Barbed wire is one of the most common battlefield obstacles you’ll find in the WW1 Game Series, whether you’re fighting in France and Belgium with Verdun, on the Eastern Front with Tannenberg, or here in Isonzo. It slows you down, tangles you up, and will cause injury with potential death if you don’t free yourself.
Why not just cut it?
You might wonder why soldiers couldn’t simply cut through wire, or perhaps lay down some fabric or material to allow a crossing? Those things are possible… but the scale of barbed wire usage makes it a lot harder than crossing a modern day barbed wire fence. For instance, take a look at this photograph:
How long would it take a cut a decent sized path through all this?
First World War generals tried using artillery to reliably clear paths through wire - it didn’t work. Later in the war they tried tanks - sometimes it was effective, but other times wire would choke up the tracks and leave tanks disabled. Wire cutting was effective, but slow and very dangerous under fire. Often wire cutting at night using stealth might be the best way to clear a route, but naturally the enemy wouldn’t just sit back and allow that to happen. There would be scouts, raiders, wire laying parties, and more out in no-man’s land at night.
The Italians in particular had trouble dealing with barbed wire earlier in the war because they lacked good equipment for the job. This is part of the reason why the Italian ‘Compagnie della morte’ or ‘Companies of death’ gained such a reputation. They were mixed groups of infantry and engineers who wore body armor and heavy helmets to go and cut wire or blast gaps in it - some argue they can be considered predecessors of the Arditi shock troops.
Italian Company of Death engineers with their body armor. We know we use this screenshot a lot, but it’s a good one!
Types of wire in Isonzo
In Isonzo, there are three types of wire: player built wire, weak point wire, and prebuilt wire. The prebuilt wire is similar to the wire seen in previous WW1 Game Series games. It will slow you and injure you, and cannot be removed. It represents the thickly laid and firmly built wire that was very difficult to get rid of even with tools and time.
Weak point wire is different - while it has the same effect, it can be built and cut by players repeatedly during the game. Defenders can construct wire at these gaps in the wire, and attackers will want to remove it. This wire appears on the minimap as a sort of mini-objective, like forward spawn points and heavy weapons. It represents the entrance and exits to trench lines that would have been used by scout parties to enter no-man’s land, which is why the wire is thinner and possible to cut at these locations.
One of the weak spots in a belt of pre-built wire.
Assaulting a weak point in the wire under intense machine gun fire.
Every sector has parts where the attackers will need to break through thick belts of prebuilt wire by cutting it at these weak points, almost certainly while under fire - this provides cinematic moments in the battle, but it also emphasizes the historical importance of wire during the First World War!
Continuous wire belts in several sectors on our Sixth Battle of the Isonzo maps.
Last but certainly not least, there is the player built wire! Engineers will be able to construct short stretches of wire anywhere on the map which is flat enough. This wire can be cut by opponents, or destroyed by large explosions. While there is a limit on how much wire you can lay (both a team limit and a per engineer limit) it’s quite generous.
Wire in use
How you use this wire as an engineer is up to you. Obvious choices are narrow paths and entrances that you want to seal off, or perhaps along the top of trenches if you want to stop enemies jumping in and aren’t worried about the wire getting in the way of your shooting out. Remember that your wire can be cut though, so it is an obstacle rather than a complete denial of an area. If you need to delay enemies longer, you’ll need to lay multiple lines of wire.
An engineer constructing some wire to block a trench.
However, you can also use it to funnel enemies in a particular direction on open ground (given the choice, many people will simply take a clear path rather than stopping to remove your wire), or place it on the sides of a heavy machine gun to get in the way of flanking enemies aiming to backstab the gunner. Again, being an obstacle is enough! Enemies will be able to circumvent or remove wire you lay, but even delaying them for a few seconds might save your machine gun or prevent a sabotage bomb being laid.
Two types of wire are available: one is a fairly simple short stretch of wire of the type that was historically used to block communication trenches (that connected the front line and rear area trenches) in battle to prevent attackers advancing. The other is inspired by the ‘cheval de frise’, which translates as ‘Frisian horse’. This is a sort of catch-all term for spiked obstacles, originally a reference to skilled Frisian cavalry and their powerful steeds hundreds of years ago - you’d want good anti-cavalry defenses to fight them!
A section of player built ‘Frisian horse’ wire on the left, with the simpler wire choice to the right. Each type of wire has a separate build limit, so make sure to use both!
And that wraps it up!
The barbed wire in Isonzo is interactive and player driven, and we think you’ll be surprised how much fun it can be to work with. Whether you’re laying it down or clearing it out, wire can change the course of battles. Isonzo is available to wishlist already! See you next time...