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The Urban Environment v1.0

By: mutuhaha

I'm not particularly good at translating my experiences into a tactical work, but I'll try anyway. If there is any I may have missed out, sound it out and I'll add it in (I always have the feeling something's missing...). Most if not all of the information in here has been observed in real-life battles, but counter-arguments are welcome.

The Urban Environment v1.0


Light urban: Not to be confused with suburban, light urban has the features of an urban environment, but with a decent amount more natural features like hedges and small parks. Buildings are often multi-storey, providing a good vantage point for recon and artillery spotters. Light urban tends to be slightly polluted. Buildings may be clumped together closely, but not to the same extent as the dense urban.

Dense urban: Mostly artificial, the dense urban is an even more tight squeeze of buildings than the light urban, also almost devoid of natural features. Also tends to be more polluted. Usually people don’t play here due to the traffic. See building complex for the usual “urban” battlefield.

Building complex: This is a building (doesn’t have to be a single one) usually within an urban area. It can be a school, warehouse or shopping mall, etc. The multi-storey and integrated nature adds another dimension to the tactics used here. Combat is usually fast and furious, with close-quarters encounters being common.

Now that this has been defined, the scope of this article is for the building complex, since one is unlikely to be water fighting in the middle of a row of honking cars in the dense urban. Light urban is a viable option, but I won’t cover that here.

The issue about building complexes is that they can vary a lot in almost all the aspects, so I’ll try to be general here. Actual tactics differs from battlefield to battlefield. There are just too many possibilities for me to explore, so the actual tactics should be developed after reconnaissance. The urban environment allows for certain tactics, nullifies some, and makes some plain deadly.

Integrated nature: A building complex is usually designed by architects for efficiency in handling human traffic, thus you would normally find many staircases and elevators. Basically, there can be many routes to a single location. In defense, bear in mind all routes the opponents can use and those you can escape from if need be. In offense, bear in mind the opponent’s escape routes and the possibility of enemy reinforcements or traps/ambushes. Usually you may want to leave an escape route for your enemy as trapped opponents fight harder, which could be damaging to the offense.

Building complexes are normally multi-storey. This allows people on higher levels to look down on those below, exposing movements in some places. Take note of places where one level is in clear view of another, in case of enemy recon. Being on the lower levels is not always a disadvantage, as some lower areas are out of sight from the upper levels. Combined with the many staircases, a commander can organize a good unexpected attack from many directions.

Theatres: Some urban complexes can feature different theatres of battle, which are normally physically separate from each other but can have great effect on each other and the larger war. An illustration of this in real life would be how achieving air superiority could greatly affect ground battles. In an urban setting, 2 different theatres could be the road and the inner building, both of which have advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes not all theatres would be considered of greatest priority to different teams. Depending on weapons, expertise and environmental features, different teams may favour different theatres or styles of play. Some teams may push for a quick victory and some may find drawn out battles more advantageous. Control of the roads can allow quick movements to sectors where troops are needed while control of inner wall mazes can make every enemy step further inward potentially costly due to ambushes.

Mobility: Areas which are “open” do not necessarily have to be wide and flat like a field; an open area could just be a place where many routes lead to. These areas are often strategic points and would be useful if you could control them. But be careful, as you enemy could use the accessibility to his advantage, springing many lines of attack. In large battles, attempt to hold such positions securely while denying their use to opponents.

Not all locations in building complexes are opened areas, many locations are not very flexible mobility-wise. Narrow corridors and dead-ends are some examples. Try to avoid a head-on confrontation in these areas unless it is part of a larger tactic such as a diversion. Both sides can sustain heavy casualties or even end up in a stalemate. Sneaking around in closed areas can be difficult as it would be hard to hide from an incoming patrol. Water bombs can be easily dodged in open spaces but can and has scored many kills in tighter closed areas. A skilful urban commander would take advantage of combinations of open and closed areas to create situations advantageous for himself while detrimental to the opponent (e.g. kill zones).

Some building complexes have roads just outside to provide vehicles ready access to different sections of the building. As a result traveling by road is usually faster than threading one’s way through corridors within the building. While roads can be faster in that way, it is less covert and unless you are advancing using cover like a roadside barrier, it is quite easy for an opponent to spot your movements.

Cover: Cover in building complexes can vary from none to too much. An empty corridor affords little to no cover, while a site under renovation may provide a little obstacle course of building materials to pick through. Most often, walls are the main cover. Water bombs can be lobbed over cover in some situations, so have a few on hand.

Walls help obscure troop movements, which is why they are the main visual cover. If the opponent maintains good sound discipline, encounters in which 2 opposing teams suddenly pop out in front of one another can be common, leading to close-quarters combat. Therefore, in a wall maze, use other senses to detect opponents aside from visual contact.

The shield can be used as a form of mobile cover in case of little or no cover. I would only recommend this in larger battles, as smaller skirmishes could be instead spoiled in a shield stalemate. Larger battles are ideal for shield combat as shield can be distributed to certain squads, creating small useful armoured formations while not being completely invulnerable (to multiple lines of attack for example). Furthermore, shields can be painted as camouflage to match the urban setting, such as a light grey. Situations where this would work would be a shield against a disorganized mass of construction materials, or behind a trash can. Urban experienced opponents would be more perceptive of these tricks, but against a well-chosen background, the shield fighter could be all but invisible, perfect for ambushes and tactics utilizing the use of hidden reserve troops.

Refilling and bases: Building complexes usually have a good scattering of restrooms, small taps and water coolers where one can refill on the go. It is imperative that a commander identifies as many of these points as possible. Because of this, small mobile teams may be a good idea in the offense as they can operate for long periods of time without having to return to base for supplies. If working water points are identified, this may also reduce the need to carry water bottles as a source of refill, decreasing weight and fatigue.

The need for bases would also be reduced as players can carry deflated water bombs with them, filling whenever they may need. Each player could carry a few filled water bombs, while having a small pack of unfilled bombs. Bases are usually in restrooms, which usually are considered closed areas due to number of exits and the tendency of restrooms to be rather smallish. Having a base in a toilet has some advantages and disadvantages. For one, the restroom has a technically unlimited supply of water, which allows mass refilling due to often multiple taps and sources of water. Except for the smaller restrooms, larger sized toilets are capable of supporting large forces. A disadvantage is that one can easily become trapped in a restroom base, but depending on the layout of the restroom, one can also create kill-zones for intruding enemies, scoring kills and buying time for reinforcements to arrive. Another advantage relating to the trapped aspect is that one can easily hold off a siege at the few exits, giving time for allies to attack the hopefully complacent opponent from the outside.

Traps: It is a myth to believe that due to the closed in nature of urban compounds, traps can be deadly. Sure there are nice bottlenecks to channel your opponent through trap laden corridors, but they are hardly foolproof. Traps become almost useless, with a few exceptions. Land mines are even more useless than ever before, as hiding water bombs on a concrete floor is rather difficult, you might as well be giving your opponent free ammo.
Alarms like the tripwire tin can may help alert your team to enemy movements for less perceptive opponents, but experienced urban fighters would be careful of these as they normally try not to touch anything for fear of it producing a loud sound.
Hiding a bucket of water on top of a door may work against more clumsy opponents, but again, can be safely triggered off or avoided by cautious opponents.

General care can be used to avoid almost all traps, and I have yet to see an effective trap being used in an urban environment. To reduce the likelihood of opponents reaching their objective alive, well-placed ambushes are the most effective method.

Recon: This is an important aspect of water fighting in urban compounds. The best case scenario would be that everyone is familiar with the battlefield, knowing all critical locations, refill stations, open and closed areas by heart (e.g. students fighting in their own school). This will not tell you, however, enemy movements and tactics. This is where well-placed observation posts will help tremendously. Observation posts don’t have to be crewed by many, just 1-2 (2 better for safety reasons) will do. Good sites would be locations overseeing many levels and staircases, or convenient refill points. Depending on the amount of manpower, a commander may position multiple O.P. sites to keep constant surveillance. Good recon is not a substitute for a capable tactician though. Never ever get complacent no matter how much surveillance there is; clever opponents could use little-known routes or diversion tactics to draw forces away from the real location of attack. Despite good recon coverage, always be on guard for such maneuvers.

Conclusion: An important factor to war efforts in urban battlefields is the manipulation of the environment to one’s advantage, and the opponent’s disadvantage. Good practices such as shot conservation also apply here. Having skilled and environmentally aware (not the green way) teams helps tremendously. That said, try some battles in urban settings, they can be really interesting.

| Posted: 20061125