Terrain Analysis


One of the more important keys to learning how to play Steel Beasts well is to learn how to see and shoot the other guy before he sees you.  In a multi-player game, that requires being proficient at moving, shooting, and communicating.  The same goes for single-player games, with the exception that communication is not really an issue when only one person is playing.  Moving and shooting well requires an understanding of how terrain effects movement and engagements.  OCOKA is a useful acronym to remember when analyzing terrain.  OCOKA 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 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.


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 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.


Keeping the OCOKA factors in mind will assist when planning your courses of action and when trying to determine what the opposing force may try to do.

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