Here on the Combat Tips page I'll go through some handy hints that will improve your forces' effectiveness in the field. Seasoned campaigners will most likely know most of them already but for you green chaps, they may prove invaluable.
As any good commander knows, you always need to maximize your firepower in the field. This basically means focussing everything on one unit until it is destroyed, then moving onto the next. In real life combat, attacking on a narrow front to achieve the highest ratio of firepower possible is usually considered the best strategy. In Red Alert the same applies, though not such a narrow front so that your forces are bottled in and rendered easy prey. You just need to keep your units close enough to support each other, yet with adequate room for manoeuvre. Never just leave your forces to target whatever they like. They'll all pick different ones and often totally inappropriate ones. For example, a tank will start to target infantry. Keep them systematically destroying unit by unit. If it's ground force against ground force, target the enemy's rocket and artillery support first, or his Tesla Tanks if he has them, then the lightest tanks he has (because these have a faster fire ratio) then finally onto his main force of tanks. You cannot afford to change objectives and keep switching targets. In combat, hesitation is perhaps the biggest folly. Even if you pick the wrong target (this applies to base assault as well) you should keep at it until it's finished. Making any decision is often better than hesitating.
Fire and move
The fire and move tactic is among the most effective combat techniques you can employ in Red Alert. If carried out properly it can turn the tide of large tank battles, minimize casualties assaulting bases and even save ore trucks from destruction. It basically involves keeping your units moving to avoid fire from enemy units. As you know, all tanks struggle to hit moving targets, as do artillery and to even greater extent, V2s. The only exception are Tesla Tanks. Upon engaging an enemy ground force you should fire first at the unit you've decided to attack first, then click ahead of your force to keep them moving while they reload and the enemy fires. The enemy's shells will all miss or do very little damage, and now that they've fired, you stop to fire and hit them while they're stood still. Your shells will do a lot more damage. Remember, don't just engage and leave your force still. You need to keep avoiding those enemy shells. Keep clicking and moving, and once you are fully engaged you can use the scatter command (X on the keyboard) to keep your units moving. When ordered to scatter your units will retain their order to fire and move randomly around a two or three square radius. Remember, tanks are not designed to be stationary gun emplacements. Keep them moving. Fire and move. Don't forget this when attacking a base either. Tesla coils, flame towers and turrets are always far more deadlier against stationary onjects than moving ones. Once you've fired your salvos, get your teams moving while the base defences fire theirs. And when engaging ore trucks, fire when they're stationary (and notice how much quicker their health drops) and move your units to surround them, forcing them to stop because your tanks are in the way. A stationary ore truck won't last long.
It's sometimes very difficult to co-ordinate several forces at once if you're under more than one attack. It's best to switch between your teams, giving orders (identifying which enemy units pose the biggest threat), then quickly switching back. Never leave a team to fight on its own, unless it's a specially designed Fighting Square. Even if you just give a team a move order it will avoid lots of fire and probably crush some infantry.
A common tactic in Red Alert is to send ahead of your main attacking force a forlorn hope to grab the enemy's attention and firepower. Ore trucks (especially against the computer) work well for this since they are quite well armoured and the AI is insanely mad on destroying them, as does infantry since it is cheap and thus easy to acquire in large groups. If you encounter a large number of base defences you can't remove without sustaining heavy casualties, you can send in a forlorn hope which will then become the target of the enemy base defences, and base defence units, while your main force does the damage. A good forlorn hope will even give the enemy a run for its money, but even if it dies, it probably did its job. Even a single rifleman sent in against a turret can save damage to tanks, and as soon as he becomes the turret's target, your tanks can move in for the kill. This works well against humans as well since it will take time if your opponent manually reassigns the turret's target, and that's assuming he even thought of it.
Flanking and pincers
Again, an effective real life tactic as well as in Red Alert, is to out-flank your enemy. Attacking from more than one direction against an enemy force or base will probably bring a much swifter victory. You should always look for ungaurded passes or access to get behind the enemy or to his side, while your main force meets them head on. He'll be confused, surprised and will not know which force to attack first. He may withdraw, which means you can harrass him from the territory you've just captured, or he may stand and fight and probably lose his entire force. An effective flanking manoeuvre is difficult to pull off, because an alert enemy will be guarding and watching all possible routes of access. It's easier against enemy bases but in human versus human games a worn down or inexperienced commander will no doubt succumb to a stunning pincer movement. Good units to use to do the outflanking are fast ones. Light tanks are ideal for this, but Soviets will have to make do with a force of heavies, though Tesla Tanks would also be a good bet. The enemy force will turn to meet them, and you can either engage him with the flanking force or withdraw it to lure him away from his defended position. Either way, get your main force advancing swiftly towards him to engage, and once you do you can bring back the flankers to join in the fun.
Ambushing also works well, and is very easy to pull off against a computer player but less so against a human player. It basically involves sending in a smaller force to attract the enemy into thinking he can utterly destroy it, then pulling back in time and leading him to a main force that you can engage him with. The beauty of a good ambush is that the enemy will be dispersed in pursuing you and you can catch him in the flanks. If he's streaming past your ambush force, always wait until a number of tanks have passed you, then engage him. This will disperse his forces even more. Ambushing the enemy into a bottleneck of armour and artillery is also very effective, as is luring him into a maze of base defences.
As you can see from this picture, the force shown has drawn the oranges out of the safety of their base, and has them spread out in hot pursuit, while the ambush force cuts right into its flank half way along. The force pictured will now swing round to join in the fight.
(Also note from the map the Fighting Square in the north, guarding the base against the yellows whilst the two operational army groups are far away.)
Seizing ore fields and vital points
This tactic is vital to winning any resource-based game. War is a contest of attrition. The chances are you won't have enough ore and gems inside your immediate base territory to just sit back and build up a big army and base. You'll need to turn what you do have into units quickly, then go on the offensive. You need to be very aggressive. Seize orefields, fight off enemy ore trucks if you see them. Yes this may mean engaging the full force of a computer enemy early on but the AI are terrible at managing their forces and you can easily keep them at bay while you keep shuttling reinforcements to the orefield. Controlling vital points is so important. In computer and human games whoever takes control of the field wins the game. If you can take the fight to the enemy's base then all is lost for him. Control the bridges, passes, river crossings, high ground, and most importantly, orefields. Whoever gets an army to the orefield first has the advantage. However, you must remember not to over-extend your supply lines.
Another blockade, and note the ore truck heads north in search of another way across the river. He probably won't find one, and the enemy are denied a shipment of ore. If they attack across the bridge, they will be channelled into concentrated fire, and quickly cut down.
If you're holding a position in the field, you want to make sure you are not open to attack from multiple fronts so you can focus all your efforts and firepower into one place. It also helps to bottleneck the enemy into a narrow pass before he can reach you, not ony because it will slow and confuse his advance, but because his firepower ratio will be limited, in much the same way only a small percentage of a French column could fire its muskets whilst a British regiment deployed in line could utilise all men and thus win the day. This simple technique applies to all combat scenarios. You need to position yourself so the enemy units are fed into what is basically a meat grinder, with your units deployed around a pass or top of a narrow valley.
The western entrance to the base is well guarded by a self-maintaining Fighting Square, while a massed artillery barrage and some gun turrets are able to fire on the enemy as they pass by en route to the base.
As the tide of battle turns against home forces, a makeshift base defence force is quickly assembled and drawn up in defensive formation to repel northern attackers. Note the use of tanks and infantry to shield the artillery.
It's usually a good idea to have a small base defence line that rings your base. Units ideal for this are Rangers and APCs (to cut down infantry - very few tanks should get through your outfield forces, but infantry often slip through the net), and artillery, which helps keep rocket troopers at bay. Your nearest army group can also work with your base defence force to quickly repel any attackers. This is good since you have a line of anti-infantry and artillery support while you can control your tanks to take out any armour.
This image was used on the Logistics page to demonstrate how assembling secondary start up units properly can often buy enough time to get your tanks (often out scouting) back to deal with the threat. As you can see below, this small base defence line proved its worth. There was no direct route to the base for the attacking tanks and they were swiftly held back and destroyed:
As armoured divisions are often vulnerable to massed infantry formations, the base defence line can be advanced to provide anti-infantry support. Once the Division moves on it will have to rely on other forms of support, or simply hope to crush all infantry it encounters.
Bottlenecks are also very effective for taking out larger forces. In this picture (below), I have moved my army into position inside an ore enclave, and the enemy sends everything it has through the small gap. I can easily take them all out because units are forced into the gap only a small number per time.
Though its effect is limited in Red Alert, you should always try and use terrain to mask your units and give them extra cover from enemy fire. It might not seem much but if it forces an infantry man to move a bit further before he opens fire it's helped. Having radar renders hiding in the trees almost useless but in non-base games it can be a very useful tactic if used properly.
- A very small advance force guards the woods next to the bridge on the River Volga.
- Trees screen artillery units as mobile infantry protect them.
- V2 rockets are given extra protection by a clump of trees as Mammoths wait for the enemy.
If you see a front you can exploit, you should consider taking it. A distraction attack, not necessarily one that distracts the enemy away from something else you are planning, can work well as an attack that 'drains' his forces and costs him more money in repairs and expensive units than you spent on yours and getting them there. Against humans you also have the effect of unnerving him, or her.
Note how a Cruiser proves some much needed heavy support, while medics and mechanics keep the force fighting for an extended period of time. If things get desperate, two LSTs remains on hand (just off screen) for a speedy evacuation.
It's also a good trick to lure an enemy into another enemy's base camp. This can often work if an enemy moves to attack you early on (this is before any computer teams have allied or engaged yet - everyone is after each other's blood), and he's chasing your scout units, and you drive them to the other extreme of the map, hopefully bumping into another enemy. The two computer teams will probably fire opon each other and start fighting leaving you to sit back and laugh.