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Kaunitz

Highlanders! - The battle of Gerbini

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Posted (edited)

Short note to myself on the intricacies of CM terrain

I fear that I will have to place "trenches" as irrigation ditches. The ordinary method - simply using a narrow sharp [blue in black] depression - looks nicer but doesn't really work in terms of gameplay. I always pay close attention to how soldiers aline in the action spot and I simply can't make them line up nicely - some soldiers won't be able to fire at all, others need to kneel, many are very exposed, etc. Also, they're by far too vulnerable to artillery fire. I've also experimented with using fence-tiles (they  split up an action spot into smaller areas) in order to gain more control over soldier-placement, but it doesn't help in this case. In trenches, they seem to be fine, and with some high grass it doesn't even look that bad. However, this means that it will not work in quickbattles.

Apart from ditches, dirt roads (Fortress Italy lacks dirt paths, so I have to use dirt roads) will also offer some protection, as I set them to be 1 unit deeper than the surrounding fields. Properly done (the road needs to be black, the surrounding fields blue)* soldiers can line up very neatly on each side of the road, with good protection (prone) and good fields of fire.  

Just to visualize my problem, here's a small video of a British platoon in a ditch (albeit not the narrowest version). The British are opening up on a German platoon that is retreating covered by a smoke screen. A german infantry gun (150mm - on map artillery) knocks out 9 British with a single shot. I hope that this will not happen in trenches... Creating ditches via depressions in the ground simply doesn't give me the desired results. They're too broad and fail to offer infantry units that placed "in" (well, more "around" actually) the ditch the protection they should.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO0aHShKu1o&feature=youtu.be

 

* Does not work with all types of terrain. E.g. ploughed fields create edges that are too sharp. It certainly works with sand and wheed terrain. 

 

PS: Did you know? The engine casts shadows depending on the time of the day! I was smiling when I noticed that the shadows are cast to the northwest in the morning and to the northeast in the evening. :)

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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1 hour ago, Kaunitz said:

 

1 hour ago, Kaunitz said:

In trenches, they seem to be fine, and with some high grass it doesn't even look that bad. However, this means that it will not work in quickbattles.  

Apart from ditches, dirt roads (Fortress Italy lacks dirt paths, so I have to use dirt roads) will also offer some protection, as I set them to be 1 unit deeper than the surrounding fields. Properly done (the road needs to be black, the surrounding fields blue)* soldiers can line up very neatly on each side of the road, with good protection (prone) and good fields of fire.  

* Does not work with all types of terrain. E.g. ploughed fields create edges that are too sharp. It certainly works with sand and wheed terrain. 

PS: Did you know? The engine casts shadows depending on the time of the day! I was smiling when I noticed that the shadows are cast to the northwest in the morning and to the northeast in the evening. :)

Well I screwed up the the quotes above.  Sorry about that.  But anyways......

Why do you say it won't work in a Quick Battle?  I didn't follow that. 

The raising and lowering of a road by using the "Ditch Lock" to make trench like terrain is an interesting idea. 

Combat Mission is a very cool game with a lot of detail.  In the editor all kinds of cool things are possible.     

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, MOS:96B2P said:

Why do you say it won't work in a Quick Battle?  I didn't follow that. 

The raising and lowering of a road by using the "Ditch Lock" to make trench like terrain is an interesting idea. 

Combat Mission is a very cool game with a lot of detail.  In the editor all kinds of cool things are possible.     

The problem I have with creating ditches by using ditch lock is that the ditches look nice, but I find them a bit problematical in terms of gameplay. Often soldiers don't align on the action spot as you would hope. Some stay "outside" the ditch (exposing themselves to enemy small arms and especially artillery fire), others are in the ditch so that they can't see/fire anywhere, etc. Maybe I'm just too picky, but I find that the terra-formed ditches are not as protective and effective as they should be.

I've experimented quite a lot with different kinds of combinations of blue (ditch lock) and black elevations and also with placing fences/hedges on ditches in order to "force" soldiers to position themselves on the right spot. There is a combination that makes soldiers align quite neatly along the trench with a good field of fire and okay cover (if prone)*, but troops still remain very vulnerable to artillery fire.

That's the reason why I now place actual "trench" tiles (the ones you buy in the unit selection menu) in the ditches. Even though it doesn't look that nice (see picture), this makes soldiers align nicely and (I hope!) should also give them some better cover against artillery. But this needs some further testing (I think there are already some test-results regarding the protective effect of fortifications against arty to be found in the forum somewhere...). And also, as the trench-tiles need to be bought and deployed, it doesn't work for quickbattles (problem of point budgets, setup-zones, tedious work....).

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_16_17_04_51_37

 

More generally speaking, I find that creating proper defensive positions in Combat Mission is incredibly difficult. For more modern titles, it's even more difficult, as HE projectiles are so abundant. I was pretty pround of my MG position here (crater + log, + only gently sloped terrain around so that the chance of shrapnel striking into the crater from above was low and close misses would land farther away). It withstood quite a few HE shots. But then again a position such as this is too obvious - a human opponent can simply look at the map and search for a log and a crater): 

-------

* blue 0, black -1, blue 0 //  --> place the unit on a blue (not black) tile and face them in a right angle to the ditch

 

 


 

Edited by Kaunitz

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4 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

as the trench-tiles need to be bought and deployed, it doesn't work for quickbattles (problem of point budgets, setup-zones, tedious work....).  

Ah, okay, I understand now.  

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45 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

a human opponent can simply look at the map and search for a log and a crater): 

One way to "disguise" this is to place many such defensive positions as dummies.  Good if your oppo wants to waste ammo blasting every one when maybe only 25% are real/occupied.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Erwin said:

One way to "disguise" this is to place many such defensive positions as dummies.  Good if your oppo wants to waste ammo blasting every one when maybe only 25% are real/occupied.

Yes, this is a good idea and does work in woods, but in other types of terrain, it gets a bit tricky. :) "Why are there so many logs in that corn field?" ^^ On a positive note the depiction of the irrigation ditches of Gerbini via trenches is not that much of a problem as both players should know where they are. The Germans for sure, and the British had their map. 

Some posts/discussions about  fortifications in CM: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(esp. second half of my post from May 31st 2017) I've done quite a lot of experimentation back then. My impression was that HE hits in CM are modelled with a lot of complexity and were quite realistically affected by terrain and slopes. For example, it seemed as if shrapnel was quite clearly stopped by terrain and walls. But I couldn't come up with a controlled and reliable test. It was more a gut feeling after some test-shellings of terrain shaped in all kinds of varieties combined with painstakingly placed sandbag walls. For example if you got a gentle upwards slope relatively close behind your position you'd better place a sandbag wall behind you in case a shell hits there. Otherwise the shrapnel might hit you from behind. It's much better not to have any elevated terrain around you at all.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here are some pictures of the protection that a "depressed" road can provide if done correctly as described above (blue, black - 1 [road tile], blue; does not work with all terrain-types):

All soldiers align themselves neatly along a line parallel to the road. Most importantly, this behavious is consistent and reliable (unless you use really large squads):

(Note one soldier is crawling over to the MG-buddy to take up his assistant-position next to him, see his final position in the next pic).CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_16_20_48_36_62

All (blue line!) soldiers can fire from the prone position and have good LOS. As they're close to the ground, LOS will get blocked if there is lots of grass (especially if the enemy approaches in a crawling manner, which is rather unlikely) - but even then all soldiers can still area-fire (very effective if the terrain is flat). 
CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_16_20_49_30_58

View from the enemy's perspective - this position should provide excellent cover against direct fire but it sucks against arty. If they cover, they're barely visible at all. Compare this to soldiers kneeling in trenches - those are much more exposed! In this flat surrounding, the position is even better as it will be difficult for the enemy to aim at the square directly in front of the position. Unless the enemy is firing "downwards" from a hill or standing and exposing himself, the square will most likely be counted as "reverse slope".

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_16_20_49_38_13

I still need to do proper testing, but by the looks of it (I do think that looks matter, but of course I could be wrong if things work in a more abstract way...), this position seems to be better and more consistent than trenches. Soldiers can stay in a prone position, have LOS/can fire and benefit from good protection against direct fires. The road itself would look a bit nicer with a different approach (blue in black elevation), but in this case it's gameplay over aesthetics for me.

Edited by Kaunitz

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Observation on the effects of different types of ground on LOS

 I tested this on perfectly flat terrain with lanes (ca. 50 x 1030m) of different types of ground. The testing infantry unit was in prone position (forced by using the “hide” command), equipped with binoculars and was of "regular" experience (these two factors shouldn’t really matter when determining LOS). The tank used in this test was a Panzer IIIN, of "regular" experience. I simply took notes on how far the different types of LOS reached on the different lanes/ground types. The LOS was always “drawn out” in a straight line from the unit (no oblique LOS were tested).

Note that the results of all my conducted tests suggest that there are at least four groups of terrain. Here is a list of ground types I tested, assigned to the groups respectively: (

1) “clear” group: grass Y, dirt, sand, ploughed field

2) “crop” group: crop 2, crop 4

3) “forest” group: light forest, heavy forest

4) “tall grass” group: tall grass Y

 

Schema:

Infantry: full LOS ends at / reverse slope ends at

Tank: full (blue) LOS ends at / partial (grey) LOS ends at* / reverse slope ends at

All values are given in meters. You may need to add or subtract up to 20m, as the position of the unit within the action spot is not always the same, etc. So there is always a bit of wiggle room.

 

Test 1 (conditions: 12:00, clear, gentle wind, very dry ground)

Infantry

  • Clear: full LOS for the whole lane (1030m)
  • Crops: 60 / 135
  • Forest: 105 / 335
  • Tall grass: 93 / 760

Tank

  • Clear: full LOS whole lane (1030)
  • Crops: 85 / 125 / whole lane (1030)
  • Forest: 185 / 290 / whole lane (1030)
  • Tall grass: 692 / reverse slope for whole full lane (1030)

 

Test 2 (conditions: 12:00, hazy, gentle wind, very dry ground):

Same results as in test 1

 

Test 3 (conditions: 05:00, clear, gentle wind, very dry ground):

Same results as in test 1

 

Test 4 (conditions: 00:00, clear, gentle wind, very dry ground):

Infantry:

  • Clear: full LOS up to 400m, no LOS after that
  • Crops: 65 / 140
  • Forest: 100 / 340
  • Tall grass: 90 / 400

Tank:

  • Clear: full LOS up to 400m, no LOS after that
  • Crops: 80 / 120 / 400
  • Forest: 205 / 290 / 400
  • Tall grass: full LOS up to 400m, no LOS after that

 

Special hull-down info for the tank (data valid for all four tests):

  • In forest, the tank was partial hull-down from a distance of ca. 340-380m on.
  • In crops, the tank was partial hull-down from 140m on.
  • In tall grass, the tank was partial hull-down from 760m on.
  • In clear terrain, the tank was never counted as hull-down.

I will try to draw some conclusions in the next post.

 

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Posted (edited)

Addition/correction to previous post:: Test 1 / tank / tall grass:  460 / 650 / full lane (second value was missing)

Conclusions from the tests described in the post above

1. Weather and daylight conditions don't seem to have an effect on LOS per se. For dawn (05:00) and hazy conditions, the LOS is the same as for clear conditions. At night (00:00), there is a hard cap on visibility (400m in this case - I've read that CM titles do consider the moon phases, so the exact value may vary with the date respectively). As there clearly is an effect on LOS in adverse light an weather conditions, but LOS as given by the target command stays the same, it seems as if units might rather receive a "hiding bonus"?

2. I think that my theory from last year (based on observations in CM: Black Sea) is not too far off the mark: There must be at least two values for each terrain: 1) density/LOS blocking value, and 2) height (either as in an acutal hitbox of some sort, or a z-value for the whole action spot). Different densities must be the reason why the range of full lines of sight vary with terrain. For example,  forest terrains (105m full LOS) are not as dense as crop terrains (60m full LOS).

The tricky part is to explain the "reverse slope" line of sight zones and the difference of results between tanks and infantry. It's much easier to explain my theory in pictures so here we go: 

01.png

Eyes below terrain height (e.g. prone infantry --> creates limited "reverse slope" LOS)

02.png

03.png

Eyes above terrain height (e.g. tank --> creates unlimited "reverse slope" LOS)

04.png

05.png

Explaining hull-down results with different terrain heights

06.png

07.png

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If things work indeed as described in the diagrams and when you consider the test results from above, we end up with these terrain characteristics:

  • clear: no effect on LOS
  • crops: large height, large density
  • forest: medium height, low density
  • tall grass: small height (but still higher than prone infantry), medium density

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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7 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

At night (00:00), there is a hard cap on visibility (400m in this case - I've read that CM titles do consider the moon phases, so the exact value may vary with the date respectively). As there clearly is an effect on LOS in adverse light an weather conditions, but LOS as given by the target command stays the same, it seems as if units might rather receive a "hiding bonus"?

If things work indeed as described in the diagrams and when you consider the test results from above, we end up with these terrain characteristics:

  • clear: no effect on LOS
  • crops: large height, large density
  • forest: medium height, low density
  • tall grass: small height (but still higher than prone infantry), medium density

 

Interesting stuff to think about and very cool diagrams.  +1 

The hard cap on visibility at night is especially interesting IMO.  My understanding is the blue target line shows how far a unit can area fire (LOF). On a clear night this can be hundreds of meters while spotting distance may be a few dozen meters.  At night LOF is probably longer than LOS.

@Vanir Ausf B is somewhat of an expert on this stuff and might be interested in the above diagrams.  If we're lucky maybe he'll notice this thread and have time to provide some useful feedback/commentary on the provided information.   

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Posted (edited)
On 6/19/2018 at 2:50 PM, MOS:96B2P said:

The hard cap on visibility at night is especially interesting IMO.  My understanding is the blue target line shows how far a unit can area fire (LOF). On a clear night this can be hundreds of meters while spotting distance may be a few dozen meters.  At night LOF is probably longer than LOS.

I'm pretty sure that a blue line means that all weapons (for vehicles: weapon-systems) of a unit can fire at the targeted spot, while a grey line means that only part of the unit can fire. 

This is very obvious when you have an infantry squad and one guy is kneeling, while the rest of the squad is prone. You will notice that the blue LOS will be limited by the prone soldiers' LOS, while there is an additional grey LOS that ends where the kneeling soldiers' LOS ends. If you order the very same squad to hide=go prone, there is no grey LOS anymore. 

------------------------------------------------------------------

Update concerning my problems with the functionality of ditches in Combat Mission games: I've done more experiments, but ditches that you create by shaping the terrain simply don't work. Soldiers will not stick to the trench, but instead still roam around at the elevated edges, horribly exposing themselves to artillery fire. I really wish that the placement of soldiers on an action spot will be improved so that they stick to the "lower" areas. Fortunately, placing trenches in ditches helps to mitigate the problem. As soldiers now stick to the depression (because they're placed inside of the trench, which is in the middle of the action spot), and because the trench itself might also provide some kind of bonus, they are now protected against artillery fire.  IN my testing barrages, the casualty numbers for ca. 20 men placed in a ditch decreased significantly. With the natural ditch, I lost ca. 12-17 guys, with the ditch + trench, the casualties are down to 1-2., which is still very high for 2 minutes of bombardement but far better than a wipe-out. 

There are still many problems though. While the trench "in" the ditch provides good cover versus artillery, the protection against small arms fire and LOS is a different matter (see my post from 16th June in this thread, where I describe a way to create positions that offer good protection against small arms fire and good LOS, but are very vulnerable vs. arty). Also, moving along a trenchline can still result in soldiers exposing themselves on the elevated borders of the ditch. Also, you still get the problem that units tend to leave the trench (for whatever reason) when they come under artillery fire and prefer to get killed in the flat open.

Pictures to make the problem clearer:

Natural ditch: horrible soldier placement - all but one soldiers are on the high terrain at the border of the ditch. If an artillery shell strikes anywhere close, half of the squad is dead.

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_16_34_94

 

Trench placed in ditch: good soldier placement. Nobody gets hurt unless a shell lands a direct hit in the trench (for that reason, I wished that trenches were narrower...)

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_16_50_04

Something similar can be achieved by placing walls/hedges in the ditch. It looks totally stupid, but it leads to slightly better soldier placement.

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_28_24_98

So, generally speaking, if you want to have a trench/ditch that actually works (i.e. offers protection to infantry), you have to make sure that the infantry will stick to the ditch/the center of the action spot somehow.  

I really think that these issues are a major concern. I'm pretty sure that the game uses a very sophisticated system to determine hits, both from artillery shells and direct fire. For example, when I was creating good MG-positions for CM:BlackSea by using craters and logs, I noticed that in many cases the MG gunners (behind the log) survived while the MG got destroyed by enemy fire! Until then, I didn't even know that MGs could be destroyed in that way! So it's a pity that the game engine is so sophisticated when it comes to determining hits but doesn't really let us "fine tune" the amount of cover and create proper positions.

Edited by Kaunitz

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Note: The problem that units leave the trench seems to be related with craters. 1. The unit stays in the trench. 2. Artillery shell hits close to the trench and leaves a crater. 3. Unit is unscratched, only half-suppressed, morale is okay but still it leaves the trench and runs to the crater to hide there. 

So it seems as if craters need to have a lower priority as cover than trenches. The behaviour is very suicidal as usually the infantry catches another shell on its way from the trench to the crater.

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Posted (edited)

Just read this thread, well done @Kaunitz.

Sad to see though that not much has changed on this front since 2013, when I ditched my CMBN Dien Bien Phu opus for many of the reasons you describe here: no slit trenches; infantry unable to hunker down and keyhole, and easily shot dead in their holes or bunkers to the last man by ranged direct and indirect fires, within minutes, as they 'prairie-dog' up and down to spot. World War 1 would have been quite different with these physics.... 

And, no firing slits or embrasures.... 

minnesota-hennepin-county-great-pumpkin-

Good grief! We can be shot in the head from pretty much any angle the moment we stick our heads up to spot, Charlie Brown.

 

Edited by LongLeftFlank

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On 6/20/2018 at 6:08 PM, Kaunitz said:

I'm pretty sure that a blue line means that all weapons (for vehicles: weapon-systems) of a unit can fire at the targeted spot, while a grey line means that only part of the unit can fire. 

This is very obvious when you have an infantry squad and one guy is kneeling, while the rest of the squad is prone. You will notice that the blue LOS will be limited by the prone soldiers' LOS, while there is an additional grey LOS that ends where the kneeling soldiers' LOS ends. If you order the very same squad to hide=go prone, there is no grey LOS anymore. 

------------------------------------------------------------------

Update concerning my problems with the functionality of ditches in Combat Mission games: I've done more experiments, but ditches that you create by shaping the terrain simply don't work. Soldiers will not stick to the trench, but instead still roam around at the elevated edges, horribly exposing themselves to artillery fire. I really wish that the placement of soldiers on an action spot will be improved so that they stick to the "lower" areas. Fortunately, placing trenches in ditches helps to mitigate the problem. As soldiers now stick to the depression (because they're placed inside of the trench, which is in the middle of the action spot), and because the trench itself might also provide some kind of bonus, they are now protected against artillery fire.  IN my testing barrages, the casualty numbers for ca. 20 men placed in a ditch decreased significantly. With the natural ditch, I lost ca. 12-17 guys, with the ditch + trench, the casualties are down to 1-2., which is still very high for 2 minutes of bombardement but far better than a wipe-out. 

There are still many problems though. While the trench "in" the ditch provides good cover versus artillery, the protection against small arms fire and LOS is a different matter (see my post from 16th June in this thread, where I describe a way to create positions that offer good protection against small arms fire and good LOS, but are very vulnerable vs. arty). Also, moving along a trenchline can still result in soldiers exposing themselves on the elevated borders of the ditch. Also, you still get the problem that units tend to leave the trench (for whatever reason) when they come under artillery fire and prefer to get killed in the flat open.

Pictures to make the problem clearer:

Natural ditch: horrible soldier placement - all but one soldiers are on the high terrain at the border of the ditch. If an artillery shell strikes anywhere close, half of the squad is dead.

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_16_34_94

 

Trench placed in ditch: good soldier placement. Nobody gets hurt unless a shell lands a direct hit in the trench (for that reason, I wished that trenches were narrower...)

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_16_50_04

Something similar can be achieved by placing walls/hedges in the ditch. It looks totally stupid, but it leads to slightly better soldier placement.

CM_Fortress_Italy_2018_06_20_18_28_24_98

So, generally speaking, if you want to have a trench/ditch that actually works (i.e. offers protection to infantry), you have to make sure that the infantry will stick to the ditch/the center of the action spot somehow.  

I really think that these issues are a major concern. I'm pretty sure that the game uses a very sophisticated system to determine hits, both from artillery shells and direct fire. For example, when I was creating good MG-positions for CM:BlackSea by using craters and logs, I noticed that in many cases the MG gunners (behind the log) survived while the MG got destroyed by enemy fire! Until then, I didn't even know that MGs could be destroyed in that way! So it's a pity that the game engine is so sophisticated when it comes to determining hits but doesn't really let us "fine tune" the amount of cover and create proper positions.

Two things: does your tests show the same problem if the squads are split? Also, it is my impression that CMSF2 will introduce proper ditches, so maybe they will be patched into the WWII titles as the patch will be released at the same time.

I like your test methods :)

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Posted (edited)
On 6/29/2018 at 2:56 PM, LongLeftFlank said:

Good grief! We can be shot in the head from pretty much any angle the moment we stick our heads up to spot, Charlie Brown.

Hello, kindred spirit! Although it won't make me stop working on my scenario, the discrimination of infantry is certainly my worst (and only really major) gripe with the CM series. The lack of proper defensive assets and the inability of infantry soldiers to use the ones that are in the game (because of bad positioning, bugging-out when arty strikes close, etc.) severely handicaps infantry and leads to implausibly high casualty rates in my opinion. In modern warfare, infantry and defensive works need to work as an integrated team. Infantry alone doesn't stand a chance. 

On 6/29/2018 at 11:19 PM, rocketman said:

Two things: does your tests show the same problem if the squads are split? Also, it is my impression that CMSF2 will introduce proper ditches, so maybe they will be patched into the WWII titles as the patch will be released at the same time.

I like your test methods :)

I will run some more tests to confirm, but as far as I can remember, using smaller (split-up) units didn't really change a thing. It seems as if soldiers are randomly assigned eligible positions within the action square.

I'm really excited to hear about new ditches in CMSF2! Can you point me to more information? :D

--------------------------------------------

Real life got in the way a bit, and there are ups and downs of motivation. Also, my desire to understand how the game works gets in the way repeatedly. But then again you need to understand how stuff works if you want to create an interesting scenario, right? I'll be back soon! 

Edited by Kaunitz

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@Kaunitz check this and the rest of the thread about it:

On 6/24/2018 at 6:28 AM, MikeyD said:

Those depressions in the ground in the center of the last photo. They're not 'trenches', they're 'DITCHES!' DITCHES!

Might be info elsewhere too.

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The CMSF2 'trenches-become-ditches' are a legacy terrain feature of the old CMSF1. Charles had wanted to eliminate them entirely but decided otherwise so as not to break existing CMSF1 scenarios. They're not in other titles besides CM:Afghanistan. In CMSF2 the in-terrain 'trenches' have been replaced in the scenarios by standard FOW fortification trenches where appropriate and kept when used by scenario designers as drainage ditch terrain features.

Two things Charles didn't like about those in-terrain 'trenches' in CMSF1. First, they broke fog-of-war rules. They were seen by both sides as terrain features. Second, the scenarios took a framerate hit because of them, though framerate in CMSF2 has so greatly improved over CMSF1 that the trench-ditch feature hardly has an effect anymore.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, MikeyD said:

The CMSF2 'trenches-become-ditches' are a legacy terrain feature of the old CMSF1.

giphy-downsized.gif

Edited by Kaunitz

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