When I was starting out in this game, I was pretty confused about what to do once the battle started. I'd have greatly benefited from a basic tactics & strategy guide, but there wasn't one, so... "Gotta do it yerself". I hope this will help some newer players joining this little community.
I thought it would be best to start off with the different types of units. Some of them bridge the gaps between categories, but for the most part I sort them by their usual role in battle.
a.) Combat Vehicles - vehicles specifically intended for combat with other vehicles or infantry - tanks, armored cars, self-propelled artillery, self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, aircraft, flamethrower tanks, and tank destroyers.
b.) Utility / Transport Vehicles - vehicles mainly intended for transport of material or equipment, but sometimes equipped with a weapon for self-defense - transport trucks, fuel trucks, engineering trucks, supply trucks, half-tracks, scout cars, regular trucks.
c.) Unmotorized Combat Units - combat units that are usually unarmored, or lightly armored, but which have very powerful [usually ranged] weapons - stationary MG's, artillery pieces, anti-tank guns, and mortars.
d.) Utility Units / Special - non-combat units which are unmotorized and usually only serve one unique purpose; i.e. Ammo Crates.
e.) Infantry Units - [Generally] unmotorized units of soldiers armed with small-calibre rifles, pistols, submachine guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, or [in rare cases] hand-held anti-tank weapons. Comes in sub-categories for specialist roles, but, in general, they fight other infantry.
I think that covers them all. Now, let's get into their use.
Unit Roles: Combat Vehicles
Combat Vehicle tactics:
These vehicles should be the focus of your battle. Their weapons render infantry almost helpless, and their armor renders them nigh invincible to anything but dedicated anti-vehicular weapons. They are very fragile in some situations, however; a single Molotov cocktail could light the vehicle ablaze, a single infantryman with an AT rifle could disable it, and driving into a minefield is always a danger. So, they should be kept further back than the infantry in as many situations as possible, for, though their weapons can shoot much further, their view range is less than the infantry.
From a German armored officer training manual:
"In combined operations with infantry or armored infantry, you must make certain that the arms stick close together; only so can they help each other and achieve success.Which of the two is leading is a secondary matter; what must be known is that it is the intention of the enemy to separate them and that you must prevent this in all circumstances. Your battlecry must be “Protect the Infantry!” and the infantry’s battlecry is “Protect the Tanks!”"
The one situation in which infantry should follow the tanks would be if you MUST cross open ground. Then, your armored vehicles should at all costs use their weapons to eliminate any enemy positions covering the open ground. They should then immediately find cover, though, for their limited visibility may have caused them to miss a few enemy troops. Any casualties your vehicles suffer will be worth it compared to the havoc even a single machine gun could have wrought among your infantry while they crossed the open ground. Some vehicles or weapons can fire smoke projectiles which can cover advance across open ground, but these are not as effective as the enemy already being dead.
When advancing through any type of ground, you must plan each move as a simple maneuver from Cover A to Cover B. A tank which meanders straight at an objective will at some point be caught out in the open and destroyed. Keeping an eye open for potential enemy AT positions and fields of fire is essential to anticipate any enemy strongpoints.
In combat with other vehicles, they must either be AT FULL STOP BEHIND COVER, ducking back in to reload, or, AT FULL SPEED FIRING WITH ALL WEAPONS. From the same manual:
"In the attack drive as fast as you can. At slow speed you can see and shoot only a little better than at high, and are much more likely to be hit. For a tank there should be only two speeds: the stop (for firing!) and all out forward. Ammunition fired on the move is wasted. This is the basic principal of tank combat!"
In defensive positions, tanks must be behind or in cover. Whether this be a house, a small hill, or a fence, you MUST learn the difference between cover and concealment. A concealed tank that is not behind cover is instantly vulnerable once it opens fire or is spotted, whereas a tank in a hull-down position can fire safely, knowing that only its turret should be exposed.
Unit Roles: Utility /Transport Vehicles
An army which is composed of only infantry and tanks will always either overextend itself or run out of supplies. It must have some form of supply backup and/or way of getting around. Call to Arms: Gates of Hell Ostfront is a game which is unique in that it has a huge range of vehicles to satisfy every need of an army. These must, however, be used properly.
General categories of utility & transport:
a.) Raw Transport
Trucks, cars & halftracks, unarmored and unarmed. High capacity of infantry and can usually tow anti-tank guns or artillery.
These should only be used as back-line units; only in an E X T R E M E scenario should they be used as attacking units, for a single anti-tank shell or grenade could wipe out an entire squad of passengers. However, they are indispensable in the role of carrying otherwise sluggish units such as infantry and artillery to their positions quickly at the start of a match - an essential task for any commander who wants to capture objectives in good haste. It is usually a good idea to have 1 motorized transport of some type per infantry unit if you want to be able to execute mobile warfare.
b.) Combat Transport -
Generally armored units [halftracks, usually] which carry weapons that can be used in offense. Can also tow artillery. These can be used as far more aggressive transports than their unarmored counterparts; in addition, their weapons give them the ability to carry out the occasional independent sortie. They should by no means be considered invincible, though; their open tops and comparatively light armor to tanks make them unable to resist more than small-arms fire. They are, however, particularly useful in ferrying infantry across open ground into cover.
c.) Supply/Utility/Other -
Usually trucks which carry goods/equipment to help keep the front line fighting. These are especially volatile due to their [often] explosive cargo. But any war effort expends gasoline and bullets, and the fuel truck and supply truck, respectively, help with those issues. Just make sure to keep them well out of front-line fighting. One exception is the Engineering Truck, which comes with two Engineers who can dig trenches, build obstacles and plant mines. Bring this truck to the front only for those three purposes, but only in lulls between fighting, and always withdraw it to a safe location afterwards.
Unit Roles: Unmotorized Combat Units
These fall into three main categories:
a.) Artillery Pieces
These immensely powerful weapons can deal ridiculous amounts of damage from obscene ranges. They generally also have little armor and an extensive reload, making them ill suited for front-line work, with a few exceptions in the form of Infantry Guns (small artillery pieces which can be moved by hand but have shorter range). Artillery is actually quite specialized, being extremely effective at bombarding enemy positions or blanketing an area in death prior to an assault by a main force, but less suited to engaging single enemy units directly. They are best used far back from the actual battle, or at least thoroughly dug in, where they cannot be damaged by enemy fire. Be careful that you only fire them at targets away from friendly units except in an emergency, as shots can occasionally go awry and hit any of your own troops, causing horrific casualties.
b.) Anti-Tank Guns
Anti-tank guns came into being after the Germans, at the Somme, encountered the British Mk.1 Landship. The only things capable of stopping the rampaging steel beasts were the Germans' 7.7cm field artillery pieces. The world then learned the lesson that a dedicated medium-calibre gun would be needed to specifically stop tanks. In Gates of Hell: Ostfront, anti-tank guns of both the Russians and the Soviets are low-profile, 4-man affairs which can knock out enemy tanks in a single hit, and can also fire High-Explosive shells at infantry. They are best used as defensive weapons, but given that they can be quickly moved into position, they can also accompany an attack and fend off a counterattack. Since they have relatively good range, they can be placed in cover a little ways away from any perceived attack, so long as they have a good field of fire. This means being, for example, emplaced in a defilade pointing across an open field. This is the gun's killing ground; any tank will be hard-pressed to hit them and harder pressed still to avoid being destroyed. When encountering an enemy anti-tank gun, you must flank it with a unit of some sort. Any unit can kill an anti-tank gun's crew, and if possible, capture it, but almost no unit can cross the gun's killing ground without suffering debilitating casualties.
c.) Infantry-portable Pieces
The advent of the portable machine gun and mortar meant that a far wider array of tactical options were available to a commander. A machine gun could provide cover fire one moment, and dig in the next to defend against a counterattack; a mortar could eliminate a troublesome foxhole from a distance one moment, and then be placed in that very foxhole the next. Stationary machine guns on tripods in Gates of Hell: Ostfront are far more accurate than hand-held ones. They should be taken along with an attacking force as a tool to defend against counterattacks, for they cannot be easily maneuvered.
Mortars, on the other hand, do not need direct lines of fire and can shoot over obstacles. You should always keep them at least one hill away from the enemy. In the defense, both these are invaluable tools, particularly when you are faced with swarms of infantry. A mortar can kill a large number if they are clustered closely enough together, and even sweep an objective clear if one has already been overrun, so keep your mortars together in a battery to concentrate their fire.
Unit Roles: Infantry
Types of Infantry
Your basic, run-of-the-mill default troops. Usually armed with a Kar98K and a grenade or two. Amazing at defense against infantry, due to the high single-shot damage of bolt action rifles, but are nigh helpless at close range. Plenty of free inventory space to pick up other weapons, though.
Machine Gunners / Ammo Bearers
The last word in anti-infantry warfare. MG gunners can lay down brutal, unrelenting fields of fire and render a piece of open ground into a graveyard. Ammo bearers are riflemen who carry additional ammunition for the gunner, and so should stay close to them.
Ostfront has a 'downed' mechanic like many other games, and, like in those others, only specific persons can 'revive' these casualties. The medic carries a ridiculous amount of bandages, which he can drop on the ground for other troops to pick up, and carries a pistol, which is a respectable weapon at close range. If you drop a few bandages, they can pick up a rifle, too.
The medium ground between anti-tank guns and infantry. Basic units carry large-calibre rifles which can damage lighter vehicles and disable heavier ones from considerable range, and which are very cheap. Later-war troops carry rocket launchers, anti-tank grenades, shaped charges, and the like, all of which require getting closer than usual to an enemy tank.
A unit with a unique ability, the officer is only a single man, but this one man comes with a pair of binoculars that can spot enemy units in trenches or in concealment, finely control friendly units, and issue orders to attack ground instead of simply moving to it.
Submachine Gunners / Assault Rifle Infantry
Bridging the gap between machine guns and bolt-action rifles, the submachine gunner is very useful on the offense, as with large magazine capacity he can sweep a space clear of enemies without having to reload.
The ultimate in room-clearing and short range combat, the flamethrower has very short range but can light enemies ablaze, regardless of whether or not they are armored. Being lit afire by a flamethrower does devastating damage to infantry, biting away most of their health in a few seconds, and the flamethrower almost never has to reload.
With a trench pickaxe and deep pockets carrying many defensive structures, the engineer can block roads, mine fields, set up barbed wire to trap infantry, dig trenches and foxholes, and generally be extremely helpful to any defensive action. They should be kept more in reserve, as their construction talents are far more helpful than having an extra rifle or two.
Reconnaissance / Snipers / Special Forces
These units are all highly trained, well disciplined troops which are extremely proficient at their given tasks. Snipers can instantly kill enemy infantry with a headshot, reconnaissance units have very low spotting range (making it easier to sneak around), and special forces units have advanced late-war weaponry such as the Stg-44, firearms with silencers (allowing for stealth kills) and large amounts of explosives.
Tactics: Blitzkrieg / Combined Arms Warfare
The mainstay doctrine of the First World War was thus; "First, following a preliminary artillery bombardment, the infantry advance towards an objective, consolidating each move with a dug-in position in case of counterattack. Second, once they are either halted or reach their objective, they stop and wait for the artillery to be drawn up by the army's horses. Only once the artillery is repositioned and ready to provide the initial bombardment can the next assault begin."
Can you spot the biggest problems with this doctrine?
Take a few seconds...
The biggest issue is the fact that infantry are slow. Artillery, too, is even slower. So, not only can the infantry not cover much ground, but as soon as they are stopped, for example by a single machine gun which the artillery missed, they are on their own; for they are out of range of their artillery. They can then be easily dislodged with a counterattack. But even if they do manage to reach their objective, what then? They must wait for their artillery to be brought up to advance again, making each attack incapable of following through with a victorious charge.
What are some solutions for this?
The tank provides the answer to machine guns, and if the infantry manages to break through they can exploit the breach and wreak havoc behind the enemy's lines.
The infantry is still slow to maneuver, however, and very vulnerable on their own when they advance.
The armored personnel carrier solves this problem, by not only motorizing the infantry and the artillery (which can be towed), but making each advance across open ground a decidedly safer affair.
With the advent of the aircraft, the artillery's role in battle fell back to a position of less than great importance, given the airplane's far superior mobility.
But, one last question remains - how do these forces work in tandem to maximize the effect of a successful attack?
Military minds such as J.F.C. Fuller and Heinz Guderian have provided an answer, in the form of mechanized warfare. This will be the finest arrow in your quiver, the strongest weapon in your arsenal, when doing battle against the enemy. However, its success or failure depends upon sterling cooperation between the four aforementioned branches.
Blitzkrieg, specifically, relies upon three things: Reconnaissance, speed, and follow-through.
The first can be accomplished simply by taking a cursory glance at your battlefield before moving up your troops, taking in particular terrain features which could help you advance without being exposed to enemy fire. These features might include riverbeds, defilades or hills which extend a ways in either direction, valleys, or small villages. These can be used especially effectively when flanking an enemy position, for their heavy weapons (AT guns, heavy machine guns, etc) are usually trained on an open field through which they expect you to advance. From the aforementioned officer training manual:
"Before any attack acquaint yourself with the ground. Use the information provided by other units or by the map.Share this information with your subordinate commanders.Exact information and correct estimation of the terrain will be the decisive difference between victory and defeat."
The second can be handily done through proper assignment of motorized units to infantry units. As a rule of thumb, there should be 1x truck, tank or half-track for every 1x squad of infantry and their one accompanying artillery piece. This means that your entire force can move around a battlefield with incredible ease, crossing long distances in a fraction of the time any troops on foot could have. This freedom of movement is especially critical in Gates of Hell: Ostfront, where most battles are decided by how quickly one side can capture a given number of positions.
The last is simply a matter of mopping up enemy resistance after the main flanking action or breakthrough; armored units are particularly efficient at this, as they have high mobility (giving them the ability to chase down retreating enemies), armor (to prevent any piecemeal enemy resistance from doing much damage to friendly troops), and, finally, a variety of weapons to demolish most objects of value to the enemy. 'Follow-through' is important simply because without pursuing the enemy as far as possible, they are allowed to dig in once more and continue resisting your advance. With panzers constantly nipping at their heels, though, they will find no respite.
So, in summary:
So long as you follow these simple rules, Blitzkrieg will be your guiding principle in doing battle. However, the entire doctrine depends upon the presence of tanks, infantry, artillery and/or planes, when sometimes, you have just some combination of two, or only a single type. War is never predictable, and not every assault will have access to a full army's worth of units.
Tactics: Infantry Attacks
This situation - one in which you only have effectively foot soldiers to fight in a modern war - usually only occurs because someone failed to escort their tanks with infantry.
It's effectively a throwback to the butchering of the First World War - unless you learn the appropriate lessons from the failures of those generals.
a.) Not Properly Using Cover.
These soldiers of yesteryear advanced across bare, featureless ground with absolutely no terrain irregularities besides the occasional shell crater. This meant that enemy machine gunners had total and complete coverage of their sectors.
b.) No Possibility of Flanking.
The whole purpose of the trench line is to eliminate the enemy's chance of performing a flanking action. In Gates of Hell: Ostfront, there is, mercifully, never enough time for the enemy to dig in to that extent.
These two factors can be nullified completely by doing two things:
- Advancing infantry from one piece of cover to the other, and, if you have 2 units advancing in tandem, have one leapfrog over the other, which will provide covering fire from their positions.
- If there is a piece of terrain such as a riverbed or a line of houses that can shield your infantry up to the moment they arrive on the objective, use it! This will be the factor which makes the battle a victory or a defeat.
Tactics: Tank-Only Attacks
If you have made an error so horrific that every single man out of your tanks' accompanying infantry has died, then you are better off withdrawing to cut your losses. However, that is not an option in Gates of Hell: Ostfront, meaning that you will have to tough it out.
Now, there are two courses of action:
Course 1 I like to call 'Rambo', or, rather 'Rämbo', and it means committing every single armored unit in an all-out assault at once, from all directions, in an assault so ferocious that it will overwhelm any enemy anti-tank weapons. You will have to push all your tanks to full speed, maneuvering around obstacles to present the most difficult target to enemy anti-tank guns, firing all the while, particularly with smoke shells, and ONLY stopping once every last one of their men are dead.
Course 2 is the more cautious approach; pick out the fastest of your units, regardless of armor, crew it with a single man (the driver) and sprint around at top speed gaining information about enemy positions. This will simulate, but not replace, the role of infantry; men on foot have greater view and spotting range than men peering through armored view slits in tanks. This will allow you to plan the wisest course of action, hopefully without many casualties.
Tactics: Tips in General (with context)
19. Never split your combat power; that is to say, do not employ parts of the company in such a manner that they cannot support each other. When your attack has two objectives you should attack first one and then the other with all weapons. In this way you will more certainly end up with both objectives in hand and fewer casualties.
e.g. NEVER decide (even when you're doing co-op against dumb AI) to attack both points at once.
26. After a victorious battle; i.e. the seizure of a bridge or the occupation of a village, keep your helmets on. That is to say, prepare for a counterattack which will certainly come, perhaps in a different place than you expect. Later you can collect the spoils of victory.
e.g. ALWAYS dig in and prepare your troops to repel an enemy attack, by micromanaging each man so that he is behind cover but has good fields of fire. Having an engineer (or just someone with a Trench Pickaxe) is useful because they can prepare some positions on an otherwise bare and defenseless position.
In a defense or security mission place your tanks so that not only their firepower, but also their shock action can be brought into play. Also, leave only a few tanks in stationary firing positions. Keep most as mobile reserves under cover. Tanks defend aggressively!
e.g. Sure, tanks can be used as stationary mini-bunkers, but that's negating their greatest asset - their mobility. They should be kept mobile, for while a bunker can't turn around and defend against an enemy flanking maneuver, a tank can.
Well, that's about all I can think of at the moment - let me know in the comments if there's anything I should add.