Combat strategy

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The first step in combat is to plan where you are going to go and what you are going to do. For this purpose, the plans editor is excellent. Draw your plan of attack and stick to it after combat starts. Depending on the terrain and the units available to you, you will have to choose between a broad front, or envelopment strategy. Try not to always take the enemy head-on. Look for weak spots and salients. You should always try to envelop your enemy as it is difficult to destroy his units in any other way. To do this, you should aim for as deep a penetration as possible, in order to evade his defences. Short penetrations and envelopments are possible even with infantry units. You should decide to have areas where no attacks occur so you save supplies and the enemy won’t be pushed back before the enveloping troops arrive in their rear, though you may need to pin him in those areas so he can’t escape your trap. Never give one province orders, always tell your troops where to go at least three provinces ahead.

This means that you should build and organise troops on the basis that some (e.g. infantry) will hold the enemy, some (e.g. armour and motorised troops) will penetrate his line, and others (light, fast troops) will exploit the penetration. The holding troops can then be used in the mop-up phase.

If you have time, you also should arrange the right infrastructre is in place - ports, air bases and province infrastructure, so you don't run out of supplies or places to put your air support.

See Land unit selection


  • Managing HQs and Commanders

See:Command structure

  • Organising Your Armies

See: Command organization strategy



You should regularly check your units’ arrival times, to see how close they are to moving forward and reaching their objective. Sometimes, in combat, you’ll notice these indicators are not quite correct – a unit which advances in combat may occupy the enemy held province before the indicator says it will, because the combat throws indicators off. Tooltips will show you the destination. If you want to see the ultimate destination (at the end of its movement orders) you can click on the unit. Multiple units can be selected with a select box to see each of their destinations together.

Pay attention to the speeds of land, air and naval unit types which might be mixed in with your divisions or groups. The speed (and other attributes also) of your least capable unit will determine the speed (and other factors) for the whole unit. If you need a fleet or land unit to move at high speed, detach any units which will slow it down (and find another home for them – don’t just leave detached brigades hanging around). If you’ve used a Select Box, however, the units you’ve selected may have different top speeds. In those cases, your units will each move at their Divisional top speed. Take this into account if you’re trying to coordinate the arrival of units. It may be more exact (though more time consuming) to assign each unit a time to arrive in combat.


when arranging an attack, try to get your units to attack during daylight together. To get the Simultaneous Attack button to work, click on each unit except one that is attacking, and issue their orders. For the last unit, select simultaneous attack. You may have difficulty getting this to work, so it is often better to find out which unit is going to take the longest to attack, then order each to attack individually at the same time as that unit. You should take into account the many combat factors so, for instance, try to (a) go around a unit that is in a town, or behind a river or a strait and (b) attack from as many directions as possible. Be aware of the terrain, you may find your attack goes really slowly through a marsh unless you have marines.


If defending, you want your unit to be behind a river (and in a fortification and/or a town!). All units defending will be affected by attack delay afterwards. The is no support combat mission for defenders, the only way to add extra units to a defence is to move units into the province or to attack the attackers and give them the multiple combat penalty.

Assault and Exploitation

Try to avoid the following situation:

  1. Initial combat.. you win.
  2. Attacking forces arrive at new province
  3. Post- Attack delay!!! They sit around reorganizing, can't do anything for a few days.
  4. Momentum is lost

You should have reserves outside combat. Remember you can have for example 6 units in same place, but attack only with 3 of them. Do this instead:

  1. Assemble two groups of units: attack and exploitation.
  2. Initial combat.. first wave.. you win.
  3. Send in a second wave.
  4. First wave arrives at new province, Sits around reorganizing, until attack delay is finished.
  5. Second wave can march right on, no reorganizing, no attack delay.

If you have enough time and units, this can be refined further:

  1. Assemble four groups of units: attack, breakthrough, hold, and exploitation.
  2. Attack the flanks of the breakthrough province with infantry, to prevent attacks on your forces.
  3. Breakthrough province Initial combat.. first wave mainly of infantry and breakthrough troops.. you win.
  4. When the combat is nearly over, Send in the second wave of mobile exploitation troops (light armour + motorised infantry).
  5. First wave arrives at new province, Sits around reorganizing, until attack delay is finished.
  6. Second wave can march right on, no reorganizing, no (or minimal) attack delay.
  7. When the first wave can move again, it occupies the unoccupied provinces on the flanks and rear of the exploitation troops. You may want to replace them with a third wave "holding" division to release them for the next attack and prevent a counterattack closing your new gap.

First, attack with maximum force to ensure a rapid victory at the point of main emphasis (i.e. spearhead, German Schwerpunkt). Remember that the attack delay penalty now scales to time spent in combat, so you want to bring maximum firepower to bear on the breakthrough location. Once the enemy formations have nearly broken, begin committing your mobile units, starting with armor. Give your units marching orders beyond the initial province so they move forward even if counterattacked. Don't forget that you'll need to attack the "shoulders" of the breakthrough target province in order to pin those troops in place. Build a big stack of assault and exploitation troops and the AI will stop your whole plan before it starts by simply attacking that stack with a single unit “suicide squad”

Concentrate the bulk of your operational TAC groups on or near the breakthrough point (or CAS if there's enemy armor present). Use additional ground attack groups to weaken and pin down any reserves in the immediate vicinity of the breakthrough. Air units are crucial to any quick breakthrough, ensure you have plenty available.

Don't commit a full armoured corps (or, in the case of Barbarossa, a full armoured army) en masse. Instead, stagger your divisions by several hours. This will ensure that enemy reserves will not be able to counterattack and hold up all your exploitation units at once. If enemy reserves do counterattack, chances are your tank divisions will be able to handle it before all your units arrive and get sucked into combat. If it looks to be a hard fight, you can delay some of your mobile divisions, preferably your motorized infantry.

Watch out for supply problems with big stacks, although this probably won't occur until after Barbarossa starts. Build a big stack of assault and exploitation troops and you could find that the exploitation troops can't attack because all the supplies in the province have been used up. Keep the HQs back for the same reason, they consume supplies. Don't SR into the stack.

  • First wave - Heaviest armour & maxed-out Combined-Arms "assault" divisions from two or three directions and aircraft. Make the combat as short as possible to reduce your incurred attack delay. The first 'assault' wave should focus on maximizing firepower in the battle. Ignore just about everything else for it, you want a quick, guaranteed win. Boost soft attack, and look at how divisions you will be committing in order to choose the frontage per division. After all, you want every division you commit to the assault in the fight, and you want the frontage full. This is because the second wave will get sent before the battle is over, and you don't want them getting added to the battle and facing attack delays (mitigated somewhat by attack delay based on time spent in combat).
  • Second wave - [2xLArm] swarm

The second, exploitation, wave focuses on speed. Light armour tends to be the fastest brigade in the game. Use Light Armour divisions of two brigades, these use less supplies and you can have more of them. Optionally, add armoured cars, as they also have good speed, and armoured cars boost the movement speed of their division. This should only affect light armour in rough terrain, but depending on where you plan your breakthrough is, that could be important.

Start their movement in to the "first" province maybe half a day before the enemy is going to break and use the shift key to order them to follow through & attack the province "behind". Timing is important & dependent upon movement speed of the LArm.

This way, they move straight through the gap. If you use one such division for each province you can reach on the other side of the gap, they'll frequently perform an over-run too which removes the defeated enemy units from the game without combat with the LArm and makes future encirclements a little easier. These divisions are backed-up by [Mot+Mot-AA] which can be combined (re-combined) with the [2LArm] if & when required.

  • Third wave - Mot-Inf & Mot-AA to follow through in support of the LArm.

The best exploitation division by far is paratroopers. They can drop and take an undefended province instantly (assuming good weather). Get a sizable force of these and you can 'overrun' any force retreating into an empty province. Also, use paratroopers to capture strategic areas, especially river crossings, to maintain the forward momentum of the advance. Paratroopers are great for capturing and holding river crossings a few provinces behind the initial breakthrough, as well as for disrupting enemy reserves concentrating to repel your attack. Since armored divisions suffer a significant malus when assaulting an entrenched enemy defending a river line, using airborne troops to capture the river crossing beforehand really facilitates rapid exploitation. Be sure to keep your paratroopers well supplied with transports, ensure air superiority for the transports, and factor the normal delays associated with using paratroopers into your attack plans.

Make use of the "scout area" and "sabotage area" missions. These intel missions have a powerful effect when used along with your main effort at breakthrough. Each mission can affect up to 7 provinces--you can slow enemy reserves from reaching the area, and speed yours through--also giving a further combat advantage in speed. You can save up enough covert points for 3 such missions at one time. It takes a while to amass 45 points--so start early.

Mopping Up

Continue the exploitation in the same manner, trying to either overrun the fleeing enemy or connect pincers and seal off encirclements. Once you've achieved a breakthrough and find open plains before you, don't stop the armor! Try to move infantry divisions to deal with any encirclements and to support your armor, but don't abandon the breakthrough if your armor starts outrunning your infantry. It's more important to exploit the breakthrough than to constantly worry about getting cut off yourself. If your spearhead does happen to get overextended and cut off, don't panic. order a divisions or two to break out, back towards the infantry, while the infantry batters its way to the armor. You can use transports to air supply if supplies are an issue. In most cases, though, a full armored corps in the hands of a competent player is very difficult to encircle and destroy.

You will be left with pockets of enemy who will take weeks to go out of supply, so generally they have to be attacked once surrounded to get rid of them and free up your own supply lines. You can attach brigades directly to HQs and use them for this purpose, or some infantry units. the enemy units won't be destroyed until they have no friendly territory to retreat to. You should also have troops ready behind your main line in case an enemy unit routs in the wrong direction.



After the attack you may have units that have low organisation. You should have a designated area in your rear to move these troops where they will be in supply, have a low attrition rate, and thus can recover. Check your revolt risk map, you may be able to place them in areas at risk of partisan uprisings to discourage such things.

Further Reading

See also the Land combat reference page. The HOI III Strategy Guide has a lot of information about combats.