Basic Land Combat


New that we've looked at the details of your forces, deployment, basic movement and supply, we can finally begin to discuss combat. To avoid throwing too many options and variations at you all at once, we'll start by looking at what happens when one of your land forces engages an enemy's land force: a simple one-on-one engagement between two opposing field commands. This will introduce the basic rules that make up the core of Hearts of Iron Its combat system. In subsequent sections we'll look at more complex situations where multiple forces are participating, and where air forces and navies get involved.

Combat, in Hearts of Iron II, represents the struggle for control of large provincial areas and should be thought of as a series of engagements, rather than a single battle between two large forces. Battles can often last for many hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the size of the forces involved and hew well the enemy has prepared to defend the province. It will continue in a series of combat rounds until one side is either victorious or is ordered to disengage. If the defender is victorious or the aggressor breaks off the attack then things will remain status quo. If the defender chooses to flee or has been forced into full retreat, the attacker will begin to mcve into the province to clean up the last pockets of resistance and begin the occupation of the newly-conquered province.

Entrenchment! Digging In

Before we look at initiating combat and how its resolved, we need to quickly touch on two subjects: entrenchment and provincial defences. Entrenchment is an indication of hew well prepared the defending force is to repel an attack and will be available after you have researched the appropriate technology to enable it. You can check the status of your land forces by selecting the field command and looking for a small shevel icon in the status area. If there's a shovel then your force is entrenched: or "dug in": to at least some degree. If you hcver your mouse ever the shovel a tooltip will appear to show your dug-in status. The higher the number the better prepared they are and the greater their defensive bonus will be. A force that remains stationary in a province for a while will become increasingly dug-in, raising their bonus until it reaches its maximum possible value. The bonus is immediately lost if it begins to move.

While there is no way to check an enemy's status you could make an educated guess if you know roughly hew long they have been there. A well-entrenched enemy will be considerably harder to defeat; and attackers do not receive a dug-in bonus, obviously, since they are moving.

Province Defensive Structures

While entrenchment can help a defender repel an attack it is a poor substitute for a network of fixed defensive structures that are designed specifically for this purpose. A force that is in a province that contains land fortifications will gain a very large edge in combat: proportional to the size of the fortification : in addition to any entrenchment bonus they receive. A division that is entrenched, in supply, at full strength, and well organised can be an almost unbeatable opponent so it is best to find a way of reducing at least a few of those factors before launching an assault against them.

Land fortifications only aid a defender against an attack from another province, not against one that comes from the sea. Coastal fortifications perform the reverse function, repelling sea invasions but having no effect against an army that is advancing from an adjacent province; and neither of these defences have any impact unless there are forces present to man them, and neither of them are used against any paratroopers who attack you: although paratroopers are subject to a separate combat penalty. Anti-aircraft and radar installations require no one to man them but have no effect whatsoever on advancing land forces (though they will help you against any supporting enemy aircraft).

Initiating Basic Land Combat

All land battles in Hol2 involve two sides: an attacker and a defender. Combat is initiated whenever a field command is ordered to mcve into an adjacent province that contains an enemy field command. The defender is always the force that occupies the province and is attempting to hold it; and the attacker is always the force that is attempting to capture the province. When you order a

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field command to move into an undefended enemy-con-trolled province there will be no combat and a movement arrow will appear. The arrow will be red to indicate that the command is moving to occupy an enemy province.

In all cases where the province is defended, right-click-ing on a province will automatically display the Orders interface so there is no need to hold down the Ctrl key as you do so (though it isn't a bad habit to use the Ctrl key anyway, just to get into the habit for other situations where you do). The Orders interface will have a list of all context-sensitive orders that the field command is able to perform and the attack option will be preselected. The interface will also indicate the day and time that the attack is to begin and will usually display the current date and time. This won't always be the case because the game tracks your recent orders and if it seems appropriate the default time will be set to coincide with the others. It might take a little getting used to but this feature is an incredible time-saver., .and the default attack time can easily be overridden by adjusting the values using the "+" and "-" buttons. To simply go ahead and launch the attack, click the OK button. The Orders interface will close and the field command's orders panel will be updated to reflect its new mission. If the attack is to begin immediately then the red movement arrow will also appear on the map (as long as you have the unit selected) but if you have set a delay on the timing then the arrow will not appear until the attack actually begins.

As soon as the combat begins a variety of game interfaces will also be updated to reflect the fact that a battle ¡staking place. In any interface where the field command is listed (e.g. if you click on the Land Forces Hot Button) you will see a small red battle symbol at the right edge of the display If you click the Province Hot Button you will see the same symbol beside the province name. This same symbol also appears in the border type display of the Province Details information panel. Depending on your current message settings you may get a pop-up message box to inform you that battle has been joined. The easiest way to view battle locations, though, is to click on the Active Combats Hot Button which will display the combat quick view (see below) for any battle or provincial occupation that is currently underway.

Timing Your Attack

It is usually best to launch an attack that is timed to begin at daybreak (or at least during daylight hours) since most forces don't fight very well at night. This is easily done on the Orders Interface where you can adjust the exact date and time that you would like the attack to begin. The time displayed in the Orders Interface is always GMT, not local time, but a small symbol in the interface will indicate whether this will be a daytime or nighttime attack. In more advanced combats you will frequently use this interface to time the various components of your attack (e.g. to conduct preliminary aerial bombardment to soften up the enemy before your land forces begin to advance) or to gradually escalate the scale of the conflict.

Basic Combat Resolution As soon as battle is initiated you will notice that the Field Command details in the information panel changes to display a "combat quick vieW at the top (in place of the usual province details). The mission box will display the units current orders ("Attack" if it is the aggressor) and belcw this will be a brief graphical summary of the current status of the battle with the province name and battle icon in the center. On either side you'll see the portraits of the opposing commanding officers, their current strength and organisation, the number of divisions involved on both sides, and their nationalities. The attacker will always be listed at the left side of the summary and the defender at the right. Below this is a bar that stretches from left to right across the bottom of the battle summary, indicating which side currently seems to hold the advantage. If this is mostly red then the attacker seems likely to win. If its green then the defender would seem to be prevailing. This status is not a guarantee of victory, however, since many things may happen during the course of a battle that could tip the balance.

This same combat quick view also appears in the list that is displayed when you click on the Active Combats Hot Button (remember that you can filterthis list to display only a particular type of battle). If you click anywhere on the combat quick view display on either interface the information panel will change to display the combat details view. As is the case with the quick view, the attacker is always listed on the left side of the display and the defender on the right.

The name of the province that the two forces are vying for is listed at the top. The portrait of each commander will be displayed below his national flag, along with two numbers: the number of divisions that he currently commands, and the maximum number of divisions that he is able to command. If the first number is smaller than the second, then the commander's capabilities are not being exceeded, but if the first number is greater he is commanding too many divisions and is deemed overstacked. The severe penalties received for overstacking are detailed later in this section.

There is a small "event box" just belowthisthat stretches between the two leaders' portraits. Normally it will be empty; hcwever there are special combat events that may occur during the course of battle. These are far more likely to be in your favour if you have a high-ranking leader who commands an HQ division somewhere in the vicinity. If an event does occur, it will be listed here (details on combat events may be found a little later in this section).

in the next section of the information panel, you'll see a series of symbols that will change as the battle progresses, and the same red-green battle status bar that appears in the quick view. The symbols that appear in this area will indicate various special combat conditions that are affecting the battle, conditions such as entrenchment, nighttime combat, river crossing, overstacking, weather conditions, and more. Each of these will have an effect on how combat is resolved and are shown as quick visual "clues" as to what factors might be influencing the battle. Details concerning the exact bonus or penalty will vary somewhat depending on unittype: and a unit's technology: so the precise values of the modifiers are not displayed here, but are incorporated into the next part of the information screen.

The balance of the information panel displays a complete scrollable listing of the units involved on both sides of the conflict and a graphic representation of each one's remaining strength and organisation. An expanding tooltip is available for each division that contains precise details about the various bonuses and penalties that it is receiving to its combat values and which are totalled to give its current attack and defence effectiveness (i.e. the attack effectiveness and defence effectiveness values shown in the tooltip include all of the various modifiers that are listed below them). These will change: and are updated: on an hourly basis as the combat progresses.

A combat can last for as little as a few hours or possibly for as long as a few weeks, though the majority will probably be waged for a matter of days. Battles are subdivided into "rounds", with each round lasting for one hour. During each round a variety of things will occur:

  • There is a chance that a combat event may occur at the beginning of the round, representing a special advantage that one side has managed to achieve over the other. The likelihood of one happening that favours your side is determined by the land doctrines that you have researched (which may increase the odds of a specific event occurring) and are also considerably more likely if you have an active HQ division in a province that is adjacent to the battle or involved in the battle. (To be active, it must be commanded by a general or by a field marshal). If an event occurs, then its effects will remain active for eight hours (i.e. forthe next 8 rounds) and no other combat event can occur until it has expired.
  • The attackers will inflict some damage to whatever provincial assets exist in the province. If the defenders have a land fortification (or a coastal fortification in the case of an amphibious assault) then it will sustain some direct, intentional damage. The amount of damage is tripled for divisions with an engineer brigade attached to them. There will also be some collateral damage to infrastructure, factories, and other structures that will reduce their operational conditions until the damage has been repaired.
  • The combatants will exchange fire, with each side likely sustaining some level of casualties and probably experiencing a slight reduction in organisation and morale.
  • Both combatants will also draw a measure of supplies and oil to sustain them forthe next combat round. This will be at a somewhat higher rate than their normal hourly consumption, and if there is a lack of either then their combat organisation and morale will begin to drop quite sharply. Running out of supplies or fuel is a sure way to lose a combat.
  • At the end of each round, the operational status of each division is checked to see whether it is able to continue fighting. A division that has sustained enough casualties to reduce its operational strength to zero will be eliminated. More often, though, a division will reach a point where its organisation has been reduced to a level where it cannot continue to fight (below 5%) and will begin to withdraw. It may still be fired upon (and will try to defend itself) but it will no longer attempt to inflict casualties on its enemy.

This cycle will repeat each hour that the combat continues until either one side has been completely eliminated (which is quite rare unless the battle is very lopsided), or until at least 50% of a side's divisions are in the process of withdrawing from battle. You may, hcwever, elect to disengage from combat at any time if you feel that your chances of winning are slim and you would like to preserve as much of your force as possible. If you are the attacker then you can do this by selecting the field command and then right-click in the province that they currently occupy. In the case of a defender, you can select the force and then right-click anywhere, since there are special rules that govern retreat from a province.

Kx changing Fire

In the abcve description I simply indicated that the two sides "exchange fire" each hour. This is actually a very complex process whose precise mechanics are embedded in the game engine; but you need to have at least some idea of how it works in order to be able to make an informed decision about whether to initiate a combat and what forces might be useful for you to build, deploy, and order into the battle. Here's roughly what happens...

The firing phase of the combat is subdivided into a number of "shots"...shot 1, shot 2, shot 3, shot 4, etc.

until all possible shots have been fired. For each of those shooting rounds, each division on both sides will randomly select an enemy division to fire at and then will target either its hard or its soft component. The likelihood of it picking a soft target is equal to the enemy division's softness value, so if your division is shooting at an enemy division with a softness of 70% then there's a 70% chance that it will target the soft component and a 30% chance it will target the hard component.

Your division then checks whether it is "allowed" to shoot by checking its hard or soft attack value. Whether a division is allowed to shoot depends on what shot number it is and on the attack value it has against the target type it has selected. Example: if it chooses a hard target and has a hard attack value of 5, then it will be allowed to shoot if it is presently shot #5 or earlier. If its shot #6 or later, then it is not permitted to shoot. That doesn't necessarily mean that its attack is ever for this round of combat, because if it happens to have a soft attack value that is higher then it might still select a soft target for a later shot and be able to shoot. Example: if that a division has a soft attack value of 12 then it will be allowed to shoot if it happens to select a soft target any time up to round #12.

If a division is allowed to shoot then it will so, but the target division will also have a chance to avoid being hit. Whether the target is able to avoid the shot is determined by either its defensiveness value or its toughness value: depending on whether it is the defender or the attacker in the overall combat. If it is defending a province then it uses its defensiveness value; if it is a division on the attacking side then itwill use its toughness value. This value is the number of times that it may attempt to avoid being hit during each full combat round. Example: an attacking division that has a toughness value of 10 may attempt to avoid being hit on the first ten times that it is targeted by defending divisions during each combat round. If it is targeted by 5 enemy divisions in the first shot, then by 4 divisions in the second shot and then by 4 divisions in the third shot then it can only attempt to avoid 10 of those 12 shots. It WDuld not be able to avoid any subsequent shots that were fired at it until the start of the next combat round. In normal combat situations, a division will be able to avoid a majority of the shots directed towards it, so it is unlikely to sustain significant damage unless its avoidance opportunities have been exhausted while its enemy still has additional shots remaining.

A shot that successfully hits its target will inflict damage on the target division. The extent of that damage depends on the type of the division that fired the shot and on the type of target it selected. Foot soldiers (infantry, marines, militia etc.), cavalry and motorised infantry will generally inflict a bit more damage to a soft target than a mechanised ,„

infantry or armoured division will achieve; hewever the latter are more effective against hard targets than their "weaker" brothers in arms. There is also a strength component to the damage, with the percentage of strength that the shooting division has lost being applied to the amount of damage it can inflict.

But wait., .there's one more twist! You might have been wondering what the tooltip values of "attack effectiveness" and "defence effectiveness" mean and then guessed: incorrectly as it turns out: that these values might represent your chances of hitting a target or avoiding getting hit. They don't. The attack effectiveness modifies your division's soft and hard attack values by that percentage, while the defence effectiveness is applied to your defensiveness or toughness value (depending on whether you are the attacker or defender). This means that they will increase or decrease the number of shots that each division may fire in each round, and the number of shots that they might be able to avoid when they are targeted. Attack and defence values must be whole numbers (you can't partially shoot or partially defend) so any fractions that result from the effectiveness modifiers are ignored. That means that a soft attack value of 5.99999 would restrict a division to firing at a soft target only during the first 5 shots of the round; and that a defensiveness of 5.99999 would allow you to try avoiding a shot only five times during that round.

All of the above occurs every combat round until the battle is over, and is thus repeated: and are likely to change to at least some degree: on an hourly basis. What will tend to have the greatest impact on a battle, therefore, is the quality of the forces that you employ and the modifiers that come into play during the course of the engagement.

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