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On the Finer Points of Tank Warfare

Discussion in 'Civ4 Strategy Articles' started by cleverhandle, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. cleverhandle

    cleverhandle Chieftain

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    I love Tanks. :love: And while I know that the diehard warmongers would consider a game that lasts long enough to see them a disgrace, I'd still like to share some thoughts about how to make the most of these lovely, rolling implements of destruction. Experienced warmongers may view much of this as obvious implications of the combat system, but hopefully there will be a few tips useful for everyone.

    Significance: The combination of two moves, collateral damage, and city raider allow one to capture enemy cities far more quickly than in previous eras. Conquering a city every other turn with only a modest battlegroup (i.e. 10-12 tanks) is easily possible, given the right tactics. This can have tremendous impact, whether you're a builder looking to demolish a rival or a warmonger looking for an early end date.

    Objective: Conquer enemy cities as quickly as possible. At this stage of the game, IMO, losing an occasional tank is well worth cutting your conquest time by 50%-75%. The war weariness, supply costs, and wasted turns before victory are more important than a few hundred hammers. If you are significantly behind your enemy and are trying for a desperate late game power-grab, these tactics may not be appropriate.

    Assumptions:

    1) You are at least close to tech/power parity with your victim. It's fine if he has gunships and/or SAM's. If he's far enough ahead to already have Jets or MechInfs, then you're probably too late.

    2) You have Flight and Radio (for Fighters and Bombers). Having Rocketry (for Gunships) and Robotics (for MechInfs) is nice, but by no means required. You also need Airports in your major military production cities.

    3) You have a reasonable supply of Level 4 (10XP) units. Just having a military city with West Point is enough - you don't need a ton of Level 4 units. Having the Pentagon and civics such that every city can produce 10XP troops is obviously nice, but again not strictly necessary.

    4) You're playing on Settler. Kidding... this works fine at least through Emperor, provided you can stay in the game well enough to meet the other criteria.

    What you need:

    Tanks: Well, duh. More specifically, you need several kinds:

    1) Raider Tanks - your heavy hitters: You want 3 of these, 4 is better. These are the ones that really need to be Level 4 to be effective. Take Raider I, Raider II, and Barrage I promotions. Take Raider III at Level 5 if you get there.

    2) Drill Tanks - cleanup crew: How many you need depends on how many troops you're up against. A number equal to the number of defending troops is safe. If you're in a time/production bind, you can reasonably count on blitzing for multiple attacks but make sure that the target city isn't on a hill (costs 2 moves to attack). Promote these with as many Drill promos as you can get.

    3) Cover Tanks - protection: You want 2-3 of these, depending on how much you fear the enemy's counterattack. Promote either all Combat or Combat I/II, Ambush depending on whether you think a counterattack will be heavier on tanks or artillery/gunships. If you have Gunships, one of them can replace one of these. If you have MechInfs, use them instead. On the very first assault of a war, these will take a larger beating as the AI throws its extra troops at them. For the fastest conquest, keep two extras safe behind your lines and ready to move.

    Non-Tank units:

    1) Medics - Explorers are essential for this, because they'll likely be the only available 2 move unit that can take medic. You need two of them.

    2) Bombers - The more the merrier, but 10 is probably enough. 15 can cut through even the toughest air defenses I've seen. More than that is overkill. Expect to lose about one for every other city and be ready to replace them.

    3) Fighters - Two or three flying Interception within range of the target city. Only needed if the victim has Bombers himself, in order to intercept bombing runs against your approaching stack.

    4) Worker pair w/cover - Very important. You need to be able to quickly build rails in conquered territory. In contrast to Civ3, the AI doesn't appear to be very keen on snagging covered workers. I tend to cover with only a single tough defender like a Combat I/II/Ambush Infantry. An extra cover unit would be safer. Having two pairs of workers is also nice, but not essential.

    How it works:

    In most situations, this will be a two turn process - one to approach and the other to attack. If terrain, culture, or a reliance on blitz necessitate an extra approach turn, you may want to hold off some or all of the bombers until turn two.

    Turn 1:

    1) Tank group approaches. Since tanks don't receive terrain bonuses, you generally just want the fastest path. But sometimes you can position yourself so that incoming attacks are across a river, which is helpful.

    2) First bombing run - balance is key here. It's important to damage the units in the target city on this turn since the combat system significantly penalizes weakened attackers. You want counterattacking tanks, artillery, and gunships to come at you at no more than 75% strength or so. At the same time, your airstrikes won't be effective until you've lowered the culture defense, and of course you need to start softening them up for your approaching tanks anyway. Keep in mind that, at 15%/turn, it takes 7 successful bombing runs to completely eliminate enemy defenses. I tend to go about 60/40 %bombard vs. unit bombard on this turn. %bombard first, then unit bombard. If you have a surplus of air power, it's worth looking around at other cities near your target in order to weaken any responders there.

    Turn 2:

    1) Second bombing run - Finish what the first one started. You should really have enough bombers to both zero out the cultural defense and reduce all defenders to 50%. If that's impossible, go for a balanced approach. If the enemy has bunkers (which is pretty rare, in my experience), try to make sure that every unit takes a few hits but don't get hung up on it.

    2) Raiders attack - This wave has two objectives - take out the toughest defenders and soften up the remainder for your drill tanks. These tanks will take damage, though hopefully not be destroyed. Do not use every raider tank you brought. Two is enough - the goal is speed, and the more damage you suffer the more time you spend healing. After two collateral damage hits from these the rest of the defenders should be under 50% strength, and it's time to move on. The third/fourth raider tanks are purely for backup purposes in case the other two get badly beat up by counterstrikes.

    3) Drill tanks attack - This wave takes advantage of first strikes, letting your drill tanks sweep up defenders with a good probability of taking no damage. Nothing elaborate, just send them in. Don't blitz with a wounded tank unless absolutely required - not because you'll lose it, but because you want to minimize healing time. This wave should capture the city. If you've never tried this, expect to be surprised at how your tanks can go 5 for 5 battles or more without taking a scratch.

    4) Move in to the city? - This gets tricky, depending on how the enemy countered your advance. If you have damaged tanks (from an artillery or air strike, perhaps) that haven't moved, you may want to leave them outside the city to get an extra turn of healing. Just make sure they're protected by one of your cover units, and keep one of the medics there of course. The AI doesn't seem terribly interested in picking off your stack provided that it's covered. Otherwise, move them in.

    5) Fly in a garrison - You do have a garrison infantry waiting at a friendly airport, right? Your shiny new city can accept one airlifted unit each turn, even while it's revolting. Make sure you have another one for next turn, too. If you want a larger garrison, you can airlift to the nearest city and move it over via rails.

    The result:

    You have a new city and a bunch of tanks that need, at most, a single skipped turn to heal. After you've weathered the initial counterstrikes in a war, it's entirely common that only your lead raider tank takes any damage at all - let that one stay behind to heal up, and the others can start their next approach on the turn after the first assault. Typical losses are 1-2 tanks and 3-4 bombers for a sustained campaign taking 6-8 cities from an enemy of roughly equal power. If your unfortunate victim doesn't have any far-flung island cities, a tank campaign along these lines can eliminate an enemy civ in under 20 turns.


    I think that's pretty much it. I hope these tactics prove useful in your conquests. Comments, questions, and improvements are welcomed.
     
  2. Aramazd

    Aramazd Chieftain

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    Nice guide. It's thorough, but I think tanks come to late to decide the game. They just allow you to finish the game faster.
     
  3. Chillaxation

    Chillaxation Chieftain

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    Well done article.

    If you'll pardon a digression from a beginner, what do you find is the most reliable way of getting West Point & Level 4 units?
     
  4. Olleus

    Olleus Warlord

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    you get westpoint once you have discovered military tradition and you have had at least one unit with 17+ experience. Always build it in the same city as the national wonder that halves unit production.
     
  5. Mathemagician13

    Mathemagician13 Chieftain

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    You can get a unit to 10 exp by fighting barbarians alone (but no higher). So usually, I try to start an early war with a 10 exp unit, and do everything I can to have him finish off weak units (say 90%+ chace o' victory), and keep him alive. As soon as he is West Point Creation level, I try to get him home, and hang onto him, just in case (unless of course I really need him, then I'm out of luck, aren't I?).
     
  6. AngryPants

    AngryPants Chieftain

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    Ah, yes. I like to think of such units as the "King in Dragonslayer". For those who didn't see the movie:
    A. Go rent it, Peter McNichols is cool.
    B. the King waits for someone else to kill the Dragon, then goes up and sticks his sword in the dead Dragon while all his subjects watch.
    I once got a Chinese Cho-no-ku(hope i spelled that right), up to lvl 9 doing that. First Strike IV and Combat IV, he was truly impressive.
    Here's another trick, Find a nearby barbarian city and then park an archer on a hill within its radius, he'll snag those 10 xp points in no time.
     
  7. cleverhandle

    cleverhandle Chieftain

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    I think that's usually true. But I can imagine situations where a speedy tank conquest could make the difference. Consider a large map, where you have one strong immediate neighbor and one big financial civ on a far off continent/island. Efficiency in conquering your immediate neighbor could be the difference between keeping up or falling behind the far off one in tech.

    And in any event, an earlier win date never hurts...
     
  8. jafink

    jafink Chieftain

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    Cool, although this is a guide for tank warfare, i'm glad you explained basics on using bombers. So far i've never used a bomber in a game of civ4! But this is probably because i pay noble-prince.

    100th Post!!!!!!!!!!!:D :smoke: :band: [party] :dance:
     
  9. Proteus

    Proteus Chieftain

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    Or built your iron works there, which has the same effect only the other way round (I normally build westpoint and ironwoirks in one city, red cross and heroic epic in the other).

    As for the defenders in the tank strategy:
    Even if you already have mech. infs. it is really nice to have some gunships around. For one they have a nice bonus against enemy tanks, for the other they´re the only units which can move 4 tiles in enemy territory (which might come in handy if some secondary target comes into sight as your army approaches the city)
     
  10. Jakerg23

    Jakerg23 Chieftain

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    Great guide, I'll try this next time my game lasts long enough.
     
  11. Gen.Rommel

    Gen.Rommel Chieftain

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    I try as much as possible to keep the peace until at least i get riflemen/redcoats since im usually england. So i can relate to this strategy, since usually war doesnt come until i get tanks and gunships. However, suppose that you're on the recieving end of one of your tank offensives.

    1) Never counterattack tanks with tanks, its a waste of perfectly good units. Thats what gunships are for.

    2) An attacking force that doesnt have any Infantry to provide staying power isnt going to survive for long. Artillery is an extremely effective way of wiping out an enemy attack stack, even at the cost of 1 or 2 artillery. When promoted with all 3 barrage promotions, a couple artillery will lay waste to the largest attack stack.

    3) Losses incurred even during a successful attack are going to be higher than those stated. No less than 2-3 bombers will be lost, as well as several tanks.

    4) What ive noticed about later warfare is that its remarkebly close to actual WWI and WWII warfare. Bombers, Artillery, Infantry and Tanks. Gunships are the extra unit that balance out tanks and force you to use them in different ways than you would. Artillery are used to severly deplete attack stacks, and also defence stacks in cities. Infantry are almost always defensive units, whether defending your cities, or defending your tanks and artillery attack stack. Tanks should be used to wipe out defenders in cities only when they have been severly depleted by Bombers and Artillery, and also to CC-attack any counterattacking gunpower units. Gunships of course, are the premiere unit to use vs tanks, especially the first tanks. No tank can stand before a concentrated Gunship attack.

    Im just trying to show what kind of defence could be used against this attack strategy.
     
  12. cleverhandle

    cleverhandle Chieftain

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    You're talking about theory, I'm talking about practice. You also may be talking about multiplayer. The few multiplayer games I've played with friends don't last until tanks.

    Tell that to the AI. It never builds many gunships unless it's in "pillage mode" from a recent war. That would be a good time not to use the strategy I describe.

    You're missing the point perfectly. You don't need staying power, you don't need to survive for long. You need your cover tanks to provide protection to your stack for one turn. That's all, just one turn.

    Thank you, I know how artillery work. But it just doesn't matter - I've had a tank stack take 4+ artillery hits from the target city and the nearby surroundings. Your cover tanks will, generally, hold. The rest will be still be sufficient to take the city once you've bombed it out. And once you've taken the first city, you will have a lot less artillery to worry about afterwards. But the longer you take to approach and to conquer, the more artillery and other responding forces the AI will bring to bear against you.

    Perhaps I was only imagining my results. Maybe dropping less acid before Civ would help.

    Yes, and in doing so you're taking an overly defensive posture in anticipation of an intelligent counterattack the AI will never perform. I used to wage modern wars in the very deliberate, cover-all-your-bases manner that you seem to advocate. It boasted incredible force preservation - I would never lose a Tank due to all the defensive units I was toting around. But I needed twice as many units to get started and my conquests took 2-3 times as long. And that meant a lot more unit support and a lot more war weariness standing in the way of victory.
     
  13. Warpspasm

    Warpspasm Chieftain

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    Geeze. . . talk about defensive!

    :lol:
     
  14. Gen.Rommel

    Gen.Rommel Chieftain

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    Like i said before, its a defence strategy to fight against someone who uses your strategy, i didnt say anything about AI. And of course this is assuming that the game lasts that long, no wonder.

    Also, like i said again, modern war in Civ IV is very close to WWI, WWII, and other modern era wars. So the strategy i describe wasnt just made up by me, it was actually used through all of these wars. You dont see a tank division made completely of tanks, it always has at least 1 infantry regiment, albiet motorized infantry. And the same goes for light infantry, their not completely without vehicular support.

    The strategy im talking about is a defensive strategy against a HUMAN opponent using your strategy, OF COURSE assuming that the game lasts until then, and it is a practical strategy if implemented correctly.
     
  15. ·Imhotep·

    ·Imhotep· Legendary Builder

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    It depends. If the AI has the required techs and sees a tank sweep coming, it will build some. At least that's my experience. A friend of mine and myself were playing an MP game on Noble. AI Roosevelt was our neighbor on our continent, and he was quite strong. After finishing Mansa and Huyana we were closing in on him, rolling masses of tanks and panzers to his borders. And boy, did he kick our tanks. He had 7 or 8 gunships ready which he had cleverly hidden outside his cities. It needed some time and some marines to mop them up, but we lost a bunch of tanks just because of his gunships. When we finally had done them in, the campaign wasn't much of a challenge any more - if two civs gang up on one AI and display the above mentioned blitzkrieg tactic in a determined way, the AI has no chance to withstand. Maybe Roosevelt was in this case just lucky - but he definitely had those gunships, and not from pillaging because he had fought no other war beforehand.

    Regards,

    Lord Timon
     
  16. rcoutme

    rcoutme Chieftain

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    As for needing explorer medics...
    This is assuming that you did not pre-plan your tactics. Cavalry are a 2-movement unit that CAN get the medic promotion. Additionally, if you use Napoleon (the fiercest warmonger on the map), his musketeers can move 2 and have medic. Musketeer medics are a perfect addition to tank assaults (assuming you want to have tank assaults for the fun of trying it).
     
  17. fung3

    fung3 Chieftain

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    Field Marshall Gen. Rommell and his Afrika Corp versus Field Marshall Cleverhandle Montgomery in a public duel.

    Will Monty's overwhelming force bring about another El Alamein or will it all go Market Garden.
     
  18. Gen.Rommel

    Gen.Rommel Chieftain

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    Rommel only lost Al Alamein because he was way undersupplied, since Hitler gave precedence to the Russian theatre, and pretty much discounted the North African theatre as inconsequential. Rommel was understrength in tanks, alot of his infantry divisons were down to a third of their autherized strength. Montgomery was never anything more than an adequate field commander, he only showed as anything because he wasnt helpless like the other british commanders of WWII. When you think of all that Rommel did, counting that he was always at the short end of the supply lines, getting whatever was left that didnt go to Russia, and on the other hand, Britain was giving all it had to North Africa, he truly was an amazing commander.
     
  19. fung3

    fung3 Chieftain

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    My comment was meant 'tongue in cheek' so to speak, a joke if you will.

    It's just that I noticed the temperature rising between Gen.Rommell and Cleverhandle and couldn't resist making a comment. Please excuse me.

    I agree that Monty was very average and that his forces were overwhelming compared to those of Rommell at El Alamein. I also agree that Rommell was quote 'a truly amazing commander'.

    As I am sure you will know 'Operation Market Garden' was one of Monty's plans. It was a **** plan from the start that ended up costing the allies very dearly.

    However, victory at El Alamein did give the British their first victory in WW2 and as such was very good for moral.
     
  20. carn

    carn Chieftain

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    AFAIK Rommel was also undersupplied, because GB deciphered the enigma, so always knew where the realy precious supply transports were. It was even to the extent that Rommel suspected treachery.

    Carn
     

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