Wargame: Red Dragon tactics in as few words as possible

Infantry is undefeatable in forests and towns. Entering those forests requires securing the forest edge, which is best done by fire support – transports and tanks, the cheaper the better.

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The VDV 90 have been able to walk into the enemy town because of the ZPTU-2 providing fire support and forcing enemy infantry to abandon the town edge.

Forests are usually surrounded by large amounts of open space. Of the ground units, heavy tanks are best at winning battles in the open. ATGM units also work well if you can protect the launch vehicle with distance, screening units or good timing. Autocannons, light tanks and mediums are cheaper options for securing open space – not as good as heavy tanks, but appropriate if you do not want to spend 300 points on a particular front. They all lose heavily to expensive tanks, even when massed.

Recon units sidestep the firepower race of tanks entirely. Due to their stealth, they can prevent enemy infantry from walking into your forest even if the enemy has fire support advantage. To kill a recon lav-25 shooting your advancing infantry while itself remaining invisible, you need to spot it, with recon of your own.

ATGM helos also sidestep the firepower race of tanks. They are poor offensively, but an enemy helo hovering over a forest you intend to attack will prevent your tanks from moving up and securing the forest edge. To drive it off, expensive long-range antihelo AA is needed.

Rocket helos and gunships serve as a unique type of fire support – just like transports they can cover your advancing infantry and fire back on anything that threatens it, but they are not vulnerable to enemy tanks.

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As the red infantry moves up, the enemy Jäger fire back at them and are deleted by the rocket helos providing cover fire.

Planes are often expensive for the firepower they bring. A 120pt air superiority fighter has a slightly smaller kill chance than 120 points of anti-plane AA. Their main draw is their ability to strike anywhere on the map and their high alpha damage. A bomber can provide instant support to any weak flank that is hit by a surprise attack. Antitank planes help defend your open spaces in a similar way to ATGM helos, but they kill much faster and are countered by heavy SAMs and ASF, not antihelo AA.

Although heavy tanks dominate light tanks in longrange battles over open terrain, they are also most heavily countered by AT planes – a player with three cheap leopards is far more likely to have at least one tank survive a Mig-27 run than a player with a single Leclerc.

That’s it. Infantry is the king of wargame once they get into position in a forest. Tanks secure open space, allowing your infantry entry into the forests and towns that are key to victory. However recon, helos, planes and to an extent ATGM carriers each sidestep the open space dominance of tanks in some way, necessitating additional counters – spotters, AA, ASF, smoke. Hence, combined arms – all focused into allowing or preventing the flow of infantry into key strongpoints.

To the next guide post: Infantry is overpowered

Why use Air Superiority Fighters?

Commonly you’ll see people comment on Firestarter videos or other experienced gameplay that the players use alarmingly little AA. The reason for this is ASF.

Initially I presented radar AA as the antiplane AA, counterpart of IR which deals with helos. But then SEAD entered the picture – when radar can’t even shoot at bomber trains escorted by SEAD, can it really be the final solution to planes? On the other hand, sticking with IR has its own problems – without very good positioning it usually won’t even be able to graze defensive bombers. And neither can actually prevent an airstrike; they’ll kill the bomber during its evac, sure, but that’s little consolation if you lose a superheavy to a 100pt AT plane.

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So how do air superiority fighters compare to the ground options? They have the following advantages:

  • ASF is the best AA type at preventing airstrikes altogether. The strategic advantage gained in stopping a big push by eliminating key elements is sometimes worth throwing away a bomber for. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen to your own pushes is to use ASF to kill the bomber before it hits you.
  • Air superiority fighters offer the best air detection in the game. With no AA, you’ll only see the bombers as they evac after performing their attack. With ground AA, you’ll see them as they start getting in range to perform their attack. With ASF, you’ll see them half a map away and have much more time to react. ASF also counters the otherwise invisible nighthawk.
  • ASF are the most cost-effective way of covering the entire map. For 120 points you can put one weak AA piece on each of three fronts, or you can get a Mirage that will cover the entire map for you. This makes them especially good on games with normal to low point density. Even with just two fronts, an ASF has a kill chance that you will need multiple radar pieces to equal.
  • You won’t get your ASF picked off by mortars, stunned by MLRS or suppressed by SEAD. Your ASF won’t get stuck behind the push because of terrain or enemy ATGM.

That said, ASF also has the following weaknesses:

  • ASF is far more vulnerable than ground-based AA. When you buy a mistral, chances are it will survive most of the game. When you buy a Mirage, its survival is not as certain.
  • ASF is far more micro-intensive than ground-based AA. Ground AA needs to be kept near the front and, if radar, turned on as enemy planes are spotted. ASF needs to be kept track of (Do you have an available fighter or is it rearming? Can you afford a fighter? How many fighters does the enemy have?), called preemptively, and microed in a way that doesn’t get it killed by enemy AA.
  • Enemy ASF can contest your attempts at gaining air superiority.
  • Although ASF can charge and kill individual helos in desperation, IR AA is necessary to provide consistent defense against those.

So in conclusion: ASF is the most effective way of fighting enemy bombers, but it requires far more micro than conventional AA and is quite fragile. The part that’s relevant to pushing is what I want to stress most – if you’re attacking and your superheavy has to spend more than a moment in the open, you must make sure to have ASF circling nearby as that is the only way to protect your tank from AT planes.

To the next guide post: Helo handling and helo types

Fire rate in Wargame Red Dragon

The armory doesn’t tell you this, but fire rate in Wargame isn’t a simple number. It’s actually composed of two parts: fire rate within a salvo and time between salvos.

Think of a rocket launcher vehicle: you have 12 rockets in the tubes, the vehicle carries 24 total, and you fire the first 12 really quickly. That’s the salvo. Then you spend a minute refilling the tubes with your remaining 12 rockets. That’s the time between salvos. If it takes 10 seconds to launch 12 rockets, but then you spend 50 seconds refilling the tubes, you have a fire rate of 12 per minute according to the armory. Despite the fact that you can burst out 12 rockets in 10 seconds!

Note that a salvo does not have to be fired fast. This is how it works with MLRS, but plenty of weapons have 5-second delays or longer between each shot in their salvo. Rather, the distinction is that we have two reload times – one within the salvo, and one between salvos. Salvos can contain only one shot.

A key trait of the salvo system is that morale only affects the time between salvos, not the time it takes to fire off a salvo. So if our MLRS shoots a rocket each second and then reloads for a minute, it will still shoot a rocket each second if panicked. Only the time it takes to prepare the next salvo will be lengthened.

A salvo can only start being prepared if there is ammo left over; for example, if your hawk AA piece is out of ammo and you bring a supply truck to it, it won’t start shooting as soon as it receives its first missile. Instead, you’ll also have to wait for the 20 or 30 second reload timer to pass.

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Every time the lower bar (time to next shot) fills, a hit roll is made.

There’s also an aim time – the delay before the first shot can be fired. It is instant for infantry, a second for tanks, and between 10 and 35 seconds for artillery. Aim time gets worse as morale decreases.

Let’s look at how the various weapons in Wargame can be implemented with this system:

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Salvo length: 12 (not listed on unit card). The rate of fire stat is unhelpful, but at 7/minute it should be around 2 minutes reload between salvos.

-MLRS: 1-2 seconds between shots in a salvo, lengthy reload between salvos. A salvo is usually as many shots as the MLRS can carry, but exceptions exist – the japanese MSSR only fires half of its ammo count in one salvo for example. Aim time for the MSSR is 30 seconds like most cheap MLRS. The advantage of 100-point MLRS is that they tend to have 10-second aim times.

-Artillery: Unlike MLRS, artillery generally carries a lot of ammo and salvo length is unrelated to ammo count (with the exception of 10HE pieces, which carry very little ammo and are usually only good for one salvo). This is bad because salvo length is the primary factor that determines whether an artillery piece is good or not, and there’s no way to tell in the armory – pieces with the same or similar price will have wildly different salvo lengths. There are many significant differences in salvo density that the armory rate of fire display does not accurately reflect, but a complete artillery analysis is not the goal of this post so I’ll stop here. Suffice to say, to correctly choose artillery in a mixed deck you’ll need to look at the hidden artillery stats spreadsheet or test burst lengths yourself.

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-AA: Salvo length can be inferred from the number of tubes: in the case of strela 10, four shots before the between-salvo reload time kicks in. Armory shows us the reload time between salvos instead of the total rate of fire – this is much more helpful than with MLRS. So, a strela 10 fires four times quickly, then needs ten seconds to reload.

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-Tanks: Here it gets fun. There are three types of tank reloading – manual, normal autoloader, and bursty autoloader. Most blue tanks have manual loading – panicking the tank will make it fire much slower. This can be implemented as a salvo of one shot, with the entire reload being between salvos (remember, only the reload time between salvos is affected by morale!).

Most red tanks have an autoloader, their reload time stays constant regardless of panic. This can be implemented as a salvo of say 40 shots, with 6-7 seconds between shots within the salvo.

The Nana-Yon series tanks fire four shots very quickly, then have a lengthy reload. The armory, as always, misses such intricacies in its rate of fire summary. This can be implemented as a salvo of 4, with say 2 seconds between shots in the salvo, and then a 15-second reload between salvos (I have not actually looked for the exact reload numbers).

-Ripple fire: The longbow shoots two missiles quickly at each target – this is a salvo of two, with 1 second between each shot. Then a longer reload between the bursts.

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-Infantry small arms and autocannons: This is where it gets ugly. The armory rate of fire is completely borked, because each “shot” actually expends more than one unit of ammo. This is somewhat obvious – if you actually got 400 damage rolls a minute, even with 0.5 HE that would kill a 10hp unit in three seconds..

The way to get the actual fire rate of an autocannon or small arms unit is to go ingame and write down how much ammo a single shot expends, then divide the listed fire rate by that (preferably, shoot multiple, there is often a fractional part). For example, if the RPK gets depleted by 12.5 ammo in one cycle, that means its rate of fire is 381/12.5 = 30 per minute.

Again, the salvo length is not listed in the armory. In the case of infantry, which is guaranteed to take lots of morale damage, this is huge. The MG3 has a salvo of whooping 16 shots, with 2 seconds between each shot, and 6-8 seconds between salvos. This means that 3/4 of the fire rate is invested in the salvo, and not affected by morale damage – a panicked squad will spend the same 32 seconds firing a salvo as a calm one, and only lose an extra 10 seconds or so reloading for the next one. By contrast, most MGs have salvos of 2-8 shots, making them far more susceptible to morale. Which MG has what salvo pattern is something you learn by testing or looking up in spreadsheets, sadly not from the armory.

Fast resupply; shorten the breaks your Longbow take!

If you have a unit you need resupplied ASAP, put multiple supply sources next to it:

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All supply units, regardless of cost, spread supply at the same speed. From the perspective of a single tank, it doesn’t matter how many other tanks are being repaired by the same truck – its repair speed won’t decrease. Importantly however, it can speed up: there’s no cap to how fast a unit can receive supply, and each supply source transfers supply separately, so parking multiple cheap trucks next to your superheavy will repair it much faster than using a single HEMMT or Mi-26.

This is usually just an argument to use cheap trucks instead of expensive ones, but the Longbow is particularly affected because of its long reload. Putting a few 10pt trucks next to the FOB will dramatically shorten the time spent procuring more hellfires, allowing you to maybe even deploy the same Longbow twice in a match.

Why are expensive tanks effective tank slayers?

Previously, I wrote a short post advising newbies to use superheavies if they want to win the tank war. In this post I’ll talk about why this is the case.

Most tanks come with KE guns, which only do damage if they have as much AP as the target has armor. If they have less, they do not fire; if they have just enough, they do one point of damage on hit; if they have more, they do an additional half a point for each extra point of AP.

A tank with 10 armor will take 1 damage from a tank with 10 AP, 1.5 damage from 11 AP, 2 damage from 12 AP, 3 damage from 14 AP and so on. There are special cases for 0 and 1 armor, and for HEAT guns, but those aren’t important here.

What this means is that a small advantage in AV or AP can cause your tank to do twice as much damage as the opponent or even make it immune to return fire. The 65pt Leopard 1A5 has 16 AP and 10 AV, while the more expensive 80pt Leopard 2 has 16AP and 15 AV. In a duel, the cheaper Leo will do 1.5 damage per shot, while the Leo 2’s return fire will do 4 damage. It’s not surprising that the Leo 2 is better. Of course it is, it costs more. What’s important is that it’s so much better that for an extra 15 points you get twice the damage.

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Notice that rate of fire and accuracy play a very small role compared to AP+AV. When one tank does twice as much damage as another, a 5% or a 20% difference in accuracy is just a blip on the radar. There are cases where exceptional accuracy and ROF can make up for a deficiency in AP and AV – notably in the case of t-72b1 versus mexas, and the performance of the leclerc – but they are rare.

The difference gets more extreme as prices drift further apart. For 100 points you could get tanks that are immune to return fire from the Leo1A5, or that only take one damage from it while killing it in two shots. You could spend 195 points on three Leopard 1a5 tanks only to meet a single 100-point Leopard 2a1 tank, which does 5 damage per shot but only takes 1. Even having spent twice as much points and with a 3:1 numerical advantage, that’s a tough fight.

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With all that said, there’s an equalizing factor at play as well. KE guns gain AP the closer they are to their target, 1 AP for each 175m below their max range. So while a leopard 1a5 will do 1 damage to a leopard 2a1 at max range and take 5 in return, at 1400m the numbers change to 3.5 damage against 7.5 – still pretty bad for normal usage, but definitely enough to turn the table in the hypothetical three versus one fight I mentioned earlier.

It is important to notice that the price-dependent efficiency increase compounds. Just as the 1a5 is only half as strong as a Leo 2 at max range, the Leo 2 is half as strong as the 2a1, which itself loses miserably to the 2a4. Range scaling is a powerful tool that allows pairs of cheap tanks to chase off their bigger brothers, but it is highly situational: You can’t always start the engagement from close enough, and it is even harder to keep the enemy close after the initial exchange. It’s especially hard if you’re the one pushing against a defending heavy tank. And if the weight class difference is big enough, it won’t help at all.

The tank price escalation naturally has an end. At the top of the food chain are superheavies – tanks with more than 20 armor and armor penetration.

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If a Leopard 1a5 gets close enough to be able to scratch the paint on the superheavy 2a5, the return shot will be an instant kill.

Some superheavies are slightly better (M1a2) or worse (Moderna) than others, but what they all have in common is their domination of the lower tiers. You cannot counter a superheavy with tanks; the best you can do is match it with your own superheavy (or your own heavy, if the frontline consists of forests that are close enough to provide guaranteed range scaling). Because of this all such tanks come with very low availability and are almost a mandatory pick for decks that have access to them. Defensive counters are available in other tabs, in the form of ATGM, AT planes and helos, and infantry, but all of these are no good if you need to push and an enemy superheavy is lurking in the bushes.

In another post I’ll talk about why you may want to go with multiple cheaper tanks instead of a superheavy, but if you are primarily concerned with winning the tank fight, a superheavy is what you’re looking for.

To the next guide post: Why buy non-superheavies?

The infantry challenge

In my last post about game basics I praised russian men with RPGs in terms that may seem extreme to some newbies. However, the ideas I was presenting are common knowledge in the wargame community – only my presentation of the facts was bombastic. That was intentional, to drive the message home, because I think the strength of infantry is a key factor in wargame that must be understood to really break into the game.

However, now it’s time to get a bit controversial. Newbie, I give you the following challenge: play a conquest game with just infantry. You don’t have to win, just give it a fair chance. Fill a deck with VDV 90, plop down 900 points of them at game start, locate some centrally placed forest and pump it full of them. Or even better, fill multiple forests. Don’t try to be fancy with speed or helodrops, just get some slow cheap transports and choose an entry point that you won’t need tanks to reach.

The idea for this came from a game I played more than a year ago. I entered a 2v2 on D-Day, and my teammate left the game as soon as we were in. I didn’t want a micro-heavy strategy because in a 2v1 you’re guaranteed to be outmicroed, and knowing that D-Day is a forest-heavy map I just plopped down two players’ worth of VDV90 with nothing else. I spread them everywhere and won quickly after.

I think that even in our aging community there are still many non-ranked players who can lose to this strategy. It’s simple for a newbie to execute, and it could be a great learning experience. If you try it, please let me know how it went.

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Deck code: jXgMp3F9TuL6ncXywLClgysLCFYV5LDiag== (go to the deck list ingame and press import)

Or, if you like blue:

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Deck code: YHgMmeSNM8kaZ1IzkelnINLLWsMSgGKlhw==

 

Oh, and a warning. There’s only one way to get decisively stomped when doing this, and that’s if you get bombed or hit by a burratino. A bombing run is a net loss for the enemy if he just gets one or two squads, because bombers are expensive and bombing runs are risky if a teammate is helping you with AA. So don’t feel bad if you get bombed and lose some infantry, but make sure you can only lose a one or two squads per run. For an example on everyone’s favourite 10v10 map, try to get your army to look more like this:

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Nice and spread out, now we just carefully move up and Anna is ours.

And not like this:

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A feast for the bomber.