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JonS

The Sheriff of Oosterbeek – A Scenario Design DAR/AAR

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I just completed a h2h of this and I want to thank you for all the time and work you put into it. This is the 1st time I actually took out 3 AFV's in 1 battle using infantry only. It was a most enjoyable and tense match up that wound up resulting in an Allied minor victory. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the hidden victory conditions. Didn't find that out until the dust cleared.

Keep building them.

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Finally I was able to get a Waffen SS Tactical Victory but I barely reached the Central Crossroad that was still heavily defended.

For sure the design is really good as this battle has depicted very realistically, and I would say historically, the difficulties and hardship both sides had to face.

I appreciated how each strong point of the Red Devils fought with grim determination and skill: in the end even winning the battle I was never able to reach any relevant objective, not to speak of finding where the Sheriff was.

It was a very slow and systematic grinding of the defender, staying always on the edge of failure since the best German troops even after a successful assault got at least nervous and had to give them some time before advancing again.

A very well thought AI and clever positioning: good work Jon!

I'm intrigued now to see how the German AI will behave on the attack...

Now I can read on the whole designer's notes and find some inspiration for updating/creating new scenarios. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

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Finally I was able to get a Waffen SS Tactical Victory but I barely reached the Central Crossroad that was still heavily defended.

That's a really good effort. Good work :)

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While I'm reading your document and examining the map in the Editor, I've noticed I did a battle scenario called < The Sheriff of Oosterbeek - small >where there are no British SUZs and the map is somewhat smaller than the one pictured in the doc. Is that OK?

Admittedly I've also received the disc version but since I had already downloaded and installed the MG module I did not bother to re-install everything: I wonder if on the disc there is a full version of it and if so how should I proceed without having to re-install all the upgrades?

Thanks for any advice.

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No, he hasn't, and he probably won't. He tends not to use the Mods thing, and the triggers is kind-of complex but kind-of-not, too. It really comes down to understanding the intent and flow of your scenario. If you know that, then triggers are a fairly straightforward additional step in AI programming. If you don't understand your own scenario, though, then nothing Jon writes will be able to help.

Simple example:

A) "Bwhahahahha! I'ma put a company of Tigers in muh see-nar-ee-oh! And a company of Panthers! Yeehaw! And some triggers, huh! ... Wait. Why isn't this fun?"

B) "Right. The attacker will likely advance along this axis, reaching here by about 30 minutes, and the lead elements should be there at about 45 minutes. Therefore I will have the defender's reserve conduct a counter attack around the left flank starting at about the 45 minute mark, but I really want them to catch the attacker's lead elements in the flank. So I'll add an enemy AI trigger along that road, which will give the reserve time to move around and get into position for the counter attack just as the attacker reaches the farmhouse. ... ok, that almost worked, I just need to move the trigger zone back a bit, and add 2 minutes to the timing. ... Yeah, that's the ticket!"

 

@JonS,

Could you talk a little more to "understanding the intent and flow of your scenario"?  I think I'm letting myself get caught in the weeds of "battle plans" in and of themselves.  I worry that when someone else adopts a different plan than the one I envisioned, my AI plan will "go stupid" and fail as a scenario.  I have a couple  scenario designs still undone trying to understand this.  Thank you!

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but iirc that frame was printed from a movie shot depicting the marching off of the prisoners (hence the blur) while the one with the seated prisoners is indeed a photograph: I presume there were some signal photographers and cine operators present in Oosterbeek at that same moment in that place.

 

Check this book out, an interesting read and it also discusses those particular shots in detail, including quotes from the guy flashing the "V".

 

http://www.amazon.com/Street-Arnhem-Agony-Occupation-Liberation/dp/1612002641/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419794982&sr=8-1&keywords=a+street+in+arnhem

 

I would be wary of taking too much historical from BoB.  At least one scene (the shooting of that Cpt just prior to the enemy armor counterattack) was actually another unit during the push into Eindhoven.

Edited by sburke

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Hi Badger,

sorry for not getting to this sooner - I've been at the beach and tramping in the mountains for the last couple of weeks :D

 

@JonS,

Could you talk a little more to "understanding the intent and flow of your scenario"?  I think I'm letting myself get caught in the weeds of "battle plans" in and of themselves.  I worry that when someone else adopts a different plan than the one I envisioned, my AI plan will "go stupid" and fail as a scenario.  I have a couple  scenario designs still undone trying to understand this.  Thank you!

 

By 'intent' what I mean is 'what is the big idea for this scenario'. I talked about it a bit way back at the start of this thread*. I think that as a scenario designer you should have a specific idea of what the tactical problem(s) the player(s) are to be confronted with are before you start designing, and then the design should be moulded - or malleted - to bring out that problem(s). You also have to cut out anything that changes or dilutes the problems you're trying to create. It's no good, I think, just throwing stuff into a scenario and then leaving it up to the players to make of it what they can. You, the designer, must decide what the issues are and design a scenario that actually raises those issues, then leave it up to the players to figure out how they're going to resolve them.

 

So, for example, in this scenario - The Sheriff of Oosterbeek - the problems for the British are to organise a viable defence from a disorganised mass of retreating men, as well as managing ammo carefully by resupplying and/or rotating platoons out of the line when they've been used up. And, of course, the defence has to be robust enough, and far enough forward, to hold off the Germans while garnering enough VPs to win. For the Germans the problems are using numerous but fairly fragile (morale- and experience-wise) infantry in a close-up urban fight against motivated infantry with very high short-range firepower. The Germans do have a lot of mobile armoured firepower, but again there are limits in that their ammo depth isn't great, and they're vulnerable to the AT that the British have.

 

Those respective issues are my 'intent' for this scenario. The players have to work with and mitigate them in order to succeed.

 

In  terms of 'flow', I expect that the British player will spend the first 10-15 minutes trying to bring scattered sections together into cohesive units, and perhaps trying to close up platoons so that the companies are also cohesive. After that they'll be responding to German thrusts, rotating platoons in and out of the line, and incorporating reserves into the defensive scheme as they arrive. The British player will also need to make decisions about how long to hold any particular position, and when to fall back to the next one ... and where the next one will be, most likely using the Allied victory locations as a guide. The main weight of defence will likely be along the central road, with a wing extending to the north, and some decent overwatch on the open ground to the south.

 

The German flow I expect to begin with a thrust straight up the guts with the units already on the map. As subsequent companies arrive I expect they'll be used either to reinforce and provide fresh impetus to the central thrust, or perhaps to develop a secondary threat via hook around to the right. I do not expect that any serious thrust will be mounted through the open ground to the left. The German attack will be directed towards securing enough VP locations to achieve at least a minimum level of victory, rather than advancing willy-nilly all over the map.

 

In terms of detail, I have no idea how any given player will execute things on a turn-by-turn basis, but however they do it I expect it'll broadly conform to the above.

 

For each of the scenarios I've designed I could give you a broadly similar description of the intent and flow, with the flow naturally following on from the intent.

 

Does that help, or at least make some sense?

 

Jon

 

* The intent for Sheriff was expanded on a bit here and especially here

Edited by JonS

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Hi Badger,

sorry for not getting to this sooner - I've been at the beach and tramping in the mountains for the last couple of weeks :D

 

 

By 'intent' what I mean is 'what is the big idea for this scenario'. I talked about it a bit way back at the start of this thread*. I think that as a scenario designer you should have a specific idea of what the tactical problem(s) the player(s) are to be confronted with are before you start designing, and then the design should be moulded - or malleted - to bring out that problem(s). You also have to cut out anything that changes or dilutes the problems you're trying to create. It's no good, I think, just throwing stuff into a scenario and then leaving it up to the players to make of it what they can. You, the designer, must decide what the issues are and design a scenario that actually raises those issues, then leave it up to the players to figure out how they're going to resolve them.

 

So, for example, in this scenario - The Sheriff of Oosterbeek - the problems for the British are to organise a viable defence from a disorganised mass of retreating men, as well as managing ammo carefully by resupplying and/or rotating platoons out of the line when they've been used up. And, of course, the defence has to be robust enough, and far enough forward, to hold off the Germans while garnering enough VPs to win. For the Germans the problems are using numerous but fairly fragile (morale- and experience-wise) infantry in a close-up urban fight against motivated infantry with very high short-range firepower. The Germans do have a lot of mobile armoured firepower, but again there are limits in that their ammo depth isn't great, and they're vulnerable to the AT that the British have.

 

Those respective issues are my 'intent' for this scenario. The players have to work with and mitigate them in order to succeed.

 

In  terms of 'flow', I expect that the British player will spend the first 10-15 minutes trying to bring scattered sections together into cohesive units, and perhaps trying to close up platoons so that the companies are also cohesive. After that they'll be responding to German thrusts, rotating platoons in and out of the line, and incorporating reserves into the defensive scheme as they arrive. The British player will also need to make decisions about how long to hold any particular position, and when to fall back to the next one ... and where the next one will be, most likely using the Allied victory locations as a guide. The main weight of defence will likely be along the central road, with a wing extending to the north, and some decent overwatch on the open ground to the south.

 

The German flow I expect to begin with a thrust straight up the guts with the units already on the map. As subsequent companies arrive I expect they'll be used either to reinforce and provide fresh impetus to the central thrust, or perhaps to develop a secondary threat via hook around to the right. I do not expect that any serious thrust will be mounted through the open ground to the left. The German attack will be directed towards securing enough VP locations to achieve at least a minimum level of victory, rather than advancing willy-nilly all over the map.

 

In terms of detail, I have no idea how any given player will execute things on a turn-by-turn basis, but however they do it I expect it'll broadly conform to the above.

 

For each of the scenarios I've designed I could give you a broadly similar description of the intent and flow, with the flow naturally following on from the intent.

 

Does that help, or at least make some sense?

 

Jon

 

* The intent for Sheriff was expanded on a bit here and especially here

 

JonS,

No apologies necessary!  Frankly, I'm jealous!  The temperatures in my part of the world these last couple of weeks are sub-zero (Fahrenheit); consistently below -20 C.  No beach tramping on the local ice ponds! ;)

Your post makes good sense and distills the situation nicely.  I think I still need to understand how to connect a few more dots; specifically how should one program the AI to counter an "intent" along a broad front?

I'm taking your advice to start small and decided to try adapting two (2) Squad Leader scenario's; both pitting less than 10 squads in defense against a company (12-15 squads) probing forward.  (WG109 - Reconnaissance in Force & WG231 - Prelude to Operation Luttich).  Map making with overlays has been fun.  Purchasing forces is straightforward.  The scenario's have defined objectives and general reinforcement parameters.  I'm struggling with my initial AI plan.  I suppose I could string out a wide defense in line or encircle the known objectives but that's a kind of "stand and die" deployment.

 

A human attacker will likely recon then concentrate on a narrow point; left, center, or right, and punch through.  I could program timed defensive shifts and withdrawels but that's fraught with missteps and bad tactics.  Is the defensive AI smart or robust enough to know when to pull back and then later retake designated ground back?

I'm trying to translate "intent" into "process details".  I would like to create a scenario AI fun for people to play against.  My time spent on this is sporadic (RL can be so demanding!  :( ).  I'm more inclined to want a good understanding before starting instead of experimenting overmuch (and forgetting what I learned when too much time passes by).

My questions and expectations may be unrealistic.  That's okay but I wanted to ask and learn.  Thank you for your time and help.

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Badger - if I can be so bold as to give my thoughts, although I'm sure Jon will be along later.

 

From an AI plan perspective think about what the AI editor will allow you to do and understand it's limitations and requirements. It cannot match the actions of a human player, and so don't try to do so.

 

Key points about the AI editor.

 

16 groups is the current max available 

It's main action is one of movement, triggered either by the clock or the new triggers now in game (terrain objective or AI order)

Different speeds of movement are available which effect the likelihood of an AI unit to fire on the enemy.

 

(For a small scale action you might be able to have each squad and/or vehicle in its own AI group, for larger scenarios this is not possible)

 

You can therefore have a plan that moves units, but only to where you tell them to go and when you tell them to go, and to be more or less likely to open fire dependent on the move command they are given.

 

Note you can also change the attack posture of a stationary unit, by setting a unit up with a hide command, then having it stay in the same location but switching to a fire command via a trigger or the clock. This will create a fairly decent ambush if judged correctly.

 

Link these together and you start to get a feel for how to get the AI acting as you might like.

 

In defence a forward unit might have a hide command, which changes to an ambush command when activated by a terrain objective, and then have a subsequent move command (dash to the rear maybe) triggered by another terrain objective or the clock. 

 

This movement to the rear then might trigger a second friendly unit to either move forward (counter attack), drop a hide command (covering fire or a second ambush), move to the rear (further withdrawal) or whatever else.

 

The trick though is for the movement plans you give the AI to make sense given the likely player actions. Triggers makes this easier than the old method of working purely off the clock, but it's still as much art as it is science.

 

Set up simple AI manoeuvres in the editor and then watch them play out in scenario author mode. One of my litmus tests for the AI on attack is to see whether the attack can be successful against me as the player, but on the basis I issue no commands. If it can't beat me on that basis it certainly won't beat me if I am giving my force orders.

 

Watching the AI attack over and over again in the same scenario (in scenario author mode to start with) does give you a really good idea of how it interprets the orders given in the editor and how terrain types can affect them. This allows you to get a feel for how an AI plan will then pan out. 

 

AI defence is often about finding good positions for key weapon systems, as there is no point setting an ATG somewhere with poor LOS. There is also however no point putting it somewhere with  such good LOS that every enemy unit can also see it. Spend time finding those perfect keyhole positions

 

I'll stop here and let Jon chime in

 

P

Edited by Pete Wenman

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No need to stop there Pete - I completely agree with you. I think the key point you raised is that the AI will never be as good as a human opponent, so don't set that as the goal. Besides, it doesn't need to be as good as a human. I view the  AI as a punching bag for people to play against while they're waiting for PBEM turns to arrive, or to fill in time. As the designer, I don't need my AI to 'beat' the player, just give him a decent challenge, with maybe a surprise or two and a conundrum to deal with.

 

Badger, you said:

"I suppose I could string out a wide defense in line or encircle the known objectives but that's a kind of 'stand and die' deployment."

You know, that's more or less exactly what I did with Kiwi Soldiers (which has just five units defending ... and only six attacking), and more-or-less what I did with Platoon Patrol, 18 Platoon, and Dead of Night. As long as the defensive scheme is plausible, has depth, and the defenders interlock their firepower, a static 'strand-and-die' defence in a small scenario works fine. You can then think about adding some of the little tweaks that Pete talked about - a forward element with a programmed ambush (Hide -> Ambush100, or something similar), and then pulling it back to the main defence line. Nothing too dramatic, but enough that the defender isn't completely static. You could also constitute some kind of reserve from the defending force (about 1/3rd of the total force, if you can manage that) and have it conduct a minor probe towards one of the objectives mid-to-late in the scenario. Depending on what the attacker does (i.e. attacks on the left, centre, or right) that movement of the reserve will either move to re-take an objective or reinforce a piece of ground you're still holding. Either way it probably won't be the 'perfect' thing for the AI to do, but it will add unexpected problems for the attacker.

 

"Is the defensive AI smart or robust enough to know when to pull back and then later retake designated ground back?"

No. The AI will only do what you as the designer tell it to do, and will only do it when you tell it too (although Triggers do add the possibility of the 'when' being somewhat dynamic)

 

For the attacking AI, you've already identified the three plans you need to develop: "A human attacker will likely recon then concentrate on a narrow point; left, center, or right, and punch through." You just need to turn those three approaches into a coherent series of moves for the AI groups you assign to the attacking force. But, again, try to make it plausible. Don't do a bum-rush to the first objective with everything you've got. Have one platoon probe forward to establish a base of fire somewhere, then a second platoon swing around on a short flanking move supported by the base of fire, then have the third platoon push through to clear the objective* and start moving on to the next objective while the first two platoons re-group. The rinse-repeat the [probe]-[base of fire]-[flank]-[clear] process using different platoons in each role.

 

And, again, remember that you aren't necessarily trying to 'beat' the defender here. If that's all you want to do, then just give the attacker a battalion of infantry or a company of Tigers and just have them do a bum-rush. Easy, right? Sure; easy, but also stupid. No, what you should be trying to do - I think - is set up a plausible attack that the defender has to actually think about how he's going to beat it. Like Pete, when I'm testing the attacking AI I watch it attack against my completely passive defence. If the AI can't succeed when I don't do anything, there's a problem that I need to fix. But if the AI can execute a coordinated attack that looks nice and succeeds in taking some ground (even if it's not enough to 'win') then I'm happy.

 

In a lot of ways I find programming the attacking AI easier that the defence, mainly because as the attacker you're setting where the point of main effort is going to be for any given plan, and can set orders with that firmly in mind. But when you're programming the AI you have to guess what the player might do ... which could be anything, and so you have to spread things out a bit more to cover at least the most likely eventualities.

 

Hope that helps

Jon

 

* and bear in mind 'objective' here doesn't necessarily mean a Victory Location, it could just be a nice piece of ground that should be cleared and held (which you might chose to make a Touch or Hold objective anyway), or a defensive location that you - as designer - know the defender is very likely to occupy, perhaps because it's one of his objectives. In other words, don't be afraid to shamelessly exploit your knowledge of the Intent and Flow in order to program the AI to do plausible things.

Edited by JonS

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@JonS and Pete,

I truly appreciate these excellent clarificatons.  Your articulate "reality checks" are most helpful.  I clearly over-analyzed and mired myself in unnecessary minutea.  I only need to put your clear insights to good use now.  Thank you both very much!  Good luck and good gaming!

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Jon, I have a question concerning plans. I just designed my first battle (tiny) and I noticed something unusual. When I created the plans, I had infantry elements moving "normal" and "cautious", yet when I playtested it, the infantry always start off running. And they never slow down until contact. This happened with both the axis and allied sides.  I did not have them "dash" or "quick" at all, just normal, assault and max assault. Do you know what I may have done wrong?

 

Thanks

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Hi Chap,

You've done nothing wrong, that's just the way the AI moves them; they always run. I tried to set up a scenario which had the AI idly patrolling around a city as the Blue guys tried to infiltrate, and of course the 'patrol' ended up sprinting about the place. *shrug* It makes sense when you remember that CM is about force-on-force battles, where both sides know there's going to be lots of shooting and dying, soon. It's not about ninjas creeping around in the dark firing silenced MP5s into the back of unsuspecting stooges :D

 

Visually, the big differences between the AI movement types are:

1) the length of the movement orders gets shorter as the AI order type gets more 'tactical'. Dash orders are much longer than Max Assault orders. This means that overall movement over ground is much faster, but it also means that if the player spots them moving they're much more likely to be able to bring effective fire to bear

2) the number of moving elements at any given time decreases as the AI order type gets more 'tactical'. With Dash, it's likely that all units will be up and moving at the same time. With Max Assault there'll probably only be one section moving, then another will leapfrog fwd and go to ground, then another, and so on. In combination with the shorter legs, this makes the overall rate of advance for Max Assault very slow, but quite tactically sound. Also, with the more tactical type orders (Advance, Assault, Max Assault), HQ and support elements will tend to lag behind, as they should.

 

A really good way to see this for yourself is to set up a long thing test strip (at least 500m long), and place a single rifle platoon (UK is good, because they have the 2-in mortar in addition to the HQ), then give the platoon an AI order to Dash from one end to the other. Then 'play' the scenario, and watch how the AI executes that order. Then change the AI order to Quick, and watch it again. Etc. (or set up five platoons in parallel, and have them all go at the same time). It's really quite instructive, and will really help you get head around what the AI tries to do with any given order type. It's probably a good idea to do the same thing with a platoon of vehicles/tanks if you're looking at a vehicle-heavy scenario.

 

Oh, there is one wrinkle: Assault and Max Assault, because of their leap-frogging nature, require several separate elements to 'work'. If you give a Max Assault order to an AI group that only consists of a single squad - which is quite likely in a tiny scenario - the AI can't carry out an assault, so it automagically drops the order type down to Advance (or Quick? I forget). Again, you can see this for yourself in the test scenario you made for the previous paragraph. Give each AI order type to a single squad, and watch what happens, paying careful attention to the colour of the ,movement order lines the AI allocates units each turn.

 

Hopefully that helps?

Jon

Edited by JonS

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Wow thanks Jon.  I was aware of the issue you mention in your last paragraph after reading your manual last week.

 

I guess I just expected the soldiers to move as they would in "hunt" or "normal" move within the regular orders format in the game. And when I didn't see that, I figured I did something wrong :)

 

Since I have your attention, I know how to rename the unit leaders within the units section of the scenario editor, but I do not know how to change the unit name (ie creating "Royal Canadian Regiment", for example)

 

Thanks!

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Click on the top level ( "2nd Battalion", or whatever), which should highlight everything in the unit, then click Rename. That should work. You can also use the same thing to rename subordinate companies and platoons.

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Click on the top level ( "2nd Battalion", or whatever), which should highlight everything in the unit, then click Rename. That should work. You can also use the same thing to rename subordinate companies and platoons.

 

Wow great!  I didn't notice that at all. Thanks Jon

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how should I as German player against AI best utilize the 150mm gun?

Carefully?

 

 

 

How do you use such assets offensively?

Me personally? I use them with immense panache and a great lack of effectiveness :D

Edited by JonS

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Aha, ok. ;)

Will try to set it up on a spot where it could hopefully fire on the houses that Brits occuppy. If someone starts shooting on them (which will happen 95%) I'll hopefully have my other units be able to return fire. But it's so hard to surpress them lads...

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Gosh, only now realized this gun can be used as an on map asset ready to receive tasks from artilerry spotters.Now that makes much more sense now. ;)

Awesome!

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This scenario (possibly tweaked) was used in a tourney round over at WeBoB recently, and I enjoyed it a lot.   The aesthetics of this map are superb.

 

One thing I will say: good luck if you want to try, and kudos if you succeed in using the on map 105 under direction from a spotter.  I had a go, and discovered that the "feature" where the gun choses the flattest trajectory to hit the target is still present, so likely as not your round will wack into somerthing enroute...

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