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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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1 – Outline Campaign Concept “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.” Niccolò Machiavelli     Step one of making a campaign: quit Combat Mission

One thing that most CM titles come with is separate tagged terrian art for heavy rocks using the word [rubble]. If you use that tag in you scenario  heavy rock tile becomes broken building debris. Tha

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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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2 – Plan, Plan, Research, Plan

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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In the first part we talked about having the idea, working out what is included and then narrowing it down to something manageable for you as a designer. We have a rough idea of a start and finish and what is going to be included. So, what do we do next?

Be flexible and ready to tweak that initial idea because it won’t work out as first intended.

Be prepared to change as at least one of the following will happen throughout the planning and design process right up to final testing:

-          There is a limitation in the game itself. A specific specialist vehicle that isn’t available or the formation structure just can’t be replicated perfectly in the editor are two examples of this.

-          No matter how much you look, you can’t seem to nail down what happened at a specific place in time. You need to fill in a gap in recorded history.

-          There’s a lot of work for you as a designer to do to meet history for no real gameplay purpose.

o   Would you map out a further square kilometer of terrain where only a few scattered shots were fired between two opposing squads? (Not every single contact with the enemy is worth it’s on scenario – particularly if it has no bearing on the outcomes of your main focus).

-          Your work is historically accurate but then you discover… it’s just not fun.

I’m not going to spend a few pages talking about how to undertake basic research and essentially how to suck eggs. Over the years there’s a general pattern I’ve noticed that most wargamers are a pretty cluey bunch with many educated with university degrees, so looking up journals, books or even a basic Google search isn’t too hard. I’ll spend my time instead focusing more on the questions I keep asking myself as I go through this research process.

“Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

Zora Neale Hurston

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Below is your checklist for detailed planning that will save you time and heartache down the track when you are building your Core Unit File, maps to fight over and writing the Campaign Script. Moving too far forward leaving gaps in any element now will slow you down later. However, mapping can usually start a little earlier while you are still researching.

Planning for a campaign revolves around the the triumvirate of Timelines, Formations & Units, and Geography. You need information on all of these elements to populate a campaign file and ideally all three must ‘talk’ to each other or sync up seamlessly to assist the player in easily understanding what is going on at all times.

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I find asking the following questions even while you a building the content inside the editor is a big assistance:

- Do I have a time line of the engagements that occurred within parameters I’ve set for this campaign? Is it telling a consistent narrative I and the player can follow? (More on this in a future part).

- Do I have a clear geography that I need to create maps for in the editor?

- Do I have a full list of formations involved for both sides and their respective histories leading up to and during the period of my campaign?

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Timelines

The timeline is what it says on the tin – a timeline. A chronological listing of all events and other important information that pertains to the outcome of what you are simulating inside Combat Mission.

I like to build out a timeline of events as I read source material usually down to the hour. Yes, there may by gaps when everything seems to stop for an extended period, for instance as both sides hunkered down for a night of rest, but this inaction is still important information for the purposes of campaign design.

Different sources will usually tell you different parts of the battles from specific viewpoints. When you are trying to cover days of combat and other tangible events impacting your campaign, being able to see all known elements in front of you spread out in the order that they happened is a huge help in knowing if you are covering the right content.

If you are an uber designer you may go down the Gantt chart route for generating this timeline, but honestly, it’s easy enough to do this in Microsoft Excel or even just a simple paint program. Even the old-fashioned way with a pencil and paper is suitable. Draw it out with little key points and notes outlining what happened when.

Key things you need to look out for while researching and then plot on your timeline:

-          When and where formations entered the general area of operations.

o   Important to see if specific formations actually took part in what engagement and whether they came on as reserves.

-          Movement of formations and where possible the sub-formations/units throughout the campaign.

o   Historians will likely focus on key movements between towns or landmarks but with enough information and a detailed map you can usually plot the route they took.

o   Sub-units are still terribly influential in a Combat Mission environment. For example, a platoon of Tiger I’s has the ability to potentially swing an entire battle, but it’s unlikely a full battalion is moving around together so it’s easy for these details to be missed.

-          Kick off times of planned movements and attacks.

o   Will help determine start times for scenarios but also where set out the boundaries for your in-game map builds.

-          When forces became aware of their opponent’s presence or were spotted.

o   For adjusting start times and reducing the amount of mapping work. For example, if the operation kicked off at 0630 hours but the force you are following first travelled three kilometres and didn’t meet any resistance, do you really need to map out another 3 square kilometres plus worth of terrain in the editor?

-          When the first shots or major fighting erupted.

-          When and where key units were located. (Includes reactionary movements of opposing forces).

o   Helps plot which units should be in what scenarios.

o   Reinforcement timings.

-          When major fighting died down or an engagement clearly ended. (The hill/church tower was captured)

o   To plot out initial end times and therefore individual scenario lengths.

o   Time allocation is a big factor in overall difficulty of individual scenarios and campaigns. Reduce time players have in campaigns and they are likely to act recklessly to try and achieve their objectives which may not be historically accurate and mess up balance for future scenarios. (Remember Combat Mission commanders pushing pixeltrüppen around the battlefield are more likely to be a blood thirsty lot who aren’t under the same strains of a real officer in the field who has to write letters home to mothers.

Once you have a populated timeline you should be able bookend the timings of each of your scenarios around natural beginning and and end points based on the chronology of these events and the engagements. As always, remember to tweak as your project progresses and new information comes to light.

For Tukums, once it became clear the actual campaign was going to be centred around the engagements of a single day (see part 1), my time line was a very narrow window of effectively 6 hours or so. A lot still happens in 6 hours and I had to pay more attention to when units arrived in the area on both sides. I also had to deal with contradictory sources (more on that later when we get to units).

My research led me to the conclusion that it should be a three-scenario campaign, with scenarios 1 and 2 occurring concurrently on either side of a waterway, while scenario 3 takes place directly after. There is no real time gap between the engagements unlike a usual campaign. This is important because it dictates that there was never any chance for the forces involved to be receive replenishment or resupply between engagements. Knowing this key piece of information up front helps in the design and feel of the campaign throughout the remainder of the process right up to writing the campaign script.

<I’m purposefully being light on in this section and not showing any graphics given likely spoilers>

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Geography

 

As mentioned previously your research will likely bring up names of towns and other landmarks that are regularly repeated across sources. These become your first homing points to work out what you need to map out.

Initially I use something accessible like GoogleMaps to work out where everything is in correlation to everything else. I think pencil in some rough map boundaries (rectangles given shape of Combat Mission maps), in a simple paint program over the top of some screenshots.

When it comes to setting up the map overlays for the editor itself, I don’t like to rely on GoogleMaps or anything modern for historical work. This is due to terrain and urban areas in particular that are likely to be far more developed after more than 75 years of post war development. For more information around map overlays see JonS’ initial manual.

For Tukums I found some 1930’s era maps of Latvia that provided detailed topographic and building placement maps. This was a high detailed scan (>1gb file size) of a physical map which meant I could zoom in and move things around without the risk of the scale being contorted (a real problem with web-based options) or the resolution becoming too poor when I zoomed right in. This all came in handy as I realised half way through the mapping process that I needed to extend my master map by a full kilometer to the west half way through building the map. It was easy to add the extra map onto the file in a basic paint program and then in game in game extend the map further in the editor so the dimensions matched up with the existing map I had already started.

The reason I had to extend the map was a realisation in my Timeline and Formation research about the likely units involved and which direction they had approached Tukums from based on their movements earlier in the morning. Not all engagements (for scenarios or campaigns) will have the high level of detail that you require as a designer so you will need to put on your detective caps and do some digging and logical analysis to fill in all the gaps.

Example of linking Geography back to Timelines

 

This was particularly the case with Tukums where the Soviet sourced information was very light on or were based on false reports from commanding generals in the field. (Considering the Soviets lost badly on this day, it’s perhaps surprising there were a few mis-truths in the Soviet source material given it wasn’t good for your health to promote yourself as an incompetent commander. Meanwhile on the German side, the attack was led by a commander that was known to lead from the front and not from behind a desk writing reports. Detailed blow by blow accounts of what occurred were not going to show up including mapping out a clear route and path the German attackers would be coming from.

As a result, you get some sources vaguely suggesting an attack from the west while others suggest one from the south. The Soviet sources (falsely) claim enemy came in from the north after an amphibious landing. (See note above the Soviets above).

What we do know was the German movements of this ad-hoc Panzer force from the start of their part in Operation Doppelkopf the day before this campaign takes place with start positions well to the south west of Tukums as a town call Saldus (distance around 62 kilometers by road). There was a clear road linking Saldus to Tukums which would suggest the force moved directly from one point to the next leading to an assumption the Germans therefore attacked the town from the west.

However, multiple accounts noted the German force first moved to the Latvian town of Džūkste which was east north east from Saldus and almost direct south from Tukums. This latter option makes more sense as Džūkste is on the main road leading from Saldus to Riga (the overall end goal of this wider operation). The turn north does to this day remains a bit of a mystery both with such an exposed northern flank occupied by at least two Soviet Divisions (including confirmed armour sightings), it was perhaps a shift to get closer to the coast to ensure a more sucre left flank as they made the final dash into Riga. Combat just south of this route was already very fierce with multiple Panzer Divisions bogging down in a stalemate with Soviet forces.

This allowed me to fill in the gaps from the history books for the purposes of generating the campaign and making sure I’m mapping what is the likely battlefield. Small tidbits of information and personal accounts help reinforce that I’ve made the right decision or not. In this instance the experience of a Tiger I crew who reported arriving at the battle and driving through a lumber operation outside of the town. I can spot this lumberyard on the historical maps (another benefit for not relying on Google) and it still lines up with my planned mapping boundaries.

A quick GoogleMap to show the difference between the direct route to Tukums and the likely route of approach given the German force went towards Džūkste beforehand.

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A little bit more research up front can fundamentally alter the campaign and where the player ends up fighting. Plus saves you a lot of time mapping out potentially the wrong part of Europe!

Edited by Ithikial_AU
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Formations & Units

 

The Combat Mission scenario editor has a lot of customisation for formations and units built into it from the get go. Morale, experience, fatigue, ammunition, headcount can all be set to meet your requirements. Then there’s the ability to tweak formations themselves by deleting and adding single vehicles/infantry teams. It’s a boon for a historical scenario maker.

Much of the hard work has already been done for you prior to a game or module being released. The amount of effort that goes into ensuring the Tables of Equipment are as accurate as they can be is immense. To give you a sense of the detail and questions asked before it appears in a final game here is a rough outline of one such debate over a formation appearing with the Fire and Rubble module and in this campaign. There was back and forth debate over the composition of what small arms specific squads should have. When one researcher found the digital scans of the original 1944 paperwork outlining the design of the new battalion and how many rounds of a certain type of bullet would be required for the formation to be adequately supplied… it settled the matter.

What this allows you to do when researching a campaign is to have confidence that when you read that a German Fusilier Battalion took part in the attack, you can select that same battalion in the editor and it will likely match perfectly or very closely to what took part in the battle you are trying to recreate. It’s a strong base that you can tinker at around the edges to account for casualties or additional units that were attached for the engagement.

A big problem you’ll come across reading military history books outlining the course of a campaigns is that in many cases they rarely go below the battalion level or provide regular updates on the status of the unit. It may look odd at first glance when you read that a battalion seems to be in two places at once or a full battalion is required to move in and take an area the size of a hamlet. In reality it’s likely elements from that battalion were spread out to achieve multiple objectives or some elements were held in reserve. This means it’s always handy to have at least two difference sources, one focusing on the campaign plus additional sources focusing on unit histories (or failing that campaigns from only one sides viewpoint). Unit histories and indeed a number of websites that provide unit-based information and diary like content will likely help you far more in creating your own order of battle for the campaign you are designing. Read them in parallel and plot important information onto the timeline noted above.

These are the questions I ask when pulling together information on formations I need to include in a campaign (for both the player and the opposing side):

-          Starting condition at commencement of the wider operation

o   Are they fresh off the train from the training depot or are they already battered from earlier fighting?

-          Starting condition at the commencement of the fighting you are focusing on

o   Potentially different compared to the start of the operation. Vehicle breakdowns, earlier skirmishers you aren’t including etc.

-          Condition before each engagement/scenario you will be designing (if possible)

o   Helps you gauge how much of a challenge each prior scenario was for the formation historically.

o   For example, if A Company had been in two prior scenarios and went into their third engagement historically at 80% strength, but your campaign testing shows that even with good tactics they are usually going into the same engagement at around 40% strength; then you know your balance is probably off or something in earlier scenarios is not lining up to history.

-          Condition at the end of the operation (or end point of what is being recreated)

o   As above. A good gauge for measuring how hard your individual scenarios are and perhaps appropriate victory point allocations for units.

o   For example, if the force was a shell of it’s starting strength but was still slapped on the back and told “job well done” before being removed from the lines, then perhaps victory point allocations favouring the survival of units is not the best approach.

-          What happened between engagements?

o   Another engagement? Is it worth creating a scenario for?

o   Did they have time to rest and refit? Did they get any replacements? Did they replenish their ammunition? (Do the work now and it makes Campaign Scripting a whole lot easier)

o   Would the ability to have a rest and refit be only possible if they had won the earlier battle? (Start thinking now how your individual scenarios will link together and branch out).

It’s very similar to designing an individual scenario in my opinion, but it’s perhaps more pertinent that you ‘get it right’ up front, particularly for helping with overall campaign balance when the same force is going to be following the player through multiple engagements.

For Tukums I default back to MS Excel again to plan out what the historical force and visualise how it may look inside the editor. More on this when we get to the Core Unit File creation. See the table below for the planning for the German force. Something similar was done for the Soviets but I won’t go into detail there given spoilers. All I will say is it did change a few times and again required a detective’s caps to work out what units were where and at what time.

image.png.c1e688e6fdd93ddf8bb010985867306d.png

Example of linking Formations back to Timelines

 

The worst thing you can do as a campaign designer is throw in all this hard work and not see anyone finish the end product or bail because it’s led them down a branching path with no prospect of having any hope in hell of achieving victory in follow on scenarios. How many times have you loaded up a follow-on battle in a campaign and been expected to clear a map with the same battered formation you just fought with, and this time it’s urban warfare?

This is where plotting the formations and units involved on a timeline really helps. It allows you to see how much combat (and the number of Combat Mission scenarios) each formation is expected to face. If a company of infantry is expected to fight through eight scenarios without any chance of replenishment and then the last fight is in an urban environment, how realistic will it be and how realistic will it be for a player to have that formation in fighting shape by that last mission? Even a genius commander is slowly going to take casualties.

In the end remember this is aiming for a hyper realistic wargame simulation, but it is still a game. If you make things appear impossible you will likely encourage a ‘save scum’ mentality because the player likely doesn’t know what this formation is meant to tackle next.

For Tukums it was actually quite easy to answer this question given most of the player’s formations would have to fight through no more than two engagements each. There’s still a lot that can go wrong but a strong chance the player would always have a chance right up the third and final scenario that determines if the player is victorious or not.

In the end…

 

I have a clear idea of the geography I need to map out in the editor (3920m x 2000m in this case), with no real wasted space the player will have no interest in at some point. I have a timeline of events that I’ve filled with content and a detailed core unit file. You get a rough idea of how time progresses and where the flow of the campaign should go between each engagement. You get something like this…

image.png.681cfc51578e1c0bbbf344137e7a816f.png

Mmmm. Looks a bit like a campaign script doesn’t it. ;)

A Special Note on Fictional Campaigns

 

As you can probably tell, all of the above is focused heavily on a historical based campaign where I have limitations and boundaries for every question. No matter how hard I try I can’t justify adding a company of King Tigers to the players force since none where present.

Just because what you maybe designing is fictional doesn’t mean you have a free reign on to do what you want. Well technically you do, it is a game after all, but what I mean is the game itself is designed first and foremost as a realistic strategy game. Keep your fictional planning within realistic proportions. Some examples of what I mean:

-          The mission is to take a hamlet held by a platoon of militia and civilians are confirmed present. Better give the player Corp or Army level artillery assets to assist.

-          It’s time to take the centre of the city in a tight urban warfare. I’m the player only needs a pure armour force and no infantry support.

-          Congratulations on winning your last mission. For your next mission your force has been transported 100 kilometers away to over the course of 30 minutes.

Combat Mission is designed to reflect the real world. Situations like this drop players out of the narrative very quickly. Remember your players are the same bunch of wargamers that will pipe up when the angle of the Panther’s front armour is one degree off. They like realism.

Though I must admit I’m still waiting on a science fiction based Combat Mission: Earth vs Mars type of setting.  :D

Edited by Ithikial_AU
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