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... not like an actual battle. For the most part. The scenarios- in any CM game- are constructed to be challenging, sometimes fiendishly so. That's understandable, players seek a challenge. The designer wants to show off his chops. However no commander ever sought a 'challenging battle'. A challenging battle is a mistake, usually resulting from an error in intelligence, non-forecasted events or general screw ups.

SPOILER

I twice fired up 'A Muddy Affair'. Results: an ignominious defeat and a marginal and bloody victory. Yeah, I know that battle was historically a draw. But then I checked out the correlation of forces at the start. The Allies are out-numbered and the defending Germs are behind walls and inside of structures. The mud tends to attrit the Allies' armor whereas the other side operates on interior lines, their own potent tanks on bog-free roads.

It's soooo unfair. ;)

Would it be interesting to portray, say a campaign, wherein the offensive side duly pushes back the defender and the score determined by how efficiently the attacking side carries out its mission? Or would that be boring?

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6 hours ago, Childress said:

 

... not like an actual battle. For the most part. The scenarios- in any CM game- are constructed to be challenging, sometimes fiendishly so. That's understandable, players seek a challenge. The designer wants to show off his chops. However no commander ever sought a 'challenging battle'. A challenging battle is a mistake, usually resulting from an error in intelligence, non-forecasted events or general screw ups.

Besides, there is another factor. At least among the people who post on this forum, most like to play H2H, and for that to work satisfactorily each side needs to have at least a roughly equal chance of winning. And as you say, in the real world such a battle would most likely result from "an error in intelligence, non-forecasted events or general screw ups." To quote some ancient sage, "Strategy is the art of never having to fight fair."

For my own part, if I want to play against a live player, I prefer to play a more abstract and carefully balanced game such as chess, Go, or something similar. CM, and wargames in general, occupy a different place in my gaming life. I use them to help me visualize and understand battles in the real world. The games I play in CM are intended to be models of typical kinds of actions that allow me to see how certain combinations of conditions, equipment, tactics, and personnel would have worked out. While such a battle might be the product of evenly matched forces, that would be the exception rather than the rule. It is also the case that one side or the other might win even though it began with a serious disadvantage of one kind or another. But, as the saying goes, "That's not how the smart money bets."

Michael

Edited by Michael Emrys
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Lets not forget in the *little-over-a-month* that the Bulge battles took place there were more than a fifth of a million casualties on both sides and roughly sixteen hundred armored vehicles lost. The battles that we read about are the ones that people were able to walk away from and recount to historians, You don't read unit histories of units that died to the last man or whose survivors were rounded up and shipped to a POW camp (Slaughterhouse Five excepted). The CM battle may be skewed & cherry-picked for entertainment value, but so are the historical accounts.  

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9 hours ago, Childress said:

A challenging battle is a mistake, usually resulting from an error in intelligence, non-forecasted events or general screw ups.

Well, Col. Abrams made a last minute decision to attack Singling. He did not have proper intel on the German presence there. It was a gamble. Some may call it folly. The troops paid for his folly by having to fight the Germans with inadequate forces.

So, Singling could be regarded as a mistake :)

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The Singling battle is very nice, PanzerMike. Thanks. Especially the map, which is beautifully done. You got most of the info from' Small Unit Tactics, Ranger Actions', I assume, and according to that Abrams was indeed outnumbered and the enemy was in excellent defensive positions, and he did, as you say, pay the price. 

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It's entirely possible for a CM scenario to be entirely lop-sided in force and tactical advantage, and yet still be "fair" to both players. It just has to have a VP schema which reflects the relative advantages/disadvantages. Getting the balance "right" simply becomes more challenging for the designer, the more lop-sided the affair. Such efforts require more playtesting than a simple scenario with "even" force mixes and similar terrain obstacles and resources fighting over symmetrical objectives, and so aren't really very good candidates for a release that's got a deadline (even a very flexible one). The difficulty of getting the VP balance right is also a reason players shy away from lop-sided scenarios, and that unpopularity decreases the pool of scenario designers willing to "waste" their time on a scenario "nobody will play".

 

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Yes, it is more challenging to design a scenario with unbalanced forces but still "winnable" for both sides because the victory conditions are carefully chosen to make this possible.

In A Muddy Affair I tried to design it in a way, that the historical outcome would be considered a draw and took it from there.

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2 hours ago, PanzerMike said:

Yes, it is more challenging to design a scenario with unbalanced forces but still "winnable" for both sides because the victory conditions are carefully chosen to make this possible.

In A Muddy Affair I tried to design it in a way, that the historical outcome would be considered a draw and took it from there.

 
1

It was a battle that shouldn't have been fought. And you did excellent work in recreating it. Going by some of the responses it seems I need to refine my tongue-in-cheek approach.

I recall posting that virtually ALL the CM battles represent mistakes. By necessity. Unless it's a 'Meeting Engagement', a curious construct, imo, but one that enforces fairness and allows both sides to maneuver.

Edited by Childress
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16 hours ago, Childress said:

 

Would it be interesting to portray, say a campaign, wherein the offensive side duly pushes back the defender and the score determined by how efficiently the attacking side carries out its mission?

Yes!!

10 hours ago, Michael Emrys said:

... among the people who post on this forum, most like to play H2H, and for that to work satisfactorily each side needs to have at least a roughly equal chance of winning.

Not for me ... depending on how you define "winning", see my extract of Womble's quote below:

5 hours ago, womble said:

It's entirely possible for a CM scenario to be entirely lop-sided in force and tactical advantage, and yet still be "fair" to both players. It just has to have a VP schema which reflects the relative advantages/disadvantages.

 

FWIW, I much prefer playing - incl. H2H - uneven battles, where I expect either to take or to retreat from the battlefield ... and have my success or failure judged against how quickly or slowly I "won" or "lost"; how many casualties suffered / inflicted; etc.

I agree with the sentiment of the OP that says "if we're fighting an even battle that either side can win, I've made a mistake in fighting it in the first place". That's not to say such battles didn't happen, but I have no problem at all fighting either side of an uneven battle, as long as "success" is measured appropriately.

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Of course, it's often possible to "measure" success in an entirely subjective fashion: do you think you did well, after you have a look at the end-game screen and battlefield, and consider what you did in the course of the engagement? Unless there's something riding on the VP situation (like a tournament, or a campaign branch), it almost doesn't matter what the VPs are assigned to.

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8 hours ago, PhilM said:

FWIW, I much prefer playing - incl. H2H - uneven battles, where I expect either to take or to retreat from the battlefield ... and have my success or failure judged against how quickly or slowly I "won" or "lost"; how many casualties suffered / inflicted; etc.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. For sure an interesting scenario can be made of a situation where one must conduct a fighting retreat and where one can be said to have "won" if one has one's force substantially intact even though one has had to relinquish control of the battlefield. This is an area that IMO has yet to be fully explored by scenario designers and players.

Michael

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8 hours ago, PhilM said:

I agree with the sentiment of the OP that says "if we're fighting an even battle that either side can win, I've made a mistake in fighting it in the first place".

I think that overstates the matter a little. One may be historically obliged to fight even a losing battle. I don't think that it was a mistake for the Poles to resist the German invasion of September, 1939 (although it might be argued that a more adroit diplomacy could have delayed the confrontation for long enough to allow the Allies to have their act a bit more together, which might have produced a more credible deterrent to war...but admittedly that is a very long shot). The point is that sometimes fighting even a losing battle is preferable to passively accepting an intolerable situation. Omaha Beach was a bloody near-disaster because the particular method of attacking proved to be an unfortunate choice. But at the time, for Bradley and his subordinates there was no obvious alternative, and to simply call off the attack and not to try was not an acceptable choice.

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Emrys said:

There is more than one way to skin a cat. For sure an interesting scenario can be made of a situation where one must conduct a fighting retreat and where one can be said to have "won" if one has one's force substantially intact even though one has had to relinquish control of the battlefield. This is an area that IMO has yet to be fully explored by scenario designers and players.

Michael

I have made asymmetric scenarios before and the problem is that players don't play that way.  Players, as a rule, don't like to retreat and typically don't know how to so if you design a scenario where one side is likely to be forced to retreat the player who is supposed to retreat either fights to the death in place or just hits the surrender button instead and complains that the scenario is broken and unfair.  To be fair, scenarios where one side is obviously more powerful than the other aren't always as fun to play if you are the side that is disadvantaged.  However, the mentality of players is that the way the battle itself plays out typically carries more weight in their opinion than how the VPs score out at the end.  In other words, a player who plays and loses a game on unbalanced VPs but the battle itself played out in a way the player thought was 'fair' or 'enjoyable' will more likely count that battle as 'balanced' or 'good to play' rather than a scenario with unbalanced forces that is perfectly balanced in terms of VP awards. 

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1 hour ago, ASL Veteran said:

Players, as a rule, don't like to retreat and typically don't know how to so if you design a scenario where one side is likely to be forced to retreat the player who is supposed to retreat either fights to the death in place or just hits the surrender button instead and complains that the scenario is broken and unfair.

Oh, I believe you. Player psychology is what it is and is unlikely to change very much very soon. But I can't help but wonder if there isn't some room to educate them into an appreciation of a well-crafted retreat scenario now and then. I don't know the answer to that, but it's a thought I figured I'd pass on.

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Emrys said:

Oh, I believe you. Player psychology is what it is and is unlikely to change very much very soon. But I can't help but wonder if there isn't some room to educate them into an appreciation of a well-crafted retreat scenario now and then. I don't know the answer to that, but it's a thought I figured I'd pass on.

Michael

The problem is that you can explicitly state in the briefing that 'you will likely be forced to retreat' which sort of ruins the scenario in my opinion since you are stating what the player needs to do so the scenario plays out less 'organically' if that makes any sense.  However, even when you do that there are a large number of players who either don't bother reading the briefing or if they do they ignore your advice and fight in place to the death anyway.  In one scenario the briefing does explicitly state that the player will probably need to retreat and it also hints that the sounds of heavy armor can be heard, but even with all that the player complained on the forum that the scenario was unfair.  When I pointed out that the forces were asymmetric he simply said 'well I didn't know it was an asymmetric scenario' so I guess he wanted me to put all in bold caps across the top 'the scenario has asymmetric forces and you will need to trade space for time in order to win'.  It would be better to let the battle play out and hopefully the player will figure out on his own that he needs to retreat, but then you have the whole player 'no retreat' mentality issue so that doesn't usually work either.  The thing is that the player has to trust that the designer has gotten the scoring right even if the player does recognize that the scenario is asymmetric since playing against a superior force is less pleasant than other situations.  The player will typically not have the patience to fight to the end and see the final score rather than just quitting because they don't like the situation and they probably don't trust the designer enough on the scoring to take the game to the end.  The player may not even recognize that he is outgunned until it is too late to do anything about it too though so there is that issue as well.

So anyway, yeah those types of scenarios can be made and have been made but players generally don't like them very much.  With historical scenarios the first option for balancing will typically be with VPs rather than with forces if the force composition is well known.  You can do a lot of tweaking of soldier soft factors and if the force details are a bit sketchy you can add or subtract a few things but generally speaking your options for balancing historical scenarios can be limited.  If an attack against an enemy force is difficult then the designer mostly needs to adjust the VPs to compensate for that and I do that a lot.  It's just that players don't think of balance in terms of VPs even though VPs are the exact thing that determine victory or defeat in a scenario.  Players think of balance in terms of force balance in spite of the fact that OBs can be a complete non factor in determining scenario balance.  Just think of all those threads of people who want to design scenarios using QB points for the forces so they can have a better chance to create a 'balanced' scenario.  As should be apparent from the fact that VPs determine victory or defeat a player or designer who starts with a force first mentality for balance is not using the right starting point since the starting point should be VPs and not OB.  It is the QB mentality.  Be that as it may, the force first mentality is probably the most common way players approach the game and so scenarios that deviate from that will probably generate more complaints. 

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14 hours ago, Childress said:

By necessity. Unless it's a 'Meeting Engagement', a curious construct, imo, but one that enforces fairness and allows both sides to maneuver.

A fire brigade rushing to plug a gap somewhere, only to run into an unexpected vanguard of the foe?  I always imagine meeting engagements as the result of "Oh crap, they aren't supposed to be here!"

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1 hour ago, herr_oberst said:

A fire brigade rushing to plug a gap somewhere, only to run into an unexpected vanguard of the foe?  I always imagine meeting engagements as the result of "Oh crap, they aren't supposed to be here!"

That's certainly one scenario. Another is two forces doing armed recon and finding each other, but that kind of thing was more likely to occur in the desert where you had wide open spaces and low force densities.

Michael

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Interesting topic. It probably goes without saying that any commander that launches an attack without having a decisive local advantage has theoretically failed badly in their job. Of course it is a situation that is impossible to impose on the enemy in most battles.

Most of the battles in World War Two were slug-fests where ultimately logistics won or lost the day. Battles and campaigns were meat grinders where armies fought and died in highly attritional ground combat until one side collapsed due to failing supply, manpower and logistical support.

Combat mission represents tactical actions within these battles very well. There is a large time compression involved in WW2 CM battles in many cases - in my opinion - that can make the game seem slightly less realistic for a history grog that reads a lot of combat reports or eyewitness accounts. Maybe it is this time compression rather than the scenarios portrayed that can make the 'nature of CM battles' seem a bit weird.

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For me it is a question of agency. I've played some fun defensive withdrawal type battles when I've felt like it. But coming across one foisted on me in a CM campaign is most likely to be the point at which I stop playing the campaign. Maybe it's a question of being in the mood for it or not, and that might be part of it, but I think mostly I don't care for having that decision made for me, and that I'm playing out my part in the scenario's script, rather than making my own decisions.

CM is really too small a scale for those kinds of battles to work for me. You aren't ever likely to be withdrawing against a superior force because of choices you've made (unless you are playing regiment sized battles on huge maps). You are doing it because someone has arbitrarily told you that that is what you are doing.

If the battle was a consquence of a higher level operational layer it would be a different mattter. I'd have been the one who chose to put a screening force in that sector to concentrate my forces elsewhere. The decision to get into the situation was mine. I know the meta-situation and can weight the pros and cons of how hard to try and hold the ground, how much to emphasise force preservation, how to balance space, time and materiel. I have aims that make sense to me and objectives that I've chosen.

Fighting someone else's asymmetric battle doesn't give that. If I get driven back and lose most of my men, and get awarded a win because (in essence) I've done better than expected, I don't feel like I've won. I feel like I've lost, because at the end of the battle the enemy owns the battlefield, and the score is more or less a meaningless postscript (with an exception for tournament play where the score matters). In a meta campaign, I feel like I've won because I've gained tangible benefits for my operational situation: I've held the position long enough to establish a new blocking position further back with fresh forces, or disrupted the enemy sufficiently that my counterattacking forces can wreck their day.

Which is a long and rambling way of saying that scenarios (that other people have created) that stray too far from the "battle between roughly equal forces" just aren't my cup of tea, personally. Your mileage may vary. Ones I've made myself are fine - I'm playing out my own script, not somebody elses :)

 

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10 hours ago, herr_oberst said:

I always imagine meeting engagements as the result of "Oh crap, they aren't supposed to be here!"

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I always imagined Meeting Engagements, CM-style, as unicorns. I.E., something that doesn't exist in real life.

Think about it.

1- Did roughly forces equal collide during WW2 in a free for all? Sure. Particularly in the Desert, as Emrys pointed out.

2- Did these forces share exactly the same combat values? Unlikely.

3- Did the two sides KNOW, going in, that their force values were precisely identical? Never happened.

Thus, armed with pre-knowledge, these hybrid matches play out in a curiously tentative manner. However, having participated in many dozens of PBEM MEs in CM1 against various members (who would accept nothing else) I can attest these are the best and most competitive players in the game. One assumes this hasn't changed in CM2.

Edited by Childress
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2 hours ago, TheVulture said:

For me it is a question of agency. I've played some fun defensive withdrawal type battles when I've felt like it. But coming across one foisted on me in a CM campaign is most likely to be the point at which I stop playing the campaign.

<snip>

Which is a long and rambling way of saying that scenarios (that other people have created) that stray too far from the "battle between roughly equal forces" just aren't my cup of tea, personally. Your mileage may vary. Ones I've made myself are fine - I'm playing out my own script, not somebody elses :)

Well that aligns with what  @ASL Veteran said pretty much spot on. :D

I do tend to agree with @ASL Veteran that the player should have to figure out that withdrawal is a viable and perhaps necessary action.  Having said that, given how few of us are any good at fighting a withdrawal action, perhaps a few scenarios that are explicitly about that would be helpful.  Yes, it would take away some of the mystery but it would let people like @TheVulture choose to play that way and give everyone else some experience at that kind of fight so that next time they face that kind of scenario when they are surprised they have a fighting chance to actually do OK at it.

There ya go scenario designers: sounds like a challenge - looks at self "ahhh, maybe" :D

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I think many scenario designers go a bit too far to provide a "challenge", taking away any advantage the player could possibly have. Sometimes, it turns into something a bit too ridiculous, where you really feel the deck is stacked against you, when any LOF that you could possibly use just happens to be magically blocked by bizarre wall constructions or turd forests, towns that look more like fortified castles, mud in the strangest of places, etc.

Just the basic tactics of finding, fixing, and flanking the enemy is enough challenge and fun for me, without being artificially constrained.

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1 hour ago, IanL said:

Well that aligns with what  @ASL Veteran said pretty much spot on. :D

I do tend to agree with @ASL Veteran that the player should have to figure out that withdrawal is a viable and perhaps necessary action.  Having said that, given how few of us are any good at fighting a withdrawal action, perhaps a few scenarios that are explicitly about that would be helpful. 

I would actually say that the entire scenario doesn't need to be about a fighting withdrawal in order to make the point.  I think that if a defender has an occupy objective on a map that is tenuous to hold - even if a counterattack force may enter later in the scenario - that most players would rather fight to the death trying to hang onto that occupy objective with every last ounce of their fighting energy rather than withdrawing from that objective and trying to retake it when the counterattack force arrives.  I just think that most players have an aversion to surrendering ground or objectives simply on the basis that losing even one objective location is the equivalent of losing 'something' and of course players don't want to lose anything at all if they can help it.  They are just pixelsoldiers after all so it isn't like anyone is really losing a life so in the mind of the player there is absolutely no reason not to defend an objective until every last soldier has been blasted into pieces rather than withdrawing from an objective and admitting that you can't hold it. 

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Quote

There is a common belief that the allies needed a 5-to-1 advantage to fight the Panzers. If this had been true the allies would have been thrown back into the sea, as there was no time during the campaign when they had so great of an overall advantage, and the restrictions of the terrain made it very difficult for them to use their superior mobility to concentrate forces at that level on individual battlefields. But fortunately this old saw is nothing but a myth. The British Army Operations Research surveyed the tank battles of Normandy and came to some interesting conclusions on this issue. Their Memorandum C6 (W/O 291/1218) examined all of the tank engagements from D-Day to 12 August, 1944, and observed that, in a tank vs. tank engagement, the allies always achieved victory when they held a 2.2-to-1 numerical advantage or better.

But that did not mean less than a 2.2-to-1 ratio resulted in a loss. The Germans, despite being on the defensive and having heavier tanks, needed a 1.5-to-1 numerical advantage to ensure their own success. In between those ranges it was a mixed bag dependant on many tactical considerations

http://worldoftanks.com/en/news/21/us-guns-german-armor-part-2/

 

Edited by Sgt Joch
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