Video Game Tactical: Guerrilla Warfare

Applying actual tactics to video games.

First, I want to clear something up. Tactics and strategy are not the same thing. They’re often interchanged, but there’s a fine difference between the two.

Strategy is the overall plan of action to fulfill a long term objective. Russia’s scorched-earth policy during Germany’s Operation Barbarosa, or The United States’ Operation Rolling Thunder during the Vietnam War are good examples of what strategy is. Tactics, on the other hand, are plans made to accomplish a short term goal, like capturing a location or defeating armored units.

There! Do not confuse the two anymore. I swear, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Where was I? Oh, right. We were going to talk about guerrilla warfare tactics in video games. You’ve likely heard of this term before, but there’s more to it than running around in old fatigues in the jungle. As for its role in gaming, it’s more common than you might think. Since there’s an interest in providing a higher level of challenge, players are often pitted against powerful enemies, and heavily outnumbered as well. You’d be surprised how well guerrilla warfare tactics translate into video games, and equally surprised to know that you’ve been using them for some time.

Hit-And-Run Tactics And Ambushes

Skyrim Tactics
Source: I Raff I Ruse

Hit-and-run tactics are commonly used against foes in video games that feature stealth and bullet-sponges, but that isn’t the only way that they’re useful. Often, when faced with odds that are not in your favor, it’s best to attack from stealth, and retreat to a safe distance before your position has been revealed. This works not only in traditional combat, like during a tactical withdrawal, but also for mechanized artillery units or armored units practicing “shoot-and-scoot” tactics.

Shoot-and-scoot tactics are something that you’ll commonly find yourself practicing when taking part in boss fights. The larger, powerful enemies you chip away at to get to the epic loot force you to attack and move before retaliation comes your way. So the next time you’re trying to whittle down a guardian in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or beating your head against a boss in Bloodborne, just remember: shoot-and-scoot.

You attack, inflicting as much damage as possible without giving away your position, then retreat to a (preferably planned) fallback location. The idea being, once you attack, you assume that the enemy will have a general idea where the attack came from, so you head somewhere they won’t be looking. Shoot-and-scoot tactics work well in this situation, because you can continue this process in order to wreak havoc.

Hit-and-run tactics work very well in games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, as well as Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Even The Elder Scrolls and Hitman titles touch on this a bit.

This method differs from traditional ambushes. Ambushes are usually carried out in order to eliminate a target or targets quickly, with the element of surprise being the primary force multiplier.

Ah, force multiplier. It’s a term used to describe the level of effectiveness of a unit versus an enemy. Think of it this way: if an infantry unit is going up against an enemy infantry unit, they are more-or-less evenly matched. So in this case, we’ll attach a score of 1 to each unit. However, if you were to supply your unit with body armor, their relative effectiveness would increase, since body armor would increase your unit’s resistance to harm. So they’d have a higher relative effectiveness of, let’s say, 1.5 compared to 1. It’s a fun thing to think about!

Since that diversion is out of the way, let’s get back to the discussion at hand. We were talking about ambushes? Yeah.

As I was saying, ambushes have a more complete objective. For instance, ambushing a tank column generally has an end goal of neutralizing the whole or majority of the tank column. Ambushes aren’t as simple as just surprising the enemy however. There are a number of ways to effectively carry out an ambush. One common method of carrying out an ambush involves setting up a linear attack formation on one side of the path an enemy will be traveling along and boxing the enemy in with explosives or suppressing fire.

In the case of attacking a vehicle convoy, you attack the lead and rear vehicle to create a killbox, then focusing on any targets in the center. The lead and rear vehicles block in the rest of the convoy, and the rest of the convoy is held down in the ambush. As far as military tactics used in games, this is probably one of the easiest to carry out, and it works remarkably well.

Ambushes can work well in just about any game, but notable examples would be Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Far Cry 23, and 4.

Subtle Nuances Of Guerrilla Warfare

Guerrilla warfare can also be considered as a strategy, not just as a tactical option. A much smaller force can utilize irregular tactics as a means to conduct a war.

While most large military forces supply themselves with a chain of logistical support, guerrilla forces often improvise their supply chain. By that, I mean they steal from their enemies. This has much to do with the reasons why said guerrilla forces are utilizing those tactics in the first place; they’re often smaller, more poorly supplied armies. Why attempt to sustain a supply chain when you can just take what you need?

So that’s what armies utilizing these methods do. When they capture an enemy position, they strip it of useful items. The equipment of the enemy becomes their equipment. As the larger force’s strength wavers through personnel and supply losses, their opposing force grows exponentially stronger. Weapons don’t care who uses them after all, unless you’re living in the world of Metal Gear Solid IV or Judge Dredd.

Unconventional equipment procurement takes place in any game that allows you to do things like pick up enemy weapons, but takes a larger role in ones that allow you to outfit your allies with said weapons. Weirdly enough, Halo is a good example of this.

Of course, if the smaller force can’t take what the larger one has, sabotage is an option. Why let your enemy use something against you? If you can’t have it, nobody should, right?

SGT Cathka Death

That’s what Commander Shepard can do in the lead-up to Archangel’s recruitment. Before committing to assaulting Archangel’s compound, Shepard can weaken the mercenaries a little with a little light sabotage. The YMIR Mech’s IFF (Identify Friend-Foe) system can be tampered with, which causes it to attack its allies instead. Similarly, Shepard can also impede Sergeant Cathka’s repair efforts on the A-61 Mantis Gunship with a simple application of a sparky, stabby thingy.

But Wait, There’s More

There really is more to it than just this, but it’d be near-impossible to list every connection of video games to real world tactics. The fundamentals of guerrilla warfare strategies and tactics are simple enough, but the details are where it matters.

What’s your goal? What’s the risk involved in accomplishing your goal? Should you capture or destroy? How? These are the questions you need to ask when tackling in-game objectives.

The question I have for you is: Are there any examples from games that you’re interested in learning more about?

 


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8 thoughts on “Video Game Tactical: Guerrilla Warfare

  1. Very cool! I’ll have to think about this, because you covered my go-to tactics…

    I’m curious, though, why does unconventional weapon procurement play a larger role in games that allow you to allocate weaponry to other characters, than a game that just has you procure weapons for yourself? Isn’t procurement, well, procurement? I’m thinking Mass Effect 3 versus Mass Effect: Andromeda. Is it just because you have to gather a more varied selection of weaponry if you’re outfitting your crew? Because, if that’s the case, both Andromeda and Mass Effect 3 practically threw armories at me… But maybe RPGs are an exception rather than a rule? I don’t really play shooters or other military-themed games, so I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Modern militaries and paramilitary forces are able to supply themselves by purchasing their equipment generally. Guerrilla forces can sometimes source weapons and equipment that way as well, but they often are forced to go through less conventional channels.

      For example, the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan during the late ’70s and early ’80s fought the Russians using stolen weapons, or ones given to them by The United States. Part of what differentiated them from more traditional military forces is that they used captured equipment, not just equipment that they were supplied with. Russian weapons became Afghan weapons. That’s a common trait of guerrilla fighters.

      Forces using those tactics and strategies don’t try to source their supplies normally, because it’s unreliable in many cases. Part of what makes smaller forces easier to quash is that their supply lines can be cut easily, which is one of the many ways that you can conduct a counter-insurgency operation. Instead of making themselves vulnerable to conventional warfare strategies, they adopt ways to not rely on traditional logistics.

      As for the Mass Effect connection, I’d say that Mass Effect: Andromeda would be the closest to replicating guerrilla warfare out of the series. Supplies and resources were found, whereas in the first three games, supplies were freely given. The distinction isn’t 100% clear, because as a player you aren’t at the mercy of logistics chains. If you look closely though, you’ll see the nature of the situation.

      In the original Mass Effect trilogy, you procured supplies via the Citadel, Alliance, Cerberus, or private markets. The Andromeda Initiative needed to be able to utilize whatever resources they could find at their destination, and be able to replicate it to the best of their ability.

      Not to be too long-winded, but it’s important to note that conventional wars are conducted much differently from guerrilla wars. Guerrilla strategies and tactics are born of necessity. They make do with what they can find because they have no other choice, which makes them difficult to combat normally, because you can’t disable your own soldiers’ weapons at will to prevent them from being used by the enemy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right, I get that. I guess I was ignoring the part in the ME trilogy where you could buy weapons, since most of the stuff I used was found in lockers, on enemies, or otherwise during missions. Other than ship stuff, Shepard et al would have still been pretty well equipped. But I get the difference as you explained it above. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am one who definitely shoots-then-hides and prays they dont’ find me. Or goes invisible until my health is decent or anything. XD I focus on health a lot but…. yeah. Seeing as I am not good about upgrading like I should be, I tend to have strong weapons but not armor.
    I LOVED the little comic you had. is bleeding from headwound arrow “Must have been the wind…” Yessss. think that…. please.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your way of playing sounds very similar to Jennifer’s. She’s more of a sneaky sniper type player, where I tend to jump into the middle of things. Tends to get me in trouble!

      The comic was perfect I think. I tried pretty hard to find the original creator of it. I believe I succeeded.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Forces using those tactics and strategies put on’t hear to reservoir their supplies normally, because it’s undependable in many cases.

    As for the Mass outcome connexion, I’d order that Mass outcome: Andromeda would be the closest to replicating guerrilla warfare out of the serial.

    Like

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