Ryan Thomas enjoys playing "Wargame: Red Dragon" as his main strategy game, particularly as France and Czechoslovakia.
Most people who play real-time strategy games, at least once you are past the age of 7-8 years old and crushing the AI, enjoy action, maneuverability, and dynamic campaigns. The joy of winning is to play well, to surprise the enemy, to fight fluidly, and to win titanic struggles. And then there is the small minority of players who want to play a game of point and click, an attrition conflict akin to WW1, dominated by artillery and based around frontal grinding fights, caution, and destruction-based warfare which just wants to rack up casualties. If you like that style, then you probably are attracted to map like Apocalypse Imminent, which is defined by a central river that has open terrain that is exceedingly difficult to attack across. If there is a map in Wargame which contrives to produce a static and attrition-based warfare, it is Apocalypse Imminent. With this said, what can you do to make the map more dynamic? More importantly, how can you win on this map?
What makes the map so defensive and difficult to advance on? It is a very large map, which would make you think it offers maneuverability. A larger area would allow you to outflank the enemy, but the map is dominated by a river which flows straight down the center. There are only three areas to cross, and a fork on the landward side around a village is between the two rivers. By being so large, sustaining offensives is very hard due to logistics and lines of communication problems. All of the bridges crossing the river are completely denuded of cover. There is open land in front, but buildings or trees give excellent defensive terrain. As you get closer to the enemy base, their supply lines get shorter, and air support becomes quicker and more devastating.
The two main game modes in Wargame are destruction and conquest. Conquest is theoretically quite simple on this map: both sides have equal numbers of zones on their side of the river, while the central town in the fork is the dividing line. Capturing it gives you a +1 tick in conquest points. At this point, garrisoning troops in the town and the forest groves on the landward side makes the position hard to take back. Although heavy enemy artillery can be expected, the position is still quite strong. There are alternate approaches, such as a helicopter landing on the seaward side, but the above is the most orthodox tactic.
But most players for this map are playing it not because they want this dynamic opener, but rather an attritional grind. While capturing the middle zone does give an income advantage, it is far from enough: there are five zones that the enemy holds on the other side of the river, so they still have a roughly equal income. They will also have the same huge problem of how hard attacking is. Thus, regardless of who wins, you must confront a static, predictable, attritional battlefield that is dominated by artillery.
If you want to engage in this style of war, then there’s no need to do anything more: you will have lots of artillery and a bunch of FOBs cautiously pushing forward scouts and pounding any potential troop locations. But if you want to break this WW1-esque slugfest, here are some tips on what to do.
In the beginning, there are two zones which generally might be attacked: the conventional strike on the fork village in Charlie, and either Echo or Juliett on the seaside, depending on which side you are from. Echo is particularly hard to retake due to its cliffs, forests, and buildings. It is almost as far from your base as from the enemy.
In the conventional attack on Charlie, you want a strong motorized component or an air assault. Eurocorps, Baltic Front, or South Africa are the best motorized components, thanks to formidable wheeled firepower, infantry, and AA. It is possible to delay the enemy by napalm bombing or artillery firing the bridges leading to the town (or the communication roads), which can give you a crucial advantage. But this depends on the circumstances, and if you are willing to invest the points in this rather than front-line combat units.
An airborne drop is another alternative. This is very common and is part of the reason for, even if you are doing a motorized assault, having good AA. But in an airborne assault you should assume that the enemy will be doing it too, meaning that you need air-to-air helicopters to protect your units, and preferably a fighter to scout ahead and detect enemy helicopters. This should be designed around landing your airborne troops right behind the village, closer to your side to avoid the presence of fast-moving, long-range, enemy infrared AA. In both motorized and airborne, you want a mixture of shock/commando infantry, ATGMs, recon infantry, and if you have them stand-off fire support infantry or light infantry, all to help create a defensive bubble and to provide staying power: MANPADS are also good if you have them.
Taking the village in this scenario is just the start of the battle, since you can expect the enemy’s armored and mechanized troops to be following up. If all goes well, you will have secured the village, which is very useful as it gives a base of fire, and a bastion, but on their own forces in the village will be overwhelmed by the enemy infantry supported by their follow-on tank and fire support assets. To respond, you want your own heavy armor, long-range ATGM tank destroyers, and ATGM planes. Hopefully the assistance of your troops in the village will enable you to emerge victorious.
Defending Taken Ground
At this point, if you are defending the village, you can use this time to position infantry and ATGMs in it. The main problem is the enemy will probably massively artillery and airstrike the zone: you want mostly cost-effective line infantry, enough to serve as a block to direct enemy attack while not costing too much and hurting you too much when casualties inevitably are suffered to enemy artillery.
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Air defense will be important: position long-ranged heavy AA in some of the intermittent bush cover behind the village, and if it is amphibious, in the rivers. And you of course can get your own fighters. but the biggest threat and one you can do little about is massed MRLS bombardment which stuns your troops and enables the enemy to press in. The village is only of moderate size, so it can be stunned almost entirely by enemy rocket artillery: thus just having line infantry is best on the assumption that they will be stunned anyway. You will need mobile reserves to move up and support, the same heavy armor, ATGM tank destroyers, helicopters and ATGM planes: it is useful to have armed reconnaissance units in the forests and bushes around the zone who can provide fire support, hopefully from stealth.
By contrast, if the zone is lost and you want to take it back. MRLS fire or very heavy bombers are again your best bets. Use MRLS to stun the enemy and follow up with shock or commando infantry to storm in, supported by fire support assets. Amphibious vehicles are very useful to avoid the kill zones of the bridges and attack on a broader front.
An alternate strategy is a helicopter drop on Echo or Juliett on the seaward sides. This is almost always a helicopter assault, since only this has the speed to get to the zone before enemy ground forces reach the river crossings. There is generally a reduced risk of an enemy counter-helicopter attack, so you can bring a higher proportion of gunships, troops, and tank destroyers, although you should still bring some. It is best to coordinate this with a teammate to have follow-on support, and to bring a CV in soon afterward. Even if the enemy takes the village on the landward side in Charlie, they, missing their seaward zone, will suffer from at least a -1 tick in CVs, and if you have one in, a -3 tick. Furthermore, if the enemy doesn’t respond effectively you can push up and perhaps kill or even take surrounding regions.
Most of the time however, it is best to go for a defensive fight from this point on. Thankfully, Echo in particular is hard to retake since it is a quite good defensive position, with a hilltop plateau with forests and buildings. There is a good degree of terrain in which you can hide a CV, and use smoke to protect it as well if you want, and the plateau means that you can ambush tanks coming on top from close range, with troops from the forest, and there is a village where MANPADS can be stationed and ATGM teams generally have an excellent engagement profile, the enemy not being able to get close enough to spot them but in a deadly killing zone where ATGMs will hit every time, also, the buildings also make for excellent infantry posts that will be hard to dislodge. Heavy AA can be positioned in the forests below, and reinforcements and reserves routed up. In time the enemy can attack and overwhelm you, but you will buy enough time for a big conquest point lead. If it is destruction, it also opens up possibilities for future attack.
After the Opener
The opener and the fighting directly afterwards is the most active part of the battle as a rule, but of course it doesn’t end after the first 5 minutes. If you win on one of the sides in conquest, then you have largely won, presuming you can hold it.
Destruction is a more difficult task in that here the battle is only just beginning. This following battle component, which most of the players on Imminent Apocalypse look forward. is a static and extremely defensive one. This is the contradiction of Imminent Apocalypse: that you need an army capable of both winning the initial motorized/airborne engagement, and also an artillery-centric battle afterward. Try to push recon infantry forward, and hit spotted targets, shoot likely spots where enemy air defense is located, and use MRLS bombardments on likely concentration zones if you think the enemy is building up for an attack. Attacking frontally over the river is at this point almost impossible, and you can essentially just play the artillery game. You can try to counter-battery enemy artillery, and of course be aware of their own possibility to counter you.
Sneaking and Infiltration
One of the most effective strategies to deal with this artillery war is to sneak recon infantry, or potentially stealthy exceptional optics and stealthy recon helicopters around. This is generally best around the ocean side, since there are probably less prying eyes here as opposed to the land side, although you can theoretically do it on both sides. With a transport helicopter at the beginning of the match, send it to circle around on the edge of the map into the enemy’s rear area, landing it behind the lines and unfolding a recon infantry unit. Most of the time you want it to go into the bushes behind the enemy base, where they spot enemy reinforcements, FOBs, and artillery. Above all you want to keep this a secret: the helicopters should be positioned in the rear of the map, such as the corner, and you shouldn’t shell enemy spotted targets until you have gotten enough artillery pieces to make it do decisive damage: assume the enemy will immediately try to find your scout, so you need to make the firing window with observed shots and damage worth it and do the most damage in the shortest amount of time. When you start firing you should also get your helicopter to spot as well, such as the enemy CVs in the bottom part of the map, and push forward with your recon infantry if possible to maybe get into the enemy base. If you have armed helicopters, like Hinds, Ka-29s, Mi-17s, Lynx AH.7s, Panthers, or even minigun helicopters, you might be able to kill jeeps or infantry CVs.
Defending against this is reasonable simple, since you just need to put a few pickets behind your base and along the seashore.
You thankfully can expect most zones to be safe from the enemy, and so just use jeep CVs or whatever the equivalent of a lightly armored cheap CV is for you. All of the zones behind the river are reasonably large and with multiple good hiding spots. In the home base the sheer volume of artillery fire means you should keep your CV in the more empty parts of the zone, or some more survivable ones. The exception is the central zone: if you have captured it, an infantry CV (which can dodge), or tank CV in the village is advisable, although you can also use smoke and put it one of the corners - also a good diversion tactic.
This also works for contesting the zone, in a niche strategy which can be quite effective in close games where you say, got a significant command point lead early on, but then lost the central zone and zones you might have captured from the enemy, such as a helicopter drop on the seaward side. You can effectively deny the enemy the point or command point advantage from Charlie and force theri units to move up into melee range, into smoke, to kill an asset such as a heavily armored tank CV which you push over the bridges into the zone with smoke covering it.
Despite these tips, Imminent Apocalypse is generally still a map with a tendency to degenerate into a stalemate. Winning against new or mediocre, or tryhard players on destruction if they just want to play an artillery battle isn’t that hard, since you just need to win the opener, sneak units around, gain a command point advantage, slaughter their artillery and FOBs, and push forward with ground units. But it will still often tend to just become a slugfest, so think carefully before playing the map.