A German recon squad accompanied by an armored car appear on the scene, and we order the tank by clicking on the now active tank icon and right-clicking on the enemy car to open fire. The tank engine roars as the tank rotates to face the front towards the enemy, and lets loose a burst from its 20mm auto-cannon. It misses wildly...
...and rips a few gaps into the stone wall in the background (all terrain in TOW is partially or fully destructible), but the next burst is right on target. No surprise, firing from point-blank range (which, in future missions, will be a rare occurrence as you will find engagement ranges of up to 2 kilometers in the game).
The enemy armored car is disabled quickly, and its crew bails out, while the tank mows down the accompanying infantry with its coaxial machinegun, mounted in the turret front.
Even though it seems to be an uneven fight (and, well, it is... but hey, this is a training mission and just for show), tanks do have some disadvantages. The above screenshots illustrates two things - a feature called "relative spotting" which means that the player only sees what the actively selected soldiers are able to see, and secondly the bad visibility of a buttoned up tank crew. The enemy infantry is able to hide in the high grass by lying prone and crawling, and if this wasn't a tryining
tank would run the risk of being on the wrong end of an infantry close assault with grenades, anti-tank mines or an anti-tank rocket...
But in this training mission it takes a few minutes before the tank crew runs down and eliminates the remaining enemy infantry soldiers.
The sad remains of the armored car and one of its crew members indicates that another mission goal has been completed.
The fourth objective is to learn the use of artillery support. It couldn't be easier. In the right hand corner small icons indicate when support is available. TOW features off-map artillery and mortar support (the main difference is the number of gus/tubes and the caliber of its ammo). If and when (and how much) support is available depends on each mission. For assault missions in later campaigns the player will be able to call multiple strikes, while for other missions it might only be a few rounds.
Left-clicking on the icon activates the support (announced with a radio voice) and by right-clicking on the map, the player selects the target for the strike. Usually within afew seconds (the time is variable based on caliber and mission) the first rounds will begin falling. They are not always accurate however.
The exact same support procedure is used to call air support, which is the next and last objective for this first training mission. The icon looks different to indicate the availability of air support assets. These can be ground attack planes, fighters (used to engage and fight off enemy ground attack planes), or scout planes (which do not attack but provide information about the location of enemy units to the player)
...until all hell breaks loose!
While there are no survivors in this example, neither air strikes nor artillery are always accurate or lethal, and in a real combat mission with anti-aircraft fire, a confusing situation, camouflaged enemy units, or simply bad visibility, it will still be the tactical skill of the player that determines the outcome of a battle, and not the use or availability of air or artillery support.
Coming around to do another run...
... but there is nothing left to kill anymore.
This concludes the first training mission, Basic Training, mainly intended to show basic game mechanics and teach the player to select units and how to issue commands. With the next article, the Assault Tactics Primer, we will put more meat to the bone and dive into some basic tactical considerations, and how to apply them on the virtual battlefield of Theatre of War!