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Author's Note: I cannot take credit for this; All I've done is taken information from US Army FM 3-90 (available online) and adapted it to my example here.
The Mobile Defense is an operation which focuses upon the destruction of an attacking force by use of a mobile striking force. The defense allows an enemy to advance into a position which causes it to expose itself to a counter-attack. This is achieved by using a "Fixing Force" built up of the minimum possible strength to counter the enemy, and then applying a "Striking Force" at either a weak point in the line or an exposed (or soon to be exposed) flank. The commander utilizing this defense uses his fixing force to shape the advance of the enemy, holding his striking force until the proper moment. It is often used in situations where the enemy is either less mobile, or areas of open terrain.
The Imperial Guard is the closest analog to a modern-day military in the world of Warhammer 40k. Because of this, when facing more conventional forces (ie, everyone but Tyranids, who are often too fast, and Daemons, who just kinda drop in to the party and make it difficult), the Imperial Guard can utilize some basic modern tactics and strategies.
Of course, while this is a sound strategy, there are some crucial dangers inherent in this sort of operation:First, we'll take a quick look at these disadvantages.Originally Posted by FM 3-90
1. The fixing force may be isolated and defeated in detail because of the need to resource the striking force to the detriment of the fixing force.
A Commander must beware of weakening his Fixing Force too much by drawing everything into the Striking Force. A unit in placed in the Striking Force is NOT reserves; it is already tasked with a mission.
2. Operations in noncontiguous AOs associated with conducting a mobile defense can lead to defeat in detail.
If a Commander spreads his forces too thin across the battlefield, and then tries to run too many operations at once, he invites the enemy to punch a hole in his lines and start rolling up the flanks, and break through. This can lead to encirclement and total defeat. This is particularally critical in Apocalypse or very large point games.
3. Enemy operations may impair the ability of the striking force to react at critical points.
Remember, no plan survives contact with the enemy. They're not going to oblige you and be quiet when you need them to.
4. The enemy may not move into the area intended by the defending commander.
5. The attacking enemy retains at least some momentum as he approaches the desired engagement areas (EAs).
The goal of the Fixing Force is to stymie the attackers; if they're still mowing forward relentlessly, odds are that they'll eat your counterattack. If you get them to slow down somehow, that can be enough to get them off-balance to allow you your chance.
6. The defending force may not gain an accurate picture of the enemy’s locations and dispositions required by the striking force to launch decisive operations in time to react.
Always a pain, forgetting what the enemy is holding in reserve...and how that reserve may arrive.
7. The decentralized operations required by the mobile defense increase the potential for fratricide.
While not normally a huge danger in 40k, when playing Imperial Guard, fratricide becomes a very real threat. Often times, you'll have one force at 90 degrees from one another, or even beginning to encircle the enemy. The last thing you need at that moment is for a Russ or Basilisk to drift templates the wrong direction.
Now, lets take a look at the basic idea of this operational method. Our task is to sucessfully counterattack an attacking enemy force, causing them either to retreat or be eliminated. We will be looking at roughly company-sized Imperial Guard element, Designated BLUE FORCE, facing a force of MEQ troops, designated RED FORCE. (Yes, I realize that the following photos are of Guard-on-Guard, but, lacking MEQ stuff to work with, and because I just don't have nearly enough models to represent a real Guard-vs-Guard action, work with me here, please!) The two forces will be meeting on an open field containing two visible objectives; it can be assumed that the remainder of RED FORCE is securing a third objective away from the current EA. For the purposes of demonstration, it will not be based in a turn-by-turn by the rulebook format; instead, it will be just the general flow of force movements.
Figure 1, Forces at the beginning of the operation.
BLUE FORCE is defending the objectives, labeled O-1 and O-2 respectively, from the attacking MEQ RED FORCE. BLUE FORCE consists of mostly infantry, supported by two Leman Russ tanks. The main Fixing Force consists of the two squads (Red and Yellow) labled FF, two Leman Russ MBTs. There are two Flank Reserves (FR) and Blue Squad is acting as a Center Reserve (CR).
Opposite, RED FORCE has a 25-MEQ strong infantry force, as well as a pair of supporting walkers and tanks (yes, I know one is a Basilisk...ran out of hulls.)
The current situation is a dangerous one for BLUE FORCE. They're split between a pair of objectives, with a very thin center-line which invites a strong attack. If RED FORCE attacks CR, which is Blue Squad, they can then roll up either side of the defenses with ease and claim both objectives. See disadvantage #2.
Figure 2: Blue Force must make a decision on which Objective to hold.
As illustrated by Figure 2, BLUE FORCE is going to withdraw from O-2, giving it to the advancing RED FORCE. RED FORCE now has a decision to make: Drive onward into the now bolstered lines of O-1, or secure O-2 before moving on?
Figure 3: Red Force advances, while Blue Force continues to consolidate.
In Figure 3, you can see the BLUE FORCE commander has continued to consolidate his Fixing Force, while shifting his reserves into positions where they can better react to an attack. RED FORCE, meanwhile has decided to separate a detachment to secure the objective, while continuing on to eliminate the massed defenders. BLUE FORCE is likely making a small outflanking feint off the current view, looking as if he's going to commit his reserves to dislodging RED FORCE from their home objectives.
Figure 4: Red Force has taken O-2, and is spreading out.
Figure 4, RED FORCE has taken the objective, and has spread his line some. The second tank hangs back with the capture team, as it still will have the range to affect the firefight from it's position. RED FORCE will be moving up, but has currently slowed to open fire at BLUE FORCE.
Figure 5: Blue Force Commander has comitted his Striking Force (SF)
RED FORCE's momentem has slowed, and they've been drawn up towards the open objective. BLUE FORCE commits the Striking Force (SF) and is able to attack the flank of RED FORCE.
Now, realize, of course, this example doesn't take into account terrain, points, overall force sizes, and things like deepstriking troops. It is very sterile and textbook, allowing you to see the concept in action. A commander utilizing the Mobile Defense tactic must be ready to react to unforseen arrivals to the EA, and react accordingly. If a Commander is forced into drawing from his Striking Force to bolster his lines, he has now lost the ability to mount his counterattack and will have to look for another way to defeat the enemy.
Again, I realize that this is not perfect WH40k, but, the general concept is pretty sound, and easy to adapt to IG capabilites. It is, basically, the "Hammer and Anvil" strategy.
Last, but not least, I must make a quote, which the FM heads the chapter quite appropriately with:~ZeeA swift and vigorous transition to attack—the flashing sword of
vengeance—is the most brilliant point of the defensive.
-Carl von Clausewitz, On War
Last edited by Zeewulf; October 20th, 2008 at 18:07.
"Speed is life! You go slow, you die!"
-Sgt. Unther, Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries
with number of game turns limiting your bait and flank, casualties during the withdraw feint and assaults on the anvil before springing the trap, the enemy realizing there's another half of your army still to show, and of course the whim of the dice gods to consider.
A major point I forgot to mention that really bears saying, even late, that you've reminded me of, Certemplar: The strategy works best at a larger scale, such as an apocalypse game. At the Micro-level, its just too easy to see what could happen. Now, it CAN work well at the smaller game scale, but there comes a point where it all is just a slugging match.
Anyway, this whole thing was chewing on my mind for the past two days, I had to get it out.
"Speed is life! You go slow, you die!"
-Sgt. Unther, Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries
on note of apocalypse. yea, it's best if you have players designated who's going to do what in that, so you keep whole forces doing things (people contributing fast, strong units) to the flank... sometimes it goes awry, we did a 4v4 here recently. by turn 2 when half my troops showed up flank marching behind the enemy to deal major damage. the 'anvil' (namely all of my allies) were fairly shredded (i still contest to them that it would have happened had i started on board or not).