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No Plan Survives First Contact With The Enemy - Planning Tutorial

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Woot! A "shallanj" has been offerred! Will the gauntlet be returned?

As far as casualties go, remember your truck drivers: if they're like mine, they're fairly begging for a chance to get in the fight! ;)

Nice aar. Very well done preliminary analysis. It has led to a good battlefield outcome...thus far.


Ken, one of my truck drivers saw the elephant crossing the open field when the Maxim HMG opened up - trust me they are happy lurking around those buildings!!

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0750 TO 0755 HOURS – TURNS 50-55


SPOILERS FOLLOW*****************



Date Time Group: 250751Jun44.

Location of contact: Grid 157224

Location of observer: Grid 157226.

Target description: 1 x Enemy HMG.

Action by target: Observing and preparing to fire.

Action by own forces: Engaging with MG fire. Intent is to suppress while 1 Zug closes and assaults.


Situation as at 0755 hrs

1 Zug is now moving through Objs MUNCHEN and COCHEM using Line FRIEDA as an axis to clear the wooded outcrop with 3/1 Section in the lead.

2 Zug situation is no change, it remains on the woodline poised to cross the open ground to clear Obj DIETER.

4 Zug situation is also no change and remains in overwatch providing suppressive fire in support of 1 and 2 Zug, with fire support to 1 Zug being the current priority.

Mortars are now firing on Objectives DIETER and FRITZ.




With no more kills identified, the enemy KIA numbers remain 14 x KIA which is 20% of his force. The HMG contact spotted I assess to be the group previously assessed as part of 1 Section which engaged my 2 Zug scouts at 0722 hrs. As a result I have amended the kill chart which means that I have now seen 56% of his force.




So my thoughts on the above …


Not much change from before to be honest – unless I get any extra time in this scenario Objectives DIETER, OTTO and FRITZ will be too much to achieve in the time remaining between my mortar fire missions ending and getting troops on to them.


We’ll see what happens I guess …



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0755 TO 0800 HOURS – TURNS 55-60


SPOILERS FOLLOW*****************


Significant event  0756 hrs. The Maxim HMG spotted at Grid 157224 at 0751 hrs has engaged the lead element of 1 Zug inflicting 2 x WIA. The Maxim HMG on Objective DIETER is bugging out.


Significant event 0757 hrs. Mortar missions are ending and in the light of the Maxim MMG movement on Objective DIETER, I have decided to launch 2 Zug across the open ground to clear that objective.


Significant event 0800 hrs. The Maxim HMG at Grid 157224 is now also bugging out.


So here is the situation map:




Here is the Friendly Force Tracker:




Here is the Enemy Force Tracker:




Significant event …. GERMAN ARMY MAJOR VICTORY


Which is nice …


Scores on the doors were:

German 736 VPs

Red Army 39 VPs


Here are the screenshots:





So my thoughts on the above …


I’m not going to say too much at this stage because the next stage of the thread will involve analysing the thing in its entirety. However, naturally I’m pleased that I saw this through to a victory and, while I didn’t execute my plan as I intended, the plan appeared to be sound.


More detailed analysis will follow in due course but I would be grateful for any thoughts or observations from those that have been following this thread. One thing I can promise is input from the guy who made all of this possible … SeinfeldRules. He has very generously offered to provide his scenario designer’s perspective (in essence the view from the other side of the hill). So there is plenty of life in this yet and I hope you stay onboard for a while longer.





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Combatintman asked me to provide some input on the "other side" of this scenario as part of his final analysis. I'd like to give some of my overall design philosophy for all of my scenarios and some specifics for this scenario, hopefully it's useful for future scenario designers:

I almost always start my scenarios with a vignette I've read from a tactical or personal account. From there comes an idea. The details generally don't matter too much to me; whether it was Regiment A attacking Town X isn't important, what matters is the tactical task a unit had to perform. I like to focus on company and below stuff - everyone already makes scenarios about the famous clashes, I want to make scenarios about the day to day stuff everyone forgets about. In this case, it's the taking of a step off position for a later attack. An action that would have barely warranted half a sentence in a larger narrative, is the perfect size for a Combat Mission scenario. Once I have my idea, I find a location in reality that would suit my situation - once again the details aren't super important. I rarely use overlays anymore, I just put Google Earth on my second monitor and let the in-game map become it's own place.

Once I have my map built, I integrate my situation into it. I almost always start with the enemy side (since I only do Human vs AI). In this scenario, as it is a German attack, I started with the Soviet defense. I look at the map, figure out the required amount of forces to achieve the enemy "mission" that fits the situation, and start building the enemies plan. I never build my maps around the unit or task - this almost always ends up feeling canned and puzzle-like. In real combat, you don't have the power to level hills and move forests (unless you have good engineer support). You take the forces you have and use the hills and forests to your best advantage to build your plan. The small copses of trees in the wheat field isn't there because it would make for a good MG position, it's there because I thought it looked good when I was making the map. Now I (and the player) have to build our plans around it. About the only concession I make in this regard is adding terrain later to block LOS to at least part of the player's setup area. No one likes getting shot on turn 1.

For the Soviet side here, I decided a platoon with attached HMGs would be the best force to serve as the blocking/delaying position that fits the scenario. I built the defense to accomplish the mission I gave it, as if the scenario was designed to be played by the Soviet side. I utilized the terrain as best I could to create 3 mutually supporting positions with interlocking fields of fire. If one position was taken, the other two would be able to lay fire down on the one just overrun. I envisioned that most players would choose to attack the position "head on" in some fashion, either taking the town first then the position on the Soviet right, or the outpost position on the Soviet left, attacking over the open ground. Any Germans attacking would have a hard time indeed, and need to coordinate their fire support well to accomplish it. However, the one course of action I did not take into account for my defense was what Combatintman did right here in this very thread! Only one of the Soviet HMGs was looking into the open wheat field that he advanced so boldly through. Surely no player would push his infantry through such a large open field to be slaughtered! What spelt the Soviet doom was that I did not do a proper line of sight analysis - if I had, I would have realized that the critical HMG defending the entire left flank could not see the whole wheat field, and that so called open field had undulations in the terrain (again, something I built into the map BEFORE I started building the defense) that would have allowed a whole company to advance sight unseen deep into the Soviet rear. As such, I did not plan for the eventuality that the Germans would bypass my carefully developed, mutually supporting positions with barely a shot fired. Truly an example of the enemy "having a vote", and my future scenarios won't be so assuming. Next time I will be more complete in my planning. Blame Combatintman for the lesson learned and any increased difficulty. ;)

A quick note on doctrine, because I saw it brought up - I am not a student of any WW2 military doctrine, so I built my defense based on what made sense to me and what I have seen work, not anything historical. I do use the built in TOEs to help pick my forces though.

To touch on the German side of this scenario, for my missions I try to pick a force that when handled properly, will defeat the enemy even if the player suffers some setbacks. In other words, you don't have to be perfect. I feel that most people play scenarios to win, and if they feel that did everything almost right but still lost, then I have failed to provide satisfying entertainment (some would disagree on this, but it's just how I feel).  Usually the degree of victory and casualties taken is the distinguisher between an ok plan and a great plan for my scenarios. A 2 to 1 advantage with supporting arms will generally provide a respectable challenge against the AI while still being able to be won by most. The ratio here is more 3 to 1, as open fields and long sight lines requires more firepower and bodies to absorb casualties. I try to not to force a plan on the player, instead giving them a properly balanced force to execute a variety of actions. I also believe in simple briefings that provides truthful information the player can use to plan, while not giving away the whole show. Everything I wrote was truthful, but it's up to the player to fill in the gaps. Combatintman took the info given, executed a solid plan here and was able to wipe the Soviets off the board with very minimal casualties.

So the 2 cents that was asked for is more like 20 cents, but I thought it would be beneficial to explain my overall theory on scenario design and not just this one specifically. I like to create simple, straightforward scenarios with a realistic enemy on beautiful maps, and hopefully I've succeed with this one in that regard. Combatintman definitely executed a great plan that exploited the weak point in my plan. Great thread and thanks for picking my scenario to do it with!

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<Snip> the next stage of the thread will involve analysing the thing in its entirety.   <Snip>   More detailed analysis will follow in due course <Snip>


Good job.  I look forward to the analysis.  Lessons learned are always one of the most interesting parts of an After Action.



<Snip>  I like to create simple, straightforward scenarios with a realistic enemy on beautiful maps, and hopefully I've succeed with this one <Snip> 


Very nicely done map and scenario.  I think I will treat your maps and scenarios kind of like Tom Clancy books and get them all.  I can only hope you have an interest in CM Bulge when it comes out and that you will produce scenarios / maps for that game title too.   :)    

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In many ways, despite gaining a victory, the post battle analysis is perhaps the most important part of the process. This is where we identify and learn the lessons and therefore make ourselves better equipped to face future challenges.


My intent is to break this down into the various component parts starting off by picking through the various steps of the planning process.


SPOILER ALERT **************************************************




First of all, I would not have been able to do this justice without SeinfeldRules’ excellent explanation above of his intent for the mission as a whole, his force picks and defensive laydown. He has saved me the possibility of double guessing his intent and getting it wrong.


Overall I was pretty happy with Question 1 and given that it is my day job, I was always confident that I could come up with a workable enemy picture for planning. Clearly it wasn’t 100% right but importantly it was close enough. This is an important point, not only for Question 1 but for planning as a whole. The process is about reducing uncertainty, delivering a plan that can achieve the objective and identify contingencies to deal with any curveballs as they crop up. While 99% of the time people will turn around and say something like ‘the intelligence was all screwed up’, in many instances they say this because they expect it to be 100% right all of the time – this is almost never going to be the case. So the important part about Question 1 is to come up with a workable enemy COA that can be used to drive planning. This I achieved.


In terms of my terrain analysis, I was pretty happy with that but I think I really ought to have marked out the locations of the single strand wire fences. The reason I say this is that, while they don’t constitute obstacles in the formal sense, they do cause damage to tracked and wheeled vehicles. I was able to overcome this during execute by using different lead vehicles to break through fences thus ensuring that I didn’t inflict significant mobility damage. This was at the cost of having to pass vehicles through created gaps one at a time thus imposing delays.


Enemy OOB analysis was made pretty easy due mainly to the well-written enemy paragraph in Seinfeld Rules’ scenario orders. He got the balance right between giving the player sufficient information to plan without giving the whole game away. There were plenty of gaps for me to fill and having to go through the thought process adds to the fun of the scenario.


Again, my analysis of the enemy OOB was not bang on the money, I overestimated the enemy strength; however, this did not adversely affect the plan. The actual number of enemy was 44 in a two-section platoon with task-organised elements versus my initial assessment of 52 in a full-strength platoon with task-organised elements. So although I got it wrong, there was nothing there that caused any unpleasant surprises. The only thing I am truly surprised about (doubly so when SeinfeldRules revealed his gunner background!!!) was the absence of any indirect fire assets. I think it is better to overestimate than underestimate because it means that resourcing in Question 5 will give you significant margin for error in terms of enemy-friendly force ratios.


Enemy COA analysis was pretty close to the money even though I based mine on Red Army doctrinal publications while, as you have heard, SeinfeldRules based his defensive laydown on what seemed sensible. I don’t think it was luck that our divergent approaches essentially came up with the same result. I admit that this was one of the reasons I picked this scenario as a demonstration vehicle for planning. Having played three of SeinfeldRules’ scenarios, I was confident that this one would be well put together, would offer a challenge, and have an enemy laydown and plan which would be based on sound tactics.


Here was my assessed COA 1:




Here is the exact laydown:




Moving on to the back end of Question 1, the only other thing I want to touch on is my event template and matrix. While both were in the ballpark I do regret my conscious decision not to look at movement rates in greater detail – remember that I did run out of time!! I should certainly have examined movement rates through Main Wood at ‘hunt’ speeds and then built in a slight time fudge to give me a better appreciation of how long clearing the wood would take. In this instance, it is not that I got the process wrong or overlooked the factor, I just skimped on the detail.


So that was Question 1



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Recall that in this step, the focus was very much on our own forces and what we needed to do to succeed. As Sun Tzu said ‘If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the results of a 100 battles’.


This was broken down into 5 sub-steps:


Mission Analysis Step 1 – Review the situation.

Mission Analysis Step 2 – Analyse superior commander’s intent and own mission.

Mission Analysis Step 3 – Analyse tasks.

Mission Analysis Step 4 – Determine freedom of action.

Mission Analysis Step 5 – Identify critical facts, judgements and assumptions.


While all steps are important in the real world, their application in CM varies. Steps 1, 3 and 5 can be applied in their entirety to any CM problem while Step 2 generally can only be done in part depending on the amount of information available in the briefing. Most of Step 4 has only limited applicability to CM although if your victory conditions imply or state combat effectiveness (or similar) parameters then there is value in applying the step.


I was pretty happy with the way this went and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of comments I saw from you about finally realising the importance of analysing your own forces in detail and it comes back to the essence of the Sun Tzu quote.


In terms of tasks, I probably went a bit over the top but I did this consciously in order to demonstrate the process and to show what tasks could be teased out the problem and the mission I was given. That said, all of the tasks were relevant to the mission and they were achievable with the force that I had and in the time available. The fact that I didn’t achieve them was a fail in execute on my part, not that they were unrealistic.

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  • 2 years later...
On ‎5‎/‎05‎/‎2018 at 9:01 AM, SchnelleMeyer said:

What a great writeup Combatintman. I could not stop reading once started and you communicate the essence of each question in a great way. What and wow you use the your planning products during the execution phase is also a great learning point for me. Thank you!

No worries - the intent was to inform and to give players a few tools to add to their CM bag of tricks. Just a pity that some of the pics have gone because of Photobucket's grasping greed.

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  • 1 year later...

Fascinating read.....Looks like your plan came together nicely.  ;)


On 9/5/2015 at 2:17 PM, Bil Hardenberger said:

Somehow I doubt you are "a fairly middling player" .. someday we are going to have to see for ourselves.  ;)

Needs to be explored further IMHO.....I'd certainly love to follow such an event (preferably something modern).  B)

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