When you see certain wargame scenario's, there are some places that are simply outmatched from the outset. For example in a scenario where Russia decides to attack the EU (or the EU decides to attack Russia), the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are simply overrun. Without much depth of land to fall back to, a hopelessly outnumbered army and cut off from the EU they'll simply not last long.

So I thought about making an army based on asymetrical warfare from the other end of the spectrum. You have a symbolic army that delays the enemy, holds the bridges and gives the little ground they have until they surrender. Since the actual war will be fought on other fronts the fight does not end after the surrender. So for this purpose the lionshare of the trained army will go to ground and spread out through the population in pre-prepared positions. From there they can make the country a hazard zone for anything military passing through or trying to make use of their land.

The question is: How to properly make your country as horrifying as possible for the occupation force, so that your enemy would rather give you your freedom back than try to hold on to it?

Things to consider:

  • Economics. You don't want your country to produce more goods, gear and manpower than you take from the army. How do you disrupt most of the production meant for your enemy?
  • Salary. Fighting for freedom is A-OK, but you still want to get the necessities for the soldiers and their families. So they need to still get paid despite the country having surrendered.
  • Anonimity. If your professional partisans/guerilla's are in the government's systems when the occupation force looks into it they'll just get arrested or their families might be held as hostages.
  • production, storage and supply chain. Even if your soldiers are getting a salary and aren't being arrested left and right they still need access to their gear and be replenished.
  • An actual plan of attack. If you are going to be ambushing armored vehicles and infantry divisions in your country without the full range of air, armored vehicles, artillery and infantry you are going to need a good idea of how to handle regular targets.
  • Making sure you don't hurt the civilian populace with most of your strikes. Sabotaging the most important highways might slow supply lines down but will hurt your own country as well.
  • Possibly a potential to strike outside of your country?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Be Switzerland. The Swiss Armed Forces are actually extremely well prepared for this type of war, in which the majority of their population is armed, and key bridges are rigged to be destroyed. Their neutrality in WW2 was largely because German generals were afraid to invade them given the cost. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2020 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ Adam Reynolds Thank you! the Swiss model is the starting point for my own answer. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 12, 2020 at 19:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Partisan" and "professional" are almost an oxymoron. A resistance is a partisan force. The idea that some segment of your society is professionally trained just in case there's an occupying enemy sounds ridiculous (I get the Swiss and other nation perspectives of forced army service - but they're not doing it just in case they become partisans). Guerilla vs. professional is almost as bad, but at least one can believe the remnants of a destroyed army becoming a guerilla force. Mercenaries are professionals. They could be hired as partisans and guerillas. Is that what you're talking about? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 12, 2020 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH it is exactly as the question states: the government realizes that in the most realistic war scenario a regular army will last at most weeks with little real effect against their enemy. So instead they choose to train their army to do all the tasks that guerilla/partisan forces have historically done but on a professional level instead of civilians and paramilitaries that arent even trained for such actions. Since the scenario assumes an occupation isnt an end to the war due to allies you arent really out of the war. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Sep 13, 2020 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ One parameter you're missing in your question is: how brutal, ruthless, and determined is the invader prepared to be? For example, the invader can simply depopulate an area by relocating or killing all the inhabitants, torture the identities of your partisans out of the population, human shields, etc. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2020 at 16:27

5 Answers 5


Universal conscription (sorta):

Make it so everyone is in the reserve, everyone is trained in guerilla warfare, and everyone is required to independently maintain a military-style assault rifle. People are selected by the military to be "active" military, but their real role is to perform some specific task in the event of a war. "Hey, Gunter, why do you have those plastic explosives on the bridge? Oh, right, the war thing. Carry on." After training, you aren't paying people to be in the reserve, it's just a duty.

You better be prepared for a very independence-minded populus, and every police encounter will be a potential lethal one. Oh, wait, that's no different than the USA.

Of course, invaders know every adult has a gun (except those ruled unsafe due to mental or criminal issues). Further, people may have additional weapons of their own or given by the military. Sniper rifles should be like confetti - everyone could have one, but no one is required (since invaders will seize weapons from everyone). No one knows which of their neighbors has an RPG, and neighborhood watch organizations make up the core of resistance cells.

Good civil engineering should structure neighborhoods to be able to organize as small fortresses. Sure, you can use tanks and APCs to go anywhere, but you don't really govern, then. Maybe have requirements for the location of grocery stores (a good reason for federal subsidies) and minimum required food reserves.

Once your whole population is trained in guerilla warfare, the same skills apply to carrying the war to the enemy. Terrorism (whatever you want to call it) can be pre-positioned in the territories of known enemies. Spies aren't spies, but sleeper cells of infiltrators. They do nothing to expose themselves EVER until war breaks out, then they suicide bomb and sabotage preselected targets. Terrorists supported by any actual government are better trained and equipped than "home grown" ones, and can have plastic explosives and military grade sniper rifles smuggled in before the war in diplomatic pouches. If sleeper cells are revealed BEFORE the war, then OF COURSE the small nation admits to it - you WANT your enemy to know you are ready to hurt them this way.

PS. If you are of a particularly ruthless mindset, position your embassy in the enemy country at the heart of their most populous zone. Then, place the biggest bomb you can muster (nuclear is good; if you can't get a big one, a radiological "dirty" bomb or biological is almost as good). If your country is invaded, the threat of this attack (or it's reality) is a suitable Pyrrhic victory for your state.

  • $\begingroup$ that "thats no different from the usa" was scarily accurate $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Sep 12, 2020 at 19:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Relatively good answer, although I would handle weapons differently. For example you could store all the weapons at the shooting ranges, where most training takes place. Only when war is likely will provinces close to the hostiles have weapons at home, and under good rules like "weapon and ammo stored seperately in different safe's" that counts in my country. A good social control on the shooting ranges is also a good way to teach respect for good weapon handling and weed out potential threats to society. Still, how would you handle the professionals? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Sep 12, 2020 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ The sleeper cells are a nasty surprise for the enemy, certainly. However, it's worth noting that long-term sleeper cells risk becoming defunct: these are still people, not heartless robots. If you were an agent planted in country B, got to like the country, married your neighbour, etc., and then 10 years later a war got declared? Somehow, I don't think you'd be very keen on going around killing the people you've made friends with. I'd advise rotating the people on sleeper cell duty every so often to avoid the risk of them "going native", as it were. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Sep 12, 2020 at 23:02

Let's look at this from the opposite point of view and see if it still works

I'm a nation looking greedily at yours. You have resources I want. Oh, not your cities. Who cares about cities? All those people to feed and services to provide. If you're willing to hunker down in your cities to basically wait out the process I'll send you flowers.

No, what I want are resources. I want oil, coal, lumber, some of that gold from your central mine would be nice, too. And since I'm not stupid and I know you're not training a regular army and a few spies have whispered in my ear that you're perfecting partisan warfare, I've concluded you can't be trusted to fight me face-to-face, mono-y-mono, man-to-man. You're actually willing to put your entire population at risk in the hope that you can harass me out of your country.

Huh... Good luck with that. I've been reading through Terran history books and there wasn't a single war actually won by partisans or guerillas. Oh, they contributed to the fight. But the wars ultimately could have been won without them. They're not indispensable because, of necessity, they can only fight or act in relatively small groups, hiding in the shadows.

Now I know what you're thinking! Vietnam! Korea! Jungle warfare, where every step you take is hidden! Except that you don't live in that kind of area. In fact, your sizable and reasonably same-tech-level-as-my-country people depend on large swaths of irrigated land, hydroelectric dams, transportation like boats, trucks, and trains — all those niceties that you'll try to use against me. But unlike that Terran gentleman Sherman, who marched through Georgia leaving railroads, farms, and housing completely devastated (his signature bent rails were known as Sherman's Bowties) and who had an entire army at his beck and call, you have small, well-trained groups of people who can't actually blow things up faster than I can rebuild them.

What, the American Revolution? Well, yes, it could be said it was won through guerilla warfare. It wasn't. Their standing army grew over the course of the war and, in the end, it was that army that won, not small guerilla groups. And it was in a time when it was incredibly difficult to land great numbers of men to fight them. You don't live in that era and I can put a half-million-man army on your soil comparatively quickly. And since you're pretty much giving me your farms, I can feed them.

What, Afghanistan? You're really not looking at this from my point of view. I want your resources. So what if the Afghani people drove the Russians and then the Americans out of their country after, what, years? decades? By that time I've stripped you clean of what I wanted and you'll be rebuilding far longer than I was destroying. You might as well declare yourself a 2nd-world or a 3rd-world country right now.

And I haven't even gone into detail about using missiles (your partisans are worthless against them) or advancing with whole divisions of artillery, or carpet-bombing from the air. I was really interested to read about all that lovely gas used during Earth's World War I. If you're not going to fight fair, why should I? I'll just send clouds of all kinds of stuff down wind into your cities. Ooooh. Never gas. That would decimate your cities (and I never even entered them!).

So, I march my armies into your country. I don't take your cities — you've already killed yourselves by deciding nothing is worth defending before I occupy it. Your larger cities depend on piped water, so I'll cut those off. I'll stop the trucks and the trains and the boats and sit down and wait. I don't need a large force to contain each city because you don't have a large force to throw at me.

So, while you're hemmed into your cities, starving (it just takes time, no matter your stockpiles), I'm in control of your farms, fisheries, mines, timber, basically everything worth having. And the only price I have to pay for it is somewhat higher than normal maintenance costs and the occasional loss of soldiers' lives. Oh well, people die, it's what they do.

And after a while, when enough of your people have died from starvation, they'll beg me to set them free and give me pretty much anything I want.

Nah. You can keep your partisan and guerilla warfare. It's penny-ante stuff. They're useful for a resistance, but a resistance is basically just annoying the occupying force until the big boys bring in the big guns. Yeah. I'll keep my armies and navies and air force and missile silos.... They may cost more than your forces to train and maintain, but they're tried and true.


The fundamental problem with partisans and guerillas is that they're an after-the-fact solution that assumes the attacking army is embracing morals. So long as the attacking army is unwilling to attack civilians, partisans and guerillas work. The moment the attacking forces no longer care about civilians, partisans and guerillas are worthless. Remember, carpet bombing... missiles... artillery... tanks... Even if the partisans and guerillas succeeded in pushing the attackers out, so much of the country would be lost that the next attacker with fresh troops and supply lines can simply walk in.

And don't forget that your country is constantly changing. Babies are born, cities grow, industries expand. Your partisans and guerillas are useless for helping the economy grow because they'd be constantly training for every change that occurs. Every new bridge. Every new house. Every new acre of farmland. There's always more and more to defend and the plans, storage, etc., would be constantly changing and updating to keep up. Ugh.

  • $\begingroup$ You havent read the question? Because this makes no sense at all. Not only are you missing the point that your country is just part of the war, but that everything you say could also happen if you use a regular army because there simply isnt the manpower and access from allies to protect you long enough. Even then: who's going to get the resources? Are you going to cart in people to mine it, produce it and transport it from your country? People that would by default have to be sitting on their thumbs ready to take an entire country's military production chain? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Sep 13, 2020 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ If you do large-scale genocide, why only do that if the army is partisan? What message do you think that will send to your enemies? "If you get occupied by us, we'll use nerve gas on entire cities". Its the best pep-talk for all your opponents to fight to the last. Making your enemy surrender is one of the most effective methods of ending most of the armed conflict, but if you are willing to gas the families you'll murder every surrendered person as well. Why are you even contemplating this madness? It makes no sense! $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Sep 13, 2020 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan I did read the question, but I'm also acting under the premise that when you say "partisan" and "guerilla" that you understand the words and mean it. Why wouldn't I bring in people? Why wouldn't I populate the area you've ceded because you won't defend it? And what do you think the message was when the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Most of what I'm discussing I can likely find examples of from actual history. Why wouldn't your partisans surrender when I start gassing cities? That madness you're talking about works both ways. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 13, 2020 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ And in case you didn't notice it, when you said "It's the best pep-talk for all your opponents to fight to the last" you're right! It would bring your partisans and guerillas out of the shadows and force them to fight a real war. I suggested a solution that would completely nullify what you're trying to do. For the record, you're trying to make the live-soldier-version of a fixed fortifications, which Patton described as monuments to the stupidity of man. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 13, 2020 at 17:33

Some points in addition to the four answers so far.

  • The enemy will probably call your troops terrorists anyway, but do you want to set things up so that legally, your troops are covered by international law? That requires uniforms or insignia visible at a distance, but uniforms are better. A responsible chain of command is also required.
    That might be possible if your guerillas have well-supplied hideouts and don't have to come out foraging.
  • Should there be a credible tripwire force at the border to make it unambiguous that the hostile force had to fight their way in? With hybrid warfare, make-believe secessionists, and little green men, having a mechanized battlegroup stand and fight could be futile from an operational viewpoint, but priceless in the political battle.
  • Are you thinking of one country going it alone, as the Swiss doctrine was during WWII, or of an exposed member of an alliance, or of something in between like Austria in the Cold War? As part of an alliance, the liberation of the country will depend on the success of the alliance as a whole, and on them standing firm to their alliance commitments. That's again a case for a tripwire force, and perhaps also for having some of your (mechanized) troops fall back outside your own territory. Also a place to relocate the government. Compare Belgium in WWI, or why the West German central bank kept much of the gold in Paris, London and especially New York.
    The suggestions that the government should just "disappear" could be problematic for an alliance of democracies -- how can they fight for a member if that member does not want to fight?

All answer here forgets a very important thing IMO. Foreign interference. How do you believe french resistant, Iranian, Afghan Taliban or Vietcong get they munitions and weapons? you cannot stockpiles enough for a long period of war. Even with a raid to capture enemy assets. Without constant resupply, you won't last. Or at least your nuisance capabilities will be minimal. It is possible to make explosive from common good but to produce them in large quantities become hard without dedicated facilities. You want to get allies, that will sell you weapons or give you weapons (nothing is free but they hate your enemies so for them is a way to slow him down). Even more perfect if you can have the possibility to rest on the soil of these allies and form new fighters there it is even better...


1. Prepare as many small hidden bunkers as you possibly can.

Look at the 1000+ bunkers England built during WW2. You want to build at least two hidden bunkers outside of every town (totally hidden entrance, or very remote from town), and you want a few hidden in each suburb (behind secret entrances, eg fake wall at back of a small factory). Stockpile them like preppers would (supplies for 20 people for 2 years) and with enough handguns, sniper rifles, proximity mines, shoulder-launched surface to air missiles, and other military gear to fight a small war.

You're building 2 per region; One is big enough to house all those supplies and 20 people lying down for 3 days, the other is just a backup depot of supplies.

For each bunker, find the 2 most experienced military personal (active or retired) with knowledge of the surrounding area. They're now the unit captain and 2nd. Before the war starts, this is their full time job.

2. Conscript every abled body that isn't full-time employed into a local civilian reserve.

These are groups like the army reserve in most countries, they meet twice a week in peace time to drill, which is taught by their local captain or 2nd. They get to know the weapons, the terrain, tactics, routes, and each other. They are paid for their time.

You don't want everyone in the reserve (otherwise the enemy will consider you all enemy combatants and kill everyone), likewise you don't want all men or other easily identifiable trait. This also gives you 0% unemployment and 0% underemployment.

3. Stress general preparedness for everyone else.

Every house needs to have a decent stockpile of supplies. a months non-perishable food (can just be instant noodles), 2 months of water, a portable stove, 1 extra repeat of all medications, etc. All citizens got a $1000 deposit in their accounts to make sure this happens, and the police have done some random spot checks.

Every house is also required to have, maintain, and keep locked in a safe, at least 1 gun. They're required to get training in it, and keep ammunition for it (in a separate place), and keep the gun(s) in the safe(s) at all other times. This is a legal requirement, and you're also reimbursed by the government for these expenses.

4. Don't fortify the route your enemy wants to take through you.

Red represents a likely path from Russia to Europe that, was war declared, would keep the defence minister of Lithuania up at night. It's a logical choice for an invading army that passes through here. Mostly single carriage-way, but paved and capable of handling thousands of vehicles per hour: enter image description here

I'd set up zero defences on the red line. The army wants to get through to their next objective, your soldiers gain very little from dieing to slow this down. I'd place my token defensive positions on the light-blue lines where terrain allows - (eg an understaffed checkpoint at ground level reducing traffic to a chicane, and guys with RPGs up in the hills.), you want the enemy making great progress down this red line but discourage them spreading out into your country for as long as possible.

When the enemy hits one of these checkpoints, RPG fire disables a few vehicles, blocking the road, everyone falls back to the next defensible position, ready to repeat. Don't hold any ground long term, just annoy the hell out them for as long as possible, ideally keeping that red road nice and flowing. You want them in and out of your country as quickly as possible.

5. When the enemy invades.

  • The head of state puts out a statement urging his citizens to not fight and comply with the invading army for their own protection, resigns, and flees, leaving the country intentionally leaderless.
  • All military computers are wiped and hard-nulls written to disk.
  • All generals and politicians announce their "resignation" and go join their home defence reserve.
  • Release every prisoner in the jails that isn't a sex offender, isn't a direct threat to a specific citizen, and hasn't harmed a child. This should give the invading force something to worry about, and your prison guards would be better utilised in their local garrison.
  • No more orders or chain of command, the local captains are now free to do any action they see fit.
  • By having the guerrillas disorganised, you loose coordinated attacks, but you gain some protection of becoming predictable, or having all of you fall for the same fake intelligence, or even allow the enemy to know if they've gotten all of you. Any centralised communication or chain of command and there's a way for units to be compromised beyond their control.

6. Guerrilla tactics.

Exactly what happens is up to the local commander, but the official instructions are:

  • Ignore any official speech the president makes to stand down.
  • When enemy enters country, half head immediately to local bunker for further instructions, other half be good law abiding citizens (no spycraft or weapons on them).
  • When enemy enters your area, lock down the bunker and hide for several (intentionally vague) days. The enemy will capture the town, search it, set curfews, etc. They'll seize some weapons from citizens, but they wont get them all. They'll be very on edge for a few days, but they'll start to relax after a few days with no resistance.
  • The force is split in two in case the bunker is discovered, or in case a strict curfew is in effect and the town-half can't work, or in case the town is attacked without provocation. It also allows half the group to gather intel without the risk of a search finding their weapons.
  • The force regroups in the following week, should recon for as long as possible, and attack targets of opportunity, including:
    • Fuel stations
    • Oil and fuel infrastructure.
    • Rail junctions
    • Passing trains.
    • Supply trucks
    • Highway overpasses
    • Weapons factories.
    • Transport planes coming in to land.
    • Once local factories are repurposed:
      • Power generation
      • Power transmission lines, especially remote high tension pylons.
      • Power transformers.
      • Metal refining.
      • Mining and mineral refining.
      • Any factories repossessed for the war effort.
  • The goal isn't to kill the entire army directly, it's to get as many soldiers into the next country as quickly as possible, and then cut off their supply lines so that they can't use or replace equipment, or eat.
  • $\begingroup$ Seems rather counterproductive? Stockpiling enough food at every house makes it lucrative for the occupying army to resupply the troops by making every adress deliver 1000 dollars worth of supplies or have some people break down your door to get it. And there's weapons and ammo too! And if the bunkers are secret, why put people in during the start of the occupation? Just do business as usual until everyone sees its safe and a target presents itself before you touch your bunker and weapons. Just sabotaging everything in sight hurts the populace as well, and suicide bombing is for fanatics. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Sep 12, 2020 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Re: "Release every prisoner in the jails", they would promptly start predating on your own population. Why would the invader care in the slightest about that? $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2020 at 16:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .