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Our Story Begins... Come in gentlefolks, have a seat and allow me to tell you a story... I was browsing the forums one day, and I came across this thread: http://community.battlefront.com/topic/119562-looking-for-my-first-pbem-opponent/ Contained therein was a request from one Raptorx7 for an opponent for his very first PBEM multiplayer battle. I thought to myself, "why not have a go at it?" and promptly replied to the affirmative. I did not tell him at the time, that this would be the first PBEM battle I have undertaken in four years, and the first one I have done in CMx2. I wanted him to think he was fighting an old CM Veteran, scarred from many PBEM battles in the past. Any psychological advantage I could find I would exploit, to no avail as it turned out The battle was met, on a cloudy, breezy, rainy, wet day, on top of a heavily forested hill, with the colorful moniker "Devil's Hill". I forget the force size, but nationality was set to random with normal rarity. The Map was set to random with a preview allowed. After firing up the scenario, I was treated to the force selection screen. "Lucky me," I thought, I had drawn the Waffen SS. After a quick look at the map, I set about purchasing my troops. Dagger Company, SLIM's Battalion (Named after a buddy of mine.) A Company of Grenadiers would do nicely, I've always liked grenade launchers, they make a sort of popping sound when they fire. Given the densely forested nature of the terrain, I immediately (rather stupidly) discounted the use of mortars, and removed them from the Company. I also removed the machinegun section, preferring to attach machineguns directly to the platoons. 1st Platoon (Assault) was set to Veteran experience, with no supporting weapons. I envisioned a lightweight, flexible force that would move quickly, find the enemy, and hold them in place until more forces could arrive. 2nd Platoon (Support) was set to Regular, and had two HMG42's and one Panzershreck attached. Their job would be to move up to the line, and provide a base of fire allowing 1st Platoon to withdraw and maneuver. 3rd Platoon (Reserve) was set to Green, allowing for the Veteran 1st. Their job would be to function as a general reserve, and operate on a parallel mission. I didn't want them to make contact too early, because Green troops have no real staying power. Because they would be maneuvering, I attached two LMG 34's to them, and two Panzershrecks. I figured an MG34 would be a little easier to handle in a LMG, with it's slower rate of fire. I expected Raptor to bring at least an M10 Tank destroyer, so I attached a pair of Panzershrecks to the Company HQ. I also had no idea where Raptor would be approaching from, so I attached a pair of Crack Scout Teams to the Company as well. My remaining points I spent on vehicles: I bought a StuH '42, for some direct fire support. I bought a Marder Tank Destroyer, figuring as long as the gun was big enough it would kill pretty much any tank Raptor brought. My remaining few points were spent on a self-propelled FlaK vehicle, with a 20mm gun. Why have a rifle-caliber machinegun when you can have a 20 Mike-Mike? Maybe I just like the sound it makes... Opening Moves My plan was simple. The two scout teams would go ahead of the flanks of 1st Platoon [Red Arrows], their job would be to sweep the objective zone until they located the enemy. 2nd Platoon [Green Arrows] would refuse the left flank of 1st Platoon, and also function as a ready reserve should they make contact. The green line on the map sits astride what I thought was the most likely approach Raptor would use to move toward the objective. The terrain to the left of the objective has a slight elevation advantage, and offers a handy reverse slope to fight from. 3rd Platoon [Yellow Arrow] would move far out to the right flank, and try to seize the road junction at the tip of the arrow. Holding that road junction would allow my tanks access to the rear of the objective area. The tanks [blue Arrow] would move up the road, and had the task of supporting 3rd Platoon. Company and Battalion HQ with any stragglers, would function as medics where required, and provide a deep reserve after picking up some weapons and ammo from casualties. I was going to pursue the battle as aggressively as I could, resolving from the beginning to fight and defeat Raptor anywhere I found him. Control of the objective zone was not a primary goal for me. I figured the objective zone could be easily secured, so long as I defeated Raptor's force beforehand. I gave my initial orders, and with much trepidation, hit the red button. First Contact Nine minutes passed by without incident. All forces moved slowly, yet steadily toward their assigned objectives. Suddenly the silence was broken by the sharp crackle of rifle and machinegun fire. 3rd Platoon, far out to the right had made contact with the enemy. This was the last place I had expected to find Raptor advancing, and I fought my own nerves as I ordered my response. 3rd Platoon quickly deployed to meet the threat, [Green Arrow] and started laying down small arms fire. Raptor hit back quickly however shattering one of my infantry teams, (I had previously split all squads into teams) with light mortar fire. This provided him with a momentary respite, before the assault teams moved up and dispersed his first troops with MP40, and StG44 fire. This is the moment I knew my individual teams had a firepower advantage I enjoyed for the rest of the battle. It was also the moment I knew I had been completely stupid leaving the mortars behind, so I took myself outside and gave myself a stern lecture. As interesting as 3rd Platoon's small engagement was, I quickly noticed contact markers from more of Raptors infantry moving down the left side of the road [Red Circle]. This was a critical moment, Raptor had infantry moving right through an area not covered by my own force. I knew I needed to react quickly or risk having 3rd Platoon be cut off and destroyed. To make matters worse, 2nd Platoon reported contact right on the line I had expected Raptor to use [blue Square]. I was now in contact in two widely separated places, with what seemed to be two platoons worth of troops. There were several decisions that needed to be made: 1) 3rd Platoon requires immediate support, the entire platoon aside from the HQ and LMG's is green and will not be able to stand in the face of a determined resistance. 2) 2nd Platoon, while making contact as expected, is at a slight disadvantage due to the reverse slope nature of the terrain they're on. 3) 1st Platoon, still hunting through the objective area [White Arrow], has not made any contact whatsoever, but cannot discount the possibility of the balance of the enemy force (at least one more platoon + weapons) existing to their front. I made the decision as follows: 3rd Platoon must be rescued, and the enemy movement down the road valley must be stopped at all costs. I stripped Assault teams from 1st and 2nd Platoon, for the more mobile firepower, added an HMG 42 team, and an extra Panzershreck. This Ad-Hoc Force would be led by the Battalion X.O. team, move behind 1st Platoon [Yellow Arrow], and storm into the valley. The StuH, and Marder would also advance up the road. My thinking is Raptor would see the sound contacts from the tanks, and halt his advance in the face of an armored presence. Soldiers of the Valley The Valley Counterattack now began. Forming two arms of a pincer, 3rd Platoon [Red Arrow] fought bravely (for green troops) and pushed the enemy in front of them back a step. Casualties kept trickling in, so I knew they couldn't fight for long. The Ad-Hoc Force swept across the top of the valley [Green Arrow], rapidly advancing and sweeping aside the few infantry teams in their way. Finally, the tanks came up the road, and saw a bit of action. I was so swept up in the grandeur of the moment, it took me a few turns to realize that while this attack was moving along, I was expending a huge amount of time and ammunition swinging at shadows. The enemy forces I encountered during this attack were smaller than expected, and despite my best efforts to pin them down and kill them, I kept advancing to a new position to find it empty, and begin taking fire from another spot. This is when I realized the nature of this terrain. The sight lines are so short, you can't find the enemy until you're right on top of him. There are so many small bumps and irregularities in the terrain you cannot focus your fire from multiple directions. Worst of all, one is forced to assault and capture a reverse slope position, only after taking it find more enemy forces on a reverse slope in front of him. The fight rapidly disintegrated into dozens of small teams, each having their own personal struggles, fighting and dying within a few meters of their comrades who were helpless to intervene. However, as bad as all of that sounds I did have one crucial advantage, hand-held firepower. Every single infantry team in my force had submachine guns, assault rifles, semiautomatic rifles, and light machine guns. On a per-man basis, I had twice as much firepower as Raptor's troops. That advantage was offset slightly by the fact I couldn't focus my firepower, but any time my teams got into direct contact with Raptor's troops the firepower advantage proved effective. From the start of the battle, to the finish I was advancing constantly in almost every area, despite the enemy presence. The Forgotten Front While the Valley Counterattack was going ahead with much fanfare and drama, the remaining part of 2nd Platoon was now coming to grips with their new situation. Their strength had been reduced by half, and they no longer had any assault teams. The enemy force they had made contact with enjoyed a terrain advantage, and despite orders from Major SLIM to "maintain their position", Captain Heinstrom was determined to drive the enemy back on this flank. The Captain himself arrived with one of the Scout Teams, an Assault Team from 1st Platoon, and a spare Panzershreck. "Let's kick Raptor off that slope!" he yelled as he plunged head first into the fray. A few casualties were inflicted on the Scout Team, and another infantry team from 2nd was smashed by more mortar fire. The men of 2nd Platoon were Regulars, and refused to break in the face of resistance. Despite not having any small automatics, the teams used their light machineguns to their advantage, quickly gaining fire superiority over the enemy. When Major SLIM noticed the increased tempo, he called and asked why 2nd Platoon was assaulting the enemy position, when their orders were to go firm and defend. SLIM received the following reply from Captain Heinstrom: "We're holding our position, sir. I've just decided our position is the place the enemy is currently occupying. That is all." For the remainder of the battle 2nd Platoon, despite their reduced numbers, drove steadily onward, slowly crushing all resistance in front of them. It was around this point in the battle that I was coming to grips with the terrain. I had learned to check the LOS and LOF from every action spot along a movement path. Short moves were always done while crawling, and quick moves were always done in sequence, allowing one team to move to a location where they could observe potential enemy positions before the other teams moved. On this, largely forgotten front, the true lessons of the battle were learned and put into action. In no other area did I make as much progress with so few men. My teams got into an easy rhythm of, Move, Look, Area Fire to suppress. While other teams Area Fire to cover the first team's movement, then Move themselves, and then Look and fire at any enemy teams flushed out by the area fire. It's hard to explain by typing, rest assured by the end of the battle, 2nd Platoon was advancing like a well-oiled machine. It's a pity this front became the small side-show to the rest of the battle. Closing the Jaws? The attention now shifts back to the right, where the Ad-Hoc Force, and 3rd Platoon are now struggling mightily to close the jaws around the enemy forces in the Valley. Early on, there was a clash between Raptor's M10 Tank Destroyer [Green Circle], (That I KNEW would be here!) and my Marder. Despite firing the first shot, and hitting the upper front hull dead center, my Marder fell to two quick shots from the M10. There were no survivors. With the loss of my Marder, Raptor has now shown that he controls the road [Green Line], which is the central axis between my two forces. Despite my Panzershrecks best efforts to hit it, the M10 (despite the gaping hole in it's front hull) retreats behind the slope unhurt. Since I no longer control the road, I am unable to bring the two halves of my trap together, or risk losing men to tank fire. I decide to risk crossing my SturmHaubitze to the other side of the road, because 3rd Platoon had gotten very badly chewed up by Raptor's forces. The presence of that tank was the only thing that saved 3rd Platoon from complete annihilation. Despite my best efforts, and the fact I was pretty sure I had a manpower advantage on this flank, I was never able to close with and destroy Raptor's remaining forces. The situation on this flank would remain static until the StuH finally got into position to lead a breakout for 3rd Platoon. I was simply going to blast everything in sight with high explosives until the shooting stopped. The battle was over before that plan came into fruition. I gave orders across the map for a general advance, at this point of the battle I felt I had to break through somewhere, Raptor couldn't have troops in every direction, could he? The Final Countdown In the center, the reduced 1st Platoon finally made contact with the enemy outside of the farmhouse. One assault team was wiped out, and the fire team accompanying them barely got away with their lives. These men were tough veterans however, and immediately turned back into the fight. The A.A. Halftrack rolled up and laid into the building with direct fire, promptly driving the enemy out. At this point I was getting rather angry. I had run into enemy troops in every direction I had moved, and after 1st Platoon made contact it was clear Raptor had a not-insignificant manpower advantage. Just in front of the road corner, another of Raptor's squads was spotted. I immediately ordered a grenade assault on the position. On two separate occasion so far I had managed to drive the enemy from a position with grenades, but this third time was the end of it. Right before the assault was carried out, I got a contact marker for a tank. I ordered up a Panzershreck into a firing position while the assault went in. I failed to give a pause command for the two assault teams, and they charged forward directly into an M5 Stuarts line of fire. My Panzershreck arrived just before the end of the turn, but it was too late. Despite me having a beautiful firing position, Raptor reversed his M5 from contact and the 'Shrek team never got a shot off. The damage was already done. Two of 1st Platoon's teams were lying on the forest floor, dead or wounded. This was the point I knew I could no longer attack everywhere, casualties were running around 20%, and the general attack I had hoped would lead to a breakthrough only led to me using up almost all of my 9mm and 7.92k ammunition. I watched a tiny drama play out near the Valley road, as one of my Grenadiers had enough and raised his hands. His buddy next to him got hit, and started bleeding out. The intrepid Grenadier put his hands down, picked up his rifle, and opened fire. Ignoring return fire, he fired off all of the rounds in his magazine, and despite enemy bullets hitting the ground all around him, he sat there calmly reloading his rifle. This man had decided, right there, right then, that if his buddy was going to die, then so was he. Another team from 3rd Platoon managed to reach him, and while he kept watch, the new arrivals worked feverishly to patch up his friend and evacuate him. Profoundly moved by one of those magical Combat Mission moments, I offered a ceasefire to Raptor. This is the End, My Friend The final dispositions are detailed above. The action on the final turn was the heaviest of the entire fight. 2nd Platoon on the left was still advancing steadily despite taking casualties, Captain Heinstrom, ignoring any calls on the radio and still insisting: "No, the position we're supposed to hold is over there! Not over here! Now get over there and hold that position!" 1st Platoon had stopped in the face of the unexpected arrival of the M5 Stuarts. They had taken up defensive positions just before the road, and had pre-positioned Panzershrecks to kill the M5's should they move up. The casualties from the grenade assault were being taken care of, and the spare weapons and ammo were being passed around. Major SLIM was already considering sending any spare troops from 1st Platoon over to help out 2nd Platoon. 3rd Platoon had been fairly annihilated, being reduced to about a squad of effectives. Combined with the Ad-Hoc Force, the X.O. was still confident of success. The terrain advantage Raptor's troops had in the valley was rapidly disappearing, the Ad-Hoc Force had continued to work around the top of the Valley. Not to mention, the arrival of the StuH in 3rd Platoon's position now meant even with their depleted numbers they were capable of advancing. Given that they had been constantly providing buddy aid to their casualties and recovering weapons, 3rd Platoon was literally armed to the teeth, and spoiling for revenge. Despite 2nd and 3rd Platoon's eagerness to continue fighting, I already knew that any further advance on the flanks [Green Arrows] would leave me vulnerable to a counterattack in the center [Red Arrow]. I did not want to risk having my force cut in two and chopped up piecemeal. The ceasefire went into effect after literally 13 minutes of some of the most intense fighting I had ever seen in Combat Mission. The casualties were about equal on both sides, but as Raptor had a numerical advantage, and we both held part of the objective zone, Raptor scored a minor victory on casualty points. I think it was the loss of my Marder that really tipped the score. I made a video to go with this AAR: http://youtu.be/z0qcpGwNFp0 I hope that embeds properly, I still have no idea how to do that. I would like to thank Raptor for the time, and for being a tough opponent. I certainly had a lot of fun with this battle.