This post comes as a more indepth discussion on infantry in conjunction with my prior post about the uses of conventional infantry (http://ourbattletech.com/2011/02/conventional-infantry-campaign-perspective/) and a recently revived thread discussing the Maxim Hover Tank, and it’s multiple variants.
One of the main points in subsequent posts was the fact that disembarking infantry and battle armor is challenging to do. This is exaggerated, especially when multiple infantry units are contained within one APC due to stacking rules. Often times, one finds themselves disembarking infantry or battle armor in open areas and they get chewed up because they have no movement mod or cover, since infantry and BA can take no further actions on the turn they disembark. Additionally, APCs with large cargo capacity make juicy targets as they seem like “all eggs in one basket” targets.
Now there are multiple ways to keep your APCs, infantry and battle armor alive. One of the best ways is to use terrain to provide LOS blockage. Obviously, what they cannot shoot, should be pretty survivable. However, the problem with this approach is that you might not be placing your infantry in the most ideal locations or obtaining the terrain (buildings and heavy woods) that you probably want.
If you need to get infantry into position, but struggle to find safe ways to place them, I have the answer for you. The answer lies with smoke ammo, also known as portable cover. SRM 4 & 6 and LRM 10, 15 & 20s all provide heavy smoke cover, giving you a +2 cover bonus. So assume your Maxim or Bandit has moved 8 hexes, giving you a 3 move mod. The additional 2, gives you a very nice protection. Additionally, it can make infantry or BA pretty hard to hit, especially if they have any type of stealth armor (just BA).
The most effective way to run smoke screens is to just use a SRM 4 launcher with a ton of ammo. Its only 2 slots, and costs 3 tons. In fact, I almost recommend it for any vehicle you make, since a lot of times, they end up being pillboxes anyway. With two vechicles running side by side, you can provide heavy cover even while immobile (shoot one anothers’ hexes). The most flexible way is to use an LRM10, since it gives you very nice range to plan your smoke screen advances.
The ideal APCs for this tactic, are the Omni-Vehicles, the Bandit and the Badger. The value of the Omni, especially in a campaign setting, is that you can achieve specialization on a mission by mission basis due to the versatile nature of Omni. But here, you get the ability to add a SRM 4 and ammo, plus any other weaponry you desire. Alternatively, you can add more SRM 4 launchers and another ton of regular ammo to give you flexibility to attack as well as defend via smoke screens. Omni-Vehicles have the additional side benefit of providing mounts for battle armor to ride on the hull of the vehicle, increasing their carrying capacity, but also make them higher priority targets. Bandits are great for open field combat due to their high armor and high speed. Badgers are great for rough/forested battlefields, due to their ability traverse these terrains. Additionally, they can plant infantry in the forest as well, providing additional cover.
The major drawback to this tactics is that you have to plan a turn ahead. So you want to smoke the area you’re going to move into, since the smoke takes effect at the end of the turn. Therefore, one of the unfortunate things is that fast movers, like hover APCs, can outdistance the range of SRMs. Fortunately, the good thing about smoke screens is you don’t need high gunnery to hit a hex, even at long range.
I want to make a distinction about this tactic. It is not to be used to infantry rush an enemy formation. You do not want to deploy infantry right in front of a massive of targets, because weapons deal double damage against infantry not in cover. Meaning, your infantry will get wiped out. Infantry is primarily useful as terrain denial. Putting infantry in APCs is solely to get infantry into valuable terrain mid-map. Smoke screens are only advisable for when you need to deploy in LOS, but typically at medium ranges. This will either make tempting targets hard to hit, or force them to shoot elsewhere.
A secondary benefit, is that after your infantry or BA are dropped off, you can skirt the battlefield and pop smoke right in front of enemy sniper positions to force them to move or get out of otherwise great positions. That way you can keep using the ton of smoke ammo if you don’t have other targets or lack additional ammo. Works well on LRM 10s too.
Feel free to comment or discuss on my campaign forum located here: http://ourbattletech.com/forum/index.php?topic=781.msg10134#new