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53 minutes ago, landser said:

If I were to replay that mission I would just ignore this part of the map entirely.

That type of expectation should indeed be disrupted, expectations should be thwarted if it makes sense to the overall schema Mike describes. Part of the issue is that the designer has to guess where the player may head. Testing guides that, and triggers now can help with reactivity to player moves.

There are two main tools in the shed (found next to the Map Axe for Deforestation) to partially help replayability-

- Alternate AI plans (the obvious one). The AI plans can be up to 5 different plans the AI will be assigned at the start, randomly. Most are familiar with how that plays out in playing the game, or from designing things. This is the overall plan for various actions/reactions. Where one plans for putting something nasty in that house no-one was in on the first play.

-Alternate AI set-up. I divide this out from the AI plan mentally, although it is part of the overall AI plan. The AI set-up can be used to keep things repayable without seeing all of the enemy in the same location in AI defensive situations. I have AI plan 1 include the hand-placed set-up of units like AT guns, MGs, crucial squads, and important vehicles (when they are the defensive side). The other AI plans all contain alternate set-up locations for those specific units, done in the set-up toggle of the AI plans with specific locations based upon terrain and LoS (where someone would want them, realistically). With the 4.0 Facing additions to ensure guns aren't pointed to the rear, this makes for a far better control of fields of fire.

The limits on this are somewhat limited number of available AI slots, and a variable enemy force at start (both on my long request list). Both can be creatively dealt with to certain extents. Variable AI forces could be something like adding a few alternate units that would be placed out of the way in other plans.

Getting burned out on playing one thing that has so much randomness baked in (by a decent designer) probably also comes down to playing on the same map, and having only a set number of obviously different approaches to attack (if AI is on the defense). The partial solution to this would be using somewhat larger maps- generally based on real-world terrain. If there feels like there is only one route of attack as a solution, that gets repetitive.

The AI on attack can also use the above tools to provide randomness. That requires more work by the designer to get all of the components working over 3 or more AI plans, but it can make things a bit less expected. The issue is that once the obvious attack is underway, the AI is largely committed to that vector. Feints can be used, and other trigger-based choices.

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I've noticed there are two types of player. The first is the 'win at all cost' competitive player and the second is the 'I'm in a war movie!' immersion player. The immersion player can replay scenario

Kevin, You don't feel you are missing something by playing mainly QBs.  Scenario designers do far better with their resources than the AI.  Of course, the ultimate is PBEM where trick like trigge

There are a number of games inside the game. QB's, The Editor, Scenarios, Campaigns.  A few things that keep QB's interesting for me, with the inherent randomness of these in mind- I most often u

I really like replayability, so I always encourage scenario designers to make their scenarios with some randomised placements and various scripts.

Especially when it's a scenario or campaign that takes place on very detailed and well made maps, it's so much better if I can play it several times, try out different tactics, but not feel that I only win because I have memorised every enemy location.

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5 minutes ago, benpark said:

 

There are two main tools in the shed

 

I agree, and you hit on a couple of the things I had in mind when I said I can think of a number of ways to overcome this in my previous post, but declined to spell out.  This sort of direction, and addressing what I see as the shortcomings in the player experience, are what I hope to see in the future from Combat Mission. With the limited number of campaigns especially, features designed to increase replayability would be very welcome, from my point of view. Frankly, I think a think-on-its-feet AI is vital, so that even if everything else were the same, the way the AI prosecutes the battle would change. Tactical withdrawal, exploiting breakthroughs, closing gaps and that sort of thing, where the AI is capable of reacting to the battle as it unfolds, would go a long way toward achieving this as I see it. But I'm straying in to what it could be territory, not what it is.

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The basic scenarios most of the time are pretty good, if a bit too dense with player and enemy units. For some reason the campaign scenarios tend to be far more uneven, and seem far too dependent upon scripting ie: playing out as the designer "intended" you to. 

There's a case to be made for some of the more pronounced set-piece style engagements requiring what is essentially puzzle solving to resolve. I just tend to think a few too many of the scenarios are oriented that way but it's honestly pretty easy to solve in the editor by just deleting or adding a few units to each side's toolkit. Even minor changes like a spare 105mm battery or an immobilized StuG can have a pronounced "butterfly effect" on the overall scenario, but more often than not there's just too much super-lethal stuff on the map. The designers think way too much in terms of punishing the player for mistakes and when trying to design for the artificial intelligence they think far too much in terms of "what i'd do". 

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On 9/29/2020 at 2:22 PM, markshot said:

So, are QBs more worth the time in CMx2?

Yes, I believe so. However there are a few things you should be aware of.

The automatic selection of enemy forces can be spotty at times. Things have gotten better in the later releases but they still sometimes pick goofy forces. One way to mitigate this is to set the QB for human force selection and then use the suggest button. Try to not look to closely at the enemy forces but re do the suggestion if it should pick nothing but flame thrower units for some thing else odd. Unless you feel like facing a wall of fire - that could be interesting. 🙂

Also, the later maps and AI plans are better than the early ones - @MarkEzra got better and better at making them. You can also manually select maps. You can make it feel pretty random by just scrolling and picking a map with a high number.

 

On 9/29/2020 at 1:13 PM, markshot said:

I don't think you got my type of player.  I want a good fight.  I am perfectly happy to lose the fight or get a minor win.

But I don't want to lose by being tricked.  I want to lose because I advanced without clearing my flank or posting a rear guard.  And the enemy came up from behind me.

Another example of a fair loss is letting my platoons all get bunched up, and then the enemy calls down arty on a TRP which was intended for exactly that purpose.

---

So, I want an intellectual challenge.  Not a riddle.  I want to put all the pieces I have been taught about movement, recon, fire support, combined arms ... together and test my problem solving skills.  I want a chance to win.

I'm right there with ya. However I feel I get that from CM2 games. It is not really clear to me why you feel CM2 games are less good at this than CM1 games in this regard. I just cannot play CM1 any more. CMBN was so much better in every respect (except in variety of forces when it came out) I just could not go back.

 

On 9/29/2020 at 9:06 PM, Freyberg said:

Some battles have been so good, I've played them again (the Road to Mounteburg springs to mind, and the CMSF2 one where you're clearing the big valley - there are others). It can also be fun to get into the editor and try it with a different but equivalent attacking force, of a different nationality.

I share the frustration with having to replay campaign battles though - I'd usually rather give up...

Agreed there are a few scenarios that I really like. Huzzar! and Carbide Carbide from CMBN being two (note they both use a variation of the same map - maybe I like the map :-). I normally play H2H so I don't have much campaign experience.

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4 minutes ago, IanL said:

It is not really clear to me why you feel CM2 games are less good at this than CM1 games in this regard. I just cannot play CM1 any more.

While CM1 is effectively dead these days apart from a few diehards, the reason many of us were playing it in tournaments etc at WeBOB until a few years ago (until the players evaporated) is that it was quite normal to play on 3-4Km sided maps (up to 4Km x 6Km IIRC) with a Regimental-sized Task Force on each side.  Most computers of the last 10 years could handle that with no problem.  So, for those of us who like huge, almost operational-sized scenarios, CM1 was the only option.

There was less "work" to do in CM1 - it was more of a game rather than a simulation and more fun rather than a "learning opportunity".   

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On 9/29/2020 at 4:11 PM, Erwin said:

Yes scenarios may have alternative AI plans, but there is no way AFAIK to know that you will face a different AI plan or the same one.  (Being able to have the system "deselect" the AI plan one has already faced would be another good innovation for CM2.)

Open the editor (Horror!  :o).

Look at the various AI plans, select the one you don't want (this gets easier with practice) and set it to 'Never Used'.....Simples (assuming you aren't scared of the editor).  :mellow:

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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^The above

You are doing yourself a major favor, and extracting 1000x more value from the games if you learn to use the editor. It needs a tutorial, tooltips, etc better learning tools I agree but you're really just giving up a good 50% of the game's value by just leaving the Mission Editor out of your consideration. 

A lot of the really basic stuff like changing battle ToEs, are really easy, and the AI plans just take experience to learn, trial and error. For AI planning particularly you should "paint in broad strokes" by which Im not referring to the actual movement plans but your wider abstract thinking about what you want from it. It doesn't play the game like a player ie: like you but it can execute attacks and movements and that's 95% of what you need from the game. (I'm only miffed it will not conduct Target Fire on historic contacts.) 

Edited by SimpleSimon
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On 10/1/2020 at 3:28 PM, IanL said:

The automatic selection of enemy forces can be spotty at times. Things have gotten better in the later releases but they still sometimes pick goofy forces. One way to mitigate this is to set the QB for human force selection and then use the suggest button.

I agree that this is the issue with QB's. I'm one of those players who wants something between the scenario and the QB battle experience, but why I avoid QBs. I suspect I am not alone in this. As pointed out by another contributor, scenarios can be replayed for the intellectual challenge. This is exactly where I am.

The way I see it is that this experience can be achieved by varying forces and how these forces are used - but replay of the the actual map and terrain is fine. This can only be served adequately by playing H2H (for Ian's reasons indicated), but currently H2H scenario gaming does not facilitate variable forces as a built in feature.

A solution would be to add a tool to the editor allowing the creator to set up pre determined forces of different composition. Clearly with historical scenarios the creator wouldn't bother taking a advantage of such a tool but it would allow those designers of a different persuasion looking to create less rigid battle scenarios with a tool to breathe replayability into their creations. With a mere 3 different force compositions for each H2H player to choose from. The possibilities for "rethinking" the battle would be vastly increased.   

With such a feature I envisage some scenarios could become H2H 'competitive theatres' fought over again and again - much like many popular games do on servers e.g. Hell let loose for example. I contend that while these games get a whole lot wrong as 'war games', they do get the "contest experience" spot on, which why people keep playing the same maps over again. It's something that CM seems to have never latched onto...

Next step; add this feature to H2H campaigns and you've got "replayability" heaven.    

Edited by The Steppenwulf
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I play pretty much exclusively QB. And lately it’s been my thing to set much of the settings on random. So I’ll know the year/month, and the two sides as the person I play against has his preferences as to nation and force type as do I. But the rest is usually random. We approach this from the perspective that each of us has a superior officer who told us to go to this location (the map) and do what is appropriate (attack/defend depending on the random result) the objectives. We pick our own forces. Sometimes we introduce some “house rules” for that battle alone - like - no substitution, buy whole formations, or no adjustment of quality, etc. 

It leads to a great degree of variation as with hundreds of maps per game it really has vast replayability. The key is having someone to play with. 

Edited by Bud Backer
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On 10/1/2020 at 10:28 AM, IanL said:

 

The automatic selection of enemy forces can be spotty at times.

That's putting it politely :)

Honestly this has caused me to mostly avoid the QMB in CMx2 titles. I'll play a few QBs when I first get a new Combat Mission game, but once I'm up to speed I rarely touch it unless it's for a PBEM. I may be oversimplifying it, but I feel like the removal of the Combined Arms setting from CMx1 was at the root. While still not perfect, Combined Arms was good at giving me the sort of well-balanced enemy force I want to play against, while not knowing what they would be. I could pick them myself, but that's no good. 

I revisited CMBB, and CMAK recently and played a few QBs with Combined Arms and it does a nice job of picking. Not sure why it's gone. Could it come back?

 

 

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I have been playing around with QB creation not fighting yet.

I let the computer pick a tiny American Army infantry force.  Some how, I ended up with a unit of field guns ???  Might have been okay if I was the defender, but I was the attacker.

I set up another that I really planned to fight, but when I got to deployment, I noticed many of the buildings were actually submerged underground.

I did try a scenario today, but I got frustrated by the riddle like nature of it.  This is worse than chess at least because pattern riddles can theoretically re-occur, but I am looking for general strategies in either a top down or bottom up approach which can lead to victory.

Are tiny and small scenarios particularly prone to be riddles with a single solution which require lots of experimentation to happen across what in other communities would be called a "a level walk through"?

Thanks.

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1 hour ago, markshot said:

 

I did try a scenario today, but I got frustrated by the riddle like nature of it.  This is worse than chess at least because pattern riddles can theoretically re-occur, but I am looking for general strategies in either a top down or bottom up approach which can lead to victory.

Are tiny and small scenarios particularly prone to be riddles with a single solution which require lots of experimentation to happen across what in other communities would be called a "a level walk through"?

Thanks.

If you feel frustrated by the scenario I suggest opening up the editor, assessing the situation, and determining what you consider necessary to adequately solve it. If you start to feel that it's become too easy, start withdrawing tools slowly and see what happens. You can practice this for the opposition too, and simply determine what they've got that gives them an inordinate advantage. Personally, I tend to think that tanks are too commonly encountered for defenders, and bunkers not nearly enough. 

I don't think that scenarios necessarily lend themselves to riddle or set-piece sieges based on their size, the issue is usually just the number of units between both sides against the size of the map. Too often, there's just way too many men between both sides on a map that's just not big enough for them. 

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1 hour ago, markshot said:

I have been playing around with QB creation not fighting yet.

I let the computer pick a tiny American Army infantry force.  Some how, I ended up with a unit of field guns ???  Might have been okay if I was the defender, but I was the attacker.

Yes it sucks, and I hope one of these days auto-mix force selection can actually be trusted to make for an enjoyable game. But for now it is like this, as written earlier in this topic already:

*start quote*

On 9/29/2020 at 9:40 PM, benpark said:

I most often use the "Suggestions" button (top left of the UI) to keep the FoW aspect, but this also allows some control over what the selection is. Click it multiple times until a sensible parent formation appears.

Yes, obviously for some factions this is mandatory. 

*end quote*

1 hour ago, markshot said:

I set up another that I really planned to fight, but when I got to deployment, I noticed many of the buildings were actually submerged underground.

Never seen that before. weird.

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Many, many years ago there was an article in PC Gamer entitled something like "The Top 10 Rules Game Designers Must Not Break."

Coming quite high was to not put in "instant kill" moments in the game that you can't possibly avoid until you know they're there after you restarted/respawned/whatever. The argument was that any player should, in theory, be able to get through the entire game without getting killed once.

I totally agree with that. Every time you have to restart it breaks the immersion. But they were mainly talking about shooters.

However, if I play a CM scenario and I get to the end (having had my ass kicked) realising that actually it was probably impossible to get through the first time, I feel it's broken that rule.

If I just got it wrong and it was my fault, fair enough. It was what it was. I lost. But I feel cheated if the only way through it is multiple replays. Because, effectively, that's forcing me to cheat.

I rarely replay a scenario. Hardly ever do*. Because things like recon are part of the mission. Hell, I really enjoy recon. If I know what to expect, that part of the experience is lost.

As for campaigns that are impossible without restarts, don't get me started. Campaign games, by their nature, ought to be a bit easier. Some of the missions should be a bit more "routine" than the do or die clashes of a regular scenario. Because in a campaign you're looking at the big picture, not just this mission here that you must complete.

 

 

*I was looking for a quick game the other night so I replayed that really short one at the start of the CW module. Think I got a total victory the first time but upon replaying it, I not only got another total victory, I'd killed every German in about 5 turns, and my casualties were one man wounded. It wasn't exactly fun.

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7 hours ago, John1966 said:

If I just got it wrong and it was my fault, fair enough. It was what it was. I lost. But I feel cheated if the only way through it is multiple replays. Because, effectively, that's forcing me to cheat.

I rarely replay a scenario. Hardly ever do*. Because things like recon are part of the mission. Hell, I really enjoy recon. If I know what to expect, that part of the experience is lost.

+1   BTW:  Zawiya Uprising is highly recommended for an xnt campaign (Red vs Red).

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CM can be used as a 'tactics tutorial'. If played as a learning aid you'd have a different goal than merely 'having fun'. Steve in that podcast interview said that's what the British MoD is using CM for. To wargame-out certain tactics, to test their combat doctrine, to see the effect of a mix of different weapons systems on the battle outcome. "Whats the best way to approach this situation?" The only way to answer the question is to repeat the process several different ways and see which has the best outcome. Then you can learn something from it.

In that same interview Steve also talked of the original CMBO Beta demo which would be played over and over, up to 300 times by some folks (including myself probably). if you're a longtime CM fan who played the original demo to death why are you turning your nose up at in-game scenarios? Maybe you've been spoiled by too much content.

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Posted (edited)

Sorry, MikeyD, I don't like levels and having to study walk throughs.  This is why I read these forums, watch YouTube, and other stuff like Bil's blog.  At some point, you ship out overseas and the game begins.  I had one open battle generator (not BFC) engage me with 7:1.  The developer said that's real life and happens.  I agree.  But as a game, if you can achieve a 2:1 kill ratio before death or retreat, then the game should score you a victory.  These are games, and a rule of gaming is that victory should be possible at 1 out of 3 times.

I take my games serious ...

* I send scouts ahead while trying to keep my main forces spread out or quickly moving behind the scouts so that they don't end up in an arty barrage.

* I use over watch and whenever possible try to set up heavy weapons for that.

* I have infantry probing 200M ahead of armor for panzerschreck und panzerfaust.  Armor also moves in overwatch, and if the maps permits and I am German with superior optics, I will have Stugs deep out to the flanks to hit the weak armor of an enemy.

I do my best to construct plans and understand game mechanics.  You train so that in RL, you win.

I don't consider scenarios training, but graduation day.  QBs and the scenario editor is to conduct repetitious tests of what may work.

Some aspect of a WG, should exist as a test; not training.  If it is not the scenarios?  Then what is it in CM?

Edited by markshot
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I think the issue here is that the scoring isn't fair. This is a thing that's still sort of dawning on me, but it's occurring to me that there can be reasonable enough justification for challenging or rough scenarios but if they're not scored fairly than it all comes apart. If the designers want to make hard scenarios I get it, but they need to score reasonably against that. Asking the player to do things that go against intuition or experience can rapidly lead to a loss of trust between player and designer ie: structural failure of the meta-game, the result of this is cheesing, save-scumming, etc gaming the game. Safe to say that's not how CM is meant to be played, and if you feel compelled to play it that way the game has in some or another, failed you. 

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2 hours ago, SimpleSimon said:

I think the issue here is that the scoring isn't fair. This is a thing that's still sort of dawning on me, but it's occurring to me that there can be reasonable enough justification for challenging or rough scenarios but if they're not scored fairly than it all comes apart. If the designers want to make hard scenarios I get it, but they need to score reasonably against that. Asking the player to do things that go against intuition or experience can rapidly lead to a loss of trust between player and designer ie: structural failure of the meta-game, the result of this is cheesing, save-scumming, etc gaming the game. Safe to say that's not how CM is meant to be played, and if you feel compelled to play it that way the game has in some or another, failed you. 

Largely agree with this.  However, when playing standalone scenarios, it's better to simply recreate your won victory levels in your own mind.  The player "knows" whether he has won or not regardless of what the victory conditions may say.

In campaigns where a loss can kick you out is a different matter.

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Okay, I am moving on to a different scenario.  Hopefully, the designer of the one I have been playing has had enough laughs.

Some comments:

* Don't put the deployment area in the enemy's LOS/LOF.  After 20 years of CM, this is the first scenario I encountered men dying in the deployment area.  Just like war, scenarios have conventions, and in CM setup and reinforcement tend to be special areas.  (quiet areas of contemplation; not a sniper/HMG shooting fish in barrel)

* Someone said here scenarios have replayability as you discover their little twists which permit victory.  Sorry, I want to learn realistic tactics, and not tricks.  I would have bought Myst in the latter case.  Example of what I consider is of zero value to my CMx2 maturation.  There is a tall wall and a sniper.  There is a 2M gap in the wall.  Things are such that you get a triangle action square looking at the sniper's square.  The 60mm mortar with 5 rounds of HE has LOS to the sniper's action square, but sniper does not have LOS to the mortar team.  So, due to the magic variability of area fire of a mortar's 5 rounds will kill the sniper team ... otherwise the sniper team can easily take out a whole squad.  Now, since CMBO I am fully familiar with keeping tanks out view and using near area fire to kill an ATG due to blast effect.  But this is not even that technique ... it depends on facing and where individuals set up in the action square.  This is NOT RL combat technique, but game engine modeling behavior that makes for a guaranteed kill.

I am moving on.  This scenario taught me nothing about being a better player.  I used RL techniques that I had learned that failed to work:

* Smoke

* Suppressing fire with a SAW (high rate fire creates suppression).

* The entry teams each had a Thompson.  A short range MG which you want in a close fight.  But the suppression failed, and my entry team following game mechanics don't cover angles, but head right to the action point and neglect the guy standing right behind with a weapon.  I watched 2 YouTube videos on how 2 guys could enter a room and fairly safely clear the angles (from outside) and make it in alive without a grenade or flashbang ... assuming 1 hostile and perhaps 1 non-combatant.  If you encountered multiple hostiles, you were suppose to back off and get some support.  In CM entering a door is a video game haunted house.  (Why do they throw grenades at 20M outdoors, but don't want to break the china when fighting in doors?)  It even covered that you don't hold your rifle straight and sighting as the rifle's barrel gives you away.  The rifle should be pointed down just slightly in front of your feet to reduce profile.

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1 hour ago, markshot said:

* Don't put the deployment area in the enemy's LOS/LOF. 

Yes, this is bad, but at the same time, rare, at least in my experience. In recent memory I can only recall one example, which is the mission In To The Valley in SF2's Task Force Thunder Campaign. I rarely play single scenarios, preferring campaigns, and in campaigns at least, such situations are rare. In the above mentioned mission the enemy is in buildings close to your lead armor units at the start and armed with rockets or ATGMs, I forget now which. I didn't like it, but brushed it off as an effective ambush. That's a tough mission all around.

Just as bad, and maybe more common, are artillery stonks on setup zones. For a long time I always thought that designers should not have the ability to call first-turn fires. But then I played CMRT's Blunting the Spear campaign. I'm full of praise for this one it's true, and in that campaign's fourth mission there are indeed first-turn fires. But instead of calling these in on the setup zones, the designers instead had them falling on crossroads and the like. So all of that time spent giving opening orders to my many vehicles resulted in them driving straight in to these deviously well planned fire missions. I took it on the chin but thought how perfect this was, and it's something I'm not sure I've seen before. That campaign is expertly designed.

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Posted (edited)

Given the way 98% of CM has played through the years.  The setup zone is out of LOS/LOF due topography or cover or both.

And then there is an an exciting movement to contact.

The reason I say exciting is that some maps can be big, and the pace at which you cover dead space is going to determine if you win or lose.  The clock is one of the scenarios designers tools.  One would assume many can be won with "no clock".  So, you most conduct recon to avoid losses that result in mission failure, but you must do this quick and keep the troops moving and not bunching due to the ever present threat of in the distance with mortars with direct LOS or an FO.  (or planned fire)

If a scenario designer wants you to get shot up in the setup zone.  I think the briefing should be clear.

YOUR FORCE IS PINNED DOWN AND UNDER FIRE.  MOVE OR DIE.  (It might interesting to have pre-planned barrage called in seemingly by the players side of smoke one minute too late to save everyone.  I don't know if the designer can create pre-planned barrages for the player.  This would open interesting missions of staying on schedule and moving behind a rolling barrage.  Did they do that in WWII?  Reinforcements in trenches could simulate defenders taking deep cover.)

I guess my point is that I don't like scenarios that break conventions that we all understand like movement to contact/recon.  I gain nothing by a scenario where I was suppose to recklessly sprint across the map.  I gain nothing from a brief that tells me that 2 Panzer 3s were spotted when they are Tigers.

You will say that in RL Americans thought every tank round that missed them was fired by a Tiger ... perhaps that is true.  Sadly, it is a convention that briefs probably are more accurate than RL which was probably very FOW.  But then in RL, you have the option to get on the net and say you need tank support.  This is not possible in CM.  It just becomes part of the scenario design which means you are not probing, but assaulting fortifications.

How often does the mission change in the middle in RL?  I know in business I am assigned to add a key feature to a system only to uncover a key system design flaw which if not corrected will spell system failure in just few weeks when the database grows to a certain size.  It create a whole new and much more urgent project.  This is a true story that happened to me my first 2 weeks in a new job as CTO.

I didn't make the conventions.  RL did not make the conventions.  The community has.  Things might have evolved differently where immobile setup units were already in contact when the scenario starts always, but that has not been the pattern.

I suppose someone could do a paper on the unwritten rules.  They are unwritten, but certainly known when someone breaks them, because the scenario just does not feel right.  Like an allied unit showing up in the middle wearing German uniforms who are OSS.  I don't think you can do this in WWII titles; maybe in SF2 with Red and Blue.

CONVENTIONS - it is the culture of our CM community

Edited by markshot
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