Terrain denial is a simple tactic that can be implemented into any type of BattleTech game. Terrain denial can be summarized as effective deployment, equipment use, and unit use to maximize the benefits of battlefield terrain while minimizing the benefits given to your opponent. All things equal, this should give you a decisive advantage during the course of the game, as your forces should be benefiting for extra protection in the form of cover while your opponent does not, making your forces harder to hit. This increases the durability of your forces, allowing them to contribute to the battle longer.
As mentioned above, there are three facets of the terrain denial tactic: deployment, equipment usage, and troop usage. Each piece is important if you want to maximize the benefits while minimizing the benefits to your opponent. It is important to note that the terrain denial tactic can be used in conjunction with any overarching strategy or tactic, as it is more a mind-frame, and way to play the game to take advantage of the terrain on a given battlefield.
Deployment is the foundation of this tactic, as your starting location is of the utmost importance when it comes to using terrain to your advantage. First, you want to evaluate your force composition and compare it to that of your opponents because this will dictate your deployment. I will highlight some of the typical situations you will encounter.
If your forces are focused on long range while your opponent is that of short range, you will want to find a deployment area that provides your cover, but does not give your opponent any intervening terrain. You want to minimize any terrain that covers their approach to you, specifically LOS blocking terrain. Ideally, you want to be positioned in cover with a wide open flat land for your opponent to approach. This maximizes your defense, accuracy, and allows you to pick targets and continually fire.
In the opposite situation, the one were you are the short ranged and need to get into your opponent’s fire-support you do the opposite. Your goal will be to find avenues to approach your enemies that block LOS, minimizing his range advantage. If that fails, advancing through cover or at extreme distances along a flank, which will stretch their forces out and compel them to readjust, taking themselves out of defensible terrain in-order to contribute to the battle.
In the situation that you find yourself matched in a skirmish were both sides will come to the center and fight there, dancing around the middle of the battlefield, you will need deploy on the side of the map were a majority of the terrain is located more towards your deployment zone. This allows you a better chance to make into the valuable cover before your enemy does.
There are various types of weapons, ammos, and other systems that can contribute to maximizing your terrain advantage and removing it from your enemy. These tools, while do not deal damage directly, are often worth much more, as your forces that are firing obtain better to-hit modifiers than your opponent.
LRM launchers are nearly the end-all, be-all of terrain enhancing or hindering equipment. Between Smoke LRMs and the various types of Thunder LRMs, you can improve or deny terrain at will. Larger LRM racks can create smoke clouds that block LOS, giving your portable terrain. Thunders shot into heavy woods formations or into partial cover block that advantage from your opponent.
However, LRMs aren’t the only good type of equipment. Lasers, flamers, and SRM infernos are great for starting fires on enemy wood hexes, minimzing the overall benefit of remaining in such cover. Skillful use of equipment can thus improve your terrain advantage, while minimizing your opponents.
Troop usage is a critical component of the terrain denial strategy. While it ultimately hinges on your initial deployment, proper and effective use of terrain throughout the game is of high importance. As mentioned above, depending on you style, you defend were you have the terrain advantage and attack undercover of terrain to protect yourself as you close the gap.
There is a secondary part to this portion of the tactic. Units like battle armor and infantry make excellent units to limit enemy terrain options. Similar to mines, battle armor and infantry are nasty close in fighters with swarm and leg attack abilities the make opposing ‘Mech pilots hesitate to get in close. By intelligently placing your infantry or battle armor in potential enemy cover locations, you can deny them those pieces of terrain. If they opt to take that terrain, your cheap units will often do more than their value in damage and delay those enemy units dedicated to clearing out that location from contributing to the main battle.
Statistics of Terrain Denial
This section will use some basic statistics to highlight the mathematical benefit of the use of terrain denial. For the purposes of this example, we will assume that both sides are using a 5/8/5 ‘Mech with the potential to deal 30 damage at range. Assuming gunnery 4, both ‘Mechs will have run and generate +3 to-hit modifiers meaning 9+ or better to hit (a 27.77% chance to hit) with an expect damage value of 8.331.
Now assume that side A has implemented terrain denial, and has now landed himself in light cover on top of his +3 to hit mod. This means unit B needs a 10+ to hit, while unit A needs a 9+ to hit. Unit A’s expected damage value remains at 8.331 while unit B’s drops 4.998, a decrease of 3.333 expected damage.
The benefit increases even more drastically as the fight continues on. Once the battle is joined, it is often hard to continue to run and achieve your maximum movement modifier and still retain short range shots. As such, we will assume both units A and B will run for only +2 modifiers, resulting in 8+ for successful hits (41.66% chance to hit), which drives expected damage to 12.498. However, unit A should be able to run, generate a +2 mod and achieve a cover bonus, forcing unit B to hit on 9+ which has an expected value of 8.331, which nets unit A positive 4.167 damage.
These numbers are only for simplistic situations, but the benefits of partial cover or heavy woods cannot be overstated, as they swing the expect damage much more drastically. Each modifier as it affects the to-hit number away from 7 has a greater impact based on the statistics of rolling 2d6. The net benefit of adding another +1 penalty to your opponent while suffer no drawback yourself has a tremendous impact over the course of the game.
The terrain denial tactic is a mindset used in conjunction with your standard strategy that makes you more aware of the location and benefits of terrain and allows you to maximize their benefits and minimize their benefits to your opponent. By focusing on proper deployment, equipment usage, and troop usage, you can provide your forces with additional defensive bonuses which ultimately increase the longevity of your forces and allow them to contribute to the battle longer.