Tactics Tutorial

There are Seven Classical Maneuvers of War: penetration of the center, envelopment of a single flank, envelopment of both flanks, attack in oblique order, feigned retreat, attack from a defensive position and the indirect approach. A commander often must employ more than one maneuver to achieve victory; he may try to penetrate the center but fail, feign a retreat and then envelop a single flank. Each has advantages and disadvantages while may be more effective in some situations and less in others. There is also One Modern Maneuver of War: offensive revolutionary/guerrilla. This maneuver has actually been around for awhile but is only now becoming a legitimate, effective means of victory. These maneuvers were first listed by David Chandler in The Art of Warfare on Land.
Penetration of the Center
This maneuver involves concentrating superior force at the center of the opposing line in order to punch a hole and then to exploit the gap with a reserve force. This maneuver is usually attempted if flanks are protected by obstacles such as rivers. Advantages of this maneuver include the possibility of encircling parts of the opposing army, assaulting rear bases/supplies and the presence of alternative objectives to keep the opposing commander guessing. Disadvantages include the threat of being encircled by a calm commander who counters against weakened flanks and the prospect of a high casualty figure if the opposing commander makes good use of exterior lines to transfer forces to contain the attack.
Envelopment of a Single Flank
This maneuver involves pinning attacks on the opposing center, sometimes a flank as well, while using mobile forces to try and turn the other flank and roll up the line towards the center. This maneuver is one of the most frequently used. Advantages include the possibility of enveloping a portion of the opposing army and usually offer less risk of disaster than other maneuvers. However, disadvantages still include the risk of a counter-stroke against one’s weakened center and other flank.
single flank
Envelopment of Both Flanks
This maneuver involves pinning attacks on the opposing center while attacking both flanks in order to encircle the entire opposing army. This maneuver is usually attempted – and should only be attempted – if one has a superior force or exceptional tactical skill. The obvious advantage of this maneuver is complete annihilation of the opposing force while the disadvantage is the danger of a counter-stroke against strung out forces if the encirclement is not strong enough.
both flanks
Attack in Oblique Order
This maneuver involves steadily massing strength against an opposing flank while using secondary forces to distract and lure away opposing reserves. This maneuver is a good choice if the opposing force is superior. The advantage of this maneuver is the ability to concentrate force at the enemy’s weakest point while denying one’s own weakest point to attack. The disadvantage of this maneuver is that the imbalance of force can be disastrous if the enemy is in fact able to strike said weakest point.   oblique
Feigned Withdrawal
This maneuver involves staging a retreat in order to induce the enemy to abandon its position and plunge ahead in an attack before turning to surprise the enemy with an ambush. This maneuver is useful if the enemy holds an exceptional defensive position that it must relinquish in order to be defeated. The advantage of this maneuver is the psychological impact the enemy has when being fiercely assaulted while advancing or attacking. The serious disadvantage is that a staged retreat can easily become a real one if morale and discipline are not at a high standard. feigned withdrawal
Attack from a Defensive Position
This maneuver involves luring the enemy to vainly attack a strong, well-chosen defensive position before counterattacking against the exhausted force. Expectedly, this maneuver is used if such an impenetrable defensive position is available or if a direct offensive is not viable. The advantages of this maneuver include the economic use of resources in the defensive mode and that the switch from defense to offense can produce a decisive result. One disadvantage is that the maneuver may become too passive and either be attacked from an unexpected direction or an attack may never come. Another disadvantage is that submitting to encirclement, which is sometimes required, may lead to total annihilation of one’s force.
defensive positions
Indirect Approach
This maneuver involves distracting the enemy with secondary forces while using the main force to strategically envelop the enemy in rear and flank. This maneuver seeks to force the enemy to react and give battle on unfavourable terms for fear of being cut off from supplies or communications. This maneuver is usually attempted if an aggressive mobile force is available or if enemy supply and communication lines are vulnerable. Advantages of this maneuver include the total victory if the enemy loses a battle while cut off from his base and the prospect of alternative objectives once in the enemy’s rear and flank. The disadvantages of this maneuver are few because the maneuver has so much diversity although mobility and timing are vital to its success.
Offensive Revolutionary/Guerrilla
This maneuver involves using superior political will to eventually defeat a superior force. This maneuver has recently become more popular because of the lack of parity between modern armies’ firepower and more effective because of the power information exerts on people and their governments.

Readers Comments (17)

  1. Awesome! Please sign me up for anything you put out. Th anks

    • Best way to be notified of any updates is to like us on Facebook and/or Twitter. All new animations and news is announced on there.

  2. What a wonderful site. Thank you.

  3. hi
    your tutorial IS AWESOME… could you post more tactics and tutorials?? i mean basic and fundamental.. these were great but few…
    thanks a lot

    • It is definitely something I would like to add more of. Anything in particular you are looking for?

  4. You r good man. U should publish a book. I will buy it.

  5. Eric (CHICKEnFRY702) Mogollan February 2, 2017 @ 3:18 am

    Love it ! Going to use this on battlefield 1

  6. Makes a good reference.

  7. Good work and really appreciated

  8. When being attacked with the strategy of ‘Penetration through the middle’ how would one defend and counter such attack. Note the attack has already split the forces.

    • KREBS THE SECOND August 1, 2017 @ 6:21 am

      There’s generally no decisive way to counter the penetration of the center. Normally, once that has happened, the army completely collapses and routs.

      So far in as I can see, there are only two decent options once this has happened. Firstly, you can commit your reserves to the center to fill up the gap after it’s been shattered. Secondly, you can somehow preoccupy the force that has penetrated your center and hope that the flanks are able to secure victory.

      The second suggestion can, in a way, be seen at the Battle of Lake Trebia where Hannibal’s center was penetrated by the Roman heavy infantry, but the Romans became preoccupied with chasing down the Carthaginian routing units rather than helping their losing flanks, thus allowing Hannibal’s army to annihilate the Roman flanks and achieve victory.

      The penetration of the center can actually also be used in an advantageous way, if the proper preparations are made. Many generals will often try to smash the center, and German general Erich von Manstein used this fact to his leisure against the Soviets. He developed a strategy, used at the Third Battle of Kharkov, where he allowed the Soviet divisions to penetrate his formations, into prepared pockets which then surrounded and destroyed the Soviet spearheads.

  9. Would Blitzkrieg be considered enveloping both flanks? Thanks for the great website. Cheers

    • Blitzkrieg is actually more of a doctrine as opposed to a maneuver. In its simplest terms, blitzkrieg refers to concentrating against at a specific point or points with maximum force, speed, and surprise in order to break through the line quickly, followed by a full exploitation to get into the enemy’s rear areas, therefore disrupting command/control, logistics, and overall supporting elements. Most importantly, it is intended to make the enemy panic and its combat forces break down. Blitzkrieg can therefore take the form of a few maneuvers (in fact Manstein probably used all of them to great effect at some point of a major campaign). Blitzkrieg is best known for its numerous envelopment of both flanks during 1939-1943 however.

  10. Gotta use these when playing total war

    • Rex: Let me know if it helps. I found in total war the most useful maneuver was an advance in oblique order to smash a single enemy wing and then roll up the rest of the line before your weakest forces can be engaged.

  11. Hey, Awesome content! btw i’ll have to keep this short, so how do you make these battle formations? what application(s) do you use?

    i plan on making a series about battle tactics of several different nations.

    Now, all i need is a list of good applications to use for animating battles, if you could help me with that it would be great!

    Thank you,

    • SandKing: I use PowerPoint to make the animations. The video animations were the crude result of using a screen recorder while viewing the animation and then adding sound. I would strongly recommend using a different program than PowerPoint. Give my friend over at http://www.historyanimated.com a shout. He has been using flash to create his animations but I believe he recently switched over to a different program so he would be the best person to talk to.

      It sounds like a good project. Let me know how it turns out, I would be interested to see it.

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