The devs stressed that this gives certain divisions distinct advantages and disadvantages that must be considered. The 101st Airborne, for instance, can deploy quality infantry in phase one and seize a lot of territory quickly. However, the Airborne doesn’t have as much support coming in later phases, meaning they’ll have to hold onto their gains tooth-and-nail. The German Panzer Lehr, on the other hand, will struggle in the early phases until their superheavy armor shows up for the grand finale to blast away all opposition. Since each phase matters in calculating ultimate victory, not every match is going to come down to who has the bigger and better army. A commander who plans for each phase properly and looks at the big picture can overcome what is, on paper, a superior force.
The core combat revolves around the concept of stress. Similar to games like Company of Heroes, units will act with self-preservation based on the battlefield situation. Light infantry under fire from a heavy machine gun will become pinned down, unable to move or contribute much to the battle, which allows a smart commander to take units out of the fight indefinitely without necessarily routing or killing them. It is also possible, of course, to force a unit to take so much stress that they start to withdraw from the battlefield (or at least to a more defensible location). It’s also possible to capture enemy units by surrounding them and forcing them to surrender.
Key factors that influence unit stress include terrain, position, experience, and leadership. Terrain plays a large role in each battle, and is largely modeled after actual aerial photographs (but tweaked in some areas for balance reasons). France’s large, dense hedgerows present impassible barriers. Units can take cover both behind obstacles and inside fully-destructible buildings. Lighter forests, such as orchards, allow tanks to barrel through, crushing hapless apple trees all the way, while thicker areas of vegetation only allow infantry to pass and may be used to stage ambushes. Line of sight is elevation-based—a sniper in a church tower is much more valuable than one in a valley.