Tactics: Terrain Analysis

Correctly understanding the terrain of a battlefield can often be the difference between winning and losing a game.

While carrying out research for a set of modern amour rules I am working on I came across the following extract from US Army Field Manual FM71-2: The Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force. The extract explains how a battalion commander can analyze the terrain in a combat area in preparation for an operation.

The procedure would be easy to adapt for wargaming purposes. While playing a game players can use the following procedure to look at the terrain set up on the gaming table and come up with a plan on how they intend to deploy and maneuver their forces.

Terrain is analyzed using the five military aspects of terrain (OCOKA) detailed below:
Observation and fields of fire –  Observation is the ability to see over a particular area. Fields of fire refer to the area a weapon can cover effectively from a given point.

Cover and concealment – Cover is protection from the effects of fire, concealment is protection from observation.

Obstacles – Obstacles are existing or reinforcing features that stop, impede, or divert movement.

Key terrain – Key terrain is any feature or area whose seizure or control offers a major tactical advantage.

Avenues of approach – Avenues of approach are routes by which a friendly or enemy force may reach an objective or key terrain feature. The S2 should consider both ground and air avenues of approach.  Mounted and dismounted avenues of approach include mobility corridors. Mobility corridors are areas within the avenues of approach that permit movement and maneuver. An avenue of approach is broad enough to contain sufficient mobility corridors to support rapid movement and maneuver of forces along its course. Avenues of approach are readily identified when NO-GO and SLOW-GO terrain has been depicted on a combined obstacle overlay. Once identified, avenues of approach should be analyzed (using OCOKA, ease of movement, and maneuver room) and then compared from both friendly and enemy perspectives. This comparison will help in identifying key and decisive, terrain.

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