There are a lot of guides out there for Squad. After being asked a few times over the recent free weekend about guides, there are some great ones for the absolute basics as an individual, and some on how to SL in reference to leadership and how to control the squad – but nothing I truly agree with when it comes to strategy and meta.
I think the principles of leadership,whilst an extremely important part of the SL role, are not exclusive to squad and can be taken from other areas of life and applied without much adaptation. While I will talk briefly about how to lead a squad and certain things I think are important to understand, I will try to keep it relevant to squad and then move onto broader strategy. While this was written with 40v40 public play in mind it borrows heavily from what I have learnt in competitive 24v24 play and can easily be applied to both. Whether you are an ISKT-O captain looking to refine your team strategy or just someone that plays public squad you get something out of this guide.
Tips for leading a Squad
This is obviously my opinion and everyone has a different style of leading so I will discuss what I have found to be the most effective way of doing it after literally thousands of hours being SL.
It sounds corny as shit but you are the heart and soul of the squad. You will be doing 60% of the talking, and your efforts create the experience for the round. You need to be assertive straight up. Be polite and listen to others (especially other SL’s) but you need to sound like you know what you are doing. Be remorseless when asking for clear comms and make sure you can have the conversations you need, to figure out what is going on. At the start of the round greet the guys and girls as they enter then tell them what you “want” or “need”. Don’t ask, command.
I’m certainly not condoning being an arsehole or power tripping but you are the SL and if you want an effective squad then you need to be able to give commands. Make it fun, laugh (especially at yourself when you cock something up) and mingle but when you say something it has to happen. Repeat yourself constantly. Seriously, say everything twice or three times. If I am asking for people to get into a BTR I’ll just shout “IN, IN. IN. C’MON C’MON, LET’S GO!” or if I am pushing a FOB shout “PUSH PUSH PUSH LADS! I’m on it. I NEED two people digging, two people camping, everyone else covering.” and then repeat it if you need to. Create a sense of urgency and as long as you are being effective and making progress people love it and start playing at the pace you need. Give praise when it’s due but don’t saturate or patronise people.
Don’t micromanage people. It’s not efficient and it’s not fun and Squad is a game. Don’t forget that, it’s important. Give people tasks constantly but they should be responsible for how they achieve it to some degree and they should always be responsible for their individual movement in the area you have asked for. Once I cap a point I will often tell my optics to go watch certain flanks and tell my LAT to buddy up and watch the main ingress route. If I see two guys in a good flanking position I will call for it but apart from that it’s up to them to pull it off.
Use local comms constantly yourself and only use squad comms for commands as much as possible. Local comms are really bloody important when working with the people around you so lead by example and use it. When people are next to you and hear and see you using local to talk to them, then squad to give a command, communication flows so much easier.
Apart from that, the rest is pretty obvious and can be found in other guides, but you do need to be checking your map all the time! Literally all the time. It is your job to be aware of the battlespace, the team’s composition and where your squad fits into this. You need to be reading the play and be one step ahead of the enemy to ensure the squad is where it needs to be, doing what it needs to do to support the team. Not what you want to do, but what it needs to do. That is an important distinction.
Advance and Secure (AAS)
So let’s talk about Advance and Secure (AAS). AAS is by far the most popular gamemode in Squad and the mode most commonly used in competitive Squad. The wiki has a pretty decent description of what it is so I will refer to that.
Two teams will start from opposite ends of the map in their main base, or in certain circumstance a limited forward spawn area. The team’s objective is to capture and hold Control Points from the enemy team. Control Points can only be captured a specific order that will appear on the map
Your team cannot capture a Control Points out order, your team will need to capture and hold the previous flag. This is indicated with the Attack and Defense markers that appear over Control Points on your map. If both teams neutralize two opposing flags in the CP’s line of sequence, it’s a stalemate – neither team can take their next attack flag. Only after the defense flag has been re-captured, can the attack flag be captured next.
The team who first runs out of tickets loses.
So, now that you understand the point of AAS, I will start by defining some key concepts to understand before delving into strategy.
Bleed – Bleed is the sole reason you need to capture the flags in AAS and determines everything decision you make in Squad.
What is bleed and how does it work? For every AAS map there is a central flag or flags that once you capture the enemy will start to lose tickets over time (bleed). Additionally, for every flag you capture past that bleed flag, the bleed rate increases. For odd numbered flag maps, this is the central flag that most teams must contest to win, meaning 1 team will usually gain the upper hand quite early in the game. For even numbered flag maps, each team has the same number of flags (3 each for example) and bleed starts when you capture one of theirs. It is important to note that bleed does not start until the bleed flag is captured. For example; if you were to rush the enemy’s first flag and stop them capturing any flags, and they rushed your second flag but your team managed to capture your first flag; just because you own more flags than the enemy does not start bleed. It is not until that central flag is captured that it starts.
Block and rushing – These are terms given to denying an enemy team from capturing a flag that you yourself cannot capture straight away because you do not own the flag prior to it. Since you cannot capture it you cannot neutralise it but by outnumbering the enemy forces inside the flag you can stop them from capping and therefore buy your team time.
Double Neutral – You cannot capture a flag if you do not own the flag prior, but you can neutralise it as long as the enemy has not captured the prior flag (back capped). This means that a very valid tactic when the enemy has started to capture your defencive flag is to attempt to neutralise theirs as well creating a stalemate scenario where neither team can advance until one team fully recaptures their defensive flag. The timing in this is crucial to understand however. If one team neutralises a flag before the other team has started to neutralise the other then they will fully capture the flag before the neut happens. To obtain a double neutral state you must have already started to neutralise the enemy flag before they fully neutralise your own. The only exception to this is if enough friendly forces manage to get on the flag to delay or “defend” the flag for a period of time long enough for you to catch up. It is a common misconception that the capture rate increases with the amount of friendlies inside the flag. This is not true. Capture rate is always the same.
Backcap – To back cap is to neutralise then capture the enemy’s flag. This term is usually used when they have left the flag open and you take it from right underneath their noses. It is important to understand that it takes 3 people to neutralise an enemy flag if no enemy is present. Once the flag is neutral you only need 1 person to capture, as long as the enemy is not present inside the flag.
An Overview of Effective Strategy
So, now that I can be assured you know what I am talking about when I start discussing “rushes” and “double neuts”, let’s talk about how to win in AAS. There are in essence two ways to go about depleting the other team’s tickets and that is bleed and asset destruction (called “milking” in Australian Squad slang.) You will have to use a combination of bleeding and milking the other team more than they bleed and milk your own team to win and it is how you balance the two and commit the manpower and assets you have available that determines that.
Bleed is by far the most important thing to gain due to the potential rate it has and its passive nature. Once the enemy is in bleed if nothing happens for the rest of the game you will win. So it forces the team in bleed to attack and milk to stay in the game. Therefore the “bleed cap” is by far the most important flag in the game and is where 80% of your team should be at the start of the game. There are very few exceptions to this. Even if the enemy rushes and blocks your first or second flag they do not gain bleed until they force your team off the bleed cap. If you leave them there and focus on the bleed cap you have the manpower advantage and can concentrate on milking the enemy team to gain an early advantage. I’m just going to go ahead and state this for the record; Deep rushes and first cap rushes DON’T WORK if the enemy team knows what they are doing for the reason I just stated. Go look at any ISKT-P match and you will see they a) don’t work and b) no one does them for that exact reason. So if you want to become a good SL don’t waste your time learning how to rush deep. Sure, it has its merit for something fun to do, but if you want to become a better SL on a strategic level forget about it and concentrate on working with other SL’s on the bleed caps.
Once you gain bleed it is tempting to keep the momentum up and keep attacking and if you can manage to do this successfully then it is well worth doing. However, never keep attacking at the cost of over-extending the team and losing the bleed flag. That is a “How to Lose AAS 101” technique.
The Rollout and First Contact
That is the general idea of how to win AAS in a very broad and abstract way of thinking, so let’s start to break that down and determine the important steps that need to happen in order for that to succeed.
The rollout phase is what we refer to as the part of the game where the teams leave main base and go to their respective locations to prepare for first contact. This is probably one of the most crucial phases of a game to get right. Veteran players put so much emphasis on it because it is the period where you can establish yourself on the map, gain a foothold and a spawn point on the bleed cap, or whatever cap you intend to hold to obtain map control. The reason this is so important is that once an enemy team has control of the bleed cap they don’t need to attack anymore to win, and can consolidate their whole team to defence – while your team is forced to juggle attacking while under bleed and ensuring you don’t get back capped further.
- most of the team should be going to the bleed caps
- a small squad or a couple of people cap the first few flags
- potentially, a small squad prepares mortars or moves behind enemy lines to harass and help gain map control
Obviously you’re going to need a FOB to do this and where you put this is very map specific. A general rule of thumb is if it’s an odd numbered flag map put it close to (but not on) the central bleed cap so you can contest the flag with the enemy, who will likely having a FOB on the other side. You should only FOB the flag on a odd if you can be certain you will get there first and have enough friendlies to ensure it will be safe in that opening engagement. If it’s an even numbered flag map, generally it is better to FOB your defensive bleed cap directly to have a centralised place to defend (then you only need to defend the one place instead of both the flag and the FOB). For these maps don’t place a FOB close to the enemy bleed cap on rollout unless you are certain you can beat them to it and hold them off.
This opinion varies a lot but I personally prefer to have fewer FOBs than too many, coupled with well managed logistics. If the team is working well together then it’s better to coordinate and work off a defended centralised FOB since a FOB left alone will always be found and cost you 20 tickets.
The other thing you should be aiming to do during or shortly after the rollout is attack the enemies FOB on the bleed cap. This is why there should be more than one squad going there on rollout.
- one squad places the FOB and HAB and gets on the flag, while
- two squads work at applying pressure and taking down the enemy FOB
The key concept with this is from the moment you get to the bleed cap on rollout there will be a couple of minutes where both teams are waiting for their ‘prior flags’ to cap before the bleed flag is capable. In salt. we call this “doing work while its uncap” which means we don’t focus on getting numbers on the flag until either we or the enemy team can cap it. We use those few minutes to flank and attack the enemy FOB while a small force sets up our own FOB. If you do this successfully then you should gain control and will be able to capture with only a few guys while the rest of the team work on securing the area around the flag. This is called “active defence” – getting people spread a reasonable distance in all directions to discover where the enemy is coming from before they reach the cap zone.
After First Contact – Outcomes and Strats
Once rollout and first contact are over, there will be 1 of a few possible outcomes and we will discuss them individually:
- One team has captured and has control of the bleed cap.
- One team has control of the bleed cap but the other has blocked a prior flag and are in double neutral stalemate.
- Both teams have captured their bleed caps on an even layer and are in stalemate.
- Both teams have blocked the others bleed caps and are in double neutral on an even layer.
One team has captured and has control of the bleed cap
If that’s you team then great, well done. What do you do from here? Defend it is the obvious answer. You are winning, you can quite literally just pull your whole team onto defending it and let the other team attempt to attack you and let the bleed work in your favour. The other thing you can do is attack which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, attacking will apply pressure to the enemy defence and “make them turn defensive” which forces them to pull numbers off attack but on the other you must be very careful not to overextend your team and leave the defence open to a stealthy attack and FOB takedown and in my opinion you should always favour defence in this situation. Don’t lose the advantage you have, since your team captured the bleed cap at the start of the game from a neutral state and there was no “ticket swing” while the enemy team will not only gain the bleed but gain tickets on the successful capture while your team loses tickets, putting you further on the backfoot.
Swapping the scenario around, if the enemy team has captured the bleed flag what you do next is determined by your spawn infrastructure. If they took the bleed flag during first contact just by map control and sheer numbers without disabling your FOB, the you must keep attacking. The worst thing you can do is panic and rush away to your defencive flag. Send 3 guys back to secure a spawn at the defence (be it either a rally that a squad can spawn on or a FOB for the whole team to reset on) and canary the flag to let the team know if they need to commit to defence or can keep applying pressure on the bleed flag, ideally working on identifying and disabling the enemy FOB.
If on the other hand if they have taken down your FOB on first contact then you need to reset and choose how to do this. You need to secure what is now your defence flag to stop a roll and this is important but you cannot stay here. As soon as you have reset defence and have a spawn up and a canary you MUST attack or suffer the bleed. Attack, apply pressure to keep them defensive and when the timing is right either stealth takedown their FOB or get an new attacking FOB up and “zerg” the bleed cap. This is easier said than done of course and gaining the experience to be able to read the play and know when to do this and how to do this takes time and learning from failure but it is essential if you want to be a really good SL.
One team has control of the bleed cap but the other has blocked a prior flag and are in double neutral stalemate
If this occurs you need to be careful with how you use your tickets. In any scenario where you don’t have bleed you need to make sure you are getting “positive trades” or ensuring you are taking more tickets from the enemy than they are of you. If your team has control of the bleed cap it’s almost the same as strategy as owning the bleed cap except you don’t have the bleed. The worst thing you can do is panic and send most of the team back to secure your prior flag. You have the bleed cap, you are where you want to be so let them sit on on their block with a whole squad or 2 and use the manpower advantage you have to gain map control and disable the enemy teams FOBs and assets and only send a squad to gain cap when you have a clear upper hand on the bleed cap.
I won’t discuss what to do if your team has the block because as I stated earlier, I don’t think it has that much merit and a good team doesn’t put themselves in that situation.
Both teams have captured their bleed caps on an even layer and are in stalemate.
If this happens you might be in for a long game, which is good or bad depending on your view of it. Ideally if you can get the upperhand and force the attack, make the enemy team turn defensive and keeping enough pressure up that they cannot commit resources to attack you in turn. For this to be successful, you NEED to make sure you have a canary both on defence and your FOB because if the enemy manage to hold off your attack and sneak a few guys in to take down your defensive fob it’s game over. That canary needs to understand their job and make sure any presence of enemies on the defensive flag is reacted to sufficiently.
The other strategy you can do in this scenario is to play defensive and do 2 things;
- work on conserving tickets and milking the other team by taking down FOBs and winning vehicle trades or
- baiting the enemy team into over extending their attack and when the time is right slipping into takedown their FOB and swing the whole team into attack mode. Mortars can be especially useful for this.
Both teams have blocked the others bleed caps and are in double neutral on an even layer.
This scenario is similar to the previous one in many ways except the margin for error is higher since you need to hold the neutral state and if the enemy starts capping it can’t be undone. You still need an active defence but the canary is even more important. It this situation my preference is to hold the block above all else and just keep sending small attempts to find the enemy block FOB and cap when they push to many out of the flag area.
Logistics. Map Control and Mortars
Logistics: Logistics are super important. Never just drop a FOB and leave the logi truck there and go on with your day. If you take the logi on rollout you are responsible for it so if you are done with it either destroy it (arguably a controversial idea but certainly efficient. They don’t cost many tickets and have a short respawn timer and you don’t have to worry about losing a player to drive it back. Additionally you can use the wreck to block a road for the enemy or as hard cover for a FOB or vehicle) or send it back to main to either swap out for a fire support vehicle or send out again to supply your FOB again or another friendly FOB. Spawns always come first so if another squad is asking for logistics to create a FOB for either defence or attack that is always priority over resupplying your fob for build points of ammo. Be a team player, it works.
Leaving logis on the map and not safely tucked away at main removes your ability to reset if you lose a FOB and it quite literally can cost you an entire game in a matter of minutes. Just don’t do it. Manage your logistics properly and you will win games.
On a higher level of play start trying to get out of the habit of being the SL that drives in first with the logi, places the FOB and gets smashed by the enemy team. Obviously this is determined by the experience of the other SLs in the team but if there are other squads you can work with then getting another squad to roll onto the point first in a transport or armored vehicle to secure the area while you swoop in to place the FOB behind them is a much safer and superior way of running logistics. This is especially true midgame on a reset or attack FOB when the enemy knows you are coming. Roll in heavy with squads and place the FOB when you have control. Don’t rush in first with the logi to place to FOB only to either get smoked by an enemy vehicle or dismount and immediately one tapped because the enemy team is already there.
Map Control: Going hand in hand with logistics is map control. You simply can’t run logistics if the enemy team has map control and vice versa if you have gained map control you can deny the enemy team the ability to go where they want. Gaining map control is mainly done with vehicles. At the start of the game both you and the enemy team have your vehicle’s operational. The most consistent way to win the early game vehicle battle is to keep the vehicles at distance and concentrate on destroying the enemy team’s vehicles. If the vehicle crews can do this you gain map control and will be able to start moving logistics around more freely. Additionally if you know the enemy team has lost its vehicle support for 10 or so minutes you can bring your vehicles in closer to support the infantry and destroy enemy FOBs etc. Just keep in mind if you do this the infantry must support the vehicles in turn to keep them safe.
The other way to gain map control is just with infantry. Try to push them out around the bleed cap if you hold it. Get an active defence up where 70% of the defencive team is outside the cap engaging the enemy before they enter the flag are with a small force defending the flag itself and the FOB. Spread everyone out in all directions and make sure vital information on enemy infantry sizes and composition is getting back to the SLs so they can commit the right amount of troops to react in time.
A small force behind enemy lines can do wonders to harass the enemy and make their ability to move around the map harder. If you are playing as an unconventional force a 4 man squad has access to AT mines, IEDs and AT. Combine that with a technical or BRDM and you can deny the enemy team the ability to reset or bring out vehicles again. Even just having them out there relaying enemy vehicle movements to the vehicle crews is an amazing amount of information that you can utilise.
Mortars and Counter-Mortar techniques: Mortars are extremely useful if utilised well. They are one of those parts of the game where it really depends on the experience of the crew but if the crew is able to put accurate fire on key targets when it’s needed then it can win games. I won’t speak about being a mortar SL or running a mortar crew as that is not something I have a lot of experience with. I leave that to the experts. The important thing to know is as an Infantry SL or someone making the calls for the team they are only as good as the intel you provide them and how you get mortar fire to support what you do on the ground as infantry.
If you are working with a mortar crew you are their eyes and ears. How effective their fire is is determined by how accurate your intel is. If the target is something specific like an enemy HAB or FOB then the map marker needs to be accurate and you need to get yourself or your squad into a position where they can see if the fire is accurate and call adjustments. If the target is area denial then again this needs to be relevant and you need to provide the mortar crew with important information like where they are coming from and how spaced out the fire should be. A good mortar team can do some really fancy barrages if you give them the information they need.
The other thing to consider with mortars is make sure you don’t waste it. If you are mortaring a HAB don’t just sit on the hill and watch. Hitting a HAB and not pushing in with infantry is absolutely pointless. Understand that mortars have a 20 second flight time and coordinate with the mortar SL when you want the fire to stop and push in immediately to finish the job. Coordinating a FOB takedown with a mortar team successfully is probably one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in Squad. It is just so damn cool when you pull it off.
So what do you do to counter mortars when the enemy team is destroying you with accurate fire? Well, it depends where they are situated. If they are on a flag surrounded by defenders then their rate of fire and ability to sustain it is dependant on logistics. You need to gain map control and ambush the enemy logi. Stop the supply.
If on the other hand the mortar FOB is just outside of main and away from active flags, they can fire constantly and respawn constantly if attacked. If you want to stop this then you are going to have to commit a SL to it to sustain a rally and just pick them off. You don’t even have to take down the mortar fob. An SL and a medic working off a rally taking pot shots at a mortar team is enough to put them out of action enough to allow your team freedom of movement again. Even better, use that 4 man harassment squad to do it. SL and medic camp mortars while scout and LAT camp the roads. The main thing to understand is you can’t just send a squad out to take it down then leave because it will be straight back up again if you don’t constantly harass them enough for it to not be worth the effort and possible tickets of a FOB takedown.
Engaging in team strategy
One of my biggest reasons for writing this is I am sick of experienced players taking SL and racing off to do their own thing. I guess I am spoilt by playing a lot of competitive Squad with a seasoned team that knows what they are doing but it should be perfectly possible to see it in public play if people would just start supporting each other’s squads properly.
If you are running a vehicle squad don’t be that squad that takes a couple of BTR’s or Strykers and sits on a hill not communicating. Sure a hill is where you should be but be in communication with the infantry SLs and if you have vehicle dominance and map control come in and help them out if they call for it or use some initiative and offer transport if you see them getting the upper hand and get ready for the back cap or save the day by taking a stranded squad to what will shortly become the defencive flag.
If you took the logi on rollout make sure it respawns or send it back and make sure it goes to where it needs to go next.
If no one is doing the first caps then offer to do it. Don’t let pride get in the way. Get it done then get where you need to be. You will probably end up getting to attack anyway.
And if you see a friendly squad in a position that could benefit you bloody well tell them. Its as easy as saying “hey 2, cheers for capping castle. We are getting attacked from east on storage site. I’ll hold them off, you are in a perfect position to flank them.” 9/10 times a squad leader will be looking for something to do so offer it and most will gladly take it. Of course the other side to this is look for ways to support other squads yourself. Learn to read the map and put your squad in a position to flank and assist. Don’t just race off to glory, coordinate and help and the experience will become so much more rewarding.
I encourage everyone to be the voice of reason and start spreading this way of playing to the masses. Coordinate and play every game like a comp game especially if you are in a clan competing in ISKT. The single defining attribute that wins comp matches is team cohesion so practice that all the time so it is second nature for your entire clan. And if you’re not in a clan, then do it anyway because whether you like to play fast and efficiently or milsim it like a boss all of the concepts I just discussed are relevant and create not only a more effective team but a more enjoyable and rich Squad experience.
Tl;dr – Stop rushing 1st caps and play the bleed cap like a team!