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Why minefields are a bit gamey (currently)


Erwin
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Been playing several scenarios where minefields are an important part (and are not marked).

It has gotten increasingly frustrating to watch an intact squad (or even a platoon if you try to use Soviet doctrine and keep your squads together) and watch in WEGO one guy getting blown up and the rest of his comrades blindly follow him in and take maybe 50% casualties WIA and KIA.

I hope that BF can some day program in something so that when the first guy gets blown up, everyone within a certain radius has their movement orders cancelled and they hit the dirt.

(Until then, perhaps designers could refrain from too many unmarked minefields.)

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Erwin,

I believe it could be credibly argued that the current BFC approach in which a minefield is found the hard way, yet only one person is hit, thereby revealing it, would almost certainly not be true were S-mines to be encountered. Indeed, given their very large casualty radius, I'd expect much of a squad to be hit--if not more. In Penalty Strike, the author describes how an entire platoon, in close order administrative march formation, was wiped out by a single such detonation from one on the verge of the road.

It occurs to me that, since other CM weaponry is already modeled in oft rigorous detail, that maybe it's time that land mines catch up. An AP minefield with S-mines is an altogether different animal than one with box mines, after all.

Regards,

John Kettler

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I had a partial squad stumble into a minefield and lose two guys. They were not on hunt, just move.

The squad sat for a turn or two. No movement as none was given.

Then two of the guys crawled (with no order to move given) back into the minefield. Obvious result occurred.

The remaining two guys, said WTF and went AWOL.

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John i think you're talking about lethality while the OP is talking about the AI behaviour. I think everyone agrees that if you see a squadmate blow up from a mine you don't keep walking. this is the only part of the game which i view as truly "broken", as you can literally lose/break entire platoons as they blithely march to a very obvious doom.

Also, i think "hunt" is a useful command once you hit an area where mines are suspected, but if you think of a map like the first one from the Russian Campaign "Hammer' Flank" you have a lot of territory to cover where you have no idea where the mines are.

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Eh... depends. If you're running across a field under MG and/or mortar fire and one of your mates steps on a mine, maybe you do keep running regardless because the risk of hitting a mine before you get to the other side is preferable to the virtual certainty of getting tagged by a bullet or shell fragment if you just stay there in the middle of the field. Off the top of my head, I can think of one well-known historical situation where this actually did happen -- some of the first infantry units to get up onto the bluffs on Omaha basically charged up through known minefields, taking some casualties along the way, but most made it.

Difficult behaviors to model... I do agree that at times it would be useful to have a movement order that was less careful & tiring than Hunt, but would still have a unit stop if it came under fire/took casualties. Tricky to see where to fit this into the UI.

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The reason I brought this up is that I find the mines in CMRT to be more of a PITA than in other game families.

This is because I have been trying to follow (what I thought was) Soviet doctrine which is to keep squads and platoons together, unsplit - also use steamroller tactics that are supposed to overwhelm the defenders quickly regardless of casualties.

That inevitably means a lot of guys wander or run into a minefield and just keep following the blown up leader like lemmings.

Now, this may indeed have happened in RL as the Soviets pushed on regardless of casualties. Unfortunately, in most of the CMRT scenarios I have played, one rarely is given sufficient cannon-fodder troops to follow this doctrine.

A quick fix is for designers to restrict use of mines (mostly to marked minefields) in CMRT.

Otherwise, I find myself having to fight using Soviets as if they were Germans or WAllied forces - ie: keep all squads split up into small teams, and scout, scout, scout...

More of this when I do an AAR on Railyard at Pitrovsk (which I am enjoying btw).

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A couple of quick thoughts:

-- Depending on the details of the scenario conceit, splitting teams and "scout, scout, scouting" isn't necessarily "un-Soviet". By 1944, the Red Army was VERY good at infiltration tactics, and they used infiltration heavily especially against thinly held forward lines of defense. To execute an infiltration-type advance with a platoon in CM, you pretty much have to split teams.

-- Larger, "steamroller" type infantry assaults were usually preceded by very large artillery preps, and one of the purposes of these preps was to disrupt minefields. This is indeed a Scenario Design issue. If the purpose of the scenario is to model a well-prepared Soviet infantry assault on a German defensive line, then any minefield(s) should almost certainly start the battle with multiple breaches where the artillery prep has destroyed most of the mines. There should probably still be some mine tiles around, but hitting these tiles should be more like an occasional spot of bad luck, rather than entire platoon running into a continuous band.

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Yup - separate buttons for speed/mode of movement and behaviour would be very, very welcome.

The selection we have now is good and covers most of the cases. But sometimes... Example: you can't hunt backwards with a vehicle. You can't run and stop on enemy contact. Etc...

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"By 1944, the Red Army was VERY good at infiltration tactics..."

That's an interesting point. Are you saying that by 1944 small unit tactics was basically the same for the Soviets, the Germans and the WAllies? ie: We should be playing all the above nationalities essentially the same way... So, playing the Soviets in CMRT should feel the same as playing the Germans - just that the uniforms are different?

If that is true, then that answers my concerns - I certainly do feel that currently one has to play the Soviets in the same careful way one plays the Germans or WAllies.

I was expecting that playing the Soviets would feel significantly different as the cliché is that they always used massed steamroller tactics and had plenty of replacements.

As it is, currently only the CMFI Italians with their inability to split squads have a significantly different "feel" of play and require different tactics.

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That's an interesting point. Are you saying that by 1944 small unit tactics was basically the same for the Soviets, the Germans and the WAllies? ie: We should be playing all the above nationalities essentially the same way... So, playing the Soviets in CMRT should feel the same as playing the Germans - just that the uniforms are different?

By 1944, at the platoon level and below, IMHO the differences were pretty darn minor and mostly driven by equipment differences rather than any doctrinal differences. For example, since the Germans had the superior SAW in the MG42, their small-unit tactics emphasized the importance of establishing a base-of-fire with MG(s) more than other nationalities'. Though you could argue the other way around -- that the equipment differences were driven by doctrinal differences. That is, the Germans developed a superior SAW because they considered a portable, powerful MG essential to their low-level doctrine. It sort of becomes a chicken-and-egg argument... Regardless, while there were differences in emphasis, overall the low-level doctrine and training for move-to-contact drill, fire and maneuver, etc. were pretty similar between the nationalities by this point in the war.

It is true that the Soviets had trouble fielding enough well-trained junior officers and NCOs, and furthermore Red Army training did not emphasize improvisation and initiative on the part of NCOs as much as other nationalities. As noted, CMRT already models this to a degree this by imposing a morale penalty on Soviet split teams. This split team penalty only applies to teams that are out of close visual and/or voice C2 with their Plt. HQ, so you don't have to worry about it if you keep the teams close to the HQ. This means you can use split teams to tweak the marching formation of your platoon, move fire teams into a better positions within the close C2 radius, etc. without penalty. Where you'll notice the Soviet split team penalty is if you try to use Soviet split teams independently, out of C2 radius with their Plt HQ; they'll be much more brittle and likely to panic under even light fire.

This is also a scenario design consideration; while I'm not a believer in the "conscript hordes" depiction of WWII Red Army that sometimes gets thrown around, I do think it's true that, on average, the training and experience of junior officers especially wasn't as good in the Red Army as it was for other nationalities. This difference probably wasn't as severe in 1944-1945 as it was earlier in the war, but IMHO there was still a significant difference. Best way to depict this in CMRT is probably to tweak the Leadership and Morale ratings of the Soviet Squad and Platoon leaders down a bit. More -1s and -2s on the Unit info displays, fewer +1s and +2s.

So overall, if you're concerned about playing "like a Russian", I wouldn't worry too much about modifying your low-level tactical gameplay techniques, other than as the game already forces you to do given the TOE, equipment, and split team morale differences that apply to the Red Army. Go ahead and use split teams, but in most situations you'll want to keep them within ~50m of the Plt. HQ to avoid that split team morale hit.

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"...morale penalty on Soviet split teams. This split team penalty only applies to teams that are out of close visual and/or voice C2 with their Plt. HQ, so you don't have to worry about it if you keep the teams close to the HQ."

Thank you YD that was very useful. I didn't realize that the penalty could be negated in that way. Also, if the Soviets had stopped their mass/costly attacks and were using similar tactics as the Germans by 1944, that solves my playing with "realistic doctrine" dilemma. :)

(Being able to confidently split the Russian squads and do more scouting will also make minefields less deadly.)

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On the infiltration tactics point, yes the Russians got very good at them, yes they were similar across all armies. But successful infiltration in the second half of the war in the east was a larger scale thing that we are usually depicted with CM scenarios in which it depends on sending 2 men before the next 5 etc.

The units that infiltrated ranged from a recon platoon to an entire infantry battalion.

They did it at night, not during the day. Sometimes in the predawn ahead of an attack, at most, light wise.

They surveyed the infiltration site ahead of time for days, observing all they could of enemy locations and movements and sentries and OP routines etc.

German defensive systems used wide areas covered by obstacles and ranged fire from strongpoints, with the areas directly covered by the infantry strongpoints themselves only a modest portion of the line. There would be OPs and LPs ahead of the line, to be sure, but manned very thin. The whole defense scheme expected to call for fire from a strongpoint, out to 400 meters to 800 meters from MGs, 1-2 kilometers from 81mm mortars, and from 105mm howitzers in second line, covering 10 kilometers to either side. At night much of that ranged fire became blind barrage fire only called if a major intrusion was detected.

Night infiltration was all about avoiding any accurate barrage fire while passing through the obstacle areas, away from the infantry strongpoints themselves. That avoidance took the form of blinding LPs by taking them out by stealth, and getting through the resulting gap in listening coverage before the defenders knew about it, or worming between two LPs exploiting lax awareness or relief procedures etc.

Pathfinders would find the route, not enough of them to bring down a barrage and minimizing the risk of detection, and doing any blinding attacks on the LPs. Then platoons at a time would follow those routes in narrow columns, frequently literally holding on to the man in front to maintain orientation in the dark, or following a guide rope left by the path finder teams.

The whole goal was to get the formation clean through the enemy line before daybreak, *without* any fighting, or fighting anything larger than a few listening posts manned by single sentries or small fire teams, at most. By dawn, they wanted to be stationary inside the enemy defensive system, camou'ed and quiet.

Then in the mission was recon, the next night they'd move off into the enemy rear and hide out for days just observing, maybe trying to grab a prisoner for more intel just before sneaking back into their own lines.

If the mission was attack, they would reveal themselves by fire at surrounding enemy units as those moved, already dug in inside the enemy defensive scheme. The goal was to force the original defenders to withdraw through fire, or to attack dug in infantry themselves, just to clean out their defensive system. The main body back in the Russian lines would support all that by ranged fire, and if the Germans got too committed to attacking an infiltrated battalion, by direct frontal assault while they were busy with the infiltrated guys.

They picked bad terrain for all of the above. A marsh, deep woods interiors far from any roads. Any place the Germans could not afford to be thick on the ground, and were likely to discount as a lousy place to get through where nothing but infantry (or horse cavalry) was even able to move in the first place.

Infiltration tactics do not mean a village on the high road directly defended by a nearly equal enemy infantry force, in broad daylight, trying to sneak into or through them by using half squads instead of squads. Because that flat out doesn't work, and it is also operationally unnecessary. There are vastly better conditions available, and the whole point of such tactics is to use those better conditions, to pick the time and the place, to exploit having all the time in the world. If you can crawl through between dusk and dawn, it suffices - there is no rushing.

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That's interesting, but all I am concerned about is whether I am playing the Soviets using their realistic doctrine for this period of the war.

The info/feedback so far is that it is appropriate and "realistic" to use the Soviets pretty much as one would the Germans or WAllies, with the sole exception of ensuring that the Soviet platoon HQ is always nearby so they don't suffer the reduced morale effects of splitting the squads.

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Also, if the Soviets had stopped their mass/costly attacks and were using similar tactics as the Germans by 1944, that solves my playing with "realistic doctrine" dilemma. :)

"Mass/Costly" attacks hadn't completely stopped, but they were definitely less common.

In my opinion, the reasons why "costly attacks" still happened in 1944-1945 lie at higher command levels than the CM scale.

Imagine a Rifle Division is assigned to attack and breach an established defensive line somewhere along a certain sector. Assume that no particular subsection of this sector of the line looks more attractive as a breach point than any other.

Within the generally assigned sector for the attack, German/American/Brit Division Commander and his staff would often be allowed the discretion to figure to the specifics of the attack plan on their own, and modify their plan on the fly as the action progressed. For example, the Division might attempt probing attacks at various points, see which area of the defense seemed the weakest, and then commit the main effort into that sector. Note that this doctrine requires a responsive, well-connected force that can react quickly to changing conditions on the field. In a fluid situation, the Division staff can't possibly come up with detailed plans for every single Battalion and Company fast enough, so the subordinate commanders have to be trusted to figure out the details in their own areas of responsibility, and improvise when necessary. Resources like artillery support in particular need to be responsive and flexible, able to calculate and execute new fire support plans quickly, etc.

In contrast, a Soviet Rifle Division in the same situation would probably be told very specifically when, where and how to attack the enemy, and in fact the Division would probably be ordered to fully commit, attacking the line along the entire sector without retaining a reserve. Commanders all the way down to Battalion level and possibly lower would be given very specific goals in very specific locations. Higher command would not expect all elements of the Division to succeed. They would expect that some parts of the attack would run into stronger segments of the defense and get bogged down. But they would also expect some parts of the attack to weak points and start to break through. At some point, higher command elements would decide were in the sector the attack was making the most progress and commit breakthrough forces waiting behind the lead Rifle Division to that sector.

However, the local commanders in the sectors where the attack bogged down would be expected to continue their attacks as long as they were able, regardless of losses. Doctrinally, the logic was that this would tie down these elements of the defense and prevent the enemy from shifting forces to deal with breakthroughs. But I also think this was done because higher command elements in the Red Army had less trust in the initiative and discretion of their lower level commanders, and therefore didn't want to give them the discretion to call off the attack of their own initiative. An attack plan like this also doesn't require things like a lot of responsive artillery that can quickly shift fire from sector to sector, etc.

So, at the CM scale, if you're a Soviet Rifle Battalion commander assigned with attacking into a "strong" German sector, your higher level commanders would often expect you to keep attacking regardless of losses. In the big picture, this might help another Battalion attacking in the weaker sector next door, but for you and your men, things would really suck.

In CM, we probably don't play the Soviet battalion ordered to march to its doom against a strong defense. Neither do we play the battalion that finds a weak point in the defense and marches across the map almost unopposed. Most scenarios involve a conceit somewhere in-between, which isn't unrealistic, it's just not a fully representative depiction of combat on the East Front as a whole.

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