Logistics: A Strategist’s Crux

I got lazy. This observation came from how I played my Strategy games. I got used to quick and easy victories, where a single decisive attack turns the tide of a war and finishes the campaign before Christmas. For a very long time the concept of Logistics evaded me, not because I was not familiar with it, but because it is not that visible, obvious or perhaps not even used in many games. In my case it appeared again during my Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai campaign game. I was playing as the Tosa, and after many preparations, mainly focused around turning my small economy into a powerhouse, I formed the best army I could and I deployed it on the Japanese mainland, ready to defeat the Shogunate loyalists. Everything was going well. Cities fell with ease, the enemy armies were crushed before me. After some time I reinforced my first army with two more, and my land-based domination was undisputed. Then I got a mildly rough awakening. When my Clan acted as the Emperor’s Vanguard, and the Shogun formed their own, my Armies were engaged into much tougher full-scale warfare. During one such battle one of my more recent armies fought desperately against three other armies. The battle was won, with much stress and worry and then I realized a problem this army faced, it lost one of its Cannon battalions. Normally that would not be a problem. You can recruit cannons anywhere you like, as long as there is an artillery range. That was the problem. My home-area of Tosa was beyond the sea. On the Japanese mainland the provinces that were under my control were behind a thick line of Allied provinces. In some of these areas there wasn’t an operational Railway line or structures allowing me to recruit artillery. In other words, gaining back that one unit would take me an extremely long time.

Men of War

Trucks might lack weapons and protection, but they can transport men and equipment around a map quickly.

Logistics: Oh… please no…

Logistics is not just about supplies, it is also about reinforcements and transportation. Like in this case, I had no system of quickly transporting units I would need to the front. I created my armies with the view that I would never need reinforcements. While in this case this miscalculation was not disastrous it certainly got me thinking. Tosa is located on an island just off the coast of mainland Japan. That was my economic and military center. While I rapidly developed any province that I captured to reinforce my economy and possible unit production it was on Tosa where I had the highest focus. This lack of foresight made me realize just how things could go wrong if suddenly the enemy did manage to defeat enough of my armies to steamroll over my allies. Rebuilding those armies would be quick, but getting them to the front where they would be needed? It would be too late.

Logistics is a difficult thing to plan out every step of the way. You usually need certain supplies, units or equipment at a time when you least expect it, and then you realize that your logistics system is not as operational as you might like. I found this in Men of War, mainly with infantry. When you have your frontline your infantry tends to be the one thing that dies the most, since they are made of waffles. So you quickly need to send fresh squads to the front. Since they do not come with vehicles when you purchase them you will need to get them there somehow. Walking is an option, but it’s not the quickest one. On the other hand if you had a truck or halftrack you could not only deliver your soldiers to the front but also bring along an Anti-Tank gun. On bigger maps the need for trucks or halftracks becomes very apparent. During certain battles my one or two trucks would almost run out of fuel, due to the number of rounds they would have to do between the “Spawn” and frontline. Another aspect of Logistics is just moving your army around. Even the mightiest army in a Video may be stopped by a simple river or ocean if there are no boats or planes. Infantry might move too slowly without cars, and tanks might use up a lot of fuel when traveling on roads. Sometimes you just have to give your men a way to move quicker while using up less resources.

In a game like Wargame: European Escalation you also have logistics, though to a lesser degree. You have insertion points for reinforcements, and if the enemy plans an ambush on or near them you will lose fresh units to specialized and hidden foes. Whether your logistics lines deliver tanks, infantry or supplies is not important, an ambush will take out a single unit or squad, trucks with supplies, ships or planes that are left unprotected. You might realize that usually when you resupply you do not wait for a big group of reinforcements, you tend to send single units, a welcoming prey for an ambush. You need reinforcements and supplies, so you need a working logistics system. Even if you have one in place you need to keep an eye on it, or it will be just another method for your enemy to drain your resources.

Even Team Fortress 2 shows how important it is to have a Dispenser near the front, to hand out supplies and heal your allies if Ammo and Health packs do not spawn. Imagine how tedious it is to travel the length of an entire map when instead you could have a Teleporter take you to where you are needed in an instant. Here, just like in strategy or economy games you have the ambushers, the Demomen and the Spies who will work to cut those supply lines and sabotage an assault or a defensive. In Natural Selection 2 you have “Gates”, for both Aliens and Marines, to travel between key destinations. That might be the front, or your smaller bases, but without them getting players to where they are needed might just take too long, and by building Armoies in key areas (in the case of Marines) lets them heal and resupply between fights.

I did not focus on logistics in Economy games, not because they are not important but because it’s an entirely different area. When you operate a factory you need a steady input of supplies and methods of sending your ready produce forward. On the massive scale, such as when you have countless stores, factories, farms and other structures or centers logistics becomes your bloodline, without it everything falls apart. In War the story is similar. If you have an entire front the last thing you want is a logistics system that does not work. Just like a factory cannot work without basic goods so too a tank cannot drive without fuel or fire without ammunition. While you, as the commander, might be the brain of the entire system, your armies are your arms and legs, and your economy all the organs it is all the blood vessels that get what is needed where it is needed. Yes, I know I forgot to include “communications” here, which would be all the nerves, but you get the idea.

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
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Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

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