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Digging in


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Apologies if this has been covered before, but I may have missed it.

Don't we all think that some kind of time related 'dynamic' digging in should be carried out by infantry units that remain stationary for a given time? Circa 5-10 minutes?

I have read countless books over the years of infantry memoirs and the mantra they repeat again and again was the need to dig in, deeper and faster the better. I think the devastating infantry losses we suffer so easily in cmx2 is because they are too exposed to direct and indirect fire on any part of the map.

The accounts mention digging in as soon as they had any kind of pause, even moving up to the next hedgerow they would dig scrapes if told to wait for further orders before continuing the advance. Mortars and arty were deadly in Normandy so the men on the ground quickly dug slit trenches or foxholes as fast as possible. This is especially so when an objective has just been taken, knowing there would probably be an immediate enemy counter attack or barrage/stonk to retake it.

I don't really buy the 'not in timeframe' of a regular CM battle as most fights are at least 40 minutes, with many bigger scenarios lasting up to an hour and half. If you hadn't dug your own foxhole by then I'm pretty sure someone would be digging your grave instead!

Just think it would be far more realistic if this could be implemented in some way.. Pretty sure it would make infantry casualties a little more realistic too.

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Joe, if you play 30 minute encounters then your right there is no point but the majority of my pbem fights are 1hr plus. It just seems wrong that you advance a company to say capture a hill or village then they just sit openly on the local terrain waiting to get hammered by fire. Any infantry unit would immediately dig in on arrival. If it was done dynamically it could give maybe shell scrape cover in 10 mins, foxhole in 20-30, slit trench in 45+, all dependant on quality of troops as well.

I am fighting a large pbem at present with a battalion of infantry & support weapons, arty etc, on a large rural map with village and crossroad objectives. It just seems daft that I manoeuvre and deploy companies or platoons to these hot spots then I can't secure them properly and/or I get creamed by inevitable arty stonks...because the infantry can't carry out a fundamental aspect of infantry combat.

Doesn't hurt to ask if it's possible to implement :)

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Although I feel your pain. Lots of aspects do have to be taken into account.

How long will it take to dig slit trenches... How deep will they be... How much protection will they give.... How many AS do they take up... How do they affect LOS/LOF.... How long will the unit digging take to react to approaching enemy vehicles or infantry.

I'm sure it could be made to work. But, I suspect it might be v.5... 6.... or 7 before we see it, if at all. In the meantime hit that "Hide" command and pray.

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You are vastly underestimating the amount of time and effort it takes to dig even the barest minimum basic slit trench with the kinds of tools a WWII infantryman carried into battle. At least tens of minutes in the softest, easiest-to-dig terrain, and goes up from there as the soils gets harder and rockier.

And yes, I have tried; I used to have a WWII-era entrenching tool that I got from an army surplus store. It's better than digging with your bare hands, but not by much.

You also have to consider that digging at any reasonable rate would involve putting down weapons, standing up (and therefore becoming much more exposed and easily spotted), and a reduction of situational awareness (hard to dig and spot approaching enemy at the same time). There should also be a fatigue penalty for digging any length of time.

Is it totally inapplicable to CM? No; I can imagine situations in larger, longer CM battles where certain units might be stationary in a relatively safe area long enough to dig in to some extent. But it would be a pretty rare event in CM battles, and therefore in my opinion not worth the coding and debug time to add as a game feature for the foreseeable future.

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The thing is a) it would necessitate a new order in the UI (you can't simultaneously dig in and keep watch so it has to be a special mode like Hide) and new inventory objects (nowadays entrenching tools are part of every rifleman's personal kit, but back in WW2 you might as well have a couple of shovels per platoon or none depending on army and what they are doing) and B) it would mostly matter in the fraction of all scenarios that last for more than two hours. The time it takes to dig a simple shell scrape varies from half an hour to two hours depending on soil type. If we average that to one hour it doesn't leave much extra time for actual combat operations in anything but the longest scenarios.

Ability for engineers to carry mines to lay anti-tank mine fields would be of more tactical use. It only takes 10-15 minutes to place, arm and conceal a mine obstacle so it could easily take place in the constraints of your average scenario or quick battle.

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Valid points by warts and Yankee, but doesn't escape the fact that 'dig in on arrival' is exactly what infantryman do in wartime in hostile terrain. Read any infantry account in Normandy and there are constant references to digging in at every leap forward or position held. Certainly British doctrine and pretty sure the same for all other nations, though have read US troops often had to be bawled at to dig in ;)

When faced with the inevitability of an aggressive counter attack by some HJ units, I don't blame the PBI for getting under cover ASAP!

I still think it's a fundamental missing item from the CM series, doesn't stop me enjoying it but does bug me every fight. Do a google search on 'How long does it take to dig a foxhole', you get a variety of answers. The very basic an infantryman would do is dig a shell-scrape about 20cm dp with a mound of earth piled up at the forward edge. That would be done in less than 10minutes.

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Valid points by warts and Yankee, but doesn't escape the fact that 'dig in on arrival' is exactly what infantryman do in wartime in hostile terrain. Read any infantry account in Normandy and there are constant references to digging in at every leap forward or position held. Certainly British doctrine and pretty sure the same for all other nations, though have read US troops often had to be bawled at to dig in ;)

When faced with the inevitability of an aggressive counter attack by some HJ units, I don't blame the PBI for getting under cover ASAP!

Unfortunately 'any infantry account' is not a proper source reference so you will have to name a specific account(s). I absolutely will not take it as granted that infantrymen would start digging every time they stopped somewhere for a minute, instead of being scared/eating their rations.

Digging in is not a trivial task that you can accomplish on the side of fighting a war like you almost make it sound like, it's a physically demanding job that will distract a soldier from the battle. It would take an absolute minimum of half an hour, assuming that the soil is soft as a baby's bum and there aren't any rocks or roots in your way.

This also assumes that you aren't already exhausted and dehydrated by the earlier combat - digging is exhausting enough by itself. Rocky, rooty soil on a hot summer day with only a drop of water left in your canteen and you are not going to perform much entrenching even if you were lucky enough to have a shovel!

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I used to have a WWII-era entrenching tool that I got from an army surplus store.

Well I got it issued in my impressive compulsory service (I am not as old as you might think now :) ). And had to dig in soil and snow.

40 min is in my estimation no timeframe to dig a serious cover even without hitting stones or roots or breaking the shovel. Even if you have the stamina to do so you will be terribly exposed and completly exhausted.

I have no knwoledge what real soldiers can accomplish in that timeframe.

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The very basic an infantryman would do is dig a shell-scrape about 20cm dp with a mound of earth piled up at the forward edge. That would be done in less than 10minutes.

If you can dig a 170cm x 80cm x 20 cm slit in typical NWE soil using just an entrenching tool in ten minutes while (a) staying low to the ground so you don't get shot by a sniper, (B) keeping an eye out for any approaching enemy, and © not completely exhausting yourself, then my hat is off to you.

I have tried similar back in my younger days when I was benching over 200 lbs. and running 20+ miles a week, and I certainly couldn't come close to that mark. Maybe I could have done it with a real shovel, standing full height and without regard to exposure. But not under combat conditions with combat kit tools.

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a shell-scrape about 20cm dp with a mound of earth piled up at the forward edge. That would be done in less than 10minutes.

The clue is in the name here. As someone that dug their share of shells scrapes (but never in combat) I would argue they are next to useless in terms of providing cover. Concealment yes some, but not much more cover than just lying on the ground would otherwise provide.

P

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Perhaps it is time to implement varying degrees of "dug-in-edness", beyond a simple "Hide" command. The longer a unit remains stationary, the deeper the dig, the higher the level of defense.

The problem is that it would not be realistic to simply assume units are digging in whenever they are stationary.

Digging in increases a unit's signature -- digging means moving around and making noise which is going to make it easier for the enemy to spot you.

Digging in also decreases a unit's situational awareness -- a soldier can't keep an eye on yonder bushes very well while digging.

Finally, digging its tiring so units digging for any length of time should become fatigued.

So it's not correct for unit to ALWAYS dig in when they stop -- sometimes (in fact, probably usually in the context of a CM battle), they should stay still, quiet, and alert for the enemy rather than setting down their weapons and pulling out the entrenching tools.

To implement any kind of in-game entrenching function, there would really need to be a "dig in" command under which a unit would gradually gain improved cover and concealment, at the cost of all of the aforementioned factors.

Overall, if such a feature were in the game, I suspect players would actually use it only very infrequently, generally preferring to keep their units quiet, alert, and rested rather digging holes. And since it would probably be fairly difficult to design, code, and implement, I don't see such a feature being added any time soon.

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Sorry didn't mean to pass over your comments earlier Sergei, think you must have replied while I was still typing my own.

Well the book I'm currently reading is 'a Lion rampant' written by a platoon leader with the 15th Scottish. (Excellent book by the way) and he constantly mentions digging in during the Scottish corridor advance.

You guys seem to forget these guys had trained for 3-4 years so were at peak physical fitness and discipline was firm, not to mention self preservation kicking in to speed your digging. If it didn't happen why would they bother mentioning it in accounts?

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Oh, I don't doubt that soldiers of the 125th Scottish and indeed any other unit with a modicum of training and common sense dug in whenever they had half a chance.

I'm just extremely skeptical that said digging in would generally happen within the very limited bounds of a CM scenario, even larger, longer scenarios which can run 2 hrs.+

CM scenarios generally start with attack jump-off, and are designed to end about the time the attacker should seize the objective(s), if he does well. Digging in would generally happen immediately after this.

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Another way to think about it:

In CM, how often to you actually have a unit that is not already in a foxhole or a trench sitting around doing absolutely nothing for at least ten minutes?

On alert, hands on weapons and looking out for enemy doesn't count as "nothing."

Keeping to cover in order to avoid being spotted by the enemy also doesn't count as "nothing."

The unit has to be genuinely idle, not protecting a sector, not on-call for overwatch or fire support, and at a low risk of being spotted and taken under fire.

Additionally, we're only concerned with units in a location where they might eventually come under fire; entrenching in a safe rear area where there is no chance of incoming fire is of no relevance to the game.

If you frequently find yourself with units in this kind of situation, then a in-game dig in function might be relevant to your games. If not, then it's not really important.

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Don't we all think that some kind of time related 'dynamic' digging in should be carried out by infantry units that remain stationary for a given time? Circa 5-10 minutes?

No, definitely not for the reasons given here by others. You may be misinterpreting what you have read. Troops would dig in when they reached an objective they were expected to defend, or where they expected to spend the night. Otherwise it was just not worth the effort. If they were just pausing for 5-10 minutes, they would rest, maybe light up a smoke. If they had been tramping around or engaged in any fighting, they would already likely be too tired to do much else in that amount of time. Even when they had stopped somewhere that they expected to be for a while, the amount of time it takes to prepare an improved position is a lot longer than you are estimating. Under ideal conditions (rested, soft soil, no known enemies in the vicinity) it would take at least 15 minutes to dig a simple one man scrape. I'd guess a two man foxhole that you could stand up in with prepared fields of fire would take two men a couple to three hours (again assuming ideal conditions). A slit trench would be highly variable depending on how long and elaborate it was and how many men would be available for the work, but figure on the best part of a day. Under more typical combat conditions, you can count on doubling or trebling all those times. There is a reason why extensive fieldworks were usually handed off to the engineers if they were available. They were better equipped (picks and real shovels, chain saws, axes, mauls, etc.) and trained for this kind of work.

Michael

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I'm just extremely skeptical that said digging in would generally happen within the very limited bounds of a CM scenario, even larger, longer scenarios which can run 2 hrs.+

CM scenarios generally start with attack jump-off, and are designed to end about the time the attacker should seize the objective(s), if he does well. Digging in would generally happen immediately after this.

Yeap, and I see it the same way as far as CM Scenarios are concerned...You have taken the Objective ( or not ) by Scenarios end, and now tasked to dig end.

Few other things that should be out of scope of a typical CM Scenario.

- Digging-in

- Demolition Charges ( unfortunately, we get this already in clearing Hedges & Walls ).

- Mine Laying & Clearing

- River Crossings

- Airpower & Heavy Arty ( this is debatable )

- few other things I'm sure

CM already has contingencies before a Scenario starts for things like; Head & Ammo count, Supply, and Vehicle status.

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All valid points but now it's been around a while I expect quite a few of us are fighting out bigger longer battles so digging in becomes more valid or realistic. Play a large/huge map and trust me you easily end up with some units un-engaged for over 10 minutes. Ops and campaigns would also make valid use of it. I think it'd be pretty cool if you could order a platoon to advance to & dig in on a hill or at crossroads etc. To hold it.

The officer in Lion rampant mentions digging in as soon as they reach 'bound' points in the offensive, ie a hedge line before crossing another field etc, or digging in as soon as they reach a hamlet or village. Don't forget these guys expected instant retaliation as soon as they gained any ground whether from enemy attack or arty stonks, so of course they dug in at every opportunity.

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All valid points but now it's been around a while I expect quite a few of us are fighting out bigger longer battles so digging in becomes more valid or realistic. Play a large/huge map and trust me you easily end up with some units un-engaged for over 10 minutes. Ops and campaigns would also make valid use of it. I think it'd be pretty cool if you could order a platoon to advance to & dig in on a hill or at crossroads etc. To hold it.

The officer in Lion rampant mentions digging in as soon as they reach 'bound' points in the offensive, ie a hedge line before crossing another field etc, or digging in as soon as they reach a hamlet or village. Don't forget these guys expected instant retaliation as soon as they gained any ground whether from enemy attack or arty stonks, so of course they dug in at every opportunity.

Yes, and the Officer is going to get that retailation in the next Scenario...

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The OP brings up a valid point, but as been mentioned in the past being that Combat Mission is not really war and you don't face the real dangers of real war, players are far more aggressive than they would be in real life and therefore battles suffer a compression effect.

In real life I could see digging in happen and a few hours if not more pass before the next hedgerow taken, but in CM it doesn't work that way.

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Few other things that should be out of scope of a typical CM Scenario.

...

- Demolition Charges ( unfortunately, we get this already in clearing Hedges & Walls ).

....

Can't entirely agree on this one. Some uses of demo charges, such as bridge demolition, are indeed well out of CM's scope. But others are not. For example, the bangalore torpedo was specifically designed to be able to be used quickly and effectively in combat to breach minor obstacles such as wire, or to force into fortifications like bunkers to take them out, and bangalores were certainly used in the ETO.

I do agree, though, that use of demo charges to breach bocage is much to fast and easy in CMBN; breaching an earthen embankment like bocage with a demo charge is actually fairly difficult and takes a fair amount of prep. At the least, it should take much longer.

But use of demos to breach man-made walls, not so much; a simple breach ring breach charge can be set and detonated fairly quickly. This process is probably a bit too fast in CM, but not by much.

Part of the issue is that demo charges in CM is fairly abstract and "one size fits all" when in fact different types of charges are used for different purposes. But the game is "Combat Mission" and not "Demolition Mission", so some abstraction is necessary.

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