SOAK Tactical Handbook

Nool Pyat

(Metaperson's Warning: The tactics and signals given below are not identical to official U.S. Army doctrine. Swords and battle axes obviously call for different tactics than semiautomatic rifles, and some hand signals were changed when I thought of more obvious substitutes.)


Small units spend more time moving than fighting. (We hope.) Moving carelessly may cause a unit to make contact unprepared, leading to unnecessary loss of life.

First, a couple of definitions: concealment is anything that helps keep you from being SEEN, and cover is anything that keeps you from being HIT. A bush would provide concealment, but _not_ cover because an arrow could still get through and hit you. A boulder would provide both concealment AND cover. A invisible magic force-field of some sort might provide cover by stopping arrows but not concealment because you would still be visible.

Individual Movement Techniques:

Non-tactical marching is used when no stealth is required. (This may be because no cover is available. If you're going to be obvious anyway, don't fight it.) People don't have to worry excessively about being quiet - walk normally, talk (quietly), etc. The unit formations described below will still be used and observation sectors are still required.

Tactical marching is used when stealth is needed and there is some concealment. Camouflage clothing, noise and light discipline are important. Weapons must have all shiny surfaces blackened/dulled. No torches. Absolutely no talking or unnecessary whispering. Use hand signals whenever possible. You should walk with knees bent and, if in a single file, slightly sideways to keep your body turned toward your observation sector. This makes you tread more softly and makes it easier to scan your sector properly.

The high crawl is a lowered version of "baby" crawling. It is used when the cover or concealment is too low to stand behind and such protection is absolutely necessary (i.e. you know the enemy is nearby and so stealth is more important than speed). Your head can be up while your torso is propped up slightly (a couple of inches at most) on knees and elbows, not hands. Your weapon would be carried craddled in the crook of your arms. When done properly, your body will bend from side to side like a lizard's and your butt will flop from side to side very amusingly.

The low crawl is as low (and slow) as it gets. It is used when the cover and concealment is very short. You literally lay on the ground with your face in the dirt. To move, you slide your arms forward on the ground and then pull yourself ahead through the dirt, pushing with one leg. Your weapon is dragged along the ground next to you.

The short rush is used when under direct enemy fire. You rush singly, in pairs or by teams in 3-to-5-second bursts directly to the next source of cover, but do NOT hit the ground just because your 5 seconds are up (you'll make yourself a sitting, or lying down, duck). You must know where your next hiding spot is before you jump up and expose yourself.

Visual Hand Signals:

Hand signals must be passed down the line of march, so that everyone gets the message.

"Come forward/Come to me." Point at the person, then beckon them to you.
"I'm ready/OK or Are you ready/OK?" Give the "thumb's up" sign affirmatively or questioningly as appropriate.
"No/Stop." Wave hand from side to side, palm forward, in front of body.
"Cut that out, now!" Make cutting motion across throat.
"I don't understand." Shrug in an exaggerated fashion.

"Advance/Move out." Face the desired direction of movement. Hold arm extended to the rear then swing it overhead and forward in the direction of desired movement.
"Single File." Swing arm in a large circle up and back over head, keeping arm straight, then down to hit back of thigh (silently, of course.)
"Wedge Formation." Extend arms downward and to the sides at a 45 degree angle. The hands may be waved backward or forward for emphasis.
"Line Formation." Raise arms straight out to side horizontally. The hands may be waved forward for emphasis.
"Speed Up." Thrust fist up and down in the air over head rapidly several times.
"Slow Down." Hold arm out to side extended horizontally and wave downward slightly several times keeping the arm straight.
"Pay Attention/Look." Poke the index and middle fingers toward your eyes (don't actually poke yourself), one finger for each eye. You can then point if there's something in particular you want someone to look at.
"Assemble/Rally." Wave arm in circles over head. This means that the unit should circle around the mission leader forming a secure perimeter or go to a place pointed out after the signal is made. May also be used to define a rally point during a march. In this case, the rally signal is made and then an object at the rally point is touched to indicate where the unit will reassemble if they get into trouble later on up the trail.
"Halt/Stop." Given while on tactical march. Raise hand overhead and hold until signal is understood. When a march is halted this way, it may mean that someone has seen something suspicious and so everyone needs to "take a knee" immediately. If the march remains halted for more than a few seconds, everyone needs to quietly find concealment/cover. The person who called the halt should keep their hand up so the mission commander or team leader can go to them and find out what's going on while everyone else stays down and guards the perimeter.

"Air Attack." Rapidly cross and uncross arms above the head. Everyone should seek cover/concealment and, if the group is in single file, disperse to the sides of the path in an orderly manner.
"Enemy in Sight." Hold a weapon overhead pointed at the enemy. This can be used as a more specific version of the "halt/stop" signal above or may be used when already halted.

Unit Movement:

Unit movement formations are not fixed. The distances between elements have to be adjusted according to the mission, enemy, terrain, visibility, etc. The basic formation is a "wedge formation," lead by a team leader (a mission lieutenant commander). When s/he goes left, the team goes left; when s/he gets down, they get down; when s/he attacks, they attack. The team leader (and everyone else for that matter) has to communicate visually when in a tactical environment. For that reason, everyone in the team must be able to see the team leader. The normal interval between the personnel in a team is 5 to 10 meters. This helps avoid leaving an obvious trail, being seen by the enemy, and getting everyone killed by one fireball. There are generally around 5 people in a team. If there are more than 5 people in a team, a diamond-shaped formation can used, but if there are more than 7 people, the group should be broken up into two separate teams.

Terrain or poor visibility may cause a temporary change in the wedge. A narrow ravine or thick fog may close the sides of the wedge almost into a single file. But as soon as the situation improves, the wedge returns to normal without command.

In many situations, a fully collapsed wedge may be the desired formation - this is called a "ranger file."

In rare situations, such as before making an attack, the wedge may need to widen out completely to form a "line formation." A 5 meter interval should be maintained.

                WEDGE FORMATION                         RANGER FILE

                Team Ldr                                Team Ldr
                        X1                              X2
        X2                                              X4
                                X3                      X5
X4                                                      X6

                        LINE FORMATION
X6      X4      X2      Team Leader     X1      X3      X5

Each individual has an "observation sector" on their side of the wedge that they must watch at all times. These sectors are arcs arranged to provide over-lapping observation of the entire area in front of and beside the team. Each sector needs to be scanned forward and backward every few seconds not only for threats, but also because you need to glance at the people next to you to see any hand signals being passed down the line and to make sure no one has gotten "lost." However, the focus is NOT on your fellow travelers but on the surroundings. You can develop your own regimen for observation as long as the entire sector assigned to you is scanned regularly, including the sky and tree tops.

In a wedge formation, the observation sectors are arranged as shown below. X3 and X4 need to glance behind the formation regularly.

In a ranger file, observation sectors are staggered. If person n is looking right, person n+1 is looking left, person n+2 is looking right, etc. The last person in the file needs to watch the rear.

In a line formation, everyone is looking forward, but taking regular glances to the rear. (Thus, this formation does not allow for setting up a good all-around defensible perimeter and should be avoided most of the time.)

                \|               |/
                 |\             /|                      Team Leader
        |       |    Team Ldr    |      |       .               X1->
        |      .|               X1______|______         <-X2
      _ |______ X2                      |      .                X3->
        |                               X3________      <-X4
When we have more than one team on a mission, the teams will follow each other with the mission commander wherever s/he can see both team leaders clearly and where s/he can best control the unit (generally in the middle). The movement technique used for coordinating the movement of these two-team squads is chosen based on the likelihood of enemy contact and the need for speed .

1) "Traveling" is used when enemy contact is not likely and speed is necessary. One team follows the other with about a 10 meter interval.

        Team 1 Wedge
        Mission Commander
        Wizards, Archers and Healers
        Team 2 Wedge
2) "Traveling Overwatch" is used when enemy contact is possible. The trail team follows the lead team by about 15 meters so if the lead team is engaged, the trail team isn't hit at the same time, but is still close enough to provide support (thus "overwatching" the lead team).

The lead team should have the good sneaks to make it more likely that they can detect the enemy and stop before the enemy has detected them and allow time to plan the attack or the retreat.

The mission commander will usually stay back with the trail team so that s/he is not pinned down with the lead team in an ambush and can maneuver the trail team around and react to the situation. S/he may temporarily move up with the lead team if visibility is poor.

Magic users and archers also stay with the trail team so that they aren't stuck in hand-to-hand combat and can be placed to maximum advantage based on a preliminary evaluation of the situation.

The next two techniques, "Bounding Overwatch" and "Fire and Manuever," won't work without sufficent fizzbanger and archer support.

3) "Bounding Overwatch" is used when contact is expected and the enemy is thought to be near (based on movement, noise, light flashes, fresh tracks, tingling at the back of the neck, gut feeling, etc.). One team moves forward (bounding) while the other team overwatches the first team's route from a commanding position - making use of terrain. A bound is usually no more than 35 meters forward of the overwatching team so that the overwatching team can shoot at targets beyond the bounding team if necessary. The mission commander must give explicit instructions so that the bounding team knows exactly where to go, where the overwatching team is, and what to do at the destination and so the overwatching team knows what the bounding team is going to do. The mission commander and "firepower" stay with the overwatching team. Once the bound is complete and the bounding team is in place, it covers the movement of the overwatch team as it catches up and the teams switch roles. The overwatch team becomes the bounding team and vice versa.

4) "Fire and Manuever." The "bounding overwatch technique" is changed a bit. Fire = overwatch, maneuver = bound. The fire element fires at the enemy to pin it down while the maneuver element moves to a position that's better for attacking, observing or getting away as the case may be. This is continued until enemy resistance ends.

In conclusion, the general fundamentals of movement are:

* Move on covered and concealed routes - travel in gullies, in the tree-line, below the crest of a hill or ridge, etc.
* Do not move directly forward from a covered position - go around one side or the other. Anyone watching to shoot at you when poke your head out above that boulder will be less likely to be looking there.
* Avoid likely ambush sites and other danger areas - give dark caves, buildings and deep, murky swamps a wide berth (unless exploring them is a vital part of the mission.)

1) Assembly area/Campsite. An easily defensible area with as much all-around defense as possible to put in place in the time allowed. Should have concealment, room to spread out a bit (can we say flame strike?), good forward departure routes and security from ground and air attack. This is where orders are issued, plans are made, maintenance is done, the unit resupplies and rehearses and rests.

2) Attack position. A covered and concealed place just behind the line of departure for attack where final preparations are made if they couldn't be completed earlier or where the unit waits if they're ahead of schedule for the attack.

3) Rally point. A place where members of a unit can reassemble and reorganize if dispersed during movement. The default rally point for SOAK is usually the pick-up point, but others may (and should) be set.

By Nool Pyat.