Test Your Knowledge: General Military Tactics


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

Humans have been fighting wars for about as long as other humans have existed. The winners have gone on to devise effective strategies to keep winning while the losers, well, we know what happened to most of them. Military leaders like Alexander the Great, Hannibal Barca and Julius Caesar developed some of the same strategies that are still in use today. Others like Sun Tzu, Stonewall Jackson and George S. Patton have proven their tactics to be some of the best of all time. Anything that gives you the edge over an enemy force, anything that can catch them off guard or put them at a disadvantage, can be adapted into an effective battle tactic if a skilled tactician employs it.

With a few thousand years of war under our belts at this point in history, there's a good chance you're familiar with some of the more famous tactics. After all, who doesn't understand the basic concept of an ambush? Or maybe a full-frontal assault? Some require a little more finesses, though, and a bit of understanding of warfare and strategy. If you think you have what it takes, why not show off your military tactics knowledge in this quiz? 

Do you know which of these is also called a double envelopment since it involves attacking from two sides?

A pincer attack is a flanking movement that's extremely old. In fact, Hannibal made this famous at the Battle of Cannae back in 216 BC. It's a fairly simple strategy whereby you split your forces to either flank of an advancing force, effectively surrounding them.


Which tactic helped Caesar defeat the Gauls by splitting their forces?

Divide and conquer is very heavy on strategy and less so on military maneuvers. Caesar used this to fracture the strong Gaul armies as the Romans had long held trade, particularly of wine, with the Gauls and had developed alliances with Chieftains that allowed Caesar to make inroads in learning their strategies and abilities.


This tactic is used during naval battles when one side intercepts a line of enemy vessels. What is it?

Crossing the T is an effective strategy in naval battles whereby the vessels of one force cross perpendicularly in front of the enemy vessels in a line. This renders the enemy vessels at the back useless as they can't fire without hitting their own forces, and allows the vessels crossing the T to all have an opportunity to fire.


Which of these strategies became well-known during World War II as one of Germany's most famous high-speed and aggressive tactics?

The Germans popularized blitzkrieg during World War II. The word means "lightning attack," and it's characterized by any fast, aggressive, powerful attack that comes unexpectedly and essentially runs over an enemy force.


Which of these defensive tactics used on the Western Front in World War I allowed forces to be well-shielded from small arms fire?

World War I was historically one of the most effective uses of trench warfare. Your forces dig trenches that allow your troops to be protected during assaults from the enemy as they're remarkably limited targets when hidden in trenches. Even artillery becomes less effective in this case.


Do you know which of these tactics relies on nature to lend a hand and give your side an advantage?

Whenever possible, exploiting the weather to an advantage is a great tactic in warfare. Known as a force multiplier, something that gives one side an edge, this was a major factor in the Battle of Waterloo as well as the defeat of the Spanish Armada.


If you're not sure where an enemy is, you might try this aggressive tactic to lure them out by provoking them. What is it?

Recon by fire is a tactic that relies on guesswork and luck to be effective. Rather than attacking a known suspicion, recon by fire works by attacking a suspected position. If it works, enemy soldiers will believe they have been exposed. If no one is there, you simply move on to somewhere else.


Do you know which of these tactics requires you to attack the enemy then move away quickly before you can be counterattacked?

For a shoot and scoot to work properly, you need to fire artillery from your position and then quickly move position so that no effective counterattack can be mounted since you're no longer where you started firing from.


Using this tactic allows you to overwhelm an enemy force with numbers that you focus on one place. What is it?

Force concentration can be as simple as having more troops on your side than the enemy does, but it can also be used strategically to concentrate your forces in one spot against one portion of the enemy's forces. This allows you to win single battles rather than trying to be dispersed against a larger force.


Do you know which of these is an all-around defense tactic proposed by General Weygand at the Battle of France in 1940?

The hedgehog defense was named as such for a reason. if you've ever seen a hedgehog in distress, they curl up into a ball and expose their little spines at all sides. This defense works on that principle, allowing the defenders to defend from a potential attack on all sides from a central, fortified position.


Which tactic takes advantage of decreased visibility and maybe the use of special goggles?

Night combat is another tactic that uses natural elements as a force multiplier, in this case, the lack of light. Of course, your side needs to be appropriately prepared for night combat which will likely involve the use of something like night-vision technology.


Effective use of this tactic prevents an enemy from accessing resources, frees POWs, or just demoralizes an enemy. Do you know what it's called?

Raiding, also known as resource denial, involves either destroying or stealing the resources of an enemy force, freeing POWs from a camp, or just quick in-and-out style attacks to shake the enemy's confidence.


Do you know which of these strategies that involves moving in a specific formation is also deployed by riot police?

The flying wedge involves a group of soldiers moving forward in a V-formation towards a defending force. It allows them to smash through the enemy lines. It has proven to be a reasonably effective strategy for hundreds of years, and even Alexander the Great made use of it in battle.


This bad faith tactic employs duplicity and outright lying about your intentions. It's actually a war crime. What is it?

Perfidy is when you agree to one thing, like a truce or surrender, and then attack your enemy anyway. It's basically a bad faith maneuver and, in so many words, a lie. It's a breach of the rules of war and constitutes a war crime if you do it.


Overwhelming a target from all sides like insects do is called what?

Swarming is a popular tactic for forces that are traditionally at a disadvantage technologically. Attacking from every side at once can confuse and overwhelm an enemy force. The Vietcong were famous for doing this in the Vietnam War.


Air superiority or attacking from atop a hill are versions of this tactic which relies chiefly on the advantage of elevation. What is it?

When you take the high ground, you take control of the fight from on high. On the ground, this can be fighting from an elevated position, but even in the air, this can be done by maintaining air superiority and swooping down to carpet bomb an enemy position.


Which of these tactics involving machinery is rare today but was prominent in World War II?

Desant means "disembark" and a tank desant tactic involves infantry soldiers entering combat on tanks before dismounting to engage ground forces. Desant minus the tank part is also a term used for paratroopers that drop into combat in a similar fashion.


This is one of the oldest tactics in all of warfare and was even used by Alexander the Great. It involves catching an enemy between two sides of your forces. Can you name it?

For the hammer and anvil to work, you need two separate forces under your command. Infantry forces will engage a frontal assault while cavalry forces will attack from the rear, forcing the enemy into the infantry. The cavalry becomes the hammer, the infantry is the anvil.


Which tactic is designed to conceal movements and confuse the enemy by effectively blinding them?

Smoke screening means you're using smoke to screen what you're doing, so the name is pretty fitting. Smoke grenades are a common method of pulling this off, and they produce large clouds of thick smoke to conceal movements and even block laser targeting.


Warsaw and the Rotterdam Blitz are two examples of the use of this extremely destructive tactic from World War II. What is it?

Carpet bombing gets its name from the fact you're laying bombs to cover an area like a carpet, meaning everything is saturated and destroyed. The Geneva Convention prohibits this in any civilian area.


Scouting and checking out an enemy's position or movements is another name for what tactic?

Recon, or reconnaissance, is the act of gaining information about the path ahead, enemy movements and forces, or whatever other information might be pertinent to your plans moving forward. This was traditionally done by sending out actual scouts but can now often be done electronically.


Rushing headlong into an enemy force as a shock tactic, one historically done by cavalry, is known by what name?

Charging is an ancient maneuver that dates back to the days of cavalry charges and even earlier. Confronting an enemy force at speed is meant to overwhelm them physically and put them off guard mentally as well.


Some people refer to this as "unconventional warfare." It's often associated with paramilitary forces. Do you know what it is?

While traditional warfare involves organized troop deployment, guerrilla tactics are meant to be disruptive and tend to rely on much smaller groups. Insurgencies, infiltrations and targeted strikes are often part of guerrilla tactics.


Which strategy involves wearing an enemy down over a long period of time, like at the Battle of Verdun?

Attrition is what you call a fairly long, drawn-out strategy to wear your enemy down until there's nothing left to them. It also acknowledges that you're going to suffer losses on your side as well; they just won't be as bad as the enemy's losses.


Do you know which strategy involves making two other forces combat each other while you wait them out as Russia to Austria and Prussia after the French Revolution?

Bait and bleed is sometimes called camping and is essentially pitting two enemies against each other. This allows your force to maintain strength while your enemies diminish each other's forces.


One of the main tools for accomplishing this tactic that stops enemies and others from using portions of land or getting too close to your position has been land mines. What is it?

As the name suggests, area denial is a tactic that cuts off an enemy from an area. Land mines have been the main weapon to accomplish this in modern warfare, rendering large swaths of area too dangerous to enter.


Sun Tzu warned against falling for this tactic which relies on fakery and lulling the enemy into a false sense of victory. What is it?

A feigned retreat involves making a display of having your troops run from battle to lure the enemy out in pursuit when you're just tricking them into a vulnerable position for a counterattack.


Do you know this tactic that requires you to take on an enemy's flank rather than hit them head on?

Unlike a frontal assault, an envelopment requires a force to take on the flank of an enemy force. There are several envelopment maneuvers, but a single envelopment would be ignoring the front in favor of a more weakened side defense.


Which of these is meant to take out an enemy's leadership, much like when Lincoln was assassinated?

Decapitation means losing the head, so a decapitation strike as a tactic is meant to take out the head of an enemy force. By cutting off the leadership, it's hoped that the main force will fall apart or become disorganized. When Lincoln was assassinated, there was a plot to also kill his vice-president and the secretary of state.


During the Civil War, General Sherman used this strategy of destroying every resource or asset that could be found. What is this strategy?

One of the more desperate tactics available, scorched earth relies on one force destroying everything around an enemy, particularly on their path of retreat. That could include any or all assets, from equipment to structures to crops, so that nothing remains to give even a slight advantage.


Which of these tactics that partially relies on spectacle is also called "rapid dominance" and came to prominence during the Iraq War?

Shock and awe is predicated on the use of extreme force that includes displays meant to strike fear into the enemy such that they lose focus or even give up fighting altogether. Ideally, you would destroy the enemy's will and perception of the battle.


Do you know which of these strategies uses the element of surprise and was favored by forces like the Vietcong?

An ambush is arguably one of the oldest tactics in combat. The basic idea is to conceal your force until an enemy has entered an area where they would be at a tactical disadvantage before revealing your forces in a surprise maneuver to catch the other force off guard.


You'd use this strategy to take on enemies held up in a city or fortress. What is it?

Siege warfare is warfare against an enemy in a fortified position. This is also the kind of warfare that gave rise to the term "siege weapons" which are things like ballista and trebuchets designed to attack walls, cities and castles.


This tactic which puts a smaller force at an advantage over a larger one was made famous in the movie, "300." Do you know it?

Using a chokepoint is an environmental tactic that makes the terrain fight with you against an enemy, forcing them into a narrow position that you defend. This kind of tactic can even the odds between a large force and a much smaller force.


Which of these is a decisive, take-no-prisoners battle often associated with Napoleon?

A battle of annihilation is a kind of all or nothing battle that spurns the drawn-out campaign in favor of ending everything in one single, brutal assault. These kinds of battles typically end in massive casualties numbering in the tens of thousands.


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