Juha Kellokoski, main game designer from Veitikka Studios, will give us a short overview on a very important topic: how to effectively plan and manage uour units during a battle! Kudos to Juha for this great article
Armored Brigade Dev Diary #2 - Planning the Battle
In this Dev Diary entry I will show one way to manage a defensive battle plan. As an example, I've decided to play as the United States Army, defending against the Soviet Union. Armored Brigade battles have three phases: the setup phase, the action phase and the after action report phase. Here I'm going through the setup phase. The player must designate his target reference points (TRP) and place obstacles, if he has any, and optionally he can plan unit paths, fire missions etc. After finishing the setup phase the real-time action is started. Armored Brigade scenarios have two different startup schemes. The first way is to generate a fresh skirmish in the Battle Generator wizard. The player has an instant access to an unlimited number of battles. In this approach, the player is always free to place his units as he wishes. The second way is to load a pre-made scenario. In these scenarios the unit positions and some other variables can be optionally 'locked'. Both methods can include a 'player character' unit that represents the player on the battlefield. In the pre-made scenarios, the player can be locked to a role of a certain unit that cannot be changed. If used properly, this can create very interesting and hair-raising scenarios. The battle I'm showcasing is a 'pre-made' scenario. The unit positions are locked and the player is assigned to a HQ unit. It doesn't really matter here, because the user can create the exactly same situation straight out from the Battle Generator output, but I wanted the readers to be aware of the choices the game offers.
The battle is located east from the city of Fulda. There are two objectives that I must defend: 'AUTOBAHN' (north) and 'VILLAGE' (south). In the northern portion the objective is located in a critical autobahn and highway intersection. The southern objective is in a village surrounded by open fields. We must stop the enemy here so he cannot enter the more densely populated areas in the west. The Soviet deployment zone is a few kilometers to east. It's dominated by the forested hill in the north. It's not optimal terrain for a mechanized force, and should be a good observation post for our infiltrators. There's a valley in the middle of the deployment zone, and elevation rises gently in the south. The municipality of Dipperz is in this area, and a highway that is a straight connection to our objective AUTOBAHN. I'm fairly certain that the Soviet mechanized force will follow the highway and tries to avoid the hill and other high elevation terrain. If they will reach the northern autobahn intersection they may try to flank the other objective in south. There's no doubt that some of his force will be heading straight for the objective VILLAGE, probably avoiding the hills in the southern edge of the map.
In Armored Brigade, waypoints can be placed without allowing the unit to immediately execute the path plan. This is done by disabling the waypoints when they're added, and activating them later when the player thinks the time is right. By doing it this way there's no command delay if the waypoint was placed in the setup phase. If the disabled waypoint is placed in the action phase, the command delay must pass before the order will be ready to be executed. About the command delay we can say now that it's based on the faction attributes, radios, nearby HQ units etc. So, when I want to add a new disabled waypoint, I select the waypoint type and then I hold down the 'ctrl' key and click on the map to place the waypoint. That's it. Later, when I want to activate the waypoint, I hold down the 'ctrl' key again and click on the waypoint. Simple?
As the heavy hitter in this scenario, I have a dug-in M1A1 tank platoon. That can be a very nasty thing to have as your opponent, unless it's possible to destroy it with DPICM (Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition) artillery or air strikes. Our side has air superiority, so I'm not concerned about the air strikes, but the Soviet DPICM and rockets can make short work of them, and the tank platoon is an attractive target. That's why I need to plan a safe way out from the dug-in positions. The platoon is placed on a forward slope, and I want them to reverse back to the other side of the hill when it becomes too risky to stay there. For maximum protection, when they will abandon the positions, I'll order them to start the smoke generators and pop smoke. That's out of the scope of this article though. Now, I'm placing the 'reverse' waypoints by using the method I described earlier, with the first waypoint in the 'disabled' state. During the action, whenever I'll want them to start moving, I hold down the 'ctrl' key and click on the waypoint. If the tanks move backwards they don't have to expose their weaker side or rear armor. Note that many Soviet vehicles have an extremely slow reverse speed, so for them this tactic may require extra consideration.
The objective AUTOBAHN is defended by an M2A2 mechanized infantry platoon. They're armed with the TOW-2A, that is a powerful long-range anti-tank missile. Ideally the targets should be engaged from a distance that's close to the missile maximum range, which is 3750 meters. Their 25mm M242 chain gun is very effective against lightly armored vehicles. Now, here's the dilemma. Should the vehicles stay close to the infantry and support them, or should the vehicles leave the dug-in infantry and move to positions where they can use their powerful weapons for maximum effect? In Armored Brigade, when a unit abandons its fortified position there's no way to re-enter it. The infantry is well hidden from the enemy when dug-in. Minefields are laid in front of the mechanized platoon's position. The platoon is thus able to overwatch them, and the general rule is that no obstacle should be left without attention.
In the south, the objective VILLAGE has another mechanized platoon, but the vehicles are much simpler M113s. They don't have any anti-tank capabilities, so I cannot even think about using them to destroy enemy armored vehicles. So, as an option, I could withdraw them to safety, and later support the infantry with their heavy machine guns. If they will meet any AT weapons the M113s will be instantly wiped off. This objective has some villages with light buildings close by. The minefields should slow down the enemy dismounts before they can enter the village complex. Again, the infantry is overwatching the obstacles. Hopefully the enemy will be stopped before getting this far. The mines make it harder for him to flank this position by sticking close to the southern edge of the map.
Behind the objective VILLAGE there's a hill and a section of M901A1 ITVs (Improved TOW Vehicles). From this hill they can engage the enemy up to almost the TOW-2 maximum range. That's great, but they'll inevitably attract the enemy artillery at some point, so I've done the same I did with the M1A1 tanks, and planned an escape route for them. However, when they will leave the dug-in positions they lose one of their advantages, which is the small 'turret'. It's hard to hit the vehicle as long as it is hull-down, but otherwise it's a fragile box, just like the M113.
I have ordered the dismounted recon section to hold fire, since this is an excellent position for observing the enemy advancing in the valley. I wish their vehicles won't run into these scout teams, as there are roads next to them. One kilometer west from the scouts are TOW-2 ATGM teams overwatching the highway. They may be able to kill a good number of vehicles, especially if they will be able to stay hidden and use their LAWs to engage the enemy if he decides to follow the road close to the map edge. I see at least three options here. I could let them fire at will, order them to wait until the enemy is on the highway in front of them or tell them to hold fire until I will give an order to open fire. The last option is very effective for creating an ambush. I'm trying to make them use as much of their precious ammunition before the teams are detected and lost.
The forested hill in the northern region of the enemy deployment zone offers us interesting tactical opportunities. I've decided to send the mechanized recon section around the hill. In case they'll make it there alive, they may be able to see what's been hiding in the enemy rear. I don't know what will happen right after the setup phase, so I want to make my plan as flexible as possible. On the one hand, I want them to execute my carefully placed waypoint plan without a delay if I'll see it to be the best course of action. Again, I disable the first waypoint. If I wanted I could add more disabled waypoints along the path, so the scout section would wait for my command before proceeding. The section formation type is set to 'march', and that makes them follow the road without me placing waypoints on every road bend. I could have used less waypoints than I did here, but I'm satisfied with this as the initial plan. The waypoint type is 'scout', which makes the units advance more cautiously, and the vehicles can pop smoke and move out of the LOS if they detect an enemy.
About 500 meters south is a dismounted scout section. They're nicely placed, one of them being in a large warehouse with an excellent view to the expected enemy approach. I could leave them here, or I could take a risk and order them to 'infiltrate' the north hill, potentially giving me more options later in the battle. The chance for success depends on the infiltrator's training level and on how deep in the enemy deployment zone the target location is. If a hostile unit has a LOS to the unit in the destination then the attempt will fail. I use the LOS tool to make sure that the target location is not seen from a distance. Dense forest is an ideal place. I select the formation and the 'infiltrate' command, and click on the target location. The circle size and color depend on the success rate and the area where the unit will likely end up, if successful.
Last but definitely not least, I've assigned myself to the leading HQ unit. What I'll hear from my speakers depends on what is heard in this position. I'll probably be hearing a wall of noise from distant armored vehicles. My anti-aircraft missile team has dismounted and has climbed to the roof of the warehouse, that offers a good observation post forward. As our side has air superiority, the unit has a very limited use in this scenario. There's a section of heavy mechanized mortars close to my command post. They may be able to provide support for the infantry defending the objectives. The infantry and mortars are within my command radius, so I can give them HQ contact bonus if the enemy will assault the objective locations.
I'm planning the TRPs and artillery fire missions. The fire missions that are planned in the setup phase have no delay, but since we don't know where the enemy is they're of limited use. The first thing to do is to designate TRPs, to minimize the fire mission delay in critical hot spots. I'm expecting the enemy to be in the points along the highway, so I'm placing the TRPs there. As the indirect fire observers in these locations, I have scout units with radios but unfortunately no HQ units. In the game, HQ units and the 'player character' are the best artillery and mortar observers, and should be used for maximum indirect fire accuracy. I have just two TRPs available, so I'll need to be careful. The green crosshairs are the TRPs, and the dashed circles are their maximum radiuses.
Finally, there's a pair of AH-1F Cobra helicopter gunships that need to have their battle positions (BP, the blue dashed circles) and TRPs (the blue crosshairs) designated in the setup phase. When the helicopter flight is called, it flies low level to the BP 1 and keeps "popping up" there, each time trying to get a line of sight to the TRP 1. The maximum helicopter pop-up altitude is 50 meters. In the air support menu, the player can order the helicopters to move to the BP 2 to overwatch the TRP 2. HQ units and the 'player character' unit can call helicopters for help. If there's an on-map helicopter flight available, it will fly to a position close to the caller, and engages any enemies there.
Hopefully this brief glance succeeded in making you more familiar with the possibilities and tactical depth Armored Brigade possesses. Thanks for reading.