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puje

Do you prefer a detailed or vague battle plan?

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When playing pre-made scenarios or campaigns, do you prefer the mission to have a detailed battle plan or do you like to plan everything yourself? 

It seems that a lot of scenarios tell the player to move troops to hill X to support other troops advancement towards town Y.

What if I don't think hill X is the best choice to provide cover from? I might miss point only because I don't agree with the scenario creator. 

I'm a bit divided about this. On one hand, it can help the narrative of a mission if you are told exactly how to do it, but on the other, it takes the initiative from the commander (player). 

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Only the main goal should be set, the rest depends on the player, it allows you to empathize with the role of HQ. Such hints occupy a hill X, go woods are good for preschoolers.

Any good scenario must have several AI plans.

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Broadly, I think there are at least two classifications of Combat Mission scenarios, but there's a further point to make.

One is a tactical problem. This typically has fairly conventional units (e.g., a US rifle company), and might include some interesting tactical wrinkles or a problem to solve.

For those scenarios I'd prefer more vague outlines. The point of these scenarios are often to solve the tactical puzzle (for given values of "solve" and "puzzle"), so being over-directed is a problem. You can still give useful pre-battle information, and indeed this information can be a part of the problem - especially if it is misleading in some way.

The other are more narrative scenarios, historical or otherwise. These may have to have explicit plans to create the story you're trying to achieve. In this case, the plans might be supported by victory locations - i.e., you aren't just told to take hill X, you're given it as a victory location.


The further point comes down to Commanders Intent. When writing orders in reality you need to give instructions on what you want to happen, but that's not nearly enough by itself. "Take hill x by 1800" is accurate, precise and completely useless - if hill x turns out to be more defended than expected, then you'll be forced to cancel the attack, and won't have further direction of what to do.

Instead, orders should consist of three parts: The order itself, the reasoning behind it, and the intended outcome.

"I want you to take hill x by 1800, so that you can form a base of fire and support second platoon's advance. The desired endstate is that second platoon has freedom of movement to go poke objective Horatio".

That means that if Hill x turns out to be too well defended, it might be that there's a Hill Y that would do the same job. That pushes the control down to the lower levels (Platoon/Company/whatever) and gives that low-level commander the tools to make informed decisions.

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4 hours ago, domfluff said:

Instead, orders should consist of three parts: The order itself, the reasoning behind it, and the intended outcome.

"I want you to take hill x by 1800, so that you can form a base of fire and support second platoon's advance. The desired endstate is that second platoon has freedom of movement to go poke objective Horatio".

+1 This.  

 

6 hours ago, puje said:

When playing pre-made scenarios or campaigns, do you prefer the mission to have a detailed battle plan or do you like to plan everything yourself? 

I like for the scenario to have a clear objective.  So I know what I need to do to accomplish the mission.  I want to decide the details on how to accomplish the mission (within ROEs and the forces provided).  Then hit the red button and see how my plan works. 

The scenario designer provides a clear, understandable mission.  The player comes up with the details of how to execute said mission.  

I think it is also interesting for the player to have decisions to make that have different advantages and disadvantages.  Then he must think about the benefits and consequences of these choices when making his plan.    

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Puje, your "Valleys of Death" campaign (which I need to get back to) is open ended, of course, and there's a lot of setup in deciding what forces to take, and how you're going to get there.

That's very suitable for that kind of campaign, but in the scope of an individual battle it's harder to build for (since there's no reason not to empty out the FOB - in most of the early missions there I took a total of one squad with the two MGs on patrol in humvees). That increased later with the town assault, since that was clearly (from the briefing) a more major operation.


For comparison - Combatintman's excellent "Green 9" for CMSF 1 is similar in basic design to your campaign, but it's the second type of scenario - it's a recreation of a real encounter, being a platoon patrol from a UK CP (CP Haji Alem). The mission objectives and direction of advance are pretty much pre-scripted, since you have to hit each of the touch objectives, and there's really only one good route to take, which matches the historical one.

That's also fine - you have some real choices as to what equipment to take and load up on at the game start, and obviously how you proceed into the unknown is up to you, but the basic flow is pretty scripted, matching the historical account (decent pictures here: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/mark-evison-death-113211_full.html)


In general, and especially in the modern titles,  I think I slightly prefer the more open, generic scenarios. "You have a rifle platoon, go take that hill", but I do think there's a place for both, and they use briefings for very different reasons. You can certainly use CM to weave a narrative, and it's possible to do things which you can't do with that more generic approach if you approached it from the narrativist end.

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In many scenarios i think the inflexibility of the AI might also be a limiting factor when it comes to  the players freedom to choose how, where and  what to attack or defend.

I have a feeling that the designers often needs to 'guide' the player forward (using objectives, timings and such) in order for the AI plans to function properly. The AI is very limited to what degree they may react to events taking place on the battle field and to allow the AI to provide the best possible challange the player freedom may at times need to be restricted.

The skill of the scenario designers a constantly improving though and new tricks a technics are found how to maximize the current game engine ☺️

 

 

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4 hours ago, domfluff said:

I think I slightly prefer the more open, generic scenarios. "You have a rifle platoon, go take that hill", but I do think there's a place for both, and they use briefings for very different reasons.

Same here.  I very much enjoyed Combatintman's scenarios as they certainly based closely on RL.  However, they are constrained by the RL events that he is simulating.  MOS's open-ended fictional scenarios like Tactical Ops Center and Coup d'Etat are more satisfying cos they are not constrained and  one has so many more decisions/choices to make.  That also makes MOS's scenarios more replayable.  

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26 minutes ago, RepsolCBR said:

In many scenarios i think the inflexibility of the AI might also be a limiting factor when it comes to  the players freedom to choose how, where and  what to attack or defend.

I have a feeling that the designers often needs to 'guide' the player forward (using objectives, timings and such) in order for the AI plans to function properly. The AI is very limited to what degree they may react to events taking place on the battle field and to allow the AI to provide the best possible challange the player freedom may at times need to be restricted.

Yeah definitely. I've worked with the AI when I made Valleys of Death. I really don't like the fact that the AI is linear. As far as I can tell, you can trigger the AI to go defend X if you get near it, and then Z when you move further on. But if you skip X and go straight to Z (or go to Y in stead), those same AI troops can't react accordingly. 

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44 minutes ago, RepsolCBR said:

I have a feeling that the designers often needs to 'guide' the player forward (using objectives, timings and such) in order for the AI plans to function properly. The AI is very limited to what degree they may react to events taking place on the battle field and to allow the AI to provide the best possible challange the player freedom may at times need to be restricted.

This too. 

+1

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It is an interesting debate and I guess there is no right or wrong answer because we all have our own preferences. Always pleasing to see that my work is part of the discussion and has provided enjoyment to players and I agree with your comments about those missions.

FWIW, my mission design philosophy is not prescriptive in that I don't set out to design to suit a particular preference, rather I try to design missions:

  • That I want to make.
  • That people will want to play.
  • Are historical, semi historical or plausible.
  • That are achievable in the editor.

As you know, I've done stuff ranging from SF HVT strikes at platoon minus strength (Op NEPTUNE SPEAR) up to Battalion plus engagements (To Verdenne and Victory). Each present their own design challenges but the general rule is that the larger the force size and map involved, then the number of options for both the designer and player increase. I also like the planning aspect of the game, which is why I wrote my planning tutorial which if you haven't seen it, can be found here:

When I play other scenarios, I therefore like to plan and that is reflected in the way that I write orders for my own missions. When I read a briefing, if the Execution paragraph starts telling me that 1 Platoon has to go Wood X to lay a base of fire for 2 Platoon to assault or similar detailed schemes of manoeuvre then I just skim over it. I'll plan and execute it however I want thank you very much based on standard planning considerations. As you've seen, in my missions the Execution paragraph usually starts with the following phrase 'Your choice commander'. I then generally use the rest of the paragraph to highlight some important considerations or provide additional information to assist the player in arriving at their plan.

What continually surprises me is reading or watching AARs of my missions because the tactical solutions presented quite often differ markedly from how I envisaged people solving that particular problem. If you read my planning tutorial you will also see that the plan I came up with surprised the designer of that excellent scenario @SeinfeldRulesand provoked some  thought from the tactical genius that is @Bil Hardenberger - the takeaway I think from the design perspective is that a lot of thought is needed in all aspects of the design of the AI controlled force.

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rather less detailed as I wrote in another thread. Like to use my own brain and not the one from the designer to tackle things. The briefing IMHO should just give the things worth to know for a given task and/or supplemented with info that might help less organized players into more of a difficult, maybe more complicated mission. Everyting´s not necessary for this purpose can go into designers notes if the designer feels to write something special in there (historical notes, player aids and such). Also depends on particular mission off course. Maybe a night combat mission could be somewhat more tricky, or when it´s a recon type mission, where you just know the commander would like to know an enemy in a particular area and/or take an objective. The less deliberate an assault/defense the less info usually is given. That´s the guidelines I use for my own stuff.

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On 5/8/2019 at 3:49 PM, MOS:96B2P said:

I like for the scenario to have a clear objective.  So I know what I need to do to accomplish the mission.  I want to decide the details on how to accomplish the mission (within ROEs and the forces provided).  Then hit the red button and see how my plan works. 

The scenario designer provides a clear, understandable mission.  The player comes up with the details of how to execute said mission.  

I think it is also interesting for the player to have decisions to make that have different advantages and disadvantages.  Then he must think about the benefits and consequences of these choices when making his plan.    

here one can go in different ways as mission designer IMO.  I.e take a particular hill on a map in attack/assault mission. So when is a hill effectively taken? If the player occupies an objective zone as provided by the designer or.....when that hill is free from any enemy interferences so that friendly support routes to that hill are equally safe? The hill won´t be worth much if approaches to it are still under enemy fire and observation, which makes this nice new friendly hill untenable in RL actually. Terrain has no worth on its own and needs a tactical connection to the overall situation in the given battle and with player´s force.

Taking bridges mission is almost the same. If you can´t gain a bridghead and free surrounding area, the bridge will remain under enemy fire and observation. This can´t be solved properly by placing objectives zones on the map and requires both, bits of tactical understanding by the designer and player. Otherwise the player reports back to his commander! "Sir! We´ve taken the bridge intact! But we´re out of ammo and fuel! Send some over!" Commander: "Well nice, but we can´t. If we send the trucks they get shot up instantly. There also must be an enemy FO around on your side! The moment we move an Arty barrage is coming down on us."

So my point is how would you transport the imagined tactical situations over to the player, in order to make it "reaslistic" and also calculated properly in end mision screen? :)

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On ‎5‎/‎8‎/‎2019 at 3:26 AM, puje said:

When playing pre-made scenarios or campaigns, do you prefer the mission to have a detailed battle plan or do you like to plan everything yourself?

I plan as much, or as little as necessary, and I often deviate from my own plan at any reasonable opportunity.

Most of the time, my plans are as simple as, "First Platoon will go that way, Second will go that way, and Third will wait here until later." I then fight the battle largely by ear.

Some times I will plan an attack all the way down to the level of individual teams, giving each one a specific point to go for, as part of an interlocking fire and movement plan.

"This row of buildings is key to allowing further movement, so First and Second Squad will split into teams and occupy them, allowing Third Squad to move across the street onto the objective."

But then again, most of the time I simply maintain my intervals, move as suppression allows, focus my firepower where it's needed, and generally I come off rather well by keeping one eye on the clock, the other eye on the distance from my objectives, both ears on the sounds of outgoing and incoming fire, and a third eye on the amounts of critical ammo supplies like 120mm HE, and Javelins.

So, in a nutshell, I'm perfectly happy with a detailed plan being provided to me, but I much prefer simply being given an objective and allow me to figure out how I want to accomplish it.

Some times I even deliberately ignore objectives given to me by the scenario, because I know I can achieve victory without them.

It's fairly difficult to argue with a total enemy surrender. ;)

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12 hours ago, General Jack Ripper said:

Some times I even deliberately ignore objectives given to me by the scenario, because I know I can achieve victory without them.

And sometimes you just get bloody lucky.....Two goddam minutes!  :P

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On 5/8/2019 at 3:26 AM, puje said:

When playing pre-made scenarios or campaigns, do you prefer the mission to have a detailed battle plan or do you like to plan everything yourself? 

It seems that a lot of scenarios tell the player to move troops to hill X to support other troops advancement towards town Y.

What if I don't think hill X is the best choice to provide cover from? I might miss point only because I don't agree with the scenario creator. 

I'm a bit divided about this. On one hand, it can help the narrative of a mission if you are told exactly how to do it, but on the other, it takes the initiative from the commander (player). 

Wanted to get back to the original question.. my point of view usually aligns with most others: I want to design and execute my own battle plan, so any plan outlined in the briefing I usually ignore.

HOWEVER, if the scenario is historical and the designer is trying to show the historical actions and is attempting to recreate the feel of the actual action, then I will try to follow those instructions.  Also if it is a training type mission, often its important to follow the instructions n the briefing in order to "get the lesson".

Bil

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12 hours ago, General Jack Ripper said:

Some times I even deliberately ignore objectives given to me by the scenario, because I know I can achieve victory without them.

It's fairly difficult to argue with a total enemy surrender. ;)

At least with the objectives, you usually know where to find the enemy.  ;) 

Seriously, defeat the enemy and you don't have to worry about the objectives, I also try to stay focused on the enemy rather than the objective(s), but the objectives are handy, as I mentioned above as orientation tools as many players go straight for them.

Bil

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1 hour ago, Bil Hardenberger said:

Wanted to get back to the original question.. my point of view usually aligns with most others: I want to design and execute my own battle plan, so any plan outlined in the briefing I usually ignore.

Definately a lot of people feel that way and it certainly is part of the fun. In the learning curve though some people might really appreciate some guidance. There is a lot to these games so executing someone else's plan could be helpful as a step towards learning the game and eventually planning on your own.

So, I think having a plan on offer is a good thing (TM). Feel free to ignore it. :)

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In a scenario I just completed for (redacted) I gave attacking allies fairly detailed orders in an attempt to get the player to fight in a way that's typical of the theater (you'll understand when you see it). I included a touch objective for points to incentivize him to move how I want him to move. That's not to say that's the only tactical solution. Writing-up Allied AI plans I did an alt AI orders that's an entirely different attack plan from the one in the orders text.

Bear in mind, scenario designers have to concoct AI orders based on certain assumptions. The orders set tells you to proceed down the road. Opposing AI orders are based on the assumption that you're going to proceed down the road. If you don't proceed down the road the opposing AI orders are shadow-boxing against nothing. There's a difference between genuinely superior tactics and merely gaming the AI to your advantage.

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5 hours ago, MikeyD said:

In a scenario I just completed for (redacted) I gave attacking allies fairly detailed orders in an attempt to get the player to fight in a way that's typical of the theater (you'll understand when you see it). I included a touch objective for points to incentivize him to move how I want him to move. That's not to say that's the only tactical solution. Writing-up Allied AI plans I did an alt AI orders that's an entirely different attack plan from the one in the orders text.

Bear in mind, scenario designers have to concoct AI orders based on certain assumptions. The orders set tells you to proceed down the road. Opposing AI orders are based on the assumption that you're going to proceed down the road. If you don't proceed down the road the opposing AI orders are shadow-boxing against nothing. There's a difference between genuinely superior tactics and merely gaming the AI to your advantage.

haven´t tried it all, but it´s clear a defensive battle plan should be set up rather "simple", maybe just some triggers on map objectives for local counterattacks and such. Think the main point for getting a defensive AIP a reasonable chance of succes vs. human player is to carefully set up troops so they can survive the longest. Keyholed positions, covered flanks, silent heavy weapons that react on enemy map triggers as well as FO´s that have good observation on all enemy approach routes and lots of TRP´s. Should also preserve a good security distance as otherwise the AIP won´t use his (Arty & Mtr) assets.

AI attacking plans are way more tricky off course. I solved lots of that (I think) by rather complicated unit order triggers that get AI groups reacting only by local progress in a particular attack sector. Huge topic for a seperate thread, so now after the patch is out maybe high time to start any.

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10 hours ago, Bil Hardenberger said:

At least with the objectives, you usually know where to find the enemy.  ;) 

Seriously, defeat the enemy and you don't have to worry about the objectives, I also try to stay focused on the enemy rather than the objective(s), but the objectives are handy, as I mentioned above as orientation tools as many players go straight for them.

Bil

thus I neglect use of map objectives unless I have a very good reason, or different use for them (map triggers). Though I use "hidden to player" ones more oftenly to reflect the opponent having his own goals for important, worth to fight for map locations. What might be worth to an attacking player, doesn´t necessarily mean anything to the defending one, or vice versa. Both opponents going for the "known" same vic locations is wrong training method for any player, beside it being highly unrealistic. All run for the flags. Not that interesting really.

I.e a mission designer who wants players to occupy a town, can use "hidden" vic locs on multiple parts of that town. Prerequirement is the mission/map designer analysed his own map in detail and thoroughly for all the important tactical map spots worth as stepstone for the final missions goal. The players not actually "seeing" all the vic locs then can make their own mind about important tactical locations on the map. At last the mission designer knowing the worths can reward the players at end game screen for the "correct" players tactical choices. That´s at least my own approach for tackling mission goals and carry over to players by use of appropiate mission briefings and maps. 

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Posted (edited)

My own scenarios lean heavily on 'unit destroy' point objectives even if there are terrain objectives involved. When I refreshed a batch of CMSF1 legacy scenarios for CMSF2 I added unit destroy points so the player would at least get some credit for defeating the enemy in the field.

I do get a bit frustrated with big points terrain objectives at the far end of a huge map with barely enough time to properly recon the route of advance (not to mention stage an assault on a city center!) Often the scenario designer knows something I don't, that there's only one or two snipers between me and the objectives so he allots the time accordingly. But I don't know that. Every copse of trees and bend in the road needs to be reconnoitered for fear of being ambushed. That terrain objective looks VERY far off to me.

Edited by MikeyD

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I am currently working on a scenario with a Red Army Rifle Battalion, and am experimenting with the entire map as the objective. It is a narrow map with small frontage for the attacking Red Army. Plenty of time allotted. German AI get points for destroying Russians. Obviously you must be careful and thorough.

Isn't that what the infantry did? Take the ground.

Anyone have any experience with the entire map needing held?

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Give it a try and if it doesn't work its just 5 minutes to erase the terrain objective and try something else. That the nice think about making scenarios, you can't actually break anything. -_-

Usually, though, players become frustrated with big 'occupy' terrain objectives because there's always one broken straggler hiding in a building in the corner of the occupy zone denying you your 'occupy' victory.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Mudhugger said:

I am currently working on a scenario with a Red Army Rifle Battalion, and am experimenting with the entire map as the objective. It is a narrow map with small frontage for the attacking Red Army. Plenty of time allotted. German AI get points for destroying Russians. Obviously you must be careful and thorough.

Isn't that what the infantry did? Take the ground.

Anyone have any experience with the entire map needing held?

whole map as objective...not sure it´s the best idea for getting the goal translated, but you can always try and see. My approach would rather be as MikeyD mentioned, go for destroy units point allocation and experiment with different assignment groups for them. As further option comes boni for not receiving too many losses at end game and such. Not that easy to calculate all of that and needs several complete playthroughs to get the idea. But good mission designers do complete playthrough their own creations 10+ times anyway, or don´t they? :)

Edited by RockinHarry
typo

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, MikeyD said:

I do get a bit frustrated with big points terrain objectives at the far end of a huge map with barely enough time to properly recon the route of advance (not to mention stage an assault on a city center!) Often the scenario designer knows something I don't, that there's only one or two snipers between me and the objectives so he allots the time accordingly. But I don't know that. Every copse of trees and bend in the road needs to be reconnoitered for fear of being ambushed. That terrain objective looks VERY far off to me.

Time is a very challenging thing to calculate when designing. When I made Valleys of Death I could blaze through some missions in 10-15 minutes because I knew where to be careful, and when not to. Players probably took 1 to 1.5 hours to do the same. 

Edited by puje

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