"Realistic" tactics in not so realistic settings.:

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1 StillbirthMachine11th Mar 2013 12:33:53 PM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
So I'm sure there are more than a few of us into military themed (science) fiction of varying degrees of realism , I am myself am working on one myself. Now I'm not in the military, never have been, and have no plans to be, and wouldn't call myself a military tactics/strategy buff, but I would like to have some degree of real world elements within the story (let's just call it Children of Aggression for now).

The low-down of the series is basically that a detachment of space barbarian arthropod warriors, albeit very well trained and experienced ones, are attached to the equivalent of a NATO joint task force (IN SPACE). They are deployed to deal with sectarian violence on a variety of worlds located in a neutral space between SNATO and something that I guess we could see as the vaguely like the Red Bloc/USSR/red side of the red/blue divide.

Now, I'll say that the actual combat does have fairly absurd 40K style elements such as soldiers modified to have limbs similar to mantis shrimps that can punch through tank armour and possessed flamethrower like weapons nicknamed strappados that cause matter to rapidly degrade. However the battles aren't going to reflect purely Hollywood based dramatic battles. Basically tactics, tenacity, exploitation of weaknesses and generally fighting smart are the reason why battles are won or lost rather than big damn heroes/dramatic rival vs rival/side x has one particularly powerful type of combatant that trumps everything else.

Basically, imagine if the soldiers we're talking about say, suddenly can't be killed or otherwise downed with just a few bullets. Their physical senses are enhanced to the point where some can track entities blind through smell, touch, sound, or more unusual, esoteric senses (think bizarre energy based/spectrographic sensory capability). They can crawl up vertical surfaces and even upside down as naturally as they would right side up. Their physical strength allows them to smash through certain barriers or move around certain heavy objects that normally would take a whole team or certain vehicles. They have additional limbs and even eyes for wider fields of vision, the ability to better multitask, and carry more weaponry and equipment. Speaking of weaponry, they're able to use heavier, more devastating weaponry and that's not even counting some natural/mutation based material.

Aaaaaaaaaand here is where I need a bit of help. I'm not terribly well versed in modern day combat tactics whether its combined arms, urban combat, or firefight dynamics and I figure there are more than a few of you here who are. I'd like to know how these tactics and strategies might be changed if suddenly the theoretical soldiers weren't just ordinary men and women (or weren't really either for that matter) and the technology available was more advanced.

Things such as equipment, technology, support and so on I can elaborate on later but I'd like to see how modern strategies might be affected if they were placed into a more fantastical context such as this.

Oh and anyone else wondering how "real world" tactics might change to better fit their own settings are welcome to bring it up as well.

edited 11th Mar '13 1:40:20 PM by StillbirthMachine

Only Death Is Real
Terracotta Soldier Man
Technology might change specific techniques, but the overall principles wouldn't really change; it's just a question of application. Sun Tzu's Art of Warnote  is still just as valid now as it was when it was first published, and I'd recommend it for beginner-level reading; it's not overly technical (and he does take the trouble to define his terms), and it's short enough that you can read it in one sitting if you've got an hour or two set aside for it.

Reaching back to my ROTC education a bit, the US military recognizes nine fundamental principles of war:

  • Objective: Every operation has a clear goal, and every element has a set of tasks to perform to achieve that goal.
  • Offensive: Taking, holding, and exploiting the initiative is always the best way to achieve your goal. Get the enemy in a position where he has to react to you instead of the other way around. If you're familiar with the concept of "tempo" in chess, it's basically the same thing.
  • Mass: If you're going to hit something, hit it with the heaviest tools in your toolbox. You want to concentrate as much firepower and momentum as you can at the most decisive point, usually the enemy's weakest point.
  • Economy of Force: At the same time, there's a sort of critical mass beyond which extra mass starts hitting diminishing returns. Keep a reserve force handy to exploit extra opportunities that your "big push" opens up to achieve secondary goals and engage targets of opportunity, and make sure all of your forces are kept in the loop about who's doing what at what moment (which is not an easy thing to do).
  • Maneuver: A static position is ultimately an ineffective one.note  Keep moving, don't move in predictable patterns, and take and hold key and advantageous positions to keep the enemy off-balance.
    • This also includes flexibility, the ability to react to sudden changes that come out of left field.
  • Unity of Command: Enforce a single chain of command and clear areas of responsibility. If you want to see what happens when you don't do this, read up on the Battle of Cannae and the campaign immediately preceding it.
  • Security: "Watch your six." Don't let the enemy get an unexpected advantage. Keep your perimeter secure at all times, and stay aware of what's happening all around you. (Again, see Cannae.)
  • Surprise: The least effective attack is the one everyone can see coming. Strive to strike the enemy when and where he's least expecting it or ready for it.
  • Simplicity: Keep It Simple, Soldier. Exactly how simple your plan should be depends generally on how many moving pieces you have on the board at one time, but never make a plan needlessly complicated. Again, make sure the operation as a whole has a simple, easy-to-understand goal, that every element in your task group has a task and purpose in the greater plan, and that everyone knows what they should be doing and what their buddies on their left and right flanks are going to do.

All military strategy and tactics ultimately consists of finding the right way to apply these nine fundamentals to the situation at hand. The only thing that new technology does is give you more tools for your toolbox and require you to figure out how they're best used.

If you're looking for specifics, there's again a wealth of information available from the US military (the Army in particular has all of their non-classified field manuals and regulations available in PDF format online). It's a lot to digest, but most of it's written in a way that's intended to be fairly easy to pick up on (although it makes for dry reading).

I will say that, historically, armies have been fairly quick to adapt to unexpected threats and weaponry, at least once the initial shock wears off and they have time to examine the after-action reports. That's the whole point of military intelligence, R&D, and training and doctrinal development; you figure out what the enemy's capable of by whatever means you have at your disposal, examine it for flaws and weaknesses, then come up with something that exploits those weaknesses, whether it's a completely new set of equipment or just a new way to apply what you already have. There's always going to be hiccups and false starts, but it's a constant process of feedback and response.
3 StillbirthMachine11th Mar 2013 08:43:15 PM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
Thank you, this will help a lot!

I'm interested in the subject how occupations of populated urban areas where insurgent threats and surprise attacks generally work and how armed foreign presences would behave. Basically how a patrol or watch over an area is established and how they are supposed to react if suddenly they're opened fire upon from say, structures that may/may not also have civilian targets. Leading from that, what would be the most problematic parts of such operations and what kinds of technologies are being developed or pitched for it to deal with that?

For something more unusual, I'm thinking the arthropod folks ("xzul") will use various animals for combat of differing sizes, some of which are as large as wolves and others a bit bigger than your average suburban houses. I'd like to focus on the former in particular, which in the setting would be roughly lion/wolf/bear sized arthropods, biologically and artificially modified to carry biological/synthetic projectile weaponry, onboard electronics equipment/"organs", and sometimes additional limbs. They're controlled primarily through a sort of "miniature hivemind" where two psychic parasites, one placed in the creature and the other in its handler.

What sort of roles might they be given as creatures carrying various heavy weapons, already quite sharp from a sensory perspective, and quite natural at moving through wilderness areas? Would they have any direct combat applications as maybe fire support or ambushing/flanking units or reconnaissance/espionage?

edited 12th Mar '13 8:36:58 PM by StillbirthMachine

Only Death Is Real
4 MajorTom11th Mar 2013 09:06:29 PM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^ Surprise attacks generally are of the "Fire everything all at once" type deal. You don't know they happen until the air literally gets flooded with bullets and RPG's in the span of seconds.

A good ambush done right will last no more than 60 seconds. 30 if you're lucky on the receiving end.Why?

edited 11th Mar '13 9:08:10 PM by MajorTom

"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
5 PsychoFreaX12th Mar 2013 05:39:21 AM from Transcended Humanity
I think the main difference is actually in the equipments used including the weapons. So the spectrograph senses are infrared and x-ray visions and stuff right? If those are used as tracking, lead can block them(like they do for Clark Kent). Sure you can say those soldiers may decide to tell where their enemies are by where they see lead shelters, well decoy lead shelters with traps could be used. Sound and smell could be artificially imitated as well to be used as decoys or even as bait.

With the weapons, from what you said, I'm guessing it means the soldiers have a lot higher durability. But since there wasn't anything mentioned about their resistance to bio-hazards people might start to rather use poison, finding certain chemicals they're vulnerable to. They may even be used well with the traps.
6 StillbirthMachine12th Mar 2013 10:48:22 AM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
Yeah, there are visions akin to infrared and something akin to x-rays along some weirder ones including a vision mode that allows some to see the sort of radiation/energy of a kind of parallel ethereal realm where the same energy that comprises sentience can also be found. While those sorts of strategies definitely would be used against the xzul, it wouldn't be as simple as simply luring a few bugs with an odd sight or smell as they are still sentient, intelligent soldiers.

They're definitely quite durable having both natural carapaces and synthetic armour, but powered armour suits are fairly common within the setting although not used by all militaries fully. That being said there are just as many weapons effective against enemies within powered armour or any other sort of performance enhancing protective suits. These can include certain anti-material weapons, plasma projection weaponry, autocannons, what are more or less high owered laser rifles, and in some cases, specialized melee weapons that emit a field that enhances and amplifies cutting power. Of course there are also assault rifles, shotguns, and machine guns designed to be wielded by those with performance enhancing armour.

As for poison, I think it would be considered but the problem is that it might not act fast enough and there's the problem of the bugs sniffing it out before it can be unleashed. I haven't thought of that one before though regardless and I imagine it's inevitable that if you're fighting a swarm of bugs someone has to play it.

I imagine in the case of the traps they may use various scouting units, either small rodent sized creatures or "synthetic flesh constructs" kind of similar to some of the robots seen in MGS 4 and MGS Revengeance.

But yeah, the "combat animals" I spoke of earlier, what sort of use might they see? Let's open it up a bit for the former category and say they can be as large as say, fully grown great white sharks.

edited 12th Mar '13 8:33:25 PM by StillbirthMachine

Only Death Is Real
7 LastHussar12th Mar 2013 12:09:10 PM from the place is here.
The time is now,
It really depends on what level of detail you are looking for.

The very basic rule of every fight, from street fight to army is

Concentrate the maximum amount aggression in as short a time as possible.

The basic way to do this is concentrate as much as you can on a small area. It is the basis of every successful commander for at least 300 years.

At low levels concentrate on winning the firefight. This doesn't win the fight, but it allows you to assault. The average range of a decisive combat in WW2 was 30 yards. By the end of the century it was 30m. The only reason it is different is we now measure in meters.

The simple version is use one unit to pin the enemy, then the other unit gets 'up close and personal'. A Para officer from the Falklands said "You can shoot at each other all day, but if you go in with the bayonette you are sending a clear message 'Only one of us will get out of this alive- I'm prepared to take that chance, are you?'"
Do the job in front of you.
8 Gabrael13th Mar 2013 12:13:30 AM from My musings , Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
You're giving a great description of your forces, but what are they going up against will determine their tactics.

Ironically enough I am delighting in the movie "Predators" right now, so your thread is very timely.

Obviously, both the Predators and humans would change their tactics based on who they are going against. (As evident in the human vs. human and predator vs. predator fights in this film.)

So what is your team going up against? Do they have just as cool tech or opposing tech of equal value? (Say could a battalion of telekenetics rip your army to shreads?) Or is it a human vs. alien sorta thing where their opposition is completely on a different level?

Also are their cultural or legal restrictions? Are their rules of engagement? Enviroment factors. Are your guys unable to function in certain enviroments without breathing equiptment or other protective gear?

I'm sorry to throw a lot at you but desert warfare is totally different from tundra, urban New York will be very different than say urban Seattle.

If anything devising weaknesses like a toxic enviroment or unbalanced tech can open more avenues for creative and engaging writing. It can push the development of your characters and enhancement of the emotional atmosphere with tension or what not.

"-pats- it gun be ok bear someday you will eat them all." - Aszur
9 StillbirthMachine14th Mar 2013 12:09:37 AM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
It's hopefully going to be a series thus meaning a wide variety of settings. However for the first major conflict will be in jungle and urban settings (as well as a mix between the two - think "bio-structures" meant to "grow" in the wilderness) against two differing and opposing groups that both are at odds with the planetary government. They are both essentially insurgents and are receiving off-world equipment, weaponry, training, and in some cases personnel from black market traders and the off world reigning planetary power in the planetary group. They planet and thus the two groups are comprised basically of a variety of lizard creatures called the varanon and strange plantlike creatures resembling a mixture of Battletech mecha and alien fungi (tentative name: palavryian). There are also human settlers and lesser amphibian/fish like aliens who are primarily lesser minority groups.

For the most part they have much more basic technology (eg. power armour is a luxury primarily for elite soldiers rather than a standard). One group is backed by ousted and rogue corporate cartels and they get the black market, ending up on average, appearing more professional-paramilitary or even like SWAT units. The other is much more ragtag and repurposed/cannibalized in terms of their gear and equipment, although they receive hidden aid from the powerful (if only locally) planetary regime and also use more unusual biotechnology.

Overall neither is the equivalent of a standing national or planetary military and the majority of them lightly armed and armoured, although they do have access to heftier elements. The former has more civilian vehicles and often once civilian/police mecha modified to be combat ready (alongside those of somewhat dated military design smuggled in or illegally produced). The latter uses a lot more "organic dreadnoughts", often palavrians given additional mutagenic mass and synthetic implants that turns them into living heavy weapon platforms, alongside large "swamp ocean" dwelling amphibians and fish, turning their infected carcasses into basically heavily armed bio-synthetic assault platforms.

Said latter group also gets actual members of sort of the royal guard of the previously mentioned planetary power in their ranks and their equipment to an extent.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by legal and cultural restrictions, can you elaborate a bit?

The xzul are essentially there for peacekeeping but also to puncture deep into heavily guarded territories as well as to operate in "difficult" environments like the very wet and often waterlogged jungles. Essentially they aren't to attack unless attacked themselves but due to their talent at digging in deep and often tracking otherwise well concealed foes, they are also given leeway to an extent when making non-reactionary calls in and of themselves, primarily in the jungles. They don't have a lot of trouble in most environments.

The conflict for this one I imagine would be asymmetrical but not fully however. Both factions don't quite have the raw equivalent manpower of the "SNATO" task force but are noticeably better armed, supplied, and trained than most rebels and are in a way arguably more fearsome than the planetary military itself.


There's another theatre I'd like to discuss which is something vaguely inspired by highlands, vast plains, and I guess some overly romanticized take on the Irish and Scottish wilderness but we can get to that later.

edited 14th Mar '13 12:21:45 AM by StillbirthMachine

Only Death Is Real
10 Gabrael14th Mar 2013 12:19:44 AM from My musings , Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
Do they have a sorta Geneva convention or charter barring them from using certain weapons (like nukes) or tactics (like poisioning the water supply). Are they allowed to engage on sight or do certain conditions have to be met first? Like our M Ps have to give one verbal warning, a warning shot, then another verbal warning, then they blast you to pieces. Are you trying to keep civilian casualties and enviromental harm to a minimum or can you destroy anything?

Cultural norms: are women or children exempt from combat? Is there a surrender? Can you take prisioners? Are religious people exempt? Do you torture or does anyone commit war crimes? If so, what constitues a war crime?

"-pats- it gun be ok bear someday you will eat them all." - Aszur
11 StillbirthMachine14th Mar 2013 12:38:15 AM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
There is essentially something similar to the Geneva convention and some of their weapons (such a the strappado) fall into shady legal territory unless used against very particular targets such as summoned/evoked spiritoid combatants (essentially bizarre "ethereal plankton/micro-organism/prehistoric invertebrate" creatures that inhabit a parallel dimension) or non-sentient robotic entities. However, the "SNATO" (actually, let's call them the Federation of Planetary States now) attaches legal overwatch teams to them to not only defend them but also to advise them on when and when not they should be using such things. This means that the xzul are often the centre of controversy concerning various war crimes and it's not helped by the fact that in the aftermath of some conflicts they are allowed to harvest or legally acquire some of a planet's resources as spoils.

Basically, they're in a bit of an odd spot with it comes to R.O.E. because they're simultaneously told that they're only supposed to engage if fired upon or they directly see armed conflict in which the rebel forces attack them, civilians, and/or military/government targets. Warning signs are made first - verbal declarations and weapons being displayed alongside more insectoid ones such as emitting of noxious if nonlethal gasses, unpleasant hissing/shrieking/crackling sounds, and flashing "warning colours". Warning shots follow alongside an amplification of the more unpleasant nonlethal warnings. Failing that, wounding shots or intentional "close shaves" and then if that doesn't work, they open up fully.

This is contrasted by the previously stated bit about non-reactionary calls against supposedly concealed rebel elements that have yet to make any aggressive motions but they believe may count as threats.

They are told to keep civilian casualties to a minimum but they are often deployed to areas where enemy resistance is very high and unfortunately, where there may also be a large civilian/noncombatant presence as well. Given how destructive their weaponry is, this has resulted many times in the past in heavy collateral losses.

It is not uncommon for women to serve; social stigma concerning that passed under civil unrest a while back and the fungi folk don't even have such gender constructions. Children are usually kept protected although I imagine the palavryian or certain more traditionalist sects may see having "sprouters" essentially serve as additional/assimilated/integrated biomass as an important cultural trait in spite of the issues concerning the fact they're using their children literally as tools and weapons in combat.

There is surrender but both sides if cornered may be at times particularly tenacious so it might end up occasionally being closer to a questionable last stand that may have resulted due to the xzul or FPS forces misinterpreting body/verbal language. Prisoners are of course taken but the xzul do not make exceptions towards the religious.

The xzul don't quite torture although they do use strange interrogation techniques including drugging up a suspect, attempting to connect their mind to a sort of gestalt consciousness cluster, "brain-shocking" them from the psychic feedback (not quite as painful as it sounds, more or less extreme disorientation and a sense of not being wholly connected to one's body), and then getting the hopefully loosened target to speak up.
Only Death Is Real
12 Gabrael18th Mar 2013 01:26:35 AM from My musings , Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
Then with that in mind it all depends who they are up against. Since your rules of engagement are pretty similiar to ours I would recommend looking up battles in the geographical constraints you have in your world in human history, probably from the 1980s onward.

That gives you plenty of material. NATO stragedies and western european civil wars would be easy to find. Africa has some options but look at African Union theatres.

I say that because these organizations are closer to keeping to your rules. Now if you want a good example of when shit hits the fan: Haditha, Iraq, anywhere in Afghanistan vs. Soviets, Rwanda, Somolia, Iran and Iraq War, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Most Civil War battles are pretty well documented and since that was mainly troop movement with cannon support that could help.

Good urban fighting would be Bosnia, Serbia, the Communist Revolution, Somolia, Stalingrad, Iran civil war (the second Shah), and from the first Gulf War the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.

I don't know much about Naval or Air battles, but the guys in the Military thread are great about being walking encylopedias.
"-pats- it gun be ok bear someday you will eat them all." - Aszur
13 StillbirthMachine21st Mar 2013 07:37:19 PM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
Oh, well I outlined who they were up against in an earlier post, is there something more about them you would need to know about them? Do you know of any good jungle-heavy conflicts after Vietnam by the way?

And for a bit of a curve-ball, how about a conflict that's basically set in a city that has been overrun by the jungle? How would urban or jungle combat strategies change when massive flora and bizarre growths have taken up residence in a once sprawling cityscape? Think huge trees growing up in skyscrapers and serving as a kind of additional skeleton, roads laced with thick roots, tree branches erupting out of rotting architecture and so on.
Only Death Is Real
14 MajorTom21st Mar 2013 07:57:33 PM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Do you know of any good jungle-heavy conflicts after Vietnam by the way?

The Angolan Civil War is set in the tropics.

Then there's the Third Indo China War and the Vietnamese Cambodian War. (Which was basically Evil Versus Evil, the Khmer Rouge were not sympathetic and neither were the Communist Vietnamese.)

Barring that there's not much.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
15 Gabrael21st Mar 2013 08:24:10 PM from My musings , Relationship Status: Is that a kind of food?
Urban reclaimed landscape? Not that different from traditional jungle warfare.

There maybe some challanges in prolonged fighting or if soliders get separated in regards to resource gathering. But inferstructure is pretty much useless if it's covered in wild.

Honestly, ground forces are always a last resort. Traditional warfare between those with advanced capability is bomb from air or ship as much as possible then use ground units to contain the line and push in as a mop up crew. That is if you don't care about collateral damage.

Otherwise you bomb gently or use troop requested support and use infantry to make tactical sweeps. You loose more soliders but there is less damage to the area in both things and civilians. That's why we don't firebomb anymore even though it's cheap and easy to pull off.

Urban jungle is typically the setting for guerrila warfare but that is sorta boring too often. Blue Gender played with it well.

"-pats- it gun be ok bear someday you will eat them all." - Aszur
16 StillbirthMachine21st Mar 2013 09:57:14 PM from The Womb ov Impurities
Heresiarch Command
I can definitely understand that although I have heard that strategic bombing (at least when not followed up or combined with other forms of offence) is not quite as effective as it might seem. In the context of the planned Children of Aggression work it will likely be a smaller xzul force detached from the main one or sent in low-profile operations. The actual area will basically be in the "we have no idea what the hell is going on in there" zone so them actually being there is a bit of good luck and their tracking skills coming into play.

I know I sound like I am repeating myself but what roles might we see basically large arthropod creatures (classified as "animals" rather than persons) modified to essentially be living weapons platforms playing? I'm planning on making one of the distinguishing features about the xzul is that sometimes instead of tanks or armoured personnel carriers they will use creatures reminiscent of (sometimes combinations of) mole crickets/wandering spiders/scorpions/rove beetles/carabid beetles/mud crabs, only partially cybernetic and with a wide variety of weaponry installed into their armour and biology. They can roughly be in about the same size range as actual military vehicles, if not at times larger (think at times between Warhammer 40000 walkers and Front Mission mecha for the larger ones).

I'm thinking they would basically "vehicles with legs that skitter creepily fast and climb up vertical surfaces", but I'm wondering about how they might coordinate with on-ground and logistical/support units. I guess they fall somewhere between spider tank and big creepy crawlies in the general concept. I mean I have an idea of how they might be utilized but I'd like to see how such creatures would be used realistically.

Also, what kind of classification would they fall under? Definitely not infantry, not really vehicles either, "combat animals" doesn't sound particular enough...

edited 21st Mar '13 10:01:22 PM by StillbirthMachine

Only Death Is Real
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Total posts: 16