The Commodore's Tactics Part VI:
Team Tactics

Once again, it is time to pick up the keyboard and write about the tactics of R/C Warship Combat. This time, my subject is team tactics, and should perhaps be subtitled, "The Unfair Advantage". As to why, you'll probably see that as the article plays out.

Why are team tactics important? Well... As we have seen in the previous five articles, individual tactics are largely based on the capabilities of the individual ship and captain, it's size, speed, gun arrangement, place in the food chain, etc. With team tactics, two, and sometimes three or more battlers band together to a united purpose, be it singling out and sinking a chosen victim, or (more typically) wreaking havoc and mayhem on an entire opposing fleet. When these ships band together as a team, be it for a short period during a battle, or for the entire battle, the strength of one ship can offset the weakness of the other, or as often happens, the strength of one can act to multiply the strength of another.

I've heard it explained this way - two ships working as a team are as effective as three ships. Much like a double stern gun is more effective than two separate, single stern guns. Likewise, three ships working together can be brutally dangerous. And so on... As to how this works, it's not a simple thing. To start out with, you have to find another captain and ship to team up with.

Choosing a captain to work with, a "wingman", so to speak is not as simple as it looks. A good wingman can make your ship seem faster, and your rudders turn better. A poor wingman is like an anchor dragging off your stern. Oftentimes, the best of captains can be poor wingmen (myself, for example), while others may just surprise you. What's often more important isn't so much that the ships be identical as the captains be able to work together.

Perhaps it would be best to start with a couple of examples.

One that immediately comes to mind is the combination of Chris Au's Wisconsin and Tim Beckett's North Carolina. This is a case where one ship definitely enhanced another's capabilities and ameliorated its deficiencies. Chris's Wisconsin had two great things going for it - two pairs of double sidemounts, that is. However, the Wisconsin had a disadvantage in that it was fairly unmaneuverable, and a very large target. Left to itself, it's quite possible that a group of Axis battleships could have picked it apart. Combined with Tim's North Carolina, it became mighty opponent. I'll explain how & why later.

On a more personal note, traditionally, Jim Pate and I have been wingmen and worked together for many a Nats. This usually works very well, as Jim and I are both aggressive and skilled battlers. However, there has been a problem, in that we're both extremely dangerous. Oftentimes, when we would attempt to battle together, what we'd find was that the enemy would be ... elsewhere. Putting the two of us together in the same part of the lake was perhaps too much of a good thing. Luckily, we're also independent sorts, and as a result, we'd typically just wander around creating carnage, and at various opportune moments, we'd unite to finish off a particularly unlucky opponent. This is probably not a very good example, but...

Perhaps I'm not the best wingman. I'm used to being somewhat of a lone wolf, and as a result, I tend to be too aggressive and not consider my wingman's needs. In 2001, I was paired up with Tim Beckett, and it didn't really go that well, especially at first. I was way too aggressive, and would often charge into a situation where there was room for only one ship, and Tim had more sense than to go in there. So, Tim was stuck trying to support me and help me get out of a few, ah, sticky situations. I think I did better as the week went along. On the other hand, this past year (2003), Tim and I worked together much better, mostly because I modified my battling style to be closer to his, and that seemed to help matters quite a bit. Go fig.

But aside from all that, one of my favorite teamwork moments happened waay back in 1999, at the Springfield Fall Regionals. Jay Edwards was there with his USS North Carolina, and I had my Nagato there, and we both happened to be on the same side. Come Sunday, Jay and I both decided that there was a certain fellow there with an Invincible who just needed to be sunk, and that we were the ones to do it. I suggested that we should team up on the poor fellow and see what happened. Well... The battle started, and immediately, Jay and I set out for the Invincible, and batted it back and forth like a ping-pong ball. Jay would attack to one side with his sidemount, and as the Invincible attempted to dodge, I would move in and attack with my sidemount. This went on for several minutes, and finally the Invincible sank, to both our delight. This is one of my favorite memories, because it was one of the first times I had teamed up with another battler (besides Jim) and accomplished something useful. I was also happy because it really seemed to be an indication to me that Jay was coming along as a battler and able to hold up his end of the bargain.

Anyway, enough with the general examples, how does it work? Well, you see, it's like this. Say you have a ship, a five unit slugger like an Iron Duke. Well, in the typical battle, if you're all by yourself, there will be ships that you can't catch, that are faster than you are, like those tasty Nagatos and Romas. There will also be ships that you can't outmaneuver, like those nasty Badens and Konigs, never mind the occasional Westfalen. You can wander around and hope that you come upon fast ships that aren't paying attention, or are over-agressive, or you can try to trap a Konig next to the shore in hopes that it won't be able to turn away, but either can be difficult, especially when the enemy is crafty and knows that you're after him.

This is where your wingman comes in handy. At worst, even if he's out of ammo, your wingman can work as a portable, mobile shoreline. Especially if the enemy doesn't know he's out of ammo. When you see that Roma sitting there with its bow pointing towards shore, trying to pick on one of your buddies, you can take one side while your wingman takes the other, and whichever direction the Roma turns, one of you is likely to get a shot. Or two. Teamwork has turned what would have most likely been nothing into something.

Likewise, when you're trying to corral that Konig, if your wingman takes the inside while you take the outside, you can sandwich the little bugger and lay a hurtin' on him, where if there had only been one of you, he would probably just turn away and stern gun you. Teamwork has enabled you to (hopefully) corner and pummel an otherwise difficult and tough opponent.

On the other hand, do note that if the Konig has effective sidemounts, one (or both) of you are likely to take some hits too. But even here, teamwork helps you because while the Konig may be firing into one or the other of you, hopefully (you've planned this ahead, haven't you???), both of you are firing into his hull. If you've planned even better, you've worked out the geometry so that one of you is up close, pounding away with your stern sidemount into his tender bow, while the other either has the range open so that the Konig's stern sidemount cannot score, or else is snuggled up with his stern sidemount too, in which case the Konig is not long for this world.

These are just a couple of the many possible team tactics you can use on an opponent. But before you can use those team tactics, you have to pick your teammate. Your wingman. Here is where things get tricky. Okay, it's one of the places where things get tricky. Let's say again, that you have an Iron Duke, and you're a pretty good battler. Who do you want to team up with? Maybe Jack has a QE. That would seem like a pretty good match, but Jack's got a hot head and he's aggressive to boot. Maybe not a good idea. Unless you want to follow Jack into the middle of the fray and come out with a hull which resembles Swiss Cheese. On the other hand, there's Jerry, with his Invincible. But Jerry's a pretty new captain, and his Invincible has been known to have damage control problems. Hmm. I don't think you want to spend your battling time babysitting, either. On the other hand, over there's Joe, with his Sodak. Joe's from a nearby state, and you see him regularly at regionals. His Sodak works good, and his triple sterns are pretty killer. Plus, he's got a pretty cool head in a fight. Sounds like Joe's the man.

Next up, once you've taken Joe aside and exaplained matters to him, you have to figure out how things are going to work. Who's going to be the dominant battler? Who's going to follow? How are you going to select targets? These are all things that need to be figured out (more or less) in advance so that when battle starts, you'll both be on the same page. Additionally, it really helps if you establish (or have established) some rapport, so that you're familiar with each other's quirks, etc. For example, if your wingman doesn't like to get in the middle of the furball, you'd best not lead him there. And if your wingman does like to get in the middle of the furball, you'd best consider matters carefully.

Have dinner together, talk about things. Go through a list of all the opposing battlers, and see what Joe thinks about them. Is so&so's Nagato tough, or is it Tender Vittles? How about that Konig? And what about that Moltke??? Choose a set of likely targets, as well as a list of ships you'd best deal with very carefully. If possible, pick a location you'd like to start the battles from, so that you can begin the battle in a favorable location. Once you get to the lake, it also helps to have a table together, so you can discuss matters while preparing for battle, and evaluate things between sorties and battles.Do everything you can to keep communication going.

Needless to say, it helps to pick a wingman you get along with...

Anyway, once battle starts, its important to keep together. If the two of you become separated, you can't communicate and share target and threat information, and your teamwork will be essentially nil. On the other hand, if you stay together on shore, and keep your ships together on the water, you can begin to work your destructive magic on the enemy.

Now then - a brief digression. I chose an Iron Duke and a Sodak here for a reason - to show that disparate ship types can enhance each others capabilities. In this case, the stern sidemount power of the Duke will enhance the power of the Sodak's triple stern guns. And vice versa. So... To continue...

Battle begins, and it looks like the traditional line on line slugfest. You and Joe are about eight feet off shore and facing off against a Roma and a Nagato. Pretty rough stuff - what do you do? Well... The first thing you do is hold off on the heroics. In this situation, the Iron Duke's stern sidemount makes it the more obviously dangerous ship, and it gets the role of aggressor. In the meantime, the Sodak's role is to provide triple stern gun artillery. You back toward the ships and see what they do. If the Nagato backs stern to stern with you, and I suspect it will, play stern to stern and try and see if you can draw the Nagato out of line. Tease him with the opportunity for a stern sidemount shot, but keep it just out of reach, and try to draw him back toward Joe's stern guns. Joe should (in the meantime) be trying to line his stern guns up so that when that Nagato get out of line, he can get a good shot.

"Hey - look out, that Roma's cutting an angle on you!"

"Thanks, Joe - I'll back off. Keep that angle open..."

Keep your eyes open, because that Roma's angling in and trying to do the same to you. Be sure you don't get suckered in by that Nagato! Likewise, Joe need to keep an eye on that Roma too, because if the Roma gets too much of an angle, Joe can put some triple stern action on him, etc. Either way, in this situation, it's best if your ships have a few feet between them so that one of you can cover the others angle. If your ships are too close together, you essentially become one ship and neither of you can get the angle you need. The ideal formation you're looking for is more along the lines of a Y, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, this goes on for a while, but eventually, those North Carolinas on the outside beat up on the Axis flank, and things begin to crumble. This is where things get entertaining. The Axis may just back up and attempt to reform their battle line - if they have room. Or, they may break up and crumble, in which case things get really entertaining. But that's a matter for fleet strategy and I'll leave that for another set of articles. Someday...

Let's say that the fleets have broken up and there are now several melee's and individual ships wandering around. If I were in command, I'd talk to Joe and make a quick evaluation of the situation.

"Joe, Do we want to attack that furball?"

"Maybe not. But how about that Moltke there on the edge of the furball, pointing his stern in and looking to get on that Invincible over there? Yeah, that one."

Off to the attack!

"Joe, you take the outside, and if he tries to get away, hit him with the triple stern guns."

You take the inside track, and get ready to lay that stern sidemount on some Moltke hull. Uh-oh! He sees you! But Joe's almost there - the Moltke turns to get out to sea, but Joe cuts in front and blocks his exit. Now's your chance. Forget that stern sidemount, and instead make your turn in the other direction, to parallel the Motlke, and get that bow sidemount on target and start shooting. Once you're on target, Joe can pull ahead and apply some triples to the other side. But wait - here comes a Nagato to the rescue! Perhaps its best to let the small fry go and prepare to deal with big game. Quick - get those sterns turned around and facing the danger. Now, the Nagato has the choice of facing down five stern guns, or maybe going somewhere else.

Ain't this teamwork stuff great?

"Hmm... What's this Konig doing over here to the side? Let's check it out... He looks like he's feeling frisky, let's see what we can do..."

"Joe, you wander around the outside and close his exit, I'll see if I can draw him in."

So, you turn around and back toward the Konig, looking like you're setting up a stern gun/stern sidemount duel. Swish that stern back and forth. Got his attention really good, don't you? "BAM-BAM-BAM" Where'd that come from? Oh, wait, Joe snuck up on his bow while he was busy concentrating on stern sidemounts - poor guy... Now he's really stuck. On the front is a nasty Sodak with nasty stern guns, and on the back is an Iron Duke with a nasty stern sidemount. Which to choose. Oh, I guess it's the triples. How unfortunate. (BAM-BAM-BAM...)

(... The Konig makes a 90 degree turn away from the Sodak and heads out to sea ...)

"Okay, Joe, keep the outside covered, and try to get head of him and turn him back toward shore - I'll take the inside." Joe uses his speed to get ahead of the Konig and threatens it with stern guns. The Konig turns away to avoid even more triple stern gun shredding. Right into your waiting sidemount. POW-POW-POW! Joe moves in and you make a Konig sandwich. The Konig, in desperation, hits reverse to escape. You match it. The Konig holds reverse too long, and ... sinks. Loud cheers all around!

But your work is not done. Where'd that pesky Nagato go? Oh, wait, he's stalking that Invincible, who's turning for all he's worth, trying to shake the Nagato off. "Okay, Joe, you set up around the outside of his circle, and try to surprise him with the triples again. I'll try to cut the inside." You move to the inside of the circle, but before you get on target, the Nagato sees you and moves to dodge your sidemount. But he doesn't quite dodge those triples. BAM-BAM-BAM... The Invincible is saved (for the moment), and the Nagato just caught a bow full of lead.

"What's that Joe, you've shot a whole lot of stern guns? Well, maybe now's the time to be clever. See that Bismarck over there - the one that looks hungry? You go threaten him with your stern guns, but don't quite get the angle right, and I'll see if I can get a shot."

So, you and Joe head over and make a bow on attack on the Bismarck, and Joe starts to flare aside for a stern gun shot, while the Bismarck turns away. Joe doesn't quite (ahem) turn fast enough to get a shot off, but now the Bismarck iss headed toward shore, which is right where you want him. While Joe completes his turn and begins to follow the pair of you toward shore, you cut the intercept vector on the Bismarck and start sidemounting away. The Bismarck turns the other way to evade, but Joe's busy cutting that intercept course, and gets his bow sidemount on target. (Sound of popcorn popping...) Unfortunately, the Bismarck eventually gets up to speed and gets away. With any luck, and NC or two will catch up and finish the job. Life is good. Or is it? Wait a second - you weren't pumping that hard before.

"Hey, Joe - I think that Bismarck had a stern sidemount."

"I thought I told you that last night."

"Oh. Well, too late now. Now what do we do?"

"Well, how about you lie low, keep it slow and we'll pretend like nothing's wrong."

"Okay, that sounds like as good an idea as any."

And here is where we run into the other important part of battling as a team - don't abandon your buddy.

The two of you begin to head toward the outside of the battle, but someone sees the pump stream and hollers. That pesky Nagato is closest and starts heading your way, but (whew!) so do some other Allies, and some Axis too. Things are about to get adventurous. You set your ship up near (but not next to) shore and with your stern facing the enemy. Joe moves to a position on the outside, between your Duke and the oncoming Nagato. As the Nagato comes in to attack, Joe gets off a few stern gun shots, then runs empty. As a special bonus, he's angled his ship so that as the Nagato comes off his stern, you just have to make a small turn, and ... POW-POW-POW - your double sterns are lined up on the Nagato's bow. You turn hard away from the Nagato and hope that your pump can keep up, while the Nagato's attempting to get ahead of your stern guns and get a sidemount on you. He's almost there, but wait - there's Joe blocking with the side of his hull. And here comes the cavalry. But not all of them are good.

Lucky for you, an NC has taken the Nagato's lane of retreat, and now, he and Joe are teaming up, with Joe applying sidemounts to the Nagato, while the NC puts some triples into its bow. But that doesn't help with that Bismarck that's coming up. "Hey, Joe - watch that Bismarck!"

"Oh, okay." (sheepish grin...)

Joe drops back by, and points his stern toward that Bismarck, and acts dangerous, while you sit and pump a bit. The Bismarck hesitates, then shows a brief target to test if the Sodak has ammo. Hearing no shots, he comes in to attack. Knowing the game is up, Joe comes with him and uses the ol' Sodak push to keep the Bismarck off target.

"Hey Joe - watch that stern sidemount!"

"Yeah, yeah, I know ... (POW-POW) Oops - speaking of which, I'd best let him go now..."

Joe disengages, and the Bismarck comes around for another attempted pass. This time, Joe moves to the other side, and lets him come in ... Because it's time for his surprise, as he sidles in to shoot you, you hit the throttle and snuggle in next to his bow for a little of your own stern sidemount gift giving. Joe joins in on the other side with his bow sidemount. The Bismarck decides that perhaps it should have been looking for easier game somewhere else, and leaves.

Lucky for you, your pump has mostly caught up, and if you just sit there, it doesn't look so bad. The Bismarck & co have left to try and persecute that Invincible some more, but he's got another battleship helping him out. You putt further out toward the edge of the battle, and upon reaching a "safe, secluded area" call five, and Joe heads back in to see what he can do to help the Invincible. As he arrives, a certain Nagato squirts out of the pack, heading toward the exit, stage right. Joe sees this, turns, and cuts an intercept, moving from the outside to pin the Nagato toward shore. An NC captain shouts, "He's on five, let's get 'im!", as Joe cuts across the bow of the Nagato, and catches the Nagato's bow on his sidemount. Awfully handy things, those sidemounts. In a second, the pursuing NC is on target, banging away with his sidemount, and Joe backs off to get his sidemount on target and follows suit. The Nagato is pumping hard, and breaks free from Joe's ship, as Joe can't keep up with the 24 second fast battleships. Once clear, the Nagato turns away from the NC, trying to get away from that nasty sidemount, but as he makes his turn, the water sloshes over in the hull, and the Nagato starts to heel, then to roll over and sink.

(More cheers erupt from the shoreline...)

(You're busy wishing you hadn't taken that damage, so you could be in on the drama...)

The Invincible sinks, after tasting some stern sidemount from a certain Bismarck. The Dog.

The Bismarck calls five and pulls out to sea, while the NC starts in that direction, but it doesn't look like he's going to catch the Speedy Bismarck. Joe drops by and regales you with an excited story of what you just watched. "I know, I know..."

And so the battle ends. Or at least this story.

And what have we learned?

Well... I hope that we've learned several things. First off, in a team arrangement, the two battlers have distinct roles. Typically, one is the agressor, while the other is support. These roles can change during the battle, but usually, one battler is calling the shots and showing initiative, while the other is moving to support that initiative, by cutting off the enemy's avenue of retret, blocking him, threatening him with unpleasant alternatives, like triple stern guns, or simply keeping his teammate busy.

when you're the initiator, it's your job to make sure your wingman knows what you're up to, as he can't support you if you go off haring after something without telling him. Likewise, it's also your job to make sure that your wingman has a place to go - if you charge through a hole in the enemy fleet that's only one ship big, he's not going to make it. At least not without taking a lot of damage. After which, he's not likely to follow you anywhere else.

Likewise, when you're in the support role, it's your job to listen, and keep your eye on your wingman and the target, and determine the most likely move the target's going to make. And cut him off. Preferably with guns, or sometimes with your hull.

Either way, you have to work together. In my little story above, I covered a lot of the basic two-ship maneuvers. There are many more variations, but I can't possibly go into them all here. For that matter, I can't possibly remember them all. As you gain experience, you'll most likely discover them and refine them for yourselves. Mostly, what it comes down to is seeing what your wingman is up to, or someone else on your team whom you're supporting at the moment, and making the appropriate move to support and enhance their attack.

And that's pretty much it. Really. Yes, there are myriad more details, but again, I couldn't possibly cover them all here.

But in the meantime, I would like to go back to another example. I mentioned Chris Au's Wisconsin and Tim Beckett's North Carolina. Like the Iron Duke and Sodak above, the Wisconsin and NC worked together, to each other's advantage. Typically, Chris would select a target, and move to attack it with his sidemounts. Tim would sail to the outside, and typically somewhat ahead, so that he would flank the target and present him with an unpleasant alternative. The target could either travel in a straight line and eat double sidemounts, or turn aside and eat triple stern guns. A very unpleasant alternative indeed. And a dealy one at that. The NC's maneuverability combined with the Wisconsin's firepower to make a deadly team. Jim and I tried to mess with them a couple of times, but to little or no avail. The one time at the 2000 Nats that we were able to sink Tim (thanks to a pump failure), Chris's Wisconsin was basically neutralized for the rest of the battle. But together, they were ... dangerous. Very dangerous.

But team tactics don't just stop at two ships. Depending on experience level and skill, it's possible for three, four, or even five ships to work together in much the same fashion. It does get complicated, though. Another of my favorite teamwork examples happened at the 1999 Nats.

It was Monday afternoon (I think!) and as battle started, most of the Allied fleet headed out to open waters in hopes of avoiding the morning's debacle. Most of the Axis fleet followed in pursuit. Jim and I were in the middle, with our Scharnhorst and Nagato, evaluating the situation. I really didn't want to chase the Allies all over the place, because chasing a frightened enemy is often ... pointless... Then, we looked off to the left and saw Chris Au's Harun in the midst of four Allied cruisers, who were having a jolly time with the Jap Battlecruiser. You see, Chris's Haruna had three sidemounts, and as a result had no ranged weapons to defend itself with. On the other hand, the cruisers all had ranged weapons, and also had a speed advantage. So, one or more cruisers would attack Chris's bow, and when he turned to attempt to engage either of him, they would speed away. All the while another cruiser was lining up to shoot at his bow some more. I looked over Jim and said, "Let's get 'em," and he was like, "Sure, why not," and so we started to head over that way. I don't remember precisely how it all went, but basically, Jim and I cut an intercept across the whole mob's bow and before they knew it, one cruiser was eating triples from a Scharnhorst, while another was getting sidemounted by a Nagato and/or Haruna, and then Jim and I sandwiched a third. It was short and bloody, and one escaped to tell the tale. It was glorious........

Another tale of 1999 - It was the end of one of the battles, and Chris's Haruna, Andy's Mutsu, and my Nagato were cruising up and down the shoreline, looking for targets. We happened upon an Invincible, and moved in for the kill. Chris took the inside, while Andy and I took the outside, as the Invincible headed toward the weedy shoreline, to what purpose, I do not know. As he ground to a halt, the Haruna lined up a stern sidemount on one side, and Andy lined up his stern sidemount on the other. Not wanting to be left out, I lined up one of my bow sidemounts so that I could fire over Andy's stern and into the side of the Invincible. AS we all began firing, the Invincible captain declared his ship sunk, to save it from further pummeling. Not necessarily glorious, but certainly gory.

On another occasion, a French CL ran around, and I grounded my Nagato, foolishly trying to attack the helpless cruiser. Suddenly, I was a target for the whole, eager Allied fleet to attack. Lucky for me, I had Chris and Andy on the ready, and as the Allies lined up to attack, they were ready to defend - with their guns! One NC lined up and began firing, ineffectively. It quickly received a pounding from the Mutsu and Haruna, and sank. Another NC lined up and began firing, opening a nasty hole in my side. But for its efforts, it received some nasty holes in return and sank. Then, before the third NC could line up, Chris and Andy swooped in on it and sank it. I survived my five out of control and after pushing the ship off, sailed (very slowly) away, to fight another sortie. Which is a complete other story, and if you can get Swampy to cough up the video, I'm sure you'll be entertained.

The examples are endless, and most of them are also quite entertaining. Suffice to say, two ships work together better than one (most of the time!) and as the ads say, "Teamwork Wins". And I think that now you can see why I referred to team tactics as an "unfair advantage". So... Find yourself a wingman out there and get practicing, and someday soon, some of those exciting war stories can be yours.

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