Ryan Thomas enjoys playing "Wargame: Red Dragon" as his main strategy game, particularly as France and Czechoslovakia.
If there is a map among the 1v1 ranked maps of Wargame: Red Dragon which best suits a mechanized deck's strengths, it is the brutal, close range, forest fighting which characterizes Hell in a Very Small Place. The small map size doesn't help, but even more importantly, it is covered with dense forests and groves, mostly without critical strong points, and reliant on combat which happens for the most part at close, or even point blank, range. Airborne decks find it hard to put their helicopters to work in forests, and armored decks lack good spaces for their tanks in much of the map. Only mechanized decks or factions which suit this brutal, grinding warfare are effectively oriented to play on it.
Hell in a Very Small Place is defined by a large available map area, since it is taken from D-Day in Paradise, but only a small amount of it sees any use in battles in the game. Since WG:RD is dictated by control of command zones, map control means control over these command zones, and these only take up a relatively small part of the map. The map is criss-crossed by rivers and canals, which hedge in the fighting into a central square, which takes place normally not across them but rather within them. This inside of the map is defined by large forests, groves, and forest bands, as well as some loose building conglomerations, lakes, and a plateau. As a rule there are very few long vision ranges. Instead, almost everything happens at close distances.
The western side of the map is a long zone, Golf with the side closer to the south - Alpha - relatively open, with a tree grove, a few buildings, and a river behind it with a bridge which crosses to the buildings. This clear land is surrounded by a semi-circle arrangement around it, with flanking horns reaching towards the buildings, and a few occasional bushes in the otherwise relatively open terrain. The majority of the time the battle here will take place on this side of the zone, with an opening engagement which is often based on a close or medium range tank duel, fighting from the grove which Alpha has and the furthest forward forest projection of the other side, Delta. This slugging match should have a few elements kept in mind however.
It is possible for the Alpha side to send infantry through the middle of the map and to the side, and without infantry protection sideshot your tanks. This should be definitely watched out for with nations with motorized, high AP, good range infantry - think Finland in Baltic Front or France in Eurocorps.
The central zone, ie. Foxtrot, is commonly disputed by both sides. There are two combat zones here; most of the time, either the hill top, generally held by Alpha automatically, and the fighting area between the two tree lines adjoining the canal, which can also be one of the principal opening fighting areas.
This fighting tends to not be as often pursued as on the Golf side, but sometimes it does become the main combat area. For Alpha, they need to preserve their position on the hill, where their CV for Foxtrot is almost always located, and they can use the forest between the hill and the river to help protect the road to their spawn. This is assisted by ATGMs positioned in the buildings across the river from where they can fire at the flanks of enemy vehicles attacking the trees. Most of the time, Alpha has a principally defensive mission: hold the forward edges of the forest with reconnaissance infantry, and if necessary if things on the rest of the map haven't gone well attack up to the top corner if the defense line is clear, in order to spot enemy CVs in Delta's side of Foxtrot.
For both sides, armed reconnaissance vehicles have the stealth that without good or better optics, they are often difficult to spot when in cover. They are particularly useful in flanking forests to provide for invisible crossfires.
Rocket pod and attack helicopters can often find surprising angles of attack that can hit units emerging from the forest, and the close range means that AA will often struggle to kill helicopters before they are killed themselves
ATGM planes are relatively close from Alpha's spawn, so caution should be exercised in providing for smoke and AA cover.
Seizing the center of the towns is an important advantage for both sides but particularly for Delta, which makes an initial motorized push here, screened with smoke against enemy troops coming along the side, very tempting. Once in the buildings they provide flanking cover against enemy tanks and infantry, and this is particularly so for light infantry who have the range to be able to exert a real presence.
There exists alternative attacks. An excellent option for nations with cheap, strong shock infantry is to use mortars to smoke the entire area, and then to attack through the smoke, where enemy fire support assets cannot fire on the invisible infantry. They can simply walk into and take the buildings, gaining a crucial initial advantage. Responding to this requires your own carefully managed infantry and fire support for close range fights, and bombers if you have them.
Success by the Delta side has the biggest impact since it enables the enemy to be entirely pushed out of Golf, and an economy of forces defense instituted, with ATGM teams in the buildings or forests, recon infantry, defensive line infantry stationed in forests who are very cost effective to hold the ground, and tanks in cover which can reveal themselves at optimal moments during a defense and provide fire support. Pushing up onto the plateau in the center of the map, provided sufficient screening infantry exists, is an effective tool, but on the other hand one should be wary about pushing up beyond the canal, as it is often quite literally a bridge too far - it means that one is bogged down in forest fighting too close to the enemy base, exposed to their reinforcements and airpower. But if one can get some commandos and special forces in, they are great at being able to conduct ambushes and flanking attacks at unexpected moments. In any case, with control over Golf and Foxtrot secured, one has 4 out of 7 command zones and a strong defensive position.
The task of exploiting victory is by contrast, harder for Alpha, since they have only conquered the tip of the zone. While they now have momentum, infantry has probably already been unloaded and many of their transports destroyed or heavily damaged, and this makes continuing the speed of advance with the necessary infantry hard. The same can be true for tanks who might be damaged. The terrain to push into has extremely close vision ranges, and so one might get massacred in a surprise close range ambush by infantry who have arrived as reinforcements and set up in the buildings in the center of the alley or certain parts of the forest next to the road. But there are some major advantages: the large forest on the flank closer to the edge of the map is open for infiltration, raiding, and scouting. It is easy to send attack groups around through the woods, to hit the enemy from the flanks: enemy CVs and air defense are often located in the woods or in the buildings on their side of the zone. And one can send reconnaissance infantry to the edge where they can spy on the enemy base. But as a whole the attack forward will be a grinding offensive reliant on careful coordination of infantry and fire support, as well as bombers, artillery, and mortars, to push forward. The geography is problematic for the Alpha as it progresses up to the north side, since there is a combination of lakes, forests, and buildings which naturally narrow the engagement zone to a central funnel which is a very hard nut to crack.
It is extremely difficult to bring up fire support while enemy troops possess a defensive advantage fighting from their buildings, sometimes even with fire support assets behind them. Shock or commando infantry is almost obligatory, since they will have to do the fighting themselves, or heavily armored tanks which can advance directly behind them to provide fire. Air and artillery support can help, especially for stunning, but it is a distant target to strike for aircraft, MRLS fire cannot entirely kill the position even if it is useful for stunning, and infantry in buildings can dodge artillery and mortar fire.
If one can seize these buildings, then the position gained is very strong and defensive, since a similar logic applies as on the other side for attacking it, although the closer location to the enemy base at least makes it easier to apply airpower. Attacking such a confusing maze of buildings and lakes is painful to do, and one is always just as vulnerable to flanking attacks from the forest.
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Attacking here for Delta generally involves pushing from the forest below Charlie to the forest next to the plateau. The combat ranges here tend to be relatively short, making for cheap line and shock infantry and supporting medium tanks such as K1s, M84As, and T72M1s as effective tools to support them. To deal with the threat from ATGMs, smoking the side of this along the canal, to protect the flanks of an attack is a good idea. Since initial opening fights by road geography tend to happen here, this zone is hence defined by this mechanized clash. There can be fighting in the open terrain closer to the center of the map, but the enemy can tend to simply hide in their own forest line, so seriously pushing the enemy out will require fighting in the wood zone. Optimally, one can crush the enemy, drive forward, occupy the forward buildings in front of the plateau forest line, and set up defensive positions to prevent the enemy from descending from their plateau, as well as shooting reinforcements headed up to it. Most of the time this doesn't happen, which means a continued slog is necessary.
There is also the possibility of attacking onto the plateau, in the very center of the map. As mentioned, this is effective for tank forces after winning in Golf from Delta's side, but there is also the possibility of a direct assault up the hill for Delta. This can be a good shock assault and if the hill is gained, it gives a very strong defensive position - just as it does for the other side when holding it initially, which is the rub of the matter, that attacking the hill is hard frontally. There are bush lines at short distance which can be held by defensive infantry, backed up behind them by tanks, and it is easy to set up cross fires to shoot from multiple angles at close range while the attacking units are still attempting to get up on the hill and open fire. Medium tanks are the most effective at this range, with the close engagement zones making superheavies cost ineffective. Limited points to come up and the possibility of multi-echeloned defenses make the attack hard, unless if the enemy is caught by surprise.
If the hill is seized, the advantages are that it has some forests and bushes overlooking a large open field in front of it - a glacis in effect. This overlooks directly enemy reinforcement lines to various zones on the map, and these can be shot at by tanks parked in the bushes and groves on top - particularly effective with reconnaissance tanks. Defending is also easy with infantry in the bush lines who can shoot enemy tanks coming up at close range.
Since there is a very direct road from Alpha to Delta along the canal, one should be aware about the possibility of an opening rush along here to take the base. A heavy tank push can knock aside lighter resistance and push in, and one's forces can be badly out of position on the other side of the map. To avoid this, deploy some ATGMs in the buildings next to the canal, some infantry to hold the forest and buy time, and some MANPADs or other cheap AA. These probably won't stop a full fledged push but they will buy time and sell themselves dearly, to enable reinforcements to be routed back. They also can give optimal spotting for aircraft which are at their most effective so close to the base.
The densest forest, other than the forests around the edge of the map, is found on the eastern side of the map, where Bravo is located. Alpha has advantage of defensible buildings and faster reinforcement routes. Normally, this means that the zone favors Alpha but Delta has a decent capability to fight through, particularly if it has a better deck of a specialization. Generally, Alpha's opening here includes recon teams pushed up along to the woods that jut out closest to the river PUT IN A PICTURE, some anti-helicopter AA, ATGMs in the buildings and towns who can provide for flanking AT fire across the river, and some grinding infantry for the forest. If there is no enemy opposition encountered, pushing up to the top side can help make enemy entrance into the forest very difficult. Some ATGMs and if one has them, reconnaissance tanks, are very useful defensively.
If one wishes to contest this zone as Delta - and generally this is a good option to be left open, since being able to have the command zone neutralized at the least is a potent advantage in terms of command points - then at least putting some units in the zone is helpful for a later push, so that the Alpha side isn't capable of pushing up and assuming defensive positions at the forest edge. Some reconnaissance infantry, shock or commando if you have them, are good at the same forest grove which juts out, to give some additional vision, as well as cost effective line or shock infantry to simply claim presence in the forest. If your infantry has good fire support IFVs, they can be effective in pushing into the buildings closest to the mountain, since there is a large enough open section here that they can park themselves in the corner closest to the mountain and pour in fire to support the attacking infantry, while the normal 525 and 700 meter range AT weapons of enemy infantry cannot shoot them back.
Fighting in a full fledged battle is a brutal grinding match, at close quarters and where everything favors the side with cheap cost effective infantry, good APCs for fire support (such as the K200, AMX-VTT 13, Zelda, or M113A3, which have the armor to be able to take a hit from light AT weapons and give fire support with their machine guns), heavily armored medium tanks, mortars/artillery, and bombers. The normal fighting zone is about halfway between the two zones, so bombers have a relatively quick flight time and are particularly dangerous as you advance towards the enemy spawn. Playing as factions with strong bombers and lots of them, like Czechoslovakia or ANZAC can mean that one can lay down a curtain of bombs and entirely obliterate certain zones. MRLS fire however, is generally too long ranged to be able to fire at these distances with Uragans or M270s.
It is possible for Delta to open via and initial helicopter drop onto the zone, since this is unexpected and there is often limited AA here. This, if it works, is highly effective since the buildings are a tough nut to crack once taken. Some light anti-helicopter AA such as MANPADs or SPAAGs are great to offer a cheap deterrent early on - they won't stop a full push, but they will kill more than their cost and often slow down the enemy.
Raiding infantry is a severe problem for both sides, since teams of infantry can push around from any angle in the deep forests, surprising enemy troops from the rear. Losing a CV to such an attack is a dreadful development, and so it is best to buy a network of pickets for defensive rings. My favorite infiltration attacks are
- A helicopter drop by Delta to the rear area behind Alpha, where the recon infantry can either sneak into Alpha's base or watch their reinforcements come in.
- A helicopter drop by Alpha to the north-east corner of the map, where the recon infantry can see the spawn point of Delta from across the river and perhaps choose an optimal time to sneak in.
- An overland infiltration across the thin spit of land in the west, useful for either side but particularly to attack Alpha in their Golf two pointer zone. To defend against this, Alpha needs recon along the coast, to look out for helicopter drops, while Delta should position some pickets across the river from their spawn point to make sure that enemy recon infantry doesn't watch everything they are deploying.
As both sides, I like to position some picket line infantry to watch the choke point on the western side of the map. This can give warning of infiltration from this area, which is a very severe problem - particularly against Alpha, since their two pointer command zone in Echo is vulnerable.
Both sides have plenty of forest, and in Alpha's case, lots of buildings to hide their CVs in. But there is also a menace of infiltration which makes the scenario less safe than might otherwise be assumed - one should be concerned of attacks from the rear as South since there is plenty of potential vectors that infantry landed by helicopter can come in front. Also, one's spawn road is set right next to forests, which can give enemy special forces infantry an excellent ambush position. For the Delta side, the infiltration routes are less easy for moving into the base, if possible, but there can be a risk of a direct attack through the road leading straight to the base. So often one should position the CV in the woods on the bottom-right of the zone: some local defense such as light AA or autocannon armed recon vehicles is a good idea to stop enemy helicopters which can easily sneak around the side and kill them. But for either side, providing sufficient cover is given, any type of CV works.
From the Alpha side perspective, there are plenty of good hiding spots in Echo and Bravo. The Golf and Foxtrot zones are far more worrying. Foxtrot has two decent spots on the plateau - in the corner, or along the rear bush lines. This gives a good degree of defensive ambiguity against enemy artillery fire, but saturation fire will eventually kill soft targets like jeep CVs or infantry CVs. Judge the degree of artillery fire from the enemy's deck and their playstyle and deploy accordingly: tank CVs are the most assured. CV usage in Golf depends on the depth of penetration of the zone: either an infantry CV or jeep CV might work, hidden away in the bushes at the top, if there is enough defensive depth, and other less obvious spots might include other bushes. The infantry can also be positioned in buildings. In any case, make sure to have pickets to watch the side!
Alpha has an easy time with a CV location in the forests on Bravo side, since they can position their CV either in the buildings or the forest, with any type of CV working, provided that there are some pickets around them to deal with the threat of enemy infiltration.
Delta's CV choices are also reasonably easy, with as mentioned only the threat of a surprise attack by Alpha dictating their CV placement in their home zone, while they normally have plenty of good hiding spots in Charlie and Golf - although in Golf, there should always be defensive pickets to make sure that troops don't sneak around the side to hit the CV, which is normally deployed either in the forests or buildings in the rear. Foxtrot is sufficiently large in the northern side and with enough trees that it is hard to provide for saturation fire sufficient to kill even soft CVs, so unless if the enemy has an extremely artillery and bomber-heavy opponent. any type of CV works.
Given the type of fighting which prevails on the map, the best deck for it is without a doubt mechanized. Israeli mechanized, Landjut mechanized, Dutch-German mechanized Entente mechanized, etc. - these are the best possible choices around for it. If you are playing any other deck, you will have to struggle and micromanage more to attempt to win.