Welcome to the exploration into Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Yes, you and I are about to delve into passages of a new chapter each article of the 2500 year old military treatise on how to kick ass and take names with your brain thumbs. I won’t be covering the entire chapter, but I strongly encourage you to go out and read the book for yourself. There is much, much more to be learned from every line.


CHAPTER 9: THE ARMY ON THE MARCH


This chapter was a little harder for me to make connections as it discusses a lot of real-world battle conditions that aren’t easily replicated in video games. There are a few takeaways though.

 

All armies prefer high ground to low, and sunny places to dark.

There’s a reason it’s called King of the Hill and not Valley. High ground gives you vantage points over your opponents, and allows you many more opportunities for intelligence gathering than if you are below. Why are drones so popular and effective? They attack from virtual high ground. If this wasn’t effective, why don’t we have more earth-boring machines sneaking peeks at our enemies?

Now let’s take a trip to my favorite (not, it’s probably my most hated) map, Burning Shrine. What’s one polarizing tactic you can immediately point out? Blinding your enemies with the glare from the sun. Generally, humans are a diurnal species. We function best during the day. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that armies prefer sunny places.

However, let’s take a step back and think back to another concept we covered earlier in the series. To defeat our enemies, we must first know ourselves, and then know the predilections of our enemies. After obtaining this knowledge, we can develop a strategy to dismantle them. We know that high ground is strong and it’s much easier to be successful using light as opposed to dark. However, if we find ourselves in the opposite position, how can we use that to our advantage? Armies have used their surroundings to their advantage for millennia. Take guerilla warfare, for example. The Vietnamese used their knowledge of the jungle terrain to great effect, even utilizing complex tunnel systems for army and supply movement. Despite being outgunned, they were far from outmaneuvered.

This is why knowledge of the ins and outs of a map greatly affect your success. As you learn the difficult angles to approach, head glitches to exploit, and timing and location of ammo spawns, you naturally use these to your advantage. You might prefer line A to B, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know how to make B work for you.

 

When the enemy is close at hand and remains quiet, he is relying on the natural strength of his position. When he is aloof and tries to provoke a battle, he is anxious for the other side to advance.

If there’s anything that make me uncomfortable in the Crucible, it’s when I can’t find anyone on the opposing team. Every subsequent corner I poke my head around becomes more and more risky to pressure, as they are probably covered on several angles by snipers. When you place yourself in a superior position, you never need to move. All you need is patience for the enemy to come to you. And trust me, they will come. People are notoriously impatient.

On the opposite hand, when I see opponents dance in and out of my field of view, I am anxious to press them. I recognize that if someone shows themselves only to pop back into cover, it normally means I have a better line on them and they want me to break that line for reasons of greed or bloodlust. Just because you see someone on your screen or appear on your radar, doesn’t mean you need to press into their position or chase after them. You should be constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the battlefield and adapt accordingly. If you’re going to chase or push, at least know the reasoning behind why that’s the best decision.

 

When some are seen advancing and some retreating, it is a lure.

From a tactical and execution standpoint, I love baits. I love the planning, the execution, and the payoff. It feels great to coerce an opponent into an unwinnable situation. Look closely enough, though, and you can identify tells to clue you in on what’s going on. My personal favorite is the sniper decoy, in which a non-sniper jumps across a sniper line, pulling the sniper’s attention up and across. As this is occurring, your sniper uses the small window of opportunity to pick off the opposing sniper.

Always keep in mind, though, that baits are a gimmick tactic at best and often don’t work more than a handful of times in a match. While it is true that yes, some opponents really are that stupid or stubborn, any player worth their salt is going to figure out what’s going on and adapt. Don’t let false positives give you a false sense of security. Wins are wins, and we all want to put up that W, but you need to remain vigilant in evaluation and reflection on not only what works, but why it worked in the first place. There is a huge gap between things that work on novices (machine guns on heavy/double Fusion grenades) and veterans (G&H rockets/Touch of Flame Firebolts).


TLW:

He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.