Breakouts and Maneuver Warfare

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Maneuver Warfare is Advanced stuff. If you haven't understood the chapter "Flags and Positioning", your going to be lost reading this. Get the basics down first, then come back.

The Truth on Breakouts

Most HC and Players think that they lose in a breakout when their divisions are cut-off.

This simply isn't true.

The truth is this. Their side had ALREADY LOST the battle BEFORE the first AO was placed. Those HC and Players who have been bravely fighting the last hours are just not aware of it.

To defend against a breakout you need to know how to do a breakout. Breakouts are won BEFORE the first battle ends. If you cannot see your vulnerability you have already lost and just don't know it yet. Learn how to do a breakout. Learn how to spot vulnerability. Then you have a chance of stopping one from happening.

What is Maneuver Warfare?

Maneuver Warfare is about using superior flag position to force the enemy to make a choice:

Lose the campaign due to being cut-off, losing a key AF, or loss of a factory.


Pull back from the frontline (giving up many towns for free) in a desperate gamble to save themselves.

Maneuver Warfare is NOT about attacking towns. In fact, if you have to attack more than 2-3 towns, you're probably going to not be successful. Maneuver Warfare is about racing to your opponent’s key towns. The first side to the key town(s) is the winner, the battles are largely meaningless.

NOTE: If you can not make your enemy make the choice, then your not doing maneuver warfare. What your actually doing is stretching out your flags into a formation that you cannot possible hold so that the enemy can cut you off and destroy you later.

How to Conduct Maneuver Warfare (Breakouts)

Maneuver Warfare happens in seven stages.

  • Stage 1 - Find the Enemy Vulnerability
  • Stage 2 - Shift Your Flags, but Don't Make it Obvious
  • Stage 3 - Timing Your Breakout
  • Stage 4 - Initial Attack, and First Defense Response
  • Stage 5 - Pushing Through the Gap - The Race Begins
  • Stage 6 - Winning the Race
  • Stage 7 - Cleanup

Stage 1 - Find the Enemy Vulnerability

Breakouts don't happen because the Attacking Map OIC is uber good, breakouts happen because the Defending Map OIC made some simple mistakes. As the Attacker, your first stage in a breakout is find IF the enemy has a vulnerability.

Most Breakout vulnerabilities come in two forms. I'm sure that there are many different ways flags can be setup, but we are going to focus on the two most common mistakes.

Lets assume we have two sides, Blue and Red.

Red has 1 division in the region, with 2 flags located in Town 11 and 2 flags located in Town 10.

Blue has 2 divisions in the region. One division is located in Towns 5,6, and 7. A second division is located in Towns 8 and 9.

ASSUME - That all Black Arrows are town links to potential breakout routes.

(Those who are observant might notice that this town layout looks familiar. Its the town links of CINEY without Spontin. Town 11 is CINEY, Town 10 is NAMUR)

From the graphic above, who has the an opportunity for a breakout. Assume that BOTH Red and Blue can shift more divisions to support their attack IF and ONLY IF that is the side doing the breakout. So Red will have a few extra division transferred into the region before its breakout and Blue will have the same.

Got your answer?

Now answer the important question - Why is that your answer? If you cannot answer why, then you still don't understand it, even if you got the answer right.

Mistake 1 - Defender fails to put enough flags in a Region

If you guessed RED, congratulations, you're right.

Red currently has their entire frontline covered. Town 11 has 2 Flags. The other 2 flags of Red's division are located in Town 10.

Red's vulnerability comes with losing Town 11. If they lose Town 11, Red's two flags retreat West, BUT now there are 3 links to guard instead of 1 link. Red only has two flags, so one of those town links must be unguarded.

In the above example, Reds two flags fallback from Town 11 to town 1 and 2. This leaves Town 3 open. Blue uses its player numbers to capture Town 3 and is then free to do a breakout.

To avoid this mistake - Not only do you need the frontline covered, but you also need to have a plan if you lose an important town. Ask yourself, "If I lose this town, do I have enough flags to cover my new front line in this region?"

Mistake 2 - Defender fails to have proper fallbacks

If you guessed BLUE, congratulations, you're right.

Red actually has TWO breakout points. Both Towns 7 and 8 can be breakout point towns.

Blue has plenty of supply in the area. With 2 full divisions sitting around, you would initially think that Blue is safe from a breakout. Unfortunately, Blue's fallback positions for its flags are towards the wrong direction.

Instead of Blue's Divisions falling back towards the breakout routes, they fall back North and South along the front line. This breaks the front line in to two pieces. Red can now send its two flags plus the divisions it has moved in from other regions to do a breakout.

To avoid this mistake - Make sure that if you lose a town, the flags at that town retreat in the direction of a possible breakout. As long as you have flags in front of the enemy, the enemy cannot do a breakout.

Stage 1 - The Breakouts Stages Example

The graphic below is a made up town layout. This is the town layout that we will use as an example in the rest of our stages.

For simplicity, we'll assume that every move from any town to another takes the same amount of time.

This Flag setup can be seen countless times in every campaign. In this setup, each side has 2 divisions covering this section of the front line. Notice the large "loops" in the town layout. Those loops are going to be important later on.

You may not recognize it, but Blue is about to be in danger of losing the campaign. From this simple and common setup, a great disaster is about to fall upon the Blue side. The vulnerable point in the Blue front line is marked with a Red Arrow.

As stated earlier, Breakouts are a RACE, NOT a fight. The final goal in Red's breakout is Blue's Factories. The race is not to the factories however. Far from it. The race is to the key town. These are the facts that you must learn in breakouts.

  • Breakouts are a RACE
  • The Race is not to the factory, AF, or Cut-off point. Consider those town objectives the victory lap. The race is to the Key Town that blocks access to that final objective. If you win the Race to the Key Town, the enemy cannot stop you from taking the factory, AF, or Cut-off point.

Stage 2 - Shift Your Flags, but Don't Make it Obvious

After you have identified the enemy’s vulnerable point you need to shift flags into a position for a breakout. If the enemy Map OIC isn't very good, it won't matter how you move your flags. If the enemy Map OIC has a bit of skill, you don't want to tip them off that your planning something. Start shifting your flags towards the breakout point, but don't shift entire divisions at once. You can use the follow the leader approach. Imagine if your flags are in one giant snake that lies slithers across the front line. As the head of the snake moves forward one town, the body of the snake must also shift one town.

I personally like to setup my flags into positions that can give me the option for a breakout, but doesn’t look like I'm committing to it. If you look at Red's Division X, you can see BDE X3 in an odd position. Its not obvious on what it plans to do. X3 can quickly get back to support BDEs X1 and X2, but can also be the head of the snake and shift to the breakout point quickly.

Remember that it takes the enemy Map OIC placing their flags in a bad position in order for you to do a breakout. If you shift a lot of divisions into an area quickly, that enemy Map OIC might take a second look at his flag setup and do some changes that will ruin your breakout attempt.

Stage 3 - Timing Your Breakout

Timing your breakout is one of the most important things. Breakouts are a race, but you have to win the first battle to start. Breakouts also leave you vulnerable to counter attack. You're going to have several points along your breakout route that, if captured, would cut your own BDEs off. It is because of the need to have a successful and quick first battle and the abilty to hold out against the counter attack that you must have an extended Overpop before you try.

Overpop gives you the advantage of player numbers. You'll need those numbers to increase the likelihood of success of the first battle. If you don't win the first battle to break the enemies line, then you can't breakout. There is always a counter attack when a breakout occurs. The entire enemies player base will be attacking the one town that keeps your breakout from being cut-off. If you are underpop, the likelihood of you holding on is small. If you're overpop, you can advance through the gap in confidence, because you know there is a good chance your players will hold.

Knowing when you have an extended overpop time can be tricky. Player numbers are effected by Morale. You might have a perfect breakout opportunity, but if the player numbers don't show up, you won't be able to go on the offense. The best times for breakouts are on the weekends, when both sides have a long history of predictable overpop times. Planning breakouts around "Operations" is also a good way to ensure a high organization level and player numbers for your breakout.

Stage 4 - Initial Attack, and First Defense Response

The first P1 AO for a breakout has to be a winner. There is no second chance. There are other sections in the Toad at War Manual that detail how to get maximum pwnership over the enemy.

Breakouts is a Race. The race starts once the AO is placed. As the Attacker, your goal is to take the town as quickly as possible. The longer you take to capture the town, the longer the enemy Map OIC has to think about his situation and shift flags to counter your breakout attempt.

The Default Counter AO

There are only a few things that you can count on the enemy Map OIC to do. One of those things is to place the Counter AO on your breakout point.

Counter AOs simply don't work. The Attacker just beat the Defender by having a combination of more players, better position, and stronger supply. This doesn’t include the fact that the town is already ringed with the Attackers ATGs and Tanks from the first battle. Now the defender wants to send his players into a fortified hornets nest and try to win? Counter AOs almost always fail for good reason.

The Free Division

Almost every successful breakout has a free division following the lead division. This free division is usually full of supply and takes position to defend the Counter AO. This does a couple of things.

First, it gives the most vulnerable point of the breakout full supply. Because Red has are already attrited some of Blue's BDEs from the first battle, Blue's initial Counter AO won't have strong supply. Red's "free division" that shifts into the breakout point town will have Full supply. This increases the chance that Blue's Counter AO will fail.

Second, the advantage of having a free division following the lead division is that the free division can cover the breakout point town. When the following "free" division takes up position, the lead division no longer has any obligation to defend anything, transferring the "free" status to the lead division. With a free lead division, you can send that division anywhere you want, perhaps at the enemies undefended factory town?

Division X will soon become the "Free Division." A division North (not shown) is shifting South to cover Division X's towns.

Division Y is the "Lead Division." Division Y will be used to head first to the "Key Town" and then to the enemy factories.

As Division Y shifts East to the Factory, Division X will take up a defensive guard position behind Division Y. This will prevent Division Y from being cut-off.

"Uh Oh, We might be in trouble..." or "We got them where we want them..."

If you're the defending Map OIC on a breakout and you hear either of those statements, its time to panic. Some variation of those two statements seemed to be always said before you lose everything.

At this point in our scenario any player or HC can look at the map and see that Blue is in trouble. The BDEs defending the breakout point town have retreated North and South. There is now a gap in Blue's front line that gives Red direct access to Blue's factories.

There is a series of events that occur on Blue's HC chat at this point:

  • Half of Blue's players and HC want to launch an immediate counter AO on the break point town (and its always granted)
  • Half of Blue's players and HC want to begin an immediate withdrawal, but they don't yell as loud as the ones who want to launch the counter AO. While they don't think the counter AO will work, they recognize that there is a "slim" chance that it will. If it does work, Blue won't have to give up the many towns that an immediate withdrawal would entail.
  • Blue's HC become paralyzed with fear. They don't know what to do. Most HC will agree that fundamentally its best to begin a massive pullback, but its very difficult to pull the trigger on that plan. No one wants to make a decision that entails giving up many towns to the enemy for free. Because of indecision, "The Plan" defaults to the current doomed counter AO. (at this point, every HC and player comes up with their own "plan," must won't work)
  • Starting now and for the next few hours, HC and players will begin to criticize others and themselves for not doing enough. They will ask many questions:
    • What could I have done different to stop this?
    • Can we organize our squads better?
    • Should we have pulled out sooner?
    • Could we have setup the counter AO better?
    • Blah Blah Blah... Lots of questions get asked and blame assigned...

While Blue and most of the players and HC have just realized that there is a potential breakout happening, they are wrong. The Breakout has ALREADY occurred, there is NOTHING that Blue can do to stop it from occurring. The choices for Blue are now lose big or lose everything.

Stage 5 - Pushing Through the Gap - Now that everyone knows about the race, The Race Truly Begins

Will the Axis and Allies please move to your starting positions. On your Mark, Set, Wait a minute!! This race isn't fair!!

Welcome to Maneuver Warfare, when setup correctly, the races are always one sided. (and definitely not fair)

Key Town

A Key Town is a town that lies along the movement path from the Breakout Point town to the final destination town (in this case its a factory). Key Towns are towns that the enemy, if they shift flags quickly enough, "might" be able to occupy and block your access to the final destination. The Attacker does not want to fight battles. Battles can be lost, they take supply, and most importantly, they waste precious overpop time.

In our scenario, there are two key towns. They are labeled town 1 and town 2.

For simplicity, in our scenario, all moves from any town to another take the same amount of time.

Because Red's Division X has take position to guard the breakout point, Division Y is now a free division and able to travel East towards the factories. The Race has begun.

The Race to Key Town 1

The first Key Town where Blue can block is Town 1.

  • Division Y can begin softcapping Town 1 in one move
  • Division Y can move into Town 1 in two moves
  • Division A can begin softcapping/nomanlands defense in two moves
  • Division A can move into Town 1 in three moves

Town 1 is the best hope for the Blue side to stop the breakout. As the timers indicate, as Red is about to move into Town 1, Blue will be able move the HQ into the town just north of Town 1. A no mans land battle could occur. Unfotunetly for Blue, because the lead flag for Division A is a HQ, they won't be able to use the FB or the spawnable depots. This places Blue at a huge disadvantage.

Red will beat Blue to Town 1.

The Race to Key Town 2

The second Key Town where Blue can block is Town 2.

  • Division Y can begin softcapping Town 2 in two moves
  • Division Y can move into Town 2 in three moves
  • Division B can begin softcapping/nomanlands defense in five moves
  • Division B can move into Town 2 in six moves

Red easily beats Blue to Key Town 2.

Race to the final Goal - Factories

Blue could not shift flags fast enough to get their flags into blocking positions at the Key Towns. Now they must fight a desperate battle for their factories.

  • Division Y can shift into the factories in five moves
  • Division A can shift into the factories in six moves
  • Division B can shift into the factories in eight moves

While Division A has a chance to challenge Red at the factories, Blue is still leading Division A with an HQ. It actually doesn’t matter at this point if Red gets to the factories or not.

Blue is forced to make the most hated decision. Fallback and lose many towns or be destroyed.

Stage 6 - Winning the Race

Fallback or be Destroyed

Once Red has reached Key Town 2, there is no way for Blue to block Red's advance to the factory. Blue is put into a difficult position. Now Blue has always had three options. It could go for the counter attack. It could go for the block. It could go for full fallback to the factories.

  • IF Blue goes for the counter AO

All of Blues BDEs are still at the old front lines. If the counter AO has not worked in the last few hours it probably won't work. Blue's player numbers will be falling soon and the loss of the factory means supply will become critical. Because Blue's BDEs are on the front, there is no option on defending the factories.

  • IF Blue tries to Block at the Key Towns

Blue will give up a few frontline towns in order to shift BDEs back in order to block Red's advance. Because of Blue's flag positions and movement timers, it is unlikely that Blue can block Red. If the block fails, Blue will likely try to counter AO the Key Towns to create a new cut off point. This new counter AO has all the problems of the Break Point Town Counter AO. Red still gets to the factories.

  • IF Blue tries to fallback to the factory

Blue gives up many towns along the front. Players will be angry, but the campaign "might" not be lost. If Blue can delay for a short while Red's moves towards the factories, Blue should be able to at least have a no mans land defense at the factory town.

Stage 7 - Cleanup

The last stage is Cleanup. Blue's players have logged, their divisions are cut-off are routed, their front line is shattered. Red has won a huge victory already. Now Red has to do cleanup. At this point, Red's Map OIC who lead the breakout has probably logged. Red's new Map OIC may not know how to maximize and solidify the gains made.

This is some helpful advice on how to do that.

Trapped and Cut-off Enemy Divisions

Trapped divisions are dangerous at first. They occupy towns behind your lines. If they were to ever relink with supply, they could easily cut you off. Trapped divisions have ONE last good fight in them. If you can survive that last desperate attack by the trapped divisions, you almost guarantee yourself victory.

The secret to guaranteeing yourself victory is to ATTACK the trapped divisions early. As soon as the enemy divisions are cut-off, place AOs on them. It doesn’t matter if you take the town or not. You want to accomplish three things:

  • AOing the trapped divisions means your players will be actively using the FB to attack the enemy town. This makes it very difficult for the trapped divisions to attack your town and possibly escaping.
  • To take a town you need to have TANKS. If you can kill the trapped divisions tanks, they won't be able to get out of the noose you have set for them.
  • You currently have Overpop, use it to your full advantage. The longer the trapped divisions are left untouched, the higher likelihood that the defender will have a time of Overpop. If the trapped divisions still have supply when that Overpop occurs, your side is in serious danger of having all the gains reversed.

Therefore, the strategy is to ATTACK the trapped BDEs that have TANKS still in the spawn list. You want to do this while you still have Overpop. You don't want the enemy to have supply and Overpop. You cannot stop the enemy from having Overpop time, but you can kill the supply BEFORE they get it.

Be careful not to get fixated on a specific town. The towns are meaningless; it is the trapped BDEs supply that matters. Often, the defender will pull the stronger BDEs deeper into the pocket, protecting that supply. They are protecting that supply for a future overpop time. You might have a fantastic K/D ratio camping the AB, but all those EI Rifles you're killing are of no threat to you. That full Armored BDE one town over is a major threat behind your lines. Destroy the threats when you still have full control of the situation.

In short:

  • Place AOs on the trapped BDEs that still have Tanks.
  • Keep track of which enemy BDEs still have supply.
  • If the supplied enemy BDEs move, shift the AO to them.
  • If you see the enemy shifting full BDEs towards one of your towns, get AOs up on them immediately. Those are the BDEs that will be used for the enemies last breakout attempt.

Reestablishing a Solid Front Line

If the enemy has a few trapped or routed divisions you need to think about where the next front line is going to be.

By the time the cut-off enemy divisions are routed, the enemies player numbers will begin to return. Because it is difficult to predict where those routed divisions will be replaced on the map, you have to be careful on your own flag setup.

Here is some advice:

  • Routed enemy Divisions cannot be replaced into a town that is cut-off. Cutting off large sections of the map and establishing your new front line there is an effective strategy. You can always softcap all the towns behind your new front line later.
  • If you know the timers on when the enemy Divisions are returned to the map, try this. Look at the map and see what are the hard to take or critical towns along the front. Which of those towns can you softcap your way to and take BEFORE the enemy places those routed divisions. This is the time to drive your Flags to that hard to capture 2 AB town along the river. You'll have to take that town eventually, best to softcap it now that have to fight over it tomorrow.
  • Keep focused! Its easy to have 2-3 division wondering aimlessly through the rear of the enemies lines. The enemies Divisions are in training, so you have no one to fight. Often, the Map OIC looses focus, and just starts placing AOs here and there randomly. As Map OIC, you have to stay focused. You need to know what are the next important towns to take. If factories are near, head to them full force. If a key AF is nearby, capture it and then take the buffer towns so it is operational. Hard to take towns along a river are just ahead, drive a division there and capture them now.
  • Imagine where the new front line will be and ask yourself these questions. What towns are MUST HAVE towns to own? Which towns are the ones that your side always had difficulty taking? Focus on what is important.
  • Do Not spend your time softcapping large sections of territory. Softcap the enemy territory so that large sections are cut-off, then come back later with Paras. Establish your future front line FIRST.

The enemies divisions may not be a problem now, but they will be back. MAXIMIZE your gains by staying focused. Keep the pressure up. You either set the next front line or the enemy will do it for you.

You make the choice.

How to Prevent Breakouts

Hopefully you have learned how to spot breakout vulnerability.

The biggest thing about stopping a breakout. REACTING to the breakout when it is happening.

The defender often needs to REACT BEFORE the first AO is placed. There is usually a small window of opportunity for the defender to shift flags to BLOCK a breakout. If the Defending Map OIC takes too much time or cannot make a decision, then that window of opportunity passes. Once that window passes, it doesn’t really matter what anybody does after that point.

Early Warning Signs

These are the Red Flags of a future breakout attempt.

If you don't start reacting to these warning signs when you see them, then it may already be too late once the enemy places the first AO.

  • BIG RED FLAG - A Free division behind the lines. Free divisions are for breakouts, otherwise that free division would be on the front defending something.
  • Shifting of enemy divisions a few hours before overpop.
  • Flags of a division are oddly placed, leaning towards one side of the front line.
  • *Example - The enemy has 3 divisions, North, Center, and South. The North Division has its flags that are off the front line shifted towards the Center. The South Division has its flags not on the front shifted towards the Center. North and South divisions' flags are in a position to follow behind the Center's division's breakout.
  • High enemy Divisional Parity in a region. If they out number your flags 2:1, you're at risk.

REACTING is the ONLY way to prevent breakouts. If you let the enemy shift its flags for hours. Wait for overpop. Then setup an AO on your town. You're making it too easy for them to destroy you.

Blues Options

Here is how Blue could have stopped Red's Breakout.

Option #1

In this option, Blue pull backs Division A early. A nearby division stretches to help cover Division A's front line. With Blue's Division A pulled back early, the "breakout race" starting positions have now changed. Blue can get to Key Town #1 at the same time or BEFORE Red can. Blue can block Red, buying Blue even more time.

Red's breakout plan turns into a 1 town victory. Most HC and players never realize how close they came to a breakout.

Option #2

Blue's Division B moves the HQ into the first battles AO. This allows BDE B1 to shift East one town. Notice that if the breakpoint town is captured early, Division B's HQ will fallback South. BDE B1 will then be routable, but it will be the ONLY flag in-between Red and Blue's Factories.

Routable BDEs are ALMOST never a good idea, but almost anything is better than having Red Breakout on Blue.

BDE B1 is routable, but is positioned at a blocking point. Red no longer can simply softcap its way to the factories. As long as BDE B1 has anti tank supply, it should be able to hold out against Red for a long time. The counter AO will drain Red's player and supply resources. Blue's BDEs South and North of the Break point town can help support BDE B1's FB. Even if BDE B1's FB is blown, Blue should have many defenders already in position, waiting for Red's attack.

While this flag setup is definitely not a long term option, it does slow down Red's Breakout. It gives Blue the time it needs to get a better plan going. If that time is invested wisely, Blue should hold.

The ONLY sure way to stop a breakout

Ultimately, Blue should never had to react in the first place. Blue might think that having two BDEs at the breakout point makes it secure, but that obviously wasn’t the case.

The ONLY sure way to stop a breakout is understanding what direction you want your divisions to fallback and having a plan for when they do.

As a Map OIC, you're going to lose towns. Having a plan for when you lose them will prevent breakouts. You need to know what towns are the important ones (AFs, Factories, Big Chokepoint Towns). You also need to be sure that if you lose a town, there is a set of flags that will naturally fallback towards those important towns.

This is a modified starting setup for our breakout scenario. The only difference is Blue now has Division A's HQ to the town East of the Breakout Point.

As long as BDE A1's fallback point is towards the HQ, then Red has no chance of breakout. Red can take the first town, but is now faced with a counter AO from supplied BDEs from 3 sides. There is no hope of Softcapping the factories, because Division A's flags A1 and A HQ will naturally fallback all the way to the factories.

In most instances, all that is needed to prevent a breakout from happening is to have flags in a position to fallback TOWARDS the important towns behind the line.

Allies - Camp 43 - Paal Breakout

Axis - Camp 41 - Sechault Breakout