Strategy: Full Spectrum Warrior
Originally designed as a tool to teach small unit leadership to junior U.S. Army non-commissioned officers, Full Spectrum Warrior has since developed into an exciting action-strategy game available on PC and Xbox. It can, however, frustrate those accustomed to the somewhat less mentally rigorous fare of typical first person, Haloesque, shooters. FSW rewards brains and experience, not sharp eyes and fast fingers. Although we can’t increase your brainpower, we can force feed you the experience and tactics that you’ll need to know to find your way through the troubled country of Zekistan.
You Move, You Fire
Full Spectrum Warrior tactics center on the principles of fire and movement. As the squad leader for Charlie Ninety, you must apply those principles to your two fire teams if you hope to survive Zekistan’s mean streets. The concept is simple: Once the enemy is located, use one team to fix the enemy in place while the other maneuvers to their flank and eliminates them. The execution, however, can be a bit trickier. Here’s an example.
Alpha Team’s on point. They discover a pair of Tangos (i.e. targets, terrorists, insurgents) behind an abandoned auto. Order the team behind cover and direct them to pin the enemy with point fire. Once pinned, the enemy will be too busy worrying about the soldiers to their front to interdict Bravo Team. Call up the GPS map and look for a route around the enemy team. There is usually a back alley or side street you can take. Move Bravo Team along this route, being careful to pause at the corners and search for hidden enemies.
If you must advance across open terrain, use Bounding Overwatch to limit the danger. Bounding teams send two men forward as the other two overwatch. If any bad guys pop up, the team immediately engages them, limiting the damage to themselves. After Bravo Team arrives at their flanking position, order them to engage the —now exposed— enemy, and eliminate them. Regroup your teams, then move on to the next objective.
Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes you must maneuver without the benefit of suppressing fire. Maybe one of your teams is pinned, or perhaps there are just too many guys in black hats. Whatever the reason, there are ways to handle the problem. Way one is to blind the opposition, maneuver to their flank and cut them down. Smoke grenades are your blinding tools. Examine the terrain; locate the position from which you can eliminate the enemy and where you’ll need to toss the grenades. Throw the grenades. Wait! That smoke isn’t instantaneous and rushing too quickly is a ticket to hell. Wait till the smoke billows, then sprint to your new firing position, aim your weapons and waste the enemy.
The second method of maneuvering without the suppressing fire of your fellow team is much more risky. It also requires that your men have quick feet, directed by your nimble fingers on the game pad. Before we discuss it, a quick review: Teams may either Point Fire —which consists of the team members sighting their weapons and squeezing off well-aimed shots at the enemy–or use Suppression Fire —the team fires all the lead that will pour through their weapons. Suppression Fire rarely injures the opposition, but certainly keeps their heads down .
To maneuver under your own team’s suppression fire do the following. First, pick your new firing position and then direct suppression fire at the enemy. Immediately give your team move orders to the new position. The suppression fire will keep the enemy’s heads down for about the ten seconds you’ll need to reach your position. Don’t move far or you’ll be caught in the open!
Face to Face
Sometimes flanking an opponent isn’t an option. For example, if the enemy is in position at the end of a long street and your men must advance toward them. Again you have two options, fire and maneuver or simply overwhelming firepower.
In fire and maneuver one fire team fixes the enemy while the other advances. After the advancing fire team reaches a good firing position, it engages the enemy while the other team moves past it to a new position. The teams continue advancing toward the enemy until one of the teams can either get a side shot or lob a grenade behind them.
If the enemy is not well protected, (or sometimes, even if he is) using overwhelming —or at least very effective— firepower is a viable option. Frequently overwhelming firepower takes the form of the M203 grenade launcher. Although the FSW version of the M203 is not exactly true to life, it is an effective weapon nonetheless. If your adversaries are behind a dumpster or a car, try pumping an M203 round into it. Frequently, the 40mm grenade will destroy both the cover and your enemy behind it. Artillery or air support also works well when clearing out those pesky insurgents. Even better, it’s simple to use: just maneuver into position (you must have a clear line of sight to the target), call for the support then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Yet, most often, Full Spectrum Warrior , demands that you close with the enemy to call the strike –sometimes within 25-35 yards, something few real world squad leaders would chance.
FSW is an excellent, yet demanding game. To win, you’ll need to employ many of the same tactics used by real world squad leaders. Fire and maneuver, overwhelming firepower and common sense are important ingredients to your success. Keep them in mind and you’ll soon defeat the Zekistan insurgents. Good luck.
Originally published in the July 2005 issue of Armchair General magazine.
Mark H. Walker is a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. A veteran electronic entertainment/IT journalist and board game designer, he has authored or contributed to over 40 books and recently designed the critically acclaimed board wargame "Lock ‘n Load."