Numerous Twister Cup games featured teams slamming head-on as they raced for early tactical advantages, fights which tended to be short and particularly sharp. To the uninitiated, games which featured teams carefully probing for spots and scouting the opposition may have seemed tentative or even overcautious. In such battles if a team was not preparing a surprise tankfist assault, or establishing a local defensive power base, there was a high probability it was employing the strategy which is the subject of the next two posts:
Part 5: Armored Web (A)
The armored web is a prominent feature of advanced team play and can be described as a loose array of mutually-supportive tanks separated in both breadth and depth. To be effective it requires extensive map knowledge, planning and discipline as it attempts to leverage the benefits of distance, angles and camouflage, whilst minimizing defensive liabilities to concentrated counter attack. The names iron/steel web, spaced array, or armored net (and variations thereof) can be used interchangeably as they essentially describe the same strategy.
The spaced array is a flexible and versatile posture from which to conduct a battle. A useful tip in considering how such a net operates is to imagine that each tank is tethered to those nearby via a flexible bungee cord. The network encompasses all tanks in the squad, although there may be exceptions for untethered roles such as spotting, flanking or pincer movements. Much like a responsive zone defense in sport, the members of the group flex back-and-forth to cover contingencies as they unfold. Those vehicles closest to a point of action respond with the most immediacy (e.g. support movement, focused fire), while those at a distance tend to balance the urgency of their reaction against the requirements of their local role. In the following simple illustration a red array is set up in the dunes and the uppermost three tanks are probing northward for the enemy (left). When a blue medium tank is spotted (right), the red heavy moves east to engage it, and medium #2 pushes north to cover an additional angle for spotting/support fire/defense against additional unspotted enemies. The “bungee” connectedness draws medium #1 to fill the area behind the heavy tank, without crowding it. Tanks at a distance do not necessarily move to engage, but do adjust their “area of responsibility/focus” to the updated battle situation. For example, the TD may assist the heavy with peek-a-boom supporting fire, while the southernmost medium retains its position as a rearguard spotter/flank defense. The dashed lines indicate alteration in spacing through movement, and in particular note that there has been a local adjustment, rather than an undisciplined collapse of the formation toward the target.
Thus the web operates as an interconnected organism, sharing synergistic and cooperative action across as many vehicles as possible. It is anything but a static array, constantly moving and adjusting like an amorphous blob. The armored web is distinguished from an iron zone which is generally a more tightly grouped and defensive posture.
Several examples of spaced arrays from the Cup finals are shown below, each as they were immediately prior to the first substantial engagement:
In many ways, the armored web is the most nuanced of the team-wide Blitz strategies. Skilled proponents will use a web to great effect, but it is not without vulnerabilities. An array requires nearly all battlefield functions to be performed simultaneously and with tight coordination. Front and edge tanks serve spotting roles, but must do so without over reaching and becoming exposed. They must be constantly aware of the threat of being rushed and swarmed, and therefore switch continually between probing/shooting/regaining cover/defending. The following clip shows a C4 web launching a spotting probe toward the edge of a LGN array near the flag on Winter Malinovka. The move is covered by multiple supporting shooters, gets one round off and then retreats to rebuild the array.
Second line shooters and designated snipers must coordinate with spotting thrusts so that pre-aiming or timed peek-a-boom can contribute to the accurate targeting of transient opportunities. A heavy tank often assumes a frontline position to create a nucleation center to goad the enemy forward (“brick” of the spear, perhaps?), the third major role of this tank class on display in the finals. In the following example, C4’s array on Fort Despair (blue) included a frontline IS-7 posing a threat at the cap circle, an array of Obj140’s and T-62A’s behind, and a Grille 15 at the back with shots into the circle. The aerial view highlights the precise layout of the grid.
The degree of map knowledge of positions, angles, cross-fire and mutual support that was on display by teams playing effective spaced arrays was truly impressive.
During the livestream one game mechanic that was partially blinded to the audience was spotting. Without an in-game indicator, particularly in the spectacular wide angle “sky-cam” view, it was difficult to determine which tanks on each team had been lit up or were still incognito. Adding that functionality in future events could really bring out the depth of parrying and countering that was taking place during these “conservative” phases of play, which were in actuallity far more dynamic than they may have seemed.
In general terms, how does the spaced array stack up against other strategies? Against an iron zone, a web will generally hold the initiative as the attacking team. If the leading echelon is close enough to the defensive teams edge then spotting for stand-off shooters at depth will be a huge advantage. Battles against other steel webs will generally feature an ongoing wrestle for initiative based upon spotting, scoping the enemies disposition and gaining an advantage in hit-point exchanges prior to closing for an end-game fight. The “natural enemy” of the armored web is the tankfist due to its concentration of mobile striking power. If able to identify and isolate an edge element, a concentrated punch can easily pluck a gun advantage before the web can flex sufficient support in response. Hence the caution seen during the first few minutes of fielding a spaced array, particularly on the flanks. In contrast, launching a tankfist punch against a web often relies on an “educated gamble” in target selection and timing, and as such success or failure can often suffer at the vagaries of chance.
Of course, teams can and do switch between strategies on the fly (e.g. an iron zone can suddenly morph into a tankfist), meaning that battle-wide situational awareness is crucial for success of a spaced array. At its core the foundational skill set of the armored web is therefore real-time hierarchical leadership decision making that is enacted with discipline at the individual level. Without flexibility within the context of a governing structure an armored web is only as strong as its weakest member. Understanding this highlights just how different the strategy is from others such as tankfist, which rely rather on proficiency at individual brawling. The dynamic arrays and iron web gameplay exhibited by LGN and C4 in particular were at times poetry in motion. Several of these games were very complex encounters and will be covered in a subsequent post, “Armored Web (B)”.