TACTICAL PLANNING

By David Garvin, ©2005: web-published at www.AdvancePhase.com, 2005.

In Squad Leader, there are several ways you can play. You can play to have fun. You can play to win. You may even just play to pass the time. The way I see it, I play for all these reasons, and more. What's more, I want to win every game, and it is possible with every scenario, balanced or not, to win as either side. To do this, you need a plan. You cannot simply do it as you go and hope for the best. If you rely too much on the dice to win the game for you, you will lose more than you win. There is a difference between taking a risk and taking a gamble. In Squad Leader, taking risks is what it's all about. As Rommel put it, if you risk something and fail, you can recover. If you gamble something and fail, there is no recovery. In short, have a plan and take some risks. And always have plan B, just in case!

THE ESTIMATE PROCESS

Military leaders learn a planning process known as the estimate. There are several types, all geared for various levels of command. In squad leader, the combat estimate is the type of estimate normally used. What is a combat estimate? Simply put, it is nothing more than a planning process as mentioned above. It is a three-step process and it doesn't take very much time, honestly. The steps are as follows:

       1.    Mission Analysis;

       2.    Ground Analysis; and

       3.    Plan.

MISSION ANALYSIS

In real life, this is a complicated process. In squad leader, it's simply looking at the victory conditions and understanding what they mean. If occupation of a building is key, then all else that doesn't further this aim must be ignored. If destruction of the enemy is your goal, then start shooting! It is sometimes too easy to gloss over the victory conditions or worse yet, to get distracted and take risks that don't further your aim.

GROUND ANALYSIS

Understanding the terrain is key. At the squad leader level, most operations involve three options: left, centre and right. Each is considered in comparison to the other. I ask myself some of the following questions, whether on the attack or the defence:

1.    Cover/Concealment. Identify the possible approaches (usually left, centre or right). Ask yourself: is there cover from fire (TEMs)? Is there concealment (obstructed LOS)?

2.           Obstacles. Are there any obstacles to movement, natural OR manmade? If so, what can I do to overcome them or improve on them? Can they be covered by fire? If so, from where?

3.           Positions for Fire. From where can I shoot? From where can he shoot?

4.           Positions for Observation. What positions have LOS to this approach? Do the enemy or I hold these positions? Can I dominate these positions with fire?

5.           Enemy. What is his strength? What is his weakness? What are the enemy's likely actions? How can I best break his unit cohesion?

6.           Distance. How long is this approach? How long will it take to travel it? How long do I need to cover it with fire? Are there enough game turns to cover it and still meet the victory conditions?

 


The following is a chart that I find useful when I do an estimate

 

LEFT

CENTRE

RIGHT

Cover/Concealment

 

 

 

Obstacles

 

 

 

Positions for Fire

 

 

 

Positions for Observation

 

 

 

Enemy

 

 

 

Distance

 

 

 

TOTALS

 

 

 

As I go through it, I would then rate each factor. There are many possible ways to rate each, but the simplest is to simply put a check mark in each factor that's the best. Whichever option has the most check marks will be the preferred one. For example:

 

LEFT

CENTRE

RIGHT

Cover/Concealment

X

 

 

Obstacles

 

X

 

Positions for Fire

X

 

 

Positions for Observation

X

 

 

Enemy

 

 

X

Distance

 

X

 

TOTALS

3

2

1

So, I've got a task (attack or defend) and I simply rated left best in three categories, cover and concealment, positions for fire and positions for observation. The centre rated best in terms of obstacles and distance, and right in terms of the enemy. Now what to do with the result?

INTERPRETING THE RESULTS

In the example above, "left" came in first, "centre" came in second and "right" came in third. Before proceeding with the plan of attack or defence, it is necessary to break down the categories into those that favour manoeuvre and those that favour firepower. One factor, Cover and Concealment, is equally applicable to both. The factor of enemy also applies to both, and in some cases, such as with Hidden Initial Placement, may be a complete unknown. If known (you set up second, for example), it will apply equally to firepower and manoeuvre. The remainder can be subdivided as illustrated below:

FACTORS FAVOURING MANOEUVRE

Simply put, distance and obstacles favour manoeuvre. A shorter distance means less time spent closing with the enemy. In scenarios with few turns, this is a key factor. Longer scenarios will make this less key and actually provide the attacker with a possible long route, something that a defender must acknowledge. A lack of obstacles will mean quicker movement and an attacker may favour such a route. A defender would perhaps use this factor as key in deciding where roadblocks or wire are needed to frustrate the enemy's freedom of movement.

FACTORS FAVOURING FIREPOWER

Positions for fire and positions for observation favour firepower. Finding good positions from which you can fire which also provide you with favourable TEMs will determine where to set up your killing stacks. But let's not forget observation, which is different. A tall building may offer excellent observation (Building N1 on board three, for example), but it will not allow a machine gun to penetrate beyond the target hex in most cases. It will, however, perhaps make a good observation post for calling in indirect fire.

So, in the example above, left rated best in terms of cover and concealment, positions for fire and positions for observation. Centre rated best in terms of obstacles and distance. So, from an attacker's point of view, putting your killing stacks on the left and using the centre to move on the objective would be a plan. From a defender's point of view, you would have to put killing stacks on the left IN ORDER TO cover the centre and minimise the ability to move in that area.

CONCLUSION

This article is an introduction into the planning process known as a combat estimate. In it, I have shown the basics as to how to plan an attack or defence in Squad Leader. My next article, titled "Defensive Tactics" will focus specifically on the defence, using the scenario Beta Zero as an example.