Although there are three phases in “Tide of Iron”, at the heart of the game lies the action or activation phase; this is where the battle is won or lost. Below I will list the possible actions a player can take and then discuss them one by one. Note that combined fire and opportunity fire (commonly referred to as “op fire”) aren’t actions in their own right, but rather variations of the concentrated fire action type. These are the options a player has in the action phase:

Concentrated fire

Concentrated fire is when a player decides to let a unit fire at its full firepower. This action type will therefore allow for rolling the largest possible number of black attack dice to attack your opponent’s units with. Obviously this is its main strength. A potential drawback to taking this action is that any unit thus activated cannot move, which will be further explained below. On the upside, other units may support a concentrated attack with combined fire, which is not allowed if it performs any of the other action types listed above. In such a case each supporting unit would add half its firepower value (which is huge compared to many other games which will often only allow adjacent units to roll one extra die each or something along those lines). Note that I will address combined fire in a separate future article.

So when do you go for concentrated fire? The obvious answer is when you think you need the full firepower of (a) unit(s) to accomplish your goal. Usually this goal will be to inflict serious damage on an enemy unit or even destroy it. When don’t you choose the concentrated fire action type? When time is of the essence and moving your unit(s) is at least as important as firing. In this case one of the next two action types will be more appropriate:

Fire and Movement

Let’s start by saying that several fire and movement attacks may be as good as, if not better than, a single, or even multiple, concentrated fire attacks. While it may take several fire and movement actions to seriously damage or destroy an enemy unit in this way, you do get to actually move your own unit(s), which, mind you, may be done before or after firing. This means that you can move into cover or even out of LOS, which will not be possible in case you take a concentrated fire action. After all, if you can see them, they can see you (unless the rare case occurs when you completely destroyed the enemy squad or vehicle and it was the only one with LOS). At any rate, at the very least this should make enemy retaliation against your unit more difficult as they too would often have to first move their unit(s) to re-establish LOS, which you could then possibly respond to with opportunity fire. At times return fire might even become impossible if your opponent is unable to do so e.g. because of being fatigued, lack of sufficient movement points, being pinned/ disrupted or heavily damaged.

A second benefit of being able to move apart from firing is that when the victory conditions require you to take objectives or to move units off the map, time may be of the essence, and while concentrated fire will often do greater damage -and hence reduce the effectiveness of the enemy’s return fire on your units-, it may lose you the scenario as you will likely run out of time. A case in point would be the last scenario in the [FFG] Days of the Fox expansion: Assault on Kidney Ridge. A great scenario, by the way! When even a fire and movement action doesn’t give you the desired speed, then there’s still the advance action type:


The obvious benefit of an advance action-or more commonly named “move”- is that a unit is allowed to use its full movement points‘ allowance. In contrast, with a fire and move action a squad receives -1 mp and a vehicle -2 mp’s [and its firepower is halved] and, while a concentrated fire action gives the biggest punch, the drawback is that you do not get to move your unit at all, as we’ve seen above. It stands to reason that the biggest drawback of the advance action type is consequently that you do not get to roll any attack dice. Therefore it should be used primarily when this is of lesser importance, e.g. when the full movement point allowance is needed to reach an objective, to reach cover, to reach a better starting position for the next game round or when there are no enemy units within LOS to fire at anyway.

Note, however, that while you’re allowed to use your unit’s full movement points, this is not necessarily the right choice: firstly, doing so may leave your unit unnecessarily exposed out in the open. Especially in the case of squads, this is usually a bad idea as unlike most vehicles in the game, they have no armor to protect them in such a situation. Therefore, in TOI, as in actual battlefield tactics, especially infantry will often have to try and move from cover to cover. Secondly, using a unit’s full movement point allowance may bring it into normal range of a powerful enemy unit, while moving fewer hexes may leave the aforementioned unit at long range; a huge difference most of the time!

For both armor and squads alike, the situation on the board may often dictate a unit try and position itself behind blocking terrain, i.e. out of LOS.


Usually an assault is an alternative for several fire and movement actions, possibly followed up by an advance action. Assaults are described in detail in one of my previous articles called Tactics - The beauty of Assaults.

Prepare op fire

Op fire gives you the opportunity to respond to enemy movement. This is what makes this activation type unique. The only other possibility to do so may be playing certain strategy cards, but these are rare. You can assign op fire tokens to units even before the start of the game and between game rounds, but you can also do so during play, which makes it an activation. The primary reason to choose this type of activation is when you think you will need to be able to respond to future enemy movement, e.g. in order to stop them from reaching an objective, assaulting one of your positions, being able to move into close range etc.

Another common use of this action is as an alternative to fatiguing a unit; if for no other reason that units in op fire can spot for mortars and artillery while fatigued ones can’t. Also the commonly used “Heavy Fog” operation card, which gives +1 cover to non-fatigued units, will apply to units in op fire, whereas, as the card description says, to fatigued ones it does not. Secondly, It’s also better to be safe than sorry; you may think an enemy unit can’t reach you, so you may think you might as well fatigue the unit, but certain strategy cards will allow a player additional movement points, remove a fatigued token (so a unit could move again) etc.; in other words, it’s better to have the option to react to enemy movement even when you think you don’t need to.

Coming back to putting units in op fire mode before the start of the game or between rounds, note that who holds the initiative should often determine whether and if so how many units one should put in op fire mode. Doing so before an action phase starts has the obvious benefit of being able to respond to enemy movement which you would otherwise be unable to react to when your opponent has the initiative. However, this does require you to assign activation tokens to units. While this may seem trivial, it could become problematic depending on the situation on the battlefield and the stage the game finds itself in. Especially when the number of units on both sides is roughly equal, being overly enthusiastic with assigning op fire tokens prior to the start of an action phase may result in you running out of activations while your opponent still has a fair number left. This may give them the potential to really hurt you, e.g. they could choose to not move at all and take lots of concentrated fire shots at your units which are now unable to retaliate.

The key considerations when deciding whether or not to place units in op fire mode before the first action phase or in-between game rounds are therefore:
  • Who holds the initiative on the upcoming round?
  • Do I need to put units in op fire now or can I wait until my first action turn?
If you come to the conclusion that you can’t wait, decide how many units you have to put in op fire now and how many can still be placed in op fire mode during your [first] action turn. As noted in a previous article of mine Tactics - Timing is everything, it normally pays off to keep your opponent guessing as long as possible when it comes to your intentions. If a unit of yours is assigned an op fire token before the start of the game or between rounds, your opponent knows that, normally speaking, it’s not going to do anything else in the action phase. In contrast, if you wait, your opponent may expect that unit to do something else, or at times a much better option may present itself to you that will allow said unit to score VP’s, take a command objective, exit the map, eliminate an important enemy unit etc.

Fatigue unit

Fatiguing a unit is the least desirable one of all the actions open to a player. It should only ever be used to “stall” really, although even for that purpose, prepare op fire is nearly always the better choice, as explained above. For an explanation of the concept of, what I call, “stalling”, please refer to my article called “Timing is Everything”, to which the link is provided above. Note that a squad only containing mortars may not be put in op fire, so such a squad must be fatigued instead.

Play strategy card

The penultimate action open to players is to play a strategy card. Some of these may be very strong and why to use them would therefore be obvious. Note, however, that timing is also critical when it comes to playing strategy cards. This, again, is discussed in more detail in the article on timing. Another, less obvious, way of using strategy cards is to expend actions in order to have certain units on the map remain “fresh”(i.e. not assigned an activation token) just that little bit longer. It is, in this sense, effectively a way of “stalling”. This will often grant you another (partial) action turn, whereas otherwise all your units on the board would be fatigued, possibly enabling your opponent’s remaining fresh units to take advantage of that fact. Note that you cannot “pass”; i.e. not take any actions because you want to do so at a later time, while having units and/or cards left without having used up all your activations in an action turn. Of course you should not “waste” strategy cards which are more valuable than the unit(s) you would keep from being “prematurely” activated.Which cards these are may depend on the scenario and the state of affairs on the battlefield.

Special action

The final choice of action open to players is taking a special action. Special actions are those such as the medic’s “heal” ability or the engineer’s “dig entrenchment”. Often operation cards will also contain some kind of special action open to the card’s owner, such as “Lay Mines” or “Zaichata”. Of course it geneRally depends on the situation on the map whether a unit should take a special action or whether a “regular” action would be more in order. What can be said in a more general sense, is that if you have nothing better to do than fatiguing a unit or putting it in op fire mode, just for lack of alternatives, using a medic’s heal ability to strengthen a weakened squad, or to have an engineer build an entrenchment, which it can enter as part of the action, for 2 [additional] cover will often be a sounder choice. Note that in the last case, the engineer will have to spend a movement cost of one 1mp to leave the entrenchment again, which is also subject to enemy op fire.

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and that it will enrich your experience while playing “Tide of iron”!
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