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Garrisonable Structures

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In Strategy Games, specifically Real-Time Strategy, this is the ability of some structures to hold infantry units, allowing them to Take Cover! and fire out at enemies. There are three types:

  • Pre-placed on the map, and take the form of abandoned houses and commercial buildings.
  • Built for this purpose alone, and are almost invariably called bunkers, even if they're actually forts or redoubts. They can be more resilient than pre-placed structures but are almost always obvious to visual identification.
  • ''Production or headquarters structures that can also be garrisoned, either to defend the structure, or to provide shelter for the workers inevitably swarming around the base during an attack. In these cases, workers who can not ordinarily attack with any effectiveness will gain some kind of ranged counter as long as they stay inside.

In any case, the units inside will generally take no damage when the building is attacked, and may survive the destruction of the building, to be unceremoniously dumped on the sidewalk when it loses that last hit point, and presumably then have to face whatever did the deed. A hard counter for garrisonable structures is often included in a game that features them, often some kind of grenade. The other common counter is the flamethrower. Both are, of course, some of the real-life counters for the same.

Sometimes, production structures of various types will need to have units garrisoned in them to function. This serves as a way to scale the effectiveness of the building; devote more human resources from your population cap to it, it becomes more effective.

In some extreme cases, structures might exist that can garrison vehicles.


  • Command & Conquer, from Red Alert 2 and onwards, makes extensive use of this. Hiding infantry in structures (usually civilian, although versions made by the commanding player's military is possible) is an effective way to gain territory. Several rules of thumb apply. Firstly, a structure, if civilian, must be crippled, if not outright destroyed, to force an evacuation. Complete destruction is only necessary if it belongs to a military. Secondly, if available, a hard counter can be used to kill occupants at an instant and leave the formerly occupied building intact. And thirdly, even some vehicles can be used for cover, but hard counters do not work on them. Comes in two distinct eras:
    • The Red Alert 2 era. Only pre-placed structures are occupiable and only the most basic infantry can be occupants, although modifications can extend the garrison ability to other kinds of infantry. Hard counters and occupiable vehicles aren't introduced yetnote .
      • Red Alert 2's Expansion Pack, Yuri's Revenge, made military-made infantry bunkers and occupiable vehicles possible. A more extreme case (as mentioned by this article) is the Tank Bunker, which allows a whole tank in it. In noncombat operations, there's a Bio Reactor, a type of power generator that allows troops in to increase its total power output.
    • Post-Red Alert 2 era: officially lets pretty much any infantry to occupy buildings and vehicles. Hard counters are first introduced here.
      • Buildings aside, many vehicles in Generals can be makeshift bunkers— some may require an upgrade first. Hard counters to garrisons include Fast-Roping, flashbangs, flamethrowers and toxin sprayers. The Zero Hour expansion adds crazier fortifiable Military Mashup Machines and a new antibunker missile. Also, certain buildings react differently to an attack: some are counter-resistant while others can't cover their occupants that much, though all garrisoned troops are protected from the One-Hit Kill effects of snipers. Outside combat, there's an underground tunnel network building that works much like a portal and another that allows their occupants to do resourcing functions in a safe place. Infantry can also be garrisoned in the Barracks in order to be healed, though there's so many other ways to get the same effect that few players ever use this ability. Needless to say, the Generals series took this trope to a whole new level.
      • Subsequent games are more belligerent than Generals. In Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars, GDI supports garrison while Nod antagonizes it to hell. The former has a makeshift hospital, a small bunker that's built by grunts, an Awesome Personnel Carrier and a Military Mashup Machine, with their only hard counter being hand grenades. The latter goes antibunker, what with flamethrower tanks and soldiers. Its only occupiable is an unarmed, hard-skinned vehicle with questionable effectiveness. But the "unsupportive" title goes to the Scrin. They only have three kinds of units that do urban warfare: the first is strictly a psychic alien-dominated occupant, the second is an occupant and a hard counter while the third is just an armored toxic antibunker.
      • In the expansion, Kane's Wrath, the Steel Talons subfaction apparently decided this wasn't sufficient, so they added garrison pods to their harvesters and artillery. This could be fairly effective in giving normally very vulnerable units a decent punch, but was hampered by the fact that the Steel Talons eschew advanced infantry in favor of tanks.
      • Soviet Engineers in Red Alert 3 can build bunkers in places that don't have structures to garrison, and all three sides have a counter-garrison option in their basic infantry. Allied Peacekeepers, which are as much SWAT cops as soldiers, and the katana-wielding Imperial Solders, can charge in and trade some of their own lives for the units inside. Soviet Conscripts (and later Mortar Cycles) can just kill everything inside by tossing in some molotov cocktails, and the Desolator airstrike instantly clears garrisoned buildings and exposed infantry alike.
  • Blizzard Entertainment:
    • StarCraft has no neutral garrisonable structures, but the Terrans do build bunkers as their main defense building. It wouldn't work for the Protoss or Zerg, as their infantry use melee attacks.
    • Starcraft II has a few upgrades for the campaign bunker, notably allowing it to hold more troops, increasing the range of bunkered units, putting a Weak Turret Gun up top so it can defend while empty, and some versions have cup holders.
    • In War Craft III, the Orcs rely on a medieval version of the Terran bunkers (known as "Burrows") as their main ground defense. They are implied to be something like a home. Garrisoning their own homes seems entirely in character for the Horde. It also uses the "arm the workers" effect for any Peons moved inside one, as they can attack by using spears, bows and other long-ranged weaponry stored within a burrow alongsided it's store of food.
  • Age of Empires II has both the buildable kind (towers, castles) and the headquarters kind (town centers). In either case, any unit on foot can be garrisoned, although only workers and archers can attack while inside. Of particular note, towers and castles cannot fire upon adjacent enemies until "murder holes" have been researched. The town center also had the "town bell" function, which when activated will order all villagers to take cover in the nearest defensive building.
    • Production structures could also sort of be garrisoned; units could "stack up" in the building when created, but once they left, they could not re-enter. This was mostly useful when you were being attacked: rather than have your reinforcements file out one by one into the arms of the waiting enemy, you could stock up 10 or 15 and release them all at once, which dramatically improved their chances.
  • In Rise of Nations, in addition to the garrison behavior in Age of Empires II, there also exist buildings that generate resources when garrisoned with certain units. Scholars generate the knowledge resource when garrisoned in universities, and can be moved from one to the next. Oil platforms require a worker garrison him/herself inside to function. It also allows military units to garrison inside their production structure at any time, which is important for the reason below.
    • Garrison is also the only way to not only heal units, but also replenish fallen/destroyed members of a unit, as the healing provided by supply wagons (If you're playing as the French or have the Versailles wonder constructed) can only restore members of a unit that are still alive. Early in the game, cavalry can garrison in forts and towers, but armored units later in the game can only be stored in the factory that made them.
  • In Company of Heroes, units can garrison in many of the abandoned buildings found on the battlefield. Some of the bigger ones can be upgraded into headquarters structures. This is usually a good move, as the buildings engineers can build out on the field are weak, sandbag-and-tent affairs, or deployable vehicles. Infantry can also Take Cover! out on the field, behind walls or in trenches.
    • Notably, however, the game actually averts the typical "infantry will not take damage inside the structure" except for engineer-constructed shelters and garrisonable vehicles (though whatever destroys a vehicle or bunker is likely to take out any garrisoned infantry in the same hit). Inside civilian buildings, infantry units can still take casualties as normal from a variety of weapons, though in keeping with this trope, flamethrowers and (especially) grenades/satchel charges seem to be particularly effective.
  • Act of Aggression has similar garrison mechanics to C&C. However infantry are not completely invulnerable when in buildings and and can still be killed. Also sniper units are capable of picking infantry taking cover in buildings easily. In addition, riflemen and special forces units from each sides are capable of assaulting the occupied buildings, provided they can get in. Unlike other games, this results in a short time firefight inside the building rather than instantly clearing it and if the attackers are outgunned, the defenders can still kick them out.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Sixth Edition rules for Warhammer 40,000 lays out standard rules for using pre-placed terrain features as garrisonable structures (based on the existed transport vehicle rules). Although in shooting the troops themselves cannot be targeted (only the building, although substantial damage to the building may cause part of it to collapse, harming soldiers inside), there are extensive rules on how to assault a defended structure with your own troops. All manner of special rules were written to cover various special cases, including battlements, multi-segment structures, emplaced weapons, and even using a flamethrower on a building's occupants.
    • The Imperial Guard in Dawn of War can garrison inside most of their structures, not only giving them cover but also allowing them to use the mounted weapons from lasguns, plasma guns to heavy bolters. Soldiers garrisoned in these structures can also use the tunnel systems to make their way to another structure but this takes time.
    • DoW II plays this trope much straighter, with pre-placed garrisonable buildings covering most maps.
    • Rites of War has built up areas that give units located within them an advantage to defense. Even more importantly, units in structures can rest for a turn to get full replacements, instantly returning to full combat strength, as long as there are no enemy units in adjacent hexes. Outside of structures, resting only lets your wounded recover, but brings in no replacements for troops who have been killed. These structures, it should be noted, are all type one.
    • In Warhammer 40,000: Gladius, most fortifications, such as cities, Imperial Bastions, and Fortresses of Redemption have the "Transport" special rule, which allows infantry to hide inside. However, they can't shoot out of it, and die when it gets blown up. Luckily, they have lots of HP, Damage Reduction, and guns (the FoR is even modular, gaining bolters and a missile silo with upgrades).
  • Infantry in World in Conflict can garrison buildings, and the larger the building, the more units it can hold. While garrisoning doesn't give them additional offensive capabilities, a building does shield the infantry from all damage while reducing neither its sight, nor firing distance, making the efficient use of cover the prime directive of the Infantry role. The precious few ways to neutralize a building cluster infested by enemy infantry mostly include massive bombardment that destroys the buildings before they can get out. The only "clean" flush-out method that preserves the buildings themselves is the chemical attack.
  • EndWar also allows infantry to garrison buildings. It's rather annoying when the enemy does it - riflemen in cover can kill damn near anything. Except tanks, and artillery, and riflemen with the Storm Building ability. And Engineers in cover will ruin your day if you're vehicle-heavy.
  • Star Wars: Empire at War and its expansion, Forces of Corruption. First, all production buildings will have certain "garrison" units. Barracks: Infantry (both types for Rebellion and Zann Consortium, Stormtroopers and Scoutroopers on speeder bikes for Empire), Light Factory: Light vehicle, etc. Space Stations also have general-purpose fighter squadrons (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and StarViper) and bomber squadrons (Y-Wing, TIE Bomber, Skipray Blastboat) in on-station hangars, with higher-level ones being able to call in corvettes and even FRIGATES to hyperspace in as reinforcements. Forces of Corruption also added actual "bunker" buildings that house infantry and non-vehicle hero units.
    • Age of Mythology keeps the buildable and headquarters kind of Garrisonable Structures, and also provides the player with a handy, one click, "Get all my workers into a defensive building!" button. Hitting the same button sends them all back to work after the crisis is over.
  • Halo Wars has regular garrisonable cover, as well as garrisonable reactors (ONI or Forerunner, depending on the level's setting), which increase your technology level without having a reactor take up a spot on your base. One multiplayer map has a garrisonable structure that increases the population amount of the player whose unit is garrisoned in it.
  • In Age of Wonders this primarily comes from walled cities and watch tower structures whose only purpose is monitoring a wider range of the map. Terrain such as encampments and old temples (usually evil) and even resource structures can be considered "garrisonable" due to providing cover, the high ground, chokepoints, or beneficial magic effects.
  • Empire Earth:
    • In the first game, two types of structures can be garrisoned: Settlements/Town Centers/Capitols and Granaries, and Fortresses. Citizens can be permanently garrisoned in the former two to upgrade them (a fully garrisoned Capitol doubles the resources brought to it, but 50 citizens takes a lot of time and food); while any unit can be garrisoned in a fortress (this does nothing except remove the unit from the pop cap, allowing you to train new units without deleting the old ones, but they can't be taken out of the fortress if this would break the cap). For obvious reasons, Fortresses aren't present in the campaign.
    • In the second game, City Centers and Warehouses can be garrisoned to increase the amount of resources dropped off there, but this form of settling is not permanent.
      • Fortresses and Wall Towers can also be manned, which increases the building's damage no matter the unit type (including rams and horsemen). In the Fortress' case, garrisoned units are also healed.
      • The Western civilizations (Europe, the US, and Russia)'s modern global power lets them instantly teleport (well, airdrop) the occupants of a Fortress to a target point on the map. It only works with a single fortress at a time and with up to 15/20/25 population's worth of units, but it can make a nasty unstoppable reinforcement or ambush.
  • In all games in the Outfront series, (Soldiers: Heroes of World War II, Faces of War and Men of War), infantry can take cover behind objects and take up window positions in buildings. In Fo W and Mo W the silouhette of the infantry squad is show and you can move your mouse about to find the position best suited to you.
  • Used in Blitzkrieg, however certain buildings have 'blind spots', angles that the troops inside cannot see, allowing tanks and artillery to attack with impunity.
  • Age of Mythology had the Greeks who worship Poseidon get the special ability to have a small group of infantry come out of destroyed buildings to attack the attackers.
  • In Sudden Strike, soldiers can enter nearly any structure to provide vision or have some protection. Those structures can be houses, churches, bunker, tower etc. Usually the soldiers die or are at least severely wounded when the structure collapses.
  • In Act of War, civilian structures can be occupied and are usually quite sturdy. Units aren't immune to damage while garrisoned, though they do get significant shielding. Only hard counters are snipers, who can pick off garrisoned units. Otherwise, you need to blow the hell out of the building or send in units, which tends to be costly.
    • The game engine treats buildings simultaneously as objects and terrain, meaning units can not only be garrisoned inside, but also be placed on top of buildings. Put some snipers on the roof, you got a sniper's nest. Some AA troopers, and you got a quick warning against enemy flyers. Find a large enough building and fly in some artillery on top, and you got an artillery post. Put all aforementioned units on the roof, add some repair/medical units, and you got a nice little forward base vulnerable only to superweapons.
  • In Advanced Squad Leader, seeking cover in buildings is a core mechanic, and some scenarios allow pillboxes to be placed before play starts. They only make troops inside them harder to hit, though. Demolition Charges and Flamethrowers counter their defensive bonuses.
  • Outpost 2 doesn't actually have infantry units, but includes a structure where vehicles can be garrisoned for repairs and to keep them out of the way of enemy gunfire until they're needed.
  • WarWind: Almost all building have space for at least one unit to hide inside. Since the enemy cannot hurt you unless he destroys the entire structure, hiding weaker units like workers is a useful tactic while defending your base. However, mounted troops and some special units are just too large too seek shelter inside a building.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri has bunkers available as a tile improvement. Normally destroying a unit will also damage all others in the same tile. Bunkers prevent this splash damage as well as provide a defense bonus. A tile with a bunker, forest, and sensor array is the strongest combination of defense bonus Geo Effects that can exist on a single square and makes for a very tough stronghold.
  • Foxhole has aptly named "garrisoned houses" are large houses that exist within towns, wrecked from previous battles and needing to be rebuilt with a construction vehicle. Once rebuilt they'll function as a Sentry Gun when near a Tunnel Network or players can pile inside to fire on enemies from cover, including heavy machine gunners.
  • Men of War: One of the series' main draws is that soldiers can take cover behind anything, be it rocks, fallen trees, or folds of the landscape. Naturally, it includes buildings and purpose-built trenches and bunkers. Any type of cover drastically increases the soldier's odds of survival, and buildings tend to have convenient windows, allowing soldiers to return fire while staying in relative safety. Of course, buildings tend to crumble under artillery fire, burying its defenders, while trenches merely smooth over when damaged enough. Bunkers, meanwhile, tend to be indestructible, forcing you to snipe the slits or just go around them.