So, you want to be an engineer...

Let's take a look at wire.  Barbed wire was patented in 1867 by Lucien Smith.  But the idea was proposed in France almost ten years earlier.  Primarily, it was seen as an agricultural resource as a way of keeping cattle from straying.  However, it wasn't long before the military application became clear.

In 1895, Portugal used wire as a military tactic in Namibia.  Twenty years later, it saw more extensive use in China during the Russo-Japanese war.  However, barbed wire came into its own in WWI by preventing charges against trenches.  Barbed wire had the advantage of allowing machine gun fire though it and being quickly replaceable if taken out by artillery.

This is a key point (no pun intended.)  Wire was intended to prevent free, rapid movement.  It is more or less simple to avoid injury from barbed wire so long as one moves cautiously.  Various means of defeating wire have been devised and famously soldiers are trained to lay across wire to allow comrades to bridge wire entanglements.
So wire itself is not an insurmountable obstacle and in fact is generally easy to cross--provided it is not covered by fire.  One of the key things ASL players should learn about defending with wire is that it is crucial to cover wire hexes with fire.

In looking at ASL use of wire, let's think in terms of offense and defense.  In offense, the means how you defeat wire  will inform how we use wire on defense.

Around, under, over and through.  Since wire is designed to slow us down, let's examine different ways we can defeat this tactic.  The first method is, of course, to go around.  ASL scenarios rarely provide sufficient wire counters to create a complete line across your approach.  So there will be gaps that allow you to go around the obstacle.

Wire cannot be placed in buildings, rubble, marsh and water obstacles (which is kind of stupid.)  It also cannot be placed in sewers.  These are all movement factor intensive hexes anyway, so they will slow you down a bit.  However, they are less likely to slow you down than wire.

So tactic one is just to avoid the wire.  This is a particularly good tactic if the wire is covered by fire or if the defender also has HIP units.  HIP units are pretty destructive to would be wire climbers because you run the risk, if you can't rout off the wire, you die.
If the 458 moves into the wire hex, takes fire from the hidden infantry gun and breaks, he's required to rout out from on top of the wire, giving him a good chance of dying for failure to rout.
However, if the wire isn't covered by obvious fire and your enemy doesn't have HIP units, you might want to just dive onto the wire.  I like to call this the Sergeant York.  Let's say that the wire is being used as a kind of roadblock:
Our heroes are going to try to get under the wire.  A first, the unit moves ONTO the wire for 1MF.  Next, our brave heroes must make a dr for movement factor delay.  They will need to roll a 3 or less to get under the wire or a 4 or less with a delayed doubletime (because they cannot use road bonus.)  With about a 50% chance of getting under the wire, this appears to be a worthy risk, assuming the wire isn't covered.

Vehicles have a somewhat different conundrum.  While wire doesn't slow them down as much, it does risk bog.  Wire costs non-fully tracked vehicles 4MP.  For fully tracked vehicles, it is 2MP.  The chances of bog are significant.
As the Germans say:  Wurst Case Scenario.
The German truck is trying to go over the wire.  It's total bog roll modifier is +8!
It's going to get bogged.

You start with a +3 when crossing wire with a non-fully tracked vehicle.  Most players require a 3TC just to enter woods with a vehicle, so this is a big deal.  However, you are still looking at an 8 or less, so resist looking at it as impossible, especially a late game option.  Wire is an obstacle, but not an insurmountable one.

Fully tracked vehicles can remove wire if the colored die of their bog check is "1."   This usually makes it about equal that you will bog as remove the wire (a "1" on a d6 is the same as >=10 on a 2d6, 16.6%).  A lot of players will use this tactic but for me it seems pretty risky unless your vehicle is redundant.

Which brings us to the last method of dealing with wire--through it.  By this I mean removing it.  In addition to driving tanks through the wire hex, you can also try several other methods.

First, there is the demo charge.  A DC will remove wire with a KIA result (a five or less or about a 28% chance.)  This, to me, seems to reek of desperation.  Giving up a 30FP attack for a one in four chance of clearing wire?  However, the advantage here is that you don't actually have to enter the wire hex.  This allows you to avoid costly defensive fire as all DF takes place in your original hex (meaning you can avoid leaving entrenchment and/or even avoid being in LOS altogether.)  It is even possible to throw your DC into the wire, but the +2 is going to diminish your chances to a measly 16%.

Second, there is OBA.  Artillery can remove wire also by getting a KIA result.  This also seems like a pretty desperate way to clear wire.  From 70mm OBA at 3% to 80mm at 8% to 120mm at 17% to 150mm at 28% and 200mm at 42%, this method of clearing wire--if forgoing a powerful attack somewhere else, seems pretty paltry.  Still, it is worth considering for example if you are hammering a defensive position.  If, for example, you are approaching a pillbox covered in wire and mines, a 100mm attack potentially clearing wire, providing +1 LVH and attacking at 20FP (even at +5) is nothing to sneeze at.

Finally, there is the old fashioned way.  Sending in the sappers.  "Sapper" comes from the French sappeur, which means spadeworker or digger.  These were the soldiers that dug the trenches up to the defensive walls.  They also dug the first "mines" which were shafts that went underneath the defensive works, filled with explosives and set off to create a breach in the walls, which is where we get the term "mine."

Later, of course, we use the term "sapper" for most engineers.  However, in ASL, these are two distinct categories.  Only sappers get bonuses for clearance.  Engineers do not.  For emphasis:  Engineers are not automatically sappers.  The sapper bonus for -2 can be quite substantial as one approaches a clearance of 7!  Even with 2 squads adding in a sapper bonus of -2 can make a huge difference.

You need a final clearance DR of 2 or less to clear the wire, but there are a lot of modifiers here.  First, let's look at strength in numbers.
Additional units modify this equation substantially, and a platoon clearing wire can do so about 58% of the time.  If you add in a -1 leader and it becomes by far the best way to clear wire (barring moving in a bulldozer.)

You can also get a labor status, but let's be honest, you want to clear stuff as fast as you possibly can and a -2 labor status is generally a loss for you.

And so, while you do have to get under the wire to remove it and it is still difficult to accomplish while under fire, clearance is sometimes the best way to get through the wire.  In comparison to using a demo charge and forfeiting a nice 30FP attack, I'll take clearance every time.  Players are often intimidated by the requirement  of a "2" for clearance, ignoring or discounting the way that modifiers add up.  This is generally a mistake.

Let's turn it around.  Given the offensive tactics concerning wire, what are the defensive tactics we can use?

First, placement.  I think there are three uses for wire.  First, to channel an attack.  Second, to slow down an attack.  Finally, to create traps.

In order to channel an attack, we emphasize the psychological aspect.  Most players will avoid wire.  We can emphasize this this by creating traps or false traps.
Here we have a fake trap.  The dummy in O4 is invulnerable to fire from outside point blank range and enemy units will have to risk routing off of wire if they approach close.  This makes it an unlikely target to be charged except from the most daring of players.

Therefore, the wise player is going to avoid this approach.  This makes your wire a rather good force multiplier, particularly in cases where you are squad-poor.

Other ways you can make your wire count for more is cover a wood-wire hex with OBA or a light mortar.  Because moving on to wire will cost a lot of movement and, as long as you keep ROF you can attack on each movement point, moving onto a woods wire hex can very bad for your health.
Does the 467 dare moving onto wire in LOS of the Lt. Mortar with a -1 airburst modifier?  Not if he's smart.  This avenue is effectively blocked.

However, this use of wire sort of assumes you have plenty of wire.  Usually scenario designers to not indulge you.  A more economical use of wire is to use it to slow down an attack.

Frequently, it is possible to use your wire to defend a victory location.  For example, if we have to defend a pillbox, putting the wire directly on the pillbox can force your opponent to use an extra movement point to get to that pillbox.  You slow down an opponent either by making him clear the wire or get under it.  In most scenarios, a single turn of movement can be the difference, so do not ignore this tactic even if it means the wire doesn't come into play until the very end.  This is kind of a gamey tactic that wouldn't be done in a real tactical situation, but it is about winning the scenario.

We've also talked about setting traps and this can be particularly effective in PTO (at which I am not an expert or even a mediocre authority).  Think about places where it would be vital for your enemy to get off the wire to rout--especially if you have HIP units or lots of fog of war.

In all cases, it is really important to cover wire hexes with fire.  Unprotected wire is simply a speed bump, and not a very good speed bump at that.  Protecting wire with fire makes it less likely your opponent will risk sending in a number of squads and subject them to fire while clearing it.

Man, this has been a long post.  But hopefully it has helped clear up some superstitions about wire and provided some solutions for dealing with it and/or using it effectively in building your defense.


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