My recommendation.....Make a test in the editor.
It will require a little bit of thinking to get it to work just how you need it to and it will help you to familiarise yourself with the post powerful part of the game.
PS - I reckon half the scenarios I make start this way; Something comes up in dscussion here, I make some expermental stuff to find my own personal answers, discover something that amuses/impresses/surprises me.....Next thing you know I'm writing a scenario around it.
5 – Campaign Briefing and Narrative (Making Me Care)
“Words are how we think; stories are how we link.”
Campaign briefings are a unique part of a designer’s arsenal to provide additional information and narrative to the player. Campaigns are fundamentally larger affairs either in units, terrain and/or time. There should as a result be more information to impart to the player to provide them with context, purpose and information.
The only physical difference between a campaign briefing and regular scenario briefings is that a campaign briefing will always be viewed first and can be accessed throughout a campaign by a player to go back and reference information.
I’m structuring this part of the series similar to a normal briefing itself to explain what I feel needs to go into each section. Of all the sections of this write up, this is certainly the most subjective. A briefing’s design and content can be as simple or as detailed as you want, and as we’ve seen from the community over the years, they can range from official military writeups through to personal first-person accounts. It’s a narrative. What I’m trying to say here is it is largely up to you.
For Tukums, I was in a little bit of a bind because the overall commander of the forces involved is actually on the field for most of the campaign. Therefore, writing a briefing that was very formal, like it was a well thought out and planned operation seemed to be a bit off. For a little while I was actually considering a first person briefing for this campaign from the perspective of Strachwitz, however opted against this eventually given it would be part of a stock release.
I believe this part of the briefing is the most important, particularly for a campaign where the broader state of affairs around the battle is likely going to play an influence on the player’s experience.
The first thing I do is provide the narrative for how we got the starting point of this campaign. Why is the player and his forces being asked to undertake this mission? For historical scenarios like the Tukums work it’s pretty easy since history is your guide. For Tukums, it’s to break through the Soviet lines and reconnect a land bridge with the cut off Army Group North. For a fictional scenario, in particular the modern era titles, it’s a touch more difficult but imagination is a great tool. Don’t be scared to create a little but plausible story to get the player invested.
Given the slightly larger scale of most campaigns and the type of content that needs to be conveyed I’ve always tended towards writing campaign briefings from the one command level higher than the units going into battle. So, for example if the focus of the campaign is the operations of a battalion, then write the campaign briefing from the perspective of the regiment/brigade level headquarters providing a briefing to the battalion commander (ie. the player). If the focus of the campaign is at the company level, the battalion headquarters is giving the orders. This does mean reducing the scope of the situation to suit the audience. A company commander is only going to need to know what the rest of his battalion is doing and where his force fits into their goals. A company commander doesn’t need to know every detail of Ike’s plan for crossing the Rhine. A battalion commander likely knows what his regiment/brigade is tasked with undertaking and perhaps a dabble in the Division’s overall plans if it’s a prepared operation.
The graphics should help visualise the overall objectives of the Campaign. Help position where the player’s force fits into the wider picture. Some general level intelligence on the enemy and high-level formations the player has at their command.
All stock scenarios and campaigns follow the same graphical design with the Operational graphic (the middle sized one) outlining broad unit movements and support elements available. This also makes it clear to the player which units are perhaps more important to keep alive given they carry across to more scenarios.
A campaign briefing doesn’t have access to a Tactical Map.
With the narrative set up in the Situation part of the briefing, the Mission part can then be used to provide overall goals of the campaign. Outline the end goal of the campaign, what will be different after all battles are completed successfully. It’s very easy to slip into the trap of expanding more details that should be outlined in the Situation part of the briefing.
Campaign end points may not always be designed to end in a state as intended at the start of the campaign. The multiple path dilemma. The “ideal outcome” or the “planned” outcome is usually what needs to be presented at this early point in the campaign. If a planned out campaign has multiple phases, or a briefing via a “step by step” approach may be warranted. This will give the player an idea about how much of the heavy lifting specific forces of the player is expected to carry out.
As an example, the Tukums campaign briefing Mission part is provided below and in full. Keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it clear.
It has just gone 08:30 hours. Your mission is to occur in two phases over the course of the morning:
Phase one - move your panzer and panzergrenadier force north to capture and occupy the town of Tukums, including the rail station to the west of the town.
Phase two - pivot part of your force back to the east and progress towards Riga to affect a linkup with Army Group North. The remainder of your force is to remain behind and hold Tukums.
Soviet opposition should be dealt with quickly and efficiently when encountered. You are operating largely on your own with little in the way of other friendly forces close by in most directions. Most importantly is to deal with any armour that is encountered. The 52nd Security Division is following in trail to hold the ground taken; however, it lacks any significant heavy weapons of its own to fend off any Soviet armour that may move into the area.
This coupled with the strategic map (as above) demonstrates to the player what his forces are intended to do across the whole campaign.
A campaign briefing will be available to players throughout the campaign (via the menu) so it’s good to take this opportunity to provide them with a detailed run down of all forces, especially Core Units, in a tidy format that can be used as a ready reference. Also take some time to present some recent unit history to help explain why the force is the way it is. Has it just come out of another battle and 70% strength? Are the leaders particularly good/bad? Provide some context to the player so they are not surprised when they enter the first battle and are still missing half the story about what they are commanding.
For Tukums, my research had provided a pretty good understanding where most of the force had come from before forming only the day before the start of the operation around the area of Saldus in Latvia. The briefing will provide some of this information and some of the relative strengths and weaknesses to look out for as a player.
For displaying the Order of Battle itself, you are limited by the game only allowing raw text files to be imported so will need to be a little creative with keystrokes to make it easy organise. I’ve used different asterisk symbols to help distinguish the levels of the player’s order of battle.
This is how it will appear in the briefing for Tukums (excluding the surrounding briefing text):
**** Parent Unit (Higher headquarters not present on map)
- Element under the command of higher battalion/formation
East Bank Force
As is his style, Generalmajor Graf von Strachwitz has decided to lead the assault on the east bank personally.
** Heer Panzerverbande Headquarters Company
- Adhoc Panzer Company – 10 x Pz IV
- Armoured recon elements (attached from Waffen SS Brigade Gross)
**** Heer Panzer Brigade 101
** 2101st Panzer Battalion
- Headquarter element, including mobile flak (4 x Möbelwagons)
- 3 x Panzer Companies (11 x Panther Ausf G each)
Note: The planned delivery of a fourth company consisting of JzPzIV(V) as initially promised has not arrived from Germany.
** 2101st Panzergrenadier Battalion (armoured)
- 2 x Panzergrenadier Companies (armoured)
- 1 x Heavy Company (armoured)
- 1 x Pioneer Company (armoured)
** Waffen SS Ersatz Battalion [-] [dismounted] (detached from Panzer Brigade Gross)
- 1 x Rifle Company (dismounted)
- 1 x Heavy Company (dismounted)
West Bank Force
SS-Sturmbannführer der Waffen-SS Martin Gross commands this adhoc force from the mixed Panzer Company.
****Waffen SS Panzer Brigade Gross
** SS-Panzer-Abteilung "Gross"
- Adhoc mix of outdated Panzer III and Panzer IV variants and a single Panther Ausf D
- 1 x Tiger I. A detached company from Schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 103 was scheduled to join the Brigade with its seven Tiger I’s, however as of this morning they only have one running vehicle, which has been delayed. The Tiger will also join SS-Panzer-Abteilung “Gross” once it arrives in the area of operations.
** SS Ersatz Infantry Battalion [-] [dismounted] (elements detached to east bank force)
- 2 x Rifle Companies (dismounted)
** SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung "Gross"
- Equivalent of two platoons of armoured cars. (Some elements detached to Panzer Brigade 101).
- 1 x StuG Company (12 x StuG III)
Though not an issue for Tukums, keep in mind other Core Units that may show up half way through the campaign. Depending on the overall narrative, as a designer you will need to determine if it’s best to inform the player in the Campaign Briefing about these units or not. Core units that arrive later or unplanned is something a commander isn’t necessarily going to know about before they set off on their planned operation. Again, this is why I personally like to imagine campaign briefings are the equivalent of a pre-planned meeting taking place with the player’s higher command.
The campaign briefing…
Narrative will heavily drive this part of the briefing. What works in one campaign will be different for every other campaign. Below is only some broad level advice given the sheer range of possibilities.
For historical campaigns your research should outline what one side knows about the other’s dispositions prior to launching an assault. Campaign focused research should help you considerably here as many historians will outline what one side knows about the other at key points in a campaign. Though it maybe tempting to mention things like King Tigers being a part of the enemy force, dig deeper early in your research to find out if the forces your player commands actually knew about their presence at the time the operation kicks off. Knowing who knew what when is a great way of determining what should go into a campaign briefing.
If you need to fill in the gaps, a formation that has manned the line for weeks will know at the least what enemy division(s) is in front of them from general patrolling and intelligence gathering. This may provide a general sense of factors such as armour being in the area but won’t include a lot of specifics. General high-level statements like that. A more rushed campaign without planning would be another matter.
A fictional campaign will allow a lot of freedom with how much information you give the player but all I can provide in advice is to keep it realistic. A modern military launching an operation against a non-conventional force, (such as what is possible in CMSF2) isn’t going to go in completely blind not know estimates of numbers and equipment of the enemy.
How the player should ideally go about hitting all objectives. Not going to try and touch this one at all. Will vary across every campaign. The historical direction/outcomes of the campaign you’re a designing or the intended direction of the same historical campaign are likely the best places to get an idea about where to start. Just don’t get carried away and provide all the answers to the player.
Notes and Final Tips (Make Me Care)
A Campaign Briefing doesn’t negate the need for individual scenario briefings. Keep in mind the first thing the player is going to see once they hit continue (besides a loading screen) is another whole briefing detailing the first mission. This second briefing is the last chance you as a designer will have to know exactly where and in what situation the player will be in. Once they hit the big red button the range of possibilities starts growing. What units the player of your campaign will use, lose and what branching pathways they go down will be up to them (and the game) and outside of your hands.
As a result, with every individual briefing you will have to provide some information but be a touch more general than if creating a single self-contained scenario. For example, under the Friendly Forces section you can’t outline ever unit that the player will command in that battle since you as a designer will not know what has survived and what hasn’t when the player reaches each point. Focus on more general statements for scenario briefings such as names of high-level formations that are taking part rather than details. Remember the campaign briefing is always available for the player throughout the campaign via the menu screen so the detailed information is best included in that briefing to provide ongoing information throughout the play through.
If you’ve read this far then as a wargamer you’ll probably read a longer briefing. So as a final piece of advice: Make me care! As a designer you’ve likely poured many hours, days and weeks into this piece of work and you are asking your players to do the same. Having them open up a campaign ten scenarios in length and the campaign briefing is all on one page, there’s no briefing graphics and a lack of content about why the operation is taking place they are likely not going to commit. (I haven’t in the past). The Campaign Briefing is your main narrative tool to set the scene and tell the player why the battles they are about to play are important. Telling a player to go take that hill, then move to the village and then win is not inspiring for what could be weeks of commitment on a player’s part to play through your work. If you’ve done your research and planning (especially for historical battles) then writing up the briefings should be straight forward.
The movement path is too close to the bridge. Bridges always pose problems for vehicles. Move that blue line out a couple of AS and there won’t be a problem, but within one or two AS of a bridge, vehicles usually will move erratically. Those light forest tiles probably aren’t helping anything, either.
Just took a look at the map in the editor.....Turns out those are actually Light Forest Tiles, so the tanks could go through them.
Did you by any chance use just a single movement waypoint at the required destination and the 'Move' (or perhaps 'Quick') command?
I've come to think of the former as 'take the minimum effort route' (and the latter as 'do the same, but a bit quicker') as my troops always seem to do just that (they will often favour paths and moving over open ground rather than moving through cover).
Thus when using the 'Move' command in cover I tend to favour a lot of short movement legs showing my pixelunits precisely where I want them to go. This is absolutely critical in urban warfare scenarios.
PS - The map for this scenario is a beauty.....@George MC Is this one of yours?
" Let scouts check the terrain"
If you mean infantry, they move from this place along straight line without any problems.
Tanks CAN drive from this area, it depends on how many way points you use. But especially if you try to tell them to say drive 100 meters straight ahead then the computer tries replace my plan with something it thinks is better - to go around some difficult to move area, I think, like Sgt.Squarehead suggested. And sometimes this means it tries to go around from left, driving to canal. Sometimes it goes around from right and avoids the canal.
When you are plotting movements between turns, the cursor shows if some tile cannot be moved through. Maybe it could show these "possible but difficult" tiles with some other cursor image as well? Like if there is Heavy forest. Now when I check my path by moving cursor slowly along the line it doesn't show any tile problems at all.
The 5000 mile journey starts with a single step. That is the easiest way to get a new game I understand. I use excel to organize large and huge scenarios., and Affinity Photo to edit the screenshots. A brilliant Photoshop alternative.
You know the cliche give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, if you teach him how to fish you feed him for the rest of his life. There is the editor I just start to dabble with it. You can load a present scenario, change the name, change the units, change the weather change the date and you have a new scenario. Goes a little further than QB.