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Urban Warfare

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"It's not like a battlefield. The best place for urban fighting is right out in the countryside, sir, where there's nothing else in the way."
Captain Wrangle, Night Watch

Urban warfare is very different from conventional combat in the open, in which commanders have wide latitude to maneuver tanks, artillery and infantry, and where air power plays an important role. Clearing a city full of determined defenders is a very difficult task, as the urban environment negates the effectiveness of many of the most powerful weapons of modern militaries, such as tanks, field artillery and aircraft, leveling the playing field somewhat for not-so-well-equipped forces, including La Résistance that might oppose them. Any building, even a bomb-shattered ruin, can be turned into an armed stronghold and pose a major obstacle. Armored vehicles have difficulty maneuvering in tight streets and are vulnerable to ambush from rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), and artillery and air support won't do you any good if the enemy keeps changing positions, has its resources dispersed over the city, and is enmeshed amongst civilians (which raises the risk of bombing or shelling them).note 

Forget the rules of "gentlemanly warfare." It's all close-quarters guerrilla warfare here—ambushes, snipers, booby traps, bayonets, Improvised Weapons (entrenching shovels and Molotov cocktails). In this close-quarters fighting, weapons that have limited applications in conventional modern warfare, such as submachine guns and shotguns become favored weapons.

As an unfortunate side effect of the dirty, casualty-ridden, and momentum-killing nature of the fighting, armies (and their political masters) are often forced to leave the job half done by avoiding cities altogether (usually due to political implications of such a prolonged, bloody conflict). At other times, they simply flatten as much of the city as possible before/while/instead of fighting over it, thereby neutralizing some of the advantages of the "urban" aspect, and usually rendering the place strategically worthless in the process, as well as being, shall we say, ''problematic'' to any remaining citizenry. Yet another option is to besiege the city. After all, it's very difficult to grow adequate food supplies in an urban area, and breaking the defending force's spirit is preferable to a drawn out conflict.

Significant street fighting of this type was seen at least as early as World War II (especially the Battle of Stalingrad), though there are several Napoleonic war battles (most notably the Sieges of Zaragoza) that foreshadowed the urban warfare of the 20th century and such battles likely occurred even earlier than that. (See for example the two medieval Battles of St. Albans, discussed below.) Unfortunately this kind of warfare still takes place in various conflicts around the world.

Urban warfare is a nightmare in modern times. Even untrained militia or partisan groups can stand against highly trained troops in the confusing twists and turns of a high population center. It is war at its dirtiest, with collateral damage difficult to avoid and a high potential for confusion. Units often find themselves in a confused tangle of friend and foe, and with La Résistance, it may be hard to know which people are fighters and which are civilians.

This kind of setting is likely for an action-heavy video game as the aspects of urban warfare's terrain goes from nerve-wracking and difficult to fully control for an attack in real life, to adrenaline-filled and unlikely to stall due to multiple approaches to advance (helped by windows or high floors being much less readily available than would be realistic) from being difficult to lock down fully with a video game's usually more limited participant count. The close proximity of walls and buildings in a video game can also cover up how their weaponry is modeled as being only capable at a much shorter range than they would be in real life.

Keep in mind that a battle for a city doesn't necessarily count as urban warfare. It requires that the city streets and buildings themselves are the primary battlefield. Often caused by War Comes Home when the character's home happens to include urban settings now bombarded by conflict.

Known in the US Army as MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) and in the British Army as FISH (fighting in someone's home)note .

Compare and contrast with Mountain Warfare, where fighting takes place in mountains and high-altitude rough terrain, Jungle Warfare, where fighting takes place in remote tropical rainforests instead, Desert Warfare, where fighting is done in open deserts, and Winter Warfare, where fighting takes place in conditions below freezing, though in the case of the latter it can easily overlap with this one (Stalingrad being one such example).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX's first volume has many battles fought in the ruins of San Magnolian cities as Spearhead Squadron fights its Hopeless War against the encroaching Legion hordes. With their puny Juggernaut's limited firepower and non-existent armor, they frequently have to rely on hit-and-run ambushes set up within collapsed buildings and tight streets. At the end of Volume 2, the Legion successfully breach the Gran Mur wall and overrun the capital city Liberté et Egalité, forcing Captain Lena Milizé to fight a guerilla war in the city that neutralizes their numerical advantage. More urban warfare erupts in Volume 4 when Spearhead Squadron returns to San Magnolia as the Eighty-Sixth Strike Package to conduct a mission to destroy a Legion Admiral energy-processing unit deep in the bowels of San Magnolia's old subway system in the city of Charité.
  • Battle Royale: During the first Program of Shogo Kawada, his class were forced to fight in an abandoned urban ghetto.
  • Dominion Tank Police is kind of an object lesson in the problems with armored vehicles in urban combat. In particular the collateral damage.
  • Gasaraki: There are a couple of scenes in the city complete with urban tactics in full use.
  • Used, sort of, in Girls und Panzer where the tight city streets of an evacuated urban area are used by Oarai to even the odds for their outnumbered and outgunned team in their first and last matches.
  • Rebuild World: The Ghost City of Mihazono gets turned into a scene of this overnight. An idiot hunter entering the Sarenthal Building shoots the Projected Man little girl representing the city's managing Artificial Intelligence, which makes her raise the alert level Awakening the Sleeping Giant. Shortly after, some VIP hunters get trapped inside and put out a Distress Call that results in several teams of hunters sent to rescue them getting butchered and barricading themselves in surrounding buildings, sending their own distress calls. When Akira joins a Search And Rescue operation there, they have to force destroyed vehicles out of their way on the roads, and face attackers from all sides including from above.
  • Though yet to appear directly, flashbacks in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V show this happening in Heartland.

    Comic Books 
  • Many comic books based on WWII have urban combat scenes.

    Fan Works 
  • The battles in former Reykjavik during Operation CATO in Aeon Natum Engel.
  • About 90% of the first act of Tiberium Wars is brutal urban combat in the area around Washington D.C. The second act also features combat in Rio and Alexandria.
  • Shell Shock takes place in a ruined urban area.
  • The Siege of Crassus begins with a four day battle outside the city. When the Covenant Loyalists breach the city on the fifth day, one of the characters realizes that none of that prepared him for "the horrors of urban warfare".
  • The Battle of Axum from Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K has the Jedi and clone troopers fighting the Imperium's forces on the eponymous City Planet.
  • Tarkin's Fist: Justin Mallory earns his promotion from Private to Corporal in the brutal block by block street fighting that takes place during the Battle of Los Angeles.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All of Battle: Los Angeles takes place in the streets and buildings of Los Angeles during an Alien Invasion. Many of the traditional problems of urban warfare are omnipresent; multiple times the human soldiers are taking fire from unknown directions, the buildings herd them into lines of fire and killboxes, they have to take rooftops to get clear lines of sight, and combat damage destroys roadways and limits mobility. The urban terrain is eventually used to the humans' advantage later on, with them using the sewage systems to sneak up on an alien installation and the broken landscape as cover while holding a position against an attack.
  • Every single combat scene in Black Hawk Down is urban warfare.
  • A Bridge Too Far: Features the British attempting to hold on to the town of Arnhem during Operation: Market Garden.
  • City of Life and Death has a chaotic urban battle between Chinese Nationalists and Japanese soldiers.
  • The German 1960s film Die Brücke (The Bridge) has a group of Hitler Youth defending a strategically unimportant bridge against American tanks. They manage to hold off multiple Shermans for 24 hours with little more than a day of professional training. Sure, all but one tragically die, but it does prove how much urban warfare can differ from conventional combat.
  • Downfall features the Battle of Berlin. While much of the film takes place in Hitler's underground bunker, there are brief scenes showing the Third Reich's last defenders, mostly old men and young children, fighting a losing battle against the Red Army.
  • Full Metal Jacket has some urban scenes from the Battle of Hue City where a sniper takes out one of the Marines, leading to others being shot trying to save him.
  • Kanał by Andrzej Wajda, set in the final days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
  • Manila, Open City follows the 1945 Battle of Manila.
  • Roman Polański's The Pianist shows the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the later Warsaw Uprising by the Polish Home Army.
  • Similarly done in Saving Private Ryan where Vin Diesel's character is shot by a sniper. The final scenes in the movie are combat scenes in an urban environment, a bombed-out French town, where soldiers are fighting street to street. There's even a harrowing sequence where an American and a German clash in an upstairs bedroom and are reduced to biting, gouging and using a bayonet.
  • One or more of the battles we see at the beginning of Soldier is in an urban area.
  • Unsurprisingly, the German war movie Stalingrad, named for one of the most brutal urban battles in history. And the Russian film with the same title, which naturally focuses more on the Soviet experience defending Stalingrad.
    • Enemy at the Gates also focuses on the Soviet side of the battle of Stalingrad (it's even titled "Stalingrad" in some countries).
  • Scenes of bloody fighting on the streets of Pyongyang in Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War.
  • A few scenes from To Hell and Back (1955).
  • The Serbian movie Vukovar: jedna prica (Vukovar: A Story, alternate title: Vukovar poste restante) is set in the war-torn city of Vukovar, where Serbian and Croatian forces have engaged in fierce urban combat. However, the story is centered around a young couple, a Serb guy and a Croat girl, whose romance is threatened by the war. The movie was shot on actual location while the war was still ravaging.

  • Battle Ground: The titular battle ground is Chicago, which has been targeted by the attackers specifically because it is a large city. Their plan involves slaughtering every person in the city, which they fail to do partially because they do not expect the citizens to put up much of a defense.
  • Beachwalker takes place in the middle of a war between an unnamed army and similarly unnamed rebellion. The protagonist is forced to dodge firefights in the streets of her hometown several times.
  • Invoked in The Belgariad by the nomadic Algars: their one "city" is actually Schmuck Bait for Angarak invaders, designed for the sole purpose of letting the Algars strike from every kind of ambush imaginable. The Algarian king jokes that the Angaraks insist on believing that there's something incredibly valuable about the place to justify how fiercely it's defended, when really it's just easier for the Algarians than hunting them down across the open plains.
  • There are several instances of this in the Belisarius Series, including the suppression of the revolts in Constantinople and Alexandria, Belisarius' stand in Charax, and Damadora's final conquest of Kausumbi. In the last case there was little resistance, though the stand of Damadora's and Rana Sanga's families against the Malwa is a miniature version.
  • The Discworld novel Night Watch notes some of the things which men on horseback are and aren't suited for...such as how they fare in Urban Warfare against an enemy without a uniform.
  • Domina: Since most of the story takes place in a city, this comes up a few times. In particular, it's mentioned that tanks are a nightmare in an urban environment, so America uses echoes instead.
  • Honor Harrington: The last quarter of Cauldron of Ghosts is a battle between the Mesan armed forces and the seccies note  of the Neue Rostock slum.
  • House to House, a memoir by an American infantryman set in the Second Battle of Fallujah, depicts the horror and chaos of urban warfare.
  • The final book of The Hunger Games (Mockingjay) features this heavily as rebel forces from the former districts attack the Capitol. The Capitol defenses include pods which can spawn any type of horror such as mutated creatures to automatic weapons fire.
  • Invoked in The Redemption of Althalus: when planning to defend a nation, the protagonists realize that one city doesn't have anywhere near the fortifications to repel the invaders, so they evacuate everyone non-essential, deploy a warrior tribe that specializes in close-quarters tactics, and rig the entire city as conspicuously lootable Schmuck Bait. The invaders fall for it and get massacred in the streets.
  • Red Storm Rising sees the Battle of Alfeld turn into this. To make things worse, the civilians weren't done evacuating when the 20th Guards Tank Division rolls into town complete with trademark Soviet artillery spam, making the battle an absolutely confused and very bloody mess. Relatively unusual example of the trope in that it involved large-scale tank-on-tank combat within the confines of the city.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Star by Star, the newly-minted Elite Mecha-Mooks, the YVH or Yuuzhan Vong Hunter droids, are demonstrated excelling at a variety of combat situations in a mocked-up city. This is given a darker Call-Back later in the novel, when a Jedi strike team discovers that the Yuuzhan Vong's own secret weapons, the Hero Killer voxyn, were trained under similar circumstances. In the cramped quarters of the city proving grounds, the Vong ambush the Jedi party, leading to their first (living) casualties and devastating the invaders' morale.
    • Also, any ground battle that takes place on the capital planet of Coruscant is going to be this, because the whole planet is one big city!
  • In the Worldwar series by Harry Turtledove Sam Yeager remarks that during WWI, he thought trenches were the worst and most nightmarish place to fight possible, but after a taste of city fighting, he's not so sure anymore.
  • World War Z necessarily has a lot of this happen.
    • Harry Turtledove provides another example of this in the Timeline-191 series, with the Battle of Pittsburgh. It's modeled after the Real Life Battle of Stalingrad.
  • The Zone novel series by James Rouch was set in a fictional World War III Europe, so naturally included a lot of this. Most noticeably in Blind Fire and Overkill.
  • Urban warfare shows up a few times in the The Riftwar Cycle.
    • It features twice in A Darkness at Sethanon. The invading army of Murmandamus storms the city of Armengar, which is heavily armed and explicitly designed to frustrate an army. The strategic genius of Guy du Bas Tyra makes it a nightmare for the invaders. Later in the same book the heroes have to defend the much weaker city of Sethanon.
    • In Rage of a Demon King, the Kingdom has to defend the city of Krondor against invaders from Novindus. Jimmy the Hand learned from Guy du Bas Tyra on how to defend a city. Both Armengar and Krondor are turned into literal powder kegs and eventually explode, destroying both cities.
  • Towards the end of the The Wheel of Time this trope shows up in Caemlyn and a few other cities. The Waygates within the cities allow for easy infiltration by the Dark One's forces, as the Waygates connect to other locations within the Blight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Band of Brothers has several battles that take place in towns and cities across Europe, most notably Carentan.
  • Almost every mission in The Brave takes place in cities, forcing the main characters to exercise great discretion and care when getting into shootouts with the bad guys.
  • Firefly had a flashback to an urban battle, the main setpiece appearing to be the ruins of a Buddhist temple.
  • Ditto for SEAL Team, which also features a large number of operations in dense built up urban areas. The most significant example is the India arc in the second season, which is a 3-episode long slugfest in Mumbai as Bravo Team and Indian police forces respond to a massive city-wide terrorist attack.
  • Soviet Storm: World War II in the East has several major battles in the Eastern Front that take place in Soviet, and later, German cities, with the most notable being Stalingrad and Berlin.
  • Stargate SG-1 series has several instances of this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Urban environments are available in BattleTech (the current core rulebook devotes an entire chapter to buildings for good reason). Fighting there can get messy quickly. Buildings block lines of sight even for Humongous Mecha. Vehicles and 'Mechs can in turn try to move through buildings, but risk taking damage and possibly crashing through into the basement and getting stuck there, and the process isn't exactly easy on the buildings either. Heavy units trying to use their maximum ground speed can skid on pavement, adding to the advantage already obviously enjoyed by those with jump jets. And basically the only way to get at infantry hiding in a building from outside is by demolishing the whole thing until cumulative collateral damage takes them out as well, probably while they keep taking potshots at their attacker unimpeded in turn...
    • And slow 'Mechs with high-damage, short-range weaponry that are a joke in open battlefields, like the aptly named UrbanMech suddenly become terrifying in the confined quarters and heavily broken sight-lines of a city. Turning a corner and suddenly staring down the barrel of an AC/10 or even AC/20 attached to the Inner Sphere's angriest trash can is not a pleasant experience.
  • This is the assumed default for Infinity. Troops in Infinity can react to enemy movement with a withering hail of fire, meaning that you need an urban environment or some other region with tons of obstructions and cover, lest the first turn see half your squad converted into a fine red mist by enemy snipers.
  • Monsterpocalypse takes this to Kaiju levels, opposing monsters fight each other in urban areas with lots of buildings, and they can demolish buildings by tossing each other at them.
  • Several standard enemies in the New World of Darkness, including most mortal factions that the player is likely to run afoul of (Police, SWAT, Paramilitary groups, and Hunters) are specifically designed around this, with standard gear and skills based around coordination, exploitation of urban terrain, and covering each other with firearms at all times. This is a big part of why the New Wo D has a "soft" masquerade rather than a "hard" masquerade: in the old Wo D you kept the secret basically because your fellow vampires/mages/werewolves told you to, and would kick you around for breaking it. In the new version, you don't reveal your supernatural nature because the humans can and will get a posse together to hunt you house to house, use tactics to prevent your escape, and then shoot you until you stop twitching the moment you become a verifiable threat.
  • Shadowrun largely consist of this trope.
  • Several classic tabletop wargames, notably Simulations Publications Inc, Sniper. As well as any of the few Tactical level siege simulations(siege games are rare because there is little maneuvering and the gadgeteering which can actually be quite interesting is hard to simulate)once the wall is breeched; Avalon Hill's Siege of Jerusalem(about the Jewish Revolts) for instance has a city map which allows quite a bit of space for Urban Warfare.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a supplement rule book just for urban combat. Cities of Death. Also, all of the urban terrain sold by Games Workshop for Warhammer 40K is imperial buildings, of which about 1/4 of the parts are used to show where the building took a direct artillery round.
    • The Mordheim and Necromunda supplements, for Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k respectively, are all about small squads of troops fighting in cramped, run-down cityscapes.

    Video Games 
  • Every game in the ARMA features a map that will contain dense urban towns or cities. Everytime you fight on them the game will turn into this trope.
  • The Battlefield series has a number of maps being set in a town or city, including Battlefield 1942 (Stalingrad, Berlin etc.), the spinoffs of Bad Company 1 & 2 and Battlefield Heroes.
  • BattleTech: The aptly named Urban Warfare expansion adds urban combat to the game, complete with destructible buildings.
  • Call of Duty often does this, especially its Modern Warfare incarnations. The Rio De Janeiro levels in the sequel, especially the first one, are infuriatingly difficult and often referred to as "urban-warfare hell". And that's not even mentioning other levels that set in American and European cities torn apart by World War III, including New York and Paris.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals: Many levels against the GLA are set in cities, where infantry can enter the nearest building and turn it into a stronghold, and quickly get into another when the first is destroyed. However, combat is made much easier than in reality due to every faction having a weapon that instantly kills all infantry inside a garrisoned building (flashbangs for the US, flamethrower tanks for China, and toxin-spewing tanks for the GLA, although you aren't penalized for destroying the city and killing civilians.
  • Crysis 2. The whole game is set in New York City.
  • Dawn of War, being based of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game, of course has them. In the Dark Crusade single-player campaign, for example, the Imperial Guard and Tau HQ locations are the ruins around Victory Bay and the city of Asharis/Or'es Tash'n respectively, while one of the most powerful bonus powers is gained by hunting Servitors in a run-down spaceport.
  • The Division and The Division 2 respectively depict New York and Washington DC in the aftermath of a viral apocalypse and social collapse, hence players will fight enemy gangs out in the city streets and inside major landmarks. Indeed, part of the appeal is seeing how survivors have converted these buildings into makeshift fortresses of post-apocalyptic strategic value. Want to fight your way through both sides of Wall Street, or liberate Capitol Building? Now you can.
  • The Fallout series has many major examples.
    • The very first Fallout featured the post-apocalyptic ruins of Los Angeles, now called the Boneyard, filled with post-nuclear gangs and Deathclaws. Naturally, you get to shoot them, fitting this trope to a T.
    • Urban combat is very frequent in Fallout 3 when you're roaming the streets of Washington DC. Super Mutants, Raiders, Talon Company mercenaries, and eventually the Enclave love to engage you from overhead cover in the bombed-out buildings. The outskirts of DC also have their share of urban combat, and the few decent-sized ruined towns in the Wasteland itself feature this as well. The Pitt DLC also has this in the ruins of Pittsburgh.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has far less urbanized warfare going on, as the only heavily built-up areas are around New Vegas itself, and that area is well-secured by Mr. House's Securitrons and the New California Republic. Nonetheless, the ruined urban area west of Camp McCarren is overrun by the drugged-out Fiend raiders, and provides some fairly vicious urban combat if you go after their leaders and the Vault housing them.
    • Fallout 4 features even more urban warfare in the ruins of Boston, complete with fights inside skyscrapers. Outside of Diamond City and Goodneighbor, downtown Boston is infested with Raiders, Super Mutants, Institute Synths, and Gunner mercenaries, all of whom will shoot on sight. This also applies to the ruins of the surrounding towns. In fact, you get your first taste of combat early on in Concord, where you don Powered Armor and wield a minigun to take out Raiders and a Deathclaw.
  • A good portion of Half-Life 2.
  • The Half-Life 2 multiplayer mod Iron Grip : The Oppression has this as the entire focus of the game.
  • The Halo series has several instances of this:
    • Halo 2 has two levels which takes place in the African city of New Mombasa (the future version of Mombasa, Kenya), which the Covenant has occupied.
    • Halo 3: ODST is set entirely within New Mombasa as a Lower-Deck Episode, in which the ODST team navigates through the thoroughly wrecked metropolis.
    • Halo: Reach also has a few levels set in the doomed city of New Alexandria, where the player has to help evacuate civilians, among other things.
    • Halo 5: Guardians has one level set in an alien city on the Elite homeworld; specifically, the holy city of Sunaion, which is located right over a sea.
  • Represented in the Hearts of Iron series by incredible negative combat modifiers and high attrition from attacking an "Urban" province. Most brigade types suffer heavy combat penalties, with armor and artillery taking the worst, while infantry take the least. Adding combat engineers to a division greatly reduces the penalties. As an added bit of unpleasantness associated with urban environments, most such provinces also count towards victory points, meaning that in order to force a country to surrender, you have to take them. The only real way to take urban environments without a costly battle is to surround them, cut them off from supply, and let the defenders break down, but that takes quite a while, as a division can hold out up to thirty days if fully supplied before they are cut off, and still take time to break while being attacked.
  • Hell Let Loose has practically all of its in-game maps feature various towns, villages, and hamlets that are objectives, requiring them to be contested and captured.
  • Isonzo: Several of the alpine maps feature destroyed towns and villages scattered in-between the steep slops and rocky cliffs. The most notable of these is the city of Gorizia, where the Austro-Hungarians must defend the city from an Italian offensive.
  • Mass Effect
    • The end of Mass Effect 3 takes place in mostly-destroyed London, with brutal fighting from building to building trying to clear the streets for vehicles to get through. Prior engagements include a running fight through the Citadel Presidium, a battle with Cerberus troops in a city on Benning, and an attempt to extract important intel from a key location in the heart of one of the oldest metropoli on Thessia.
    • Mass Effect 2 has most of the missions on Illium and Omega.
  • The MechWarrior series often provides urban levels. In Living Legends, urban levels are brutal meat-grinders; battlearmor turn from minor nuisances to Demonic Spiders because of their ability to quickly traverse industrialized areas, climb onto rooftops, and in some cases, hide inside buildings, making them very difficult to flush out.
  • A constant scenario in the World War II-era Medal of Honor games, but especially Medal of Honor: Airborne, where 4 out of 6 combat drop zones are set in an urban area.
  • Urban combat in Mercenaries 2 varies from the odd skirmish in Maracaibo to a guerrilla incursion into Merida—both of which are later topped by an all-out AN-PLA battle in Caracas. Enemy troops tend to spawn from public buildings, and the only way to stop them is to risk collateral damage by demolishing these structures with C4, tanks, rockets or good old-fashioned air/artillery strikes.
  • Seen in the first chapter of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Depending on your perspective, a few examples in chapters 2 and 3 as well.
  • In Mount & Blade, city battles are similar to castle attacks, but on steroids. When assaulting castles, once you gain a foothold on the walls, the battle is halfway won. If it's a city, it's only the beginning: when you secure the city walls, you have to win at least a skirmish in the streets (with a small band of troops, not the whole of your army) and often a final assault on the city's keep. Of course, cavalry is completely useless (while in the fields it can be a veritable sledgehammer), so all horsemen in your army are automatically dismounted and fight on foot.
  • Nintendo Wars: Cities (and bases) are tied with mountains for cover rating, meaning that any unit placed on one has takes far less damage. Add onto this that units on friendly cities are substantially healed every turn, mix in some artillery, and battles to capture cities can become very bloody.
  • The popular Project Reality mod takes this a step further by using real-world cities such as Beirut, Muttrah, Basrah, Fallujah, and Karbala.
    • Its Spiritual Successor Squad also features a lot of maps in urban environments, such as Mutaha, Al-Basrah and Fallujah, mixed up with some Desert Warfare. Meanwhile, Narva is an urban environment set in Eastern Europe.
    • Squad 44: Many of the maps featured in the game, being set in Western Europe, have towns, cities, and villages scattered in between them, giving defending teams much-needed cover and defensive positions, and force attacking teams to make methodical, and slow, advances in order to avoid getting killed.
  • Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is set mostly in one of the textbook examples of this trope — the barely standing ruins of Stalingrad. And if it's not set in Stalingrad, expect it to be a town or village located near the city.
    • While normally focusing on Jungle Warfare instead, Saipan in Rising Storm instead features urban combat in the town of Garapan, with US Marines fighting Japanese Army soldiers in destroyed buildings.
    • Rising Storm 2: Vietnam has several maps that are set in Vietnamese towns and cities. Among them include Hue City, Quang Tri, and Saigon, which have NVA and VC troops engaging US, South Vietnamese, and Australian forces.
  • Snowbreak: Containment Zone takes place entirely within one quarantined sci-fi city, hence all the scenery for its gunfights are of roofs, hallways, streets, subways and sewers.
  • Star Wars Battlefront (2015) features Cloud City (of The Empire Strikes Back fame) as a multiplayer map as DLC. It's quite the sight seeing Cloud Cars suicide bomb AT-ATs being defended by legion of Stormtroopers, all while the city remains invariably white.
  • Lots of missions in the Syphon Filter games are in cities where you have to contend with confusing street layouts and snipers on rooftops. The franchise literally begins with a massive terrorist attack in downtown Washington D.C. and Gabe Logan getting thrown into the middle of the chaos.
  • Assaulting a city in the Total War games leads to the medieval version of this, and is suitably bloody even after taking the walls. The narrow streets and limited routes available render the classic field tactics of flanking and cavalry charges nearly useless, and the buildings frequently force archers to use indirect barrage fire that inflicts a fraction of the casualties of direct fire. Frequently, your troops are stuck slugging it out with enemy soldiers face-to-face until one side breaks due to attrition, which is why heavy infantry is a must for urban combat. Other good troops for urban combat are javelin-throwers who can stand behind the fighting infantry, and light/missile cavalry who can take unguarded streets quickly and flank defenders or fire over your troops' heads. Another good option, when used properly, are pikemen or other long polearm units, as the city streets force enemy units to take on the pikes head-on.
    • In the games that allow for the garrisoning of buildings, dislodging an enemy unit from the building can extremely hard and even elite units will suffer loses when assaulting the building. It is usually preferable to bring in canons and bombard the building till the defenders have to abandon it.
    • Total War: Attila has this as part of its game mechanics. Armies can take part in attacking cities and actively fight its defenders and slaughtering the populace. The fire effects also take a more destructive role, as they can burn down cities to rubble, and will spread if they are not put out.
  • Everything but the last level of Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, set in an alternate WWII where the Nazis won in Europe and invaded the US, is urban warfare.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has a few battles taking place inside cities.
  • Vietcong 2's US campaign takes place in Hue City. The VC campaign on the other hand, is much closer to the original.
  • In the newer XCOM: Enemy Unknown, almost all abduction maps take place in urban locations. With Enemy Within expansion, UFO can now crash in the cities themselves.
  • Xenonauts feature terror missions in cities around the world. Some other maps, like fan-made desert villages, also require similar tactics. The same can be said about its more famous predecessor, the XCOM series.

    Web Comics 
  • In Drowtales, the Nidraa'chal War sixteen years before the start of the main story took place entirely in the city of Chel'el'sussoloth, and resulted in heavy civilian casualties. This was especially devastating because the rules of clan warfare had been, until that point, designed to minimize civilian casualties as much as possible, but the Nidraa'chal threw this out the window not only through their choice of battlefield, but by also using the civilians as weapons by forcibly tainting them and turning them into demons that they sicced on the warriors sent to fight them.

    Web Original 
  • In Chapter Eight of Eclipse, Eighinn Stossuhl launches an assault in a country that leads into Urban Warfare, where his marines pushed back the soldiers and successfully took out one of the enemy barracks.
  • Mahu: In "Crownless Eagle", the armies of the Polish Commonwealth Republic fight a bloody battle in Stockholm which seens thousands of dead in both sides.
  • The Innocent has children taking adults away on the street as one way to turn them into slaves of the children.

    Western Animation 
  • G.I. Joe has the Joes fighting with Cobra in such conditions.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Most of the battles in this the series take place within the city streets of Robotropolis: the Freedom Fighters use the confusing layout of the place to their advantage, using the back alleys and sewers to avoid aerial surveillance, strike form unexpected locations, and disappear as quickly as they arrived.

    Real Life 
  • Large portions of World War II were fought in cities, mostly in Europe.
    • It's interesting to note that in the German/Soviet situations in city fighting earlier in the war, such as at Stalingrad, the Germans had superior firepower and air support while the Soviets were underequipped and fighting desperately for their lives, were totally reversed in its late stages, such as in Berlin in April-May 1945. Stalingrad is probably the most infamous example. Nicknamed "Rattenkrieg" ("Rat War") by the Germans, some would bitterly joke about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living room and the bedroom. Buildings were literally cleared out room by room, floor by floor. Perhaps the ugliest thing about the battle was that Stalingrad itself wasn't even a strategically important target for the Germans. The real objective was cutting off the Russian Navy's use of the Volga River, which could have been done just about anywhere. Going after Stalingrad specifically was purely an insult by Adolf Hitler against Josef Stalin.
    • The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland. The resistance was so successful, even with almost no supplies and after being starved for years, that the Nazis resorted to systematically burning houses block by block using flamethrowers and blowing up basements and sewers. To further prove the point, the Ghetto resistance in one district lasted nearly as long as the entire Polish military did against the Wehrmacht across the entire country!
    • The Warsaw Uprising the following year lasted more than twice as long. Despite the Polish defeat, the Home Army inflicted heavy casualties on the heavier-armed SS divisions sent to suppress them. The Germans responded by flattening almost the entire city in revenge.
    • The Second Sino-Japanese War had its share of battles in cities such as Shanghai, Nanking, Changsha, Changde, Wuhan and Taierzhuang.
      • The defense of Nanking was a Curb-Stomp Battle for the Chinese army, but while Shanghai ended in defeat, 423 Chinese troops defended a warehouse for 4 days against the Japanese 3rd division, killing 200 Japanese and destroying several armored cars with stick grenades.
      • Wuhan was defended furiously by the Chinese, with an entire quarter of their total ammunition being used up, but ultimately fell to Japan.
      • That all said, Taierzhuang saw the first Chinese victory of the war, with fanatical warlord soldiers (often armed with just swords and Mauser pistols along with stick grenades) literally turning the streets red with blood in hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese. Meanwhile, better-equipped Central Army troops successfully encircled the Japanese, then engaged in truly fierce house-to-house fighting, to the point where platoons would fight for hours to capture one room.
      • Changsha is remarkable for being successfully defended three times, from 1939-41, until it fell in 1944.
      • The bloody battle of Changde saw the city fall to Japan in January 1944, but the Japanese were quickly forced to withdraw following a successful Chinese counterattack with air support.
    • Knowing the difficulty of this style of warfare, in the later stages of WWII, American forces would often attempt to avert it. They would approach (relatively strategically unimportant) German towns and villages, and before entering, demand the surrender of any defenders. If the offer was accepted, the defenders would be disarmed, a small garrison left behind, and they would move on to the next objective, leaving the village unharmed. If the defenders refused and fought back, US forces would level the place from long range using artillery and aircraft, and move on to the next objective. For instance, in the attack on Aachen, US forces did creditably well, although their opponents fought with nowhere near the fanaticism of the Berlin defenders. Special note goes to the use of the 155mm self-propelled howitzer, in direct-fire, to reduce German strongpoints. The Red Army used tracked 203-mm howitzers in a similar role in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. See this video at about 2:44 minutes.
    • The Battle of Monte Cassino, part of the Italian campaign, took four months and 55,000 Allied casualties to secure, and the city was devastated by the aerial bombardment. Ironically, the main effect of this bombing was to give German troops more cover against Allied infantry.
    • Manila rivals Stalingrad for the worst urban fighting of the war. Intense resistance from the dug-in Japanese was countered by heavy firepower despite limitations on artillery and aerial bombing meant to protect the city and its inhabitants. The civilian deaths alone are comparable to those in the Tokyo firebombing and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the city's rich cultural heritage—Spanish, Asian and American art, literature and architecture—was almost completely annihilated. The liberation of Manila, one of the few urban battles between American and Japanese troops in the Pacific War, is considered a Philippine national tragedy.
    • Also from the Pacific Theater is Garapan on Saipan. While on a much smaller scale compared to Manila, the fighting was so intense that by the end of the fighting, the village had been virtually destroyed to the point that the people who lived there had to be repatriated back to Japan, and the village itself be built again from the ground up.
    • Another notable World War II example was the Battle of Ortona, known as "Little Stalingrad" or "Italian Stalingrad," in which the Canadians dislodged the Germans from the town of Ortona which anchored the north end of the Gustav Line (the same line as Monte Cassino). The Canadians made use of (and named) a technique called "mouse-holing" in which they would use antitank weapons to blow holes in the shared walls of Ortona's houses rather than risk moving through the street.
  • Several lesser instances of street fighting occurred in World War I as part of larger battles like Mulhouse, Liège, Messines, and Verdun. What the combat lacked in scale, it made up for in sheer intensity—at Verdun, the village of Fleury was taken and retaken sixteen times until it had been erased from the earth, making it one of the nine "villages that died for France."
  • This kind of warfare was used by the Israelis during the War of Independence to hold off the (then better-equipped) Jordanian Arab Legion in Jerusalem. Because of this, before 1967 the IDF had a reputation in some quarters for only winning wars by sheer willingness to take casualties.
  • In What Every Person Should Know About War, war correspondent Chris Hedges points out that as the populations move towards the cities, so do the battles. He predicts that in the future, there will be more Regulars vs. Guerrillas battles in cities than Regulars vs. Regulars battles on open terrain.
  • During the Tet Offensive, the city of Hue saw furious combat. Though the Marines and ARVN inflicted serious losses on the North Vietnamese and Vietcong, Hue was virtually reduced to rubble, and over 5,000 civilians died, most of them massacred by the PAVN and VC. The Tet Offensive—and the Battle of Hue in particular—proved to be a turning point for American involvement in Vietnam.
  • The Easter Rising in 1916 took place almost entirely in Dublin, pitting the British Army against a ragtag band of Irish rebels. While the body count was surprisingly low compared to some of the others on this list (466 people), it still damaged/destroyed most of the city, and over half of those who were killed were civilians.
  • The Battle of Mogadishu, popularized in the movie and book Black Hawk Down, was the modern American military's first real experience with urban warfare.
    • Not to mention the ongoing battle for Mogadishu between militias and African Union peacekeepers, which have turned parts of the city into what can best be described as piles of concrete dust.
  • Grozny, the capital of Chechnya was once called the most devastated city on earth. And for good reason—through two wars it experienced not one, not two, but three major battles that took place on its streets.
    • The first battle during the First Chechen War saw the Russian military capture the city after a long fight and heavy losses.
    • Then in August 1996, the rebels launched a surprise attack and reclaimed the city, and kept control of it for the rest of the war.
    • When the Second Chechen War broke out in 1999, the city still hadn't recovered much from the first conflict. This time the Russians laid siege and eventually pushed into the city for a decisive victory.
  • In the face of serious setbacks in rural South American insurgencies, Carlos Marighela wrote the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla. However, to date urban guerrillas don't seem to have much success.
  • During the conquest of Constantinople, several neighborhoods were spared the rigors of a sack by barricading themselves in and making a separate peace when the Turks showed up. This was less urban warfare than survival by the threat of urban warfare.
  • One of the earliest examples of United States troops fighting gun battles in urban terrain came during the Mexican-American War during the Battle of Monterrey. Mexican defenders used firing holes and rooftops to great effect and used the narrow streets to channel US troops into cannon fire. Since the buildings were built out of sturdy adobe, shooting through the walls with cannon and small arms was difficult. US troops eventually improvised house-clearing tactics by chipping down the adobe walls with pickaxes and then barging in with revolvers.
  • There was a tradition in The Laws and Customs of War as understood pre-nineteenth century that if there was no surrender after the wall was breached, then the invaders had three days to sack it without it being considered a war crime, because Urban Warfare was feared so much that preventing it by intimidation was considered justified.
    • To some degree, this was simply taking advantage of circumstances. Generals knew that by the time they got into the city, some soldiers would be too crazy to act in a rational manner (and military police systems were extremely crude) so they might as well make sure to remind the city of the fact.
  • The Siege of Zaragoza in The Napoleonic Wars was an example of what would happen on such occasions when surrender was not forthcoming. The French got in and found the populace willing to continue resisting. The result was a long and costly mess which cost the French dearly. In this case it was an ideological war whereas in the eighteenth century at least it was often just a job for soldiers, and just something to avoid for civilians.
  • In the Siege of Lucknow during the Sepoy Rebellion a number of English residents barricaded themselves in a school and held it against rebel soldiers until relief arrived.
  • The Boxer Rebellion had a group of foreigners in Bejing defending the diplomatic quarter against a siege, while the relief force fought their way into the city and rescued them.
  • The 1915 Siege of Van in Ottoman Turkey took on this kind of character, after local Armenians refused to allow their able-bodied men to be drafted and most likely massacred, as had already happened in surrounding villages. Though minorities in the empire were banned from owning guns, the Armenians resorted to defending Van, a city already surrounded by walls, from the Ottoman army with antiquated rifles and pistols that had been stashed away, and other Improvised Weapons until invading Russian forces liberated them.
  • During the Texas Revolution, Texian forces opposed to President Santa Anna (at this point of the war, they were fighting for a restoration of the 1824 Mexican Constitution, rather than independence of Texas), besieged the city of San Antonio de Béxarnote  in what would be known as the Siege of Bexar. The Texan forces managed to seize the city after several days of house-to-house fighting, with the Mexican forces either withdrawing from the city or retreating to The Alamo before agreeing to surrender. A few short months later, the Mexican army would retake the city after defeating the Texians in the much more infamous Battle of the Alamo, where nearly all of the Texian defenders were killed.
  • The concept of an "open city" is meant to avert the kind of destruction and suffering this trope can bring onto a city and its many inhabitants. In short, if the defenders declare it, they will no longer fight within the city—in exchange, the attackers are expected to simply march in and refrain from attacking any part of it. This idea has pretty much been only used in World War Two — Brussels, Oslo, Paris, Belgrade, Singapore, Manila, Rome, and Athens were all declared open cities when their defense became untenable. The idea hasn't been employed since (for several possible reasons—the Geneva Conventions being expanded, more wars being fought by groups in the same country, wars in general taking on a more personal character and therefore refraining less on collateral damage, 24-hour media coverage of any large-scale conflict imposing major PR penalties for any side caught committing atrocities, etc.), though several cities in Japan are considering legislation that would mandate such a move if they were ever invaded.
  • In the days of city-states, vendettas would often take place within cities between various factions. This was taken to the point that Italian families would often build what amounted to castles within the city for themselves and their clients.
  • The Medieval Battle of Chioggia between Genoa and Venice was like a Stalingrad on the water. After Genoa got a foothold in Venice, the two sides fought desperately trying to supply themselves or interdict each other with boats rowed amid small islands.
  • The War on Terror and various other government-insurgency conflicts have seen a large amount of this in recent years. US troops have fought to control cities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somalia had the Battle of Mogadishu, during which the federal government at times controlled a minority of its capital. The Arab Spring and its aftermath have involved drawn-out fights for control of major cities in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, with fragmented control of cities persisting for years in cases such as Aleppo's. While ISIS overran many of its cities in Iraq and Syria fairly quickly, retaking them has usually required urban warfare. At the lower end of the scale, large terrorist attacks on cities can verge on urban warfare if a sufficient number of fighters is present.
    • This was present in Marawi when the Maute Group teamed up with other Islamist forces and foreign fighters who slipped into Mindanao. The reason why it took months to weed them out is because most of the local forces grew up/lived in Marawi and knew the place. The Philippine military, while having a reputation in the Asia-Pacific due to their jungle warfare experience, have little experience in fighting inside towns/cities aside from the 2013 attack on Zamboanga city with the risk of killing civilians being taken hostage with special forces being the only units to have been trained to fight in urban places.
  • Some countries have specifically trained their armies to engage their enemies in urban warfare ops such as Israel, Japan and Singapore due to the country being urbanized.
  • The suppression of the Paris Commune. While the June Days in 1848 note  had been bad enough, with over 10,000 total casualties, its reprise in 1871 was a horror show, with the entire commune being reduced to rubble from artillery bombardment and a fire. Estimates start at 10,000 killed and go up from there. Arbitrary summary executions were only halted because the cemeteries were full and the city was at risk of an epidemic from all the corpses. Put another way, it was this slaughter that convinced Karl Marx and other socialists that there could be no peaceful path to revolution. As Vladimir Lenin put it: "20,000 killed in the streets...Lesson: bourgeoisie will stop at nothing."
  • Armies have long faced the possibility of clashes in city streets, though. For example, during the medieval Wars of the Roses, the town of St. Albans, which lay a few miles north of London and controlled one of the major roads to the capital, saw two battles, in 1455 and 1461. The town lacked strong walls, and so the two sides ended up fighting in the streets on both occasions, with predictably bloody and confused results.
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 2022 has been marked by some fierce urban combat, especially in the likes of Mariupol (footage of the first twenty days of the city's siege is featured in 20 Days in Mariupol), Bakhmut and Avdiivka, which were utterly destroyed by Russian artillery. The attempted Russian sieges of Kharkiv and Chernihiv as well as the outskirts of Kyiv also qualified, if way shorter and resulting in Russian retreat.


Bridge fight

Grey tac team operators are ambushed on a bridge by multiple parasites after they stage a traffic accident.

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Main / UrbanWarfare

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