TAKING STOCK OF THE SITUATION
The mnemonic, METT-T, or Mission Enemy Terrain Troops Time, is useful in ensuring that all relevant factors are considered when taking stock of a situation. The METT-T factors should not be considered in isolation of each other, for there is considerable overlap amongst them. For example, an assigned mission will frequently include a timetable, and terrain must be evaluated in light of both one’s own and the opposing forces’ mobility.
It is certainly good practice to explicitly go through the METT-T factors in one’s mind when making the initial assessment of a situation as one develops the possible courses of action and plans for a game. It is equally important to continually assess the situation as the game-plan is being executed in order to adjust the plan and capitalize on unforeseen opportunities.
The assigned mission is the paramount factor determining how to fight the game. Mission accomplishment is the desired end state. It must remain in the forefront of the tactician’s mind throughout the course of the game. This is the equivalent of “keeping your eyes on the ball.”
In the real world US Army, different echelons of command assign missions and tasks through the issuing of operations and warning orders.
In the game scenarios, the scoring criteria is usually explicitly explained in the scenario brief. Some scenario writers make the effort to write a briefing using the OPORD format, frequently however, the scenario writer may just indicate what the scoring criteria are.
The more you know about the composition and disposition of the enemy forces, the better you will be able to plan meeting them on your own terms. There are two inter-related processes that must be used in determining what the composition and disposition of enemy forces are: information collection or reconnaissance, and analysis of that information or intelligence. Both are processes that must be actively engaged throughout the course of the game.
Given any information initially available in the scenario brief, the player should try and decide which are the enemy’s most likely courses of action. (Use the METT-T analysis from the enemy’s position in order to perform this initial analysis.) To the extent possible, efforts to confirm or rule-out whether the enemy is pursuing one of those courses of action should be incorporated into the original plan for accomplishing the mission. Results from those efforts should be combined with all information from contacts with the enemy forces throughout the course of the game should be used to fine tune the plan as it is executed.
OCCOKA is a useful acronym to remember when analyzing terrain. OCCOKA stands for: Observation, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, and Avenues of Approach. Keeping these factors in mind can aid in planning routes, observation points, and firing positions. When considering these factors, it is helpful to remember that they are relative to the mission at hand and the nature and structure of the friendly and expected enemy forces.
OBSERVATION and FIELDS OF FIRE
Observation refers to the ability, from a certain area on the ground, to see and be seen from other terrain. Generally, the best observation is from higher elevations. Fields of Fire refers to the area over which weapons are effective from a certain spot on the ground. Observation and Fields of Fire are not the same. Depending on the terrain and equipment, it is possible to observe ground that is beyond the maximum effective range of available weapons. Additionally it is sometimes possible to use area fire to engage targets on the ground that cannot be directly observed. Firing a tank's coax into a woodline where an unseen dismount squad is suspected of moving is an example of this.
COVER and CONCEALMENT
Covered terrain is an area on the ground that protects from an enemy's fire. Cover is relative to the direction from which fire may be possible and the types of weapons that may be employed. A tree trunk may offer a prone dismount cover from small arms fire coming from his front. It may not offer any cover from the flanks or rear. It also may not offer any cover from a tank HEAT round or from artillery. Concealed terrain is an area on the ground that is protected from enemy observation. It is, as well, relative to the direction from which an enemy might be and the equipment he might be using. A position just inside the edge of a woodline might be concealed to direct observation, but a vehicle at that position might produce an observable heat signature for an enemy equipped with thermal sights.
Obstacles are any natural or man-made features that either restrict or redirect movement. Whether something is an obstacle may depend on the size of a unit and the type of equipment used. A built up area may not necessarily restrict the speed or direction of a single vehicle but it may cause a tank platoon to deploy from a wedge to a column formation. Similarly, an infantry squad's movement may not be hindered by a river, whereas a tank platoon would be completely unable to cross it absent a bridge. Note that placed obstacles such as minefields should be overwatched.
Key terrain is any terrain that gives a marked advantage to the force that controls it. Controlling key terrain does not necessarily require that it be occupied. It may be possible to control key terrain by covering it with fires or by controlling the access to it.
AVENUES OF APPROACH
Avenues of Approach are determined after all the previous factors are analyzed. For instance, if a location is identified as a good place for an observation point or firing position covering key terrain, then one can consider whether there exist any covered or concealed routes into and out of that position.
TROOPS & EQUIPMENT
It is almost a truism that in order to arrange and maneuver your units in relation to each other, the terrain, and the enemy forces, you must first understand their capabilities. For game purposes there is an important distinction here. Here, the term ‘troops’ refers to both your fellow players or your teammates, and to the units as they are modeled by the game software, in other words, your virtual troops manning the modeled equipment. The virtual troops will never get lost, commit fratricide, or ignore orders. They will, however, with maddening regularity engage in their own idiosyncratic behavior, such as driving off of bridges or engaging certain less threatening targets before engaging immediate threats. Predicting these idiosyncrasies becomes easier as familiarity with the software increases, and can, accordingly, be compensated for. When you play co-operatively with other real teammates, they will, like their virtual counterparts have maddening idiosyncrasies that become more predictable with increasing familiarity. They are, however, different in that they will still occasionally get lost, commit fratricide, and ignore orders.
As far as your actual, non-virtual, teammates are concerned, they should be proficient in the individual skills of moving, shooting, and communicating. These skills can be developed with experience with the game. Proficiency in shooting, for example, can be acquired through the more than adequate gunnery tutorials in the game. Several articles here at this website discuss these proficiencies and are listed at the article index.
A good plan timely executed is better than a perfect plan executed late. And victory favors those “getting there firstest with the mostest.” Timing is important. Most scenarios will have time limits, just as most missions in real life will have time constraints, if not time-tables imposed by higher headquarters. If you haven’t accomplished your mission in the time allotted, you haven’t accomplished your mission. Time is an important factor not just as an externally imposed constraint, it is also important as a dimension of the battle space. Being able to quickly adjust your forces to changing conditions will enable you to gain an advantage over more slowly reacting enemy forces. It is important that you be able to predict how long it will take your forces to cover terrain and it is important that you arrange your forces so that they can react quickly. Your units should be positioned so that they can support each other. And they should be geographically positioned so that that support is immediately available when one unit gets in contact.