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Tactic: Feeding the Specialists

Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 11:42 pm
by Shatner
Having played about a quarter of the way through the new DLC (which is excellent, by the way) I have finally had an idea crystallize into a coherent strategy. I haven't seen this strategy explicitly spelled out here in the forums so I wanted to write up a little guide for it here. The idea, in summary, is to keep your specialist-equipped infantry fully manned by proactively reorganizing your unspecialized infantry.

The Soviet Infantry (or SI) is a unit with very modest stats that is usually found in abundance. With an attack value of 2, even full-strength squads of SI have a hard time exerting much offensive pressure on their German foes. And with a movement of 3, it can be a clumsy affair attacking (with heavy losses) an enemy strong point, moving the spent SI out of the way, and repeating with adjacent SIs to wear the enemy down. The fact is, Unity of Command's one-unit-per-hex and seven-steps-per-unit mechanics make it hard to efficiently attack with SI specifically, and this is true in general for other weak units (be they inherently weak or merely reduced to impotence by casualties). However, with the addition of a specialist step (artillery, one of the many varieties of tanks, engineers, etc.) a unit can cross that critical threshold from accomplishing too little while attacking or defending to accomplishing just enough.

Having a unit with 4 steps of SI and a tank specialist is usually just as effective in combat as having 5 steps of SI and a tank specialist. The primary difference is that in the latter scenario, the tank specialist step is protected by one more expendable red dot. In most situations, the majority of your SI steps are just there to guard the specialist step, which is doing the majority of the work. Now, let's assume that you had a huge number of reinforcement SI steps waiting in your reinforcement pool. If you have an SI unit with artillery attack an adjacent German tank division and cause one casualty, suffer two losses themselves, and then you reinforce them with two currently-suppressed steps, that behaves identically to if your SI unit suffered two suppressed steps in the attack. Would you suffer the suppression of two SI steps to cause one loss to a German tank division? Heck yes you would!

So, you are advancing against the enemy slowly and you have four specialist-equipped SI. You also have 18 unspecialized SI, some of whom are cluttering up the map in an important way (preventing break-throughs, securing supplies, slowing enemy movement, etc.) while the rest are just cluttering up the map. So, in ones or twos you reorganize these units so that you have a near-constant flow of SI steps ready for reinforcements. At the front line, your specialized SIs are actually causing harm to the enemy and blunting the impact of their counterattacks (and suffering losses in the process). And every turn after you attack with them you replace one or two of those lost steps with steps from units which would otherwise be 1) too far away from the front to contribute and 2) too weak to contribute anyway. Every turn they are supplied, your specialized SIs are activating two suppressed steps, keeping them in fighting form despite it all. Provided you continue to reorganize enough steps in advance, you can recuperate 5 steps worth of losses on the front lines each turn. And if something nasty happens -- a specialized unit gets knocked down to two steps and the specialist -- you just reorganize that squad entirely (or if needed, just their specialist step) and then give one of your seven-step SI units that tank or artillery specialist next turn.

It's true this pretty much negates any XP your infantry were gaining, since each reinforced step costs them 5+ XP. However, infantry (Soviet Infantry especially) rarely survive with enough fighting strength intact after causing the required 10+ casualties to really capitalize on their veterancy. Again, remember that it is the specialist step that's doing all the real fighting, and that the infantry steps are just there to take the losses. As such, you aren't really losing anything by stifling the accumulation of XP on these units. Note that if you have veteran infantry given to you at the start of a scenario, you should NOT dilute that fighting bonus. Instead, give them the specialist step and let them tear it up until they've taken too many losses. Then you can reinforce them like normal; better to have effective normal units than ineffective veteran units.

Having seven-step units paired with a specialist step has become more important with the changes brought from the DLC. For example, artillery now has a chance of removing enemy entrenchment based on a combination of artillery strength and the number of active steps in the unit. Having additional steps makes your artillery specialist (who, remember, is doing all the real fighting) work better, as opposed to just making it harder to kill. Furthermore, the new DLC Soviet scenarios seem to feature more specialist-equipped infantry (though I will admit that could be me misremembering the base game). Now, this whole "redeploy from the back to reinforce the front" idea is hardly new, nor is it exclusively useful for units with specialist steps; a single seven-step unit is more than seven times as effective in combat than seven one-step units. Furthermore, all of this applies to non-SI units as well. However, with the sometimes over-the-top abundance of Soviet Infantry as well as how massively the stats of the specialist unit eclipse the stats of the SI, they are the most obvious target for this sort of tactic. As the Soviets, you don't weep when five men die protecting a tank specialist; you weep when five men died FAILING to protect a tank specialist... after all, you've got LOTS more guys but a very limited number of tanks.

Hope this helps. Happy gaming.

Re: Tactic: Feeding the Specialists

Posted: Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:26 am
by strelkovaya
I absolutely agree and use this tactic constantly, especially in the scenarios where you have a huge mob of catchup or extraneous sludge following your primary units. Slower to remove a specialist and re-add it later on. Faster to simply reinforce specialist-equipped units every turn with a frothy mass of reorganised Frontniks.

For some scenarios such as Berlin there was a lack of Artillery in all areas to Breach nasty units, so retaining the specialist by not doing full suicide runs is great, as long as they dont turn to red mist you can smack 3 steps back on them for next turn.

Reorganising specialists in the first turn is also a good use of time, unless the fight is a very quick one.

Re: Tactic: Feeding the Specialists

Posted: Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:44 pm
by Danielefc
Well written - and absolutely correct :) GJ