Talking Tactics, Part Four
“Concealment.-An outstanding lesson of the present war is that, if their positions are accurately located, defending troops at the point of attack will be neutralized by an overwhelming air, artillery, or mortar bombardment….
Concealment must be obtained by the careful sighting and design of individual posts. Defended localities will be chosen primarily for their facilities of concealment, rather than for their field of fire. Concealment must not be jeopardized in order to obtain the “perfect” fire plan.”
Deploying as a defender in Chain of Command presents slightly different challenges to those of the attacker. Sometimes the role of attacker and defender is determined by the scenario; sometimes it will be the choice of one player to assume a stance which is initially defensive, allowing the enemy to make the initial advance, before then assuming the offensive. The following comments apply to the early stages of either scenario.
In Part Two of Talking Tactics we looked at ideal deployment points for both the attacker and defender. In both cases we sought to maximise the deployment options, specifically with regards getting troops into the firing line. However, as the defender this is not always the primary importance. As we have seen above, the 1944 British Army manual stresses concealment above the perfect fire plan. So, let us look at how we can amend the original Jump-Off marker placement in order to maximise concealment.
In the following diagram we can see the two foremost Jump-Off points have been dropped back slightly by around 4”. In both cases this reduces the area where troops can deploy along the hedgerow facing the enemy’s line of approach. However, it still is sufficient to allow a whole squad to deploy in either forward position, as we see indicated below by the solid white arrows.
By withdrawing the Jump-Off Points slightly we also find that the ability to deploy laterally, to move to the left or right is increased. What is more, these key points are better protected from a coup de main by the enemy who, with the initiative in his favour, may be inclined to rush forward to deny the defender their use. To do that now would involve significantly more movement and include the negotiation of obstacles. In this way, we have sacrificed slightly, but not significantly, our ability to deploy to the ideal firing position, but we have significantly improved our concealment as a result.
In Part Three of Talking Tactics we considered the attacker’s imperative to determine the defender’s position so that he could then best deploy his troops in order to achieve local superiority. We will look more at the importance of fire and movement to achieve this result in the next part of the series. For now, suffice to say that the defender should do all he can to retain as much of his force off-table, in reserve, until the attacker has shown his hand and committed his forces to the attack. By retaining a flexible reserve he may then direct these troops to the most advantageous point in order to block that move.
Let us look at what is possibly the defender’s worst scenario; facing an enemy deploying aggressive scouts probing towards the jump-off points. Here we see that with the map amended to show our better concealed Jump-Off Points:
By deploying small scouting units the attacker is placing the defender in a position where he eventually must deploy troops, or he will lose one or more Jump-Off points. By altering our deployment, the defender has made it much less likely that a lucky dash forward can shut down the Jump-Off Point, but that does not remove the threat entirely. In this situation there are several key tactical rules which the defender should observe:
1. If you have a sniper with your force, deploy him as soon as possible to fire against the scouts. Scouts are particularly susceptible to sniper attacks. With no Leader present they cannot go onto Overwatch and, as a result cannot spot the sniper. With double Shock being inflicted and the enhanced ability to kill the sniper is the perfect weapon for use against scouts.
2. When deploying against Scouts, attempt to counter two enemy thrusts with a single parry of your own. In the above example, the two most northerly enemy Scouts teams could be dealt with by deploying just one squad to face them.
3. NEVER deploy troops to fire on Scouts at a range over 18”. If you are obliged to deploy, do so at the last practical moment when you are almost guaranteed to eliminate the threat, thereby damaging your opponent’s Force Morale. By delaying the deployment of your troops for as long as possible, you are inviting your opponent to deploy his own force too quickly, giving you the upper hand.
4. Never over-react by deploying your best support weapons against Scouts. They are very dangerous opponents, but their teams are very small and very brittle. Deploying mortars or a tripod mounted machine gun against them is both unnecessary and unwise.
Of course not all enemy forces will deploy Scouts; some nations are more likely to do so that others due to their tactical doctrine. Where no Scouts are deployed the attacker should stuill consider all of the points outlined above. Again, NEVER deploy troops to fire at a range over 18”. Allow the enemy to come as close to your positions as will allow you the best possible shot. In many cases, delaying will not only reduce the range, but will likely see your enemy further from friendly cover, and, therefore, less able to retreat to safety. If you open fire as soon as he crosses a hedge he will simply move back across it to regain cover. Allow him to move into an exposed position with no nearby cover before committing your hand. As we will see in the next part of Talking Tactics, firefights are very dangerous situations for both sides, so stack the odds in your favour as far as is possible.
Most important of all, never deploy units onto the table until the moment you require them to act decisively. Defending troops deploying onto the table should only do so at the moment when they open fire or when they are committed to a close combat counter-attack immediately adjacent to a Jump-Off point.
In situations where an enemy has the advantage of firepower, be that mortars or tanks, the defender should avoid defending a perimeter which presents the enemy with an easy target. The best way to achieve that is to deploy as far as possible to your rear. The longer troops are in action, the less well-co-ordinated they become; the longer they advance without encountering an enemy, they more daring, or even reckless, they become. If we elect to deploy deeply, as shown on the following image, we are obliging them to advance almost the entire length of the table before we meet them with a co-ordinated response from close quarters.
As the enemy advance it is highly likely their cohesion will be reduced and they will not be able to respond with all of their firepower. We can see how, with short range firepower, the defenders are likely to cause maximum damage on the attacker. What is more, the selected deployment area means that at no point will enemy tanks have a direct line of sight to the defenders, and the attacking forces are too close to the defenders to call for supporting mortar fire, that is presuming that the Forward Observer is in a position to see the target, unlikely when they tend not to lead the advance!
It is vital to remember here that to defeat a force we are not seeking to kill every last man. As we saw in Part One of Talking Tactics:
“It is not necessary to kill or wound a man to defeat him. You can beat him equally well by destroying his morale, be removing his desire to go on fighting, by making him think he has been beaten.”
If the defender can amass sufficient firepower to hit the attacker’s morale hard, deploying deep can allow him to win whilst minimise his own casualties.
Of course the above doctrine does assume that, in most terrain, tanks are likely to allow the infantry to lead the way. However, if that is not the case then tanks are easy meat for infantry anti-tank weapons and their loss is a very effective way to lower your opponent’s Force Morale without damaging his core platoon. Either way, deploying in this manner does allow a weaker force to concentrate their resources whilst negating their opponent’s apparent superiority.
Concealment is the defender’s greatest weapon, especially when combined with well-sited defences and the ability to delay engaging the enemy until the most advantageous moment. Retention of reserves is, ultimately, key to holding the initiative at key moments in a battle which inherently favours your opponent in that respect. Remember:
“A highly trained enemy who can resist the temptation to blaze away whenever he sees a target, however, attractive, will be difficult to locate…careful control of fire in defence is vital”
In the next part of Talking Tactics we will look at fire and movement and why such tactics are at the heart of Chain of Command.