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Broadsword56

Flanking The Fortress - Hill 531 (Tunisia) - WIP

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Start simple (a few Groups and a few Orders), then work your way up. I generally follow two principles -- (a) coordinated actions by a fixing Group and a flanking Group, and (B) a "jellyfish" movement when large forces must cross fairly open ground. That is to say, you reconcentrate your Group in a smallish (preferably covered) zone every other Order before having them immediately "spread out" to advance on a larger/wider zone in the next Order. Otherwise, because each unit in the Group selects its next destination squares in the zone randomly, if your objectives are a series of wide phase lines, you get units moving (hazardously) across the enemy front from left flank to right flank etc.

After lack of Triggers/Flags and units only having two speeds (Quick banzai charge and agonizingly Slow crawl), this is the most annoying feature of the AI, IMHO. In effect, single AI Groups can't advance on a broad front. Units in a Group ought to select the closest squares to their current location excepting those already "taken"; the algorithm is fairly straightforward.

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Those AI plans tips are pure gold, LLF -- thanks! (saving them to my scenario tips-and-tricks file)

Actually, I went whole hog already and made 15 Axis AI groups (leaving the 16th for a reinforcement group if/when I decide to allocate some later). But since it's a defensive plan, and I know the battles will center on the three main hills, it was fairly straightforward to set up.

***SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT -- STOP READING HERE IF YOU WANT THE AI TO BE A TOTAL SUPRISE***

The movements are fairly short -- basically I want the Germans defending the hilltops to HIDE for a while at first to ride out any opening Allied barrage (historically it was a 10-minute Corps/Div stonk) and let the enemy approach.

Most of the really active German AI will be around Hill 531, the main US objective and the must-hold territory for the Germans. Because it's a close-quarters knife fight among the boulders and crevices, I don't need to move the Germans very far. And the concealing aspects of the terrain should help protect them when they do assault. In essence, I set up several "waves" of aggressive assaults, to clear the hill, interspersed with coordinated fallbacks to reverse-slope defenses to rest and regroup. There's also a German reserve nearby that will come in to help out at a sertain point (although it's anyone's guess whether they'll arrive at a helpful moment or just get slaughtered.)

I gave each HMG team its own AI group, so they could "advance-normal" on their own from place to place among small zones (synchronized with the main waves) and simulate moves to alternate firing positions.

The rest of the German force on the other hills are just there to defend and support Hill 531. HMGs and AT guns, in particular, can sit up there and ambush from long range.

The Axis also have fantastic observation from Hill 609 and plenty of TRPs to call in AI artillery on the GIs, although the Germans have fewer artillery units than the Allies and ammo is limited.

If all goes as I hope, we'll see a lot of infantry units stumbling into each other on the hills at very close range. The human US player will have the advantage to be able to maneuver against this, but I'm thinking the AI may score a few punches if an assault group suddenly appears in a spot where the Americans are outnumbered and/or suppressed.

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@Broadsword56 :cool:

That battle makes a very challenging scenario. Sure it is easier to do it for a H2H, however a A.I against the US is highly feasible and even a German against the A.I.

If a designer uses the German A.I accordingly with the landscape and the tactical attack possible feasibility it can be made. It will be done after numerous RT game with the designer option in order to check the timing of the orders. However all can be partly ruined if a player is not moving within the time frame of the A.I setup.

In that scenario from what I have read in that post the Germans are in defense and not in attack. They are, if the designer sticks to reality, thinly deployed on the heights of their defense O.A with the mortars and platoons dispersed on the reverse slope. These platoons are meant to move to counter any enemy penetration of the defense line. The mortars could be move eventually. That would not be possible for the few direct firing guns that are surely aimed toward 531. Either from 609 olive grove, 490 and 523.

These US attackers’ penetrations should be made on the sides and not frontally. It seems that attacking 609 frontally would be suicidal. That explains the flanking US attack against 531 using 529 as a jup off position. If they get at 531 and past it, 609 reverse slope, will be in their line of fire. So it seems that a German blocking position could be set at 523.

BTW 523 does not seems to be in your map.

Why I do believe that the German A.I can be done in defense? Simply because, I have just done that in the Normandy scenario I have been nursing since I had done “Die Amis Kommen”. In that one the US A.I was attacking across bridges, rivers against higher defense grounds Having analyzed the good and wrong moves made by the AI depending on the map being done, I wanted to make the AI the closest to reality while doing a counter attack and a possible ordered retreat to new defenses positions.

In that new scenario about the defense of a town (first shots shown some months ago in a the following post)

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=100895

I have been able to have the Germans counter attack with tanks first (to pin down and suppress by fire the enemies)and closely following infantry mounted on SPW. The infantry dismount on their objectives. The infantry is ordered, following one the 3 A.I plans designed, to retreat after a set time. SPW’s first, tanks and or infantry. The A.I plan is able to obtain for these attacks on numerous testing a draw. The SPW’s and tanks are even able to retreat to new second line positions with at least 80% of their initial numbers.

That might seem to some people impossible, specially in a 03:30 time limit scenario. Well, believe me, it can be done, if a close look is taken at the landscape and at the tactical feasibility of the defender and of the attacker sides.

One might tell me that if the attacker does not do it by the book that the AI plans will crumpled down. No; it will be the attackers that will be mowed down, if the defense is well set. On the other hand, if the player does it by the book as it should be done, he will most likely get its attackers into a position highly predictable and at a time period that can be found by play testing the scenario. Movements take time and the time it takes to move or attack from one point to the other can be estimated

The only thing that is impossible to set at a convenient time is the artillery. However I have found while testing my town attack scenario that A.I Forward Observers were able to pinpoint more or less rapidly enemy positions, bringing down on them mortars and or artillery shelling in the following minutes. That was quite a surprise to me to see the AI react so well.

Besides these good AI possibilities the higher numbers of AI orders, in a group, being available in CMFI should make it even easier to make AI plans than with CMBN.

Knowing broadly the area in Tunisia I just had a look on Google earth this afternoon. It is a succession of low ridges, small or wide gullies and hills with roads winding in between. Hill 609 really prevented the access to Mateur and Tunis from that area.

If tanks and or armored cars can be easily spotted on the roads in the low grounds, it is quite a different story for moving recon or assault teams winding their way forward using the lower grounds defilades.

There will be scarce foliages in your scenario comparing to Normandy, but there should be numerous bushes, olive groves, small gullies, and stone walls and in reality the always present cactus hedges (better than wires to herd goats and sheep) near small villages

If you want me to have a look at the AI (US, German or both) let me know.

In any case that is a scenario I am looking forward to play

Did you have a look at this ?

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-MTO-NWA/USA-MTO-NWA-33.html

Cheer

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I have been able to have the Germans counter attack with tanks first (to pin down and suppress by fire the enemies)and closely following infantry mounted on SPW. The infantry dismount on their objectives. The infantry is ordered, following one the 3 A.I plans designed, to retreat after a set time. SPW’s first, tanks and or infantry. The A.I plan is able to obtain for these attacks on numerous testing a draw. The SPW’s and tanks are even able to retreat to new second line positions with at least 80% of their initial numbers.

I am officially your fan now :);)

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Merci beaucoup, snake eye!

If you PM me your e-mail address, I will give you "share" acess to the Dropbox folder where I will maintain the playtest version of this scenario.

I would greatly appreciate your taking a look at my AI plan for the Germans (I intend to make only 1 plan, since the ideal is to play this scenatio HTH). But it would also be a simple matter to make more AI plans, using the same or similar orders, simply by changing some of the execution times.

Also: No, Hill 455 is not on my map. It was beyond the scope of this battalion's attack orders on 30 April. Hill 455 was in the 1st Infantry Division's sector (their attack on Hill 455 was a disaster.) The orders of the US battalion in my scenario (they were in the 34th Infantry Division) were simply to take Hill 531 (and the 609 "knob") and then patrol toward Point RR and Hill 455 to probe and assess enemy defenses there. Historically, the main attack started in midafternoon and the patrols didn't go out to that area until much later, in the evening. My scenario starts in the afternoon and is "only" 4 hours, but since CM tends to compress time, I'm still going to give the US a chance to earn some bonus points by making some "touch" objectives on Point RR and Hill 455. That will encourage the US to patrol in that direction.

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@Fuser

Well, I don’t know if that is a good thing to do! To find the right A.I behaviour drove me nuts!

I almost dropped down my scenario wanting a realistic action that I could not get the way as I wanted it to be. It took me numerous testing to find the right behaviour of the A.I. believe me it was rather difficult and more than one time I have put aside the scenario for better times. They have come at last. For those interested I could if necessary give the hints that help me. But you can find them in fewer details some way or another in what I wrote already

Thanks and Cheer

@Broasword56

Thanks, You can Email me on snake.eye@sfr.fr

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4 hours,...you never cease to amaze me, how the hell could anyone create AI plans for a 4h scenario? Just betatesting that would tage ages!!!

In a fairly static defense, it's no harder than making the plan for a half-hour scenario. You just extend the time for some orders to last longer, and make the last order extend past 04:00:00.

But players don't have to play the scenario for the entire maximum possible length -- in my experience, the result of a battle is usually obvious to each side within an hour or two. But in this case, the battalion had all afternoon to accomplish its mission, and I want to see how long it takes to do that without artificially forcing the battle to end. If the results are clear in less than 4 hours, then I'll shorten the battle accordingly. But I like players to be able to play on if they want to. It can also be part of the game to decide, as the US player: Do I feel I have sufficient victory points already to capture Hill 531 and then ask for ceasefire? Or should I press on and patrol to the final objectives, to earn additional points (but risk a major loss if enemy forces put up a big fight there)?

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4 hours,...you never cease to amaze me, how the hell could anyone create AI plans for a 4h scenario? Just betatesting that would tage ages!!!

Actually there is a 4 hour scenario in the CMBN Repository KG Himmelfahrt. I spent about 2 weeks playing it, about 2-3 hours a day and still have about 2 hours to go.

The defense AI is pretty well done. I got punished for being careless and aggressive. But trying to stay engaged in a scenario for that long wore me down. And my machine ran S-L-O-W. But it was a fascinating challenge.

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Also, I know there's a vocal faction on the boards that dislikes larger maps/scenarios. In this case, I gave this scenario the map and scale of forces I felt it needed to represent the historical battle accurately, and to re-create the tactical problem.

These were mutually supporting German hill positions, and a major challenge of this attack for the US commander was how to deal with all the German support fire coming from all the other hills, over such a wide-open area.

I think it's much easier to make successful small scenarios in close terrain or bocage, where smaller units often fought in isolation. But more open terrain tends to lead naturally to bigger-scale scenarios, IMHO.

Market-Garden probably won't pose this problem as much, despite the flat and open terrain of Holland. That's because so many of the fights happened as flare-ups between isolated forces all along the corridor.

At it again in Tunisia eh? Just got a chance to catch up on this. You are crazy you know? In a good way :D I do get tired of us all telling each other what is right or wrong. I am gradually being won over to smaller is better for a couple reasons. Better attention to detail, inability to reload certain types of ammo, I get lost following some of my units when the amount of action going on gets too large etc etc however far be it from me to tell any one else what they should or shouldn't like in the game. On top of that I am stil working on a large scale map for a TCS series Screaming Eagles in Holland OP layer when the MG module is out.

It's your scenario, create what you like. if someone doesn't like it they don't have to play it. Or better yet they can take the map if they like and slice it down to something they do like. To be honest the vocal faction against large maps is more about suggesting to folks not to start there as it is simply biting off too much for a first time creation. It isn't that you shouldn't do it, it is more about working your way up to it. I have been tinkering around with the AI and expect my first scenario is only going to be barely a company. It is more about learning the AI at this stage.

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Yes, the wait for CMBN 2.0 is making me crazy enough that I've finally been driven to...this. I can't be content just playing CMFI as it is, in Sicily, against the AI...and, I might add, your recent globetrotting hasn't left me much alternative! ;-D

I find North Africa more appealing as a wargame theatre than Sicily, for some reason. Probably a result of reading "An Army At Dawn" (which IMHO is a far better book than Atkinson's sequel on the Italian Campaign). Also, I suppose I just find the creative process of research and historical discovery, mapping, and scenario-making more active and fun than merely playing the game -- the only "pure playing" experience that trumps it for me is playing battles within an operational-tactical campaign. I'd be happily doing that right now if the existing CMBN had been able to handle our Saint-Lo campaign without crashing, or if we had the Market Garden module now.

if someone doesn't like it they don't have to play it. Or better yet they can take the map if they like and slice it down to something they do like.

Yes -- for example, the patrol to the final pair of hills at the end of this scenario could easily be cut off and made into a separate little night action. In fact, I might actually do this someday if no one else does [ oh no, please stop me -- this is MADNESS!].

But I wish more people would build on what's been provided in the Repository -- even just modifying a map, scaling a battle up or down, slicing off a bit to make something new, or adding some different AI to it would greatly increase and enhance the content available for the games. And it's not nearly as much work as starting something from scratch.

I just make these maps/scenarios for my own hobby satisfaction, and to share them with like-minded players, however few they may be. And I tend to be persistent about things. So even when I take on a big idea for a scenario -- even if it's too big -- I start to feel responsible for it and the need to see it through drives me to finish it. I'm not even sure it's 100% enjoyable; it's more likely borderline obsessive-compulsive.

But I also feel a real thrill in discovering a 60-year-old hand-drawn map and typed AAR in some forgotten Army archive and making it come alive again -- to give up it's "dead men's secrets" and take me back in time to tell me why things might have happened as they did, or might have happened differently "if only." And I start feeling more connected to the real soldiers who fought this battle and died in it, responsible to them, in a way, as their ghosts whisper to me to "just get it right."

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I find North Africa more appealing as a wargame theatre than Sicily, for some reason. Probably a result of reading "An Army At Dawn" (which IMHO is a far better book than Atkinson's sequel on the Italian Campaign).

Having read both books I heartily disagree. The first seemed to wallow in the psychodramas of the Allied commanders and the perfidy of the French. Combat operations got short sheeted. Why did you prefer it?

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The North Africa book had a more compelling dramatic story, to me. Taking a green army from a shattered wreck after Kasserine and -- in only 3 months -- getting it to the point where it could take Hill 609 and (together with the Brits of course) finish the Afrika Korps is one of the most amazing military feats in history.

After reading the historical AAR for this battle I'm replicating in "Flanking the Fortress," I got a much better sense of how that transformation actually happened. It wasn't just Patton coming in and kicking a**, but hard-earned lessons by small units in combats like Fondouk Pass. As the AAR describes, the 34th ID got its clock cleaned at Fondouk and then spent some intensive training time learning how to fight properly, work with tanks, etc. Those lessons really paid off in the Hill 609 campaign and the endgame in May. And it's these battles that made Sicily, Italy, and even D-Day possible.

The Italy book -- though still very good -- seemed to me as wearying and repetitive to read as the actual campaign up the Boot must have felt to the participants. Just my feeling about it as a reader. I also personally disliked the fact that the Italy book ended well before the Italian campaign was won. My uncle fought with the 10th Mtn. Div in the Po River Valley campaign, and I think some of those battles should have a place in any good book about the Italian Theatre. Those vets get overlooked enough as it is.

I'm looking forward to Atkinson's final volume in the trilogy, when it gets to NW Europe. He's a great writer and historian, and I'll probably read anything he writes.

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North Africa was the last point at which the Axis and Western Allies fielded evenly matched forces; so from a wargaming perspective that is appealing. For the rest of the war, German superiority was strictly local and fleeting.

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Hi,

Broadsword..

Probably a result of reading "An Army At Dawn" (which IMHO is a far better book than Atkinson's sequel on the Italian Campaign).

Agreed... but as you imply, the raw, historical material is a better story than the Italian campaign. The third in the series, out early next summer, will I am sure be great as the material he has to work with is up to Army at Dawn standards.

All the best,

Kip.

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Quick add on...

Broadsword,

But I wish more people would build on what's been provided in the Repository -- even just modifying a map, scaling a battle up or down, slicing off a bit to make something new, or adding some different AI to it would greatly increase and enhance the content available for the games.

That is exactly what I have done for my own consumption. Great fun too. I do appreciate all the work you put in.

All the best,

Kip.

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Also, I know there's a vocal faction on the boards that dislikes larger maps/scenarios.

I don't know if I'd put myself in the 'vocal' part of that faction, but I do find myself trending generally towards smaller scenarios. However there’s a big caveat here: I think that map size is heavily dependent on effective weapons ranges and especially on typical LOS on the map in question. If LOS is generally short, then a designer can get away with a smaller map. If LOS is short AND effective weapons are short too (ie, small arms and no HMGs) then the designer can definitely get away with a small map, and a large map under those circumstances can be an exercise in tedium and logistics.

However, if weapons ranges are large, and especially if LOS is long ... well, then a big map is required. And in a battle like that a large map can quickly cascade into a massive map.

Say you (the hypothetical 'you') wanted to re-create Broadsword’s “Hill 609” scenario, but only include B Company. Well, in order to account for the weapons ranges and unrestricted LOS you're sort-of forced to create a large map (IMO). This is so that units aren’t immediately under observation and fire in the Set Up Zone, and so the can manoeuvre realistically.

But a big map means that A and C Companies quickly get sucked into the fight too, otherwise B Company will have weird empty spaces (historically occupied by those other companies) on either flank, or it’ll have unrealistically secure flanks (if you make the map only as wide as B Company’s AO. Neither approach would make much sense, and both would convey a distorted sense of this battle. The same applies to the defending Germans – you could only include the forces that were directly ahead of B Co., but that would rule out enfilading fire, and the ability to defending by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But by adding A and C Co.s, and stretching the German defence as well, what was a company battle is suddenly a battalion battle on a massive map.

I really struggle to see how a credible small scenario could be designed when the LOS and weapons ranges are long. Unless the designer casts some funky fu and does a special operations type mission (Your Isolated Company Raids Rommel's HQ!!!) or heavily restricts LOS by setting the battle at night or in mist. But then that isn't a long-LOS scenario anymore.

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Thanks Jon -- that's exactly the point I've been trying to make (only less eloquently) when people complain about smaller or larger scenarios in the abstract. Naturally it's a matter of personal playing taste whether one prefers to play company or platoon scale battles or larger ones. But when it comes to designing *historical* scenarios, I find that certain battles naturally lend themselves to certain scales and map sizes. Of course one could just take my map and make a totally fictional Company B battle on a piece of this map. But it would make no sense historically, for the reasons you point out. When CM gets to mechanized combat in Russia, I'd imagine the scale of maps and battles will tend to get larger, not smaller.

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Hi,

Have finally cracked using Panzer Campaigns as a tool in an operational layer for CM.

The editor in PzCs is fantastically flexible tool. You can very quickly build three versions of the operational situation at a given time. The Master version for use by the game umpire, me.. ;). Then an Allied version with Axis units edited for Fog Of War to be sent round to the Allied players and then the likewise an Axis version.

Battles resolved at the operational level I do using the formulas from Dupuy. Of course some battles are resolved at CM and results applied.

It’s all very easy but the time consuming bit is building the battles due to the maps.

How are people approaching the map building problem? Just take a stock of maps for say CMFI, if that is the setting, and edit the nearest match to the required terrain for a given battle?

All good stuff... and remarkable easy to do with the editor from PzCs..

All the best,

Kip.

PS

I find North Africa more appealing as a wargame theatre than Sicily, for some reason.

Agreed.... use PzC Tunisia as operational layer?

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@kip: You could just use a stock of existing maps and adapt them to your purposes. In my campaigns I make every battle map from scratch, using Google Earth imagery and aerial photos and period maps, etc., as overlay soources, so it's on the actual terrain each time. But I can do that because (1) I enjoy mapping, and (B) because I don't resolve every op-layer battle in CM. Instead, my opponents and I just pick and choose certain engagements that look like they'd be fun or represent a critical situation.

Update on "Flanking the Fortress:" I'm about 16 minutes into a solo WEGO test of the scenario, playing as US vs. the fantastic and challenging German AI that Snake Eye added to it. So far, so good. But I want to finish the battle and make any necessary adjustments before releasing a final version to the Repository.

If you like to fire HMGs at maximum range, this is your map for it! Also, as the US player you need to be a maestro of artillery and WP smoke to cover your attack, or your men will be toast on their exposed approach to Hill 531.

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Broadsword,

(B) because I don't resolve every op-layer battle in CM. Instead, my opponents and I just pick and choose certain engagements that look like they'd be fun or represent a critical situation.

Absolutely... that is critical to a good operational game. The operational layer should be able to be resolved entirely at the operational level if people wished to. Of course they do not, with some resolved at CM level.

All the best,

Kip.

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