View Full Version : Small unit tactics

02-23-2016, 08:25 PM
Okay, I'm writing a space opera, but the basic function of weapons is basically the same as in real-life, only more powerful. And while I don't do exhaustive research for any particular aspect of the setting, I want my basic tactics to at least make sense.

The scene I have in mind has a several platoons infiltrating a death camp to liberate civilians. They approach it on foot, a small team breaches at a certain spot and destroys the generator (disabling the automated defences), at which point the main force rushes in and seizes the place in a firefight.

The facility is on multiple floors, built into the side of a mountain.

What are the basic tactics when seizing a large building?

02-23-2016, 08:30 PM
Room to room, breach in teams of four. Chuck a grenade into the room, first two rush in, sweep corners, other two come in to back up. Repeat. Going up stairs is a pain, since foes can shoot down at you from up top. Clearing buildings is a slow, dangerous process. The potential for booby traps, hidden foes, etc, makes it all the more important for the sweep to be thorough, and done precisely.

02-23-2016, 10:16 PM
Tons of reference material for all of this exists:


And probably a billion more.


02-24-2016, 07:32 PM
How "advanced" is your space opera? Weapons may work similarly to our current stuff, but support equipment is probably more advanced than what we have. Things like communications, stealth, "sensors" (imaging capabilities, trackers, radiation-based devices like x-rays, etc etc), and other such things. They aren't as flashy as guns, but tactically speaking they can be more important.

More on point, taking a fortified building (like a prison) without the enemy killing their prisoners/hostages is a tricky business. Good intelligence going into the fight is critical; your attackers need to know as much as possible about the building's interior, where barracks and armories are, what type of locks are used and how to overcome them, etc. If they know the building's layout ahead of time, they would practice for the assault as best they can. Getting lost, being ambushed by guards coming from a secret armory, getting slowed down by a door they can't breach, these are all very bad events for an assault team trying to secure prisoners before said prisoners are executed. "Death Camp" sounds to me like the guards may well start killing prisoners.

Some basic thoughts: 1) Gather as much intel as possible. Use whatever sensors your space opera has, use stealth robotics or nanobots, covert operatives, call in favors to get privileged access to their systems, hack into their computers and steal the blueprints, do whatever you can to learn about the building's layout, active defenses (like those you mention they will disable by taking down a generator), and passive defenses (like backup generators, cover positions in hallways, etc).

2) If there is time, drill the assault force. Have them memorize the layout, or at least the section of the building each team will be responsible for. Build mockups of the building, either real-to-life or just cargo containers and boxes positioned in the shape of the walls (or holographics and/or other advanced technologies). Let the soldiers run through the building, some assigned to defend objectives and others assigned to take them. As they think about how they would defend this or that, it'll be harder for the guards to surprise them during the real fight. And moving through a space makes it easier to remember and orient around than a memorized map.

3) Compromise as much of the facility as possible before the real fighting begins. Taking down automated defenses by killing the power is a great idea for this. You can also time the attack such that most of the guards are asleep, or otherwise occupied and slow to respond. You can distract them, or get them drunk, or poison them. Jam communications. Blind or mislead their sensors and lookouts. Hack into their computer system to open or shut doors, trapping guards or protecting the civilians while opening the way for your troops. After hacking in, you can silence alarms, or make the alarms go off every day for a week prior to the real attack taking place. Imagine everything the attackers can do to make the defenders less capable, or slower to respond, or lower their morale, or dead. Then use the ones in your story that you like and/or seem reasonably possible, given the details we don't know. Don't use too many, unless you want the defenders to seem incompetent or your assault force god-like.

4) Glyax and WeaselFire gave great advice (the first in his post, the second in his links) for actual combat when the fighting starts. I'll stress one point: speed. Your assault force needs to move as swiftly and efficiently as possible, both to prevent the defenders from organizing, but also to reach and secure the civilians before any defender decides to execute them.

Bing Z
02-24-2016, 08:12 PM
As a reader of space opera, I have no problem buying into advanced versions of present-day weapons (eg guns that shoot bullets instead of plasma beams) as long as they are scientifically feasible in those situations (eg choppers only when there is a thick enough atmosphere). I will, however, be uncomfortable if the warfare is conducted totally like what I see in present day military/crime dramas.

Can they have combat bots, who will carry the heaviest, bad-ass weapons and take on the most dangerous roles as they are more expendable than humans? Can they have hacking bots, who, like R2D2, can hack into the defense systems on the spot when these systems cannot be accessed remotely? And like Taejang suggested, it is a tricky business busting into a camp/prison with many prisoners/hostages. Are you expecting a happy ending where all these civilians are rescued safely, or some of them killed because it is just too hard to save 'em all, or some miscalculation, or unpredictable/suicidal behaviors of the last guards?