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My biggest gripe: the timer!!


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Something that has been bugging me since i played Battle For Normandy that rips the fun completely out of the game is that damn timer! :mad:

Just when you are to win the round, almost have that final objective in your grasp, TIME UP! Sorry, you were only giving one hour to complete this mission, WW2 is lost because you only got a hour!

Is there a way to disable the timer? A trainer or something, it just keeps me out of playing this game as it should! If you are going for a realistic RTS, why add a timer, those battles we re-enact sometimes took days!

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Is there a way to disable the timer?

No, there is no way to eliminate scenario time. There are a variety of reasons for why that is the case, but suffice to say that scenario time limits will always be a part of the combat mission experience.

However, you can go into the editor and extend the time of any scenario to about a maximum of 4 hours IIRC. I don't think you can alter campaign scenarios though so you are probably stuck there.

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Something that has been bugging me since i played Battle For Normandy that rips the fun completely out of the game is that damn timer! :mad:

Just when you are to win the round, almost have that final objective in your grasp, TIME UP! Sorry, you were only giving one hour to complete this mission, WW2 is lost because you only got a hour!

Is there a way to disable the timer? A trainer or something, it just keeps me out of playing this game as it should! If you are going for a realistic RTS, why add a timer, those battles we re-enact sometimes took days!

:D This one is a constant source of debate - fact is a timer may actually be a very realistic aspect. It may reflect other operations that absolutely require you make your objectives in the time alloted. In addition with the AI capabilites in CM 2.x the AI is all time based. Allowing you more time simply means the AI runs out of plans in many cases.

If it is a scenario yes you can just go edit the paramaters and make it a 4 hour scenario if you want, but in the process you probably further handicap the AI. Up to you.

Ack! Sniped by ASL Veteran

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The timer IS super unrealistic. When I design a scenario or set up a QB I always set it for an hour or more. Even if its a 30 minute firefight, I feel its just unrealistic not to give the players plenty of time.

I cant really think of an example where accomplishing a goal by a certain time was deemed more important than preserving men or equipment. And that is what is often happening in these games. The attacking player looks over at the clock, realizes he only has five minutes left and just throws everything he has away in an attempt to get that last victory location.

Really its about perspective and scope. The battles we fight in CM are very, very small. Despite what some scenario titles may have you believe, you cant represent a week long battle(even a day long battle) in a 45 minute firefight. That's what these are (firefights), not battles. So the idea that you might be under some sort of time constraint to seize a crossroads or a village due to time is unrealistic.

The idea that the AI might require multiple orders to move it around an 800x800m square in an hour (or two, or three) is also a misnomer. A good AI plan will be based on seizing terrain or destroying enemy forces from good vantage points. He doesn't have to jitterbug across the map constantly to do that. Shoot, for a meeting engagement you should be able to sit in an OP (assuming you had a scout team forward that spots his movement and remains undetected) and watch the AI move his forces onto the march objective (victory point), set up his defenses and then plan and execute a coordinated attack. That's certainly what I have been taught to do, unless of course I know with a reasonable doubt that I maintain an advantage in which case I would immediately attack to maximize that advantage.

There are historical examples of commanders being fired for failing to maintain initiative, move aggressively or otherwise "waste time." But none of them were fired for losing thirty minutes. They were all fired for sitting on their butt. No commander is going to fire his subordinate for taking time to conduct proper recon, emplace supporting assets, move units so as to concentrate fire on the enemy or to gain a flanking or turning movement. Yes, it might upset the Operations Officers precious timeline or synch matrix and he might get a little counseling urging him to move a little quicker next time but even that is hard to imagine within the context of a CM scenario. They are just too small in their scope.

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Some things to remember/know/understand before you gripe about the time limits:

  1. The clock is the only existing means to persuade the AI to do anything dynamic. While this changes in v3, with triggers, the clock will still be important to coordination for the higher levels of the AI. If the scenario designer has tried to get at all cute, with counterattacks or retrograde movement in a defense scenario, for example, the clock becomes an inherent part of the story. If you had "forever", you could sit back and wait for that defensive counterstroke to happen, without the context of you being in an offensive stance (as you need to be to achieve your objectives when you're conforming to a timer), thus making even more of a monkey out of the AI as it swings at where you "ought to be by now", misses and gets splashed by your waiting troops. Or if the defenders are simply fighting a withdrawal, you could wait, given indefinite time, until they've all fallen back into crowded positions that were intended for the second and third echelons to defend with the help of the few survivors of the previous layers that have fallen back. Even if you're slow advancing, you'll spend the majority of the game wondering where the enemy is and the last fifth of the defensive depth fighting an overcrowded defender. The AI doesn't need that kind of help to make a bollock of it.
  2. CM time is compressed. The tempo of combat is greatly accelerated. That "hour" you have on the clock is probably more representative of what should be achievable in 2 or 3 hours IRL. Taking that long over it in CM would, however, be excruciatingly tedious and often wouldn't materially change the outcome against the AI. This also speaks to the point regarding objectives over resources: while no RL plan that had a chance of succeeding ever failed because a 1 hour objective took 2 to seize, operations could fail if a 3 hour objective took 6. By "fail", I mean "not go to expectations". I don't think anyone's suggesting that a commander who can't get to the phase line "in time, all the time" will get broken to the ranks.
  3. Gamers seem to need some sort of external metric to judge themselves by, and time is always going to be a factor in that, since taking your time in some circumstances (particularly if there's extensive recon required) will mean a more favourable casualty ratio, and therefore a perceived greater level of success. It's a game. Therefore it has boundaries; move them and you change the game.

Timing certainly needs to be borne in mind by scenario designers. I think it's important to have the time alloted reflect the tasks required. Or to put it another way, don't make the player perform tasks that should have been done beforehand. An example is the third Mission of Road to Nijmegen. The Guards have had ample time to recce the front line of the defenses on Hell's Highway, but that task has to be accomplished as part of the alloted hour and 10. Some pre-battle intel would have gone a long way to making that battle seem more "real".

Apart from the argument about shafting the AI if you alter the clock from the designer's intent, there are tools there to wind out the clock if you want to take your time. Or you could just accept that the battlefield has limitations in the 4th dimension, as well as in the 3 conventionally accepted spatial ones. Or you could play the allotted time out and make your own judgement about how well you did. And maybe if you work harder to make the deadline without increasing your losses, you'll get better at playing this game. Of course, that way lies a vicious circle of ever-more-efficient players finding the timer too forgiving... :)

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The timer IS super unrealistic. When I design a scenario or set up a QB I always set it for an hour or more. Even if its a 30 minute firefight, I feel its just unrealistic not to give the players plenty of time.

I cant really think of an example where accomplishing a goal by a certain time was deemed more important than preserving men or equipment. And that is what is often happening in these games. The attacking player looks over at the clock, realizes he only has five minutes left and just throws everything he has away in an attempt to get that last victory location.

Really its about perspective and scope. The battles we fight in CM are very, very small. Despite what some scenario titles may have you believe, you cant represent a week long battle(even a day long battle) in a 45 minute firefight. That's what these are (firefights), not battles. So the idea that you might be under some sort of time constraint to seize a crossroads or a village due to time is unrealistic.

The idea that the AI might require multiple orders to move it around an 800x800m square in an hour (or two, or three) is also a misnomer. A good AI plan will be based on seizing terrain or destroying enemy forces from good vantage points. He doesn't have to jitterbug across the map constantly to do that. Shoot, for a meeting engagement you should be able to sit in an OP (assuming you had a scout team forward that spots his movement and remains undetected) and watch the AI move his forces onto the march objective (victory point), set up his defenses and then plan and execute a coordinated attack. That's certainly what I have been taught to do, unless of course I know with a reasonable doubt that I maintain an advantage in which case I would immediately attack to maximize that advantage.

No offense, but have you created any scenarios? If so can you post to allow others to look? Just not sure if you are clear on the requirements to configure a decent AI plan or if you have figured out a better way of doing it. For myself, creating a decent AI attack plan has always been a helluva lot more complicated than you seem to feel it should be. Hell it takes multiple orders to get it to perform in a much smaller map than 800x800.

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Something I meant to put in the first post: the disjunction between the RL worth of men and material versus the value of the land they're fighting over and its representation in the game is primarily the fault of the designer, not the clock. If terrain based VLs weren't so highly valued, compared to Condition and Friendly Casualties, and even compared, usually, to the "destroy enemy" VC, more attention would be paid to those conditions, and gamers would attempt to optimise their score, not by trading "10VPs worth of troops and tanks" for "a chance at 500VP of VL (or at least of denying the enemy those VPs by putting the VL into 'contested' state)" but by preserving their force and destroying the enemy.

Some might say that scenarios where keeping casualties low is a primary objective would be dull. Maybe that's the case; I don't think it necessarily follows.

Of course QBs with their necessarily simplistic sets of VCs won't ever be able to finess the VP system so, and will elicit gamey behaviours, as befit a game with its required boundaries.

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I cant really think of an example where accomplishing a goal by a certain time was deemed more important than preserving men or equipment.

You must not be trying very hard then. Let's see, what was the title of that last module that was released? You might try starting there and then expanding your horizons from that point.

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1. The clock is the only existing means to persuade the AI to do anything dynamic.

I totally agree with this point. And If I were looking to play CM and tout myself on a forum or a ladder as the guy with the most wins I might care about the issues you bring up. I dont play for those reasons, nor do I think most do. I play CM as a simulator, which is what I think the creators want it to be played as. So when I play I try to force myself to play it as realistically as possible. Which means I am not looking for ways to apply the limitations of the game to create a win for me. However, as in the example I gave, if my lead elements see the enemy moving to my front and my units have not been spotted I might be tempted to watch and see what happens. Its called tactical patience and it shouldnt be punished by a game clock.

2. CM time is compressed.

You'll have to work a little harder to convince me of this. Does this mean the bullets are flying twice as fast? The guys that are running are really walking? I'm sure thats not what you meant but its not very clear. Do you mean that for most of the actions leading up to a CM scenario it would take most of a day in real life? If so, than yes I agree wholeheartedly. CM portrays what professionals call "actions on the objective." The "Last One Hundred Yards," so to speak. You are right, when that rifle company gets handed to you in a CM scenario it has been up since before day break, conducted troop leading procedures, handed out ammo, perhaps had a warm meal, and sat on a Line of Departure for an hour or two waiting for the signal to move out. It then walked (very slowly and carefully) for a klick or two before it got to the point you take over in the scenario. If CM were to portray all of that it WOULD be very tedious. However, it has nothing to do with a starting a stopwatch once the first round is fired, initiating "actions on the objective."

"I don't think anyone's suggesting that a commander who can't get to the phase line "in time, all the time" will get broken to the ranks."

Thats good. But a timer forces a lot of players to move quicker than they want to or should and thus sustain more casualties than they would if they didnt feel pressured. I just think its an artificial restraint that has nothing to do with simulating combat. If you are pushing your pixel troops to meet a time constraint and watching them get mowed down in the process (pixels that are representative of men you would have had tea with a few hours earlier), than you arent learning the real lessons of combat. I might be mistaken, but I thought that was the point. I would like to see more concern about learning how to conduct an attack with minimal loss of life to your team. And in my experience, in the vast majority of instances time is a concern, but hardly a driving factor in how a battle plays out.

How about we use that for "Gamers seem to need some sort of external metric to judge themselves by..." This is why I am a big fan of using force vp along with victory locations.

"And maybe if you work harder to make the deadline without increasing your losses, you'll get better at playing this game." If you mean becoming a more tactically savvy player than I would argue that right at the top of those valuable lessons is exercising tactical patience when its called for by your read of the enemy and the situation.

Sburke: "No offense, but have you created any scenarios?"

Not recently no, I've been away from the CM community and forums for a few years due to constraints of my job mostly. However, I was one of the first to join these forums in 2000, right after CMBO came out and I was very prolific in writing tutorials, designing scenarios and attempting to set up an operational campaign game. At least until Sep 11, 2001. I am still in the archives as ScoutPL. Feel free to go look me up.

An AI script is nothing but a series of orders executing a plan. Its not complicated and it doesnt have to be hard. Once you create multiple plans or "branches" to your central plan you can go in and create different plans in the AI. Basic tactics are just fire and maneuver. Establish a firing position on key terrain and maneuver other forces forward to seize the next key piece of terrain. Time hacks are currently used to control this and work just fine. For the defense, establish a time hack for how long they will defend each key piece of terrain or set the units status at the desirable point so they will withdraw or surrender when the right amount of pressure is applied.

Perhaps what we are dealing with here is a simple miscommunication. I am not advocating getting rid of the timer all together. Obviously it is a key component of how the game works, from the AI to calling for fire. What I am advocating is scenario designers stop using the timer to create unnecessary tension in their scenario.

I agree wholeheartedly with wombles post #9. It needs to be about preserving your force and destroying the enemy, while seizing (or holding) your objectives. In my opinion the problem is with the stopwatch effect, not the timer in general.

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I look at time limits as difficulty modifiers, made necessary by the fact that even with triggers the AI is fairly stupid compared to a competent human player, coupled with the fact that people expect scenarios to have a certain level of challenge, while in reality many battle/firefights are lopsided affairs. So if you give the player more time then you have to compensate by upping the quality and/or quantity of the opposition, which can be as unrealistic as time limits.

I try never to do what I would not do in real life even if it means a lesser final result within the game.

Same here. If I fail because I ran out of time I don't lose any sleep over it.

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Having done a scenario, I can speak to having learned to value the timer.

Initially, I gave tons of time and extra ammo to try and make things "more realistic." Eventually both got cut with the timer getting whittled down several times.

And that was for a H2H-only scenario.

Against the AI, it is doubly necessary to have a time limit and not make it overly generous. Otherwise, going against the AI is just a walk in the park.

Most of my casualties vs the AI come from pushing too fast to fight the timer. And that is a good thing because it adds tension and forces me to focus and bring my experience into play more adroitly than I would have to otherwise.

Like sburke said, try making a scenario and see how your opinion on the timer changes.

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Having done a scenario, I can speak to having learned to value the timer.

Initially, I gave tons of time and extra ammo to try and make things "more realistic." Eventually both got cut with the timer getting whittled down several times.

And that was for a H2H-only scenario.

Against the AI, it is doubly necessary to have a time limit and not make it overly generous. Otherwise, going against the AI is just a walk in the park.

Most of my casualties vs the AI come from pushing too fast to fight the timer. And that is a good thing because it adds tension and forces me to focus and bring my experience into play more adroitly than I would have to otherwise.

Like sburke said, try making a scenario and see how your opinion on the timer changes.

This is the most important answer, Give a player unlimited time and even the worst player can beat the AI.

In H2H matches, the side with the firepower would almost always win because there is no need to rush into any fire fight without making sure you have the advantage.

Maybe you think a timer is unrealistic. but that is not always so.

If the enemy has reserves that can take away a advantage you have when they arrive, then in real life missions you have a time limit. The mission must be accomplished and done before the reserves arrive.

Market Garden had a ton of time limits for most units that were fighting for the Allies. And we see what happened when they did not manage to hold them.

If you don't like it, make your own where possible, but as others have pointed out, improving your skills at playing at a higher level will take away most of your time clock issues

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I've had h2h games where I got 5-10 additional turns beyond the time limit. Other games they ended at precisely when the time limit expired.

I have no idea how this was determined.

Whats the old saying? There are 2 war fronts. The actual battlefield itself and whats really going on there and the Potomac Front-the one the politicians and media dictate.

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Sburke: "No offense, but have you created any scenarios?"

Not recently no, I've been away from the CM community and forums for a few years due to constraints of my job mostly. However, I was one of the first to join these forums in 2000, right after CMBO came out and I was very prolific in writing tutorials, designing scenarios and attempting to set up an operational campaign game. At least until Sep 11, 2001. I am still in the archives as ScoutPL. Feel free to go look me up.

An AI script is nothing but a series of orders executing a plan. Its not complicated and it doesnt have to be hard. Once you create multiple plans or "branches" to your central plan you can go in and create different plans in the AI. Basic tactics are just fire and maneuver. Establish a firing position on key terrain and maneuver other forces forward to seize the next key piece of terrain. Time hacks are currently used to control this and work just fine. For the defense, establish a time hack for how long they will defend each key piece of terrain or set the units status at the desirable point so they will withdraw or surrender when the right amount of pressure is applied.

Perhaps what we are dealing with here is a simple miscommunication. I am not advocating getting rid of the timer all together. Obviously it is a key component of how the game works, from the AI to calling for fire. What I am advocating is scenario designers stop using the timer to create unnecessary tension in their scenario.

I agree wholeheartedly with wombles post #9. It needs to be about preserving your force and destroying the enemy, while seizing (or holding) your objectives. In my opinion the problem is with the stopwatch effect, not the timer in general.

Thanks. To be honest the scenarios that I have done I have tried to make be a little different than simply a fight for an objective. I have only done a handful, but what I have tried to work towards is something a bit more immersive. Interactive if you will. I have yet to mess with AI triggers, but am hopeful they will allow me to explore that more. To be honest I prefer hth play. The AI at the moment simply can not behave like a human player no matter how well the AI plan is put together. The first scenario I tried was platoon size as it gave me far more control. Every team was it's own AI group. Even that was difficult as a.) it was an urban scenario and b.)

The AI moves in a funky manner. Units criss cross so what may look like a plan for a platoon to move across an open space entering a couple buildings becomes this converging mob that follows no particular order at the next waypoint. That is only one example of the kind of behavior one has to factor in when assembling the plan. Every time I have worked on a scenario it seems most of my time is spent watching the AI plan over and over again to get a viable movement process .

That for me becomes more the timing issue. If the timer is just loosely tied to the AI plan, then there is no real interaction with the player. The player simply waits for the AI to stop moving or run itself right into the players defense and the challenge disappears for the player to act. I think I understand what you are saying, but where do you draw the line between "using the timer to create unnecessary tension" and using the timer to force the player to participate? Obviously there is no set "correct" time for a scenario. What is way more than enough time for one player is a time crunch, last turn rush for another.

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...The AI at the moment simply can not behave like a human player no matter how well the AI plan is put together...

This is why I chose to make my scenario H2H-only. After experimenting with AI plans, I realized that to make anything close to challenging, I was going to have to spend perhaps 2-3 times the amount of time spent on everything else for the scenario. I just didn't have that kind of time (but am planning to revisit when the 3.0 upgrade adds triggers). Of course, this will vary depending on the details of the scenario. I just felt that my scenario required both sides to have the ability to react to changes on the battlefield in a way that the AI currently cannot.

db_zero,

The scenario designer can choose from 4 options for time limit variation:

None.

0-5 minutes.

0-10 minutes.

0-15 minutes.

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"Give a player unlimited time and even the worst player can beat the AI." Not sure that is a bad thing. It depends by what you mean by "beat the AI".

If you mean doing it with minimal casualties, that is usually tough. Many of us don't enjoy games where one "wins" after having one's forces decimated. That's why I prefer campaigns where one has to practice economy of ammo and force preservation.

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ASL: ok so every CM scenario needs to be about capturing a bridge intact? A case where the exception DOES NOT prove the rule.

A great example of a rare instance where time was a key factor. Thanks for the input!

I see you are from Fort Bragg so I'm going to assume that you have some level of military experience. With that in mind, I don't want to come across as insulting, but generally speaking every order is issued with some sort of a time frame in mind. General Lee wouldn't tell General Hood to take Little Round Top whenever he felt like attacking. If Lee doesn't give some sort of a time frame for the attack then Hood might just sit around doing nothing as many a commander has been known to do throughout history when orders are unclear or imprecise. No my friend, success on the battlefield is intricately tied to timing and if the timing is off then that could spell defeat. Commanders of military forces can't just sit around drinking tea or smoking cigars taking their sweet time while battle swirls around them because the battlefield is a dynamic situation as opposed to a static one. No, contrary to what appears to be what you are advocating, the normal situation when orders are issued is that some form of time guidance is given to the subordinate commanders for an objective to be achieved. That's the normal situation. Unlimited time to achieve an objective is the abnormal situation. In case you are thinking that I am only referring to bridges, why don't you take a look at every invasion in WW2. Yes, I think you will find that every invasion force had objectives that were supposed to be taken by D Day, D+1, D+2 etc.

Having said all that, I don't get bothered by players who want unlimited time. If they want to take 3 hours to advance across a 100 meter map then more power to them. It's just the notion that time restrictions are 'unrealistic' that just doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.

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Say in a battalion sized battle I would presume messing your timings up has the potential to leave your flanks hanging if you go too fast or your neighbouring battalions flanks hanging if you are too slow. Most modern battles from WW1 onwards all seem to have timing as a major component of the plan affecting everything from reinforcement, to resupply, to air and artillery support.

Frankly I love the timer in CM battles. I'd be paralysed into inaction without it. :-)

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As slysniper and ASL Veteran have shown with their real-world examples, having a mission timer is not unrealistic. In fact, NOT having one would very much be so. Pretty much everything important in an army's effort to win battles runs on a timer, as it were.

Here's another BIG example:

How would the war in the East have gone without the "winter timer?"

Yes, the timer in CM battles may sometimes be a bit compressed compared to real life, but that is necessary for a game to be enjoyed by players of a game.

As for people extending scenario times...

well...

...they can, of course.

However, if they do so, I think they need to admit to themselves that they are no longer playing CM. Rather, they are experimenting with the CM game system.

I wouldn't sit down to a game of ASL where the scenario card rewards the defender with victory for holding out for five turns--only to demand 10 as the attacker and then expect to feel just as good, and brag just as much, about my victory.

To refer to slysniper's example and allude to niall78's post:

Would "we took fewer casualties" be an adequate answer for not making it to the bridge in time to relieve the paratroopers there?

I think not.

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I've had h2h games where I got 5-10 additional turns beyond the time limit. Other games they ended at precisely when the time limit expired.

I have no idea how this was determined.

There is a setting for random over-time (and maybe under-time) to prevent super-gamey last second rushes to contest/capture VPs

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2. CM time is compressed.

You'll have to work a little harder to convince me of this. Does this mean the bullets are flying twice as fast? The guys that are running are really walking? I'm sure that's not what you meant but its not very clear.

No, it's not what he meant.

You, as player, have a perfect god's eye view over all your units at all times. You are able to respond to developments anywhere on the map instantly. You can start moving your reserve, call in a fire mission, or start falling back as soon as a decision point is reached. You suffer no no delay from moving information up the food chain. Information never suffers from chinese whispers as it moves through the comms net. There is no collation or assessment of information at each command level, and there is no delay to compose and disseminate orders back down the food chain. Units never get lost, they never take a wrong turn, and you very seldom suffer fratricide.

All of that means that you can rapidly execute highly complex evolutions with no delay, dramatically compressing the time it takes to do pretty much anything compared to attempting the same thing in the real world. Womble's example of something which in-game takes one hour to accomplish needing 2-3 hours in the real world probably understates the degree of time compression going on.

In addition, you know that your flanks are utterly secure, and you will not be receiving fire from across the map boundaries. You also know that the forces opposing you are, more or less, on a par with the forces you have. Those two factors mean that you can move with an assurance that real commanders very seldom luxuriate in.

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