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Combat mission - serious gaming


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LS,

I'm currently analyzing tactical war games and other types of RTS games to explore their impact when used as serious games for training.

My question is about if there is any information on the use and results of CM being used for serious purposes with an emphases on the pre / post game planning and analysis (i.e. is there an briefing and debriefing before and after the game is played?). It would also be interesting to know in what modes the game is played in such trainings and what the learning goals are for the student/player.

Any other information about the implementation of CM in the professional environment or "hobby" use would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Bas (Master game studies student)

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BvDijen,

Welcome aboard!

Apropos of what Apocal said, the Australian Armed Forces commissioned a special version of the CMx1 game CMAK (Combat Mission Afrika Corps) specifically to teach Australian WW II military history and combat tactics to young officers. You may also wish to investigate the US of the BFC game TACOPS for military training.

Regards,

John Kettler

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I am a Simulation Operations Officer with the US Army. (Yes, there is actually such a career path in the US mil now.) I just recently made this transition and am getting my feet wet, having spent 15 years in the Infantry prior to volunteering for a change. A few points based on my knowledge and experience so far...

I went to a SimOps course with Dr. James Sterrett mentioned in the PC Gamer article, as well as a few other online articles he has been interviewed for. A very knowledgeable scholar who was always eager to share his thoughts and experiences. If you could make direct contact with him (most likely through CGSC at Ft. Leavenworth) he is probably one of the most knowledgeable about the use of gaming in the classroom, particularly to train field grade and senior leaders.

From a big Army perspective, off the shelf gaming products rarely meet the needs for training, for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is the ability to tie into our digital systems. The Army has spent the last 10+ years developing a wargame (called WARSIM) that is fully integrated into our battle command systems, sustainment systems, and fires system. This means we can set up a brigade or division command post and all of our digital systems that we use to track and fight a battle can be stimulated by the sim, so that the maneuver guys, the fires guys, and the sustainment guys can all look at the same "picture" and see the same things in the actual real digital systems they use every day. Not something you can do with a software based game that 99% of the time is developed as a single player wargame.

Another drawback to off the shelf games is that they often are severely limited in simulating the "full spectrum" of conflict. Take CM for example. No engineering capability is adequately modeled. A commander cant move onto a piece of ground and select his defensive positions and then dig them in, place obstacles etc and then suffer the consequences (or success) of his decisions. From an offensive standpoint there is no ability to use most of the minefield breaching and bridging assets available to the armies of WW2 or today.

Fire support is adequate but still suffers severe drawbacks because the playing field is not linked to a map, a very important aspect for training soldiers to plan fires, targets and conduct calls for fire. The aspects of Close Air Support(CAS) and MEDEVAC are severely restricted or not modeled at all for similar reasons.

Of note the Army poured a lot of money into VBS (Bohemias ARMA 2/3) in an attempt to address a lot of the issues raised above in a simulation and for the most part accomplished what they wanted. Unfortunately, the game requires individuals playing individual characters and does very poorly when trying to aggregate squads, platoons, etc.

I was involved in an experiment to use VBS in the Maneuver Captains Career Course, giving each member of a small group control of a maneuver platoon. As a sim for vehicle platoons it worked fine (M1, Stryker, Bradley) because the game AI was very adept at operating those systems with little input from the player. But once you tried to get a squad to conduct a breach or move to a specific spot in a building for example, it experienced some serious and frustrating issues.

This brings up another snag. Program contracting. Military contracts are often made for extended periods of time (years). And so this forces the Army to try to make the best of whats available. And the contracting process takes so long that by the time the program equipment (or software) actually reaches the user, its often outdated or inadequate to meet changing requirements. Hence the failed (in my view) attempt at turning VBS2 into a company level sim. Most sim center in the Army now have VBS2 suites that will sit up to a hundered players so you can train most of a company at a time. But it still isn't very efficient since you are basically conducting leader training and the individual soldiers aren't actually training with their systems (it would be more productive to send them to the range while the leaders of the organization trained in the sim.)

Bottom line- the US Army continues to meet the training requirements through the use of sims and will for the foreseeable future. BUt there is a gap that currently exists for battalion and company level simulation.

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I am a Simulation Operations Officer with the US Army. (Yes, there is actually such a career path in the US mil now.) I just recently made this transition and am getting my feet wet, having spent 15 years in the Infantry prior to volunteering for a change. A few points based on my knowledge and experience so far...

I went to a SimOps course with Dr. James Sterrett mentioned in the PC Gamer article, as well as a few other online articles he has been interviewed for. A very knowledgeable scholar who was always eager to share his thoughts and experiences. If you could make direct contact with him (most likely through CGSC at Ft. Leavenworth) he is probably one of the most knowledgeable about the use of gaming in the classroom, particularly to train field grade and senior leaders.

From a big Army perspective, off the shelf gaming products rarely meet the needs for training, for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is the ability to tie into our digital systems. The Army has spent the last 10+ years developing a wargame (called WARSIM) that is fully integrated into our battle command systems, sustainment systems, and fires system. This means we can set up a brigade or division command post and all of our digital systems that we use to track and fight a battle can be stimulated by the sim, so that the maneuver guys, the fires guys, and the sustainment guys can all look at the same "picture" and see the same things in the actual real digital systems they use every day. Not something you can do with a software based game that 99% of the time is developed as a single player wargame.

Another drawback to off the shelf games is that they often are severely limited in simulating the "full spectrum" of conflict. Take CM for example. No engineering capability is adequately modeled. A commander cant move onto a piece of ground and select his defensive positions and then dig them in, place obstacles etc and then suffer the consequences (or success) of his decisions. From an offensive standpoint there is no ability to use most of the minefield breaching and bridging assets available to the armies of WW2 or today.

Fire support is adequate but still suffers severe drawbacks because the playing field is not linked to a map, a very important aspect for training soldiers to plan fires, targets and conduct calls for fire. The aspects of Close Air Support(CAS) and MEDEVAC are severely restricted or not modeled at all for similar reasons.

Of note the Army poured a lot of money into VBS (Bohemias ARMA 2/3) in an attempt to address a lot of the issues raised above in a simulation and for the most part accomplished what they wanted. Unfortunately, the game requires individuals playing individual characters and does very poorly when trying to aggregate squads, platoons, etc.

I was involved in an experiment to use VBS in the Maneuver Captains Career Course, giving each member of a small group control of a maneuver platoon. As a sim for vehicle platoons it worked fine (M1, Stryker, Bradley) because the game AI was very adept at operating those systems with little input from the player. But once you tried to get a squad to conduct a breach or move to a specific spot in a building for example, it experienced some serious and frustrating issues.

This brings up another snag. Program contracting. Military contracts are often made for extended periods of time (years). And so this forces the Army to try to make the best of whats available. And the contracting process takes so long that by the time the program equipment (or software) actually reaches the user, its often outdated or inadequate to meet changing requirements. Hence the failed (in my view) attempt at turning VBS2 into a company level sim. Most sim center in the Army now have VBS2 suites that will sit up to a hundered players so you can train most of a company at a time. But it still isn't very efficient since you are basically conducting leader training and the individual soldiers aren't actually training with their systems (it would be more productive to send them to the range while the leaders of the organization trained in the sim.)

Bottom line- the US Army continues to meet the training requirements through the use of sims and will for the foreseeable future. BUt there is a gap that currently exists for battalion and company level simulation.

I've worked with Dr Sterrett when I was working at CGSC, still in touch with him, also helped with the FA57 course. Now I'm working at MCTP and just got back from Ft Bragg doing a War Fighter Exercise with the 82AB now getting ready for another one next month. We use WARSIM and have experience with VBS3 and ARMA3. Glad to see your post here. Shoot me an email if you want to talk about VBS3 and ARMA3.

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The Australian Defense Force licensed a variant of CMAK in 2004. Gibbo (points up there) can probably provide a bit more detail?

Well yes the Australian DefenCe Force (we aren't that close) did license a copy of CMAK.

It was basically CMAK with a "dynamic" discussion of the Crete campaign.

You were provided with an overview and could replay some decisive events with CMAK scenarios.

It was basically provided for Staff Cadets to do "simple" appreciations and see how their plans worked (or not).

Having got an understanding of the process with a "simplistic" Second World War battlespace, they could then escalate to a more complex current environment (or at least as complex as it gets for prospective LTs).

There is/was little interest in the broader application of the CM engine as it didn't do "modern" without use spending lots of dollars adapting CMSF to Australian kit and even then the limited maps reduced its application at anything above Troop / Platoon level as well as the lack of an AAR tool.

Things like VBS-2/3 provide better first person capabilities (counting rounds, changing mags, etc.) and its AFV modelling is "simplistic" so it was suitable for Infantry training.

Crew procedural trainers purchased as part of vehicle acquisitions provide the crew drills training.

Steel Beasts provides all arms Combat Team and Battle Group training (where you don't need to be down in the weeds with the lead vehicle, but can if you want) and provided more suitable maps 40 x 40 Km or larger.

It also can provide a LOWCON and/or HIGHCON to the BDE level CPX.

Janus / OneSAF / JCATS provides the higher level solution where it becomes cost effective to have a team of "picketers" fight the sim while the uniformed people can focus on their planning.

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JohnO-

I doubt we ran into each other in the halls but its possible. I am the day battle captain for the 82nds Div tactical CP (DTAC). As a 57 I was pretty involved in the planning of the WFX but when the rubber hit the road I had to move over to the mission command side of my job.

A great exercise from where I was sitting, we learned alot, though someone has to tell your leadership to drop the iranian horde scenario when you are dealing with light infantry divisions. We tried to make the point a year ago when planning started but that enemy tank corps kept working its way back into the scenario. Without the Canadian armored battle group to take it on the chin for us, it would have been Market Garden all over again.

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Steel Beasts provides all arms Combat Team and Battle Group training (where you don't need to be down in the weeds with the lead vehicle, but can if you want) and provided more suitable maps 40 x 40 Km or larger.

I havent looked at Steel Beasts in years but it was my understanding back then that it did a pretty poor job of simulating infantry/engineers. Has it undergone some upgrades?

Not a knock on tankers but its pretty easy to create a sim with some depth when you dealing with 14 entities (armored company) vs 150 (infantry company).

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I havent looked at Steel Beasts in years but it was my understanding back then that it did a pretty poor job of simulating infantry/engineers.

The ill-represented infantry is the main reason I dropped that game a few years ago. From what I remember the engineers, at least armored engineers were very well represented though.

Bil

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I havent looked at Steel Beasts in years but it was my understanding back then that it did a pretty poor job of simulating infantry/engineers. Has it undergone some upgrades?

Not a knock on tankers but its pretty easy to create a sim with some depth when you dealing with 14 entities (armored company) vs 150 (infantry company).

Well yes it has moved on - markedly but it is not as detailed as VBS-x (in terms of holding your breath while firing, etc.).

Hence our two tiered approach:

VBS where that detail is needed.

SB where it can be abstracted. e.g. If I'm doing a Cbt Team attack I'm not really interested in how a fire team is clearing a building.

Just like I shouldn't be interested in the gunner's sight view from a tank in the fire support position (although admittedly I can go there if required).

As long as the Cbt ratios are right and we gain the objective that is what the Trainee needs (or is suitably penalised if they mess up).

Yes the Infantry could do with some work, just like the vehicles in VBS could do with some work.

The map size, AAR tools, low training and conduct overheads as well as overall accuracy at the CT and BG level was our key determinant.

Happy to send you details of what we use it for and some known shortcomings. Can even lend you a license to "trial" the current commercial version (3.011) if you like.

Probably should stop here before we get pinged for advertising other products.

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JohnO-

I doubt we ran into each other in the halls but its possible. I am the day battle captain for the 82nds Div tactical CP (DTAC). As a 57 I was pretty involved in the planning of the WFX but when the rubber hit the road I had to move over to the mission command side of my job.

A great exercise from where I was sitting, we learned alot, though someone has to tell your leadership to drop the iranian horde scenario when you are dealing with light infantry divisions. We tried to make the point a year ago when planning started but that enemy tank corps kept working its way back into the scenario. Without the Canadian armored battle group to take it on the chin for us, it would have been Market Garden all over again.

That was the plan, although I was with the CAB, FiB, and ENGs. I wasn't with the maneuver elements. I did watch and listen in on the DIV CUB. I was with OPSGRP F.

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Interestingly, we almost had a diplomatic crisis on our hands toward the end and it significantly impacted our operations. Essentially the Canadian casualty rate was so high their government was threatening to end their involvement in the coalition. Since they were our only armored force (outside of the host nation) their new restrictions inhibited our ability to transition to the offense and push to the Arianan border.

Another interesting point was the enemy's ability to keep our aviation assets (particularly our AH-64s) limited to operating in our rear areas (which still had significant insurgent activity) due to their air defense umbrella. We (the USAF mainly) reduced their big radar systems but it was the smaller MANPADS systems that took our biggest tank killer off the table. We could gain superiority and reduce the threat for specific operations but it required a lot of staff work.

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IIRC last time I checked Steel Beast Pro had a $40 upgrade where it had improvements to the graphics, infantry enhancements, IEDs, Middle East environments, drones, technicals and other stuff.

I didn't get it as I'm too preoccipied with CM, but at some point I will. Its fun to just fire it up and blast away. I would love to see a WW2 version. I have a few WW2 tank sims, but they are pretty dated.

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Well there's also now a time limited "rental" option if you don't want to buy a permanent license.

I think US$10 gets you a month's worth so you can try it out before committing to a full purchase.

Thanks. If I was going to spend $10 I may as well spend $30 and get the whole thing. I look into it. Between work and the 14 h2h CM games it hard to find time to do much else. Right now SB Pro is being used like the old 80 arcade game Battlezone.

I know its far deeper than that. One of these days Ill dig into it.

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Since we're on the subject of SB. Besides the lack of a campaign system the other main reason that prevented me from getting it: a tank is a 4 man vehicle. You can skip the loader stuff, but that still requires 3 guys to operate. Fine and dandy when the military use it coz I imagine the real tank crews each man their own station. But when used at home how can one scan the horizon, shoot the gun and drive the tank all by himself at the same time?..

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Since we're on the subject of SB. Besides the lack of a campaign system the other main reason that prevented me from getting it: a tank is a 4 man vehicle. You can skip the loader stuff, but that still requires 3 guys to operate. Fine and dandy when the military use it coz I imagine the real tank crews each man their own station. But when used at home how can one scan the horizon, shoot the gun and drive the tank all by himself at the same time?..

I'm by far not the SB expert so please feel free to correct me...

I don't think you need to man all the positions when playing. You can plot your moves on a tactical map and then jump to and play a position and the AI mans the other positions.

I mostly play on the gunnery range which is loads of fun. Personally I like the Challenger the best. The ring and bead sight (this is what I call it) is to my liking.

I've found the laser on the M1 to be easy to burn out. Once that happens I've found I have to resort to using the backup sights which can be a real challenge to hit anything especially if its moving.

The Bradely is really fun. The 25mm gun is a blast. Nothing like hosing down stuff with a rapid fire cannon. The backup MG is also fun to hose down trucks and pixelmen.

SB Pro is not M1 Tank Platoon. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of it. Seems like there is lots of content and I think there is usermade stuff you can download.

You can get lost just playing it like an arcade game. One of my friends kids can't get enough of it. Everytime he's comes over the first thing out of his mouth is "Steel Beasts"

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Briefly (cause I fully appreciate this is a Battlefront forum not an eSim one). …

1. The "whole thing" a permanent license and dongle costs US$125.00

2. You can easily command a vehicle or a Platoon as one person (you don't need to have 20 people).

3. The laser burns out in RL if you lean on it too. :)

Can I suggest you watch the YouTube link above - that's 4 or 5 people doing a Combat Team task.

Happy to take other RFIs via PM.

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