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Kaunitz

"That's one vast valley!" - hard-edged, realistically scaled map

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As I've been comparing CM's quickbattle-maps with actual landscape/maps, I couldn't help but notice that the scale of many quickbattle-maps is off (this issue doesn't apply to many scenario-maps which are more often based on real maps). Generally speaking, quickbattle-maps are too crowded and too small. It's a bit like the landscape of a model railroad. It’s extremely compartialized. Often there are tiny patches of trees ("woods") all over the place, the fields are tiny, there are little bumps in the terrain everywhere ("hills"). And even the houses in villages often seem to be placed too close to each other. A map of 2km² often contains several fields, villages and woods in Combat Mission, whereas in reality, you could probably only fit in only a few fields.

I'm not saying that this is bad, mind you. In a weird way, our computer-gamer-eyes are accustomed to the look of it. And also in terms of gameplay, it does certainly make sense as it leads to a lot of close quarter action, forces tanks and vehicles into point blank to each other and into the range of infantry and generally speaking offers more (and more diverse) terrain to play with. So, to some extent, you could say that miniature-terrain guarantees "action packed" engagements and revamps infantry against vehicles (balance-issue). But the geeky wargamer voice in me kept pestering me, asking that seemingly innocent question: "Yeah, Kaunitz, but it is realistic?".   

So here we go. In order to silence that nagging voice in my head, I decided to make my own map. I've been trying that before, mind you (my Gerbini project is on hold until the patch comes out). This time though, the map will not be based on an actual battle and will not even be based on a real location. This simply gives me much more freedom and speeds up things.

Here are some of my guiding principles for map design: 

  • realistic scale - even though the map is not based on a real location, the map will be based on a plausible scale. After a few short tests, the results are certainly interesting. You can actually set up MGs (without getting them killed the moment they can theoretically be sighted by an enemy unit) and attacking infantry needs to work a bit in order to get within rifle range! 
  • as few "cutoffs" as possible -  A problem I have with many QB-maps is that they're so small that the more reasonable positions for vehicles, support weapons and FOs are simply cut off. Most of the time, I'm asking myself: Why would I place this tank/MG so close to the frontline? Nobody would do that! The weapon is not supposed to be used like that! Surely, there would be some small hill 1km to the rear where it would make much more sense to set up the weapon/vehicle? Also, do I really have to peek over that ridge at point blank range? Is there no hill in the rear area that would allow me to take a look from a safer distance? Admittedly, there can be situations in which there simply is no better position available, but QB maps constantly seem to force a deadly point blank ranges onto me. To prevent that, maps need to have a certain minimum size, and observation and long-range positions need to be taken into account when designing the map. Of course engagements were not static, and if you do take into account that the battle might move on a bit in this or that direction, the required map-size multiplies very quickly (irregular shaped maps would be interesting here…). To tackle this problem, I want to experiment with the “exit” objective (see below).  
  • if possible, I’d like to pay special attention to micro-cover - I do think that infantry is a bit too vulnerable in the open. I will see whether it is possible to add a few more small bumps in the ground and some props to give infantry more cover (if prone). But I'm not sure yet if and how that will work out. I suppose one would need very tiny differences in height which would provide some cover to infantry without blocking their LOS. I don’t think it’s possible in CM, but I see if I can somehow recreate the effect.

Small preview of the current status (obviously not much yet, but it is a beginning): 

https://imgur.com/a/imul3HX (the map is 1456x1920m)

https://imgur.com/a/5dX5B5s

https://imgur.com/a/SahWEan

 Further ideas: 

  • Allow the defender to retreat to prevent implausible blood baths:  As this is a little experiment, I do want to make the battle realistic, even at the cost of game play. Therefore, I want to give the defender the option to retreat to cut down his casualties. I’ve not taken a closer look if and how I can get it to work yet. The problem I see is that all units (tagged to be destroyed) that have not left the battlefield by the end of the battle are counted as destroyed, which is not really what I want. There needs to be a difference between "did not leave the battlefield because the battle was going well and there was no reason to do so" and "did not leave the battlefield because the player decided to make a desperate suicide last stand". I'm not sure if the editor allows me to differentiate between those two. Generally speaking, the option to retreat should also be interesting from a gameplay perspective as the defender will need to move and cover his retreat (with longer ranges, this is much more reasonable as you won't get killed the very moment you stand up and move...).

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Feel free to discuss and contribute! What are your thoughts on map design and particularly map-scale? Also, how many troops would be fighting over the map? I was thinking of at least 2 companies up for the attacker (the width of the front is 1456m). Do you have any comments on the retreat-idea?

Right now, I'm stuck a little bit as I can't make the cornifer-woods look pretty and functional (lack of cornifer-trees that come with a short tree-trunk/low tree crown). I think I will have to go for mixed forests. 

I will also be looking out for volunteers to test the map once it is ready!

Edited by Kaunitz

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This is a decades-old problem that predates computer gaming. I used to say that the mapboards for the old Squad Leader game resembled real terrain the same way that a miniature golf course does.

I wish you luck and success in your project. I think you have correctly identified some of the major problems that need to be addressed. I'm not sure how far they can be overcome within the CMx2 engine, but by all means have a run at it! And maybe I will playtest it a bit for you.

Michael

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Random +1 and -1 to heights scattered around can do a lot of work, in terms of micro terrain.

For the retreat idea, the typical approach is to use the Exit conditions, with some bonus added points.

Simple example. Platoon vs platoon, defender needs to run a fighting withdrawal.

Attacker earns 200vp for killing this platoon. 

Attacker earns 0vp if they escape intact.

Defender earns 100vp baseline.

If the attacker kills the enemy platoon, they score 100vp more than their opponent (200 vs 100). If the attacker fails to damage that platoon before it escapes, the Defender earns 100vp (100 vs 0)

You then need to incentivise the defender to hang around - perhaps in this simple example you reduce the bonus vp to 50, and give them 50vp for doing 50% casualties on the attacker?

To further develop this, and create options other than "fighting withdrawal", you might want to either give them more points for attacker destruction, or occupy objectives to defend - perhaps they can earn 100vp with 50% cas and bonus, and withdraw, but an occupy objective to defend also gives them 100vp, so a successful on-map defence will be 200 vs 100.

There's lots of levers to pull here, and it's tough to get it right.

 

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Some of what you want to implement - retreat, for example - goes outside being a map and enters the territory of a scenario. The distinction may seem irrelevant, but it does change what one can expect. A map in QB would allow a player to pick their forces,  but a scenario would not. Similarly, victory conditions beyond losses and terrain objectives become impossible in a pure map. 

Force size is purely dependent on what you would like to create. A small encounter, a recon in force, an assault against prepared defences will give very different force size recommendations. 

Those comments notwithstanding, the idea is intriguing and I’m interested in how this develops. :)

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Great idea, Kaunitz. I agree with just about everything you´ve said here. And I actually once made a extra large map myself for many of the same reasons - plus this one: Allowing scouting units to act more realistically. Often the maps are too small - and the time frame too short - for realistic scouting. So I made a very large map - and made a scenario that let the scouts have the map for themselves for the first hour. Sounds boring, perhaps - but I found it quite fun.

One comment regarding field sizes, though: I dont think you should judge the sizes of fields too much on your personal experiences. In my country field sizes have increased a lot since the war, due to the dramatic centralization and mechanization of agriculture: Fewer, but much larger farms - with tractors and combine harvesters instead of horses. I guess that would be the case in most countries.

I think I will try to find my old map and upload it as a quick battle map. Looking forward to seeing your work.

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Yes, all good points.  The relatively small map sizes of the majority (altho not all) of CM2 scenarios limits one to virtual point blank assaults that are repetitive.

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7 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

It’s extremely compartialized. Often there are tiny patches of trees ("woods") all over the place, the fields are tiny, there are little bumps in the terrain everywhere ("hills"). And even the houses in villages often seem to be placed too close to each other. A map of 2km² often contains several fields, villages and woods in Combat Mission, whereas in reality, you could probably only fit in only a few fields.

I agree, apart from the bit about houses being too close to each other. I think the opposite really.

Many QB maps place 4-5 level buildings in seemingly random places over the map, where a real old village in France/Germany is usually more compact, with 1-2 level buildings clustered around the crossroads and often with no space between buildings.

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15 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

I agree, apart from the bit about houses being too close to each other. I think the opposite really.

Many QB maps place 4-5 level buildings in seemingly random places over the map, where a real old village in France/Germany is usually more compact, with 1-2 level buildings clustered around the crossroads and often with no space between buildings.

I agree. Villages tended to be a small cluster of houses to provide homes for the families farming the surrounding fields plus a small number of buildings housing necessary support services: the church, a school, perhaps a blacksmith, a garage, that kind of thing. The village may have been there with most of the same buildings housing most of the same families for generations, possibly for centuries.

Michael

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Question @Kaunitz are you specifically talking about building for quick battles or maps in general? CMFB has a master map folder with a significant amount of real map locations and size. They are however simply maps. I think part of the issue with the qb maps is they have to accommodate the AI and it has its own limitations that influence map creation.  Mark could speak more to what goes into qb map design but I think you’ll find it has a lot to do with that. 

Regarding the rest I fully agree on what makes an interesting map for battles  Studienka in CMRT being for me a classic for interesting terrain.  

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QB maps are my own pet peeve. I think many of the CMBS ones are frikkin awful. It's not just the issues posters have identified above, but the fact that most of the QB maps I have played so far

a) bear no resemblance to any town or village landscape I have ever seen

b) lack tactical benefits of terrain so games become grinding matches

To give an example: the CMBS QB I am playing at the moment -  destroyed factory stronghold - is far from the worst, but is virtually completely flat, has only pitched roof buildings and only 1,2,3 storey buildings, so you cannot seek an elevation for snipers and arty observers.  It also has four arrow-straight main roads (eh?!). There are no ways to sneak infantry up advantageously, and as Kaunitz says just becomes a short range bloodbath.

This is unlike any terrain I have seen, and quite frankly, most factories/warehouses/industrial complexes have many different buildings, from very large flat-roofed ones, to office towers, to small sheds and utility buildings.  Where are the shops, filling stations,  car parks, workers' cafes, and the odd playing field or billiard hall where the workers take breaks?  I've seen more realistic alien planets in games.

I was actually today going to propose that some of us here modify the QB maps and make them better, call them Mk2 versions, that would be quicker than starting from scratch and if a few of us did one each it would not become too  tiresome. I am grateful to @Kaunitz for raising this topic because it was on my mind too.

(note - I like QBs because you can pick your forces, and experiment with different force mixes, vehicles and troops)

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Wow so much feedback! Thank you, guys! :)

Scenario vs. Quickbattle:

It's true that in order to implement the retreat-idea, I need to create a scenario rather than a quickbattle (@Bud Backer, @sburke). I think it's perfectly possible to create two versions of the map. One for quickbattles, one for H2H scenario-play (no AI!). I also wished that more (slightly modified, if neccessary) scenario-maps were available for quickbattles (@JulianJ), especially since most scenario-maps are really well done and often scaled realistically. It's just a pity that scenarios have a rather limited H2H appeal if both the forces and their deployment are pre-determined. With free deployment, it's more interesting. I think the appeal of scenarios could be greatly enhanced by adding more randomness: e.g. giving players the option to choose between sets of pre-selected troops, adding a random factor to the arrival time of reinforcements, etc. 

A scenario also gives me the option to select troops for the players. The selection of forces by the players is a good thing, but sometimes I think it really favors some set-ups while discriminating others. 

I'm also intrigued by the idea to add reinforcements for the defender. I can even imagine to make him start the battle with only infantry (against some armored support for the attacker). He would then get reinforcements (Panzergrenadiere in halftracks! ;) ) to relieve the infantry or launch a counter attack. But maybe a proper counter-attack is better represented as a separate mission on the map (as part of a tiny campaign).

Retreat-idea:

Indeed I think it will be tricky to set up the objectives in a way to make the defender ponder whether it is better to retreat or not. As you've mentioned, domfluff, It's easy to give the defender incentives to run away. You just need to give him exit objectives. Giving him some incentive to stay, however, is more complicated. In any case, I'd like to make a retreat an option once the defender knows he's going to lose the terrain objective. Instead of making a final suicide stand, I'd prefer if he could withdraw his forces to limit the extent of the defeat or perhaps even get away with a draw. So therefore, I think that the defender should not be awarded too many points for destroying the attacker's units - this would just reward the suicide-stand rather than the retreat. I assume it's more reasonable to create a balance between "preserve own troops/exit the map" and "terrain" objectives. In order to make the decision more interesting, there need to be several smaller terrain objectives, not just a single large one.

Another important aspect here is that I think players should be allowed to know how the outcome is calculated (by adding the info to the briefing...). They need to know that at some point, a withdrawal can be an interesting option for the defender. 

Scouting:

For me, scouting is just not within the scope of CM. In a H2H battle, it's rather boring to exchange 50 turns of doing "nothing". Rather, I would like to add the information that has been gained by recon before the battle to the briefing, or perhaps even on the map (by using "landmarks"). But this again cannot be done if you allow free deployment of forces. But then you can still set the "intel filter" in the scenario editor to give some information to the players.

Villages, sizes of fields:

It's certainly true that in the 1940s, field sizes were smaller in general. However, there is still a lot of room between the standard QB-map field sizes and a properly scaled field. And you can get a pretty good picture by looking at the paths that are displayed running along larger fields on contemporary maps and also by taking a look at photos of aerial recon.

As for the villages - maybe I'm confused by the maps. On many contemporary maps, houses seem to be spaced out quite a bit. But probably their footprints are displayed in an artificially distorted (also too big) way in order to make the layout of the village clearer. 

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Generally speaking, I need to point out again that I don't expect battles on a more realistically scaled map to be more interesting/tactical by themselves. I think they will just play out a bit differently and also a bit more "relaxed", with what I'd like to call a "soft" contact. Units will become aware of each other at longer distances which means that they're not knocked out instantly and can observe the enemy a bit more. And, for that reason, MGs can for example lay down fire when the enemy's rifles are still way out of their range. You will quickly learn how much of a "close range" weapon ordinary infantry really is. Casualties tend to trickle in more slowly and more "accidently". I also hope that the suppression-system will shine in a bit more nuanced way. If my units get suppressed, they're usually dead very soon anyway and their suppression bar is maxed out. I rarely see medium levels of suppression for sustained periods of time. WIth a larger distance between the contrahents, I hope to see more nuanced levels of suppression at work. In the same vein, I think that armor values will become more important (at point blank ranges, anything goes).

On the current QB maps, by contrast, contact is very "hard", spotting leads to immediate catastrophical results. This fosters a kind of un-relaxed (many people would say: more exciting! :Dgameplay and inculcates the typical "paranoia" in CM-players. Every freaking ridge, every corner of a house is just a death trap that potentially leads not to 1 casualty, but to the wipe-out of the whole team. It's just so unforgiving. This is certainly realistic for the final stages of an modern fire-arms assault (if the defender does not withdraw!), but it misses out all the stages before the assault, where it's not as much down to instincts and reaction time, but to slightly more deliberate decisions.

Edited by Kaunitz

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2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

It's true that in order to implement the retreat-idea, I need to create a scenario rather than a quickbattle (@Bud Backer, @sburke). I think it's perfectly possible to create two versions of the map. One for quickbattles, one for H2H scenario-play (no AI!).

Yes, that is a great approach. Once someone makes a map for a scenario it will likely make one or even more good QB maps.

 

2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

I also wished that more (slightly modified, if neccessary) scenario-maps were available for quickbattles (@JulianJ), especially since most scenario-maps are really well done and often scaled realistically.

That is exactly what @MarkEzra does. Master maps (I believe always based on real places) and scenario maps (a lot based on real places) get turned into QB maps as part of Mark's usual process. So, some portion of the QB maps are already based on real places.

Dont' get me wrong, people making more is a good idea. Thumbs up.

 

2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

It's just a pity that scenarios have a rather limited H2H appeal if both the forces and their deployment are pre-determined.

I am not sure I agree with that but I'm probably picking nits :). Certainly a lot of H2H play is based on quick battles - it might even be a majority but I personally really like to play scenarios H2H. I prefer it. I don't think I am alone. Even if I am in the minority I don't think it is fair to categorize it as a limited appeal.

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2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

I think the appeal of scenarios could be greatly enhanced by adding more randomness: e.g. adding a random factor to the arrival time of reinforcements, etc. 

maybe a proper counter-attack is better represented as a separate mission on the map (as part of a tiny campaign).

Another interesting forum topic by Kaunitz!!!

You may already know this but in case you or others don't.  Reinforcements can be made to arrive at a random time or exact time.  For a random time the editor would be told 2nd Panzergrenadier Company arrives between 0110 and 0145 etc.

One drawback with a campaign is CM2 does not have persistent map damage (and CM2 campaigns are single player).   When it might be interesting to fight over the same map it is difficult to make it believable because the damage from the first fight is missing.  So you end up with different maps for every scenario of a campaign.  Or you make a static campaign like the scenario Tactical Operations Center.  Basically a very long scenario so you retain all the map damage, burning vehicles, dead bodies etc.    

 

2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

Retreat-idea:

I'd like to make a retreat an option once the defender knows he's going to lose the terrain objective. Instead of making a final suicide stand, I'd prefer if he could withdraw his forces to limit the extent of the defeat or perhaps even get away with a draw. 

I assume it's more reasonable to create a balance between "preserve own troops/exit the map" and "terrain" objectives. 

Another important aspect here is that I think players should be allowed to know how the outcome is calculated (by adding the info to the briefing...). They need to know that at some point, a withdrawal can be an interesting option for the defender. 

The retreat option is a very cool idea and is definitely doable in a scenario or campaign (again a campaign would be single player only).  It might be even easier to do in a campaign since you want to preserve your core force.  

Yep. the player would need to be advised of the option.  Especially since it is probably an option the player is not use to having.

Interesting stuff. :)  +1   

Edited by MOS:96B2P

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6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

As for the villages - maybe I'm confused by the maps. On many contemporary maps, houses seem to be spaced out quite a bit. But probably their footprints are displayed in an artificially distorted (also too big) way in order to make the layout of the village clearer. 

I think in many cases a blank space was inserted between each house just to make it clear how many houses were in the vilage - instead of just drawing them in one big blob.

Here's the village of Pierrefitte-en-Cinglais, which inspired me to make a scenario. I spent many hours studying the photo to make the scenario as close to reality as I could. Notice how even in this small vilage, most houses are joined or very close together. The buildings are not more than 2-3 stories and they are not spread all over the map.

742580.jpg

 

 

Edited by Bulletpoint

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I've placed the houses of my "village" - it's more like a few houses, really - very close together:

(the surroundings are not done yet - also, I'm not sure about that ditch...)

 

And this is the orchard: 

  • https://imgur.com/98EDnfQ
  • https://imgur.com/yBubriJ (this is the interior of the orchard - Note that the terrain is quite "bumpy". It should provide some nice cover for infantry if they get their heads down. I think this will also work perfectly for woods, but for fields it might look a bit weird.)

 

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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That looks like a farmhouse out in the sticks (appreciate it's a WIP) - do you plan adding more houses to it to make it into a hamlet, or a church and even more house to make it into a village.

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Maybe I'll add another hamlet of this size. But the map is not really concentrated on this "village". It's located at the edge of the map. The attacker will deploy here and start moving towards the objective (a farm at the crossroads).

So what should this area (defined by the the line "orchard - hamlet - thicket") offer for the attacker? Some positions for observation of the objective area and positions for long range support.

  • The orchard is not suitable, as it is surrounded by a large wall - you can't see out of it. You might blow holes in the wall to create an interesting keyhole position for a tank. But moving infantry through there seems risky as you're just creating bottlenecks for your opponent to shoot at. (In any case you can use the orchard as cover to approach the wooded hill, so it serves a purpose).
  • The hamlet is certainly an interesting position, but it is also an obvious target for larger calibres and - to a lesser extent - artillery. Adding more buildings would make each of them a less obvious target. So that's certainly something to consider. It's probably the best position for setting up MGs to fire at the farm, but enemy tanks are a big concern. Then again I'm not sure if the defenders will start with a tank and/or with a large calibre pointing at the hamlet. Also, they probably don't want to reveal their position early on, just to get rid of a single enemy machine gun?
  • The thicket is a very suitable feature for observation and long range fires, but vehicles won't be able to enter it. Also, it is vulnerable to artillery because of its comparatively small size. Unlike the proper woods, which in this map cover quite large spaces, with their edges extending for 100+ meters, it's easily possible to "saturate" the whole thicket with artillery fire. 

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Some thoughts about CM-mapmaking and some of my rules of thumb:

  • Basically speaking, in the European setting, there should be no areas that are not used agriculturally in some way.
  • For obvious reasons (how often do you need to turn around when ploughing?), fields usually come as a rectangle with one side significantly longer than the other. Don't place place fields "squarely" onto a slope/hill. The field's plough-tracks should follow the form of the hill, so that when ploughing, you don't need to go upwards or downwards. The plough-tracks of the respective terrain tiles (plughed E-W, N-S) should also follow that rule. 
  • Woods are usually found on hilltops.
  • Creating slopes can be a real pain. Often, I have the adequate difference in height between two points, but the curvature in between them can take any (unwanted) form: convex, concave (or fake-concave - with a flat plain interrupting the slope), line. Both the convex and the concave versions are tricky because they create dead angles (and ugly "steps" in the terrain). To get the desired results, I started counting the exact number of spaces between my elevation-points. If you have irregular intervalls between elevation-transitions, you end up with dead angles very quickly.
  • Aesthetics is one thing, gameplay another.
    • Especially ditches, sunken roads etc. need to be tested in the game to see whether soldiers align on them the way you want. For example, see my struggles for the Gerbini scenario: Gerbini 1Gerbini problems 2  Also, there are some issues you can't really solve as a mapmaker. E.g. you will have troubles to make units move along inside/in the cover provided by a ditch - they usually prefer to exit the ditch and get spotted and shot on the way. 
    • Another example is the transition between woods and open terrain. Placing dense trees and random bocage-fence-tiles at the edge of a wood looks really nice and seals off the wood from oberservation from outside (note that if you leave the edges totally open, you will end up playing the "spot me through the treetrunks" game - unless you stay prone, concealed by the "wood"-micro-terrain) However, this combination also means that you have almost no chance to see and fire out of the wood, even when your units are positioned on the very edge. There is no way to let units clear a fire-keyhole through the foliage. In this case, it might be a good idea to shift the bocage one tile into the wood, so that you can move around within the wood without being spotted from the outside, while being allowed to see out of the wood if you're on the very edge. You'd need to crawl the final part to the wood-edge (in order to make use of the concealment provided by the wood-micro-terrain). 

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

Size of the scenario & How would formations attack?

I'm a fan of smaller scenarios. I'm easily overwhelmed by the micro-management of larger scenarios. This, however, does not go too well with the larger maps that my approach requires (no cutoffs, realistic scale!). The current map size (ca. 1.5 x 2 km) is the best compromise I could come up with. Still the size of the forces that would realistically fight over such a front of 1.5km is huge. For the attacker, it's reasonable to assume that an infantry company on the attack would be assigned a sector with a width of about 250m. So, if we allow for a few gaps in between the companies, we would still end up with 5 companies "up"/in the first line. :D 

I often wonder how WWII formations would attack. Would they try to advance across the whole sector (roughly in a line), at least until hard contact was made, to make sure that the whole area is clear of the enemy? Or would they rather use cover to approach the final objective (switching to columns). In this case, however, the sector would not really be secure as pockets of the enemy can easily be overlooked? It might seem strange at the first thought, but to me the "line"-method of advance doesn't seem totally unreasonable. After all, you wanted to shift the frontline and gain ground. It makes no sense to capture an objective in front, while the approach to it is not clear (for support vehicles, etc). Also, with those relatively narrow frontages assigned to attacking formations, an approach that sticks to cover would quickly lead to bunch-ups and intermingling of the companies? So my suspicion (but this is purely guesswork, mind you) is that formations on the attack really advanced as a line until they came under fire. MGs are of special interest here as they would force a formation to seek cover very early on/at great distances, making it much harder and time-consuming to clear a sector. With a realistically sized map, you can recreate this early stage of an attack.

Edited by Kaunitz

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Very interesting stuff,  thanks @Kaunitz I would add, in European settings, roads are rarely arrow-straight (with the exception of a few major roads like the autobahns, which weren't prevalent during WW2).

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49 minutes ago, JulianJ said:

Very interesting stuff,  thanks @Kaunitz I would add, in European settings, roads are rarely arrow-straight (with the exception of a few major roads like the autobahns, which weren't prevalent during WW2).

The issue is that the available standard road-tiles only come in 2 versions (straight/diagonal). There is no way to create gentle curves. I personally prefer straight roads over zig-zag-approximations. But it's true that long straight roads should be interrupted from time to time in order to prevent an artificial feeling and overly long LOS. 

Interestingly, "roads" through woods often appear very straight on contemporary maps. I didn't expect that - as mentioned above, woods are typically located on hills and roads would be built avoiding steep slopes. The reason is probably because these are first and foremost fire-breaks rather than roads. E.g. of a perfectly straight firebreak over a hill: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneise#/media/File:Schneise.JPG

Edited by Kaunitz

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Slopes 

When you're working on a map, slopes can be tricky things. I think it's a good idea to share some thoughts about creating slopes.

The crucial thing is not to accidently cut lines of sights by creating dead ground/reverse slope situations. Here are two examples: 

  • Here you can see a hill that rises gently at first and becomes a bit steeper to its top. In this case, units positioned on the top of the hill can see down in the valley and vice versa. There is no dead ground. In the game, this hill will have a "concave" feeling to it. (Note that on the very ridge itself, there will be some dead ground of course - but if you scale hills realistically, you won't be able to squeeze many hills/ridges onto a single map)

z8oEF51.png

  • In this case, the hill's slope gets more gentle towards the top. As you can see, this creates a significant dead ground (marked in red). In the game, this hill will have a "convex" feeling to it. If there are flat areas (instead of a gentle slope) somewhere on your hill, the effect is even stronger.

txMoBX3.png

My method is still developing, but I usually proeed in this way when I create elevations: 1. I define all the highest and lowest points/ridges of the map - these are my "base lines" 2. I define elevation info along lines connecting the highest/lowest terrain features, at regular intervalls (connection lines). I need to point out that I define every single elevation-change-increment along these lines. This gives me the control I need and usually it's also pretty to behold (no ugly "steps" in the terrain). Minor adjustments can then be made by placing single spots in between the lines. Here is an example of a connection line:

7I9xytW.png

In this case, the top of the hill is in the south. From the top downwards, there is a medium slope at first with -1 elevation for every (8x8m) square. I'm not a mathematician, but this would be somewhere around 12%. Then, however, from the 54m mark downwards, the slope becomes much gentler, with -1 elevation for every 2 squares. So, this example here would correspond to the first type of hill. There is no dead ground on it and units at the top will see all the way down to the foot of the hill.

You may want to take a look at the contour lines to get an impression of nature's hills' many shapes :) https://opentopomap.org/#map=14/49.13194/5.06470 (intervalls between contour lines = 10m in height)

Edited by Kaunitz

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On elevations, I will say don't be afraid to create that dead ground. Hike through the hills and you'll see dead space is a common issue defending units would have to deal with in real life. Going out of your way to create clear lines of sight creates the tabletop gaming look you are actually trying to avoid. Natural hills have undulations and numerous draws and spurs that create difficulties for the defender and opportunities for the attacker. I don't think any attacking infantry force would ever have taken a hilltop defensive position if those natural dead spaces didn't exist in real life. You'd be surprised at how nuanced and "stepped" terrain can be in real life. I've found the best way to construct realistic elevations is to draw your contour lines fairly spread out (10 or 15m in elevations) and then using the "Adjust" tool set  to 1m to add variation. This creates the natural folds you are looking to re-create, adding micro terrain infantry can utilize.

I go to great lengths to try to re-create the real world in CM, and many of the things you discuss about here concern me as well. Check out some of my scenario maps to see how I deal with them. I put an extraordinary amount of time into my elevations and villages.

Also on the subject of infantry frontages, attacking infantry forces would absolutely stick to cover. Defensive lines weren't literal lines of men occupying every piece of ground, instead clustering and flowing around the terrain that is actually defensible. Vast open ground could easily be covered by artillery and machinegun fire, and often didn't serve a purpose anyway. Roads have always been the key to warfare and defenses were focused around those key avenues of approach. Even a "hilltop defense" was key only because it overlooked an avenue of approach needed by the attacker to continue their offensive. Your map may be 1.5km wide but not every piece of ground on that map is key terrain the defender would occupy or even care about. A 1.5km map would probably support an attacking infantry battalion with 2 companies up 1 back against a company sized defending force.

Check out the US Army Green Books, they provide a history of the US Army in WW2 in all theaters, and have excellent maps sometimes showing maneuver down to the company level. Gives a great picture on how WW2 armies actually fought and what they considered important.

Also, don't overly concern yourself with machinegun lines of fire - take a trip through Europe on Google Street view and see how rare it actually is to have long sight lines. Far too often vegetation and microterrain blocks line of sight over what would otherwise look like good ground. Remember, these machineguns are dug in at ground height! Go for a walk outside and when you think you've found a good position, lie down and see how much your opinion changes!

Edited by SeinfeldRules

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Thanks for the food for thought you provide! :) 

Scale, lines of sight, etc

I'm not entirely afraid of dead ground, but I keep wondering about the scale. Disregard dead ground created by walls and other artificial stuff for a moment, let's just talk about dead ground created by the actual ground itself, in an agricultural setting - i.e. no mountains, no urban terrain, no dense woods. Here I've come to the conclusion that lines of sight of ca. 1.5 km are not that rare. Unless you're in a really mountainous area, the valleys created by hills are often 1-2 km in width. And you can look down into the valley from both sides. 

Just a small example from the border region between France and Luxemburg (my map would fit very well to this area): https://www.google.at/maps/@49.3228081,5.4817659,3a,60y,226.6h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1scauolubPaOzUGjZX0-Mqaw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656. The distance to that wooded hill is 1.5km. No dead ground (created by the shape of the ground itself) anywhere. And if you turn around, you can see for about 1 km until your eyes come upon another wooded hill. Sure, there is dead ground behind these little hills, but that is far, far away and can be disregarded if this was a CM-map. 

Here is an example of a view in a more hilly landscape, around Cheneux: https://www.google.at/maps/@50.4081518,5.9567179,3a,75y,143.91h,83.96t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1stQ6Oh1jpsxDiFAUiK0obmw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656. The distance to the wooded hill is about 1km. Here, you do get some dead ground in front, but vast areas of the hill are very well visible. And the dead ground/depression itself is probably also quite large - maybe well within rifle range, but not within point blank-ambush range.

What certainly does obscure LOS is hedges, buildings, walls, patches of trees. But even here, if you're on the hill, you can usually see over smaller obstacles. 

It's a similar thing with those reverse-slope ambushes. In reality, hills are very large and the slope on their top is gentle (compared to slopes often seen on CM quickbattle-maps). A more gentle slope means that when you crest the ridge, you can see the enemy from a greater (less ambush-like distance). It's all a matter of scale. How often are your rifles out of range of a spotted enemy in a Combat Mission battle? In reality, you get to see other people very often from a distance of 300+ meters. So yes, I fully agree that in reality, you can find undulations in the ground that create plenty of dead ground, however, the scale of these undulations is generally speaking larger than what your standard CM quickbattle usually shows. 

As for vegetation blocking the LOS of machine guns: That's why I dream of some ability to prepare a machine gun position in CM, i.e. cut a fire lane through vegetation before the battle. :D

Formations on the attack

I've scanned through Ian Daglish's books and done my research for the Gerbini battle and I still wonder. According to the footprints of the individual companies drawn on maps, it often seems to be the case that companies were happily advancing across open fields, with their attack sectors touching each other. You can't find what we CM-players would call cover in each of these rather small (250m front) sectors (no houses, no ditch, no nothing). Often, judging from the map, these sectors had nothing in terms of cover. So perhaps I'm just underestimating how much cover even an "open" field can provide. That's one reason why I'd like to experiment with micro-cover. 

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

I will certainly take a look at your maps! As I've mentioned, I don't really play scenarios, so I don't exactly know what's out there. :) Is there any you can recommend in particular?

Edited by Kaunitz

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@SeinfeldRules I just realized I've already taken a look at your maps some time ago! And I found them really great! Especially "Amongst the Ruins" stuck to my mind as the most beautiful urban map I've seen so far! And your Mine Mill Mountain! :D Your more agricultural maps were also created with a lot of love and astonishing attention to detail. The only issue I have with them is that they're very small, so I'm afraid that the "cutoff" problem applies for me.  

Edited by Kaunitz

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Try my CMRT "Assault Position" and "Pastureland" for examples of how open fields can be tweaked to create interesting tactical situations! Pastureland takes place pretty much entirely in an "open" field. The only cover you have is the folds you find in the terrain.

Also check this out: https://www.dropbox.com/home/Public?preview=AD+Waldbillig+Waltz.btt

It's a scenario I was never able to get over the goal line due to other commitments, but I think it's probably one of my better maps. It has the size and terrain you are looking for and is based heavily off the real thing.

Also, re:frontages again. Remember that the entire company was not on line, and these companies could often be at 50% strength if they've been in heavy combat. These companies may only have a platoon up, and that platoon may only be 25 dudes. That stuff is lost in translation sometimes.

Edited by SeinfeldRules

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