I was skittering around a concrete hole in They Shall Not Pass' Fort De Vaux map when everything turned grey. I thought, for a second, that the map's weather had changed and a thick fog had settled over everything—but inside? I was actually seeing a rare sight in Battlefield 1: a smoke grenade.
I saw a few more smokes popped in that session, which seemed odd when I've rarely witnessed their grey plumes in all six months I've been playing Battlefield 1. Smoke users were still the vast minority on the server, with incendiary, gas, and regular frag grenades showering down as usual, but they were making themselves known.
The uptick might have had something to do with this recent Reddit post (opens in new tab), in which Retro21 runs down the many benefits of smoke grenades. There's also this popular gif (opens in new tab) (below) from admiralejandro (opens in new tab), which demonstrates the effectiveness of a good smoke. It seems smoke grenades are catching on, and they should be.
It's not as if no one was using smoke before. There was a bit of controversy (opens in new tab) when the carry limit was reduced from two to one—though the speed at which smoke grenades auto-resupply mitigates that—and every few months someone speaks up (opens in new tab) to praise the smoke carriers among us. But the smoke grenade is unique in Battlefield 1 in that it needs to be said how useful it is.
One of the major reasons smoke isn't used more is that you don't get any points for using it. Well, you might capture a point—which is the point of Battlefield—but you won't score kills with it alone, or see any satisfying damage ticks. You might know it's working, or at least feel like it is, but no one else does. Popping smoke is a thankless job.
It's also about muscle memory. If I see two or three enemies hiding behind a rock, my instinct is to smash 'G' and see if I can root them out, or get lucky and score a multi-kill. The first time I equipped smoke grenades I kept forgetting what they were for and throwing them onto occupied points—probably helping the enemy more than anything.
But then I spawned onto Amiens—the French city with two central bridges—as a smoke-carrying medic, and it felt like I had a third arm I'd been forgetting to use this whole time.
Amiens tends to devolve into a stalemate over the bridges, with both teams' snipers and machinegunners lying prone in buildings on either side, and at the ends of the train tracks below, denying anyone who dare stand on or under the bridges. I started tossing smoke across the bridge, or wherever I spotted tracers coming from, and reviving teammates during the short lulls the cover provided. We quickly captured both bridge points.
I'm not saying it was all me (OK, I'm a little bit saying that), and again, part of the reason smoke is unpopular is that there's no numerical measure of how effective the grenades are. But I know that I personally snuggled up on one of the bridges for a lie down, capturing point C while lazily tossing smokes to the other side where snipers strafed back and forth uselessly.
There may be no tick tick tick as you deal damage, but frustrating snipers is even better. At least on certain maps—Amiens is perfect for smoke—I can't imagine returning to my pre-smoke lifestyle. Here are a few ways to use the helpful particulates:
- Conceal downed teammates so you can revive them.
- Disguise a flank.
- Blind a tank so you can get close enough to drop mines, dynamite, or anti-tank grenades.
- Make snipers sad.
Retro21's post (opens in new tab), which I mentioned above, contains several more excellent ways to use the mighty WWI vape cloud. I do miss the beat of anticipation when I know I've tossed a frag into an anthill and a bunch of kills are going to flick across my screen, but having a counter to frustrating matches in which entrenched scouts and supports are knocking me down seconds after I spawn—on the desert maps especially—is more than enough to entice me away from standard grenades.
That said, smokes can backfire. Every now and then I'll pop one and a smart support player will fire randomly into it. They also seem to attract attack planes. But in just a few matches I've had far more success than screw-ups with smoke, especially when it comes to safely reviving teammates.
To everyone who's been using smoke all this time: I'm sorry I didn't join you earlier. To everyone else: Give smoke a try, and watch as your grey clouds turn drawn-out battles into quick captures.