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Fire and Rubble Preview: The Anatomy of What Goes Into a Stock Campaign Release


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1 – Outline Campaign Concept

“Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”

Niccolò Machiavelli

 

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Step one of making a campaign: quit Combat Mission and start planning. This first and the second section of this write up will all be done outside of the game itself. A Combat Mission campaign is a project with many moving parts that need to talk to each other ideally in a seamless way to make a great experience for your audience.

Before properly begin, I want you to go through this checklist and ask these questions:

- Have you made a scenario yet?

- Are you inspired? (This is going to take a while)

- Can a Combat Mission Campaign do what you want it to?

The third one is a bit fuzzy for some so that’s what we’ll be answering below in this part, but hopefully you’ve said yes to all three. The first is paramount as designing a scenario from scratch has enough to learn on its own without adding on yet more to learn. Considering campaigns are single player only, you will have to know how to create AI plans. Is that historical series of engagements grabbed your attention? No way around it, you’re creating a bunch of scenarios on the same subject matter so it’s going to take time.

Jon Snowden started his Scenario Design DAR/AAR stating: “Scenarios usually begin with a hazy idea of what I want to do.”

Campaigns usually start by having a hazy idea but then also wondering what would come next? For historical based campaigns there’s usually a series of engagements that line up that you want to re-create. For fictional campaigns it’s usually a bit more creative such as “The player has taken the hill, so what should I place on the other side?”

There are always more inspiration and ideas… one day. (And there are no Battlefront secrets in the screenshot, I’ve checked).

 

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What is a Combat Mission Campaign?

It’s a pre-determined series of linked scenarios that can track and carry across the same units between multiple engagements. That is it.

Combat Mission is still a strategy game and campaigns do no introduce any role-playing elements such as units gaining experience after ‘x enemy kills’ or the like. The campaign must be a self-contained within the same game family – so a campaign can’t begin in Combat Mission: Battle of Normandy and transfer through to Combat Mission: Final Blitzkrieg. Though there is nothing stopping a designer from breaking this one, the focus of tracking specific units between battles does naturally lend the system to favouring short time scales ranging from a few hours through to a week or so of combat. If you look through all the stock campaign releases that have come with every base game and module, you’ll see they largely follow the same pattern where you command a handful of formations through a number of trials over the course of a few days or weeks.

So back to my third question:  Can a Combat Mission Campaign do what you want it to?

Idea: I want the player to command Army Group North in its defence of Riga. I also want to throw in a hypothetical scenario around what would happen if an additional Soviet Tank Army also joined in the attack. I want a pony.

Ithikial’s Response: Combat Mission is the wrong scale for that type of wargame. I also want a pony.

 

Idea: I want the player to command the 2nd Battalion, 506 PIR, from D-Day through to the end of the war.

Ithikial’s Response: Well that’s doable on paper, but before you begin that’s already two campaigns across two titles that can’t ‘talk’ to each other. It’s also likely dozens of scenarios that need to be individually built and have planned out branching pathways. Have you considered what happens if Lt Winters is killed at Brecourt Manor? What does that mean for Easy Co. at Bloody Gulch? I promise you’ll burn out and the project will never get finished.

 

Idea: I want the player to command 3rd Battalion, 116 Infantry Regiment in July 1944 as it fights towards St Lo. The campaign will end once they manage to link up with the 1st “Lost” Battalion east of the city on the city.

Ithikial’s Response: I want to play that. There’s a good chance it will work.

 

The message here and for most of this first part is that campaigns can spiral out of control very easily if there is no time, force composition and geography limit you place upon yourself as a designer to keep the project workable and a player interested.

What if I said the Battle of Tukums actually started out first as a seven-scenario campaign tracking the Panzergrafs’ units from their jump off at Saldus in western Latvia, through to Tukums and then onto the Riga outskirts themselves, plus a few more scenarios as they widened the corridor they created over the following days. It was too big with the major set piece battle around the town itself occurring in the front half of the series. Everything else would quickly become filler. So the campaign turned into a large scenario merging two of the earlier planned engagements of the campaign that were to occur concurrently in the timeline. Then when I realised there could be potentially over 1,500 moving pixeltrüppen at one time on the screen with 100 plus tanks… I really didn’t want to be the cause of melting CPU’s and complaints back to Battlefront help desk, so it was split up again into three distinct parts ranging from 0830 hours in the morning through to around 1400 hours in the afternoon.

The green square is what this campaign is focused on. The purple boxes are what the first cut of what this campaign would of looked like and I still think would of played worst for it.

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So, remember when I opened this part saying the first thing to do is “Quit Combat Mission”? All of the above was done through a few forum posts (behind the scenes), ongoing research and planning, and (because it’s me) a spreadsheet or two to organise my thoughts. There was no time wasted in the editor making maps and creating scenarios that went nowhere which is a path to losing interest in a project pretty quick.

Now there are going to be some unique terminology that I’m going to keep coming back to in every part of this series so it is prudent to get this out of the way up front:

A Glossary of Terms

Core Unit

Any unit (on both sides) that will take part in more than one scenario and where it’s end condition

will transfer from one to another.

Non-Core Unit

Any unit (on both sides) that will only take part in one scenario or where the unit’s end condition

does not matter for follow on scenarios.

Campaign Briefing

The first briefing the player will read once commencing the campaign and will likely refer back to throughout the course of playing to review the overall objective. In most cases contains high level information on overall situation, objectives and a high level of detail on units under their command. (A part will be dedicated to this).

Campaign Script

[Cue spooky music] The behind the scenes code that tells Combat Mission what to do between scenarios. The branching ‘road map’ the player will go down between individual scenarios and the information about what should change for the core units transferring into a battle. Has been known to cause designers to cry, scare away newcomers and cause marriage breakdowns*.

Core Unit File

A master file that is the central collection point for all campaign level elements. It is also the file that is used to compile and create the final campaign. Will include all Core Units, the Campaign Briefing, Campaign Briefing Imagery, the Campaign Script (sort of we’ll get to that).

 

* There may not be any tangible evidence of this one.

End of Part 1.

 

Your homework to be posted in the comments below:

-    Is there a Stock Campaign that has come out with a product release that sticks out in your mind as one you really enjoyed?

-    Why do you remember it and what makes it stand out?

Edited by Ithikial_AU
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22 hours ago, Bufo said:

What's the size of the master map?

3.6km x 2.9 I think. Don't quote me on that.

21 hours ago, rocketman said:

I guess @Ithikial_AU found the information he asked for a long time ago at FGM. Glad it was enough that it turned into a campaign.

Looking forward to seeing more about this.

Shhhh. :P There's been a lot more since then and a part of this series is planned to cover the additional research information that you may not really need for individual scenarios but helps create campaigns. Never under estimate this community, there is a grog for everything.

21 hours ago, John1966 said:

I think I can see a partisan in the trees.

And yes! It's a woman.

Sorry very slight spoiler but no partisans here.

19 hours ago, Vacilllator said:

Those Pz IIIs look straight from the factory, with no camo scheme and not even any markings 😉.  I think however that they stopped making Pz IIIs in 1943 so there's probably another good reason for this...

I will explain the Panzer III's in a further part while talking about unit selection depending on how far down that rabbit hole I can go. Seeing behind the scenes I'm honestly amazed at the level of detail some of the TOE discussions get down to.

Short version, most Panzer III's were pulled from front line units after Kursk and were sent back for conversions into StuG's, though a few were sent to Panzer Schools as training vehicles. The Germans in August 1944 were throwing everything they could at the Soviets as Bagration ran out of steam at the gates of Warsaw. At the same time the Soviets cut off Army Group North from their land route back to Germany at the end of July - a larger German force than what was trapped at Stalingrad. This included emptying training depots with their trainee crews from Germany and sending them east. They had guns and tracks. One of those units was sent to Latvia at the start of August.

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1 hour ago, Ithikial_AU said:

Is there a Stock Campaign that has come out with a product release that sticks out in your mind as one you really enjoyed?

-    Why do you remember it and what makes it stand out?

I've enjoyed all the stock campaigns, that I had the pleasure to play. I loved the Kampfgruppe Peiper Campaign for CM:FB, the most. Here's a few things that make it stand out:

1. It's a massive campaign with a lot of branching paths. It really felt "dynamic". You had to make the decision on what to capture, because the next mission would depend on it. 

2. It has a diverse OOB, that persistently shows up. I prefer combined arms missions as opposed to spec ops stuff.  You get to know your units, as most of them show up frequently.

3. It's very authentic to the historical events and locations, but also gives you the freedom to make your own timeline. This got me really immersed and engrossed in both the game, and the history.

I even made an AAR for this campaign, showing its grandeur. Honourable mentions to Khabour Trail and Highland Games.

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2 hours ago, Ithikial_AU said:

 

Non-Core Unit

Any unit (on both sides) that will only take part in one scenario or where the unit’s end condition

does not matter for follow on scenarios.

Thanks for doing this thread...will be intresting 🤓...

One small point though...and SORRY ! for nitpicking...

But i wounder if the wording here is the best ? (Might be me though with my limited english that is missunderstanding this statement..)

But...the end condition of NON-CORE forces can have a decisive impact on follow on scenarios...If the designer wish for that to be the case...can they not ?

Dependant on how the unit objectives and force parameters are set-up for the individual scenarios.

Edited by RepsolCBR
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34 minutes ago, DerKommissar said:

I've enjoyed all the stock campaigns, that I had the pleasure to play. I loved the Kampfgruppe Peiper Campaign for CM:FB, the most. Here's a few things that make it stand out:

1. It's a massive campaign with a lot of branching paths. It really felt "dynamic". You had to make the decision on what to capture, because the next mission would depend on it. 

2. It has a diverse OOB, that persistently shows up. I prefer combined arms missions as opposed to spec ops stuff.  You get to know your units, as most of them show up frequently.

3. It's very authentic to the historical events and locations, but also gives you the freedom to make your own timeline. This got me really immersed and engrossed in both the game, and the history.

I even made an AAR for this campaign, showing its grandeur. Honourable mentions to Khabour Trail and Highland Games.

An additional very important aspect of the best campaigns is conservation of men and materiel:  That your casualties and ammo expended during one mission may not be fully replaced (if at all) in following missions.  So, one cannot behave in an "irresponsible" manner during the current mission (as one can in standalone scenarios) as the results will affect your ability to win future missions.

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1 hour ago, John1966 said:

None in the game?

John, I've never been inadvertently (colaterally?) quoted LOL.

I believe they will be in the game, just not in the campaign in question?  I'm more interested in the Panzer IIIs.

Edited by Vacilllator
Correcting my spelling (Warts'n'all must be around here somewhere...)
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2 hours ago, RepsolCBR said:

Thanks for doing this thread...will be intresting 🤓...

One small point though...and SORRY ! for nitpicking...

But i wounder if the wording here is the best ? (Might be me though with my limited english that is missunderstanding this statement..)

But...the end condition of NON-CORE forces can have a decisive impact on follow on scenarios...If the designer wish for that to be the case...can they not ?

Dependant on how the unit objectives and force parameters are set-up for the individual scenarios.

Only in the sense that any casualties incurred on the player's force as a whole have an effect on the victory conditions of that individual campaign scenario (e.g., a friendly force condition/casualty parameter or if those units have been set as unit objectives) which leads to being dumped out of the campaign or a campaign branch as dictated by the campaign script.  In the broad and generic sense of @Ithikial_AU's statement - it is correct and consistent with the manual which states that non-core units are not tracked in a campaign.

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3 hours ago, RepsolCBR said:

But...the end condition of NON-CORE forces can have a decisive impact on follow on scenarios...If the designer wish for that to be the case...can they not ?

Dependant on how the unit objectives and force parameters are set-up for the individual scenarios.

You and @Ithikial_AU are getting at two different aspects of the condition of the non-core units. I am pretty sure that @Ithikial_AU means that a depleted non-core unit will not hinder you ability to fight in a following scenario by causing you to have two few forces at your command. Since they will not return in following scenarios you will not have to fight with a depleted unit from the beginning of any following scenario. However you are correct, the condition of any unit in a secenario can be used for scoring and thus a non-core unit that has suffered significant casualties can effect the score in the scenario you just finished and thus effect the path the campaign takes.

The non-core units will not appear in follow on scenarios thus they will have no lasting effect in battles going forward. However they do count in scoring of the scenario they appeared in. So, their condition could change what branch you fight on and your overall results are.

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12 hours ago, RepsolCBR said:

But...the end condition of NON-CORE forces can have a decisive impact on follow on scenarios...If the designer wish for that to be the case...can they not ?

Dependant on how the unit objectives and force parameters are set-up for the individual scenarios.

Yes, that all comes down to victory point allocations and degrees of victory, so yes non-core units still certainly have an influence here for sure. Another part of this write up will be on Victory Point allocations for campaigns.

12 hours ago, Erwin said:

An additional very important aspect of the best campaigns is conservation of men and materiel:  That your casualties and ammo expended during one mission may not be fully replaced (if at all) in following missions.  So, one cannot behave in an "irresponsible" manner during the current mission (as one can in standalone scenarios) as the results will affect your ability to win future missions.

Yes. Will be addressed in a future part. :) Need to start in the conceptual and planning stage and move through to how the game handles these things.

12 hours ago, John1966 said:

None in the game?

Partisans are not part of this campaign. Traditional fight between both armies.

9 hours ago, IanL said:

The non-core units will not appear in follow on scenarios thus they will have no lasting effect in battles going forward. However they do count in scoring of the scenario they appeared in. So, their condition could change what branch you fight on and your overall results are.

Exactly. Just they will never appear again in the campaign and condition is not tracked. For those still a touch confused...

1st Battalion is a US Infantry Battalion (and it's subsidiaries) is a core unit. Elements of this formation appear in every scenario of a campaign. They are the focus. In scenario 3, C Company from the 1st Battalion [Core] is fighting in it's second engagement of the campaign, it's casualties and condition is carried over from this earlier battle. This scenario however has C Company [Core] fighting alongside Company E from the 2nd Battalion which is a Non-Core Unit. Whatever happens to Company E [Non-Core] will effect this outcome of this Scenario 3 but Company E will never be seen or heard from again after it has finished fighting in this engagement. Company C from 1st Battalion [Core] moves on to scenario 4 in whatever state it is in at the end of this battle.

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21 hours ago, Vacilllator said:

I'm more interested in the Panzer IIIs.

Aye. P3s are my favourite panzers. I think they're a better tank than the T34/76. P3 had an excellent 5-man crew layout, great observation and 2 fantastic MGs. It's no wonder they became observation and command vehicles.

Will the Ausf. N variant be included?

I've found them to be excellent support tanks, in CM:FI. Better suited for the job than a Panther. Like Rommel said, let the artillery take care of enemy tanks. If push comes to shove, there's always the HEAT round.

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