A series analyzing strategies and tactics on display during the Twister Cup.
Part 2: Iron Zone
Militant humans have long appreciated the myriad of advantages provided by a fortress. Protected within the cover of a designated area, armaments may be trained on an attacking enemy, whose approach can be funneled through restricted corridors of the defenders choosing. The advantage is such that, historically speaking, a ratio of 3:1 in favor of the attacking force is generally acknowledged to be required for a successful assault (be it in personnel, firepower, armament etc). Substantial benefits are inherent in defensive postures, if opposing forces cooperate and follow the appropriate script.
Tightly packed defensive “strongholds” were employed in several games during the Twister Cup, termed an Iron Zone for the sake of discussion here. Making use of terrain features for hard cover, teams set up concentrated fire bases from which to harass approach lanes. Continual spotting by poking ridge lines and corners provides targets for peek-a-boom defensive fire. Stated simply, the intent of the strategy is to induce the enemy to approach an array of protected guns. In theory it provides the opportunity to whittle the attackers hit point pool down before they can close for a definitive engagement, and in doing so tilt the result in the favor of the defense.
The primary advantages of the Iron Zone include choosing the area of battle, firing from cover, local superiority of firepower, focus fire on approach lanes, multiple angles of internal defensive fire and the ability to rotate vehicles within the zone to conserve/share the teams total hit-point pool. Disadvantages include losing the initiative of movement, ability to dictate game play outside of the immediate vicinity, and ceding the element of surprise to the enemy. Neither can a tight Iron Zone spot tanks at a distance, bringing vulnerability to accurate stand off sniping. If set up at a distance from the flag an Iron Zone could also be easily manipulated by cap pressure. Other features that impact the potency of an Iron Zone include protection from flanking envelopment, and where possible, limitation of lanes of cross fire into the zone.
If employed as the primary strategy during a game, a siege mentality relies on winning an attritional grind via marginal gains in the hit-point exchange. While not very exciting perhaps, it can be the basis of a viable paradigm. Against inexperienced, impatient or overcommitted opposition the Iron Zone also forms a natural ambush, with any enemy breaking into the area easy pickings. An astute team could go as far as deliberately letting several tanks through a channel and into the zone before closing off escape routes.
The most notable proponent of the Iron Zone was Pramo from the NA server. In the following example the game started with both teams moving to the dunes on Desert Sands. After spotting aggressively at the Heinkel wreck, Pramo then assumed an Iron Zone of five tanks on the slope behind the bomber. Two tanks were stationed in the gully on the front slope and served to flex back and forth along the line.
Operating from this basic defense for more than two minutes, Pramo was able to pick off health from targets of opportunity with mixed success. The battle progressed at a attritional pace, playing into the hands of the defense as they scored the first kill after more than four minutes. That event signaled the C4 rush and definitive engagement, eventuating in a 1 v 1 nail-biter win for C4. Overall the Iron Zone served well to counter surprise movement and dissipate any attacking punch by C4, but in this instance it did not deliver a significant hit-point pool advantage into the end-game phase.
Another round-robin game featured an example of a poorly executed Iron Zone which was identified and eliminated by ID with clinical ease. Pramo clustered in a tight space behind a corner on Castilla, perhaps anticipating an ambushing opportunity.
The zone was vulnerable to direct frontal assault in combination with an uncontested peek-a-boom atop the ridge line, with a somewhat predictable outcome. [thanks to madfatredrat for his 720p upload]
A more flexible option of using this particular Iron Zone location given the concentration of firepower already assembled and the high-low dispersion of ID, may have been to launch an opportunistic Tankfist assault around the corner.
The final example for review demonstrates a nuanced and professional counter of the Iron Zone strategy from a very experienced team. Also in their match up against C4, Pramo established an Iron Zone in the northern area of the Dunes.
In this case the “karate for defense only” posture was neutralized by C4 through relocation of an Obj140 to set up an additional spotting angle and cross fire, long-range sniping provided by an unspotted STB-1, and the push of a heavy tank to pick up proximity spotting and attract fire. The result was a progressive and gradual envelopment of the Iron Zone using a dispersed array. Aggressive (i.e. high risk) infiltration was not utilized until the health pool of the defenders was lowered sufficiently that guns were being taken out of the game. The Iron Zone began to split up as Pramo was forced into desperate counter moves, such as the STB-1 crossing the rail line. The final outcome was a 7:0 victory for C4.
While each example discussed eventuated in a loss for the Iron Zone defense, the strategy will certainly retain an important role in tournament play. It is likely to be most effective when used as one component of a flexible system rather than as a Maginot Line ideology. Against inexperienced or recklessly aggressive opposition (neither of which was on offer in the Twister Cup finals) the Iron Zone may be able to deliver a one or two gun advantage by eliminating overaggressive scouts or catching a split medium flank off guard. From such a position of advantage it can be converted easily to a Tankfist for mobile counter attack. As shown in the latter example however, the Iron Zone has particular vulnerabilities to savvy exploitation utilizing patience, flanking fire, proxy spotting, stand-off sniping, and feint thrusts. Finally, unless they edge progressively ahead in damage trading, pressure will tend to build on the defensive team over time. The assault has the option of repositioning guns to unanticipated or more effective angles, altering where and when tanks push perceived vulnerabilities, or if they run into particular difficulty can even disengage and force a draw. Unless it gains an opportunity for an offensive breakout, an Iron Zone is typically positioned with its back against a figurative wall the entire game without a route of withdrawal or a second option. The Iron Zone is therefore not so much a “don’t try this at home” but rather a “use at your own risk” stratagem.