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Theatre of Operations AAR: The battle of St. Andre de l’Epine

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A while back there was a post on the BFC Battle for Normandy forum announcing a new project by @choppinlt “Operational Level Game Announcement”: http://community.battlefront.com/topic/109632-operational-level-game-announcement/.  He and his team have been working away on the project ever since.  The have a system designed and they are testing mockups now. You can read about it in full here http://dogsofwarvu.com/forum/index.php/board,36.0.html but this AAR is for but one small battle in one mocked up campaign. To read about the overall campaign from the US perspective you can check out this thread: http://dogsofwarvu.com/forum/index.php/topic,3111.0.html. The battle in question takes place on turn 7.  In a previous turn someone used ASL to determine the outcome of a campaign battle.  This time it is CM’s turn. Read about it here http://dogsofwarvu.com/forum/index.php/topic,3111.msg14998.html#msg14998. @Mad Mike  and I are fighting this battle out: Notice the second battalion of the 116th (2/116) on the right edge of the map.



The battle of St. Andre de l’Epine

You can read about the setup for the order of battle and such here (I just tried to not read the German info too closely). http://dogsofwarvu.com/forum/index.php/topic,3613.0.html

Here is a summary of how we prepared for the battle:

  1. @Mad Mike chose the map Hill 192 (http://www.combatmission.lesliesoftware.com/BattleForNormandy/Maps/HILL%20192%20expanded.html)
  2. @choppinltdetermined the forces for both sides and sent us screen shots of the force selection in CM
  3. @Mad Mike setup his forces and after a little back and forth with @choppinlt handed the map off to me
  4. I chose my forces, again with @choppinlt ’s help.  I missed a few things and asked a bunch of questions.
  5. I then setup the deployment of the forces – this is using the scenario editor we have not started the game yet.  This is an important step since I have a battalion of infantry and two companies of tanks plus some supporting engineers and a 200m strip of land for setup zone.
  6. After looking at the map what I decided to do was:
    i.            Two companies would push forward along two avenues but not so far apart that they could not combine to exploit success on one avenue and failure on the other
    ii.            I determined that the setup area is too small for everything to arrive at once. If the enemy has artillery that could be used (not during setup but later) I just don’t want my forces to be that concentrated.  Heck 200m depth is too little for that many forces at any rate.
    iii.            I divided up my forces so that F Co is on the left and E Co is on the right and each has tanks in support.  G Co is in reserve and the weapons company, H Co, had its resources divided between the three other companies.
    iv.            Then I set things up so that battalion recon and one platoon of each company plus the company HQ started on the map.
    v.            The rest of the companies plus a platoon of tanks arrived after 5 minutes
    vi.            Additional tanks arrived after 10 minutes
    vii.            The rest of the tanks arrived after 15 minutes along with the engineers
    viii.            The rest of the infantry arrive after 20 minutes
    ix.            The rest of the forces – including an AT gun platoon that I am not sure what I am going to do with arrive later
  7. @Mad Mike and I sent the file back and forth a couple of more times to tweak things as per the discussion.
  8. We loaded the scenario and started playing.



837 men (6% casualties is 50 men)

2nd Infantry Battalion 116th Regiment Lt Col Madison


Pioneer Platoon Lt. McKee



AT Platoon



E Co Cpt. Rost

1st Platoon Lt. Moustakis

2nd Platoon Lt. Dubbins

3rd Platoon Lt. Cudlipp

4th Platoon Lt. Ogden



F Co Cpt. Bova

1st Platoon Lt. Turner

2nd Platoon Lt. Salberg

3rd Platoon Lt. Hillard

4th Platoon Lt. Keller



G Co Cpt. Salder

1st Platoon Lt. Grow

2nd Platoon Lt. Weire

3rd Platoon Lt. Krumin

4th Platoon Lt. Youmans



H Co Cpt. Palmer

1st Platoon Lt. Reece

2nd Platoon Lt. Castro

3rd Platoon Lt. Cooper





747th Tank Battalion

A Co Cpt. Donavan

1st Platoon Lt. Tubb

2nd Platoon Lt. Denney



B Co Cpt. Fry

1st Platoon Lt. Wynn

2nd Platoon Lt. White



121st Engineers B Co. Cpt. Edward Humpheries

1st Platoon Lt. Dunlap

2nd Platoon Lt. Sanchez

3rd Platoon Lt. Blair



The Mission

The US infantry, and their tank support, need to advance up to 1000m with 6% casualties or less.  If my forces manage to advance 300m into the defensive area it will be considered a success and if they can make it 400m they it will be exceeding expectations.

In order to track my progress I added touch lines Able (200m past the line of contact), Baker (400m past the line of contact), Charlie 600m, Dog 800m and Easy 1000m. The edge of the setup zone is 200m a head of the line of contact.

Edited by IanL
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Initial plan

The initial plan looks like this:



Looking at the map the obvious route is to take the road on the right through the farm and villages.  As you might expect obvious routes tend to be protected. Given the fact that my tanks from the 745th are equipped with Rhino attachments and I have four platoons of engineers cutting through the bocage is also an option. Looking at the map there is a path that roughly parallels the road that has some long fields and some fields with gates that reduce the number of bocage breaches needed.

The plan is to push a company plus tanks along each avenue and see where the resistance is and adjust as needed – including abandoning one or the other.

Edited by IanL
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This looks very interesting! Excited to see how this plays out, and how it compares to the CMPzC system I currently use to simulate the operational layer. 

I was wondering, was the map made by hand, or is it a QB/modified QB map? Does it accurately reflect the actual terrain of the place in France or is it more generic?

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I made that map several years ago by hand, based off aerial photos and some other sources.  it depicts the ground literally 500m or so east of the engagement area being represented in the battle, in fact if you look in the original map in the top post, this map depicts the area around and south/southeast of the hamlet of Cloville, which area was in the AOR of the 38th IR of the 2nd ID.

Coincidentally, I am also the guy who did the Theater of Operations ASL playtest that IanL talked about!

Incidentally, I can't see your map image, IanL. - nevermind, there it is...

Edited by Christian Knudsen
forgot to mention sth.
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The map looks great, excellent work!

I've found that having a suitable map to play out these battles is the hardest part of the operational to CM system. You either have to take an existing QB/community made map and roll with it/adapt it, or you have to create a whole new map from scratch. The latter option is very time consuming, especially considering in a larger operation there could be many dozens of battles to fight. The first option can work for a bit, but I've started to run out of QB maps for my Sicily campaign, and a lot of the QB maps do not accurately represent the specific terrain I'm fighting over currently. 

My dream is to have some kind of program that can quickly build a map for you based on certain factors the user defines. What would be even better is to have some kind of plug-in for google earth that would allow you to designate a patch of ground, and the program would translate the google earth data into a CM map. I don't know of any way to achieve this, and kinda doubt it is even achievable at all, but hey I can dream.

Back on topic, can't wait to see the first turns start rolling in! Looks like a promising engagement. 

29 Let's Go!

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5 hours ago, IICptMillerII said:

My dream is to have some kind of program that can quickly build a map for you based on certain factors the user defines. What would be even better is to have some kind of plug-in for google earth that would allow you to designate a patch of ground, and the program would translate the google earth data into a CM map. I don't know of any way to achieve this, and kinda doubt it is even achievable at all, but hey I can dream.

Back on topic, can't wait to see the first turns start rolling in! Looks like a promising engagement. 

29 Let's Go!

This might sound crazy, but Google Earth has a 3D feature that represents bocage, trees and buildings so it might be doable by the right people.

This looks interesting. I will keep an eye in the AAR and see if I can learn a thing or two.

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Hi all, this has been a lot of fun and interesting to accomplish transitioning from operational to setting up a battle. I would first like to thank @Christian Knudsen for being the first volunteer to set up a battle. He threw me a curve ball when he wanted to do it using ASL! But hey, it was a great learning experience for us both and he went on to do A LOT of work regarding setting up battle using ASL. This will have great benefits later.

Next I would like to thank @IanL and @Mad Mike for volunteering to set a battle up using CM. This was the first real attempt to convert an ongoing, dynamic campaign engagement in Theater of Operations to a CM battle. There were some areas of improvement identified, which is to be expected, but overall I thought it went well.

Regarding CMPzC, it will be interesting to hear your comparisons and thoughts. I have a very basic understanding of how CMPzC works. Keep in mind that I had transitioning to CM part of my design with Theater of Operations (TO). I freely admit that battle transitioning is a bit cumbersome at the moment, because we are doing most things manually. Some people won't mind this, but many will (which is no different than CMPzC). When TO is ready it will include an option for each engagement for players to receive all transitioning information in a CM format to make transitioning to CM battles a simple process. There will still be manual scenario editing...until BFC works with us on an automated system (check out the "Operational Level Game Announcement" thread for more information on this aspect). And finally, my design assumption is that many/most engagements will not be played out manually. The amount of time and effort to do this would be immense...however nothing is stopping players from doing it. With this in mind, TO has a very robust battle resolution system to resolve battles quickly and easily. In this way players can resolve less interesting battles (or time won't allow manual resolution) and still go on with the campaign. In fact TO is a complete standalone game, and you don't have to resolve any battles manually if you don't want to.

Regarding the CM map discussion, that would be AWESOME to have auto generated maps...just like in CMx1, but I seem to recall discussion from BFC stating it was far too much effort to accomplish vs the cost involved. Hopefully something will change, but short of that then we will have to use generic maps OR map makers will have to help. We can make great use of large maps. Map makers can create the large maps and players can 'cut out' and use only the parcels of land that they need to fight their engagement.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Artillery Plan

Along with the planned avenue of approach there is an initial barrage and a delayed barrage planned by Lt. Ratynski who also came forward with the initial forces in case the plan needs to be stopped or changed.


The plan calls for an initial barrage along bocage lines in front of both avenues of approach at the closes location where the enemy might be expected. This initial barrage will be delayed five minutes. In addition another barrage similar located along a bocage line but this time further in and delayed 15 minutes. Lt. Ratynski can cancel them if the troops progress faster than expected.

Edited by IanL
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Move to Contact: minutes 4:00 to 3:43

E Company

E Company is moving along the road. They are being led by the recon platoon from the 745th. They will start in their jeeps and HT and hunt for most of the way. Meanwhile the lead platoon will take up positions in the bocage around the road.

The view from the road.



As the recon troops make progress and all is quiet. The lead platoon follows behind them.





After a while the jeep borne troops dismount and leap frog in front of the half track.







Eventually reinforcements arrive with the first tanks. Still no contact has been made so the new troops advance freely.



The first barrage comes down.





The rest of the company arrives and instead of following the road and causing congestion they will cut some bocage and move towards the farm parallel to the road.



Then the first sign of the enemy, a road block. In the middle of the picture as far down the road as we can see is a hedgehog obstacle. Time to be even more careful.



As the recon troops inch closer with the .50cal of the halftrack watching from behind the road block becomes clearer.







It gets real. With two recon teams ahead two other teams have gone back for their jeeps and brought them forward. Suddenly they both hit mines and all eight team members are casualties. This part of the road has been crossed by the half-track safely so it is a surprise.



At the same time the lead team takes two casualties to MG fire from across the next field.


Edited by IanL
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One minor quibble on this one - No Sherman Rhinos were present in any numbers in this action.  The Culin hedgerow cutter had not been adopted by this date (11 Jul), although some trials had been conducted.  It wasn't until after a demonstration for Gen. Bradley on 14 July 44 that the device started to be manufactured in any relevant numbers. 

The 29th ID and supporting 747 Tank Bn had experimented with devices similar to the Culin, but these were not effective and were prone to breakage.  Instead, these "prong" devices were used to make holes in the hedgerow so that engineers could place charges further into the bocage embankment.

So my advice is that Sherman Rhino should not be available until about the 3rd week of July.  Until then, demo charges should be the sole method used to cause bocage breaches.

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Oh interesting. I was not aware and have breached the bocage in a few places with the Rhinos. I'll switch to using the engineers - so far they have breached as much as the Rhino. But that is getting a bit a head of myself - I really need to cathch this up...

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F Company

F Company is moving through the fields to the West. There are no added recon forces here so the lead platoon (1st Platoon under Lt. Turner) will be doing recon in force. Most of the platoon will take up positions behind the first bocage row and then one squad will cautiously move into the orchard beyond.



Moving off into the Orchard



The orchard is very quiet and visibility is not the greatest so the full platoon will begin to move through it.





Clearing the orchard is uneventful. Once they cross it to the next bocage line the rest of F Company arrives along with the first of their tank support.



This corresponds with the arrival of the artillery.


With the arrival of more troops 2nd platoon joins the lead by going left around the small field while 1st platoon heads right, down a farm track on the other side of the small field.


Heading down the farm track.



Second Platoon arrives at the road


Since the small field had been flanked on both sides the Rhino tank breaches the bocage and two tanks plus the 3rd Platoon enter the field.


The next field has a strong rise in the middle of it so the advance cannot be covered from the near bocage line. 2nd Platoon is going to have to enter the field to get eyes on the other side.


So far, so good.



With 2nd platoon taking up positions in the next field and 1st Platoon doing the same in the field to the right the lead squad of 2nd platoon will begin to slowly cross the field. They have tank and MG support backing them up.



And now this battle is real for F Company too, the lead squad takes a casualty from unidentified MG fire from across the field.



Another squad and the attached mortars being firing at the suspected enemy location immediately.





But some have to reposition to apply effective fire.


And it ends pretty poorly with four more soldiers hit.



Even with some pretty nice fire on the enemy position.



Edited by IanL
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Just now, IanL said:


This was a non trivial mistake. One that I frequently make. That field should have been crossed by a scout team only. Even with the large amount of supporting fire the whole squad was placed at risk. They take five casulties in less then two minutes. Even being in command with their Lt. they panic and break. The supporting fire is not enough to save them. So, instead of loosing two men I loose five. The squad never recovers and is my first broken unit.

Loosing the two jeeps to the mined road was really painful but I don't feel it was a mistake, after all a half track and the bulk of a platoon plus recon teams had all walked across those mines so there was no warning.

But the losses to F company I feel bad about.

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Minute 3:44: Orders

Clearly going straight down the road at this point is not going to work for the tanks so the recon teams pull back – avoiding the mines – and proceed to cut a passage in the bocage around the road block. You can see the ? contact on the right where the MG fire came from.



Over on the left F Company and their tanks consolidate the fields they control and get more firepower directed at the bocage line that contains the enemy.




Minute 3:44-3:43:

Along the road the engineers are setting up to breach.



On the left infantry move up to the edge of the cleared fields.



At the same time they enter the continuation of the farm track on their right flank.


Edited by IanL
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