B.T.T. Master Index

A. T. T.

Advanced Tactical Training


Table of Contents


Advanced Tactical Training (ATT) is designed for people who have already mastered basic tactics. If you haven't already, you should go take a look at Basic Tactical Training, if for no other reason than to learn the vocabulary used on this web page.

Unlike BTT, the lessons in ATT are not in any particular order, and may be done in any order you wish. If a lesson seems to be either above or below your level, skip it and (possibly) come back to it later. These lessons are supposed to be helpful, so if they aren't, there's no reason to do them.

Please note that BTT was designed to give you the core fundamentals necessary for ATT. Don't stop using them now just because the name has changed -- everything you've already learned will still apply. The lessons in BTT should have given you the basis for writing thorough solutions; the lessons in ATT should give you the basis for writing good ones. Hopefully.

One last note before we begin: there is a fundamental rule of advanced tactics which you must never forget while reading these lessons, and that is that there is an exception to every rule. In most sciences, there are rules that are never broken; in tactics, there is no such luxury. Never follow a guideline in a specific situation without questioning it, sometimes it will give way.

And as always, if you have any questions or comments regarding anything on this web page, please contact Tactician and Softrazor.

Lesson One: Reactive Formations

How can you strike at water? It looks solid, but touch it and it's thin as air . . .

It is easy when configuring your formations to forget about half of the soldiers on the field -- namely, the enemy half. Since the purpose of the formation is to engage the enemy troops, oughtn't they to be included?

Now, obviously, the enemy is not going to be voluntarily included in your formation. In fact, he are going to do everything in his power to disrupt your formation, because your formation was formed for the explicit purpose of doing him harm. If you assign the enemy a place, you cannot expect him to go to it.

Therefore, logically, your formation must be set up around the enemy.

Does this seem radical? It shouldn't. In any formation, there is usually some leader who determines where the formation is going, and everyone else bases their positions off of that person. It would be difficult to maintain a large formation otherwise, because everyone would have a different idea about where to go and what to do. So there must be some center that everyone aligns to.

Before continuing, it is worth mentioning that the "center" is not necessarily located physically in the middle of the formation. The name "center" is being given to it here because the rest of the formation aligns to it, like the spokes of a wheel align to the hub.

But what makes this "center" special? They must be easily in view of everyone else in the formation on a regular basis, because if the center is not seen, it cannot serve its function. It must be someone who can keep track of enemy movements and make reasonable predictions about future enemy movements. Also, it must be someone who is not likely to be eliminated (if you are playing by elimination rules), because the formation will have to realign if the center is removed.

Well, why not make an enemy the center? They had better be in view of your troops, as they will be difficult to fight otherwise. They know better than anyone on your side what they are going to do, and have just as great a vested interest in keeping track of their allies as you do. And if they are eliminated, the formation will have to realign, but it would require a change anyway, since once the enemy it is fighting has been removed, it must acquire a new target.


A formation that uses an enemy as its center is called a reactive formation, because it must react to enemy movements, whereas other formations merely should react to enemy movements (having this function built into the formation, of course, is rarely a bad thing). Note that while in other formations, dynamic ones are usually preferred to static ones, in reactive formations, dynamic ones are always preferred to static ones. There are exceptions to every rule, but in this case, you will probably never find one. Make your reactive formations dynamic.


Because most of you probably still have no idea what a reactive formation would look like, allow me to furnish some examples:

rform1.jpg (3547 bytes)
Surrounded enemy can be attacked from all sides.
If you are fortunate to catch several enemies in a tight cluster and in an open space, you might try using a reactive formation to surround them. In this formation, your forces form a circle around the enemy forces. Every time the enemy moves, your circle mirrors their movement, so that they always have attacks incoming from all sides. If the enemy makes a fast rush to one side, they can probably move faster than your forces can backpedal, so the people on that side should turn tail and run, while the forces on the sides should close in and force the enemy to pay attention to them while the forces left in the rear catch up. If the enemy tries to expand on all fronts, have your forces press in tightly and force them back into the center. Be sure your forces are not packed in too tightly at any time, however; this formation is much more effective if you have room to maneuver and the enemy does not. Also, be careful not to use this formation when enemy reinforcements are likely to arrive, that'll mess this up every time.
If one of your troops is very agile and difficult to hit, you might consider a reactive formation like this. A lightly-armed soldier runs up quickly and passes the front enemy (or group of enemies, if they are very close together), then begins to loop around them, drawing fire. A heavily-armed soldier then begins circling the enemy on the near side, firing at the enemy's back (or giving the light soldier a chance to do so, if the enemy focuses on the heavy soldier).

Before going too far into danger, however, the heavy soldier doubles back and meets up with the light soldier in their original positions, because getting both troops cut off and surrounded is the last thing you want here. Also, beware of using this formation against highly-disciplined enemy troops, because this only works well if they are surprised into disorganization.

rform2.jpg (6974 bytes)
rform3.jpg (5755 bytes)
Lightly-armed troops  use a reactive formation to attack a tight group of heavily-armed troops.
One of the classic problems of the water fight world is defeating heavily-armed troops with lightly-armed ones. Well, here's a reactive formation that may be of use if the enemy is in a tight formation. Troops advance in threesomes, in a V-formation, with the point facing AWAY from the enemy (this should cause the legs of the V's, rather than the points, to attract fire. When you get close to the enemy, the legs brake away and veer off to the sides to rejoin the main group, while the point runs right through the enemy formation. With any luck, the enemy should be focused on this lone charger, but will hit each other in their attempts to target him as he runs through the formation, and they'll be distracted while the next V approaches. Continue launching charges until you run out of troops (usually don't launch more than about 4 or 5, though, or the enemy will develop a counter-measure) and give the troops that ran through the enemy formation a much-needed break on the far side. This is also a good way to get a messenger away from the battle without the enemy noticing too quickly that he's gone. Once again, only use this with light weapons against heavy formations, and only when your enemy is in a fairly tight formation (but loose enough that you can get between them). Also, make sure your point men are good at dodging.

As with other formations, reactive formations should be tailor-fit to a specific situation, so memorizing a lot of them is of no great help to you. Be creative and try to surprise your enemy rather than using a classic example.


There are two other important guidelines you must remember when plotting a reactive formation. First, the enemy will not cooperate with you, so use a formation that can be set up regardless of what the enemy chooses to do. This means do not count on surrounding the enemy if there are walls or other barriers that he can move next to and block you, do not count on getting above him if he can get to the highest ground faster than you, and do not EVER assume that you can set up within his weapon range, or even close to it, without his firing at you. You will want to get within range of him, because otherwise your formation is useless; however, make sure you can defend yourselves while you set up within range, because the enemy isn't going to wait for you.

Second, the enemy is probably not alone. In rare circumstances when you know exactly how many opponents you will fight, you may be able to include them all specifically (you should certainly try). Usually, you will not know how many enemies there will be, and you have to account for them all. This is made most unpleasant by the fact that they need not and usually will not stay together in a clump, so you need to be prepared to use a formation with multiple centers (or break up into several smaller formations to deal with the enemies as they come). If you want a reasonable guarantee that your reactive formation will be able to deal with all the enemies, make a reasonable estimate of the number of enemies, double it, and make sure your formation can deal with it (not necessarily win against double odds, but at least put up a fight rather than going to pieces). Reality has a nasty way of handing you more than you want to deal with.


One final note. Any time a new technique is introduced, there is always a danger that it will be over-used. Do not, I repeat, do not overuse reactive formations. They usually only work with very skilled troops who have had a lot of practice with them; additionally, if you use them too often against a particular enemy, they are likely to begin developing strategies to thwart them. Reactive formations are usually not that hard to beat if you have enough time to come up with a way (generally it involves spreading out troops and bringing them back close together frequently and at unpredictable intervals).


Lesson Summary


Lesson Two: Weapon Resources

It is empathy that allows accurate prediction . You best understand your opponent when he is the same as you . . .

For purposes of this lesson, we will restrict our selection of water weaponry to Super Soakers. This applies by logical extension to most other weapons, but just using one arsenal for purposes of example will simplify matters.

Traditionally, all weapons expend two resources when they fire: ammunition and propellant.  In real guns, these are typically bullets and gunpowder, respectively. In water guns, these are typically water and pressure. The way a weapon should be used is characterized by how much of each of these resources the gun can carry, and how fast it uses them up.

The first thing to look at is how fast these resources are spent. Heavy weapons (such as the CPS line) generally shoot a lot of water in a very small amount of time; this is good in that you can soak your enemy in a short time, but is bad in that you run out very quickly, and are forced to replenish them (refilling water tanks or pumping to build up pressure). Lighter weapons are generally more frugal, allowing more firing time, but not necessarily more total water hitting the target.

The other thing to look at is how much total water and pressure the gun can hold at one time. Generally, the gun can hold more water than pressure (i.e. you have to repump more often than you have to refill). This is the case with 99% of weapons. A few weapons, such as the Power Pak, now hold equal amounts (the gun holds enough pressure to fire its entire water supply). No gun currently known holds an excess of pressure, for obvious reasons. Water is generally more valuable, because it is usually easy to obtain pressure (you usually have access to air anywhere on the battlefield, but water you can only get in certain places).

One other thing worth mentioning is that not all weapons combine water and pressure in the same ratio. By using a larger amount of pressure per amount of water, you get a longer range. Many weapons even use a different ratio at different times, depending on how much pressure is left (weapons using a Constant Pressure System, however, always use the same amount).

OK, so what?

As already noted, the years have seen the development of two basic weapon types: heavy weapons, which expend both resources very quickly, and light weapons, which expend both resources more slowly. These two types of weapons require fundamentally tactics to exploit their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.

Light weapons depend on gradual attrition to wear the enemy down. They can fire a long time, and can repump relatively quickly (advancing technology is allowing refill time of larger weapons to be shortened by Super Charger technology, which many light weapons do not have, so the refill time is not necessarily different). Light weapons are good for prolonged battles, not quick hit-and-run tactics.

Light weapons tend to stay at maximum range, taking potshots at the enemy, and staying at high pressure to make sure their range doesn't drop off. This works fairly well against other light weapons. The long distance generally gives ample time to dodge, so the emphasis is on aiming, agility, and maneuvers that will catch your opponent off-guard.

Heavy weapons are exactly the opposite. They can do a lot of damage in a small amount of time, but not very often. They are forced to conserve pressure until they get a shot that is sure to hit, and then waste the opponent just before getting the heck out of there to avoid retaliation. They don't do as well in a sustained conflict, because they spend a lot more time pumping than shooting, whereas light weapons spend about equal time doing each.

What is really interesting is heavy weapons fighting against each other. They usually stay at just a long enough range that they could dodge most of an attack launched by the enemy, so they won't get totally drenched. They don't shoot much, though, because whoever uses up pressure first is extremely vulnerable while they repump, because the enemy can rush in to close range while they're busy and soak them without losing much time.

When you have a light weapon against a heavy weapon, these two dynamics can combine in very strange ways. The light weapon has to spend a lot of time firing to use their advantage, getting close enough to hit the heavy weapon, but if they allow the heavy weapon to get one good shot, they'll end up by far the wetter. The heavy weapon isn't going to get a "good" opportunity to attack, because the light weapon will pretty much always be ready, so they've got to get close enough to get a guaranteed hit, fire, and then dodge attacks long enough to repump, because the light weapon will have about 10 seconds (depending on weapons) of free shots.

In many ways, light weapons are best against light weapons, and heavy weapons against heavy weapons. Light weapons have the ability to hold each other at a distance, whereas heavy weapons have the ability to discourage each other from firing. You stalemate your enemy when you have the same skill as them, not when you're different -- a mirror can counter every thrust you make.

At this rate, though, we're going to get nowhere fast.

The point, however, is not to have your heavy weapons fight the enemy lights and your light weapons against heavy; this, especially if your troops are inexperienced, is likely to end in disaster. The point is rather obvious: combine them!

Although it is sometimes tempting, especially in large units, to group heavy weapons together and light weapons together, this is almost always a bad idea. The optimal situation is to have your heavy weapons guarded by a screen of light weapons. The light weapons, because they are always ready to fire, tend to keep enemies at a distance, and don't allow anyone to get in close and get away dry. The heavy weapons provide the firepower to meet an enemy charge head-on, or to wreak havoc in the enemy lines with a well-aimed blast that leaves someone more concerned with getting away than supporting their teammates.

If you send in light weapons alone, they are likely to be forced back before an advancing line of heavy weapons, or at least held back by enemy light weapons. If you send in heavy weapons alone, they'll never make any progress, because once they shoot, they're sitting ducks. If you send in both, you combine the constant melee power of the light weapons with the piercing surgical strikes of the heavy weapons, so you can maintain your battle lines.

This, of course, is not always possible, especially when either manpower or weapon selection is limited. But you'll find that your fighters are most effective, either on offense or defense, when you mix up the light and heavy weapons, so that they can give each other support. Just don't think you're solving the problem if you try giving light and heavy weapons to the same person -- they can't use them both at once, and usually won't use either as effectively as they could if they focused their attention. But that's a topic for another lesson . . .


Lesson Summary


Lesson Three: `Tis the Gift

`Tis the gift to be simple, `tis the gift to be free, `tis the gift to come down where we ought to be . . .

For a long time, people have tried to teach computers how to make decisions. Many people have developed complex mathematical formulas that allow computers to carefully weigh all available data through intense calculation to try to arrive at the best possible decision.

Of course, humans are usually still better at it. And of course, humans don't perform careful mathematical computations on all available data to tiny degrees of accuracy to do it. So what do humans do?

I was reading an article recently about researchers who hypothesized that humans made a quick decision with very little calculation by just looking at very basic "cues," and decide based on that -- but that can't possibly be anywhere near as good as intensive calculation, could it?

It turns out it can. Computers designed to guess the size of cities using these so-called "fast and frugal" methods came within 1% of the accuracy of computers using exhaustive calculations. Similarly programmed computers have also made a killing in the stock market, according to the article. The secret, apparently, is to figure out what information is really important, and what information can be ignored. The trick to making a good decision quickly isn't calculation, it's simplification.


Imagine . . .

You're facing down a strong, burly, experienced waterfighter in a dark, narrow alley. He glares at you and steps up to within 20 feet. You quickly draw your XP 310, but he levels a CPS 2000 at you and shouts, "Prepare to die!" . . .

. . . you have a certain set of options, and each has a certain chance of working. Some of the information in that description is important, but some of it you can practically ignore.

First, look at the end of the description; your opponent shouts something at you. From this, you can determine unmistakably that he intends to attack you, and also that he's fairly confident that he's going to win the engagement. This is useful information, but how would the situation change if instead he had shouted, "You're going down," "I shall be victorious," or "Say your prayers?" The exact words aren't important, only the emotion and intent conveyed by them. In fact, while it is useful to know that your opponent is confident, it probably wouldn't affect your course of action at all if he hadn't said anything.

Next, look at something more concrete: the weapons. You're using an XP 310, and up against a CPS 2000. Pretty grim, eh? Still, once again, you probably wouldn't feel any different if you were using an XP 110 against a CPS 2500, or even an XP 150 against a Monster (any of the monsters, doesn't matter). That isn't to say that there is no difference between these situations; for example, the 2500 can use smaller nozzles than the 2000 and therefore can fire longer. However, in most reasonable plans you might propose, that isn't likely to be the determining factor. If you can dodge an attack from a CPS 2000 from 20 feet away in a narrow alley until the gun is depressurized, you can probably dodge an attack from a CPS 2500 from 20 feet away in a narrow alley until it is depressurized too.

However, it would make a major difference in your plans (probably) if the weapons were reversed -- that is, if you had a CPS 2000 and your opponent only had an XP 310. Your basic "fight-or-flight" mentality probably hasn't changed, but the best way to arrange either your victory or your escape changes appreciably. So although the precise weapon isn't all that important (usually), the class of weapon is.

Now, look at the description of your opponent. This, in fact, is probably more important even than the selection of weapons. After all, would you rather be fighting an experienced, adult athlete with a mere XP 105 or a seven-year-old kid who got his first Super Soaker (which happens to be the Monster XL) yesterday and wants to shoot you with it? You stand a much better chance against the inexperienced child, even if he's better armed (although a big weapon isn't necessarily better armament for a very young waterfighter, anyway). The fact that he's experienced also lets you know that he's less likely to fall for a simple trick or deception, and that he'd be harder to intimidate. However, it also means he's more likely to be overconfident, and you might be able to use that against him.


Sometimes, information on this web page about a situation will already be simplified -- for example, maps that mark barricades without telling you what they're made of, or where forests are without telling you the exact position of every tree. Sometimes you know that some group of people is armed with "CPS weapons" or "heavy weapons" without knowing exactly what models. Frequently, you aren't told what the rules for player elimination are in the water fight. If the information is left out, then it is probably unimportant for most plans, but it is probably not unimportant for all plans. If your idea hinges on such details, assume some logical or average details -- but state that you're assuming them, and keep in mind that in real life, your assumptions won't always be correct.

Sometimes the problem is filled with unnecessary information. Names of people and places are useful for describing your plan, but they aren't likely to change it. Exact dialogue often gives you less real information than just a general impression of the mood. The difference between an XP 105 and XP 110 will probably not turn the tide of a battle, and your plan rarely hinges on having 24 people rather than 23 (although 6 people rather than 5 would probably be important).

So the next time you survey the battlefield and the two armies, think about what factors the battle is going to turn on, and what details are just for show.



Lesson Summary