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Piling in one battle map

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What stops all the forces in the campaign piling into one battle map. THIS WOULD MAKE THE BATTLE UNPLAYABLE BECUSE OF THE HUGE FORCES INVOLVED. Would you have to auto resolve?

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And the crickets chirp...

It is an excellent question and has been raised before as a concern.

Im my referee-run, manual campaigns I penalized "overstacking" by making overly large forces arrive piecemeal, as reinforcements, rather than all starting on the map. I also split very large fights into side by side small ones. But neither has been mentioned for CMC.

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Isn't there a limit to the number of units in CMBB? Maybe they will patch it so there will be more units per side but my guess is that there will still be a limit. Seems like this has been discussed before.

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Allowing some intel before the amount of FOs on map is decided.

Allowing arty on the area after the battle turn

Allowing limited supplies thru one depot or road so large maneuver elements don't receive full supplies. IIRC I read sumfink about that.

Gruß

Joachim

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Originally posted by Pak40:

Isn't there a limit to the number of units in CMBB? Maybe they will patch it so there will be more units per side but my guess is that there will still be a limit. Seems like this has been discussed before.

There is a limit, what it is I forget though.

Hitting it results in huge and largely unplayable games.

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Do you guys remember that CMBB operation entitled "To the Volga"? It was massive (18000 points for the axis I believe), and the units were ridiculously crammed together on one very small map.

The funny thing is, as the scenario designer points out, that in reality there were nearly three times the number of units all fighting in an area as small as the size of the map. Makes you question the claim that clashes involving large concentration of forces are unrealistic. Stalingrad wasn't decided by company level action.

Realism aside, on the issue of playability, even the very large battles should be no problem for modern PCs. The game just turned 5 years old and it certainly wasn't pushing the envelope in terms of graphics when it came out.

It may certainly take time to issue orders for such a large number of troops and tanks, but if you think about it, you'll end up having to deploy those units elsewhere so why not commit to a large but decisive battle?

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Originally posted by Kommissar:

The funny thing is, as the scenario designer points out, that in reality there were nearly three times the number of units all fighting in an area as small as the size of the map. Makes you question the claim that clashes involving large concentration of forces are unrealistic. Stalingrad wasn't decided by company level action.

Quite correct, in fact it was decided by section and at a maximum probably platoon level actions.

All the best

Andreas

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Komm - unit designations mebe, but ask what their trench strength was and you will get rather a different impression. Divisions had 1500-2000 men including the service troops etc.

And playability is non-existent in mega battles, whether crammed onto small maps or on spacious 2x2 km ones. The CPU has nothing to do with it. The player can't give sensible orders to every sergeant in a regiment or division 40-60 times to resolve one battle. And there is no realism left in the game if he does, because the level of coordination and intel sharing etc among every sergeant is simply absurd, when the command span gets that large.

CM works for company to battalion scale. At company scale it plays like typical wargames and at battalion scale like larger grand tactical games. Above that scale it does not play at all, it simply breaks.

The issue won't go away by pretending it isn't there, or trying to change the subject from playability in CM and realism in CM, to historical force to space ratios or scenario design literalism. (You can find at any level you please somewhere in the war. It doesn't mean you can make a realistic CM scenario at any level of force to space).

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I'm declaring it fixable and urging that it be fixed, precisely because there are half a dozen CM campaigns I'd love to run with it. It is the product I most look forward to, so I'd sincerely like it to be something I can actually use.

If they just abandon the game design side of the project for cookie cutter decisions that stress the underlying CM game and won't work, then they can't be surprised if the game design that results isn't great, and its reception reflects that. Entirely up to them.

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Jason - lets assume you're correct in saying that the larger battles will be unplayable. Well then isn't the solution within the grasp of the player? Split up your forces. I'm pretty sure the game would allow you to turn your battalion into three companies, so why not try that?

I see where my argument is leading though. You'll say that you'd be mad to split up your forces because then your opponent would simply crush your companies with his battalions (or divisions or whatever) one by one. It turns into sort of a prisoners dilemma. No matter what your opponent does, your best bet is to keep your units at the largest allowable strength whenever possible. This of course means that the battles are unplayable. Which brings us back to whether it is in fact unplayable or not.

Rather than go there, which I think we've done enough, I'll just say that I agree that they should make some changes (even if it means the game is further delayed - argh). They might consider making unit size caps controllable by the designer or give the option to have maps tailored to the size of the forces involved. That would probably make everyone happy but, according to Hunter, they're probably not. I'd say that you have a pretty legitimate concern but it's probably wise to wait until it comes out to render a final verdict.

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After it comes out is too late, because all one can then do is render a verdict. I'd rather play campaign CM than render verdicts, so that doesn't help.

And yes precisely it is a PD, both players have incentive to race to a suboptimal overall solution.

And yes, variable sized maps are one potential solution, one I am recommending, and that I've used successfully in campaigns.

But if map sizes that vary with forces is too hard to program, there is still another method I also used. Let the campaign designer set a normal force size in points, and penalize any force over 50% of that level by piecemeal arrival on the map, to reflect coordination difficulties the game does not model.

The normal size is the initial on map force, and additional amounts can only arrive at a certain rate - 25% of that amount each 5 minutes e.g. If you stay under 150% you get everyone within 10 minutes and most can fight etc. If you try to pack in 3 times the standard, some of them won't arrive until over half an hour has passed.

If you are worried this system might be controversial, allow it to be turned on or off with a switch, like rariety in CM.

Another useful thing even with fixed map sizes within a campaign would be allowing the campaign designer to decide what that fixed size is, or given him a set of choices. With 2 km by 2 km the upper end but not mandatory. Others might be 1500m, 1 km by 1 km or 800m by 800m or a tiny one with 500m by 500m. (Tiny might be the right way to do e.g. a city fight campaign, for example. 2 km by 2 km of downtown Stalingrad would be rather unwieldy).

If someone wants to run a campaign at an overall scale of one battalion on a side, it should be possible. And not as one scenario. Same for a fight over a square mile of downtown Stalingrad - that should not be forced to happen on one CM map.

Let's help them get it right.

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Originally posted by Kommissar:

Jason - lets assume you're correct in saying that the larger battles will be unplayable.

We need not assume he's correct based simply on his say-so. There is ample evidence that CMBB starts to break above battalion level and is a nightmare above multi-battalion and a mess at regiment.

Of course you can also test it yourself. Create a huge multi-battalion game and see for yourself using CMBB.

CMC needs to somehow crop or scale battles down sensibly to something people can enjoy playing using CMxx.

I think Michael and Jason's comments are on the right track.

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Dirtweasle, the problems you are talking about have to do with performance. JasonC is talking about the principle of commanding and co-ordinating large forces. Those are two different things.

JasonC claims CM doesn't work above battalion level even if the game would run smoothly because it breaks the credibility of the model to let one player control so many units.

I don't really feel this is the case. Accepting that a pixelated representation on a screen has anything to do with reality is such a huge mental leap that the number of pixelated troops I'm commanding is largely irrelevant. If I can accept that ordering 50 such units bears a relation to anything real I can also accept it for 100 or even 1000 units.

Stacking limits are just as undesirable as they represent an absolute safety net for the defender. He knows he can't be succesfully attacked in area X if he can get so and so many troops there because the attacker can't bring enough forces to do it.

I get a much bigger reality break from being forced into consecutive attacks on the same hex because the game won't let me pile in enough troops to do it in one go than I do from commanding large numbers.

Variable map sizes almost implies a continuous battlefield as opposed to a segmented one. Clearly CMC hasn't gone down that route.

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Originally posted by Sgt_Kelly:

Dirtweasle, the problems you are talking about have to do with performance. JasonC is talking about the principle of commanding and co-ordinating large forces. Those are two different things.

I'm talking about both. They may be different but related.

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Kelly - no it is not remotely unrealistic.

It was entirely common in the real war for a large column to stop when the point takes fire, and to mill around in confusion waiting for orders on what to do next, sometimes for hours at a time.

Regiments do not dance on master puppet strings on 1 minute time scales. Platoons do if well led. In CM, at the company scale the level of coordination typically reached is above realistic, but morale failure and other fire effects can mess up plans enough to keep it reasonably realistic.

At battalion scale things are already starting to break. There is no macro morale model to speak of (autosurrender is a complete wipe out state only and does not count). It is a well known principle from grand tactical game design that unit by unit morale, only, without additional layers of it for larger formations, results in forces that get progressively less brittle as the formation size rises.

The reason it is much easier to use ranks and reliefs, to use up a few units utterly without the others caring at all, layer rinse repeat.

When TSS came out - one of the first grand tactical "monster" games - the sides brawled to causalty rates easily 5 times the historical levels. Then they instituted the BCE system, and that cut it to about 2-3 times and made it reasonably playable.

Ranged weapons get particularly silly in grand tactical games with high absolute range, compared to the physical placement of the forces. In the extreme case, people coordinate fires to a level of fine detail that would make mere orchestra composers green with envy. Every 50mm mortar has an exact mission for each minute that perfectly jives with every bounding squad.

Then there is the command demand on the player. The level of micromanagement to command a reinforced battalion of all arms is already pushing the envelope of unplayable. A careful single turn can take 1-2 hours, easily.

IT was the imaginary extreme of monster games - all of WW II played out with single man counters. The whole idea was to show designers that no, realism would not be achieved by analysis or scale and least of all by both.

Game design requires actual thought designing the actual game to be playable. Trying to reduce it to a problem of engineering through literalism makes unplayable dreck.

Yes a coordination penalty means attacks wind up being delivered in sequence, and defenders have some chance to react to them with shifts of local reserves. They did in real life. That is why everyone used deep formations on both sides of the ball.

And there is no point whatsoever in making a campaign wrapper for operational CM, just to put brigades on a single map and decide the outcome in one go. Make a monster scenario. And see how few people ever bother playing it.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

Game design requires actual thought designing the actual game to be playable. Trying to reduce it to a problem of engineering through literalism makes unplayable dreck.

I agree, which is why crude and arbitrary stacking limits should be avoided.

Coordination penalties are a different matter and can take on many guises.

To me the requirement to spend 1 - 2 hours on micro-managed orders for 3 battalions is ample discouragement and automatically leads to my defining point and reserve units, the latter spending a sizeable part of the battle being totally ignored. I need no further encouragement to steer clear of trying to wallop my opponent off the map with a perfectly timed single-blow firestorm.

The ability to play like that and find scenarios designed by like minded people for me to try my hand on is enough to keep me happy.

There are others who believe perfectly timed choreographies designed to defeat type-cast forces on type-cast maps are the holy grail of CM. More power to them, I don't believe in forced conversions.

You say CM is apt for a certain force size bandwidth and scenarios which stretch the envelope too much don't get played. Why should CMC be any different ?

[ October 06, 2006, 10:43 AM: Message edited by: Sgt_Kelly ]

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Because nearly every CMC game will include total side forces far above the level CM can handle. And because sending more than the other guy to the single largest fight will typically win the most important single fight in the campaign, and with it much of the campaign. Therefore, there will be a standing incentive to both players to race toward the suboptimal monster equilbrium - not because anyone wants to go there, but because being closer to it than your opponent will win fights. This is precisely the sort of bad equilibrium dilemma that designers need to consciously prevent by deliberate design incentives.

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I think you may be overestimating the ease with which such a big decisive battle can be forced.

The need to find the enemy and the reality of different force elements moving at different speeds alone might make that more of a challenge than you appear to anticipate.

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Different speeds are a triviality, the time is irrelevant and task force elements just move together. And if the enemy doesn't have much there you just run it over.

In my own campaigns even with rules that discouraged stacking, it was completely normal for players to attempt to use 2/3rds of their total available armor - entire front and all time - on a single battle map.

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I think all that has been said in this thread makes lotsa sense- unplayable massed games, unrealistic etc.

But I wonder if the massed ball of forces can be surrounded and made out-a-supply, resulting in all that armor becoming bulletless pill boxes. That alone can force the plsyer to keep the troops to stay spread out in a realistic distribution.

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No, in practice it can't.

What typically happens is the sides start out with relatively evenly spread forces, with the attacker putting extra weight - armor, artillery, etc - on some portion of the frontage, perhaps a third or so of it.

Players who haven't learned how low the operational loss tolerance is, think they can fight along every axis or bit of the front in every op turn. They press in lots of places at once.

But they lose a platoon to a company in each of those fights. Despite operational instruction to limit aims, all the fights are pressed to some significant loss. The level of loss is typically not even noticed as significant by the tactical commander - he thinks he did fine, preserved most of his force, etc. A few outliers know they did poorly - those are lost companies or tank platoons or more than platoons.

Now, that accumulates quite rapidly. In a few hours the side commander realizes his force will evaporate if he continues to press so hard. He cannot be sure the enemy will run out as rapidly. He starts to husband reserves, and he laments the lost platoons on the irrelevant axes for his overall plan.

He stops ordering advances everywhere. More locations are ordered to hold. The attack is pressed only where the heavier forces are available and odds are expected.

The enemy many respond with probes of his own in the quieter sectors, but can hardly sustain the loss rate of fighting in every sector, himself. The side on the strategic defensive can rarely afford to multiply occasions for loss. He counts himself lucky to be holding without further destruction on this or that portion of the front.

And he backpeddles before the heaviest forces. He strips elements from the quiet sectors. He decides on a line that must hold and plans a serious commitment of his reserves. Meanwhile on the other side of the hill, the attacker has passed from saving platoons by not attacking everywhere every turn, to scrounging for fully battleworthy companies to mass in his chosen attack sectors. He shifts those somewhat from turn to turn, of course, trying to remain flexible and less predictable, etc.

But more and more, the fighting revolves around the 2-3 largest battles of the op turn, and then around the largest. A few other actions occur, but have such small forces engaged they have limited bearing on the remaining outcome.

This learning process is accelerated for smarter side commanders or anyone with campaign experience. The thing driving it is the complete inability to sustain parallelized rates of loss fighting for each sector each turn.

Some of this is fine, of course. But there is a clear shift to a definite optimum - fight with odds or do not fight at all - and seeking it pushes the whole campaign toward giantism in tactical fights. If losses have been high enough previously and there are rules penalizing overstacking or splitting the largest fights, it can all remain managable. If instead, adequate force to space to cover 2 km starts at a battalion, and concentration means a regiment on one map, you will hit giantism quite rapidly.

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Just like a CM scenario doesn't generally offer the time and forces to learn from mistakes within the single game and adapt tactics accordingly, I don't think there will be room for this whole sequence of events in many CMC scenarios. There is usually time and strength for one gambit. You fail, try something different next time.

This means that someone seeking to win by forcing a decisive battle would have to adopt that tactic from the start. Assuming coordinated movement is as trivial as you propose, he would have to spend time to mass and then move that blob around at the speed of its slowest moving element.

Victory is by no means the foregone conclusion you make it out to be. Multiple objectives far enough apart alone could render the whole ploy useless. Other counters have already been suggested by others.

If you are really hellbent on preventing this from happening you can easily do so by adapting your scenario. There is no need for it to be designed into the game on the grounds of your personal perceptions of what is and what isn't realistic.

Realism in games revolves around the suspension

of disbelief, which breaks down to different causes for different people. While I take your point about handling force sizes upwards of a battalion, I find that even those fights tend to consist of a series of smaller ones rather than devolve into the super-coordinated travesty that you make it out to be. For me, things aren't as bad as you paint them.

Bigger sized fights do have merit and I would not like to see them banned from the game as a matter of doctrine. If you think they make no sense, design and play your scenarios accordingly.

[ October 06, 2006, 11:14 PM: Message edited by: Sgt_Kelly ]

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I am bought in to JC's issues, but am still looking at possible solutions. JC's variable map size is one, but I don't see huge acceptance from Hunter. So, considering other solutions (or palliatives), and taking as constraints:

- CMBB will not be modified (or at least tiny tweaks only)

- CMC wont be completely re-written.

How's about all CMBB games are played out with turn time limits on? This is normally a TCP/IP option IIRC, but could be used agaist the AI in theory with a tweak? If the turn limit were say 5 minutes + say 1 minutes per x points on your side, larger force sets the limit, you could tune it so that players just cannot manage large forces in the time, and they would just end up using a subset of forces that are on the map, or ordering huge 'multiple selection' advances (i.e. very crude and uncoordinated attacks etc). The time limits could be set so that platoon actions are effectively unconstrained, companies a little pushed but generally OK, Btns rushed (in affect attack with 1 or 2 companies forward, with the rest inactive or 'simple' commands due to time, or very slow and laboured attacks due to having to cycle around the companies on a 3 or 4 turn cycle). Multiple btns would just be impossible to control effectively.

Not ideal, but maybe the correct 'counter incentive' for large stacks, and most importantly, do-able in the s/w constraints?

BTW, I presume if a CMC is being played out with online CMBB execution, the players could do it this way anyway?

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Sgt Kelly - if you want to put entire divisions on 2 km maps, you would be free to do so under what I propose. You would never finish a campaign, any more than lots of people finished games of Campaign for North Africa or War in the Pacific, but its your funeral.

But don't try to break CMC by trying to force all of the rest of us to only fight on 2 km x 2 km maps all the time. I'm the one advocating a range of map sizes, campaign designer set normal force sizes, and an optional staged arrival system for forces over that set size. You are instead defending one maximum map size and no options. Which just means half of us - and after some experience with how big and unplayable they get, I rather suspect more than that - won't be able to use it.

As for not having time to learn in a CMC scenario, um, what in heck is going to stop it? The whole point of campaign CM is that you aren't restricted to one fight on one short 30 minute clock. If the players want to spend the afternoon of the first day doing nothing, they can and will. It is not like it takes long. In my last, the losses in the first 2 hours were enough to convince the attacking side to cut the frontage along which they were pressing in half, and by op turn 4 they were hitting 1-2 locations per op turn.

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