Bocage is an interesting and challenging tactical situation. The hedgerows themselves offer superb cover and concealment, so you will not see the enemy before he fires, and a good defensive line can be established in many locations. Also, depending on the mapmaker and the forces, the hedgerows themselves may so channel the attack that ordinary room to maneuver is absent.
Teams for Hedgerow Fighting Edit
Scouting is vital in hedgerows, so you need scout teams from many or most squads.
Squads with light anti-tank weapons seem to be gung-ho on firing them off at the first opportunity, and they will use them in area fire. Thus, if enemy armor or pillboxes are expected, or the enemy force is unclear, I split off AT teams for those squads which have bazookas or panzerschrecks. For Americans you end up with these teams (#men in parens):
- Squad with bazooka: Scout (2), AT (3), Weapons (7)
- Squad w/o bazooka: Scout (2), Assault (5), Weapons (5)
With enough men, you can assign a platoon per field. Two squads on the bordering hedgerows, one back. If there are more fields than that, then you can use the third squad on near side of one bordering hedgerow (it can still see the HQ when properly placed). It is even possible to diffuse a platoon onto both sides of both hedgerows, although in this case you cannot lead one line of advance with a scout team, so you must be careful.
Determining Lines of Advance Edit
Generally you will want to advance in adjacent hedgerows, so that gains made in one can be used to flank others. Access between fields is important. In many CMBN maps, there are whole fields with just one opening. These fields may be crossed anyway to look across the hedgerow, but generally you will want to avoid them unless you have plentiful means of creating gaps.
There are two main ways to create holes where you need them: demolition charges, and rhino-tanks. Many squad types have demo charges: scouts, engineers, and airborne. So, get these guys if you can. If you have only a few units with demo charges, break them into teams and keep them safe at least until they have used theirs up.
If you have armor, then you want to make sure they have the gaps they need. If you have one or more tanks with rhinos, then you are fine. You can go where you want. Otherwise, it usually requires two demo charges to create a tank-sized hole. Plot your route accordingly, using whatever natural gates are there to save on demos.
Scouting in Hedgerows Edit
It is highly important in bocage country to learn how to scout efficiently. Using scouts prevents the loss of whole teams or even squads when the enemy opens up.
If you have sufficient forces, you will want to advance in a given field on both sides of the both hedgerows that are perpendicular. This allows you to go somewhat faster, since the scout on each side of the hedgerow you are advancing along will see far enough ahead on his own side, so that the scout on the other side doesn't have to worry about enemy units on the other side of the row.
Generally, scouting is safer the slower you go. If there is time, you can use Hunt so that as soon as the scout is fired on, he stops moving. However, usually there are time limits on your battles, so you don't want to scout too slowly. But going too fast is dangerous. A scout team with orders to Quick up to the next hedgerow can be wiped out as it attempts it, costing you men (though at least revealing the presence of the enemy, so not a total loss).
So there is a medium that is best, which will vary depending on how much time you have in the scenario, how much defending force there is, and how far you have to go to get the objectives. Usually, before any contact, scouts can be moved Quick for 50m or more. Then they hide, or if they are advancing . If the enemy sees them during the movement and fires, you will see their suppression jump (and they may also lose men, which is obvious).
The distance you move with scouts should vary depending on how far into the field you have advanced. When you first enter a field, don't go far: give the enemy the chance to fire when you can easily run back where you started. Then advance in small to medium bounds, as explained above. When you are getting close to the back hedgerow, there is the prospect of cover (that row), the enemy should have had plenty of chance to open fire, and you don't really want to be stopped 50m out. So it is worth the risk to run (Fast) the last portion of the field. If the enemy is waiting in ambush, there is at least a moderate chance to make it to the cover of the hedgerow, and possibly do some damage with grenades. If the enemy isn't there, then you save time.
It needs emphasis that, by far, the best tactic for hedgerow fighting is to flank the enemy. What does "flank" mean? It means to get your men into a position where they can fire at the side of the enemy -- that is, from a direction in which the enemy does not gain the normal cover and concealment of the hedgerow. There are numbers to quantify it, but I have often seen situations where an enemy team behind a hedgerow was being fired at by two squads for several minutes without much effect, whereas a two-man scout team, when it finally flanked the team and got an unobstructed shot, killed men and panicked the survivors within a minute.
After locating the enemy (usually at a particular hedgerow), you should stop moving forward in that particular field. If you have any men already in the field, retreat them. Assuming you have a hedgerow on your side, and superior firepower with plentiful ammo, it can make sense to "front up" on your side, and have a go at inflicting some damage on the enemy. However, it will take a very long time to win via attrition (see below).
Another thing you can do is leave a team or two behind concealed by your hedgerow (to stop any enemy move forward), then move the rest of the platoon to attempt to get to the enemy flank. Against the AI you can leave no rear-guard at all, since it is not going to try anything fancy.
When you have found a way around the enemy flank, exploit it. Move up your teams via the covered route the scouts have revealed, then pour down fire on the enemy. A human will usually bug out as soon as he realizes you have his flank, so be quick. The AI will stand, so you can take your time about moving up. In fact, against the AI one "stupid AI trick" is to avoid opening fire from the flank with your first units there (usually a scout team), while you wait to bring up more men. If you open fire with just a few rifles, the enemy will probably panic and a few men may escape. If you wait to bring up more of a squad, then the chance of survivors is slim.
Sometimes, a map will be constricted enough that there is no way to flank the enemy position. In a case like this, you will have to do a frontal attack on at least one field, and often two hedgerows deep. However, once you have broken through the line, you can easily flank adjacent fields, and proceed to defeat the entire line.
Frontal Attack Edit
The basic idea in a frontal attack is to out-gun the enemy. You bring enough fire to put his heads down (at least) and kill men. This allows you two options: to slowly attrit the enemy, or to attempt to assault his hedgerow.
With enough time and superior numbers of men and ammo, you can prevail simply via attrition. Sometimes this is enough. In this attack, you simply get as many units on the hedgerow as possible, blazing away at the enemy.
If you are going to try attrition, then you do not want to overly suppress the enemy. At a hedgerow, when the enemy is suppressed into a prone position, you can no longer hit that enemy. Instead, let your men much of the targeting themselves. Any time you get an seen enemy, then you can concentrate area fire there (for units which cannot see). This will tend to suppress that enemy, so do no more than a turn unless the enemy stays up. Then you wait for more seen enemies.
Tanks can be very effective in a frontal attack. But you must be careful -- the enemy likely has light anti-tank weapons (bazookas, or panzerschrecks and panzerfausts). So you cannot afford to get too close to them. Luckily, with a hedgerow you generally know where they can be. Assuming you have reconnoitered the flanking hedgerows, the enemy cannot be there. So he will only be at the far end.
If the field is very short (i.e., 100m or less), then you should keep your armor on your side of the hedgerow. The hedgerow serves as a shield for armor against HEAT, triggering otherwise accurate shots prematurely. With medium distance fields (100-150m), you'll want your armor on your side to begin with, and then maybe a short advance into the field.
Against the AI, it is possible to "draw out" the defense by sending armor within a very long panzershreck shot. (Humans will set covered arcs so this won't work on them.) Try to first stop at 200m or so in a big field, taking time to hose down whatever enemy are spotted via area fire. If no panzerschrecks are fired, move up to 150m or so. At these ranges, panzerschrecks can fire but are unlikely to hit. Also, it will reveal the team, which can then be hit with direct HE fire.
Direct fire HE can hurt the enemy across the hedgerow even when he is prone.
Direct-fire Mortars Edit
Light mortars (60mm and 81mm) are very powerful in a direct fire role for hedgerow fighting. If you have not tried them in direct fire, you should. The downside is the enemy can often see them, and so they can be fired on. (Humans will make this a priority; the AI will not.) But the upside is speed: you do not spend minutes getting the fire established, nor do you need to fuss with getting HQs right.
Generally, the idea is that the mortars kill every unit that reveals itself. Your squads are there to draw the enemy's fire and to try to suppress the enemy. The actual killing is done by the mortars.
Here's the general outline of the attack:
- Using scouts (see above), locate the enemy hedgerow.
- Move the rest of your platoon to the same hedgerow, including one or more mortars. Try to arrive more or less together. You can keep the HQ back from the hedgerow (so it doesn't take fire), or it can join if it can afford to lose a man.
- Deploy mortars immediately.
- Against the AI, set the scouts on area fire so the enemy sees them first. This will draw fire to reveal more enemy units, and also keep the fire away from your more important men.
- Once you see a team (with any unit), you'll have at least a '?' there in the overall view. The mortar can now target the action spot just behind the hedgerow there. Its first two rounds are spotting rounds, so they are fired slowly and are usually off target. After spotting rounds are fired, fire will be fast (one shell per 6 seconds) and frightfully accurate.
- A minute of mortar fire is about 10 rounds. This is usually more than enough to eliminate any unit in the targeted action spot. (Units nearby will take casualties too, but probably will not be completely wiped out.)
- If there is another enemy on the same hedgerow then you can hit them the next minute.
- Keep doing that until the enemy has no known units, or you have no more ammo.
- There will be scattered survivors, so keep up area fire from your platoon while you send scouts followed by assault teams in a frontal assault to finish the job.
Using artillery works much like a slowed-down version of direct fired mortars. The upside is that artillery can be very powerful, and the supply of shells is usually large. The downside is the whole thing can take a very long time.
When you call for support, use the company commander or a forward observer, if possible. This unit is going to be there for a while, so he will not be available to do other stuff.
There are two main ways to go about it. If you have the time, and/or are tight on shells, then you can use point fire against each enemy contact, correcting between them. If you are more in a rush, and can afford the shells, then you can use line fire to speed things up.
Point Fire Edit
For point fire, your call parameters are as follows:
- Point fire
- At particular identified enemy locations.
- Use just one tube (to keep down rate of fire).
- Light rate of fire
- Maximum duration (you will cancel it yourself when ready)
Now you wait for the spotting to start. Note that if your observer has been spotted and the enemy is human, you'll want to move to some other spot on the hedge. The AI won't shoot at contacts.
Once fire starts, you can treat it like a big mortar. Kill a unit. Adjust fire to next contact. See the previous section. When you have cleared all known contacts, adjust the fire to one corner of the field, while you send your scouts and/or assault teams up the other side. (You can stall the mission indefinitely by Adjusting each turn.) If new enemies appear, you can retreat your men in the field and move the fire mission onto the new contact.
Only cancel the mission once you've successfully gotten at least a squad across to the other side. This is enough to complete rolling up the hedgerow (see below). You do not want friendly fire raining down while you do this!
Line Fire Edit
With line fire, unlike point fire, you try to hit the entire far hedgerow simultaneously. As already stated, this is somewhat inefficient, in that you'll be hitting more empty ground. However, it works decently against humans (who do not reveal all their units until they have to). Also, because the fire arrives all at once, it leaves the enemy suppressed and raises a good cloud of smoke and dust -- just the thing for a consequent assault. (See below.)
With line fire, your mission parameters are:
- Line fire
- Draw the line down the entire enemy side of the hedgerow
- Use as many tubes as you can (for maximum rate of fire).
- Long (maybe less for heavy guns)
- Maximum duration (you will cancel it yourself when ready)
Once the artillery arrives, you should turn it into an assault. Whatever enemy are there should be suppressed and badly mauled, but they probably will not be all killed.
Frontal Assault Edit
A frontal assault is a variation of the frontal attack, wherein you attempt to fight at the enemy's hedgerow. (Usually you cannot get there without taking too many casualties. However, with smoke or sufficient suppressive fire, you can.) In the frontal assault, neither side gets much cover, so it is almost guaranteed to be bloody. However, the side with numbers will usually prevail. This may be acceptable if you must capture a hedgerow and you don't have the firepower to prevail with attrition.
A frontal assault may also be necessary after a hedgerow is partly cleared (using artillery or mortars), but there are still a handful of men left. If there are sufficiently few men, then you don't necessarily require smoke, but may lose men.
Here's the general outline of the assault:
- Using scouts, find the enemy hedgerow, and try to figure out how many men are there. If you can put up two teams to each enemy team, assault can work.
- Prevent the enemy from firing into the field:
- using smoke, smoke up the enemy's end. Smoke can be gotten in a number of ways: artillery, mortars, tanks (direct fired, or drive up near the enemy and pop smoke), or popped by infantry in adjoining fields.
- using fire, suppress the enemy. Note that area fire into smoke works if it is established before the smoke; so get those fires established.
- Quickly run (Fast) across the field (avoiding lines of suppression fire) both scout teams and assault teams. Weapons teams are often best used in suppression fire, but may also be sent. HQ teams should go with the men to provide command and control, but try not to engage them.
- For enemy units you have located, your desired endpoints are the two action spots adjacent to the one directly across the hedge from them. Use Face to face the expected enemy. (These two spots are harder for them to see, and separating your men prevents grenades from hitting both teams. Also keeping the spot directly across from them empty allows you to pour in the area fire.)
- Now the teams are on their own. They will start spotting the enemy and engaging in close combat: grenades are important, as are SMGs. You will prevail, or... you won't. Good luck.
Rolling Up a Hedgerow Edit
Sometimes you will find a situation where your men and the enemy are on opposite sides of the same hedgerow. This situation is expected when developing a frontal attack: once you've suppressed enemy fire sufficiently, a human will often retreat. But the AI definitely won't until you break it. You then keep up suppressing fires while advancing to the hedgerow, first with scouts, then quickly with assault teams.
Once you are at the hedgerow, then you want to move your scouts and assault teams slowly down the hedgerow. Each turn, assuming no engagement, move the suppressive fire from the rear down 1 to 3 action spots, and plot a similar sized move for your scouts and assault teams. Face them across the hedgerow at the end, and give them 30 second pauses to let the suppressive fire work. Thus you move gradually down the row.