The premise I base the tactical strategies on for individual combat, what I call Personal Combat Principals, rests on this theory:
The longer you go without dying, the more aware you become of your surroundings and the overall battle. This growing knowledge of the area around you and the overall battle is called Situational Awareness.
I believe that the longer you live, the more you can contribute to your squad and the rest of the team.
The longer you live, the fewer places (within your personal Area of Operation) the enemy can occupy without your knowledge.
The longer you live, the better and better the chances are that you will be able to arrive at the critical moment, or the moment of crisis, and affect the tide of the battle in your teams favor.
In real life tactical terms, initiative is more like momentum. The side that has the momentum or initiative is taking action that the enemy has to react to, rather than other way around. I’m going to use initiative here like one might in a Role Playing Game.
In this context, when you as an individual run into a bad guy, initiative is basically who gets the first turn. Who can shoot first. This is about a one on one encounter.
Respect the initiative:
Recognize when an enemy has the jump on you, accept that he has the advantage, and don’t try to kill him anyway. This takes a lot of discipline but will absolutely pay off in the long run. Especially when you start killing the guys who had a jump on you because you were more patient. When he has the initative, duck back behind cover. Don’t try and kill him.
Because if he’s facing your direction when you spot him. You have to assume that he saw you first, even if it was just a heartbeat earlier. Getting into a fast little gun-fight with a dude that saw you first, is exactly like getting into a duel with a guy and letting him have the first shot. As a rule you should respect your enemy and assume that he is a calm cucumber (with good aim) and will kill you if you give him the first shot. When you encounter an enemy and you think that he may have seen you first, he has the initiative. Always give the enemy the utmost respect, and if he turns out to be not so good, then you can be happily disappointed. There’s three ways a face to face gun fight can go with someone who spotted you first.
He can headshot you from range—bang—you’re dead.
He can get some rounds off, wound you a little. Then you can get some rounds off and wound him a little. Then he finishes you off before you get to wound him enough to finish him off first.
You could get very lucky. He could miss on the first exchange. And then you probably win the face-off, though you are very wounded afterward.
Even in the best case scenario, you probably come off very wounded. But if the bad guy you ran into is not totally terrible with online shooters, you’ll probably die. So this is why I say, if you don’t have the initiative, duck back behind cover. If you break visible contact with the enemy, you’ve reset the engagement and taken away his initiative. At the very least, it will be an even fight when you see him a moment later.
Now that you’ve broken contact and escaped almost certain death. Some of us—you know who you are—will be tempted to peak back around the cover we just hid behind and try to kill that bad guy that had the initiative. Don’t do this. Wherever you were last seen by the enemy is a kill zone. It’s where he expects to see you again. Don’t appease him. Never show up at the last place you were seen.
What if I don’t have any cover to duck back behind? This is a good question. The answer is, you do. You always do, because the only time you leave cover, is for more cover. Which brings me to the next section.
[For a much deeper strategy for one on one encounters, see my tactical section on The Hunt]
Personal Combat: Cover and Concealment
There is no reason to ever not be in a position that hides you or gives you protection from enemy fire.
COVER is anything that protects you from bullets.
CONCEALMENT is anything that visually hides you.
When there is any danger of of enemy contact, the first and best way to preserve your life is to only leave cover for more cover. So as you advance up the battlefield toward the objective, you are essentially bouncing from one place with protection to another.
Cover that protects you from bullets is what you always need when you plan to engage the enemy. You will need cover most of the time, and any of you who play video game shooters know what this looks like.
Concealment is something like high grass or bushes that hide you from being seen or spotted. Concealment is only useful when you are trying not to engage with the enemy. The key to concealment is holding perfectly still. Everyone’s vision is attracted to movement. It is very hard to spot someone who is concealed if they aren’t moving—especially since the vast majority of online players rarely ever stop moving.
Concealment is especially useful when encountering a tank or armored vehicle. Using concealment—which doesn’t protect you from bullets—takes a great deal of patience and is extremely tense. However, nothing is more satisfying than watching a tank or a squad rush right by you, leaving you unharmed behind enemy lines so you can cause all kinds of trouble.
Concealment is only useful if no one knows you are there. So unless you are ready to leave the concealment and move on, don’t fire your weapon.
Cover to Cover:
Only leave cover for more cover. Why would you ever fire your weapon in the open? Once you fire your position is announced and compromised. Even if you kill your target you have no place to hide if a new enemy appears. Take cover before engaging.
You must observe every blind corner or danger area before crossing an open area.
Managing your Angles
When you find cover to get behind for protection, the temptation is to get right up against it, so you can peak around and back quickly. In real life where your vision and sense of your surroundings are extremely sharp and do a lot of the work instinctively, then getting right up against your cover would make more sense. But since you are limited in a world that isn’t yet VR, you have to make space between you and your cover.
Stop and Observe:
Situational Awareness is your understanding of what is going on in your area and across the battlefield as a whole. The longer you stay alive the more aware you become of the battle. Taking a moment to deliberately raise your situational awareness is what I call Stop and Observe.
Stop and Observe is the practice of literally holding still and looking for (among other things) movement, gunfire and skirmishes. When you see movement, you then know someone’s location. When you see tracers from gun fire, you know generally where someone else is located. When you spot small fire-fights happening in other places on the battlefield, you can get an idea of how many people are involved in that area, and how other teammates are progressing in the larger battle. When you observe a skirmish between enemy and friendlies, this information can be enormously valuable and greatly influence your next decision or move. When you Stop and Observe, you will discover where the enemy is, what they are up to, and where they are going.
The idea is to get a sense of the battle; where men are concentrating, and what Avenues of the battlefield could best be used to advance.
Scan for snipers.
Listen for Vehicles.
Observe the Smurfs.
Pick the next Rally Point.
Choose the Route.
Stop and Observe preserves your life, and raises your situational awareness. Yes, it makes you a target for snipers. So taking a moment to observe the battlefield also has its risks. If you find good cover when you stop, you should be able to observe your surroundings for a moment without drawing the attention of the distant sniper killers.