1) Spotting is critical. You have to know where OPFOR is coming from and going to, so you can use your artillery effectively, and shift reserves appropriately. It's even more important when you've set the preferences to 'realistic spotting'. I try to get some units well out in front of my main line of resistance (Humvees or APC's, if possible with a small rifle unit along), park them in some woods in 'cover' mode with a good field of view towards where OPFOR is coming from, turn their weapons range to zero, and then let them sit, providing observation. Infantry is best for this, as it can't be seen till very close up, but often a single vehicle is adequate. I also try to have a few similar 'spotters' scattered back through my whole defense so as to keep things in sight in case the major units get overrun. Finally, if you can spare them, leave one or two such spotters hidden deep in some woods, to be bypassed, but then to come out later and provide 'rear area' observation (great for calling in artillery on units moving up to the front by road).
2) Place units on the reverse side of obstacles; this lets them get the OPFOR units from side or rear as they pass, lets you set up crossfire zones more easily, and usually prevents the OPFOR artillery from chewing them up before any OPFOR units get into range. Certainly, the forward side of the forests is tempting and looks like a good place to set up, but the problem is that the AI knows it's a good place, too, so has a tendency to pound the sites early on.
3) Support your ATGM units with some solid infantry. Something that really works well for me is to have one or more ATGM units stacked with or nearby a heavy MG team on the reverse side of a woods overlooking a road... As the ATGM's get the OPFOR APC's, the MG team will eliminate the infantry units dumped by the destroyed vehicles. This will also help in case the OPFOR units come at the Javelin team through the woods; in close quarters combat your infantry units can do a lot of damage to enemy APC's. In general, while the infantry can't do much if it's out in open terrain, distant from the OPFOR units, it can be tremendously effective if it's entrenched, fighting up close, and in platoon or company strength.
4) Try to keep units shifting around...once you're spotted you will be pounded and eventually destroyed, and in the scenarios where OPFOR has a big advantage in numbers and you're on the defensive, you can be ground down if you play the attrition game.
If possible, have units back up a little way after firing, then return to a different spot to fire from, then move again... This is especially important with the armored units; don't waste those big, mobile guys by planting them where the OPFOR artillery or ATGM's can wear them away.
5) Defend in depth. When you plan your defense, anticipate and set up so that your units have 'fall-back' defensive sites to move to. Don't have everyone up front on the line; make your initial set-up deep, and definitely keep a mobile reserve force.
I try to keep a good share of the tanks, and a few APC's with some Javelin teams and SMAW teams well back behind the lines, able to shift north or south, to reinforce places OPFOR seems to be pushing hard or to cut off units which have managed to break through the main line. Keep these reserves well back and out of sight, and have a plan for where you'll want to place them, in good cover, etc. if the need arises.
6) As the OPFOR attack progresses, and you get an idea of the major axis of their advance, take time to get some artillery TRP's with accuracy levels of '5' registered somewhere well out in front of the OPFOR forces, especially in places they'll funnel through . This will enable you to lay down fires quickly on them as they advance. It's worth it to do this, even if you have to lessen your suppression fires elsewhere for a turn or two.
7) 'Pre-order' some of your air support; that is, order one of the missions that are 15 minutes out from the battlefield and target it somewhere near the center of the anticipated action, even if none of the OPFOR forces are there yet. This way, you'll (hopefully) have timely air support, still be able to save your 'rapid response' air assets for some other threatened area, and will make good use of those '15 minutes on alert' guys, who otherwise may be too slow and too late to help in a rapidly evolving crisis.
You have all those APCs lying around, why not put then to use? Ussually in Degoey I will dump the infantry on or near the compound and then seperate all the APCs into individual units and spread them out over a 2klick square. This prevents one air strike from taking them out, and when those pesky tanks show up, those APCs can just about kill half of them. This works in most senarios. If you have bradleys its even better because of their tow missiles. Mostly with bradleys I spread them out; one for each klick, and use them as caltrops. Hopfully you will remember to take out infantry units from the bradleys, as they are death traps. Seems whenever someone shoots at bradleys they blow into a thousand pieces and take those guys in green with them. Oh well, guess I should be more observant in my transport of infantry. Thats my two cents...
I've played TF Gebhard once, and got through the scenario while suffering only 19 percent casualties. I layed down smoke on my axis of advance, moved on a very narrow front, and denied the OPFOR thermals. I ended up completly bypassing the main enemy defense. Maybe I got lucky, but prior to even moving at all I looked at the map and thought, "Now, where are all the difficult points to defend?" and with that information picked one objective and stuck with it. With that in mind I have the following broad guidelines. I'm aware that many of these mirror what others have said, but I just had to get my two cents' worth in.
1. Study the map, as it dictates the enemy defense.
2. Win the reconaissance battle by destroying the OPFOR's reconaissance elements while properly positioning your own. Deny him his own eyes and ears and make him attack blind. It is important to destroy his scouts as far forward of your defenses or armored columns as possible (preferably with your own scouts and helicopters), to give him no clue of your dispositions. Protect your own scouts and OPs! Get them deep behind enemy lines and keep them hidden.
3. In the defense, all uncommitted units must be ready to be repositioned at the critical sector. Identify possible alternate axis of advance the enemy may use and plot alternate battle positions and kill zones.
4. In the offense, pick your Schwerpunkt (onboard objective) before the first turn and stick to it, concentrating your entire task force/company team. This insures mass. Use your scouts to probe ahead of the main effort. (As opposed to the "companies on line" broad probing attack.) Sometimes this rigid sticking to objectives leads you directly into the main enemy defensive belt, but at least then you've got enough mass to deal with it. You may want to detach a company team/platoon to make a feint elsewhere, but the feinting force often becomes a total loss and usually ends up costing you more casualties than it's worth.
5. Integrate air/artillery support, both with one another and into the overall battle plan.
Position is everything. You usually can't go toe to toe against a larger or a defending enemy force in TacOps with direct fire. Maybe you are fighting too close to the enemy or letting them get too many flank shots. If you let the OPFOR tanks get much closer than 2000 meters before engaging them, the M1 starts to be very vulnerable to their 125mm guns. The T80s in TacOps have better penetrators and better fire controls than the Iraqis had in Desert Storm. Try as much as possible to shoot your M1s at around 2500 meters. If you have the option turned off for advanced OPFOR ATGMs then most of them can't penetrate an M1 from the front, but you still have to worry about not exposing your flanks. If you want to handicap OPFOR a bit more while you are learning, use the option menu to change them into T72s. Don't fight stationary from one position unless you can kill all or almost all visible enemy tanks with one volley. If you are outnumbered use the SOP options to set your units to fire one surprise volley and then back into cover (i.e. deeper into woods or town or behind a line of sight block).
Viewing "hidden" infantry is no problem. Even though the M1 has both a daylight and a thermal channel for the sight, most of us use the Thermal during the day as well due to the ability to see camouflaged vehicles and personnel easier than with just the daylight channel. The only real use for those vision slits, is so the driver can see a little bit of his road, and the loader and tank commander can see whose climing up on the tank. People, especially scared people, hiding in trees would present a significant difference in temperature from their surrounding environment, and would stand out like sore thumbs in the thermal sight. As for the tactical employment of driving right up to these guys, personnally I'd call my Red Leg (Artillery) support and let those guys chew on that for a while. Infantry gets kinda bent out of shape when they see us riding around all over the place instead of walking, and have a tendancy to try and shoot things at you.
Be advised that TacOps gives extra advantage to foot infantry in situations where armored vehicles insist on trying to drive directly over them. Generally it is highly advisable for tanks to stop and engage infantry from at least 90 meters away - and much farther away for APCs.
HMMWVs have little or no armor. Position them in covering terrain or on the edge of a elevation change and back them out of sight after most every volley. You can often get away with leaving them exposed longer if there are friendly infantry closer to the point you are assaulting than the HMMWVs are - the enemy will usually concentrate their fire on the approaching infantry.
In TacOps there are four levels of Cavalry:
1. Lowest are the scout platoons organic to heavy battalions, of six M3 Bradleys each. (M3 Bradleys are the cavalry variant of the M2, carrying a scout team instead of an infantry squad.) In the attack the cavalry platoon is most useful for identifying enemy positions, though those are usually found out the hard way (dead scouts). The cavalry platoon can also be used for screening the attacking force, covering a weak flank, or making a supporting attack or feint (deception operations). In the defense the platoon is useful for general scouting, forward observation including zeroing in artillery in key terrain (registering TRPs), counterreconaissance (killing the OPFOR scouts so the enemy attacks blind), and deception operations (such engaging the enemy far out and forcing him to deploy from road march).
2. The next level is the company/troop level. Cavalry troops fight as part of squadrons, so there's not much point in describing their mission. There are no scenarios expressely designed for cavalry troops, though you can probably do a pretty good job of replicating a troop by mixing and matching forces. Also, in the custom two-player scenarios there are ready-made cavalry troops avaliable, but of course to play these you have to have a second player, or multiple personality disorder.
3. Next are the cavalry squadrons. Cavalry squadrons are found in heavy divisions (1 squadron) and armored cavalry regiments (3 squadrons). My level of understanding of current cavalry doctrine is kind of dated (as are my sources), but generally, divisional cavalry squadrons conduct reconnaissance and security missions throughout the division area of operations. Regimental cavalry squadrons are part of an armored cavalry regiment, which basically acts as the divisional cavalry squadron does, but for an entire corps. There is a squadron-level scenario, TF Gebhard, which depicts a cavalry squadron(--) attacking a battalion-sized force (what cavalry types would probably call a "reconaissance in force"). For the custom two player games there are no ready-made squadrons, but you can pick the whole regiment and then delete the parts you don't want, which is far more flexible than offering a standard squadron.
4. Finally there's the entire regiment, the playing of which is almost certainly a massive undertaking (I haven't tried it). Cavalry Regiments provide reconaissance and security for the corps, and also fight in what AirLand Battle calls the Covering Force Battle Area. I started typing out the missions of the covering force, but was struck by how much they resembled the missions of the scout platoon, but only on a much larger scale.
In short, Cavalry in TacOps is a lot of fun.
Sources quoted: Issue #1 of CounterAttack magazine, Assault (designer's notes), and Military Digest (Vol. 13, No. 5). The scout platoon stuff I took from game experience, and was very suprised it fit the covering force mission to a T. This game can be a REAL learning tool.
Q: Can tanks move from a full defilade position to a hull defilade firing position?
A: Beyond the scale of TacOps. This kind of firing behavior is assumed to be happening. Such assumed behavior is addressed by having most weapon firing probabilities be lower in the game than what would be expected from firing on a training range.
Q: The ")" symbol on the unit orders menu generally means "dig in," right? Do we assume that means some degree of camouflage as well? A: TacOps defilade means "some kind of cover" not true "hull defilade." Definitely does not represent "digging" in. Merely means that a unit has expended some period of time to find the best place available locally to flop down. The current scenarios reflect battles of hasty positions and rapid movement.
All entrenched units are significantly harder to spot. All entrenched units are signficantly harder to hit with direct fire. Entrenched infantry units suffer less personnel casualties when they are hit. To get the benefit of the entrenchment, the center point of a unit must be somewhere within the entrenchment symbol and you must have ordered the unit to "enter" the entrenchment. It is not enough to just be on top of it. Entrenchments can hold an infinite number of units. [There is no need to have the game enforce stacking limits. Your opponent's artillery will generally drive the lesson home about not bunching up.]. The entrenchment button is almost always active, but it doesn't do anything unless the center point of a unit is over an entrenchment symbol.
OPFOR forces under command of the computer opponent move in platoon, company, even regimental formation much of the time - terrain and situation permitting. When humans are playing, formation movement is up to them to coordinate via the orders they give to individual units. Attack and movement formations are an important part of tactical level combat. Making this automatic would eliminate a major way of differentiating between the skill of opposing players.
Q: Morale: It's kind of unrealistic, I think, for all sides to fight battles of annihilation. A: You could just as easily stipulate that the current high loss level in TacOps includes the folks who have simply chosen to remove themselves from harms way. Morale must be approached very cautiously - big potential here for making a lot of gamers very unhappy. Many people have an absolute hatred for morale rules in any form. You might also consider that nose-to-nose tactical battles between well-equipped, well-trained, well-motivated armored units might often be battles of annihilation, especially since troops on foot can not easily outrun artillery or armor. Their personal safety depends on closing with armor when trapped in the open, and in standing and fighting when in covered positions. Morale fans are free to set personal goals and victory conditions that call for breaking contact after certain casualty percentages, but I don't think I should force it on everyone with game code.
Q: I would like to have more control over the speed of unit movement. There are times when I want to move more slowly on roads and clear terrain.
A: At present, there is no user speed control in TacOps. The current speeds are a compromise, but for vehicles they are a bit fast for "contact imminent" and a bit slow for rear area movement. I have not been able to develop a way to give the user more precise control of the speed of his units that does not hopelessly bog the game down with hundreds of more mouse clicks per orders phase. I will continue to work on it. In the meantime, you can use the "Delay Button" in the orders dialogue to tell a unit to pause in place for 15 seconds per button press. Once you get the hang of it, it works pretty well at slowing units down.
Q: Infantry shouldn't slow down so much in the woods.
A: Foot troops slow down in close terrain due to caution and fear, not because it is hard to walk.
Q: Why do units with thermal sights slow down when driving through smoke?
A: Thermal sights are good for targeting hot vehicles and warm people, but they don't do much for cross country driving. The kind of thermal sights that we can afford to put in ground vehicles paint colored blobs on a small TV like monitor to represent things that are significantly hotter than their natural surroundings. Terrain is indistinct since it is all pretty much the same temperature.
Position an infantry unit in rough, town, or wooded terrain and put it in defilade mode. Use the items in the Fire Control box inside the Unit Orders Window to set its engagement range to either zero or just a few meters farther out than its visibility risk.
Such a unit is not likely to be spotted by the enemy unless they practically drive over it (100 meters or less) and it will not reveal its position by firing at long ranges.
Q: OPFOR sure looks to me like the former Soviet Union. Aren't you keeping up with current events?
A: I am not picking on the former Soviet Union per se. I hope and expect their democratic reforms to take root. However, Soviet equipment has been cheap and available for years. It is probably the most widely exported and widely used in the world. Whoever we find ourselves fighting, it is highly likely that they will be using Soviet equipment. It is also highly likely that they will be using Soviet-style tactics since they are quite useful for low to mid-tech, poorly-trained armies. The best I can do to sidestep politically correct fanatics and still get a contemporary game out is to name the enemy as "OPFOR" - opposing force.
Q: It is well-known that OPFOR tactics are very regimented and inflexible. OPFOR players should have to cope with this.
A: The computer opponent usually follows standard OPFOR battle drill, but I don't want to force this on a human player. The user, who we should remember has paid good money for the privilege, should be allowed to use whatever tactics he/she wants.
Q: I don't like the resupply method. You should have prepositioned supply dumps that can be drawn from a general battalion supply system. (Use icons to mark dumps.) Battalion dumps may be resupplied. A battalion logistics base with trucks would be more realistic. If a truck makes it to the company, the company is resupplied.
A: Minor resupply is addressed in a very conceptual way with a resupply button in the Unit Orders dialog. TacOps calculates a reasonable supply of extra items on hand and limited local delivery as each scenario starts up. The resupply number (supply points) is a function of the number and types of troops and equipment in the scenario, as well as the expense, bulk, and weight of the ammo that they are using. The function allows a player to avoid being unrealistically limited to a basic load, but it also prevents having too much of the good stuff. I don't see the need to burden the average player with more detail given the time and distance scale of the typical TacOps engagement - less than two hours of battle and less than 20 kilometers of movement. If a user wants to have supply dumps and trace a path to them before resupply, he can do that as a personal goal. I won't force it on people via the program.
When playing against an OPFOR that does not have thermals, SMOKE is a MUST! In my first game with Jim DeGoey my victory came through using smoke. The opening turns were designed to allow my troops to observe the fall of my arty as well as advance while unobserved by the OPFOR. After achieving an accuracy of 4 or 5 with my mortars and arty, I changed targets. These targets were just points which I could continue to observe as my ordinance began to fall. I finally was able to move my target points close enough to various points on the map which, when firing smoke, would provide complete coverage of my movments. After laying this barrage of smoke I raced my units forward. I was able to make a two-pronged attack in Team Hill against the forest. My advance along the northern map edge was completely (as far as I know as I wasn't hit) unobserved by the OPFOR units until after I reached the objective. My southern advance was observed, but I had actually wanted that so as to hopefull confuse Jim as to where my main thrust was coming from. I zig-zagged my units and continued to advance while still throwing smoke up. I didn't take any real losses until after I reached the objective and slammed into his defenses.
Q: The smoke grenade button in the Unit Orders Window is turning gray after a single smoke grenade is used even though additional grenades are available.
A: Vehicle smoke grenades take time to reload (usually from outside the vehicle). The button is dimmed until a couple of minutes have passed to simulate this.
Q: Does a unit's facing influence its chances to see or spot things?
A: In general, units always have 360 degree observation, but their chance of spotting varies with the terrain and situation. Until a firefight starts, any well-trained unit expecting imminent contact is going to be constantly visually scanning in all directions. Grunts will be upright and alert, tank commanders will be standing tall in their hatches. Once in contact, everyone who can is going to duck. That unit will become focused more on immediate targets and especially more focused on enemy units that are sending effective fire their way. This is represented in the game by spotting ability declining during and for a short while after a firefight. It is also represented by not allowing a unit to instantly acquire a new target upon the destruction of an ongoing target - there is a bit of a delay.
Q: Killed units should not spot in the turn they are killed. Maybe you should move the spotting phase after combat resolution.
A: Units that are killed cease spotting at the instant that they are killed, although occasionally a "dead" unit will appear to get off another shot due to the simultaneous fire approach used in TacOps. Spotting can't be after combat resolution because spotting is a precondition to firing.
Q: Any chance on spotting not being automatic?
A: Very little in TacOps is automatic. To increase realism and uncertainty, there are extra random die rolls for just about every possible game action, though the more bizarre lapses have a very low probability of happening. Spotting is already definitely not automatic. The chance of spotting increases with the number of units in a given counter/marker, decreases as the stress and pace of operations increase, decreases with movement, decreases with covering terrain, and decreases with other factors that I can not recall at the moment. It is not uncommon for a unit in TacOps to inexplicably not spot and not fire on an enemy unit that seems to be in plain sight - the fortunes of war.
Q: Vehicles should have a reduced chance of spotting to their sides and especially to their rear. Infantry is not effected as much.
A: It is assumed that people in a unit are alert and are constantly scanning in all directions for threats and targets. I do not agree with the excessively strict facing handicaps prevalent in most tactical wargames.
Q: Units in clear terrain disappear frequently. Observing unit is not disturbed in any way and moving unit is in view before disappearing. After a time the unit reappears. Possible that disappearance is due to minor undulations in clear terrain?
A: Correct. This is a randomly generated event that is meant to simulate the many minor variations in terrain and vegetation that are too detailed to be in the game's data base, but that would be present in the real world. It is uncommon, except in very flat desert, to be able to watch an enemy unit close on your position across several kilometers of even clear terrain without periodically losing it to minor elevation changes in the ground or to a clump of vegetation. The rougher the data base terrain at the unit's location and the less a unit moves, the more often it will "disappear."
Q: Friendly units should obstruct fire.
A: Not appropriate to the ground scale in TacOps. Most of the time, a unit marker in TacOps represents 5 to 10 vehicles spread out over a 150 meters or so. However, I am collecting votes on adding a low random chance of fratricide if units are firing over, through, or near "friendlies."
Q: I see units firing hundreds of meters through woods and towns all the time...
A: The units you mentioned were both on high ground and the town was on low ground. They were shooting over the town. Units on high ground, shooting at targets on high ground will shoot over woods and towns that are located on low ground. Otherwise, units can fire into and out of the edges of woods and towns but they can not generally fire through them - there are a very few exceptions to this due to terrain data base oddities.
Q: You should add more unit SOP options and provide more automated actions for the human player's units.
A: In general, TacOps leaves "unit order giving" as much as possible to the user. Having the program make more "automatic" decisions for the user will induce either boredom or annoyance. Playtesting indicated that there is little consensus among users on what constitutes common sense and good tactics. There was general consensus, though, that the game should "largely leave me alone to do what I want with my units --- i.e. don't force your ideas of what is realistic on me." Just about any tactic that I "lock" into the program is going to displease as many people as it satisfies. Most of the time, a 60 second movement pulse is a small enough time interval for the user to keep units from doing stupid things, like continuing to advance into surprise enemy fire. Certain SOP options were added during playtesting to compensate for occasions when 60 seconds is too long to wait. The "pop smoke" options fall in this category since popping smoke is a rather instantaneous action for vehicles. Helicopters were given an evasion option due to their much higher rate of speed; 60 seconds is too long to wait to let the user regain control of them when they get into trouble.
Q: Is there ever a time that suppression is instantaneous?
A: Suppression from mines, artillery, and air takes place instantly. Suppression from other weapons takes effect at the end of each 15 second combat pulse. It causes a problem in simultaneity to do direct fire suppression instantly.
Q: You might consider a special deal for infantry units in concealed positions that would always give them the first shot.
A: Already in the code. A surprise fire status is given to any unit automatically that is in covering terrain, remains motionless, is unsuppressed, and goes unspotted for a turn or so. Not only do they get the first shot, but they are immune to spotting or return fire for 15 to 30 seconds. This status is also occasionally given to units who do not actually rate it just to keep things unpredictable.
Q: Why are there only two ground elevations?
A: This design decision was made long ago and, because of the huge amount of code involved, I had to stick with it for the first TacOps release. When I started coding TacOps the "average" Mac was still the Mac Plus and it was too slow for more than three elevations - low ground, higher ground, and airborne. Additional ground elevations are now possible given the increased speed of the Macs released in the last two years and more will be added in TacOps II.
Q: Had a M-1 tank moving in the woods at 150 meters and it was killed by an RPG. It is unlikely that an RPG would be able to hit a vehicle at such a distance in the woods since a small branch would cause a significant deflection and tree trunks would cause even larger deflections. It is even more ridiculous for an ATGM to be able to fire at targets in the woods due to the above mentioned problems and the additional problems of wire in the trees, but that also happened.
A: They can in TacOps woods. You may be viewing TacOps woods based on your mental picture of what a typical German forest is like. That is not valid unless you can find something in the game documentation that has defined TacOps woods to be German forest. In a TacOps wood, ATGMs can fire 200 meters at reduced accuracy, RPGs can fire 200 meters at reduced accuracy, vehicles can drive anywhere (though at a reduced speed). A TacOps wood is defined by what is possible inside a TacOps wood not by what is possible in a German or Virginia forest or by what is possible in a mesquite thicket at Fort Hood.
Q: I was playing Task Force McMains and had a peculiar experience with the thermal sighting capability on the M1A1s. OPFOR hit my armor units with a 122mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) smoke barrage to obscure his advance. My tanks had no problem engaging and killing his units - with impunity.
A: Well, that is what thermal sights do. They see through most smoke as well as darkness. In the real world, U.S. tanks and U.S. ATGMs have thermal sights, while OPFOR equipment pretty much does not. Use of thermal sights by only the U.S. will ruin most scenarios from a "game" standpoint, just as they ruined Desert Storm for the Iraqis.
BTW, the non thermal capable target will not see who fired at it.