Everybody’s Unique Unit: The Marine

People like to discuss units on Civfanatics forums, especially Unique Units. Specialized units are often discussed; Longbowmen, Guerrillas, Paratroopers, and Marines. Starting with a question like “Do you ever build unit X?”, newer players join in and learn the mechanics of the game, while more advanced players join the discussion and gain (or share) insight into using units more effectively. Tactics are offered here for using one specialized unit effectively: the Marine.

What is a Marine?

The CivIII Marine appears to be a foot soldier that attacks better than Infantry, and doesn’t defend as well. What separates the Marine from all other units (save the Viking Berserk) is his ability to attack from the sea. He is by nature an offensive unit, both in attack/defense statics, and his proper place on the battlefield. His full potential: a shock troop, leading an invasion from the sea.

The Marine is perhaps the most uniquely offensive unit in Civ Warfare.

Think about it; offensive units can be used defensively and vice-versa. Cavalry can skirmish against enemy units within your own borders; an offensive “tactic” within a defensive “strategy”. Defensive units like infantry can be used to protect a stack you’re using to invade the AI. Using Marines to their full potential involves attacking another civ on another shore. We’re not just contemplating war, we’re talking about invading. And not just an invasion, but invading overseas. Few military offensives are more ambitious or audacious than a “D-Day” style invasion.

“So you’re going to take an AI continent with Marines?!?!?”

Not at all. Aside from taking those pesky one-tile city-islands, or island-hopping campaigns, the bulk of the invading force will not be Marines. Marines are the tip of the spear. These tactics aim to give the AI the shaft.

A note on “Tactics and Strategy”

This is a “grunt’s-eye-view”, written about tactics, not strategy. While “strategic” questions are more important, Marines don’t get to ask the “Who, When and Why” questions, and they’re not answered here. If you’re considering Marines, you’re contemplating war. You should have an objective in mind, whether you want to grab a resource, or a continent. Maybe you’ve got a potential ally in mind who (you hope) will declare war with you a turn or two before your D-day, and absorb your enemy’s first counter-punch. These are questions of strategy that you should answer for yourself before building (or at least before deploying) Marines. There’s a lot of great advice to help with strategic questions in the War Academy and forums, but not here.

“Break Glass in Case of War”

These tactics are designed to seize and maintain the initiative from the opening round of an invasion. If you like, war can begin with an opening attack from the sea. The basic idea is to hit the AI fast, hard, and deep with your initial invasion. These are the basic goals of these tactics:

1) Take, and hold, a coastal city in the AI territory, on that first turn of the invasion.
2) Take, and hold, a second AI city, again, on that first turn.
3) For the next few turns, move significant quantities of follow-on forces, to maintain the offensive.

Why take two (or more) cities? Simple: if you’re going to go through the trouble and expense to invade another continent, you might as well take as much as you can, as soon as you can. If you take the resources to take 2 cities and choose not to, that’s one thing. If you don’t (or can’t) muster enough of an invasion force to take (and hold) 2 cities, you need to take a step back and rethink your strategy.

These tactics use 3 basic types of ground units:

1) Marines: minimum 1 CivIII transport full, 2 boatloads in C3C. 2-3 boatloads should suffice.
2) Good defensive units: (Infantry or Mech) 2 boatloads minimum
3) Fast offensive units (Modern Armor, Tanks, even Cavalry) minimum 2 boats
of Tanks, quadruple your boatloads (or more) if resorting to Cavalry.

…and 3 basic types of naval units:

1) Transports
2) Something (anything) to protect the transports
3) More Transports

This unit mix is the foundation, not the whole house. If you have (or can build) a bunch of carriers, bombers, and battleships to provide fire support to “soften” the target, even better. If you want to bring some artillery to the party for the follow-on attacks, the more the merrier, just remember you’ll need more transports. Using fire support is great fun; though not fundamental to these tactics, it is tactically sound (and wise). The most important naval unit for these tactics is the transport. You almost can’t have too many of these. This is also intended to be more of a recipe than a blueprint. Think “1 part Marines, 2-3 parts Infantry/Mech, 2-3 parts Tanks/Modern Armor, add fire support to taste. You may substitute 8-15 parts Cavalry if Tanks are unavailable. Be sure to have more units on hand for second helpings”.

“So now we attack, right?”

Not just yet. These tactics require a bit of forethought, planning, and prepositioning of forces. “Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.”

Here are some key things to be done in the planning stages:

1) Identify that first target city on the AI coast. Maybe you’ll choose the one with the shortest sea-lane to your shore, or maybe you’ll choose the one nearest the resource you want to grab. If the sea lane is longer, you’ll need more transports.

2) Identify a second target within striking distance of this coastal city. Maybe it’s another city up or down the coast, or it might be inland. Maybe it’s got that strategic resource or a wonder you covet; perhaps you simply want to take out that metropolis to deny the AI a productive city. By “striking distance”, imagine you already have that stack of fast attack units stationed in the coastal city; you should be able to attack your next target IN THE SAME TURN. Visualize the 9-square radius around the coastal city you’re going to take. If you will have to cross 2 enemy squares to hit that city, you’ll need Modern Armor or lots of Cav (or Panzers or lots of Cossacks). If there’s a city that you can hit after crossing only one enemy square, it’s a great target for Tanks!

3) Position 1-3 transports within range of that first coastal city – even before you can build Marines or Tanks… By “within range”, imagine for a moment that you already own that coastal city, and these transports are full. You should be able to move the transports into the city and UNLOAD them IN the city (in one turn). To avoid rep hits or angering your enemy too early, this position should be outside the cultural boundaries of the target. The AI will be good and furious in due time.

4) Position “convoys” of transports from one of your ports to these forward transports. The idea is to be able to move one “boatload” of ground units to the forward position in a single turn. (The mechanics of the “one turn” trans-oceanic move should be discussed elsewhere on this site). If you can build a 2-3 deep convoy, that’s fine, but the basic idea is to be able to move one transport load of follow-on forces across the ocean in a single turn, and to do it each turn until you can’t fill a boat at the back end. Stop and think about this for a minute. To pull this off, you’ll need 3 (likely more) full transports at the front, at least one transport at each “ship hopping” point along the way, plus a minimum of 5 transports in the city at your end of the sea lane. Did I mention that you’ll need some transports? Let’s see, one boatload of follow-on forces times 5 turns of following-on is about 30-40 infantry &/or mech &/or tanks &/or modern armor… (Rome wasn’t built in a day…)

5) Position “escorts” on the tiles occupied by the transports. In CivIII, Destroyers; Destroyers and/or Cruisers in C3C. The escorts should be as fast as the transports so you can “patrol the lanes” that the transports will be using, and have them finish the turn on a tile used by a transport. Battleships are a bit expensive and (in C3C) slow for escort duty. Though Subs are a bit slow for escort duty, using a few for scouting or hitting AI ships can’t hurt.

Okay, we’ve done our planning and reconnaissance, pre-positioned our forces. For whatever reason, it’s time to wage war against that AI across the sea. It’s time to…


If you brought fireworks to the party (bombers, battleships, etc.) now is the time to set them off. After “softening up the shores”, move the transports containing Marines to the square adjacent to the coastal city, wake ’em up, and attack from the sea. Usually the marine that kills the last defender will be down to a hit point or two…

Now pause for a minute to take in the scene while the smell of cordite rises through your nostrils. You’ve got two important things here: an AI city, and options. You may move the transport into the city, unload a fresh marine or two, and fortify them IN the city. If you’ve got several left, you can withdraw them to a rally point to be assembled with other units for future use.

Next – grab at least one transport full of defenders (Infantry or Mech), move that transport into the city, and UNLOAD it. Since they have their movement points intact, you have options. Depending on how many defenders you brought along, you can either fortify them in the city, or in the squares NEXT to the city. You’ll need more troops for option #2, but you can form a perimeter AROUND the city just taken. This can provide good defense for the city, and allow a pre-positioned counterattack in case of a culture flip. They’ll also prevent the enemy from reinforcing the city in the event of a culture flip. The fundamental tactic is to secure the position – how you do it is a matter of technique, and the resources available.

For the final phase of the initial attack, move the transports with the fast attack units into the coastal city, and UNLOAD them, with all their movement points intact. Attack, and take, that second city. If you’ve got enough fast units to take more cities, then by all means do so. Just don’t press the attack to the point that you can’t hold what you’ve taken. If at all possible, get defenders into the cities you’ve taken.

The AI’s next turn will determine how well you’ve planned and executed your invasion, and whether or not you’ve underestimated your enemy. He/she will throw most of what they’ve got at you in the counterattack that will ensue. If you did as Sun Tzu advises and “made many calculations” then you should be able to keep what you took. Now you use your pre-positioned transport convoys to start moving at least one transport load of troops into your new territory each turn for the next 5 turns…

Pounding the Shore with more Waves

Remember item #4 in our preparations? Transport convoys, and some additional (not “extra”) transports in the home port at the beginning of the sea lane? Now that you’ve taken a nice piece of the AI’s territory, you maintain the initiative with units that were still on your shores when you sent in the Marines. Using railroads and ship-hopping, you should have no trouble moving a full transport load of units to that coastal city you took and unloading them with all their movement points intact. On the second turn of the invasion, some of the units you used in the first turn will need to heal for 1-3 turns until you can use them in combat again. Resupplying your offensive with at least one transport full of fresh troops each turn for 3-5 turns will allow you to maintain the initiative. Three full transports in C3C would be 18 units; 24 in CivIII. If you can only muster or move a couple dozen units, they should be tanks. If your convoy of transports is three-deep (and you have the units) then by all means move a combined arms mix with some Infantry and Artillery.

Parting Shot…

So there you have it, a basic recipe for an amphibious invasion. Adjust (and scale) it to suit your style and needs. There certainly are a lot of things you can add to this recipe to suit your taste or the circumstances of your game – this is intended to be the “main course”.

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