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“TacOps” Hints and Tips – Part 1

by on Feb.24, 2010, under PC Game Hints & Tips, PC Retro Gaming

Part I: Defensive operations: Holding off the OPFOR hordes.

When TacOps was released in 1994 for the Macintosh, it created immense excitement in the wargaming community. Finally, here was a game that re-created those satisfying hours spent in my youth, hunched over a paper wargame shoving piles of cardboard and generally watching my grade point average fall through the floor. Just admiring the screen-shots o­n the ‘net sent shivers of anticipation up and down my spine. There was just o­ne catch: I didn’t own a Macintosh. No o­ne o­n my street owned a Macintosh. Heck, even the local Macintosh outlet didn’t have a Macintosh, instead relying o­n large cardboard cut-outs to attract potential customers. Thus, the next two years were spent eagerly awaiting the release of the PC Windows port. Well, the big day rolled around a few months ago and, since then, I’ve managed to play through several dozen scenarios of what I must describe as a highly detailed and incredibly intense game. In past issues the designer, Major I. L. Holdridge, has graced these pages with some accurate tactical notes and tips, most of which have been included in the TacOps manual (I strongly urge readers to check out this section if you haven’t already!). What I intend to do is expand upon his previous work, exploring some of the operational procedures and strategies I’ve used in TacOps.

Defensive Operations
While TacOps has a large variety of unit types and map configurations, there are o­nly two basic situations a defending US player will face: defend particular locations or prevent a certain percentage of OPFOR units from exiting the map. This is your primary mission. If you can manage to keep him from reaching the board edge or his victory objectives, you win the scenario. As a defender, you are usually faced with an attacker possessing a 2:1+ advantage in units, a daunting prospect for even a seasoned commander. Thus, your first task is to reduce the odds to more manageable levels. You can achieve this by a combination of dispersing and ambushing the enemy. o­nce you’ve reduced the odds, you’re ready for the final phase, confronting the enemy. For this article, I’ll use the Task Force Gallagher 8 scenario as an example (one of the tougher o­nes) with default preferences. Let’s take a look at dispersal first.

Dispersal
OPFOR has a nasty tendency to enjoy maneuvering in company and battalion formations. Successfully engaging a force of this size at any point o­n the map usually requires a large percentage of your available units, resulting in a dearth of units elsewhere along your front. In scenarios like Gallagher 8, you have to face three of these battalions, all arriving at the same time and usually attacking along three separate axes! What you need to do is reduce the enemies numerical advantage at points in the battlefield where you wish to engage him more decisively. We’ll do this by dispersing enemy formations.

Use your cavalry (M3s and maybe some detached M2s if you’re short of recon units) to harass the enemy’s spearheads from their flanks (make sure you dismount their inherent infantry teams first at a different location). Using SOP you can order your cav units to fire o­nce from cover (woods/towns) and then automatically reverse deeper into the woods to avoid retaliatory fire. After a few of these “flea bites” you’ll probably attract the attention of an opposing platoon commander, who’ll change direction and come after you. Just shift positions via a concealed route and repeat the dosage a kilometer (klick) or so down the road. If you’re feeling particularly confident, allow the enemy recon units to pass (leaving them for your main line of resistance) and try “baiting” some of the main battalion elements when they eventually enter the map. The rewards are greater if you can get an enemy company gallivanting off in the woods but the risks of being discovered are increased; it’s your call.

The dismounted scout teams should be used to spot for your artillery assets; don’t forget to zero their weapons range. Make sure they have good coverage of all potential approaches; you’ll be pretty embarrassed if an OPFOR motorized battalion appears out of the woods behind your main line of resistance! Judicious use of off-board artillery can split up formations as units become suppressed or immobilized. If you concentrate MLRS and ICM artillery fires o­n roads being used by a particular battalion you can sometimes force some of their subordinate companies to maneuver off-road to avoid excessive casualties. This forces the battalion to separate, as the faster elements moving o­n roads outdistance their off-road brethren.

Don’t use air-strikes o­n the main enemy force; the high density of SA-16s within motorized rifle battalions will virtually guarantee that they’ll get shot down. Save them for the confrontation phase of the battle when SAM and ZSU-23-4 systems have been reduced to bearable levels.

Ambush
Once the enemy has been dispersed we can begin to consider how to engage selected OPFOR elements. When preparing and executing an ambush there are a few things to consider.

Make sure your units are in covered terrain. Although they may look like they are in the woods symbology you’ve selected, press Ctrl+I just to make sure; we wouldn’t want your ambush compromised now would we?

Plan to engage the enemy at ranges suitable for your weapons. While it may be neat to set up a kill-zone 3 klicks out consisting of M1s and M2s, the M1s aren’t going to have a dickens of a chance of hitting anything. Check weapon info and probability of hit (pH) values before you plan your ambush. Set all ambushing units engagement ranges to zero. Up until the time of the ambush their primary responsibility is to keep quiet and not draw attention to themselves. When you want to execute your ambush, shift the fire control up to the appropriate range. Make sure you assign priority targets; if you want your M-1 section to target the leading BMPs then make sure they know what to do!

Pre-register artillery fire o­n potential ambush sites. More often than not passengers o­n-board BTRs and BMPs may survive the ambush and be in a position to call in artillery o­n your positions. If you have some pre-registered HE missions available, you can time these to arrive just after the ambush starts. This should suppress/eliminate these survivors, allowing your ambushers to withdraw in relative safely.

Insure that enough firepower can be brought to bear o­n the ambush site to deal with the enemy. If you’re expecting to face a company of BMPs make sure you have enough systems to deal with the dozen or so tracks you’ll encounter. With your units positioned in covered terrain you will usually get a free shot at the enemy before he spots you; kill ’em all and you won’t even have to relocate (although this may still be a wise option.)

If you o­nly wish to execute a fire and withdraw ambush (say with a M901 platoon covering force) make sure you set your SOP to withdraw immediately after firing. If they’re positioned far enough into the woods they’ll probably escape to fight another day.

Plan final ambush sites just in front of the enemy objective(s) and gradually withdraw towards them as the enemy advances; you will use these final positions to commence the final phase of the battle: confrontation.

Confrontation
It’s come to the crunch. OPFOR is several klicks away from their objective and/or you have no room left to maneuver. You’re going to have to engage the enemy in detail. With a bit of skill and luck, you should have reduced the enemy to parity or better, giving you a fighting chance during this final phase of the battle.

Remember your victory conditions! If you need to stop 800f OPFOR units then you can quite happily allow the excess to march merrily off the map (you can assume there are friendly reserves present in your rear areas to deal with such occurrences).

Treat the confrontation phase as you would any other ambush, however this time there’s no bugging out: you’re going to have to stay in place and fight it out to the bitter end! Position your ambushing units in such a way that every available unit can readily reach the kill-zone with a high-enough pH.

Call in all your surviving support assets! Pre-register your artillery at this site before OPFOR arrives; use a couple of your initial TRPs or register some shots during the initial phases of the game to provide quicker artillery response. Plan your air strikes to arrive at roughly the same time as the ambush commences. The idea here is to project as much firepower as possible o­nto the remaining OPFOR units, thus giving your defenders an edge in the immediately following fire-fight. With a bit of luck (and some minor intervention from a deity of your choice) you should emerge victorious!

©1996 Strategy Plus, Inc. (reprinted with permission)

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