Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hex War Games - Right Unit for the Job

Generally speaking, when attacking or defending, the smartest action involves using the best unit type against the enemy unit.  These are not always clear cut, but the following recommendations make good generalization.

vs. Infantry
Unlike most of the other units, the power of infantry lies on the terrain it occupies.  If in the enemy is in the open, hit infantry with armor, artillery or air units.  In any other terrain, it requires a combination of units to bring infantry down.  This is due to the fact nearly every other terrain allows infantry to sneak behind and get close to the attacking unit, except in Open terrain where there is no cover.  In jungle terrain, infantry are the best unit to use against other infantry units, although mobility becomes difficult.

vs. Armor
When combating armor in open terrain, use artillery, anti-tank guns, and other armor to bring them down.    In the case of anti-tank guns, attempt to provide them concealment to ambush the tanks.  If given notice of where the AT guns are located, armor can either engage the enemy AT guns from a distance or stay out of reach and bypass them.  Even Self-Propelled AT Guns are only good in ambush as they must rotate the entire vehicle to engage the tank.

If armor is in a city or any other terrain type, infantry are by far the best unit.  When in enclosed terrain, such as cities or forests, tanks suffer from many blind spots.  Additionally, infantry can rise up from beneath the belly of the tank (think sewers or mines), or they can fire down from the tops of tall buildings. 

vs. Artillery
Best use against artillery is to get in close and hit it with anything.  Even during the Civil War, when artillery was armed with canister rounds which would shred infantry to pieces, the long reload time of artillery meant if the infantry held together they could usually take the pieces, if the artillery was unsupported.

Otherwise, the best unit to hit Artillery is probably air units or other artillery units.  If there is insufficient Air Defense units, artillery are a sitting duck for aircraft.  Artillery should be at the top of the list of units to destroy.  Without artillery, attacks will eventually falter and defenses will eventually fall.

Artillery does have one very weak spot that, if the game allows for it, should be exploited: the baggage train.  Armor can carry jerrycans of fuel and attacks generally have enough fuel to attack in and, if it falters, flee back.  Infantry can carry days or weeks worth of supplies, plus small infantry units can always "live off the land" if there is sufficient livestock nearby.  And in close in fighting a person with a pitchfork can be as deadly as a man with a pistol.

Artillery, however, must have a constant supply of ammunition to be effective.  Furthermore, the munitions themselves are explosives.  Destroying this "baggage train" of explosives, or even disrupting the supply line for a turn or two, can remove artillery's effectiveness and leaves the artillery canon unscathed for capture.

vs. Air Units
The effectiveness of Air Units will differ depending on the era.  WWI aircraft were effective at spotting for Artillery, tracking enemy movements and possibly attacking ammunition depots.  The ability to track enemy movements was, by itself, enough of a threat to make taking down aircraft an important goal.  One important development in WWI aircraft was the creation of specialized "roles": Fighters, Bombers, Spotters, and Recon.

By WWII aircraft came into their own.  American aircraft were the primary means by which they defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).  Strategic Bombing changed the face of warfare, bringing the concept of "total war" to fruition, making every person a subject to the pains of war.

There are two primary defenses against Aircraft: Air Defense Guns (AD, includes Surface to Air Missiles for purposes of this discussion) and other fighter aircraft.  Of the two, fighter aircraft are the most effective at shooting down other fighters in interception-based engagements.  However, AD can be extremely effective in defense of a given point.

This sounds confusing, but basically AD guns are static and can only defend a given area around the gun.  Aircraft have the ability of engaging the incoming enemy at any point in the enemy flight path, as long as the enemy can be identified.  Thus, if defending a given point or unit, such as a supply depot, large numbers of AA units surrounding the area will provide adequate defense.  If the need is to attack high flying bombers out of the range of AD units, other aircraft become a necessity.

vs. Ships
The best units against ships is a submarine.  But against a fleet of ships, I recommend aircraft.  Left to their own devices, the best way to attack a ship is to put a submarine just off the path of the ship.  The submarine simply waits, and then ambushes the ship, remaining silent and hidden the entire time.  The trick becomes predicting what the enemy ship's path will be, as the enemy will zig-zag the course.  Although capable of moving underwater, submarines are to slow to catch even the smallest of ships without surfacing, thereby losing their advantage.

The second best method is with Aircraft, if they are available.  Aircraft can fly high above the target, and attack ships with either bombs or torpedoes.  If in a fleet, aircraft will have to attack en masse, relying on numbers to sink or damage the target.  Once spotted, a single aircraft will have difficulty escaping a fleet of specially armed AA destroyers, and if a carrier is nearby, one can expect a swarm of fighters to flood the area.

If playing prior to the introduction of aircraft or submarines, the best way to engage a ship is with a larger ship.  In the age of sail, positioning or "crossing the T" may make up the difference.  In this case, it is not the larger ship which makes the difference, but the number of canons which can be brought to bear on the enemy ship/fleet at one time.  This is much harder to calculate, and where one must use judgement.

vs. Submarines
Post-WWII, the best anti-submarine weapons is another submarine, preferably an attack submarine.  In a pinch: aircraft, destroyers, and even some cruisers have anti-submarine weaponry.  During diesel age of submarines, the best weapon was the aircraft.  A submarine was force to charge its batteries and much of its "strategic" movement was performed on the surface.  Aircraft were best at ambushing these machines while they were on the surface.  In all those cases, however, their effectiveness depends on number of units, quality of units, and luck.

Oddly, submarines are the best way to sink an enemy submarine, but a fleet of anti-submarine ships is the best way to suppress a submarines.  Place enough anti-submarine ships between the submarine and its desired target, and the submarine may give up.    Once detected, submarines must go defensive, their ability to attack diminishes greatly.    While a single ship attempts to engage the submarine, the fleet slips away.  Aircraft cannot maintain the constant contact and attack runs against submarines like specialized Anti-sub destroyers.

It is necessary to therefore determine the objective when dealing with submarines: is it to sink the submarine, or to protect the fleet.  If the former, it may require multiple ships, at the expense of leaving the fleet insufficiently guarded, and the submarine may still escape.  In the latter, it may take one or two fast destroyers and the fleet or convoy is perfectly safe.  Destroying a submarine may "feel good" to a player, but if it prevents the fleet from arriving on time to save the land troops, consider the victory a defeat.

vs. Cavalry
Cavalry represent a special case.  Cavalry combine elements of submarines and armor.  The best counter against cavalry in a straight up fight is infantry.  A solid infantry square of poorly led troops still  has good odds of defeating a cavalry charge.  This is because cavalry, once removed from their horses, are weak infantry.  Like armor, cavalry units need to engage units in the open, as the forest terrain breaks up the formation too much, while swamps, jungles and mountains will damage the mounts.  Unlike Armor, cavalry can rarely perform true 'breakthrough' attacks independently and wait for infantry reinforcements. Cavalry historically are used to either pin the enemy down until reinforcements arrive, harass the enemy baggage train, or finish off retreating units after they have already been routed.

However, Cavalry can provide fast support where needed.  This requires another quick unit to intercept and engage them before they can provide that support.  In this case, the best unit is another cavalry unit.  However, Cavalry on Cavalry exchanges will result in heavy losses from either other, and it is not always easy to determine which side will suffer.  Often times, simply engaging the cavalry to slow them down is enough to counteract their effects.  Thus, Cavalry can be a 'situation' unit, one which may be incredibly useful if in play, or completely ineffective.
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