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An MMO Clan at War: Embedded With Foxhole's 27th Corps

Philip Harker Posted:
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It’s a bright cold morning when I arrive at The Latch. As the snow falls around me, it’s obvious to me that this place had seen better days.

Today is 21 December 2022, and this small Warden-controlled town in the southwest of Callahan’s Passage has been on the front line of fighting for almost a week. It really shows. The abandoned streets and fields outside of The Latch have been completely taken over by bunkers, trenches, gun emplacements, and, yes, foxholes.

Welcome to Foxhole. This war between the two armies of the Wardens and the Colonials has been going on since 14 December, with no signs of either side letting up. This is the 99th such war between the two factions; these wars have been constantly running since 2018. Thousands of unique players log in each day, taking on all kinds of roles: from snipers and tank commanders to train engineers and oil workers.

While these legions of players are free to fight alone, many of them prefer to play in clans, called Regiments - think Guilds in any other MMO. These groups can be just a handful of friends, or, in some cases, hundreds or even thousands of players strong. I got the rare opportunity to ride along with one such large clan: The 27th Corps of the Wardens, established 18 January 2021. Since their inception in War 68, they’ve grown to be over 2000 members strong. I learned they were planning an operation for today, and I was given clear instructions: meet them at The Latch at 1200 hours.

So here I am in this fortress of a village, the sounds of gunfire in the distance. I can practically smell the freshly expended powder from our field guns, firing intermittently into the far-off enemy positions.

Preparing for Battle

I hole up in an alleyway to patch into the 27th Corps’ main communications server, where I’m invited to the briefing. Dozens of members of the Corps, from the highest-ranking officers to the newest recruits, are given a presentation by the 27th leadership on the operation to come. Our objective is simple: punch through the heavily defended valley road of Sioc Approach, and capture Overlook Hill, the much larger town to the west. The assault will be led by the 27th, assisted by any other non-Regiment affiliated soldiers in the area. Artillery support (or arty as it’s called) will be provided by a fellow Warden Regiment, the 11e Foreign Legion, who apparently have over a dozen pallets of artillery shells on their way to The Latch.

Seems straightforward enough, I think to myself. The 27th Corps departs their base and heads to meet me at The Latch. As I wait, I watch the scores of non-affiliated soldiers (“randoms”, as the 27th troops dub them) head towards the fighting in Sioc Approach. Their loyalty is not to any Regiment, but only to the Wardens. They are disorganized, marching solo or in pairs. They’re holding the line, but with no real direction or structure, they’ve made little progress all day.

If we can take Overlook, it will enable other Regiments to push further into the region of Callahan’s Passage, which has been a major center of fighting for the entire war.


Image courtesy of the 27th Corps

It’s 1222 hours when the 27th arrives at my position. Their convoy includes two half-tracks (large armored vehicles with a mounted machine gun position) and two supply trucks. There was supposed to be a third half-track, but apparently, it hit a friendly land mine on the drive over. Just another day in Foxhole.

I finally get to meet with my guide, Lieutenant Silver. He’s a Combat Officer for the 27th, and he’s in charge of the entire operation today. He will be leading from the front mounted in a vehicle, and I’d get to ride along in his staff car, driven by one Captain Shikaka.

Anyone who knows anything about modern militaries knows that a Captain outranks a Lieutenant. Yet I observe Silver giving orders to Shikaka without a second thought, and the internal ranks within 27th Corps seem to mean almost nothing in the heat of battle. Lieutenant Silver would later explain this to me.

“With the officer ranks, me and Shikaka are both Combat Officers,” he said. “He is a Captain, I am a Lieutenant. We each have our niche of things we like to do… so since I was leading, I had much more say in my operation than the others in some ways but we all work together. Shikaka driving me around for a bit doesn’t mean too much.”

The troops are assembled. The vehicles are fueled. The officers are ready to lead. If there was ever a time to attack, it was now.

Once More Unto the Breach

An additional half-track arrives eventually, and we attack under the cover of night. Light infantry (soldiers walking on foot) escort the three half-tracks and our staff car as we enter Sioc Approach. Gun and grenade fire falls around me as we make contact with the Colonials for the first time. Our troops are decently equipped, but there’s an apparent shortage of rifle ammunition. 

Despite this setback, things are going well. We manage to push far south into Sioc, helping the randoms advance the position they’d been holding all morning. A resupply request is wired to the 27th’s logistics team. 

Lieutenant Silver explains to me that the 27th Corps has four departments: Combat, Logistics, Engineering, and Human Resources (yes, that one surprised me too). Members of the Corps can be in any department they choose, and so most members of the Regiment work primarily in Combat. Logistics troops manufacture and transport supplies to the 27th: everything from bullets to bandages to binoculars. The Engineering Department handles the construction of forward bases, as well as the 27th’s main base in the town of Maiden’s Veil. And Human Resources, in addition to managing over the thousands of active and inactive members of the Regiment, also coordinates larger joint operations with other Regiments.

I am assured by Silver that HR is good at that last responsibility. However, as our momentum begins to slow, the promised artillery support fails to arrive. It’s 1240 hours, and the 11e is late. They should have been shelling the Colonial positions ninety minutes ago.

The offensive hits a stalemate. Randoms and 27th soldiers alike fall. As the fatalities rise, it worsens the already precarious supply situation. Every time a soldier in Foxhole dies, it costs supplies just for them to respawn. They then have to get a new weapon, new ammunition, maybe even a new gas mask and first aid kit. When men are being cut down in waves by machine gun fire, these costs add up.

The Latch’s storehouses, which were already undersupplied when the 27th arrived, are drying up fast. Everything is scarce. Some soldiers run to the fallen bodies of friends and foes, pick up their gear, and scramble back to cover to deposit their equipment in salvage supply caches. The ordered ammunition still hasn’t arrived, and Lieutenant Silver realises that there’s a new problem in the rear: partisans.

The importance of supply lines cannot be overstated in Foxhole. It doesn’t matter how many heavy tanks one side is able to build— if they can’t keep their road and rail lines open and secure, they will lose. Partisans are players who sneak behind enemy lines to destroy infrastructure, raid factories and mines, and intercept supply trucks and trains on their way to the front line. So when Silver gets word that partisans are threatening the 27th’s supply line, he has no choice. He has to leave the fighting and reopen the road himself. He politely dumps me out of his vehicle and heads back east. He leaves command of the fighting to another officer. I’m on my own.


The Tide Turns

The new command team in Sioc Approach almost immediately decide to change their tactics. Something has to be done to stop these mounting casualties. Scouts from the 27th Corps have discovered a flanking route to the north. It would bypass Sioc Approach entirely and allow troops to directly enter Overlook Hill. The narrow roads make it a bit more risky, but by now we’re ready to try anything.

Foxholes flanking map

 The original plan, marked in red, had too much resistance for our undersupplied team. The northern flanking route in orange offered another way through, just with more risk.

This new tactical venture leaves the main front line in Sioc Approach to be defended entirely by the randoms. The difference between the ad-hoc resistance by the randoms and the organized defense efforts from the 27th Corps is like night and day. In the 27th, even in the absence of local command, there is still an impressive sense of coordination. Perhaps it’s because many of the troops know each other and understand how to work well together, or maybe a sense of duty to the Corps is what keeps things going. Regardless, any progress made in the south is lost in mere minutes, and the randoms fall back, almost all the way back to The Latch.

It makes me wonder how wars in Foxhole were ever able to be won in the days before Regiments.

It’s 1300 hours. The 11e Foreign Legion is nowhere to be seen. Rumors begin to spread that they aren’t coming, that they’ve abandoned The Latch for another battlefield. The troops would later learn that the 11e only had about four volunteers for the operation and weren’t able to establish an artillery battery at all. For now, though, It becomes clear to me that without artillery, victory will be impossible, even in this new flanking route to the north. Half-tracks can only enter one at a time, making it easy for enemy artillery and machine guns to fire on them.

I watch one non-commissioned officer, Staff Sergeant Reina, go down with some of her soldiers. She lay bleeding out, far out of range of any medic, but her last order was crystal clear: “GET THAT HALF-TRACK OUT OF HERE! GO! GET BACK!”

Infantry deaths are, as discussed, expensive. But human lives are pennies compared to the cost of vehicles. Industrial cities in the rear can mass-produce soldier supplies under ideal conditions. Vehicles, however, require Refined Materials, which are far more scarce. Everyone winces as one of the half-tracks goes down. Only then does it occur to me that we might actually lose this battle.

Casualties continue to rise. Morale is dropping. Soldiers and officers alike are getting frustrated by the lack of progress. But finally, some good news arrives.

The 27th Corps Rallies

A friendly truck has made it through. Fresh supplies are shared with both the 27th and the randoms. What’s more, Silver and the other Combat Officers have coordinated an impromptu artillery battery with reserve howitzers from the Corps’ reserves. Shells rain down on the enemy positions. I watch members of the clan rally. We’re back on the offensive.

Silver is back in command, and we return to Plan A: a punch through Sioc Approach. With the combined arms of infantry, half-tracks, and artillery, we’re able to make serious progress. We advance farther than we had before, knocking down enemy fortifications and reaching the edge of Overlook Hill.

By 1400 hours, though, I’m out of time and I have to rotate back to The Latch. I say my goodbyes to Lieutenant Silver, and I catch a ride back to town.

On my way back to the rear, I can’t stop thinking about the power of coordination. I used to think that the beauty of Foxhole was in its individual freedom; how anyone can simply mount up an artillery piece, or grab a flamethrower, or fire up a factory in the rear. Foxhole was unique to me because there are no classes or loadouts. But now, I’m not so sure.

Reflections on an Operation

A few hours after my departure, the 27th Corps would take Overlook Hill successfully. But eventually, they lost their momentum again. Overlook fell to the enemy the next day, and a day after that, The Latch would also succumb to the Colonial forces.

After the fighting was over, Lieutenant Silver sat down with me one last time. He gave me a bit of insight into the problems with the 11e Foreign Legion’s artillery. In addition to the lack of manpower on their end, they should have been in position well before our infantry moved in.

“I learned they weren’t coming about an hour in. With most operations, there is a plan. The [Logistics Department] gets on a bit before and transports the stuff we need down. Such as the arty, those halftracks, and other supplies. Then combat takes place.”

These organizational issues, and more, make life as a Combat Officer difficult. I could tell that Silver loved what he did, but it was clear that it could often be a grind.

“Some ops just don’t work out sometimes and that’s always a blow because then you feel bad. I am glad we took Overlook Hill, but then it always feels bad when a few hours later you lose it. But that’s the game sometimes… it doesn’t stop when you work or sleep.”

Many of the randoms, and even some of the lower-ranking members of the 27th Corps, might never see the insane logistics and coordination behind Regiment operations— everything from producing supplies, keeping roads open, and improvising arty batteries. It’s all behind the scenes, hidden far away from the picturesque shots of frontline battle.

Foxhole MMO

That, I finally realise, is the beauty of Foxhole. Personal freedom is great, but what makes victory possible isn’t individuals, it’s teamwork. Literally thousands of players working together towards a common objective. Sure, one player can clear out a trench or deliver a shipment of mortar shells, but ten players? A hundred? A thousand? These combined efforts, like that shown in the 27th Corps, are where Foxhole really shines. It’s truly a clan experience like no other MMO that I’ve ever played.

War 99 ended in a Colonial victory on 31 December. We lost, but with this new perspective I’m thinking about Foxhole completely differently.


Philip Harker

Philip (or Phil, no preference) is a lifelong gamer and writer. He has written and edited for The Trinity Times, Polar Stories, and other publications, as well as dabbling in fiction when he has the chance. When he’s not busy with his studies in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, Philip can be found in No Man’s Sky, Foxhole, Overwatch, Minecraft, or working on his latest tabletop RPG campaign. Website: philharker.ca