Wargame: AirLand Battle

Wargame: AirLand Battle

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Noob's Guide to Defense
By Zapp Brannigan
The best way to score point in Wargame Airland Battle as a noob is to learn how to play defense. Offense is hard in WAB, defense is much easier. This guide will show you the basics of playing D in multiplayer.
 
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The Joy of Defence
Just like in real combat, a prepared defender in Wargame Airland Battle normally has a significant advantage over the attacker. Noobs often have dreams of their mighty tank columns rumbling accross the European countryside and crushing all in their path, leaving your comrades grateful and your opponents awestruck by your mighty tactical genius.

If you are a noob, don't let yourself be suckered by this siren song! More likely than not, your mighty (expensive) M1's, Panthers, and T-80's will be annihilated with little to show for it. By playing defense you can not suck completely at WAB as you slowly learn all there is to know about the game. With experience, you can then ease into offensive operations and hopefully not get annihilated quite so badly.

This guide will not get into unit types, there are other guides for that. Needless to say it is important for you to get to know the different units and their capabilities. But for a noob, there is only so much you can learn by studying units in the garage. To really understand them you need to play around with them in games. The purpose of this guide is to give you the knowledge to do just that w/out getting completely creamed by more experienced players.

I repeat, this guide is more about high level tactics rather than what kind of anti-tank soldier you want to deploy. You will grasp that yourself only through repeated trial and error. The goal of this guide is to help you not suck so bad while you go through the many hours of learning about all the units.
Map Tactics
The first thing you will be confronted with when playing MP is the game map. There are many game maps in WAB, and each will effect your strategy. FIrst, choose where you want to start from. You will generally be limited to 1-2 starting areas, depending on the type of game you are playing and the map you are on.

Look at the map with an eye towards defensible terrain. The goal is to stake out a position that is easily defensible by lower value units. This generally means an urban area or forests. Places where your infantry can hide out and wreak havoc on any troops trying to rush your area.

Be aware of distances. Which zone can you get to that the enemy cannot get to first? Your opponents are doing the same thing you are pre-battle, seeing which zone they can get to first to control. If you are too meek, you will end up occupying a zone away from the front lines that is little help to your team. But if you are too aggressive you risk plowing headlong into a zone already occupied by the enemy. Choose a zone that is close to halfway between you and the enemy starting points.

So ideally you want to choose a zone that has a city and/or forests, is close to the front, but is one you can get to before the bad guys arrive. I like to pick a zone that pushes the front line, but also have in mind a backup zone to flow to in case you can't beat your enemy to the punch.
Speed Kills!
It's not the destination, it's the journey! Getting to your zone quickly will be crucial to setting up an effective defense. I like to always have airborne infantry in my deck. That would be infantry with some kind of helicopter transport. These represent the advance units of my army that will swoop in very quickly and occupy my zone.

In this opening phase, recon units are crucial. I always have a recon helicopter advancing ahead of my airborne infantry. This will allow you to see if the enemy has gotten the drop on you and seized your target zone. If you don't do this and your airborne infantry fly into the area, they will be easily picked off.

Helicopter infantry are fast, but they are not faster than your opponent's helicopter infantry. They're also not faster than attack helicopters or fighter jets. All of these things will wipe out your helo infantry if confronted. A scout helo will alert you to these dangers and, if they exist, settle for your backup zone further from the front. I repeat, do not rush these guys in if the enemy is already there! Cool your jets and pick a deployment area closer to your own front lines.
Infantry Tactics: A Short Digression
Infantry are the most important element of your defense. As such, it's worth taking a moment to focus on how you should use them. In a nutshell, a good commander puts his infantry in the best chance to succeed, and does not rely on their skill or bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. To illustrate this I'm going to drop a historical bomb on you. Stay with me here, because this digression WILL come back to WAB.

The greatest soldiers of WW II, hands down, were the Germans. The German soldier was by and large the smartest, most tactically flexible, most experienced, and one of the bravest soldiers of WWII. The annals of WW II are full of accounts of extraordinary initiative and bravery from German soldiers, as well as the grudging respect given to them by allied armies. Germany time and again relied upon the superiority of the German soldier in battle. But what happened at the end of WW II? That's right, the Germans lost. Don't be Germany when you play WAB.

Imperial Japan also had fantastic soldiers. Utterly fanatical, brave, and they almost never surrendered. How could you ever loose with troops like that!?!? Of course, we know the Japanese DID lose. They were ground to dust and annihilated. Don't be Japan when you play WAB.

So who do you want to be when you play WAB? That's right, the United States! USA! 'Murrrrica!!! Why you ask? Because the United States has become a ferocious military power over the last 65 years by NOT relying on the bravery of the individual soldier.

The German and Japanese soldiers of WW II were raised in dictatorships, indoctrinated with fanaticism and at times subject to them and their families being shot for not following orders. But US troops are products of a Democracy. In spite of military training, they have an individualism and freedom that doesn't lend itself well to fanatacism. In short, American soldiers will bug out if things get too crazy, and US military doctrine usually accounts for that.

You might think this would hamstring the US military. Quite the opposite. The US military can't rely on fanatical infantry, so they compensate with FIREPOWER. Don't send the infantry in until you have dropped 100 bombs on them. If that doesn't work, drop 1,000 bombs, hoorah! This isn't firepower for firepower's sake, it is all about making warfare as easy as possible for the man on the ground. Why make war hard for a soldier when you can make it easy? The side counting on the bravery of its troops is probably going to lose. That's US doctrine in a nutshell. It should also be yours when playing WAB.


Infantry Tactics: Continued
So what does that mean in WAB? It means that you put your infantry in the best possible position to succeed. Make it EASY on those poor grunts whenever you can.

This is what you DON'T do. Do not rush your infantry into a hot zone occupied by the enemy. Do not unload infantry and have them march into an open field, in fact do not have your infantry walk anywhere that isn't a forest, mountain, or city. Do not send infantry anywhere w/out air cover. Doing any of these things will get your infantry killed. By doing these things you are making warfare hard for your infantry, when you should be making it easy.

What SHOULD you do? Do pick a spot for your infantry to deploy that is not already occupied. Make the enemy come to you. Given time to dig in, your infantry will go from little boys crying for their mama to ferocious fighters who will chew up almost anything sent their way, even enemy armor.

Never try and force anything with your infantry. That's not to say you can't use infantry to assault and force matters, sometimes they are best for that job. But as a noob, you will not know how to do this properly, and your infantry will die. Play a lot of defense, graduate from being a noob, then work on your offensive game.

An important point to remember is that your infantry can't do it alone. They need support, which is what the next section is about. Remember, especially when playing defense, the air, armor, and artillery are there to support the infantry, not the other way around. Properly supported, your infantry focused defense will be extremely hard to beat.
Supporting your Leading Infantry
As I said before, dig those infantry into a fortified area and wait for the enemy to come to you. But your infantry can't do it alone, so how do you support them? You should have a convoy of your main force driving like hell to get to your airborne infantry. Remember to click "move fast" for these units in the opening moves. This will cause them to get to the rally point at the quickest possible rate. It also leaves them more exposed to an enemy attack, but in the opening moves speed is usually more important than caution.

The most important support you can give your infantry is AA. Your initial force should be comprised of at least 4 AA guns, I usually use Piveds or Tunguska. These units will be invaluable to protecting your zone, and protecting your convoy as it rumbles to the zone. You will also want to layer in some units that can shoot AA missiles. This can be dedicated vehicles or some cheaper AA infantry who also should be buried in a town or forest. Keep the missile lanchers further back from the front line, as they will be toast if they come into contact with any enemy ground unit.

Next up is infantry. The only thing better than infantry when defending a position is...more infantry! Buy at least 4 ATGM troops, and anywhere from 6-12 riflemen. I usually like to have these infantry ride in APC's to provide them with additional firepower in the front lines. Positon these infantry in the towns/forests where your advance units are. If your advance units are in a serious firefight before your heavy infantry arrive, consider deploying the heavy infantry just behind the lines and marching them in. They are extremely vulnerable while in transport, even in APC's.

Spawn a couple of assault helicopters. These will give your leading infantry crucial fire support while they await the arrival of your main convoy.

Next up are some cheap anti-tank units. I like to use jeeps with ATGM's on them. These are extremely fragile and most likely WILL DIE. But they give you some missile range against armor that will help you hold enemy tanks at arms length. Plus, these units are very cheap, so it's not a big deal if you lose them.

Spawn one air superiority fighter to combat airplanes or helicopters in the area. One fighter alone doesn't do much, but working in tandem with your ground AA defenses it can be a nice supplement. I tend to not buy ground attack fighters until later in the game.

Not many points left, probably, so what about your tanks! You will notice that I did not emphasize them in this stack. That is because if you have everything else in place, tanks are actually not all that important to your defense. That said, I still like to put 3-4 mid level tanks in the stack if I have points left over after everything else.

Finally, don't forget your command vehicle. The whole reason you are fighting for a zone is to control it. You can't do that w/out a command vehicle. These are the vehicles found in the logistics tab that are marked with a little star. Have the command vehicle bring up the rear of your column, well behind your AA. Once in zone, find an out of the way spot (usually wooded) to set the command vehicle down to control the zone. Proper placement is key, because it is very vulnerable to any attack. Also, simply moving the command vehicle will cause you to temporarily lose control of the zone. The command vehicle must be stopped to control a zone.

Related to this, be sure that whatever zone you are controlling at the front, that there is a command vehicle in your zone(s) to the rear so you control those too. If you don't have control of the zones behind you, then it can completely screw up your ability to call in reinforcements or air support. Keep the supply lines and air lanes open soldier!

Deployment
So you have picked your zone to defend, and you have your helicopter infantry in place and your armored column is just pulling in. The cavalry has arrived!!! Now how do you deploy them?

Assuming your advance force is dug into a city or forest, your heavy infantry with their APC's right behind them and unload them as fast as you can. You don't want them caught in their vehicles if there is a surprise air attack or armored thrust. Put the riflemen and ATGM troops in the front lines, but still dug into the city/forest. Place the AA infantry a square or two behind, but still in cover. I like putting my AA guns right behind the infantry, with the AA missiles further behind. A good strategy is to divy up your AA guns, with half in close support of your infantry, and the rest further back. This way you don't risk losing them all in a well timed artillery strike. If there is additional forest or city back from your front line area, this can be a good place for AA missiles. Air defences often work best when they are layered.

Next, look around your infantry fighting area. There are likely open fields in your zone. Figure out where the best open sight lines are between you and the enemy and place your ATGM vehicles there. If there is any forest available where you can hide them, use it. But don't bury them in the forest or you will ruin their line of sight. Put them on the edges.

Same goes for your tanks. Set them up just back of your infantry zone on the flanks of the defended city, with clear lines of sight in the likely direction of enemy contact. I like to try and place them somewhere between where my AA guns are and where my AA missiles are further back, giving them a strong defense from any enemy airstrikes.

Place the helicopters back from the infantry and armor and use them as a mobile fire brigade to blunt any strong attacks coming from the enemy. Place your recon units further back with the attack choppers, but far enough ahead to sight incoming enemies. Put your command center under cover as far away from the enemy as possible.

If you can get your forces set up this way, you have a very good chance of causing the enemy serious pain if they try and attack you, at relatively little loss to yourself.
Follow On Forces
So, you are smartly deployed and your forces are holding their own. As you play of course you will accumulate points to buy more units. What should the practitioner of Tenacious D purchase?

If my ground forces are holding their own and not encountering too bad of losses, I like to use additonal points to build up my AA and air force. It is extemely difficult for an enemy to dislodge you if you have a strong AA defense. So keep pouring in the AA guns and missiles. Also throw in a supply trucks now and then to keep them stocked with missiles and ammo.

With the air force I typically buy another cheap air superiority fighter, then start building up ground attack fighters. I typically use fairly cheap units that won't cost me much to lose. One exception to this rule is the Nighthawk, which is only available in a full 'Murican deck. This fighter bomber is devastating and somewhat more survivable than a typical cheap fighter. The A-10 is another excellent fighter bomber, but is likewise expensive.

If you are experiencing sustained attacks, your enemy will likely get frustrated and throw a big tank offensive your way during the game. Ground attack planes are excellent at blunting that thrust. They may not kill heavier tanks, but they will often stun the beasts, leaving them easy prey for your infantry and ATGM's.

Also use additional points to always keep a couple of attack helicopters on the battlefield. I can't stress enough how useful these units are as a mobile fire brigade. They can be an infantry's best friend, and the whole point of your defense is supporting your infantry. Well supported infantry will chew up nearly anything thrown at them.
Smoke and Fire!
If you follow this guide and set up your defenses accordingly, the only thing you will really need to fear while playing defense are attacks supported by napalm and smokescreens. Napalm and smokescreens are the best counter to well dug in infantry. A good player will know to bomb you with napalm and pop smoke before sending in a large force of infantry. This is how to dislodge you from your fortress of solitude. So what should you do?

The answer is reserves and immediately available air power. Keep a reserve of decent quality infantry just behind the front lines to hold the line in case your forward infantry get killed off in a napalm/smoke assault. While they hold the line, bring in your attack choppers to chew up the enemy infantry. At a minimum they can stun the enemy infantry and allow your reserves to finish the job, then move the reserves up to occupy the new front line.

If the enemy supports the attack with good AA, your choppers may not last long. Try to use the choppers at the maximum range for attacking the infantry. Sick your tanks on any enemy AA that is visible. They should be protected by your own AA screen from attack fighters. Be ready to spawn more choppers in the event your initial ones get shot down.

You normally would never attack enemy infantry in a town with your armor, but I will do this when there is enemy infantry in my own town. If they are pinned down by your second line of infantry, your tanks and APC's can provide decent covering fire from the flanks w/out too much risk of the enemy infantry destroying them. DO NOT send them into the actual town, maneuver them on the outskirts to fire into the town's suburbs, if possible.

Finally, call in the air force. Use your air superiority fighters to go after attack choppers and recon. Have your ground attack fighters bomb the enemy infantry in the town. If you have a plane that can drop napalm, consider doing it even if it endangers some of your own infantry. Killing some of your own infantry is bad, but losing your urban defensive position and the zone is a disaster. Avert disaster any way possible.

So to recap, when facing a napalm/smoke attack, assume that your front line infantry will be killed. Respond with a defense in depth made up of reserve infantry and air power, with your armored units and ATGM units on the edge of town to both fire into the town and blunt any attempt by the enemy to send their armor accross the open plains. Also, don't neglect your AA cover, which will likely be degraded during a major enemy attack launched by a skillful opponent.
Offense?
Once you have figured out how to mount a good defence and are holding your own, then you might want to experiment a little with offensive tactics. If your front is relatively quiet and things are under control, by all means spawn some attack choppers and probe the enemy lines. Or spawn some tanks to assist a teammate with an assault. The only way to really learn WAB is through trial and error.

The nice thing about experimenting with offense this way is that you are not betting the farm. The majority of your assets are tied up in your defense. You are using them properly and giving them the best chance at success. If you lose an A-10 or a couple of T-72's on an offensive gamble it is not the end of the world, because you know you are using the other 80% of your forces properly. So take these opportunities to try out some limited offensive thrusts, especially by supporting your teammates attacks.

Over the course of mulitple games you will get a feel for the different units and their limitations. That way when you do start mounting offenses you will have a better idea what you are doing. You'll still probably lose a ton of units (offense is HARD), but you will not do it like a total noob!
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11 Comments
JOHNeXeALEX Jul 12, 2016 @ 9:15am 
cool guide, much to read, but this game seems much to learn on !!!:steamhappy:
tacoshy Jan 6, 2016 @ 6:53am 
Still mostly up to date and useable!
Frisko [VL] Oct 29, 2014 @ 8:51pm 
Combined arms is the key, and essence of this guide
Who Goes Thar Aug 27, 2014 @ 6:18pm 
I have a question about APCs... How do I use them? I was thinking that I should make them be in the woods with the infantry, but then they would start firing with their main gun and give the ambush away. It seems like excessive micro to wait for the correct time to allow them to shoot.

How exactly should I be using them? Are they really just anti-infantry tanks that happen to be able to transport?
agat.marwek Sep 19, 2013 @ 9:44am 
Like this quide, especialy the political part of it: "The best soldiers in WW II :)"
Lt. Rasczak Sep 16, 2013 @ 7:14am 
Muito bom cara, me ajudou bastante!
Mistral Sep 9, 2013 @ 4:12am 
Good tips, but this is hard to do in the middle of a game. Units sometimes don't move as you expect them to, and sometimes don't fire. I've had several games where my friend tank-rushed me and 2 minutes in the game I was toast already. Infantry died, choppers died, nothing really helped, because it was picked off one by one.
Zapp Brannigan  [author] Sep 3, 2013 @ 3:59pm 
Thanks for reading!
Vanu Kaos Sep 3, 2013 @ 12:25pm 
Really good thesis on infantry defence. Thanks for the info.
Zapp Brannigan  [author] Sep 2, 2013 @ 6:07am 
I'm barely qualified to give tips for offense, but I can tell you what has worked for me and what I've seen work for others.

1 - Never launch an offensive w/out good AA support. Some combo of AA guns and missiles trailing behind your spearhead.

2 - Never launch an offensive w/out reconing the target! This is crucial. If you don't know what you are attacking when you launch your offensive, then most of the time you will fail miserably.

3 - When assaulting a city fortified w/infantry, always bombard with artillery and airstrikes before sending in the ground pounders. Even better, pop smoke and napalm prior to the assault.

4 - Do not launch an offensive over open ground with infantry. Even if the infantry are buttoned up in APC's, don't do it. They will likely die. Send in the heavy armor (supported by AA) first, then follow up with infantry. Related to that, never send heavy armor to assault a city. Use dismounted infantry.