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CM WWII: Are tanks "overpowered"?


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18 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

Just because you're mentioning "shells": For the main gun, it would make sense if tanks get good results very quickly (gunsight)?

You could say the same thing about heavy machineguns deployed on a tripod and equipped with a telescopic sight :)

We can discuss a long time about real life military tech, but my point was just that tanks and infantry seem to follow different targeting rules.

Is that a problem? I'm really not qualified to say. I just wanted to mention it in this thread, as it's about the relative strength of tanks VS infantry in this game...

 

Edited by Bulletpoint
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So I take it you're one of the people in the "foxholes should make infantry immune to cannon fire" camp. Feel free to start a thread and hash out the issue, but cherry-picking my statements won't

They're underpowered if you ask me. The tank was the war's most decisive ground weapon, and there's a reason Russian Tank Armies crashing through the Fulda Gap were among the greatest fears of Western

"Are tanks overpowered?".... Yes, if they are enemy and blowing yours up. No, if they are friendly and can't hit a barn door 2 miles away.

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Broadly I agree with Kaunitz but would take a slightly different tack. Tanks themselves are not overpowered, but Combat Mission does a poor job at simulating their weaknesses for a variety of reasons.

CM does a honestly very poor job with fortifications.

  • Infantry lack a good ability to safely move from point-to-point in a trenchline
  • Firing steps or even basic keyholing isn't done
  • Buildings cannot be fortified or made part of an overall plan
  • No overhead cover
  • etc....

This just means that defensive positions are much weaker to fire and destruction that they generally were. It becomes an increasingly large problem as your opponent gains more firepower (e.g. tanks),

 

 

The other primary reason is player related, players have too much control. Largely nullifying the negatives of armored vehicles.

  • Armor always has infantry support

I can't really recall the last time I had my armor advance without an infantry screen or recon element. Yet when you read histories you find tons of situations where armor advances without infantry. Its almost a trope. Armor advances with infantry, infantry is pinned down, armor continues to advance into enemy lines, realize the infantry isn't with them, turn around and drive back.

Essentially though communication and combat friction armor should be alone far more often than a player will let it be. Which leads into the next point

  • Player can borg spot for their armor

The player always has a full intel picture and can inform everyone's moves based off of that. Wherein reality your tanks might not know where the forward defenses are because they aren't being shot at by them. They might drive straight through a strong position that is solely engaging infantry, for example.
 

 

 

An example from a large scale 100 player shooter I play called Hell Let Loose. I was the gunner of a Sherman and we advanced forward towards the objective and found a large amount of German infantry to our front. We stopped and began to engage them (range of maybe 125 meters) and after sometime engaged and destroyed a Panther. This whole time we were wondering why our infantry wasn't also advancing up to us?

Finally we noticed that next to our tank (maybe 20 meters away in some fortifications) was a number of heavily armed German infantry. They had no weaponry to destroy our tank, and being focused on the enemy to our front we did not notice them. They were able to keep our infantry pinned far behind us for several minutes until we finally pivoted and engaged them.

 

Essentially a key weakness of armor is its ability to incorrectly interpret what is happening and where it is at.  In CM the player largely nullifies that weakness.

As an aside this is one of the reasons I believe its beneficial for players to also try out relatively "arcade" first person shooter titles. All games do a lot to remove friction, but there is still more of it in a multiplayer game than a single-player game like CM. In my above example, from Hell Let Loose, we actually had an infantry leader on the "radio" telling us that they couldn't come up because there were Germans to their front. We misinterpreted that to mean that the Germans to OUR front were somehow still engaging the infantry.

Edited by Pelican Pal
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I've recently finished the Kampgruppe Peiper campaign, and had a few take-aways on Panther and P. 4 performance:

- Bazookas are aging quickly. They were cutting edge in '43, but there are tactics and designs to mitigate their effectiveness.

- A WW2 tank's greatest weakness: situational awareness. You can drive a troop of Panthers up to a building with a couple of GI squads in it. The GIs can have a BBQ in relative safety. As a TC pops the hatch, the roundel on the cap becomes a bull's eye. Just so happens -- the doughboys are natural marksmen.

- They require infantry eyes to be of any use, especially in an urban environment. A wise defender uses MGs, and snipers to slow infantry advances and mortars/guns to eliminate them.

- An attacker may decide to rush their tanks in without infantry support. They can expect heavy losses due to flanking and are still unable to clear buildings.

- A WW2 tank's second-greatest weakness: the tracks. A freshly forged Panther can get immobilized due to mud on a flat field. Now, it can't accomplish any tasks -- may as well be destroyed.

- HE ammunition is worth its weight in gold. 75mm HE is no laughing matter, but rarely fatal to GIs in cover. Area fire is a trick you can do, only if you have spare HE. Out of HE? Your tank becomes a glorified pillbox. You can suppress, but you can't break defences.

- HE can also be effective at disabling a tank's vision systems, tracks or weapon. A nimble defender can make due with big booms, or door knockers, in place of serious AT weaponry.

The P. 4 can spot as well, if not better, than the Panther. P. 4 off-road performance is as good, if not better, than the Panther. The HE quality & quantity is the roughly same. The only advantages the Panther is better frontal armour and more muzzle velocity. The P. 4's long barreled 75mm didn't have much difficulties destroying Shermans and SPGs at normal ranges. 

Tanks in CM do enjoy smaller map sizes. Super effective AT-weapons like 88s or 76s cannot shoot your tanks full of holes from a hill, 2km off-map. CM's scale does not lend its scope well to deep, inter-connected, Kursk style defences.

Tanks in CM also enjoy a simplified transmission model. Each tank has perfect neutral steering and can't get broken down, or stuck in a ditch (due to gravity, rather than ground condition).

I'm not going to cry IMBA on tanks in CM. They are still limited by vision, mobility and ammunition. But I will say that within CM's scope -- the tank really shines.

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21 hours ago, SimpleSimon said:

Private Timmy and his Mk1 Eyeball and outdoor voice.

LOL - outdoor voice - love the image.

 

19 hours ago, Hapless said:
On 11/5/2019 at 5:58 AM, Kaunitz said:

almost total lack of anti-tank close combat

How has enemy armour advanced to infantry close assault range? Is the infantry too far forward? Are the anti-tank assets not set up effective? There are plenty of infantry tools (bazooka, PIAT, faust, shreck) capable of dealing with enemy armour- are these weapons effectively distributed or protected until they are needed?

I see you did some testing and have reached the conclusion that tanks do have to be careful when getting too close. I just don't run tanks ahead of infantry (and pretty much every time I disregard that rule I'm reminded why I shouldn't do that). I'm OK with them being close at times but only if there are lots of rifles and SMGs around them to keep the enemy infantry at bay.

 

17 hours ago, nik mond said:

But they still have to keep their distance from infantry to stay alive. Its difficult to maneuver suicidal infantry attacks on a tank but there are ways with a little distraction and luck.

Distraction is a real winner. There is nothing better than getting a tank to turn its turret to the right while the real attack is coming form the left. Love those tense moments as the turret swings back. You can hear the TC in your mind saying - "**** they are on the left, on the left".

 

11 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

Hold my beer, I need to run a few tests...

Yum - thanks. Oh sorry you wanted that back - my bad. :)

 

11 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

But generally speaking, I think that players can coordinate tanks and infantry too easily in CM. It's not just related to area-firing at targets the tank crew is unaware of. It's also about reacting to friendly and enemy movements. E.g. let's assume a tank's "support infantry" suddenly stops because it gets pinned down by small arms fire, does the tank automatically stop?

This, so this. It is one thing that holds back realism. It is a really big one. @Bil Hardenberger came up with some simple rules to help with some of this. I do like playing with them but I am not sure if it would totally solve the problem. Check it out here

 

10 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

but keep focus on his main questions:

  • Should area fire be restricted to contacts the tank actually has C2 information about? The game has a great C2 sharing system. But it can be disregarded completely for area fire.

That might help - see Hard Cat rules above. Not sure how possible it would be to implement them in the game itself.

10 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:
  • Should trenches, foxholes, and bunkers provide more protection from direct fire?

I'm still not convinced this is such a big issue. If you hide men in foxholes or trenches they are very hard to take out form a distance. Its when the popup that they start to get nailed. Perhaps the real change should be in the Tac AI reaction when in a fox hole

10 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:
  • And I will add a point of my own: Should tank MG fire really be massively more accurate than infantry MG? That's how it works now, and that also makes tanks (and light AFVs) much more powerful.

Are they though? Did you do some tests (knowing you you probably did) that I missed (knowing me that is entirely possible). And why shouldn't they be? They are on a way more stable platform than any tripod. Not sure this is wrong even if MGs on tanks are more effective.

 

10 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

My point about the lack of AT close combat means is not valid. As it turns out, ordinary grenades are very effective in close combat against tanks in CM. 2-3 grenades will destroy the tracks and may even knock out a tank. In my quick test (US infantry in CM:FB), 3 ordinary HE grenades knocked out a Tiger somehow. I'm not quite sure how, as no hit info shows up in "grenade close combat" and the only damaged/destroyed part of the tank were the tracks. Anyway I think it's safe to conclude that weapons for anti tank close combat (mines, cocktails) are represented by ordinary grenades?

Yep,

7 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

To be honest I don't buy the "time compression" argument anymore. If time was compressed, then why don't units run out of ammo three times faster, why don't units reload more quickly (cover narrow arcs of fire more reliably), why don't they move three times faster (is space compressed too? If so, many things don't make any sense at all...), etc. etc. "Time compression" is just the standard go-to argument whenever the topic "excessive infantry casualties" pops up. But this is not the result of time compression. It's the result of many factors, some of which are discussed here. 

We get a form of "time compression" because of the inherent ability of the player to coordinate better. It's not true time compression in the sped up sense but more when the lead platoon gets hit the player starts coordinating the other two platoons and the supporting tanks right away. But in reality even with radios that information is going to take a bit to get where it needs to and once the CO gets the information his instructions are going to take a bit to get going. So, in reality minutes elapse before dramatic things change but in the game they can start in the next minute.

We get a form of "time compression" because there are pixel troops and not real ones. We frequently leave guys behind because it's just too important to move up. Where as in real life, even with medics, troops don't move on right away. Then frequently need a moment - after they beaten back the enemy or gotten out of the line of fire. That means we have guys moving more and sooner than they probably would in real life.

We get a form of "time compression" on top of the above because we don't wait for heavier support. In part because we "know" as the attacker we have the tools to win the scenario. In real life every time something major happens decisions have to be made about if the resistance is stronger than expected, do they have more support than we expected and if so we should pull back and wait half an hour for our artillery to become available to help us out etc.

Plus we push far to hard and stick around far too long. This tends to increase casulties for sure. Lots of times if the defenders get in a nice ambush the attack is done for the day but not the way we play. Plus, those times when the attack does not stop the defence pulls back but not the way we play.

 

7 hours ago, JoMc67 said:

Yes, and since last patch, Vehicle MG's are firing even more

? They are? I didn't get that feeling but I have not tested it. Have you? Would that actually be a bad thing?

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4 hours ago, Pelican Pal said:

Essentially a key weakness of armor is its ability to incorrectly interpret what is happening and where it is at.  In CM the player largely nullifies that weakness.

Yep. Excellent, more like real life, example form FPS game you site there too.

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2 minutes ago, danfrodo said:

If tank sees fire b/w other units, then I see no problem in telling tank to fire at target it can't see.  It can see the tracers and my poor pixeltruppen desperately trying to become one with the ground so it knows there's fire coming from a certain area/direction

But which house is it coming from? What part of the forest?

If the tank sees enough tracers to pinpoint the approximate location of the enemy, that is what the game represents by giving the tank a contact marker at that location. And then it would be perfectly fine to start area fire.

The game already has such a cool system for keeping track of which units know what, and how that information is passed along and spreads through the chain of command. It would be really great if that system would be used more actively to restrict the player a bit. Then he would have to send a runner to the tank to tell it about the enemy - I actually did that in a recent game, and it was a really fun thing to do, too. Very immersive :)

 

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There are definitely game solutions the the problem.

The "super hardcore mode", which I forget the name of, could provide some opportunity. Namely removing 3d models for enemy troops in most situations and replacing them with a confirmed contact marker that is placed in some 20 to 30 meter radius of their actual position. Perhaps actually using 3d models only when the contact is sent up to through the Comms chain to the highest level on the map.

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15 hours ago, Bozowans said:

For one thing, they never managed to replicate what they did in the CMx1 engine, where the game would deliberately mislead you about where enemy units are.

It's a bit too easy to try to figure out from where the tank or AT-gun is shooting by following the sound. If they could mislead us with the sound in CMx2 it would be more of a situation where one think "Oops! I need to be careful now. There's a gun somewhere over there and it can be anywhere but from where I hear it".

15 hours ago, Bozowans said:

I think the tank issue can be solved if the game just had more mystery to it. Enemy locations and unit types need to be much more vague. You should not be able to tell that an enemy unit 1000m away is an HQ team located in that one precise action spot.

Any situation would be more interesting if it sometimes wasn't so obvious. If a unit with binoculas has been gawking at a certain position for a while they would maybe be able to distinct the HQ from the other groups in a platoon or company. But apart from that it would be more interesting if there was "more mystery".

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3 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

The game already has such a cool system for keeping track of which units know what, and how that information is passed along and spreads through the chain of command. It would be really great if that system would be used more actively to restrict the player a bit. Then he would have to send a runner to the tank to tell it about the enemy - I actually did that in a recent game, and it was a really fun thing to do, too. Very immersive :)  

+1.  This. 

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A lot of the posts can be filed under 'Be careful what you wish for'. If CM came out tomorrow with a method to inhibit coordinating tanks and infantry during a battle most players would have a coronary.

Most CM tanks on most CM-scale maps are basically firing at point blank range. No need to estimate and adjust for range when the target's that close. That's why they're so accurate. With the rare maps that give you proper combat ranges the first shot is likely to go high and need to be adjusted. If you're in a duel with a hull-down opponent you're probably going to see 2-3 rounds buried into intervening terrain before you finally connect with his gun mantlet.

Who finds it easy to spot AT gun? Claiming that enemy AT guns (properly positioned at proper combat range) are too easy to spot goes against my own playing experience. Perhaps you mean "MY AT guns get spotted too quickly" which is a different matter. A WWII US infantry platoon is made up of 39 pairs of combat-tested eyeballs. it would be difficult to keep anything hidden from them for long, especially if they've wandered around within small arms range.

 

 

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6 hours ago, MikeyD said:

Most CM tanks on most CM-scale maps are basically firing at point blank range. No need to estimate and adjust for range when the target's that close. That's why they're so accurate.

I once read a book by a vet tc who said that he sometimes needed to fire as many as 17 rounds at an enemy tank before he got a burst on target. Estimating range could be hard.

Michael

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7 hours ago, MikeyD said:

A lot of the posts can be filed under 'Be careful what you wish for'. If CM came out tomorrow with a method to inhibit coordinating tanks and infantry during a battle most players would have a coronary.

If we get a coronary, it's because we are getting old, not because it's a bad idea :)

7 hours ago, MikeyD said:

Most CM tanks on most CM-scale maps are basically firing at point blank range. No need to estimate and adjust for range when the target's that close. That's why they're so accurate.

I don't think anybody said tanks are too accurate with their main gun. The question was about their machineguns.

7 hours ago, MikeyD said:

Who finds it easy to spot AT gun?

I don't think anybody said that either. We're discussing tanks killing AT-guns they haven't spotted and haven't got a clue are even there. I think most people here agree that it's one of the best things about Combat Mission that "borg spotting" was removed. It just still lingers a bit.

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Thanks for all the interesting input so far, guys! I can't answer all the individual posts, instead here is a quick update of the points that have been made so far, in no particular order:

  • Lack of protection for infantry (the current fortifications don't offer sufficient protection, we can't fortify houses, can't move along trenchlines, fortifications give away positions earlier, etc.)
  • AT fortifications (mines, at obstacles) are overprized in quickbattles (these should be cheap enough to funnel tanks into killzones; right now, the funneling costs more than the actual AT assets...)
  • plausibility of force selection (tanks in CM always have infantry support)
  • tanks are too aware of their surroundings/ease of tank-infantry coordination (borg-spotting, area-fire, sound "spotting")*
  • tank MGs are too accurate
  • map size (engagements on quickbattle maps are practically all set at point blank range)
  • No threat of surprise, once you've overcome the enemy (Anti)Tank assets, you're realtively free to roam around

My initial point about the lack of close combat anti tank weapons for infantry was wrong. At close quarter, infantry is very effective against tanks with its grenades (which also represent mines, Molotov cocktails,...).

--------------------------------

9 hours ago, MikeyD said:

Most CM tanks on most CM-scale maps are basically firing at point blank range. No need to estimate and adjust for range when the target's that close. That's why they're so accurate. With the rare maps that give you proper combat ranges the first shot is likely to go high and need to be adjusted. If you're in a duel with a hull-down opponent you're probably going to see 2-3 rounds buried into intervening terrain before you finally connect with his gun mantlet.

Who finds it easy to spot AT gun? Claiming that enemy AT guns (properly positioned at proper combat range) are too easy to spot goes against my own playing experience. 

Good point about the engagement ranges we typically see in CM. I'm still on my campaign for more realistically sized quickbattle maps. Scenario maps are much better as they're based on actual maps/landscapes. But the quickbattle maps are much too dense and compartmentalized. My suspicion is that they got stuck in Normandy, while the CM titles moved on to less restrictive terrain. Many quickbattle maps don't even offer positions suitable for basic support weapons such as hMGs, as the lines of fire are simply too short, and the terrain too hilly/wavy (severely hampers the usefullness of MGs, lack of grazing opportunities). In general, I don't like what the forced point blank range does to the game (takes away from the spotting mechanism, ambush situations everywhere, no option for retreats --> implausibly high casualties, small engagement "theatres/compartments" can be controlled with ease by few assets, speculative arty barrages can be too effective if terrain features are very small, etc).  

 

13 hours ago, IanL said:

This, so this. It is one thing that holds back realism. It is a really big one. @Bil Hardenberger came up with some simple rules to help with some of this. I do like playing with them but I am not sure if it would totally solve the problem. Check it out here

 

That might help - see Hard Cat rules above. Not sure how possible it would be to implement them in the game itself.

Yes, the rules about limited waypoints and limits on area-fire would perhaps help a bit. But they don't really tackle the core of the problem imho.

What about the suggestion I've made: (buttoned-up) tanks may only receive new orders (including target orders) every second (=even minute) turn. I think this rule would help to make coordination between infantry and tanks a bit more difficult/brittle? Tanks would of course still react by means of the tac AI (pop smoke & reverse...). Area fire would become a bit less effective: You typically don't want to fire at a single target for 2 full minutes as this wastes ammo and makes you vulnerable, so you're more likely to use target briefly commands, which means that the rate at which tank support "develops" is slowed down a bit? Also, it would slow down the tanks' rate of advance (if the infantry happens to get pinned, how far do you want your tank advance alone/isolatedly during the next 2 minutes?). And it would make tanks a bit more vulnerable in close combat (enemy infantry approaching? You want to reverse? You can do so ... in a minute. :D ). 

I think that tinkering with reaction intervalls is the best way to simulate a tank's lack of awareness and mitigate the player's god powers when it comes to coordination. It's the only way I see to add a bit more chaos to the game. You let unforeseen situations develop and simmer for a bit longer, so to speak, take away some power from the players who otherwise have an easy time to jump out of/break off unfavourable situaions. You add a bit more "real time" aspect. On the other hand, it might just make players overly cautious with their tanks. Maybe an even higher reaction intervall would encourage players to risk their tanks more? If the reaction intervall is 4 minutes and you're overly cautious with your tanks, you're basically wasting them. With just two minutes, by contrast, the balance between "keeping the tank alive" and "exploiting its offensive power" is still too good? I think "slowing down" tanks would also be a good way to represent the awareness problem and the communication issues betwen tanks (communication via radio also takes time...). It could even give a defender time to move an ATG into position (for various reasons, including the player's reaction intervall, this is not really possible in CM - the ATG will get knocked out before it is in position).

In quite a lot of eyewitness accounts, tank attacks seem to have been far less carefull than what we typically see in CM. It was more like "make or break". And it was not uncommon to see tanks (accidentally, due to the speed difference?) lead the infantry (in CM, it's always the other way round). But of course that might also be the case because in a CM game, you simply know that some form of ATGs will be present on the battlefield. 

Quote

We get a form of "time compression" because of the inherent ability of the player to coordinate better. [...snip...]

Understood this way, I'm perfectly fine with time compression. Basically what you're saying is that the time in between the "action" (reorg, take a breath, update status on radio, etc) is compressed. It reduces the opponent's time window to react / shift reinforcements a bit, but that's not really a big problem given the rather small scale of CM battles.

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25 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

the terrain too hilly/wavy (severely hampers the usefullness of MGs, lack of grazing opportunities)

I noticed I see a lot of "stair stepping" on maps. It's caused by the way the map editor models the terrain between two manually set elevation levels. If you don't  put in a lot of control points, you tend to get jagged hills that offer a lot of dead ground in between. The observer "|" gets dead ground at "x":

 

___
       \xx____
                     \__________|__

 

 

This is of course a terrain feature that is also found in real life. I just think it occurs much more often in this game, due to the way the terrain gets generated.

Edited by Bulletpoint
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13 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

I noticed I see a lot of "stair stepping" on maps. It's caused by the way the map editor models the terrain between two manually set elevation levels. If you don't  put in a lot of control points, you tend to get jagged hills that offer a lot of dead ground in between. The observer "|" gets dead ground at "x":

Yep. I've encountered that problem as well in my "vast valley" map. Preventing this kind of accidental/unwanted dead ground unfortunately requires quite a lot of work in the editor. This also occurs on otherwise very realistic scenario maps.

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3 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

Yep. I've encountered that problem as well in my "vast valley" map. Preventing this kind of accidental/unwanted dead ground unfortunately requires quite a lot of work. This also occurs on otherwise very realistic scenario maps.

Worth noting that in some context you do get door steppin in RL terrain e.g. 'parallel roads' that date back to glacial times.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwicqI_L7NflAhVIyoUKHftpDFIQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.scottishgeology.com%2Fbest-places%2Fparallel-roads-glen-roy%2F&psig=AOvVaw1KO05E3qAIJ-CopbXZYQtJ&ust=1573207425503771

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@Bulletpoint made a good question, by asking whether it would be possible to abstract the impact of good tactics and what passes by battlefield leadership and command and control in a "gamified" simulation as CMx2 is. So this post is not a dismissal of @Hapless observations, which I subscribe 100%. Still, sh*t happens all the time.

One interesting data point for this discussion is the following diagram, which I found the 2nd edition of this wonderful little book I bought recently

https://www.amazon.com.au/David-Rowlands-Stress-Battle-Quantifying/dp/0244203059/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=john+curry+the+stress+of+battle&qid=1573119600&sr=8-1

1526078597_curry_combined_arms_attack(2).jpg.35cf379134867c9c5fc519c90240384f.jpg

For this table/summary/statistical model they used data from 29 WW2 and WW1 battles (adjusting the latter to WW2 standards), where the attacker successfully forced the defender to vacate its positions, and indirect fires were not a factor (at least a documented one). To give a sense of the temporal spread of data points used in this analysis, the battles go from the 1918 Allied counterattacks after Operation Michael, to Operation Veritable in 1945.

I would love to hear what you guys think, but the casualty estimates seem to me to be on the lower side (not by much) of what I have come to expect from playing CMx2 either against the AI in well-crafted scenarios or a human opponent that has done the work to keyhole guns and check for micro terrain providing reverse slopes etc. 

The analysis of these results led to confirm the following tactical "verities" one can find discussed in memoirs, treatises on tactics and what not

- Well placed HMGs trump rifle/LMG fires

- Tanks trump HMGs

- AT assets "suppress" tanks, enabling HMGs to do their work on the attackers

What is evident is that AFVs are king... when it comes to keep suppressed the defender. I think that CMx2 does a reasonably good impression of these relationships (and Graviteam eventually got there too), from a statistical point of view. Which is admittedly, not the most fun point of view.

 

Edited by BletchleyGeek
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4 minutes ago, George MC said:

Worth noting that in some context you do get door steppin in RL terrain e.g. 'parallel roads' that date back to glacial times.

Yes, that's why I added:

16 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

This is of course a terrain feature that is also found in real life. I just think it occurs much more often in this game, due to the way the terrain gets generated.

:)

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Browsing through memoirs in the search for infantry vs. tanks, I found this to be one of the most detailed accounts. Granted, it is not overly usefull for our context here as it all happened in an urban environment. But as it is such an interesting read, I wanted to share it here.

The scene is January 21, 1945. B company, IV. btn, King's Own Scottish Borderers (155th brigade, 52nd Lowland Division) was ordered to attack into the town of Waldfeucht at the dutch-german border. The commander of the company’s 10 platoon, Peter White, has left us this account of the action which highly interesting in its various details for anyone interested in the gruesome combat experience during WWII. It also seems to have made a lasting impression on him, given that he made drawings of the action. The whole memoir and some of the drawings are published under the title “With the Jocks. A Soldier’s Struggle for Europe 1944-1945”. Highly recommended!

 Warning: The account is rather graphic.  

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We were immediately ordered to board a group of Kangaroos drawn up in Koningsbosch while an appeal was sent to the gunners to put down a hurried 25-pounder smokescreen to give us a sporting chance of cover from the Tigers on our side of the town as we roared in to attack. Once the Kangaroos had got us on to our objectives, they were to clear out of the Tigers’ range as fast as they could before the smoke blew away. We did not feel particularly happy as we moved off. Quite apart from the prospect of being hit on the way like a can full of sardines by a Tiger’s 88mm, we were ploughing cross-country at full throttle over a possible minefield; further, we had no information at all as to what hellish situation we would be tipped out into at the end of our desperate run. All plans would have to be improvised in split seconds on our arrival as we fell out among the enemy.

My new Kangaroo was named “Annie”. I hoped she had a thicker hide than poor “Lucy” if things got out of hand. The driver got an early scare over the radio of a Tiger somewhere to our left so we took immediately to the fields, the engine racing a power-packed roar as we ploughed lurching sluggishly like a ship in a swell. The complaining engine drowned all sound other than the frightening oscillating shriek of 25-pounder smoke canisters which plumed veils of billowy smoke to merge with the snow.

Soon this lung-biting fog of war, together with the snow, had us enveloped in a swirling world of whiteness, above, below and all around. Because of it we could not see where we were going; wherever it was, we were ploughing and bucking at top speed, crouched tense with racing hearts and the cold forgotten. We were rolling like so many tin cans through the smoke towards the fire. Somehow we hit neither another Kangaroo, a haystack, nor a house.

A sudden spin turn, and we crunched to a stop. Immediately over the radio from the Company HQ tank came the order to “De-bus!”. All in the same instant above the rumbling of the idling engine, we looked uneasily at each other with a sinking of the stomach as the fierce rip of an enemy machine gun and the most almighty crash of explosion enveloped all our senses. Once our heads appeared over the steel rim of the tank anything might happen. I yelled “De-bus! Take up all round positions.” There was fortunately no time to think as we desperately tumbled and scuttled to get clear of the tracks and flung ourselves flat, facing outwards. Already the Kangaroo, revving madly, slung earth off the spinning tracks as it lurched swiftly into the swirling, spark-jewelled smoke. Everywhere were crouched scattering figures, dimly seen in the thinning, flame-reddened smokescreen, yelling voices, the cry of wounded, complete ear shattering pandemonium. 

Immedaitely against us on the left were a row of Jeeps, trailers, kit, an ambulance and a house, all burning furiously with a billowy roar of sheets of petrol-fed flame, and dense coiling smoke. Another hideous crash of flame and swift loud rip of machine gun fire through the wall of smoke drew my eyes to fix with amazed horror on the source of all this hell-like confusion. Twenty-five yards away, wedged in the archway of the town wall and just too broad to get through, was a Tiger tank. A venomous spitting wall of steel itself, it was pointing right at the flaming inferno of the road and ourselves! The smoke had just lasted thick enough to save us, and “Annie”, from a far worse fate than “Lucy’s” long-range hit.

A swift painful scramble found us panting with pounding hearts against a low garden wall, and out of the immediate line of fire unless the tank chose to blow this protection to dust. My throat seemed like dried leather, and I felt sure it was not just the smoke. Any paralysis of fear seemed mercifully drowned in the floot-tide of noise, movement and excitement. No stretcher bearers could for the moment get at the casualties farther down the road. Miraculously some semblance of order had emerged and I could see my three section commanders sprawled amid the rubble and along the wall together with men of Company HQ, and these chaps signed that they were in contact with their men, though I could not see them all myself.

Sgt. Johnny Manson grasping a PIAT just ahead of me at the end of the wall on the road started to move forward with the evident intention of crossing the road to outflank the tank and shoot it from the side or rear. He had just emerged from behind the wall when he coincided with a burst of fire and staggered back, crouched, stunned and splashing blood with his hand to his face covering a gaping wound where his jaw should have been.

Colin crawled up to join us, and we crouched below the wall next to Manson who now knelt in silent agony. We obviously had to try to outflank the tank somehow, but it did not seem possible from this side. Colin asked me to take 10 Platoon over the road to work through the houses behind the arch and try at the Tiger from there. Having seen what happened to Manson when he showed himself, I decided not to throw a “77” smoke grenade into the road, as this, through it would obscure us, would most probably draw a steady hail of fire. Instead I had section commanders line their men up four abreast to run flat out across the road at odd intervals. I shall never forget the desperate tension in running over in the first batch. It seemed deliberate suicide, yet incredibly the whole platoon got over without a scratch within about three minutes. It seemed impossible that the deafening, crackling bursts of point-blank fire had been real, for we had literally acted as figures in a shooting gallery. I think what had saved us was the very closeness of the fire, and the consequent inability of the gunner to traverse the gun with each crossing group.

Fortunately the Tiger was too broad to either get through the arch, or traverse the long telegraph pole-like 88mm barrel of the gun far without hitting the sides of the arch, or he might have chased us by blowing down the walls of the lane. Just over the road we noticed for the first time a burned out 17-pounder gunned Sherman tank, the crew, it seemed, still in it. A little beyond, frozen dead in its tracks and also burned out, was one of the two Tiger tanks knocked out by Capt Hunter of the 5th – hit in swift retribution following its victory over the Sherman which had been hit at 35 yards range. We later found other Shermans trapped and smashed deeper in the town.

Crossing the back gardens of several houses warily to get level with the arch, we found the tumbled grey-green-clad forms of numerous German dead, most of them very young, sprawling in and about trenches, tangled in fence wire, weapons and equipment. As we moved forward, Coy HQ and the other two platoons remained on the far side to break their way through the houses parallel to us.

Some figures moving ahead turned out to our mutual relief to be the battered remnants of a 5th Bn platoon. The platoon Commander, a begrimed, sandy-haired chap of my age, came forward to meet me with “Thank God you’ve got here.” I noticed with surprise that though he had lost all his fingers except thumb and index finger on both blood-streaked hands, he still brandished a captured Luger pistol in greeting, held precariously in the stumps of his right hand. He explained his PIAT and team were both out out of action, when after several attempts to fire down onto the rear of the Tiger from an overhanging window, a bomb had exploded against the window-sill from which they were shooting. I crawled up the rubble strewn stairs of this corner café with him after my Platoon had taken over positions from his remaining weary men. This should have enabled us to try our skill down onto the Tiger too if it was still in the same position. The tank commander must have been getting a bit restive in wondering what we were up to for we found the archway empty, and glancing up the road we were just in time to see the tank pulling slowly round a corner out of sight, in reverse.

As we looked form well back in the shadow of the smashed room, two German soldiers with rifles appeared unconcernedly in a doorway 100 yards off and looking in our direction. It seemed these two had been ordered to show themselves to draw fire, thus disclosing our whereabouts either for snipers or for the tank to come forward again. We could see from the smashed state of the house that the Tiger had put several shells through it. Perhaps he was collecting more ammunition. The young 5th chap, seeing I had a rifle, suggested we had a go at them well back to conceal the source of fire, realizing that later it might be them or us if we let them go now. Next came the awful choice – which one should it be? How mad the values of war that I should feel such shame at the thought “fire between them, no one will ever know.” Was the CO right, did this mean I was not “suitable” for this sort of thing? The sight was steady on the left-hand German still looking peacefully our way as I squeezed the trigger slowly. Even as I did so, the full realization that a human life hung on the minute pressure left to my finger made me dip the sights a shade to wound and not kill him if I could. As the rifle kicked in my shoulder and we ducked from sight to avoid being seen, I wondered if he was a married chap, with children at home. Peeping up slowly again, in case we had been seen by a sniper, we just caught a glimpse of two legs and feet trail out of sight, apparently being pulled by his pal.

The tank must have taken this in, for we heard the roar of its engine as it pulled forwards. I realized then that it must have just been the fact that these two men were such sitting ducks which had swayed my thoughts, for I felt no pity for this monster and dashed down to collect the PIAT team, McKenzie, and Syd Brown, to have a shot at it. Clattering down the rubble strewn stairs I found these two and we dashed across a little side alley after peering up and down it swiftly. First, to make sure we were not sniped at by the next house up, I had a quick look over it. It was empty, but revealed no suitable spot from which to fire at the side of the tank as it went past for we would be so close to it that the back-blast from the PIAT bomb would most probably have harmed us more than it would the Tiger. We dashed back to the small alley which let at right angles onto the main road down which the Tiger would come and dropped into the gutter.

The three of us lay side by side, McKanzie in the centre with the projector and Brown his number two, with spare bombs to reload on his other side. Our hearts were pounding furiously. I trained my rifle on the corner 15 yards distant where the tank would pass broadside on to us, intending to hit at least the first of any infantry screen who might advance with the Tiger and peer round the corner. The situation still held a queer cinema unreality to it, but I knew this time that I would not hesitate. It would be them or us. The suspense was terrible. I was conscious of a tense quivering of mingled excitement and fear as our ears detected the distant revving of the Tiger’s engine getting louder, then the clink-clink and squeak of slowly approaching tan tracks, still distant but coming steadily. I glanced behind to see if by chance any enemy infantry might have broken through our rear and was reassured to see we were covered as we lay by several automatics and rifles of others of the Platoon, poking from doors and windows, waiting silent and intent.

Suddenly, in an unexpected flash of blood-chilling sound, our ears tuned from the noise of the approaching tank to a new menace. A faint, whispered moan of a salvo of artillery shells mounted in a split second to an all-embracing hypnotic shriek which we just had time to appreciate was coming directly on us before the whole structure of our surroundings erupted and vomited with appaling blast and indescribable noise as though a brace of super-fast express locomotives with whistles jammed had coincided in one gigantic crash in our midst. The air was swirling with brick dust, powdered snow, smoky acrid yellow-black fumes and bits of heavy rubble and tiles thudding and pattering everywhere, hitting us painfully and whacking with metallic clatter on our tin hats. This sudden switch in climax from our ear-straining tension and concentration on the approaching Tiger had nearly wrought paralysis on our ability to react. “By God Surr! Were those no’ our ane b*** shells, the ***ers!” They were indeed our own 25-pounders. Another couple of salvos followed as unrepeatable words of obscenity and blasphemy also exploded about me. As the dust settled in a pinkish-grey film over the snow, I was staggered to notice that the cause of our being so heavily pounded with blast and rubble was a new shell hole 5 feet above us in a wall beside our gutter. The shell had just penetrated far enough through the wall before exploding for the main blast and fragments to smash into the yard beyond. Whoever had asked for these gunners to fire, most probably Colin at Company HQ somewhere behind us over the road, could have had no idea we were so far forward.

Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. The renewed revving of the Tiger showed him to be coming forwards again; this time, as we later realized, without an infantry screen, it having, I suppose, been decided by the Germans that we would have no infantry either where our own shells were landing. I was not at all sure that our PIAT would do more than annoy the Tiger if we got a direct hit, but was counting on the fact that the entrance to our alley was rather too narrow for him to swing either his long gun barrel or machine guns onto us without first swinging the body of the tank, which I hoped would expose the thinner side armour to any heavier anti-tank weapon back near the burning vehicles through the arch at the 5th Bn HQ.

The clink and squeak was almost on us now as the Tiger drew up to the corner. Slowly the muzzle-brake at the end of the slim lengthy green barrel came into view, inch by inch, then stopped. Two throughts were worrying me. First, if the tank was not going to come far enough forward to expose the side properly, we would have to move to the other side of the alley to our right. Secondly, I still feared we were so close to our target that we would harm ourselves more than the tank. I saw a convenient doorway a few feet farther back on the better side. The gun barrel was still stationary, so with these thoughts in mind I signed to Mac and Brown and we scrambled into the doorway. Before showing the PIAT I decided to remain hidden and see what it was that had caused the Tiger to pause. Peering through the yard doorpost crack from our new position, we could see both the gun barrel and huge front sprocket. Suddenly two Germans in dark tank overalls, evidently some of the tank crew, dismounted, looked round the corner against the tank, then vanished. I was thankful we had moved for we had not been seen. A few more seconds of tension, then the Tiger revved loudly and clinked back a couple of links, engaging gear, then lurched forwards exposing three-quarters of its flank. “Right Max!” I whispered. He pushed out the PIAT, the three of us crouched at the door, Brown with a second bomb, and I gave the word “Fire!”

“Got the b***! Good shot Mac!” Someone exclaimed behind. The flash of flame had been followed by a billow of blast and oily black smoke which swept back from the top of the alley. For a few moments, during which Mac and Brown excited by the success bungled the reloading, the tank was obscured by thinning smoke. I think we were all three distracted by our success and trying to see where we had hit. The flash had been high near the turret. Three or four precious seconds slipped while the stunned German crew recovered. Gears grated, there was a frantic unexpected revving roar and the Tiger withdrew slowly in a lingering trail of smoke to our distress and disgust. Left lying in the road was a massive chunk of metal which could have come from the gun mantle. Just what damage we had done was difficult to decide. We gradually concluded, in the view of the fact that the Tiger never again came forward or fired the 88mm gun, that we must either have holed the barrel – which if fired again would have split or exploded – or we had wedged the mantle or turret.

The Germans’ reaction was immediate. Within a couple of minutes I was startled to see a group of Jerry infantry moving through the yard of the house on the corner to clean us out. They were near the shell-holed wall. Mac had reloaded the PIAT now so I whispered: “D’you see them Mac? Have a go.” Mac, crouched ahead of me, fired from the hip at the same instant as the Germans saw us, to be immediately enveloped in a blinding explosion as Mac crashed back heavily into me with the recoil. The recoil fortunately threw the bomb high enough to clear the wall. No Germans remained when the smoke cleared. The terrific blast must have accounted for all of this bunch. However, it swiftly became apparent that there were quite a few others. Those left decided on a similar line of attack. As we anxiously watched, a much closer German showed for a moment throwing something towards us. “Look out!” someone yelled. A stick grenade was spinning slowly to drop right on us, thrown from less than the length of a cricket pitch. We dropped frantically for the earth. There was no explosion as four, five, sic seconds sped by. “It’s wedged in the tree just above us Sir … seems to be a dud!” It was 10 feet up directly overhead, held in a branch fork by its stick handle. We had to explode it with a Sten burst for safety in case it slipped later. “B*** me that was close!” said Brown.

“More Jerries coming”, a Jock shouted. We were at a great disadvantage in firing to the right along the alley being all right handed, so with Cpl Finney I stepped out into the alley to fire. My rifle was still in my left hand when Cpl Finney yelled from behind: “Watch out Sir.” At the same moment I saw more Germans, three of them with Schmeisser automatics raised to the hip rushing the 15 yards which separated us. Everything happened in a flash of desperation. Realising I could not hope to get my rifle even part way onto the Germans and into my right hand to fire properly, I shot it as it was from my left hand into the cobbles just ahead of the three in the hope that at least it might disturb their aim. As the bullet whined off the cobbles I threw myself back to try to get trough the doorway before the Germans fired. Even as I fell, Cpl Finney with his Sten tried to beat them to it. His bullets crashed past my cheek and at the same moment a hail of Schmeisser fire swept back the other way. They had evidently withheld to close the gap, realizing our disadvantage. The fire, aimed at me, crackled fiercely past, smashing Finney’s right hand off his Sten. Several bullets passed up his aarm longways from wrist to elbow ripping his arm and his hand to shreds. He reeled back through the door, groaning and streaming blood, while in desperation I fired back as fast as I could work the bolt round the doorpost to the right. I could not get a proper look at where the enemy had got to without showing my head momentarily. I had the oppressive anticipation that my face would at any moment suffer a similar smashing to Cpl Finney’s arm. I dared not look even long enough to see if my shots had found their mark and knew with a ghastly sense of approaching climax that unless a miracle happened Finney and I had had it, for my rifle could not hipe to compete with three automatics from what I knew must be 3 or 4 yards range by not if they were still coming. My heart was hammering so fiercely I felt it would give out, at the realization that had reached the last round in my magazine. How this wild firing had intimidated the enemy I never would make out afterwards, but as I fired the last shot I glimpsed hesitation change to retreat among the Germans who had faltered 8 feet away. While still concealed I desperately fumbled to reload another clip. At that moment Brown reached my side with a Bren gun which he had grabbed and pushing it round the corner he fired several bursts which whined and crashed deafeningly off the cobbles. The Germans’ boots clattered in retreat. Cpl Finney still stood, numb with pain and ashen in the face, his Sten in his left hand and repeating wildly: “The b***s got me!” I put a tourniquet on with a web strap but despite his screwing it tight he was losing blood fast and as he was useless for further fighting, I put his arm in a sling and sent him to find his way back to the regimental aid post.

 

Edited by Kaunitz
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1 hour ago, Kaunitz said:

Granted, it is not overly usefull for our context here as it all happened in an urban environment. But as it is such an interesting read, I wanted to share it here.

Thanks, very interesting. Much of it reminds me of situations I've seen play out in Combat Mission. From the part where they manage to cross the road under fire, to especially the bit about the two-man "scout team" that was maybe sent out only to draw fire and make the enemy reveal themselves. Thanking my lucky stars I grew up in peacetime.

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6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

tank MGs are too accurate

I don't feel that has been established.

Also as a side note the issues with level of protection from current fortifications is not in my opinion the whole story. They represent most basic level of fortifications - I do agree that overhead protection and fortifying buildings are just not there and would be nice to have. I guess what I am saying is that I don't think there is anything wrong with the current infantry fortifications they are just a limited sub set of what we would really like to see.

 

6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

What about the suggestion I've made: (buttoned-up) tanks may only receive new orders (including target orders) every second (=even minute) turn. I think this rule would help to make coordination between infantry and tanks a bit more difficult/brittle? Tanks would of course still react by means of the tac AI (pop smoke & reverse...).

That is a possibility I suppose. You run into my usual objection that it interferes with the ability of the TC to make decision on his own. But since what you suggest is limited and has no cumulative effects (my other big objection to command delays) it might be workable. I would not limit this to buttoned tanks though.

 

6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:
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We get a form of "time compression" because of the inherent ability of the player to coordinate better. [...snip...]

Understood this way, I'm perfectly fine with time compression. Basically what you're saying is that the time in between the "action" (reorg, take a breath, update status on radio, etc) is compressed. It reduces the opponent's time window to react / shift reinforcements a bit, but that's not really a big problem given the rather small scale of CM battles.

Yep. And your quoted story has a great example of this (my bold):

2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

Instead I had section commanders line their men up four abreast to run flat out across the road at odd intervals. I shall never forget the desperate tension in running over in the first batch. It seemed deliberate suicide, yet incredibly the whole platoon got over without a scratch within about three minutes.

 

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I had seen that German training film about knocking out tanks on the Graviteam forums ... play GTMF/GTOS if you want to face a Soviet Monster with your pathetic little handmade bundle of grenades hoping that you might knock off a track.

That German film seemed to have one point, "you can survive", which is important for any soldier to believe.

The best part is in the middle of a Red Army attack, the whole war disappears.  A single T-34 which until a minute ago was averaging 20mph, now slows to 3mph right next to your camouflaged foxhole.  It passes by you.  You arise.  There are no soldiers of the Red Army to gun you down.  There are no members of the the T-34's platoon to hose it down with MG fire.  You have just entered "The T-34 Zone".  The light dims and Rod Serling arises from the next foxhole.

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