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Digging into squad leadership a little deeper...


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So I dutifully did a forum search and found some good detail for background to my question but it didn't give the direct answer I was looking for.

Situation: You have a platoon that is moving in traveling overwatch (one squad well forward but still in PLs C2 radius). The lead squad is broken into its fire teams with one team also pushed forward.

Often the squads are broken down like this: rifle/smg team and support weapon team(s) (MG, BZ, PZChK, etc). The squad leader is often with the rifle/smg team (A Team) and the assistant SL with the support weapons (B Team). I don't want to break out a 2 man scout team because it inevitably dies horribly since it lacks the firepower to defend itself (and its not what a rifle squad would do in RL anyway).

The rulebook states that if the SL dies the ASL takes over and maintains the C2 structure. My question is: does the squad suffer any ill effects (in terms of disruption, panic, etc) due to the loss of the SL? I realize I lose the benefit of the SL's ldrshp modifier, but does his death effect the squad in other ways?

All of this gets to the decision about which team leads? The one with the SL or the one with the support weapons? Each team has its strengths and assets that should be protected. I am leaning toward the team with the SL and just rolling dice on whether he becomes an early casualty. He will offer his leadership immediately to the teams survivability and to their spotting capability. And the BZ or MG that the other team is carrying could have battle winning effects later, including help extract the lead team from trouble. But if the loss of the SL will have an immediate negative effect on the squad as a whole that may contribute significantly to their pinning/panicking than his importance may trump the SWs.

The next step is to conduct some tests on my own but I thought I would jump on here and collect some opinions/thoughts from others first.

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I find that most often, The SL will be in one team with his SMG, and the ASL will lead another team with the other SMG. So I tend to send the ASL to assault.

But maybe I just have 2 SMG in the squad because I just played an American paratrooper campaign? Can't remember if regular infantry get 1 or 2 submachineguns..

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My question is: does the squad suffer any ill effects (in terms of disruption, panic, etc) due to the loss of the SL? I realize I lose the benefit of the SL's ldrshp modifier, but does his death effect the squad in other ways?

I do not recall reading a definitive answer. Loosing any squad member has an effect on the squad's morale. I do not know if the loss of the leader is more severe than any other member. My gut say it would be but have no idea in game terms if that is true. Clearly if a +1 leader is a casualty and a -2 leader takes over that will have more of effect than if a 0 leader is lost and a 0 leader takes over.

I am not sure if you will be able to create a test that can isolate the simple loss of a leader vs line solider from the leadership effects.

I am looking forward to learning more.

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I realize I lose the benefit of the SL's ldrshp modifier, but does his death effect the squad in other ways?

You might lose a pair of binoculars ;)

I suspect you are correct in seeking to preserve squad firepower over the squad leader. Maybe if he was a +2 I may think twice. But in that case I'd just lead with a different squad.

I use 2-man scouts so I don't have to make this choice.

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Good question, I dont know if they impact play much. It would be good to find out.

I just send the team with the firepower I need when there is any choice, I could care less if it has the SQ leader is in it. So I have not seen anything to show that they are impacting play much, but that could be a easy thing to miss.

Now on the other hand, I take extra care of my platoon leaders for sure, they get every possible advantage I can give them to stay alive. I dont like losing anyone in the chain of command if I can avoid it.

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One thing with leadership ratings is that if you've got a good leader, your ASL tends to be good too, and the enlisted men (or lowest rank NCOs) are also pretty good leaders. A 0-leadership squad will have a -2 leadership base (visible when you split the "Scout" team out - no leaders there) most of the time. A +1 leadership might have +1 replacements for the SL and ASL.

And I bet the experience level of the troops affects the distribution of leaderships relative to the "headline" number that the original SL starts with.

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WWII US Army doctrine did not have official Fire Teams in the Rifle Squad like they do today. Hence the title Squad Leader and Assistant Squad Leader as opposed to todays Squad Leader and A and B Team Leaders. Actually the decision to go to a 4 man Fire Team came from a number of different research projects, probably the most well known being SLA Marshalls. The conclusion being that three to five is the optimal span of control for any leader. Optimal meaning maximize the leaders maneuver units without overtaxing him. Hence the four man Fire Team, two Fire Teams in a squad (three in the USMC), three rifle squads in a platoon, three rifle platoons in a Company, etc.

I think that in actual practice Squads and Platoons developed internal practices that probably were precursors to modern doctrine. Instead of "SGT Wilcox take your Fire Team and flank left while I have SGT Ables Fire Team suppress," it was "Hey Joe take a couple guys and go left while I stay here with the rest and the BAR team and suppress."

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Can't remember if regular infantry get 1 or 2 submachineguns..

US regular inf get one SMG/squad, carried by the SL. Armored inf don't get any. Since I haven't gotten around to playing with other nationalities, I can't speak to their level of arming, but I have this vague awareness that they have more SMGs in the squad. Just how many more depends on which service, what time period, and whether they are standard or some specialized formation.

Michael

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I don't want to break out a 2 man scout team because it inevitably dies horribly since it lacks the firepower to defend itself...

My practice is to lead with a two man scout team but with the assault team closely enough behind to provide return fire to anything the point team might flush, and the heavy team with the support weaponry a little behind them and a bit out to one flank. I move my teams in bounds so that while one is moving the other two are spotting and providing cover fire if necessary. Seems to work really well so far, although a clever opponent might ignore the scout team and wait for one of the other two teams to move into effective range..

Michael

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Broadsword, realized I might not have addressed your question:

In real life squad disposition would often depend on the soldiers load. BZ and MG teams (even light MG and BAR teams) would be so overloaded that they really couldn't be relied on to spot, move stealthily, etc. So those with rifles and other light small arms would be out front, with the heavier weapons bringing up the rear.

It also comes down to manning though this isn't really replicated in CM. Experience and size are big determiners here. The bigger guys get the heaviest gear right? As a rule but not always. You always want your most experienced guys (outside of leaders) crewing your heavy weapon systems as gunners. Often machinegunners and AT gunners are required to make split second decisions without time to get input from their leaders. So it is imperative they have the knowledge to do that. On the other hand the least experienced guys are often ammo bearers for the heavy weapon systems. This keeps them relatively protected so they can gain experience before moving up to the assault team. The squad leader would often float around the squad, applying his decision making and leadership where it was needed. CM sticks him in one team which raises the issue I brought up earlier.

ME: I used to break out the scout team too but found they were just bullet sponges. A 3-4 man team seems to spot better, returns fire quicker and heavier, and has the ability to pull out a casualty or two. The trade off is a team that size can be spotted easier but like any good infantryman, I want to find the enemy and kill him, not hide from him. So its a fair tradeoff in my mind.

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ME: I used to break out the scout team too but found they were just bullet sponges. A 3-4 man team seems to spot better, returns fire quicker and heavier, and has the ability to pull out a casualty or two. The trade off is a team that size can be spotted easier but like any good infantryman, I want to find the enemy and kill him, not hide from him. So its a fair tradeoff in my mind.

I have begun limited experimenting with 3-4 man scout teams, but I have a concern that they could all be taken out by one MG burst or a well aimed grenade or mortar bomb. I'll see how that goes.

Michael

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Try 2x2 man scout teams in the lead with the rest of the squad in single firepower section closely behind. Otherwise I tend to use the normal divide by 3 split but when executing the fine art of scouting especialy in rough terrain then the 2 man scout teams are very good. Hunt, short sprints, slow and patience are the key. In assault situations I have also seen 2 man scout teams take out entire enemy squads by them selves after the enemy has been pinned down by the rest of the platoon. So they can be really handy if you know when and how to use them.

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Besides the number one rule of infantry combat is to see your enemy first and not be detected untill the moment is right, wich is when your base of fire starts to supress the enemy positions. There is no other option more referable than this. Edit: other than ofc ambushing your enemy while he is moving trough open in to your kill zone with more than 2 men.

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I rarely use the two man scout team split off from the squad. I normally scout with a squad in mutually supporting teams (when enemy contact is probable I try to only have one team moving at a time to increase spotting ability). When splitting the two man scout team from the squad, the rest of the squad cannot then split again and is forced to stay together as a lump and is very susceptible to mortar and MG fire.

I, like Scout find the two man scout team to be a little too weak on spotting and prefer to have more eyes and firepower forward.

Bil

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In gebneral my practice is to keep squads together using the Assualt order a lot to maximise firepower and manuever. But there might be times when splitting into teams is a better (less risky) option. What you do depends on the immediate tactical situation. For instancce I could use the Assualt Team option to lay down covering fire using, th BAR, the Grenade Launcher and half a dozen rifles while a four man assault team mount the assualt itself. Or I might want to recon a position withou sending the whole squad and jus send a two man scout team instead to check to see if that village is occupied

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This discussion is very interesting as I have also pondered long over how best to scout.

I found that the two man scout team is good in that it is smaller and less likely to get noticed. But one has to be rather cautious with them as in RL - imagining it was me out there with only one buddy. I get the impression that 4-man scouts can be spotted by the enemy more easily.

However, I found that if I had the rest of the squad close enuff to give support, they could easily get ambushed/pinned/suppressed by the same ambush that the 2-man scout triggers.

So, am experimenting with two 2-man scout teams, so they can at least keep an eye on each other, without getting too many guys pinned or shot. I also send them out way beyond any HQ LOC. I don't see how one can keep scouts in command without endangering the HQ and anyone else around him.

This other question re the HQ also poses a dilemma. The HQ command effects are much more subtle than in CM1, and like most players I can't tell the difference between being in or out of command. I know that tests have been done lining up two squads and having them shoot at each other like this was a pre 19th century Napoleonic/ACW game. But, in a real game, who would do that?

Maneuvering and "ganging up" on an enemy unit is what one should be doing. And in those instances whether or not the troops are in command or not seems unimportant. (That is a shame.)

As usual, the CM manual is of no help with either issue.

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I am going to throw out a few more pennies...

Please know that when I make these comments it is as an infantry officer, not as a CM guru. We are all familiar with the limitations of the game and that some players prefer to approach it as a simulation and others prefer to view it as a game. I don't have an issue with either outlook. That being said, my approach to the game is as a simulation. I am always looking for ways to expand my professional experience via the digital realm (actually, I recently changed my career path to Simulation Operations, so this has become my bread and butter within the US Army). The CM series, since its inception, has been the best game system I have found for simulating platoon and company, even Battalion fights. The only drawback has been they are all set 60 years ago with the exception of CMSF. When CM Black Sea comes out it will receive a lot of scrutiny from the professional military community, but I am sure BFC is already aware of this.

Anyway...

From a professional military point of view there is a hard line in doctrine between reconnaissance and actually closing with the enemy. Doctrinally there are units that are specifically designed and equipped to conduct reconnaissance and this includes all the major armies of WW2. I have written volumes on this in earlier threads back in the CMBO and CMBB days and don't want to rehash an old argument. If you are really bored at work today, feel free to search the archives and read how some very mature, grown men can be reduced to pure hissy fits in a forum.

Once again, from a professionals point of view, by the time the scope of combat represented in a CM game is reached, reconnaissance is complete (from a doctrinal point of view). The recon platoon has moved up found the enemy locations and reported them back to the battalion. This is where the intel feed in the scenario design and QB setup interface comes from. If your recon was extremely successful you might set this at 30%. If it was not so great, perhaps 10%. This option is there because the game designers recognize that "Reconnaissance" would be complete before the actual game starts.

However, there is a lot to be said for being cautious and not advancing boldly forward without some idea of whats ahead. This is where movement techniques, formations, and maneuver come into play. The idea of the movement to contact isn't necessarily to find the enemy and then come up with a plan. A plan should already be in place. Even without any hard intel to enemy dispositions you can develop a plan based on the terrain and the enemys most likely course of action. For a movement to contact a leader (player) can develop an entire scheme of maneuver based on march objectives that are tied to the terrain.

The key is a strong, readily available and flexible reserve. That is achievable through movement techniques. Bil Hardenbergers tutorials give great examples of what they should look like in game. The underlying theme being that I don't just want to find the enemy, I want to be able to pile on and kill him before he has a chance to react to the intelligence that HE has now gained about YOUR location and strength.

As soon as those two man scout teams make contact the enemy is gaining intel about your movements and the routes you are thinking about using. You have to commit to one route or the other as quickly as possible, before he has time to react to the same contacts. The way to do this is keep strong forces relatively close to your scouts. Actually, your scouts ARE PART OF your assaulting force. Its all the same formation. For another great example provided by Bil look to his AAR in the Red Thunder forum. He used his forward elements in Traveling Overwatch and each time he made contact with Elvis' units he was ready to maneuver against them and inflict serious damage. The other underlying theme here is before you start a game you should have decided on a main avenue of approach and a decisive point. Once again, this can be determined just by studying the terrain usually, any intel about enemy dispositions is gravy. With that in hand you can then focus your forces, weight your main effort, and overcome any resistance the enemy may throw in front of you. Even in fairly balanced CM games the attacker can represent a stick pin and the defender more times than not has to be the table cloth. Take advantage.

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However, I found that if I had the rest of the squad close enuff to give support, they could easily get ambushed/pinned/suppressed by the same ambush that the 2-man scout triggers.

That would be having them too close :) they don't have to hold the scouts' hands, just be able to shoot at the next bit of cover the scouts are going to investigate. As a rule of thumb...

I don't see how one can keep scouts in command without endangering the HQ and anyone else around him.

In really close terrain, where voice C2 carries further than sight, I sometimes keep my HQ "half a step back" from the scouting/picket line, to improve their performance and reactions when they do come under fire.

The HQ command effects are much more subtle than in CM1, and like most players I can't tell the difference between being in or out of command. I know that tests have been done lining up two squads and having them shoot at each other like this was a pre 19th century Napoleonic/ACW game. But, in a real game, who would do that?

Just because it wouldn't be done in a real game, doesn't make it a valid test. If we're thinking of the same one it wasn't a valid test because it changed too many variables between runs. My "intuitive experience" tells me that troops are a lot steadier under fire. They rally faster, and so the same duration and intensity of suppression and rate of loss means they don't get so badly shaken. That's my read on what I've seen, rather than anything scientific, so take it with however much salt you need :) The effects are most noticeable with poor troops, since snake eaters are hard to discommode in the first place. Hard enough that you often have to kill them all before they would have run away.

Maneuvering and "ganging up" on an enemy unit is what one should be doing. And in those instances whether or not the troops are in command or not seems unimportant. (That is a shame.)

If you have significant superiority, and do it right, you're correct: being in C2 or not isn't really important. It can be vital in more even fights, or when (as the defender, say) you are on the wrong end of the numbers equation. Or at the beginning of a fire superiority escalation, when you've only just found the enemy, having C2 can make the difference between you fixing the enemy and them fixing you.

From a professional military point of view there is a hard line in doctrine between reconnaissance and actually closing with the enemy....

Once again, from a professionals point of view, by the time the scope of combat represented in a CM game is reached, reconnaissance is complete (from a doctrinal point of view).

With the best will in the world: "doctrine, schmocktrine". By which I mean...

The recon platoon has moved up found the enemy locations and reported them back to the battalion. This is where the intel feed in the scenario design and QB setup interface comes from. If your recon was extremely successful you might set this at 30%. If it was not so great, perhaps 10%. This option is there because the game designers recognize that "Reconnaissance" would be complete before the actual game starts.

That this bit is rarely true. Especially in QBs. So it sort of boils down to the difference between RL doctrine and CM "pseudo-reality". Semantics, if you will, differentiating the professional usage of the term "reconnaisance" and the same word as used by us non-professionals (or maybe it's just me). Personally I consider "finding the enemy" to be reconnaisance, and in a large game can often think of my forces as undertaking scouting/reconnaisance at several different stages of the game: in the opening minutes when I have been given no good idea how near the in media res start of the game has dropped my forces to the area the enemy can bring under fire; at a smaller scale when I'm approaching an objective (small 'o' - just anywhere I want to be that could be described as distinct from where I am, really) and don't know if there are enemy on it. Often this discovery has to be done after I've penetrated their front or picket line and gone where those recon formations couldn't have placed under observation (where's those flyboy aerial observers when you need 'em, hey?).

As soon as those two man scout teams make contact the enemy is gaining intel about your movements and the routes you are thinking about using.

I tend to have a very broad screen of scouts ahead of my active positions, which are after OPs, not necessarily moving along the intended axis of my advance. Does that give much away?

I do tend to favour the 2-man scout team, perhaps because I seem to find myself using three-team squads a lot, which split into Assault, Fire and either Scout or AT, giving most platoons a couple of scout teams, 3 4-man assault teams, a 2-man AT team and 3 fire teams of 4-6 men. I agree that 2-team squads aren't good to split into a 2+7, and even the 6-man teams can be a bit bulky, but they're better than a full squad and have nearly as much throw weight at middle-to-long range where the SAWs dominate. I like the German 2-team squads that have special dispensation to split into 2 teams plus a separate AT team. They're tidy.

I think of the 2-man scout team more as "point men" than actual scouts, and they only get way ahead of the main force when I am groping for the enemy without any knowledge of how free I am to maneuver along my desired approach route. As I say above, while the recon formations are supposed to have done the pre-battle intel gathering, I don't always get the reports from them before T-time, and often have to redo their work.

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I rarely use the two man scout team split off from the squad. I normally scout with a squad in mutually supporting teams (when enemy contact is probable I try to only have one team moving at a time to increase spotting ability). When splitting the two man scout team from the squad, the rest of the squad cannot then split again and is forced to stay together as a lump and is very susceptible to mortar and MG fire.

I, like Scout find the two man scout team to be a little too weak on spotting and prefer to have more eyes and firepower forward.

Bil

I was in the impression that even the germans can split of two scout teams from a single squad? In any case with the brits this leaves you with 5 man fire team in addition with the scouts wich is only 1 man larger than the regular "assault" section of sl+3xrifleman but has the bren and smg in one package. Then again the brits have huge issues with firepower in any case whereas germans gain much more benefit for spliting and spreading out their suqad mg's. The bold action rifles are still suprisingly effective if they can manage to catch the enemy supressed and preferably from the flank. Also it tends ruins the day for enemy defender if he has to give away his position just to shoot some pair of riflemen instead of at least a juicy sl and his three squad mates :)

In general tho there can't be a single one way to do this and I do note that Bill is regarded as the master in cm recon so I dont mean to say that he aint right. I have simply found my way working out very well for me for now in every h2h game.

As for the platoon leaders their survivability became dramaticaly better after I started to regard them as non-combat unit all together. In assault his ofc is not a simple task but I use considerable effort to keep them out of direct lines of fire while maintaining best possible c2.

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When splitting the two man scout team from the squad, the rest of the squad cannot then split again and is forced to stay together as a lump and is very susceptible to mortar and MG fire.

Er...what? I normally will split off a two man scout team and then divide the remainder of the squad into an assault team and a fire base team, or alternately into two more or less equal teams. Why are you prevented from doing that? Is that some national quirk that I haven't run into?

Michael

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Womble: You bring up a style of play that has been debated since this game first came out. I think it goes back to the "game" vs "simulation" style of play. It sounds to me like you are using an operational style of advance where you are looking for surfaces and gaps in your enemy's defense (as a Division or Corps Commander would use his reconnaissance assets for) so that you can focus on the gaps in an attempt to dislodge him. And the bottom line is it works.

Its just not what a company commander would do in RL. And for those of us who like to try to sim RL it would be a turn off. Just different styles of play essentially.

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Womble: You bring up a style of play that has been debated since this game first came out. I think it goes back to the "game" vs "simulation" style of play. It sounds to me like you are using an operational style of advance where you are looking for surfaces and gaps in your enemy's defense (as a Division or Corps Commander would use his reconnaissance assets for) so that you can focus on the gaps in an attempt to dislodge him. And the bottom line is it works.

That's a pretty good breakdown. I often think of it as "finding the flanks": sometimes the flanks are nowhere near the edges of the battlespace; they're the places where you can shoot many at few, in turn creating further many-on-fews, "rolling out" from were you first find a point you can press.

Its just not what a company commander would do in RL. And for those of us who like to try to sim RL it would be a turn off. Just different styles of play essentially.

A company commander IRL would have the information that the Corps commander used his recon assets to gain; information often missing in the CM battle, which, it seems to me, turns a Company commander into a Corps commander in microcosm...

Bil H often talks about "command push" vs "recon pull" in the CM milieu; in general "recon pull" seems to be his instinctive preference.

I'm not saying you're wrong to try and drag a simulation out of the game, but if the specific example of the game omits data you'd expect to have as that putative company commander, your sim starts with a big hole in it, no?

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Er...what? I normally will split off a two man scout team and then divide the remainder of the squad into an assault team and a fire base team, or alternately into two more or less equal teams. Why are you prevented from doing that? Is that some national quirk that I haven't run into?

Michael

Can't do that with some formations. A German squad that doesn't have a Shreck is, by D-Day, an 8 (or sometimes 9 or 10 - the new formations in MG are bewildering in their array and glorious variability?) man squad limited to two teams. If you split a scout team off, that's it. ISTR you mentioning that your experience is constrained to the Allied side; the US has 3-team squads that could, indeed, split 2 scout teams off. The 12 man squad, though, would split a 2 and a 3 man scout team, because the maximum size for a team in CM is 7 men, and splitting off two pairs (whether scout and AT or two scouts) from a full strength squad would leave you with a rump of 8. The second split-off of a "smallest" team would be the 3 man team.

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Womble: You bring up a style of play that has been debated since this game first came out. I think it goes back to the "game" vs "simulation" style of play. It sounds to me like you are using an operational style of advance where you are looking for surfaces and gaps in your enemy's defense (as a Division or Corps Commander would use his reconnaissance assets for) so that you can focus on the gaps in an attempt to dislodge him. And the bottom line is it works.

Its just not what a company commander would do in RL. And for those of us who like to try to sim RL it would be a turn off. Just different styles of play essentially.

Hmmh I was in the impression that recon within each infantry units own ao is very high priority task and responsibilty of the infantry unit in the said ao or axis of advance. My experience come mostly from platoon leader training in FDF so there might be big differences here in national military doctrines but what I mean to say is that I was tought that there are different levels of reconance and the basis is that each infantry unit (company or even individual platoons) patrols/recons it's own ao/axis of advance and divisional/brigade assets are for the operational recon and therefore may not be entirely precise or up to date. Realisticaly there should be atleast an hour delay between operational recon and the actual manuveur and things always chance a bit. I might mess up something here so take this just as my five cents. :)

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