7 Real Military Techniques that Also Work in Your Favorite Games

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Sailors from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill's Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team practice tactical movements throughout the ship. (U.S. Navy/Personnel Specialist Seaman Rosa Ayala)

Most video games are just for fun, and as military veterans, we like Leroy Jenkins-ing our way into impossible fights as much as the next player. But one of the weird things about military veterans playing games is watching them break down a fight like it’s a real engagement.

Even games like Doom, where a space marine known as “Doom Slayer” kills demons with both comically large weapons and his bare hands, have places where some basic training crap could actually help new players perform better.

The U.S. Army may not have ever fought to survive an island of evil cannibals, but we would still prefer a few of its veterans as battle buddies if we were ever hunting for a lost billionaire in “Sons of the Forest.”

So what real-world military techniques can help in your gameplay? Here are some ways we expect our own infantry buddies to leverage their actual training in a video game fight.

1. Combined Arms, or at Least Mixing Unit Types.

Most gamers understand the basics here, especially as many online role-playing games force players to mix their character classes going into a dungeon or raid.

Basically, any one Army unit type is easy to defeat on its own. A rifleman is highly susceptible to any weapons that outrange them or are better armored. But a rifle squad, including grenadiers and SAW gunners, are better. Mount an infantry company on Bradleys and give them tank and air support, and the riflemen are quickly lords of all they survey, and they’ll pee on it to prove it.

In games, count on military vets to try to build capable squads in multiplayer. Whether they’re grabbing a priest for heals in a fantasy game or checking to make sure their team has a mix of submachine guns and rifles in “Modern Warfare II,” they know better than to get caught without a way to kill the next thing coming around the corner. Speaking of corners …

2. Tactical Movement, Like “Pie-ing the Corner” or Coming Up in a Different Spot.

Vets know how to use the terrain or structure to hide their movements for as long as possible.

In a building, this can be “pie-ing the corner,” pointing their weapon at a corner and then sidestepping around it so that they’re always ready to shoot at whatever might be on the other side. In larger terrain, this can be using obstructions on the level to navigate through “deadspace” to get to close range before attacking.

3. Receiving the Attack.

While it’s great to get the advantage on the attack, it’s often better to receive it. Commanders will sometimes pick a strongpoint and defend it, letting the enemy exhaust themselves against it, before going back on the attack.

It can be hard for commanders to get troops to do this in the real world, and it’s hard to get players to, as a group, slow down to make this technique work. But disciplined real-world fighters willing to be disciplined in-game can set up an ambush.

4. Using “Enfilade” and “Defilade” Fire for an Advantage.

An L-shaped ambush is either a dream if you’re part of the L or a nightmare if you’re the one wandering into it. Basically, an ambushing unit forms itself into an L shape, with a fireteam or a squad lined up 90 degrees from another one, probably behind cover.

If they’re behind cover or concealment, then they’re firing “in defilade,” meaning it will be hard for an enemy to hit them. The unfortunate unit wandering into the ambush is stuck receiving “enfilade” fire, meaning that the attack coming against them will sweep through their ranks.

Military players know how to reduce their chances of being caught in enfilade fire while positioning themselves for defilade.

5. Controlling the Tempo.

It can be easy for casual game players to get caught by more patient players simply, because we casuals get impatient and rush into fights. An important part of military doctrine focuses on “controlling the tempo.”

That means initiating the fight only when you have well-positioned troops, then carefully sustaining the momentum to keep the enemy on the backfoot. Don’t push too fast and outrun your resupply or ability to reinforce yourself, but don’t give withdrawing units a chance to turn and take cover or dig in.

In games, this looks like pushing when you have the manpower, but slowing the pace if you have a bunch of teammates making their way back from re-spawn.

6. Defeat in Detail.

Remember how we mentioned good players and military veterans know to build teams with mixed capabilities? Well, they also know to pick apart enemy teams and then kill small sections of it at a time.

An enemy that fails to control their tempo gives a great way to do this. If they become overeager on the attack, they’ll start to string out, with faster units getting ahead of slower units. This gives fleeing defenders the chance to pick a defendable line, set up an ambush or defense, and then destroy each enemy unit or team member as they stumble into the trap.

7. Concentrate Fire.

Of course, a disciplined opponent won’t let their team get separated in this way. A riskier alternative is to prioritize enemy units and concentrate fire onto key targets, like communications nodes or mortar teams.

And gaming actually has its own term for this already, “DPS down.” Have the bulk of your players attack the first priority target until it withdraws, is degraded or is destroyed. Then call them all onto the next target. Then the next.

When successful, the enemy force might lose their healer or medic, then their top damage dealers, and finally any tank-y players or units on their team. Each domino falling makes it easier to take down the next one.

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