Old Gamers Never Die: Mastering the Mobile Defense Skirmish in ‘Regiments’*

Soviet troops equipped with BMP-2 (or BMP-3?) infantry fighting vehicles advance under heavy NATO fire in a recent Mobile Defense session of Regiments. The game had just ended, and I minimized the After-Action Report window to grab this screenshot. (Game design elements and graphics (C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games and MicroProse)

* On Easy difficulty level

U.S. mechanized infantry platoon waits in a prepared position for the enemy to approach. Note the foxholes and dug-in positions for the M2 Bradley IFVs.

A nation’s ability to fight a modern war is as good as its technological ability. Frank Whittle

I’m getting good at playing the Mobile Defense variant of skirmishes on Regiments.

Before I watched Amazon Women on the Moon last night, I decided to play a 30-minute-long session of Regiments, the real-time tactical-level wargame developed by Bird’s Eye Games and published by MicroProse last August.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Regiments is a Cold War-turned-hot game that depicts a version of 1989 in which glasnost and perestroika failed to reform the Soviet system and a mutiny in the East German army morphs into a shooting war between the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The reverse side of the M1 Tank Platoon box. This game was originally released by the original iteration of MicroProse in 1989 – the year in which Regiments is set. Image Credit: Moby Games

Like its older MicroProse cousin M1 Tank Platoon (which was released in the real 1989), Regiments focuses primarily on land warfare but at the regimental/brigade level. Thus, players get to command combined arms forces with late Cold War era equipment mixes and historically accurate units from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

I’ve written many Old Gamers Never Die pieces about Regiments, the three different types of game sessions you can play, and the various armies that are currently playable, so I’m not going to repeat a lot of what I’ve already written. Suffice it to say that even though Regiments has some limitations on what your units can do – for instance, you can’t order your units to deploy in various formations (such as the Vee, In Line, Column, Left Echelon, Right Echelon, or Wedge)like you can on M1 Tank Platoon or the more contemporary Armored Brigade – the game is still a good way to learn basic land armored warfare tactics while still being, well, a game.

While the graphics in M1 Tank Platoon are rudimentary in comparison to those in 2022’s Regiments, you could issue a wide variety of orders to your platoons, including formation orders. (C) 1989, 2020 MicroProse Software and Interplay Entertainment

The Best Defense…

The white-bordered square labeled Foxtrot seen here is an Objective Zone (OZ) that is now an active evacuation zone.

Since late December, when Bird’s Eye Game first released Regiments’ first downloadable content (DLC) expansion [1] (the Second Wave expansion) that added playable British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) units and a new location map to fight battles in, I’ve been playing the Mobile Defense single battle mode. I was getting proficient in the Attack scenarios – less so in the Meeting Engagement ones – and I had yet to try Mobile Defense in the four months that I had owned Regiments.

I’ve already written a couple of blog posts about Mobile Defense, but in case you missed them, I’ll do my best to explain the basics of this type of battle.

A wide-angle view of a Mobile Defense battle. There are two active OZs on the battlefield, and with 20:28 remaining on the clock, my forces have already evacuated two OZs (note the 228 victory points under the mission clock at top center). One Transport unit (upper left corner of the image) carries 100 evacuees and is headed back to a U.S. starting zone (left-center). Another Transport unit has just reached OZ Foxtrot and will soon be loading its own batch of 100 evacuees. At bottom center, just above the list of U.S. units in my roster, you can see a platoon of M1A1 Abrams tanks leaving a starting zone and heading for the general area of Foxtrot.

In Mobile Defense, you command your basic mix of task forces (the core one you get at the start of the game, plus three additional task forces you can request from Brigade HQ), a Supply unit, and two Transport units that are only available for this type of mission. Your mission as a commander is threefold:

  • Defend the eight Objective Zones on the map from an attacking enemy force
  • Escort the Transports to the Objective Zones to begin evacuation
  • Return the Transports to the Starting Zones (there are two) and unload the evacuees there
The aftermath of a failed Russian attack. Note the large number of impacts from cluster munitions and burning Soviet vehicles.
Additionally, units marked in blue are deployed. Units marked in black and white indicate there are enough deployment points available (340) to select at least one or two, depending on the unit’s “cost” in DPs.

Each Mobile Defense skirmish begins with an Engineering Support/Initial Deployment phase. Here, you use engineering points to set up anti-tank positions, hide anti-aircraft vehicles, place observation posts, deploy small packets of mechanized infantry, or put up barbed wire obstacles. You only get 60 engineering points, and some items, such as the anti-tank posts, cost more points than others,

The pre-battle setup screen. Note the Engineer Support tab at the lower right.

In this initial pre-battle stage you will also have an opportunity to site your core task force on the map alongside a friendly unit (marked in green) that is pre-deployed. This is a big help to players; it saves time at the start of a battle because you don’t have to issue a Move Fast command to your core unit and hope to hell it gets to its assigned location before the enemy does. (Of course, how many of your first task force’s platoon you can field in the pre-battle phase depends on how you’ve set up the Deployment Points starting level in the Set-Up Game screen. If you opt for the Normal number of DPs, you will not be able to deploy your entire first task force; there will not be enough DPs in the “bank.”)

Once you are satisfied with your initial deployment and defensive scheme, you hit the Confirm button, and the game begins in Pause mode.

“It’s All a Question of OZs….”

A nice action shot showing a Warsaw Pact (East German, from the markings on the BMP turrets) unit advancing toward NATO lines. Note that you can see infantry on foot alongside the armored vehicles.

Although there are eight Objective Zones (OZs) on the map, labeled Alfa through Hotel, in Mobile Defense mode you only see two at one time. The game chooses which OZs you must send your Transport units to at random, so sometimes the first evacuation moves will be easy to carry out because they’ll be close to the Starting Zone, while at other times you will have to send the Transports to OZs further away from the Blue Force start zone – and closer to the enemy’s axis of advance.

The basic goal in Mobile Defense is to evacuate as many of your OZs as you can before your mission time clock (which you can set for as short as 20 minutes or as long as one hour) in order to earn 750 Victory Points. And you must do this while anticipating how, where, and when the enemy will attack, planning which of your additional task forces you’ll need when they are made available and whether you’ll employ a mostly static defense or carry out “fighting withdrawals” or “shoot-and-scoot” ambushes.

One of my favorite screenshots shows an Allied unit (lower left in the foreground) firing at an advancing enemy unit (visible in the upper center). You can see an enemy vehicle burning furiously in the woods behind the enemy platoon, as well as a tracer round from an American unit whizzing from right to left in a diagonal trajectory. Note the dust “rooster tails” behind the enemy vehicles, as well as little specks that are really dismounted infantry moving under NATO fire.

I’ve gotten good in this type of skirmish, at least on Easy difficulty-level settings. Last night, for instance, my Blue force (which consisted of four task forces from the First Brigade of the Third Armored Division (a U.S. unit assigned to V Corps in NATO’s CENTAG region in West Germany) suffered only light casualties (one M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, 15 killed, 42 wounded, and 4 missing) compared to the Soviet 120th Guard Motorized Rifle Regiment, which lost 67 vehicles (including tanks, recon vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, and mobile AA guns), 92 killed, 303 wounded, and 13 missing.

My score from last night. Oh, and my helicopter crews no longer call me “The Butcher.”

(The friendly unit that was controlled by the game’s AI, Task Force 3-73/82nd Airborne Division, suffered heavier casualties (9 vehicles and their crews), but they inflicted 29 of the 67 losses to the Russian vehicle force.)

Need I say that this might just be my best Regiments score so far?

I think I’ll play a few more Mobile Defense skirmishes while commanding other NATO units, then increase the difficulty level to Medium.  

I don’t have anything else to share today, Dear Reader, so I will close for now. Until next time, stay safe and healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

[1] Second Wave is also the only free DLC expansion pack offered by Bird’s Eye Games. Going forward, players must decide whether they want to buy further DLC content.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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