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Lemme just summarize this guide in one sentence: You aren't a Commander; you're a coordinator. Lemme explain:
In truth, the CO does not actually hold any sort of authority over the crew. As the CO, you are not a masterful overlord in the sky, commanding your troops like this were some sort of RTS. Like everyone else, you're just someone playing a game to have fun (and possibly win). As numerous COs have found out the hard way, hostile confrontation and overbearing (and confusing) leadership is a great way to get the troops to ignore (and possibly execute) you. Unsurprisingly, none of us want to be yelled at or demeaned while playing. Subsequently, I've put together this guide to help future COs understand that gentle persuasion, "backseat" leadership, and communication is the key to a good Commanding Officer. In other words, it's way easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar.
As you’ll probably read soon enough, I strongly recommend that a good CO capitalizes on the general disorganization and recalcitrant nature of the marines, rather than seeing these qualities as a detriment. This guide assumes that you already have general knowledge about the Commanding Officer role, and will not be discussing details like "military tactics", "FoB defense creation", etc. This guide could also probably be adapted for use by squad leaders.
Always Be Firm, But Polite
The best and fastest way to lose the respect of your marines is to treat them like shit over the radio. A lot of marine players on this server are extremely rude and will insult you repeatedly no matter what you do, but you need to hold your tongue. Acknowledge why people are shitting on you over the radio, and see what you can do to resolve their problems. Despite the need to be kind, you will also need to be firm – no Commander should ever be a doormat. Additionally, while no one really talks about this, proper grammar and punctuation goes a long way in garnering the respect of your troops.
Never, ever enforce your tyrannical rule through your MPs. Mutiny lies that way.
Your initial orders should be fun, logical, and easy to understand
So, you’re at the briefing room. You’re trying to figure out what each squad should do. The answer is really simple: think about what –you- would want to do as a marine down on the ground. Let’s be honest here: no one wants to guard the FoB for hours on end. Some good initial objectives include getting the power back online, securing the LZs, retrieving survivors, etc.
At Briefing, I always give out the following objective to at least two squads: patrol the colony to look for signs of trouble. This immediately leads into my next tip.
On the ground, give squads the power to direct themselves
This is probably one of my more controversial points. As the Commander, you really aren’t familiar with what’s going down on the ground. You can listen to the radios, or try to watch the situation over the cameras, but it doesn’t work over the long term. Why? Because as causalities mount up, your ability to lead the marines diminishes rapidly. You’ll lose access to cameras, marines will start to panic, and things inevitably go bad. There will always be point where the marines just say “fuck command” and do whatever the hell they want.
This is not a problem if you keep this in mind from the beginning. The main objective of every squad should be to stick together and adapt to the situation as it unfolds. Give the players the freedom to do what they want as a group, and you’ll be able to do a lot more with them than if you give them constant, specific orders every minute. So, if they want to guard the LZ after securing it, let ‘em. If they don’t, tell them to go patrol the site with the rest. Remember: you may be the CO, but you're not actually in a position of power - even though you are technically their superior, no one likes being bossed around in a game. Squad leaders are expected to take charge, but no squad should ever be dependent on one - a good cohesive squad is one that works together, regardless of leadership structure. You can still guide your squads to do certain objectives, but this requires a finer touch discussed in the next section.
Communication is Everything
Let’s talk about your single most powerful ability: your unparalleled capability to communicate with everyone. On your headset, turn on the speakers and microphone for every single squad. Yes, it’s a little overwhelming at first, but you can now assess what’s happening in every squad on the ground. Let’s go over what you should be doing over the radio:
- A talkative squad is a useful squad. Figure out which squads are actually talking with one another. If they seem like a functional, cohesive unit over the radio, they’re probably your best bet for winning. If they seem to have a plan of action (e.g: attacking the aliens somewhere), direct them to carry-out that plan.
- Rather than ordering squads around, give them information about what the other squads are doing. If one squad is facing a serious attack at Medical, you can use the radio to tell other squads about the situation. Marines want bloodshed, so they’ll probably go help their colleagues.
- Use the Communications Console! This is your best (and worst) ways to issue orders. Do not use the console to give location-specific orders. Instead, use it to remind marines about their objectives (e.g: stick together) and about any other relevant information they should know (e.g: how the alien infection works, assuming the squads are telling you about it). The best use of the Communications Console, however, is to publicly recognize the good work of squads and other personnel on the Sulaco. Everyone loves an ego boost, especially the marines.
- If you do ask/order someone to do something, provide an explanation as to why they need to should do it. People are much more receptive if they know why they're doing something, instead of being told "because I told you so".
Be Careful with Delegation
While I give squads an incredible amount of freedom, I’m not so generous with Staff Officers. I come from a time when SOs weren’t a thing, so I tend to avoid using them to their fullest extent. I also find that a lot of SOs either:
- Contradict the orders I give out (giving their own instead)
- Go AFK about half an hour in the round
- Are never there in the first place
Here’s how you should use ‘em:
Staff Officers should be primarily used to gather intel on the situation as it develops. They’re the ones who should be giving you status updates, both on squad effectiveness and on the alien menace. They should ALSO be the ones launching the shuttles, talking with the Corporate Liason, ordering MPs to keep the peace, and co-ordinating supply drops with Requisitions. They should be handling your dirty work.
Despite my slight disregard for them, any good CO should be extremely nice to SOs. They can really ruin your day.
OPTIONAL: The Rule of No Retreat
So, I’ve been pretty nice so far. Under these set of command tips, marines are given considerable agency to do what they please in groups, and orders serve more like “guidelines”. The one command I tend to stand firm on is the Rule of No Retreat. Use this command at your peril.
Retreating is a time honoured tradition for the marines (even back on New Eden). Even in the face of a handful of aliens, I’ve seen dozens of marines run screaming back to the Almayer to fortify it. Sometimes its just a sign of poor sportsmanship, but any round that depends upon some sort of Shuttle Bay defense is going to take fucking forever. So, even though it is very risky, I believe that an aggressive approach on the planet is far more preferable than turtling on the Almayer. Subsequently, I will sometimes issue The Rule of No Retreat over the Comms Console repeatedly:
“No marine or squad may return to the Almayer unless they are critically injured, very low on supplies, or escorting civilians to safety.”
So far, the rule of no retreat has gone well for me. Players tend to form up on the LZs and turn it into a truly functional FoB. Other squads tend to go out to harass the aliens, flanking in the process. If you do choose to use this method, get the squads to form up into two major teams to sweep and attack. You’ll also want your SOs to assist wherever they can, especially for orbital drops (they make for the best defense, interestingly enough).
Leadership guide provided by ShotgunBill on the Colonial Marines Forum, and adapted for the wiki by TheSlapDoctor.