While it is all well and good to scout terrain, identify chokepoints, hull-down and gun depression exploits, set up spaced web’s, defensive zones or a fist of steel, the only real guarantee in battle is that opposition activity can and will disrupt any plan. Had Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (1800-1891) had the opportunity of watching the Twister Cup finals, he may well have reminded us of the following:
The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle.
Or, to paraphrase:
Part 6: The Micro-brawl
When pre-arranged, or real-time, strategies broke down in the finals it was not uncommon for teams to fall back to the most instinctive tactic in the toolbox: the micro-brawl. As the name suggests it is an encounter that typically occurs in a “physically isolated” area of the map between a subset of each team. It does not uniquely decide the outcome of the match, but can often swing the balance of power. Opportunistic micro-brawls can occur as edge or scouting forces meet and elect to press a perceived advantage rather than back off or await support. Intentional micro-brawls occur as one team first identifies and then exploits a local advantage in firepower. For the aggressor the expenditure of hit-points is deemed an acceptable cost to achieve the elimination of an enemy gun(s). An outgunned defender typically faces a fait accompli without opportunity of escape, but they strive to delay while extracting as much health as possible, or ideally even an opposing vehicle, before their demise. Technically, each micro-brawl ends when one team has eliminated all the enemy within the local area of conflict. In practice however multiple micro-brawls often occur in close proximity, overlap, or blur together, particularly if entire teams are arrayed closely.
The micro-brawl can be similar to coordinated platoon play and focused fire that occurs regularly in random battles, except that it is employed as part of a team-wide strategy. For example, two flanking mediums are dispatched to identify and clear out an enemy spotter, then reposition back to the main body before being overwhelmed by retaliatory support. The micro-brawl is the alley-fight of Blitz: the knives are out and when the body falls, the survivor(s) stagger off around the corner, alive but bleeding profusely.
The micro-brawl can be employed as a separated or semi-independent component of an overall posture. Unlike some other strategies, the micro-brawl is a very instinctive and visceral component of gameplay. It relies heavily on individual skill, twitch reactions, and hyper-awareness of the immediately surrounding region to inflict damage whilst simultaneously avoiding return fire, eliciting bounces or catching shots on the tracks. Given that many tournament battles end up with some kind of decisive brawling fight (large or small), it is no surprise that the teams that won through to the finals exhibited both superior team play and outstanding individual skills.
In the following example on Desert Sands a southward tankfist assault by LGN split and resulted in a series of localized micro-brawls through to the end of the game (superior force listed on left):
- C4 (blue) T-62A, IS-7, STB-1 — vs — LGN IS-7
- LGN (red) 4x Obj140’s — vs — C4 T-62A
- LGN 2x Obj140’s — vs — C4 STB-1
- C4 Obj140, STB-1, T-62A — vs — LGN Obj140
- C4 2x Obj140, T-62A — vs — LGN Obj140
- C4 2x Obj140, T-62A — vs — LGN Obj140
Noteworthy observations of the above sequence include:
- Convergence of aggressors and focus fire on a designated target [46.04, 46.09, 46.36, 47.05]
- Continual movement when in a “targetable” position to present target selection difficulty [46.24]
- Utilization of low ground and hard cover to keep brawling tanks protected from “external” fire [46.12, 46.28]
- Rapid selection and coordinated movement to the next target [46.12]
- Designation of next target and movement on from a doomed one-shot enemy that is a designated kill for a team mate who is ready to fire [46.15]
- Use of higher hit-point aggressor tanks to attempt to block potential kill-shots on low health team mates [46.39]
- Retaining focus on low health aggressors to “take one down with you” [46.39]
- Surrounding targets so that some aggressors have (a) shots at weaker side/rear armor and (b) have the advantage of being safe from fire behind the turret and (c) have the added time of traverse before they can be hit [46.06, 46.10, 46.24, 46.40, 47.09]
- Ramming for tracking/damage [46.06, 47.05, 47.21]
- Judicious restraint from ramming to prevent damaging one’s own tracks [46.14, 46.22, 46.39]
Providing additional micro-brawl examples from a game on Winter Malinovka, C4 (red) repositioned from the SE in preparation to assault LGN’s spaced array (blue area). At essentially the same time LGN detected the medium tank that C4 had left near the cap circle as a rear-guard (or perhaps as a bait/switch target). LGN pushed forward and initiated a series of micro-brawls around the flag, which extended to the west of the cap area as the main body of C4 pushed around the corner of the ridge line.
The following sequence shows LGN (blue) attacking the isolated Obj140 near the cap with three medium tanks [58.56]. Note that the aggressors move in sequentially, turning the defenders turret and presenting target selection difficulty as they maintain momentum through the area. C4 responds by pushing and focusing fire in sequential micro-brawls, first on an LGN STB-1 [59.18], then subsequently designating and eliminating a T-62A [59.39]. After clearing the area around the flag, LGN return to focus on the leading C4 Obj140 [59.50].
Another feature of tournament play is the unrestricted use of premium ammunition, resulting in far fewer bounces compared to random battles. Several aspects of gameplay are therefore altered, with one flow-on result being a skewing of the triangle of power (firepower/armor/mobility) away from armor. An isolated and swirling micro-brawl illustrates perfectly why the Object 140 is *currently the primary weapon of choice in tournament play. It brings a low profile, sufficient armor, mobility and health, combined with 3790 base dpm. It is the embodiment of the micro-brawler and proficient teams rely heavily on its capabilities in opportunistic encounters.
In summary the micro-brawl is essentially a local tactic, where teams attempt to use a superior concentration of dpm to eliminate enemy guns, thereby swinging the overall balance of firepower their way. While probably not a strong stand-alone strategy, micro-brawls are typically launched out of other postures. For example, a tankfist often separates into micro-brawls, and encroachment into a spaced array or iron zone can trigger the pounce of a defensive micro-brawl ambush. The micro-brawl therefore is, and will remain, a fixture of tournament Blitz, regardless of the game-mode. Effective teams will manage their overall hit point pool going into a micro-brawl, designating healthier aggressors to lead and low-health tanks to play more conservatively. They will also resist the tendency to over-reach and consequently expose spotted tanks to unnecessary damage as they exit the micro-brawl toward the next phase of play. Advanced teams will thrive in rolling micro-brawling engagements because they can manage each segment effectively in real-time, marshaling their hit-point pool, designating targets and leveraging super-unicum individual skills into attritional victory (expenditure of hit-points to eliminate all enemy tanks). This reality touches obliquely on of one of von Moltke’s other famous quotes, meaning that it is superior action (strategy+performance) in the battle space that converts plan into victory:
Strategy is a system of expedients. It is more than science, it is the translation of science into practical life, the development of an original leading thought in accordance with the ever-changing circumstances.