Offense: Movement

The Army Infantry Platoon and Squad manual (FM 7-8) says this about MOVEMENT:

“Infantry platoons spend more time moving than fighting. Moving carelessly may cause a unit to make contact when unprepared. This can cause a loss of the initiative and needless loss of lives.” These three sentences say it all, really.

The subtle truth about moving, maneuvering and fighting in the virtual battlefield, is that the time we spend on the first two (moving and maneuvering), versus the last item (fighting), is significantly smaller. We spend much less time actually engaged with the enemy and firing our weapons. This fact need not be accepted for the importance of deliberate and decisive movement across the battlefield, to speak for itself.

Careless movement:

Careless movement is any movement without deliberate decisions on where you are going and why. Spawning back to life at the base, and then breaking into a sprint in the general direction of the objective—something we all do—is a non-decision. The most logical reasons why running in a direction without a deliberate intention are obvious, but easy to forget.

When running, If you encounter any enemy who is standing still, he has the complete advantage and initiative. When running, in order to fire your weapon, it is essentially a three step process—stop, aim, and shoot.

When running, you cannot easily see what is happening on either side of you—which narrows your line of sight and increases the potential for you to pass right by enemies that can expose you to fire from the rear, and get you shot right in the ass.

You don’t have to be running to be moving carelessly. Any time you move across a blind corner, passage or linear danger area—like a city street—without observing for enemy activity, you invite bad guys to shoot you in the ass when you are not looking, and this is careless and a waste of time and momentum.

Deliberate Movement:

Making deliberate decisions does not take more time and could be thought of as a mild commitment to die less. I’m going to say that again: making deliberate choices when moving around, will often save your life. And preserving your life is the key factor in increasing your Situational Awareness.

Making a conscious effort to stay behind solid cover, and choose cover with a good field of fire, as often as possible, is an easy and sensible thing to do. Though some battle maps make it neither easy or sensible. Well, it’s always sensible, but some close-quarter environments make it near impossible.

Before you leave your position of cover (especially before you run), if you choose your next position of cover before you take off, you will live longer and benefit your team by being alive to help them. It’s just good business. The next position you choose should be a short sprint away. It defeats the purpose of being deliberate in your movement, if the next position you choose is 100 meters away. You definitely want to pause regularly to scan the area. Though, in a sniper heavy situation, this could work against you. But you can’t account for everything.

Consider how long it takes for an enemy at medium range to spot you, take aim and fire—this is a good judge for how far you should run to get behind the next position with good cover. Anything more than ten running steps (unless you have to cross a big field with no cover) is a little excessive.

Fundamentals of Movement:

The Army Infantry Platoon and Squad manual (FM 7-8) lists these three items as the Fundamentals of Movement:

  • Move on Covered and Concealed Routes.

  • Do not move directly forward from covered positions.

  • Avoid likely ambush sites and other danger areas.

Many battlefields have paths to the objectives (Avenues of Approach) that provide either good cover or good concealment and sometimes both. Moving (or running) directly up Main Street, for example, isn’t using a concealed route. It is also rarely deliberate decision making for movement toward the objective. As a guideline, you should always maneuver and attack at the enemy sides.

The second bullet point is incredibly applicable to online combat, and so many of us rarely think of it. Don’t run directly forward. Move up to the left, and up to the right, to find cover and a solid position to take cover. Moving straight forward from your cover in the direction of the enemy, makes you predictable, and is a very delicious moment for a sniper or a patient machine gun.

Move as a Unit: Not at the Same Time

Once contact with the enemy is expected: Squad members should never all move at the same time. When I say that you should never move all at once, I mean that it makes the most logical and tactical sense. With tactics there are only guidelines, and no hard and fast rules for success.

A squad should move in pairs to maximize speed. Or one at a time to maximize firepower and control of the battlefield. This applies more and more as you get closer to the objective and more inside the areas where enemies could be in any direction.

When at least one squad member is planted behind cover, if the moving squad mate(s) get attacked, at the very least, the man behind cover can sit tight and be a spawn man for the squad. Once your squad gets near the objective, maintaining a presence there should be a high priority. So not all moving around where you are all exposed, will play to your advantage. Squad-mates will die. The challenge is keeping someone alive so the squad can spawn back in without losing their position.

Once your squad is ready to breach the area of the objective, where you anticipate strong enemy resistance, it could help for you to all assault together and overwhelm the enemy. But again, if you all die, then you’ve lost all that momentum. Where as if even one man hangs back to provide cover fire from a little distance, you have a chance at respawning and getting back in the fight from where you left off.

Bounding Over Watch:

This strategy of movement also involves two teams. The Bounding team moves from it’s current position to its next position while the Overwatch team, well, over watches. There is very little more to know than that, but there are some details to consider. The Overwatch position should “dominate the route which the Bounding Team will take.”

This detail, along with several others in the real-world version are too difficult to consider and apply to the fast paced environment of a BF3 battle. Even as easy as it sounds here, in practice, given the limitations of the virtual world, it’s actually kind of hard. Online, the best way to begin applying depth and strategy as a squad is to just watch each other. Watch each other move, watch to see what position they choose, watch them react to situations and engagements. Communicating your intentions in the game is hard, trying to communicate what you’d like a squad mate to do is even harder, the first step along the road to being a cohesive fighting unit is to watch each other. Also, when your squad observes you move into position, stay at that position as much as you can. Knowing where each other is out there, has to be the biggest challenge. Being where your squad mates expect you to be goes a long way toward that goal.

Personal Combat: The Essentials

Reload, Reposition:

You must reposition each time you fire or reload, and you should always duck back behind cover to reload. Any enemy who saw the tracers of your fire will set time aside to wait for you to reappear from the location you fired from. Don’t reappear where the enemy expects you to. Always reposition.

Don’t Act Alone:

Wait for friendly forces to work their way up to you, or try and fall back to them. Your team gains ground by strengthening its position, not by scattering individuals all over the field. Wait for friendlies before advancing, and especially wait for squad mates to spawn in on you before you move out.

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.

Walk, Don’t Run:

This one will be controversal. For the most part, moving too slowly makes you an easy target. This is true, but many scenarios afford the ability to stop sprinting and walk. The advantage in walking is your ability to respond more quickly to a threat that is himself sprinting. When you are sprinting, you can’t turn and look another direction, turning makes you run in that direction. If you are walking, you can pan your weapon around corners and toward windows while you scan an area for bad guys.

When you are moving through terrain that could be occupied by the enemy—and is not obviously exposed to snipers—by walking you can be better prepared to engage an enemy and you will see more of the battlefield and raise your Situational Awareness.

Whenever you have to cross wide open terrain—which is often—you should obviously run. Walking is for quiet areas that you are clearing of enemies, or close-quarter areas that might have enemies hiding behind any little crate or open hallway.

This section seems like an apt place to mention, that you shouldn’t run without a destination. Take a moment to pick your next piece of cover before runing across the open. If you have a moment, observe your next location. This will lower the chances of you running up to a place only to find a bad guy right there just out of side. This also connects with Stop and Observe. Most of the bad guys out there can’t sit still for three whole seconds. If you Stop and Observe your next location, if a bad guy is lurking, you’ll almost certainly spot him.

Take Proper Aim:

This seems obvious, but you shouldn’t fire until you have your sights exactly where you want them. I have a tendency to fire too soon. There is sort of a mental timer that tells me when I should have lined up my shot, when I should have fired, and when the enemy I am aiming at will likely start shooting back (if he sees me) or move again (if he hasn’t seen me). This is too often when I fire and doesn’t always sync up with when I’ve aimed the shot. The effect of shooting too soon like this is announcing to him (and the rest of the world), of your position, without the added benefit of actually killing him.

Wait for the shot to be line up. If he fires take cover because you’ve lost the initiative. Then wait until it’s long enough for him to think you’ve moved on. Reset the engagement.

Personal Combat Principals

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.

Initiative:

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.

Why?

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.

      1. He can headshot you from range—bang—you’re dead.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.