Editor’s Note: For this new multipart series, we asked US Marine Eric Glocker to combine his love of games and his marine training to provide a reference guide of battle tactics that could be implemented in the seminal strategy game Civilization V. Eric recently shared his thoughts about the historical accuracy (or in some cases, a lack thereof) in FPS games like the Call of Duty series. Eric also runs two of his own blogs on which he muses on cooking, eating, and drinking; and everything else under the sun, including video games.
Part 1: The Essential Art of War
Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Diplomacy is all well and good, but sometimes you have to follow the life style advice of Conan the Barbarian and “crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women” (or men for that matter–there were some bad ass warrior queens in ye olde days).
Tactics and technology go hand in hand in a grand strategy game like Civilization V, similar with resources. Even if you’re sitting on a pile of iron ore large enough to outfit a million men with arms and armor, if you don’t have the technology to smelt it, why waste your time? Choose your technology carefully, in a manner that will be supportive of your combat strategy.
Always remember that balance between civil and military functions is the key to success in Civilization; like in a real society, if a country focuses completely on its military it will quickly become backwards and regressive, or at the very least poor, impoverished and backwards technologically speaking. Without a solid civilian infrastructure backing your Defense Force or Grand Army of Conquest, you’re just waiting for the death blow to fall.
The first and most basic lesson of combat tactics is supporting arms. If you charge in with just a brute mob of troops, you might be successful in the name of the almighty zergling rush, but instead, ensure victory by fighting wisely. In modern terms you support infantry units with machine gun teams followed by air and vehicle cavalry.
Using the older school equivalents of these forces, in open conflict with your opponent provide supporting fire for your infantry with archers, or crash the flank with more mobile cavalry troops. All of these things lend support to a successful fighting force. Personally, I appreciate the mobility of cavalry, and my developed combat units tend to support that. Mobility and strength allow for more range and versatility. The development of horse archers will allow ranged combat strength to be added to your already mobile cavalry force.
This type of mobile cavalry-based force is the same kind of military power that Genghis Khan use to forge the largest empire the world has ever seen, and it is currently reflected in modern American military practice: a set of tactics called “Maneuver Warfare.”
An old rifleman’s maxim is that you cannot shoot what you cannot see. The proper use of scouts, whether the actual scout units in the game or a group of light cavalry moving outside of your main force for the purpose of acting as scouts, is imperative. It comes to the fact that the more you can see of the enemy, the more intelligence you posses, and the better you can take advantage of your enemy’s weaknesses. For example, if he has an undefended or lightly defended city, hitting it with a raid will shift his forces and make his larger cities more tenable to attack. If you scout his line and see he is heavily defended by land, you can consider embarking your forces and attacking from the sea.
Splitting your forces
Don’t be afraid of splitting your troops–attacking in several places at once will confuse the enemy and divert his own forces, which will be off-balance and struggling to react. Similarly, you can attack his line, where he expects to be attacked with a decent force, and while he is distracted, flank his line with fast moving units and attack his cities directly. If you do this, his armies will crumple and fall as they divide between your two forces.
Veteran troops and the battle line
Marshal your veteran units carefully. Make sure you have enough troops that you can move units that have gained veteran status to the back of the battle formation to heal and recover, as veteran combatants have powerful bonuses that will make them invaluably useful. A powerful veteran unit in the appropriate conditions, depending on how you upgrade them, will even be able to take on and defeat multiple lower ranked units. The cost and time required to build new combat units in the game is also significant besides the potential loss of combat experience. Allowing units time to heal, rearm and take on replacements will give you an overall edge tactically and in the civilian portion of your strategy.
A simple way to use this strategy is to utilize a “battle line.” When the Roman Legions marched to war, they did so in armored columns of troops. The first line of the unit engaged the enemy, and when they grew tired, they switched with the line behind them, allowing fresh troops to face a weakened enemy force. Though you can’t do that on the same small unit level that the Legions could, you can just switch out whole units, attack once or twice with a unit, then move them back and let the unit behind them attack. Or more simply have both units attack and hit them hard in a rush, eliminating the opponent but at the cost of damage to both units and the potential to have to rest them both.
“The art of using troops is this:
……When ten to the enemy’s one, surround him;
……When five times his strength, attack him;
……If double his strength, divide him;
……If equally matched you may engage him;
……If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing;
……And if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him,
……….for a small force is but booty for one more powerful.”
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Stay tuned throughout the month as we feature more tips from Eric! In the meantime, do you have some fool-proof strategies of your own? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll feature some of our favorites later in the month!