 7. Flanking maneuvers 8. Outsmarting yourself 9. After-action Closing 1. Taps 2. Feedback 3. For those at SSI who read this 4. Renumeration

II.

III.

IV.

V.

I. Introduction
I.1. Guiding philosophy My general thesis is that battle planning and force composition are essential to good SP1/2/3 play and that time spent coming up with a mode of operations is time well spent. It is important to know and understand the difference between tactics and strategy; my general feeling is that tactics are the means by which you implement your strategy. We have all heard the old saw about battle plans rarely surviving contact with the enemy. It's true, but it's not a good excuse for lack of planning. Better to consider the contact that can be expected, and plan for dealing with it. Against a good opponent, better be ready for something unexpected, and avoid being fooled or trapped by it. If the plan has to change, so be it, change it then and there--but by all means have one. It may sound bureaucratic--but what is it staff officers do for a living? Even guerrilla armies have them. The plan doesn't have to be complex, but the analysis leading up to it can be as complex as you desire. You are always free--the joy of playing with electronic lives and not real human beings who will live or die thanks to your choices--to just 'wing it'. Some have the intuition and ability to win this way. I don't, and my twenty-three years of wargaming tell me that most don't. The rest of us have to plan, and we will win our share of games doing so. In having a coherent plan, when we get tromped on, our errors at least will be easy to discern in the after-action phase. This document is going to be revised over time. I anticipate people will find its errors and misapprehensions and take a lot of pleasure advising me of same. In most cases, they'll probably have good points. Therefore, everyone is advised that any and all feedback sent to me can and will, with suitable attribution, be incorporated into a successive version with no monetary recompense, obligation to lifelong servitude on my part, etc. E-mail addresses will not be published, of course, unless you specifically so request--we all get enough net.sewage, don't we? I'm sensitive to privacy concerns, so if you choose a reasonable alias, I'll attribute it to that upon request. I'm mostly not going to cover individual tactics, except as specific cases relate directly to battle planning. There are good strategy guides out there, infinitely superior to the repellent piece of crap sold on bookshelves and included with some copies of SP2, that taught me a lot of what I know. At this point my differing opinions regarding some points therein are just that, opinions. In other words, I might not agree 100% with them, but they're well done and would be best read as prefaces to this one. Andy Gailey, Scott Grasse, Pascal Ode and Todd Brady have distributed them (see closing section for URLs). The combination of these four guides covers tactics in detail and my gratitude to these gentlemen is enduring--I still refer to their works, which I had punched and put in a notebook--and so should you. In compiling this guide, I have made every effort not to misappropriate their stuff, though if they advise an excellent tactic that I myself know to be excellent, I can hardly see leaving it out if it's pertinent to battle planning. However, if you find something in here that is already suggested elsewhere, and you don't see a [Gailey], [Ode] or other direct attribution, there is an excellent chance that I first heard of it elsewhere and please consider the credit to be duly assigned. I hope that this preface satisfies the obligation to respect and attribute their generously contributed knowledge. Anyone who feels that I've borrowed from them without attribution is encouraged to write to me and discuss it--wouldn't want to do that to anyone. I.2. General caveats and disclaimers SP refers to all three games. SP1 is Steel Panthers (original), SP2 is Modern Battles, SP3 is Brigade Command. In SP3 I assume that you are using all optional command rules, as these hamstring you pretty realistically. My theory is that if you aren't greatly annoyed at (and using bad words to describe) your subordinates for not doing what you wish they would do, you aren't really riding in the commander's Horche/command jeep/whatever. There are several major changes that occur in time or space in this series, and rather than insert a lot of little reminders I'd rather rely on the intelligence of the reader. In no particular temporal order: The scaledown in hexes from SP1/2 to SP3 is 1/4. All distances given in the text are SP1/2; again, I rely on the reader to divide by 4 if interested in SP3. Similar scaleup of unit groupings; the company of SP1/2 is the battalion of SP3. Number one is thermal imaging, which renders smoke ineffective. This starts showing up in the late seventies. It means forty hexes of visibility (or more), day or night, rain or shine, smoke or clear. It makes all smoke tactics and visibility discussions shift dramatically in favour of any unit that has it. If you have it and the other side doesn't unless he outnumbers you heavily, it's not even much fun playing. I even have trouble with the AI when assaulting into TI-equipped positions in low visibility and when I do not have it. Later in SP2, GSR arrives with vision 60, accentuating this even more for those units equipped with it. Next comes night vision. I hadn't even realized this was in SP2 until I dug in for a night delay as Israeli against Jordan's AImanaged, well-equipped forces. My Mag'achs opened fire at 20 hexes, and you know what happens when Israeli tanks open up at 20 hexes. Oi, vay. Soon there was a long jagged line of destruction paralleling my defensive line about 20 hexes away, and I hadn't expected this at all. Irrelevant in very good visibility, the vision advantage is worth hundreds of points in SP2 when it comes into play. The greater the gap, the more major the disparity of destructive potential. (I cannot resist a side note. Anyone wonder what the hell 'Mag'ach' means in Hebrew? It is an acronym, which is why it is not found in any Hebrew dictionary, as are 'Sho't' (whip, scourge), 'Merkava' (chariot), and so forth. It abbreviates the Hebrew words for ‘chariot-hero-soldier’. I had to find this out from a good friend who was formerly a colonel in the IDF.)

Another is human vs. AI. The AI will: • locate SPA parks along its map edge perpendicular to the road entrances (in water, buildings, wherever) or strung out in a long linear pattern • remain parked, fat dumb and happy, after letting go an artillery barrage • inch helicopters slowly forward to be rocketed by your gunships • run forward full tilt into a kill zone • waste its smoke rounds • leave objectives unguarded • pile up two companies on a road, ready for cluster airstrikes and MLRS • deploy right up to the startline • waste tons of points on airstrikes (then grossly misuse expensive ASMs and LGBs) • etc., etc. It got meaner in SP3, apparently by having some units hold position and wait awhile to get moving; also, SP3 brings the 'push me too hard, I'll push back' retreating units. It also sometimes comes with at least a brigade of artillery, and it definitely will fire--real ugly when your LARS trucks have Grad incoming. When you cut loose with artillery in SP3, you best be thinking of what that firing position might look like two turns from now--as in, much like the moon. Against a human in SP3, however, command points may well run short, units out of contact, etc. Much more uncertain (hurrah!). It goes without saying that any human worth playing is smart enough not to pull these sorts of bonehead maneuvers habitually. A human's active intelligence is currently trying to use all this against you. So I won't belabour predictability: consider the AI a fairly predictable opponent, and rate a human based on experience. You will have to get that experience facing him down the virtual barrels of your main guns. Since playing against a good human is a challenge, I'm focused more on that in this guide-though most of it is a good idea against the AI, if only to develop good planning habits.

II. Intelligence & planning
II.1 Razvedka (reconnaissance) I use the Russian term for this because it encompasses a broader range of intelligence-gathering and -denying behaviors than the English word. If you know everything about your opponent and s/he knows nothing about you, you can hardly lose, so this is the big balance-tipper in the SP series (and in most good strategy games). Therefore, a significant effort has to be made to determine what they have, how many, where it is, and what it's up to. Passivity in this area will get you a hosing, except in such open terrain and good visibility that everyone can see everyone a long ways off and follow their movements even if they can't hit them. The question to determine at the outset of razvedka planning is whether or not you care about the fate and future of the units doing it. If you do, your efforts will have to be more cautious. I go for a combination of the two: I'm willing to buy a cheap airstrike, never expecting it to reach its target, or buy a few armoured cars, expecting them to hit mines, to get some initially useful info at the start of the fracas. However, by themselves those units are not going to unfold the whole picture, except for a really lucky overflight. In SP1, where you cannot choose your flight path and have no helicopters, you get only a limited viewpoint and must always reconnoiter on land in some manner. One-hex-at-a-time recon movement is an important component of razvedka. It is tedious, and if you don't like it you have less of an 'undo' range for the unit. But if it helps you spot the enemy at the right time, it is doing its job. In the defense, small infantry spotting units in concealment with range set fairly low are the single best form of passive razvedka, especially if you can blanket your front with them. In the attack, a cautious advance should be combined with artillery usage and air capability, if affordable and available, to get the picture. Infantry as riders are a well-known spotting enhancement. Best that they be support infantry, because doing razvedka means coming under fire and occasionally having their steel horses shot from under them. How do you then deny effective intelligence to your opponent? All of the below: smoke, deliberate pyromania, frequent and unpredictable movement, sudden brutal assaults on recon outfits, spotting him first, and raising its cost. The problem with raising the cost of enemy razvedka is that it can play right into his/her hands: you baste his recon people, gun down his helicopters, murder his spotters, torch his planes--and in so doing, give away your whole layout. It's at least a satisfying way to get whomped on. Against a human, who doesn't know what you've got, one rewarding technique is to equip part of your force (a part you plan to make sure he gets plenty of info on) with slightly less capable units. The human tendency is to assume that you've got more of the same where that came from. Yes, you do--but it's better than he is now conditioned to expect. In WWII, where gun length and infantry AT capability often determines your whole armour strategy, this pays good dividends. Remember the shock when the Germans first met the T-34--this can be duplicated on a small scale. Unpredictability is key—in force composition, deployment, maneuver. Who needs to recon you when they know in advance what your predilections are? Another good method is to buy a group of often-ignored units, such as APC platoons without infantry or light tanks. Especially if you've played a few rounds against a given human, s/he'll have a fair idea of what you like. Buying something you don't really like is going to raise questions. Even a couple can be entertaining. Of course, like any gonzo trick, if you always pull

something like this, it'll lose its value. II.2. Overall planning I have placed this after the razvedka section because the initial razvedka--guestimating the enemy force composition--has to occur before you get to start battlefield razvedka. At this point all you know is who you're playing, the timeframe and nationality of the opposition, the general terrain, and the character of the mission. From this, you must do your best. It is for this reason I believe in a combined arms approach. If you deviate from this, do so based on razvedka. Examples include things like the knowledge that in this timeframe they don't have any gunnery that can reliably kill your armour, a likelihood of heavy air attack, a propensity for leg infantry, and so on. The best perspective from which to formulate your own battle plan is your enemy's, particularly his or her strengths and limitations. You will almost always guess wrong to a degree, and that's fine if you have a flexible combined arms team that is not overly dependent on the success of one particular arm. So the first battle plan firing pass is based upon some educated guesses, your analysis of the terrain, and the relative visibility. This guides the positioning of your mobile forces, identification of avenues of approach, placement of fixed-position weapons, and so on. Testing of LOS avenues is an essential activity. There will probably be areas you will decide you don't want to get caught in and can see that you should avoid, and consider getting the bad guys caught there instead. The second pass of the battle plan, in which it is revised, begins once you have engaged in your initial battlefield razvedka and have figured out where your initial assumptions were flawed. At this point, it is time to revise the plan based on the new information. You may redeploy troops, change modes from attack to defense or vice versa, assign new missions, or decide that you're in deep kimchee and hunker down. A balanced force selection is what enables this change of plans to go smoothly. The third go at the battle plan is often the last. It is determined by all the accumulated force composition razvedka plus the results of the major engagements to date, and it's basically where you decide you're probably going to win, lose, or draw, and what needs to be done to make this outcome favourable. If you wait until your force is blown to hell to perform this evaluation, your options will have narrowed down considerably. There is no harm in asking yourself the question each turn: is now the time for the third revision? You can always say 'naaah'. If the fourth isn't the last, you may need to work on decisionmaking. However, there is always the fourth to consider, and it usually means the mounting of a desperate or knockout attack, or the emplacement of the defense that you hope will preserve what you have held or won. It often involves the commitment--to whatever purpose--of your final reserve, if you've still got one or can scrape one together. These revisions need not be major. If you're sure all is perfect, they need not occur. You may wait a long time for that day. Are we making this more complicated than it needs to be? The analysis cannot be too comprehensive. The plan need not be of the same length as the analysis; we're not talking about writing a formal operations order here, though one could do so and there is a reason most armies have such things. What is key is to do the analysis and develop a flexible plan, and learn when to stick to it and when to deviate. Only the analysis gives you the knowledge to decide. And in SP3 the need is much more pronounced as you may not so easily be able to jerk companies around the battlefield at a whim. II.3. Organization I believe in organization; it's the Germanic side of me, maybe. (I don't think I get it from my Irish side.) What it means in SP is that you must shuffle your force deck and divide your people into coherent units. They do not have to fit into conventional size groupings; usually, 3-4 platoons are a company in most armies, but two-platoon groups are perfectly valid. Who cares if it looks like a real company, if it does the job you assign it without wasting resources? I personally don't mind if it looks like a mess-kit repair brigade if it's a useful fighting unit. It's harder in SP1 where you have fewer units. If that's a battalion, then battalions are smaller than what I remember or know of. Therefore, a full-size SP1 force is best segregated into groups of 6-9 units if possible, counting track and squad as one unit combined. In SP2, larger groups are available and the conventional company size is often a good element size. Of course, if an opponent gets used to this, s/he will come to expect it and needs some surprises. In SP3 obviously this would increase to the battalion level--the word for companies operating alone in SP3 is 'targets'. How you detach and attach parts of one group to another is part of the battle plan revision sequence. Need drives the action. A shattered element can tag along with another one, retreat to join the reserve, or give its life in a delaying action. I consider an element shattered at over 50% casualties, usually, with half the rest damaged to some degree but still able to offer resistance. We all know how unrealistic this is--50+% casualties have happened in places, but not too often. Think of how you behave in campaigns against the AI. If you have the misfortune to lose even a quarter of your force, you probably start asking yourself whether it's really so important to keep moving ahead, or whether this exposed position is worth losing the rest of an elite panzer platoon. Organization enables you to execute and/or a battle plan because defining specific groups enables them to be assigned duties. The groups must match the needs at hand. Cross-attach units as you see fit, remembering in SP2 the trick of deleting a useless lower-echelon section or platoon, then immediately buying something different so that the company commander gets a rally attempt on them at need. Some examples that scratch the surface:

Assault Support Group Recon Company Rapid Strike Force Panzer Company A Mobile Delay Element Reserve Artillery Park Guards Suicide Squad Renaming the actual units individually is fun, but offers the enemy some extra intelligence in that someone with a good memory can see what unit was first here, now there, then way back here. Whether to do so is a matter of personal taste; realism arguments could be made for both sides. A borderline slimy tactic would be to buy, say, WWII US M4A3E8s, and rename each to the title of a Sherman without the long gun. Wouldn’t fool an observant human, but imagine the consternation if it did, and your ‘M4A1’s started drilling Panther frontal armour... depends on the ethics between you and your opponent. Myself, I wouldn't be mad if someone did it to me--if I don't do good razvedka, my fault, I deserve what I get. Of course, there is a saying about paybacks... II.4. Posture (offensive) Having developed an organization, each force needs a posture. There are at least two levels of this: formation and unit posture. To me, formation posture is the way you position the groups identifies in II.3. Unit posture is how the actual individual pieces of a formation situate themselves within it. In both cases, there are a few fairly common choices and a vast number of unconventional possibilities. Common choices: • • • • • Formations on line, one in central reserve (T-shaped) Diamond-shaped, with both flanks refused Wedge-shaped (like diamond, but nothing far to the rear) Slash-shaped (on line, angled left or right) Echelons (in attacking columns, meant to pierce a line)

In the attack, generally, effective formations are designed to bring overwhelming force to bear at once. They are also designed to avoid ambushes or minimize their impact. It helps if they are flexible enough that if anything weird happens, jobs can be shifted and a proper reaction can be made. They have goals: feint, engage by fire, recon by fire, penetrate and bypass, etc. Let’s take an example: 9/41, German mixed PzIII/PzIV force, balanced by mech infantry and augmented by a few support units, in the advance (not assault) over steppe (plain) terrain. The expected opposition is mostly T34 and those nasty Soviet rifle squads, with probably some AT guns. Objectives are strung in an east-west row dead in the center of the map. Enemy is human; visibility 35. Threat assessment is that they will be hard to kill but not so hard to chase away, there will be a ton of them, and unless they get close they won’t be able to do much damage. Terrain analysis suggests that the left side offers the most cover. You decide to go audaciously to the right, hoping to open armoured engagements at long range, and you know that it will take several good bangs from main guns to button up T34s. Three panzer platoons, three mech platoons, a section of armoured cars, and a support/HQ group with assault guns and A0 are the identified formations. You simplify this by associating each mech platoon with a panzer platoon and calling it a ‘company’. Their airpower threat is negligible at this point, so moving forward in hexgrid lines has not yet become a major sin. Thus, you mount riflemen on tanks and deploy the three companies of combined arms on line but at an angle, like a big backslash (\) turned on its side. Halftracks follow tanks one hex behind. Extreme right unit is two hexes from map edge. Palace guard is four hexes behind, centered on the middle company. One armoured car is ahead and to the left of both the center and left companies about three hexes. Movement will be in company bounds with scouts first, center second, left third, right fourth and reserve last. How many units bound in a given turn will depend on the speed required for the advance. This formation can be ambushed, but not without decisive reply. It uses the HQ group as a reserve, a common practice. It can refuse or flank with either side. In one turn, the entire thing can wheel 60 degrees; the rightmost company could take off on its own and blast forward; it’ll be hard to hit with mortars. Its weakness is that it’s going to show your whole hand. In this case you have chosen to give away some easy razvedka to your opponent in trade for a little more promising match with Soviet armour. Potential variations on this particular theme: • Back one platoon off as a reserve, sparing the HQ this duty • Form ‘rocket’ shapes instead of lines (tanks in diamond, halftracks flanking in column) • Send the halftracks in front as cheap scout cars

A lot of battle planning goes into posture. The more respect you need to give enemy gunfire, the greater the fear of ambush, the more you modify your posture to accommodate it. I would not want to use the above advancing through heavy cover with all else being the same—ambush danger would cause me to shift focus to finding ways to spring them without losing a lot of tanks. An essential aspect of offensive posture is bound and overwatch. You can have whole groups overwatching one another, or parts of a group overwatching their mates. In any SP combat zone, the overwatching units (those that do not move this time, or that wait to move until last, depending on how you do it) are there to cover the bounding units. II.5. Posture (defensive) Defensive posture takes into account all of the same factors as offensive, but with a decidedly different focus. Some of the common postures: • Strongpoint-based—takes tailored formations, assigns them covering tasks • Linear—the AI method, often in multiple layers; usually by assigned sectors • Mobile, based primarily on rapid reaction and surprise • Ambush/delay—shoot and run Any or all of the above can be assigned to individual battle groups, or one can choose one as a dominant theme. Think about the shape that you wish to impose upon the battle. [Gailey] The actual choices depend upon the analysis of terrain, relative capabilities, and all the other preplanning razvedka. Three essential planning topics in deciding on defensive posture are overwatch, screening and razvedka. The goal of overwatch is to generally avoid an unopposed advance, at some level, denying unhindered freedom of action. They may still come—but they will come carefully after being stung. In SP3, they will come slower after being fired upon. Screening is usually thinner than a firm defensive line (or that’s what it would be called), and can generally be allowed to be broken by a determined attacker. Its goal is to first learn as much as possible about the penetrating force, and secondly to at least inflict some form of damage or disruption upon it. The razvedka part of a defensive posture involves things like: • Popping up to see if you draw fire, then ducking down again • Firing shots in concert with the above—sometimes takes two shots for them to pinpoint you • Slipping a screening element forward of the start line and main screening units, for special attention to an area • Overflights, both fixed- and rotary-wing • Shelling suspected areas of advance, particularly roads and the middle of large forests • Banzai charges in totally unexpected ways Actual emplacement of individual pieces in defensive posture is usually not based on precise formations but upon terrain. Any sizable terrain clump (city block, village, hill, woods) can be defensible if it is also tenable (that is, it can be reinforced or withdrawn from, or is so secure that the damage its defenders will inflict is decisive). It also looks like a great place to splatter with rockets before advancing upon, from the attacker's viewpoint--fun, fun, fun if that's where you dug in. Goals of a good defensive posture: • Constant razvedka—a blind defense is often untenable • Channel advances into terrain areas favourable to the defense • Inflict hesitation and fear through vicious ambushes and rapid reactions • Suck attackers into combats they would have been better, in hindsight, never to have joined • Set up a counterattack • Hold the essential ground required for victory • Immobilize and damage armour that is too hard to kill outright, thus tending to take it out of the fight • Anticipate, identify and defeat flanking efforts • (SP3) Screw up attacking formations so that people are out of command, can't maneuver effectively, and look like the class that flunked armor basic course on maneuvers. The reverse slope defense—that is, any positional defense designed to force the enemy to fight up close—is a key tactic. Smoke lines, actual behind-slope positions, tree lines, hedgerows, streambeds, etc. all provide good opportunities to incorporate the reverse slope tactic into defensive postures. A defensive posture that does not include a reserve is almost always weaker for it. Good reserves are mobile. Consider cavalry-type units (q.v.) or heliborne forces as superbly capable reserves. Remember that advancing air defense units may not have many shots in a turn in which they move… the irony of wiping out the mobile AA capability of an attacking armoured force using an air cavalry charge is biting. In SP2/3, some advancing forces will get really disconcerted if you simply blow up the associated ammo trucks (if any). Always bring gunships to the rear of the target if possible, of course, and watch your minimum ranges. Remember, moreover, that if you land a helicopter and unload anyone, it may not get off the ground again this turn depending on how far it travels. (I think it takes like 30 MP to disembark people.) II.6. Identifying units

Good battle planning is not bound by the term SP uses for a piece. You should identify them for yourself and in your own way. Classic example: helicopters. NATO (particularly the US) took one look at the helicopter and saw an aircraft, thus retarding one of the great military developments in history through churlish interservice bickering while everyone fought infantile turf wars. The USSR looked at it and decided it looked like a tank, so they armoured it and equipped it to blow tanks and APCs to dog poopy. The same reasoning can apply to every piece. If you want to look at an aircraft and see an artillery piece, fine--use it as such in your battle plan. An advantage of this sort of analysis is that your opponent will have a different take on this in some cases, assuming s/he has also given this matter thought. This can lead to unexpected situations which, if your own analysis is the better, come as big bohicas for the enemy. ('Bohica', for those not familiar with it, is US military slang, the abbreviation for 'bend over; here it comes again'. In my training, bohicas were measured by the number of joints. Count your finger joints, then up your arms, then down your spine; one joint is a fingertip, four a whole hand, six your whole arm. Twelve is both arms, then you count vertebrae. 7-12-5-5-4, so a forty-joint ‘super bohica’ is a dive in up to the waist. This term is too useful, if a bit scatological, for me not to use. Proctologists reading this are allowed to be suitably appalled.) II.7. Reserves To a certain extent, your selection and quantity of reserves determines your range of options in planning. You'd have to be a lot smarter than me to be so sure of your initial plan that you commit your every trooper to it. Normally, 1/3 of your force is a pretty sizable reserve and 1/6 is fairly minor. Most of the time the best practice will lie somewhere in this range. They are as valuable in the attack as in the defense. The speed of your reserves is as important as their armament and protection, because they may have to hustle to get into position. Therefore, heliborne forces are probably ideal, followed by fast mech infantry with its own armour component, followed by either mech or armour all alone, lastly followed by slow vehicles of any sort. Matildas will never work all that well in the reserve, and leg infantry can hardly do the job by themselves. In SP, anything that can't kill tanks at any but pointblank range will have a hard time as a good reserve, except for heliborne infantry that can close that range in a flash. Good reserves should deliver surprises. Self-propelled artillery can motor to a sector—especially one nearby, like under heliborne attack—and let off some very unpleasant fire. When you commit a reserve, if possible, it is desirable to replace it with something else that is currently uncommitted.

III. Unit types
III.1. Armour Developing a battle plan for the use of armour depends mostly upon the comparison between your armour and what you expect your opponent to have. Quality, range and caliber are all factors. Generally speaking, if you're weaker you need to get closer and look for flank shots before you engage. If you're stronger, you'll usually hope to begin engaging at long range. Simple fact: except in predesigned scenarios, armour is the dominant arm of SP. That doesn’t mean it can win alone—just that so much of your game depends on the comparison between your armour and your opponent’s in quantity and quality. The widespread availability of ATGM starting in the late 1960s has a dramatic effect on armour tactics in that most of what is shooting at you isn't worth firing a main gun back at, or not to any great degree. When attacking, ATGM mostly will fail you due to the loss of shots thanks to movement, unless used to overwatch the advance. I find them to be mainly a defensive weapon and, as such, not to be over-relied upon. In very low visibility without good night vision capability, they rarely get to do much damage even in the defense. As such, this means that when you fight in anything but decent visibility and in the defense, usage is limited or even zero. By the time this is no longer much of a problem, many APCs and MBT carry them. One notable exception to this is entire companies of ATGM vehicles, either modern APCs or tank destroyers, who can lose a vehicle and remain a viable force. If advancing with these, you can usually silence a reasonable number of enemy in the turn after they blew up two of your tracks. Never save ATGM ammunition too carefully--they don't get enough chances to shoot, so let 'em rip. Armour has the best ability of any arm to rapidly, effectively switch from the attack to the defense, or vice versa, so it's a very versatile thing in the right hands. If you can keep your opponent from figuring out which mode your armour is in, so much the better. Obviously in SP3 this becomes more pronounced as it takes an action to switch from attack to defense or the reverse. III.2. Artillery (yours) The usefulness and availability of artillery varies a lot from game to game. In developing your battle plan, decide whether you need or want to depend heavily upon it and what you think you'll need to do with it. Since artillery is best used in mass at a decisive point, once you make this decision, you'll find that you buy as much as you want/can afford to do the job. If all you can get is mortars, their main usage is to throw smoke and to counter-battery other mortars, soften 88s, and suchlike. If you can get heavier stuff, you can include pounding enemy positions in the menu. If you go for the offmap version, you are limited in ammunition and have to use it selectively and where most needed. Generally speaking, the heavier the gun the less shells. I hate running out of ammunition, so my habit is to buy the smallest crater-making guns I can get. I find the intelligence-gathering ability of artillery to be a matter of luck more than anything. If I have enough guns to make sure I discover what's there, the intelligence is a fringe benefit; their main reason for usage is to do real damage. I'll take what I can get, but I'm not going to rely on it. To get most benefit from this, watch the fall of the rounds in a hawklike manner and note the ineffective armour body hits, subsequent retreats, etc. There is a time to avoid crater-making guns: when doing a river crossing or beach landing, the priority is to cover the area with smoke, so more and smaller tubes are a good way to go. When you run out of smoke, you can still get some value out of them pounding tough enemy positions. They also don't leave much of a calling card in SP1. The advent of SP2/3 ammo trucks gives with one hand and takes with others. It is always a benefit to have more ammunition. However, if your battle plan depends on unlimited ammunition, and you don't have self-propelled guns, you'll have to use the trucks selectively and protect them from the various ways they can be lost. A human will plaster a whole park, to slow down and injure or kill your trucks. They should thus not spend most of their time adjacent to their guns—better to move the SP guns than to have the truck come to them. The AI will zero in on them with anything that can reach, once it figures out where they're at. In short, if you plan to rely on lots of ammunition resupply for artillery, bring enough trucks that some survive, and don't leave them parked there when the work is done. Losing most of your ammo trucks, with the remainder plodding down cratered roads through repeat barrages, is about a ten-joint bohica early in the game. A few cheap armoured movers near any on-map artillery park is often a good idea. With expensive 88s or heavy AT guns, it’s necessary if you want them to live to fight again, or if masked by smoke. Speaking of anti-tank artillery. Any positioned HE thrower looks to me like a direct-fire field gun, and a howitzer could be assigned the job; any positioned AP thrower looks like an anti-tank artillery piece. The advent of decent ATGM tends to supplant anti-tank artillery, but it’s usually still around for purchase—and good for cheap surprises. III.3. Artillery (theirs) Any good player (and the AI does ok at this) will use artillery in concentration. If you expect to face a lot of it, mobility is your only good defense. Unpredictability, in addition to mobility, are necessary against a human. However, a good human player will have figured out that if you have the gun or battery itself target the hex, and you don't care about spotters, you get immediate fire. It's time-consuming, but it'll result in immediate incoming. (In PBEM, players may agree not to do this, for the same reason my main SP1 PBEM opponent and I have a gentlemen's understanding to advise one another of airstrikes--it enhances realism.) In any case, dispersion is necessary. Concentrations are going to get blasted. I am the personality type that takes an unhealthy pleasure in a nice, orderly, tight formation, and it is to my detriment when I face artillery because terrain

breaks up such formations, causes two vehicles to wind up adjacent, etc. If a formation is too widely dispersed, it's impossible for them to miss your force because you can't move it all out of the blast zone fast enough. The best method for dealing with this is to have gaps between formations, so you can arrange to put an empty area in the spot you expect to get hit. If you don't have enough artillery of your own to make a significant dent in a position, consider dedicating it all to counterbattery fire. Once you find his stuff, you can repeat barrages until you run out of ammunition. It can't hurt (unless you unwisely crawl under it). It's not so easy to raid a human on-map artillery park, but against the AI this is a great idea, since they never move them. A map-edge flanking movement on fast vehicles, or a heliborne assault, should wipe out whole battalions of SPA. Be careful-they can wheel and fire, blowing up helicopters, squads and tracks. Smoke thrown by assaulting infantry is the best way to keep the whole park from direct-firing its 155s at you. Mostly ignore their mortars, unless it's so much and so heavy that it's behaving like howitzers or rocket trucks, in which case it's treated as such. It's still worth blowing away the mortar park most of the time if you can, but in SP1/2 they just don't do a lot of damage. I don't think this is too realistic, but at least they are inexpensive. By contrast, in SP3, be very afraid of direct-fire mortars, which is how I prefer to use them--costs no command points at all, arrives right this minute, blows away whole squads in advancing rifle platoons. The decoy value of artillery, even cheap mortars, is often under-recognized. Anything used to counter artillery is something that is not being used to beat the daylights out of something more important. [Gailey] The AI doesn't size this up very well. Heavy artillery (the stuff that creates the bigger craters) is more intimidating than its smaller siblings. Assuming you have the sound turned on, the higher-pitched blam! blam! blam! blam! blam! is at once exciting and nerve-wracking. A BM-21 barrage may not kill anything this time, but I bet you aren't ignoring it. If heavy artillery is expected, the value of causing barrages to hit empty space is increased because of lower ammo loadouts. It's always expensive, so when it misses, much lamentation is the result. In this case, your plan must take greater account of ways in which you can appear to present a superb artillery target group, somehow expose it to enemy razvedka, then suddenly vacate the premises laterally or even backward. See ‘Battlefield Engineering’ for other uses of artillery. Is there a time to ever be totally without artillery? If you're attacking, I can't imagine it. Perhaps if: • you can't afford enough to make a difference in any way; • what you have is worthless for the purpose; • you know your opponent is likely to plan a strategy around countering it. Even so, self-propelled guns are another important answer to this: fire one barrage, just to let him/her know you have some, then find a hiding place and watch him or her waste time and energy hunting them down. Better still, have a nasty surprise waiting for the raiders and give them what for. Who says they know how much you have? What if you are a mean person, and fire only 1/3 of what you have at first, so as to make them think it's all you brought? III.4. Infantry Infantry gets bad press in the SP series; it is customary to say that it's poorly modeled. I don't disagree, necessarily, but I do think that it's underappreciated because of this. It got better in SP3, no question. “Poorly modeled” does not equal “worthless”. In SP, infantry excels at: • ambushes; • spotting; • (except in the early days) tank killing; • facing other infantry; • covering large areas of ground with an eye toward investigative reporting on the enemy; • hiding out; • saving vehicles from ambush; • of course, taking and holding a position. Visibility, and anti-tank ability or lack thereof, are the keys to the infantry. The shorter the visibility, or the more constipated the map is, the better infantry does. Infantry on foot is most vulnerable in its approach at 8 hexes or greater, when any number of bad guys can open up on it and give it a bad day. And tanker-types really loathe it, because they hate to burn up (sometimes precious) HE and shots on it, and they hate it even more when it sneaks up on their buttoned tank for a good bohica. Mechanization (never use trucks; we won't even waste space on the folly of it) gives the infantry mobility and firepower augmentation at a cost in vulnerability. Some people hate mechanization and always have infantry ride the tanks, and that's not such a bad strategy, but it's not always best. As a believer in combined arms, I like to have it both ways, so I usually get mech but am prepared to mount its infantry on my armour and use the tracks as scout cars, mobile weapons platforms, or as decoys. (A smart human will avail him/herself of the intelligence available about a track by right clicking on it. Even so, a company of empty BMP racing around the position is still a problem.) Above all, infantry, especially leg infantry, is relatively inexpensive. In SP1, where your force size is relatively small, you might not have all that much of it. In SP2, it's not inconceivable you could show up with a battalion of leg infantry in addition to a

couple of mech companies and tank companies. Would you want to try to drive any sort of vehicle through an area you knew was full of a battalion of infantry, no matter what your own infantry/artillery support was? Well, at least, you wouldn't ever drive the same vehicle through there twice. Do you dismount infantry from tracks at the end of the turn? The only reason not to do so is that you anticipate significant artillery fire--and you'd best be pretty sure, because in all but the most hellish barrages the odds of more than a platoon being totally wrecked are fairly slim. I'd rather chance the odd top-hit APC kill cooking a squad than have a whole infantry company decimated by HE, in that case. Dismounting in a beaten zone is dangerous, though, unless covered by smoke immediately. Luckily, infantry carry enough of this to supplement the easily-expended latter-day smoke dischargers. In the attack, infantry fit in the battle plan as: • spotters • protection for armour moving through disputed territory • the assault troops who will move up that hill into the smoke where you know good and well you have immobilized some sort of tanks or other with sustained shelling (and they are probably mightily annoyed with you about it) • major contributors of precisely-targeted smoke • flank guards for counterattacks • heliborne troops who can be dumped down somewhere to wreak havoc and leave or stay, depending on need • mechanized infantry, as a mobile, all-purpose force carting around at least 9-12 heavy machine guns and probably some form of AT weaponry later in life • in their engineer incarnation, as minesweepers • an expendable rear guard if, for whatever reason, you have to pack it in and are driven off • tank stalkers in close terrain (RPG teams, Panzerschreck, recoilless guns—anything with no minimum range; combine with cheap transport for max flexibility) In the defense, infantry: • cover large areas and render it impossible for the enemy to get through them unnoticed • bushwhack anything that gets within about 6 hexes • cover each other by shooting up whatever their buddy units missed • can begin advancing at the start, and in good terrain and weather, actually flank the enemy in SP1/2 • minimize shellfire casualties through intelligent dispersion • throw smoke so that when the enemy does reach them, their fire is point-blank • as heliborne infantry, ruin SAM and artillery parks and otherwise take the offensive • as engineers, have murderous ambush abilities III.5. Cavalry I'm not speaking of horse cavalry here, but of any form of extremely fast vehicles: speed over 20 in SP1, or over 30 in SP2. In your battle plan, remember the concept of cavalry--especially with an eye toward razvedka. Horse cavalry isn't really with us anymore in large numbers, but the cavalry concept is--and these are today's cavalry. Small in numbers and light in firepower, they can spot things and have movement left over to hide away. They can also in some cases drop off anti-tank teams ahead of your start line early in the game, to offer a nasty surprise to your opponent who didn't expect them there when he roared up the gap with his Panthers or T-72s. The M18 Hellcat, the Stuart, the BRDM, and the Panhard AML 90 (neat little car) are all examples of cavalry in SP, in concept if not in physical reality. Need a screen? Quick recon? Got to have at least a few of these. Even if all they do is discover generally where the main line of resistance is, they're worth their relatively cheap price. When I form a cavalry team, I bring along an odd mix of units if I can, because if it has to fight, it might have to fight whatever. One truth about cavalry is that it is usually too fragile for a sustained gunfight, which is why it has to be fast enough to book out of there and hide. It takes cavalry to catch cavalry, so if you find yourself attacked by it, a temporary commitment of a cavalry reserve can be a part of your battle plan. Remember that you can always uncommit your reserve if it does a job. The mindset that says, 'once engaged, never withdrawn' is dugout thinking. For example, the Panther is almost fast enough to be used as heavy cavalry. A section of these can support a force of PzIVh by jumping in, opening up with everything, and retreating behind the main line. In effect, the Finnish sissi (means something like 'freebooters' in Finnish; their term for their ski troops) were cavalry and were used with devastating effect in their ideal element in the Winter War (Talvisota). To study sissi tactics in this timeframe is to learn a great deal about cavalry tactics. (To study Farnsworth's Charge at Gettysburg is to learn a lot about them too, but in the negative--for those not familiar with it, imagine having a couple platoons of Panhard AML 90s, and driving headlong into an area containing dug-in Centurions with very good experience.) Air cavalry has and deserves its own section; read ahead. III.6. Engineers I'm not one of the people who lives and dies by them. In open terrain, or sporadically blocking terrain, I don't go in for them. Their major killing power is the flamethrower/satchel combination, and they have to get to one hex range to do that. Before infantry get handheld AT, they're a major advantage, but the PIAT, Panzerfaust, RPG-7, etc. can all kill at least two hexes away. So as super-infantry, in the all-purpose sense, I give them a thumbs down, and as something to use in large numbers in

your core, boo-hiss. As the specialists they were designed to be, doing what they're good at, I love them. They are who I want climbing Mt. Objective in fire and smoke, and they are who I want ambushing tanks in dense forest along roads. Either the flamethrower or the satchel charge is going to grease just about anything. I'm also happy to dump them out of a helicopter behind an artillery or SAM park and interrupt the coffee and donuts. They clear mines, of course. And they scare people, so they are good to mix in with a bunch of other troops. Engineers head up the Nasty Surprise Department in your battle plan. The enemy tends to overreact to them, knowing that if they successfully close to one hex, whatever it was, it's dead now. Engineer tanks? Sure, if you can afford them, understanding that you're probably getting a second-rate MBT that can clear mines. I've never yet been able to afford them in SP1, but in SP2 I always seem to have a use for a platoon of extra tanks. I lead assaults with them, so they can find minefields and clear them, and perhaps take some main gun/ATGM punishment when the inevitable ambush comes. By SP3 I can artillerize my way through the mines, unless I'm getting FASCAMmed. Some engineer tanks have all sorts of other crap hanging off them, like huge mortars or a big short demolition gun, flamethrower, or other rigging stuff that goddess only knows the purpose of. You might, in your battle plan, class those as 'close assault support'. Anything that throws huge HE in this way--classed by me as anything that makes the bigger craters-needs to be direct-fired at positioned guns and infantry. If they're out of shots, waddle up and blast them. (If you're fond of this effect and playing SP1 as Germans, their big infantry guns or an assault gun section can do this job.) Area fired flamethrowing tanks are a major SP3 equalizer against superior armour and is thus an exception to this general concept. III.7. Assault guns Any vehicle, or easily transported towed gun, whose main job is to fire a satisfying HE round could be considered an assault gun. There is no need to let this be a limitation; nothing wrong with an assault gun that can outrun everything on the map, if you can find one. This is a job, not a restrictive description. It helps if it can take a little main gun AP punishment, but this is problematic--at the ranges they do best, they are always endangered. Such is war. Assault guns fit best in the battle plan as close-range squad blasters. They are one of the units that don’t need to save as many defensive fires. As a pretty specialized unit, they need not to have to run major gauntlets of fire and usually fail you in mobile tank gunslinging. Probably their classic use is to follow closely behind assaulting engineers, or to repel boarders at an objective and retrieve it. The PzIVc of SP1 is classed as a tank, but it looks a lot to me like an assault gun with somewhat light armour. It's certainly no answer to the Matilda (except that it can outrun it handily, as can any nursing-home resident on crutches). Don't forget the possibility of using self-propelled howitzers as assault guns. It's especially fun because most people don't do this. III.8. Air Defense I like air defense, because it adds a level of complexity to the game. Without the possibility of facing enemy air of some sort, you have a 'rear area' to smoke and joke in. Air units mean that anyone on the map is vulnerable. Against the AI, I need this to be happy. Against a human, it's a joker in the deck; why, just recently I got a PBEM turn back, an 8/44 game with me as US, and found a burning Jackson TD where there was supposedly no way he could see it. He had had a Stuka available, and I assumed nothing of the sort could possibly occur, and didn't even think about it. Much foul language ensued (I can be rather a colourful sort when agitated). Yet it was realistic. A single plane could show up almost anywhere, and my opponent didn't waste the opportunity. Since I was expecting a second strike all game, it botched up my whole battle plan—or rather, I botched up my whole battle plan by misreading the intelligence. Air defense is based upon air threat and air-to-surface target confusion. You need AA capability in at least enough proportion to keep all his planes from coming back for another round (by damaging them), and to make a human think twice before just overflying you for razvedka purposes. Sometimes it simply isn't feasible to buy enough AA to shut down the problem, like lateWWII Germans facing the US. If you can't shut it down with deadly fire, you need to confuse it. Against helicopters, the best defense is to have enough flak--a mix of infantry SAM teams, position guns, self-propelled cannon, and the SAM versions of the previous two--to knock down a few of his birds and get him to decide that your rear area isn't really so attractive at all. If those birds get bent when loaded with more than one infantry unit, it's really going to be disconcerting. As time goes by, your tanks become fine helicopter killers, as are your attack helicopters from the word go. Over your own lines, your own helicopters aren't usually in huge danger--and they should engage from as far back as is feasible--but they can be hit and killed even there, by enemy nasties of all kinds, especially when they and their cronies are all out of shots. The overall objective of your air defense strategy, besides just shooting down his birds, should be to make it scary for him to use his air power. That’s liable to screw up any battle plan that depends upon it. Remember the machineguns carried by APCs from early halftracks to BMP-3. A hive of these, not moved too often, add a lot to any air defense. And how, she asked, do you imagine I might confuse those horrible B-26s and their trademark bomb runs that blow up one tank and obscure LOS for the rest? Talk about bohicas... None of the following will suffice by themselves, but if you do them all at once, it is going to make you a lot harder to strafe: • throw smoke all over the place;

• • • • • • •

disperse in cover; spread out flak units; put single mortars on lonely hills and shell like mad; suddenly change direction after a large firing barrage and get the heck out of Dodge, as we say in the American West; get an OB hacker and make them unavailable; get very close to the enemy, so that he takes some friendly fire hits; avoid having bigger tanks than you really need.

Only in the gravest extreme do you allow a flak unit (one lacking good ground warfare support ability, that is—the 88 is the obvious exception) to get in a position to fire at anything but an aircraft. Even then, do so only if you are positive the enemy has shot his or her air bolt. A clever human player will never allow you to rest easy on that. Soviet ZSU-23 cannon open up APCs like Coors cans—but who doesn’t love looking at those little square vehicles through their Challenger sights? Point about ground warfare support ability. The Gepard (and some other mobile flak units), not only sees through smoke fairly well but opens up APCs so nicely you might want to buy it some ammo trucks. In the battle plan the question must be asked: if these flak guys have to get muddy, what could they achieve? Remember that any overflight will spot a number of your units. Moving them all one hex and back again will cancel this until such time as they get direct LOS and spotting. III.9. Air attack If you can get strike aircraft, would you want them? I personally think they cost too much at all levels for what you really get for them. In the early days, you can sometimes buy a lot of them but it's hard to find the targets and get them to hold still. Later on, observation helicopters (defined by me as any bird being used for razvedka at the moment) and fast recon vehicles show up. Combined with pre-registered target hexes and cluster munitions, this will usually enable you to hit something besides an empty hillside or your own people, but you kill a couple of tracks, maybe immobilize a tank--big deal. You could have 2-3 batteries of on-board 122mm howitzers for that money late in SP, and it could not only hammer his positions all game, but it's harder to suppress, and if it takes one lousy hit of damage, it doesn't fold its tent for the duration of the game. I'm not saying that they never fit into a good battle plan--especially in the WWII US arena, they're a useful equalizer and your only means of aerial razvedka in SP1 in any case--but for what you get, you're always paying through the nose. (Mounting the SP soapbox, I personally think the cost of strike aircraft should be on a sliding scale. The first flight should cost half; the second three-fourths, the third face value, the fourth one and one quarter, etc. Then again, I think most offmap artillery is horrendously overpriced as well.) A flight of tank-killing aircraft, though, does make a nice addition to a reserve. The hard part is to resist the temptation to use it until it’s needed. Attack helicopters, by contrast, can rack up frightening kill totals, and whenever you have these, you have the ability to reload them and hide them out to a degree, so I consider the lack of these to be a major detriment. I don't know about buying a dozen, but it's hard to imagine a battle plan that can't benefit from gunships. Even if they are only slicks modified to carry 7.62mm MGs, they are so versatile to you--and annoying to your opponent--that you definitely want some. Even if they never fire their weapons, their razvedka value is high in the attack. The two work well in combination. Your battle plan might include this by deciding that your scout helicopters will play ‘Wild Weasel’, drawing enough fire to identify a fair portion of the enemy ADA capability and using up SAM and gun shots. Six gunships rise to high altitude and carefully pick out the enemy flak vehicles, firing sequentially as always to lower counterfire potential. The killing of some vehicles tends to suppress others nearby, so this does double duty. On the same turn, when everyone has more or less shot their bolt, the strike aircraft are called in. They are now much less likely to be flamed before delivering their presents. Next turn, when your gunships rise to firing position once again, there are a lot fewer SAMs and flak cannon fired at them. III.10. Heliborne assaults I'm giving this its own section because when you combine attack and transport helicopters, you are able to place a potent defense or attack force anywhere on the battlefield that isn't dominated by AA. See a little ridge out front that you can't reach easily? Want to put some recoilless teams, infantry, machineguns, or other funmongers behind it? Whup-whup-whup.... then the helicopters bail out. Or do they? Maybe you keep them nearby to extract this outfit once the enemy has had to modify his or her battle plans to come kick their butts. Maybe they're the fire support that will save the troops they landed. Maybe it's all a ploy to get the enemy to attack a position covered by 10 main guns and some ATGM. Maybe the infantry will pop smoke and back off, forcing the enemy to recon the position all over again or risk pointblank defensive fire. Maybe you're just offended that Joe Opponent obviously feels he is out for a morning jog/drive down the road and want to give him instruction in showing you appropriate respect. The point I'm making here is that a heliborne outfit, of platoon size or greater and supported by some form of armed helicopters, is like a pile of molten metal that you can mold at will to suit the need. This capability can be deployed and used anyplace they can safely reach. It can also be melted down and recast, if it survives, to do yet another job. And your enemy can never ignore it--not if he values his soldiers' lives. If heliborne troops are available, and you can't find a way to incorporate them into your battle plan--even as the contingency team--I wonder at the planning. These are the kinds of things you can't buy

if you spend it all on fixed-wing airstrikes.

IV. Strategies
IV.1. Battlefield engineering (yours) A direct-fire weapon that can't move is pretty easy to mask with smoke. Therefore, I don't see all that many benefits from bunkers and pillboxes. However, I can see one definite application for them in the battle plan: in the open, on the friendly side of a large piece of blocking terrain from which you expect an approach. Don't forget that you can turn them in the deployment phase. I wouldn't position them to fire up an alley--I'd put them slightly to the side, so that people get all the way down the alley and come under fire. This may make it harder for a human player to obscure it with smoke. A machinegun platoon, otherwise rarely of much value in SP2 except for the 12.7mm ones that can open tracks up, would support this fortification very nicely. It would also make it that much harder to throw smoke at (since infantry trying to do so would be fired up by multiple units in reaction as they moved up). (In SP3, where the MG comes into its own, infantry platoons moving about in MG beaten zones are mainly the concern of the Graves Registration people.) Mines and dragons' teeth are pretty much an art. In fact, they are one of the most creative aspects of the battle plan, because you can buy none or 40+, you have a whole half of the board to place them in, they have psychological value out of proportion to the damage they are likely to do, etc. Their use is one of the areas in which the human/AI difference, for once, works to your advantage, in that you can drive a human nuts with scattered minefields. Defending against a human, it is hard to imagine not wanting at least a few. One could write a long time about the various possibilities for mines in the defense, but the only real way to misuse them is to situate them so that they either get in your own way, or are totally predictable by the opponent. (Of course, there's a tactic there as well--have a predictable initial pattern, then break it up so that his early assumptions are flawed.) In SP1, I like mines more than in SP2/3, mainly because mineclearing support units are easier to get in quantity and quality relative to your total force size later in the series. Mine technology's evolution since WWII has mainly focused on the sort of dubious 'enhancements' that have a lot of countries discussing banning them. It also hurts more to lose a unit to a mine in SP1, again due to force size--especially if it was a tank doing APC duty. There are as many mine layouts as there are map situations and mentalities, and better tacticians than myself have elaborated on them. [Gailey, Brady] As long as you don't do something stupid with them, they can be handy. Generally speaking, though, the fear and caution they inspire is their greatest value in the battle plan. If the opponent is on a tight schedule, especially on a snowy or mountainous map, the annoyance can become overpowering. Should you cover your mines with fire? Often enough, at least, that your human opponent gets his battle plan screwed up even worse by them. Not so often that he is assured of it, because that's predictability. In SP3, of course, you don't want to hit your own mines with artillery unless the plan is to get rid of them. However, unless you put them in long lines--something I would never do, myself, but that's my own interpretation of the art of minelaying--you aren't going to necessarily halt an entire force. If you have created a channel with dragons' teeth, obviously you want some form of hostilities going on with many weapons pointed at the gap. If you've done like I often do, and scattered them totally at random all over the perimeter so that they are impossible to decipher and have slowed the enemy to a creeping pace, you benefit a lot from artillery. One thing is sure: if you buy so many mines you can't afford a decent artillery park, you've failed to maximize the value of both. Another method of battlefield engineering is the creation of shellholes and smoke sources (burning buildings and woods) for specific reasons. Any time you look over the battlefield and find a place where you would like to have smoke forever, flamethrowers can make this a reality. (In SP1/2, so can blowing up a vehicle, or getting them to blow up something cheap of yours, if you can arrange for it to die there and await the smoke screen.) Got a building in your area that screws up your hilltop line of fire unacceptably? Drive a cheap vehicle into it, or have your engineers turn it into a junkheap. Certain you will need some cover on a little hill just ahead of your startline that you plan to occupy with infantry? Give it a round of shelling. The lesson here is that if you don't like the battlefield, think of yourself as a real estate developer. The best time to decide to do this is in your battle plan, because then you can make sure you have the resources to do it right. If a road offend thee, to paraphrase the Christian scriptures, pluck it out. Enough cratering, and a road ceases to be much of a road. This is very useful in the winter—a tough time to attack anyway—but is useful year-round. When choosing to drop a bridge section, use good timing. The best timing is when the enemy are using it. Smart human players will never end a turn with a unit on any form of bridge. Sometimes enemy artillery gives you some fortuitous battlefield engineering. (That sword cuts both ways, obviously.) I'm not going to go into this much because it can't really be part of a battle plan--you can't be assured of the shelling targets. However, it could affect your changes to your plan, after the shelling lifts, if you get a nice row of craters to dig into with your infantry. And AI artillery attacks leave nice linear rows of craters indeed. IV.2. Battlefield engineering (theirs) The AI's battlefield engineering is usually not too overwhelming, but you should expect a capable human player to use it well and diabolically. Human-laid mines can be horrible, and the shelling you get moving forward adds a few joints on the bohica scale. The assault against a human is one of those cases I would tend to want every engineer I could afford, so that a single platoon of them doesn't simply get blown away by his covering actions. If visibility is good it's even harder. The AI doesn't seem to use dragon's teeth, but a human can. As your battle plan evolves, and you find or spot these, think about where s/he is trying to channel you. If your plan calls for you going there, expect to have a bad day when you show up. One of your first two modifications to the plan, in this case, will probably be to take account of any enemy battlefield

engineering you've turned up. Give consideration to the possibility that the opposition may have screwed this up, because not everyone is good at it. In SP2/3, preregistered targets make it a whole lot easier for them to make it rain HE on you while you consider your options. Obvious places to expect mines of some sort are the map edges, roads, gaps in rough, on or adjacent to bridges, and semi-clear paths through forests. In a city assault, they truly suck for the attacker. Any infantry clearing effort under fire needs smokescreens, if possible. Any time you're assaulting, you will usually have a support advantage, but remember as discussed above that it doesn't take mines or DT to engineer a battlefield. To make a proper smokescreen, you mostly need plenty of infantry. Against thermal imaging, it’s bohica time for you unless you approached through a large forest and found the mines there. Probably one of the most important ways to deal with enemy battlefield engineering is to expect it, know that most of it has to happen before the game, and therefore plan to show up in a sufficiently unconventional place to make it somewhat irrelevant. It's all predicated on what is anticipated from you. If you avoid doing the expected, the annoyance haunts the defender, who planned so carefully to catch you in a kill zone. IV.3. Amphibious assault This is traditionally planned for by having enough (irrationally expensive; I suggest hacking the file) barge carriers to do the job, many tubes of smoke throwing stuff, and happening to show up at a good place. A good place is someplace unlikely to be heavily defended or covered with major fire. It's easier with APCs that can swim. Beach or river assault against a human would be so difficult it would have to be designed with a large numeric superiority to even be feasible, and with thermal imaging on the defense even then it would be a nightmare. In real life, of course, this is all true--at least if the beach is defended aggressively, which is easier said than done by a general with a single division expected to cover a long frontage. In SP against a human, unless there is agreement to the contrary, it will be.

IV.4. Terrain types Here is a summary matrix of the various battle plan implications. If you have infantry with vision 10, for example, and armour with vision 30, you might look at both boxes to get an idea of the expected conditions. It is sort of slanted toward the attacker but obviously, if you know the implications for the attacker it tells the story for the defender. It is definitely not comprehensive and represents my snap assessments more than anything. It should serve only as a starting point for a terrain analysis and the actual juxtapositioning of features on the map can render some or all of it inapplicable. Type/Visibility Plains Low (1-8) Not hard to approach but nerve-wracking due to the close fire of ambushing enemy Terrain clutter tends to reduce the effects of visibility With long-range sniping gone, approach can be speedier As plain Moderate (9-20) Vision exceeding visibility becomes decisive; APCs vulnerable, combined arms teams helpful As low, but less so Good (21-40) Mostly gun dueling, with vision and training likely to decide matters Moderate approach, ambushers will get away with murder if overwatching gaps and clogging forests Hard to flank undetected; fair number of long-range kills As plain, but more so depending on hilliness Flexible plans due to the number of weapons that could sweep a hill clean or trap you in a valley Easier razvedka but compensated by harder approach Must be turned to advantage with overwatching guns in support, or it's bohica central Excellent (41-89) A long-range gun duel and a difficult approach, especially without high hills to move up in the lee of Relatively easy approach punctuated by sporadic sniping and ambushes A lot of 'never knew what hit 'em'; any avenue of approach that offers cover is strategic Often one of the most nervous approaches in the game Horrible speed due to much rough, and expect to be fired up any time you crest a ridge As good Just hope it doesn't happen, or consider not getting in the boats

Forest

Bocage

Requires cautious approach; dismounted infantry spotting a key Hide-and-seek approach; difficult for ambushers to exfiltrate Hilltops a little safer than in good visibility

Desert

Mountain

Valleys become major hiding and ambush places Once in city, makes little difference; easier approach Ideal conditions; smoke should be widely distributed

City Amphibious

As low but approach grows more difficult with visibility Doable but challenging, mucho smoke essential

IV.5. Setting engagement ranges, selective fire, and suppressing weapons Where ranges fit into the battle plan can depend a lot on the effective range of your weapons against the expected targets. It also hinges on your people's relative ability at staying hidden. When defending, range settings are your way of maximizing the benefit of having revealed your location. The law of diminishing returns applies, because at very close range you may be spotted without firing a shot, so my general plan is to set ranges to the point at which I think my reaction fire will injure or kill. Germans in SP1, for example, tend to be some of the best long-range gunners you'll see, especially with high experience. Israeli reaction fire makes you realize why the Syrians are doing everything they can to bamboozle them out of the Golan Heights—they've had some nice coffee clatches up there in the past. As with every aspect of the plan, this has its deceptive uses. Imagine you have a section of Panthers fairly far forward in ambush. The approach to their position is overwatched by a larger number of main guns. You open fire at long range from deep in your own part of the map, where even German armour don't get a lot of easy kills. Perhaps he doesn't realize that he is 20 hexes from an ambush for which the range is set low and one hex of movement will get the bushwhackers into firing position, so he forges ahead rapidly to close the gap and live to tell of it. Two Panthers jump out, burn four tanks at ten hexes, and may even live to tell the story over beers later because they have the movement to run as well. You can plan these things, including escape routes, before the game or as it unfolds. In SP1, there is a hot key for selective fire, mostly good for conserving one kind of ammunition or other. By SP2/3, you can simply turn off a given weapon and it stays that way (forever or until changed back). The difficulty is that they obey your command to the letter even in self-defense (which is a little ludicrous). However, there is a place for this in your battle plan. Let's say you have a bunch of gunships, whose mission is to empty their ATGM in the direction of enemy armour from close range, and you know that rocket reloads can be slow. The next job on their ticket is to rocket the artillery park. There is no point in firing 57mm rockets at a decent tank at 15 hexes in most cases, so you suppress them. After leaving their usual business cards with the tanks, you sneak back and find some good targets, say mortars. Flick the safety off the rockets and give them a token of your esteem.

IV.6. Ambushes Like minefields, the ambush is an art. The possibilities are limitless and the satisfaction immense. When planning an ambush, determine: • What are you trying to kill? Infantry, tanks, recon, all of the above? • How close do you have to let them come to ensure a maximum-joint bohica? • Do you want the ambushing units to be able to escape? (Maybe you do. Let them go back and tell their tale of woe.) • What if it's so successful that they run away in some disarray and destruction? Will you pursue or just be grateful for the damage you did? If so, who is to pursue? • Are you over-relying on its success in the overall plan? (Many ambushes, especially those poorly planned, never come off.) • How are you going to keep it from being busted? Remember, if it isn't expected to kill anything, it's a recon post rather than an ambush. If you can answer those questions, you have the wherewithal to design successful ambushes. Location is everything, and since you can't count on people showing up where you want them to, good siting is what matters. Always look at the board from the opposite perspective when doing this, and figure out the obvious ambush zones and the less obvious ones. If you were going to avoid those, where would you go? Myself, I love big forests. Seeing into them is very difficult, and without air power, impossible; almost all engagements are one hex away; units can pop to the edge, blast away, then run. And woe betide the unlucky soul who has to dig you out of a forest, never knowing where the next bazooka shot is coming from. Since they are ideal places to sneak forward, they are great places for annoying ambushes. Buildings look like great ambush points, but when they cave in, they can take your people with them, and vehicles can't use them in any case. However, who said you can't be in plain terrain behind the building? Cities are fun, as well, except that a lot of perfectly good ambushes get sprung cheaply because cities don't slow infantry down much. Another problem is artillery that usually slams the avenue of approach, often caving in a building on your people or setting it afire. If you can find someone who likes to attack cities leading with his or her armour, have them write to me and we'll PBEM. Let's now talk about planning for the enemy's recon efforts, whose goal is to bust your ambushes. Imagine s/he has a propensity for a 2-6 armoured car recon troop, carrying some form of light infantry, and you know s/he does not care whether they live or die. These are people who are going to find something. This you cannot prevent--they're too fast and agile, and if they're willing to die, they'll go anywhere and do anything. So now what? My preference would be to, in order: 1. have them encounter a screening force that was not, in fact, the actual ambush or even the main line of resistance 2. snipe them to death, then re-site the ambush 3. run away completely and re-site the ambush 4. encircle them and wipe them out to the last man, as a lesson to be less nosy The last is very satisfying but fairly unproductive, except that it does ensure they won't interrupt your mess call. It could also convince them that the area was heavily defended. If you could arrange for them to briefly spot something scary, like a huge assault gun or a whole bunch of helicopters, it would mess with their minds for the rest of the game. In WWII as USSR, for example, KV is a great choice. IV.7. Flanking maneuvers Essential in warfare, these—or the threat of them—are always a consideration. The success of flanking movements is usually proportionate to how long they remain undetected. However, in the planning stage, their value will be affected by: • Force density on map—in large SP2/3 battles, they are a challenge to accomplish unseen • Cover/visibility/relative vision (in short, everything that determines detectibility) • Known habits of opponent • Velocity of units performing the maneuver—not speed, but velocity, which is the actual rate of progression as opposed to the raw speed under ideal conditions • Density and effect of expected obstacles • Allotted time—as in, sometimes there simply is not enough • Vulnerability of your opposition’s armour, in general, to side shots • Concentration of force; an immense flanking movement demands response The more of the above conditions that are favourable to you, the better your odds of launching successful flanking maneuvers. If you ever played the old Avalon Hill (rest in peace; the reader will please hoist malt beverage in remembrance) boardgame Caesar Alesia you understand that the feinted flanking movement is often more valuable than the actual movement itself, because it can cause the enemy to shift forces. When assaulting, this could have the effect of causing some enemy to abandon dug-in status.

(For those who aren’t familiar, Alesia featured the Gauls under Vercingetorix besieged in a city by the Romans, who could not assail the city itself, but invested it with an incomplete ‘donut’ defense stiffened by fortifications facing inward and out. The Gallic relieving force could arrive from any direction and the victory depended upon cutting a safe corridor through the donut defense long enough to enable Vercingetorix to escape the city. Since the Romans could not defend in depth everywhere, they were haunted by the spectre of feint and withdrawal. Roman steadfastness and discipline won the day anyway--this, too, teaches a valuable lesson.) Flanking movements, and feints, need to be planned and given objectives. Decide if the objective is one or more of the following: • Get them to shuffle forces around, to your advantage • Stand a chance against superior frontal armour • Bypass main lines of resistance • Raid a rear area • Emplace an impromptu ambush • Bash a corridor for a major assault • Simply be an irritant Of course, misuse of flanking movements, or over-reliance on their expected success, can lead to IV.8. Outsmarting yourself This happens all the time in battle planning as in real life, usually when someone pretty intelligent really sits down to pick something apart. It is an obvious potential pitfall of a limited-intelligence game's battle planning. Example: I was defending a hilly area dotted with forests and little villages. I have a propensity for ambushes and sudden, violent counterattacks. There was a road running diagonally right up to my rear objective area, and half my people were hiding in a ravine just out of sight of it. Now, this road was such an obvious avenue of approach I didn't bother to guard it at all. Visibility was low (11). It was clear to any opponent that such a road would be a death trap (as seen on TV in Iraq). A fierce reserve surely would mop up any survivors, so I didn't really have one. So it wasn't covered. American late-WWII airpower is devastating, so I didn't have any, the more to get him to waste points on defending against it. I cleverly created a master deceptive plan meant to give him nasty surprises and a swift, deadly flanking attack. My people were carefully concealed. Muhahahaha. Nothing would be as expected. I spent hours on this. Well, you can guess what sort of thing happened. My opponent, having not heard that he wasn’t supposed to, did an unconventional thing and just barreled up the road with a combined arms force led by good scout cars. No real harm came to this force and I had to scramble my now-hosed battle plan immediately. It wasn't flexible enough to save me. But what really happened was that I outsmarted myself, and in so doing, allowed my opponent to audaciously roll up my rear area. My A0 even got blown away. And half the time I didn’t even know what the heck he had. How, then, does one keep from pulling such foolish maneuvers? • Never leave any obvious approach completely uncovered, if only by spotters. • Never fail to have a combined arms reserve prepared to take on all comers. • No matter how clever you get and how thorough your analysis, do not ignore the possibility of total audacity. Remember the Ardennes, both times. IV.9. After-action Last phase of the battle plan. Answer the following: • What worked? Why? • What bombed? Why? • What new tendencies did you uncover? • What old tendencies were reinforced? • Did you overplan, underplan, or just right? • What single unit type did you not bring and, as a result, use much profanity? • What did you overstock on? • Who didn't get into action? Was it a bad purchase, bad positioning, or simply the opponent's choice of engagement areas?

V. Closing
V.1. Taps Without the following people and outfits, I wouldn't have learned nearly as much as I have: Todd Brady (http://www.mother.com/~tbrady/spprimer/spprime.htm), author of The Steel Panthers Illustrated Primer: A Player's Guide to Winning Strategy & Tactics Andrew Gailey (http://freespace.virgin.net/a.gailey), author of excellent guides and editors, and a helpful contributor to this one Pascal Ode (http:// ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/POde), author of a fine SP1 strategy guide Olivier Perronny, who has taught me some of my best lessons using a Panther’s 75L70 main gun as a pointing device Scott Grasse (http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Dungeon/8803/Wardepar.htm), author of several treatises and analyses on specific topics Craig Rollis, a FTF opponent who never misses a trick Despite the above credits, I accept full responsibility for the entire content, particularly any errors. Steel Panthers, Steel Panthers II and Steel Panthers III I believe to be registered trademarks of SSI. (I don’t really care if they are or not, but I’ll make clear that they certainly aren’t mine.) V.2. Feedback Gratefully appreciated, to apostate@gte.net. V.3. For those at SSI who read this First and foremost, thanks for good games. In the future, I hope to see from you: • A remake of SP1, raised to SP2 force sizes and with the additional features • Better implementation of helicopters—for example, they don’t just sit there and let mine blow them away at one hex • Awake to the fact that infantry and artillery need to be modelled accurately, and stop giving me this 'it's primarily an armour game' line--I don't buy it • More variable AI • A ‘conserve ammo’ setting, which will hopefully keep six gunships from each firing ATGM at the first track that exposes itself • An all-formation move feature worth bothering with (right now it’s mostly useful for setting ranges) • More freedom in defining command levels • National ranks for leaders (Hauptsturmfeldwebel, Senior Lieutenant, et al) • Ability to shift leaders from unit to unit within their command • More realistic leader last names, and more variety for foreign countries—get some input from people outside the US • Get more nationalities into play—there is no excuse for leaving out Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sweden, Yugoslavia/Croatia/Serbia, SWAPO, Angola, Cuba, Nigeria • How about having the flags change at the right dates? (USSR/Russia, Japan, Canada, for starters) • Decorations for leaders, use generic ones if you need to • Stop always saying ‘3 men are killed’—doesn’t anyone become wounded? • Dead body graphics on the field, and not always the same pose • Total killed/captured/wounded/MIA at the end of the battle for both sides, listing leaders specifically • Fix the ‘load all units into nearest vehicle’ feature, which right now in SP2/3 is the quickest way to screw up your entire deployment • Ability to customize campaign opponent force types, to be random, infantry-heavy, armour-heavy, balanced, or whatever • Booby traps (mines do not really simulate these that well) • Let people edit country training without having to jack up the cost of units accordingly V.4. Renumeration My monetary policy is simple. We have no money, we want no money. If you found this document to be useful, and you want to thank me, I recommend that you consider volunteering your knowledge and abilities for the common good in your area, and avoid tailgating other vehicles at all times. Thanks, and good gaming.