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Trying to use real world tactics


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I think that i've found the issue with trying to use, in Combat Mission, what are probably best referred to as 'text book' tactics. The like found in manuals and battle drills etc.

Text book tactics usually focus on something like an assault with one platoon on a fixed enemy position. You set up an SBF or base of fire, send another team around the side via a concealed and covered route and assault from there.

By trying to implement this in CMx2 I've just been frustrated consistently. The issue, that i'm sure i am the last person to realise, is that these tactics don't work, simply because the situation in manuals is false. Only the most braindead enemy sets up in a single isolated position. Most enemies have a series of supporting positions which mean that an attempt to follow the book either leads to your manoeuvre force being pinned down by another enemy position, or your SBF position being engaged and overwhelmed.

If my reading of the situation is correct, firstly what is the purpose of troops being taught in such a way, is it more for the sake of simplicity? And secondly, how do i get my mindset right to apply to CMx2?

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Hopefully a platoon assault like your example would not take place unless all the information in the form of a SME order was available. If possible. Perhaps scouts already ascertained what you are up against. What's covering the enemy MG. And then the scenario starts. CM does that pretty good, you can detach the platoon MMG, set up a fire base and hook in with the rest of the platoon as you said. Hopefully you have all the useful information to read prior to battle.

That basic text book tactic is taught to infantry section commanders as well, so they have a fundamental understanding, and perhaps a qualification to control fire and movement at a higher level. Applying it to CM depends on the scenario, sometimes you get a text book operation, other times you get a wtf situation with duff intel requiring some adaptive thinking.

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2 hours ago, Flibby said:

If my reading of the situation is correct, firstly what is the purpose of troops being taught in such a way, is it more for the sake of simplicity?

Tactics scale. Think of it like math. First you learn to count, then add/subtract, then multiply, then divide, etc. Eventually you go from 2+2=4 to [insert long equation with numbers/letters/symbols here]. 

The military (well, competent ones at least) teach everything following a crawl, walk, run style. That is, you start small and simple and build up from there. The point of those manuals is not to show you how to overcome every possible tactical situation you are going to find, but to give you the basic template that can be applied to any situation and built upon. So you are correct that a lot of the examples in the manuals are not ones that you will find out in the real world, with a few exceptions. But, when you apply the right tactical principles to situations which the manuals attempt to teach, you will be better off than not. 

Don't think you are alone here. A common anecdote from many wars is that "only newbies actually follow the manuals." That is a famous line I've heard in reference to the Vietnam War more times than I'd like to recall. Doing something "by the book" and stating that in a bad context is the same idea. When people want to learn about military tactics, most turn to manuals covering the fireteam and squad level. This is the wrong thing to do, but this is what pop culture fuels (videogames such as Brothers in Arms, while great, depicts a ludicrously oversimplified depiction of combat at the squad level) people to do. In actual warfare, squad "tactics" are irrelevant. What is more important is squad SOPs, such as "spread out enough not to all get wasted by one shell but not too far that you get lost/unsupported," and "keep track of yourself, your gear, and your team members," and "be aware of your surroundings and your own status, such as ammo and injury." In CM, all of this is taken care of for you by the TacAI. 

Here is a better way to think of tactics in CM; you always want to apply tactics from the highest level you command. What that means is, if you are in command of 1 platoon, then use platoon level tactics. If you are in command of 2 platoons, use company level tactics. If you are in command of multiple companies, then use battalion tactics. Another way to think of this is, if you have multiple elements (lets say 2 companies) what authority would be required for you, the player, to give company commanders orders? The answer would be a battalion commander, and so battalion level tactics is what you want to use. 
Tactics generally scale up, not down. If you are in an environment where you have an entire battalion at your disposal, a single platoon likely will not be able to do much on its own. This is where that scaling comes into play. If a manual depicts two platoons attacking an objective, one as the base of fire and the other as the assault, but you are commanding multiple companies, then you just upscale it all. Instead of using a platoon to fix and a platoon to flank, you swap the platoon for a company. There is a lot of nuance to that, but that is the general principle. 

A final note on manuals: most of them that you will find from a quick google search are going to be somewhat dated. The principles remain, but the nuance changes a lot. Basic infantry tactics are the same now as they were in WWII. However, the weapons of war have changed a lot since then, creating a whole different set of nuance to deal with. 
Manuals are not a bible, and by that I mean a perfect reference. Many of them are more complicated than they need to be, confusing or unintentionally misleading. For example, the manual detailing how to call for artillery is long and dense, but the actual procedure is very simple. In the case of an artillery manual, it also makes general assumptions about its reader, like the ability to already know how to read a military map and derive coordinates from one. So, sometimes manuals are missing a piece of information because it assumes the reader already knows the institutional knowledge. If you don't know what information is missing, this can complicate reading manuals even more. This is one of the many reasons why basic training exists in the first place, to create a common standard of knowledge, and why further instruction is needed to learn a given specialty within the military. 

Hopefully that helps some. 

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2 hours ago, Flibby said:

Text book tactics usually focus on something like an assault with one platoon on a fixed enemy position. You set up an SBF or base of fire, send another team around the side via a concealed and covered route and assault from there.

If It was as simple as that no attack would ever fail...but it is not.

That instruction needs to be used together with several other basic instructions...like

- attack him were he is weak

- concentration of forces

Few defences will be equally strong everwhere. The trick is to find a spot were his defence is not at its best and attack there...In force.

If you are not able to suppress/destroy the supporting enemy possitions as they show themself on your attack sektor you are attacking with a to small force ! You may try to isolate that sektor from his other long range weapons...using smoke for example.

You need to dominate your attacking sektor by fire and If you achive this then you will be able to frank the enemy possitions one at the time...

Ones you have penetrated the enemy line you will hopefully have more options how to procent forward.

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3 hours ago, Flibby said:

IfText book tactics usually focus on something like an assault with one platoon on a fixed enemy position. You set up an SBF or base of fire, send another team around the side via a concealed and covered route and assault from there.

By trying to implement this in CMx2 I've just been frustrated consistently. The issue, that i'm sure i am the last person to realise, is that these tactics don't work, simply because the situation in manuals is false. Only the most braindead enemy sets up in a single isolated possition.

If you are assulting a single possition with a platoon and several supporting enemy possitions suddenly show themself...

This is most likely no longer a platoon objective ! But rather a company one...

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50 minutes ago, RepsolCBR said:

f you achive this then you will be able to frank the enemy possitions

The commander walks up and starts by asking "Anyone in this platoon named Frank? If there is, you go and stand over there for a special duty". It turned out there were six of them and they all took their gear and walked away from the others not knowing what this special duty actually was.

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Basic fire and maneuver does work in isolated engagements. The bocage maps in CMBN offer plenty of it, and assaults against isolated strongpoints will be succesful too. However I'm guessing you've encountered the situation that your maneuver element very rapidly gets overwhelmed by multiple mutually supported enemy fireteams. It's very common, and you just need to find a bigger hammer. More firepower nearly always works. Sometimes your reward for assaulting a position is an immediate, urgent, and frightening defence. It's just the way it goes. Real warfare is similar - read about the Marines in Hue City during Tet 1968.

 

One of Bill Hardenberger's rules is 'establish local fire superiority'. This is gospel. If you don't do this, you're going to lose the suppression meta-game, and once that's lost, your attack will fail. One of my personal rules is 'don't leave combat power on the table'. If there's a unit that can help, make sure it's there or can get there quickly. A single tank or M2 Bradley can tip a fight very fast.

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Once of the simplest things to remember is to go slow. Don't be in a hurry to get into LOS and shoot, because being in LOS means "they" might shoot first and more, which is bad.

Within the confines of the time limit you're under, recon, recon, recon. The longer a scout watches, the more they might see. The more you see, the easier it is to figure out where to apply your firepower or support when you do open up and take a short term objective successfully before seeing what the next manageable thing is.

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7 hours ago, Flibby said:

I think that i've found the issue with trying to use, in Combat Mission, what are probably best referred to as 'text book' tactics. The like found in manuals and battle drills etc.

Text book tactics usually focus on something like an assault with one platoon on a fixed enemy position. You set up an SBF or base of fire, send another team around the side via a concealed and covered route and assault from there.

By trying to implement this in CMx2 I've just been frustrated consistently. The issue, that i'm sure i am the last person to realise, is that these tactics don't work, simply because the situation in manuals is false. Only the most braindead enemy sets up in a single isolated position. Most enemies have a series of supporting positions which mean that an attempt to follow the book either leads to your manoeuvre force being pinned down by another enemy position, or your SBF position being engaged and overwhelmed.

If my reading of the situation is correct, firstly what is the purpose of troops being taught in such a way, is it more for the sake of simplicity? And secondly, how do i get my mindset right to apply to CMx2?

 

I don't see recon or scouting anywhere in your tactics there.

Generally speaking, if you have the appropriate resources at your disposal, then patience, reconnaissance, and applying firepower will work in your favor. Personally speaking, impatience is my #1 error. In your example the enemy has too many points to cover your angle of attack. Don't try and establish a base of fire on an enemy that could return fire from superior positions the second you pop your head. Smoke screen. Or apply harassing artillery support to soften them and then follow through with suppression via on-map resources. Those are just examples off the top of my head. 99% of the time if something goes sideways in CM it is, on reflection, wholly my fault and there usually was a better way. And the best way to learn is to just make those mistakes and then think about them and figure out what could have been done different.

Sometimes scenarios/campaigns are designed to be considerably more constrained, surprising, and/or difficult, but I suppose knowing the difference between "I'm messing up" and "the scenario is designed to mess me up" is a whole 'nother bag of hammers.

 

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Really interesting replies, thank you to everyone.

The responses help with my mindset question. Really rather than thinking about setting up one SBF position to deal with an enemy position, I think i need to be thinking about a whole fireplan in order to gain fire superiority over the enemy where it counts, and then exploiting that area, making sure that enemy positions that I cannot adequately suppress are avoided until later, when hopefully a different angle opens up from manoeuvre that means i can bring forces to bear on it.

I like the idea of tactics scalling up as described by IICptMillerIII must confess that I have focussed on platoon level tactics where I always have more than a platoon as my disposal therefore I'm thinking too small scale and trying to do the TacAI's job for it.

8 hours ago, IICptMillerII said:

Here is a better way to think of tactics in CM; you always want to apply tactics from the highest level you command. What that means is, if you are in command of 1 platoon, then use platoon level tactics. If you are in command of 2 platoons, use company level tactics. If you are in command of multiple companies, then use battalion tactics. Another way to think of this is, if you have multiple elements (lets say 2 companies) what authority would be required for you, the player, to give company commanders orders? The answer would be a battalion commander, and so battalion level tactics is what you want to use. 
Tactics generally scale up, not down. If you are in an environment where you have an entire battalion at your disposal, a single platoon likely will not be able to do much on its own. This is where that scaling comes into play. If a manual depicts two platoons attacking an objective, one as the base of fire and the other as the assault, but you are commanding multiple companies, then you just upscale it all. Instead of using a platoon to fix and a platoon to flank, you swap the platoon for a company. There is a lot of nuance to that, but that is the general principle. 

 

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3 hours ago, Flibby said:

I like the idea of tactics scalling up as described by IICptMillerIII must confess that I have focussed on platoon level tactics where I always have more than a platoon as my disposal therefore I'm thinking too small scale and trying to do the TacAI's job for it.

Glad I could help! I definitely recommend thinking in terms of a whole fire plan as opposed to a single SBF is thinking in the right direction. 
 

There are a series of videos on CM that I go back to every now and again. They are extremely good, and teach the application of real world tactics in CM by a retired US Army infantry officer. All his examples are in CMBN but like I said, the tactical principles are the same and apply to the modern games as well. Here is a a link to the first of six episodes:

 

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Some very good posts in this thread!  Kudos to all who contributed, you guys know your stuff.

@Flibby  I HIGHLY recommend Combat-Man's tutorial posted above.. it is simply the best thread on the topic I have seen.

For more on applying real world tactics check out my Battle Drill blog, especially the tactical Toolbox on the left hand side. 

My personal battle planning philosophy relies on:

  • Maintaining flexibility 
  • Identifying the enemy formation (order of battle) 
  • Identifying the enemy defenses and/or movements 
  • Identifying the enemy intent 
  • Then applying that information to enable me to hit him where he is weakest with my main combat power

The key is the last bullet... if you can identify where your opponent is weak.. THAT is where you want to hit him with as much combat power as you can muster.  I do step through the above concepts in my AARs and on my blog. 

Keep attacking!  Bil

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Sometimes you attack where the enemy is weak, but then you have to deal with him where he is strong, and by then you've whittled your strength of forces down just that little bit, making the second task a little harder. 

But the advice to attack where he's weak does seem to works in a penetration battle (or sub-battle) so you can use follow on movement, but  less so in a battle of annihlation (say where casualty VCs apply) in the time and space scale the scenarios represent.

If you can destroy the enemies main combat power, then you can destroy him elsewhere too.

THH

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1 hour ago, THH149 said:

Sometimes you attack where the enemy is weak, but then you have to deal with him where he is strong, and by then you've whittled your strength of forces down just that little bit, making the second task a little harder. 

But the advice to attack where he's weak does seem to works in a penetration battle (or sub-battle) so you can use follow on movement, but  less so in a battle of annihlation (say where casualty VCs apply) in the time and space scale the scenarios represent.

If you can destroy the enemies main combat power, then you can destroy him elsewhere too.

THH

Sounds like you are ready to rewrite Sun Tzu. ;)  

Seriously, attacking an enemy’s weakness often forces him to react and get behind you in the OODA loop decision cycle. I’ve seen it work too many times to think that massing against strength is ever a good idea.

Edited by Bil Hardenberger
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9 hours ago, THH149 said:

Sometimes you attack where the enemy is weak, but then you have to deal with him where he is strong, and by then you've whittled your strength of forces down just that little bit, making the second task a little harder. 

But the advice to attack where he's weak does seem to works in a penetration battle (or sub-battle) so you can use follow on movement, but  less so in a battle of annihlation (say where casualty VCs apply) in the time and space scale the scenarios represent.

If you can destroy the enemies main combat power, then you can destroy him elsewhere too.

THH

In WWII combat, attacking where the enemy is weak is a strategic move, but at CM level, with ranges of heavy weapons, you're gonna have to take out the strongpoints.

Which is not to say you need to take them head on - but chances are, unless your opponent has made a mistake, you'll need to deal with the enemy where he is strong.

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40 minutes ago, Freyberg said:

Which is not to say you need to take them head on - but chances are, unless your opponent has made a mistake, you'll need to deal with the enemy where he is strong.

There's different levels of strong 😊...

If you can first attack him were he is less-strong...strong...

Then you will hopefully be able to attack him were he is more-strong...strong from a direction that makes that possition less-strong...strong.

If he has not already been forced to regroup from those strong-strong possitions to react to your penetration...

 

 

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TBH the short times available for a lot of stock scenarios don't help on this front.....CM:SF2 can quite accurately model the one sided murder that a first world force can inflict on a second/third world force, assuming the player is given the time to commit his units favourably. 

I recently started the CM:SF2 UK campaign again, I'm confident that I could do several of the missions with no casualties whatsoever, given more time.

In summary, for modern warfare titles, IMHO it would be much more realistic to give the Blue player truly stringent casualty parameters (10% casualties in a single engagement (or a single burning tank) should be a national catastrophe), but also plenty of time to let their men do their work.

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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On 12/6/2020 at 1:54 AM, Flibby said:

I think that i've found the issue with trying to use, in Combat Mission, what are probably best referred to as 'text book' tactics. The like found in manuals and battle drills etc.

The issue is: You cannot easily apply text book solutions to RL situations. E.g., have you ever tried to apply a math text book solution to a RL technical issue? Just as in CM, you will quickly find out, that RL is a little more complicated. You may need to gather additional info, make assumptions, simplify things... And now back to @Sgt.Squarehead 🤓

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Pretty sure 'rushing in where angels fear to tread' is not broadly recommended, but it often feels like scenarios pressure one to do exactly that.

PS - The fact that CM:SF2 can simulate 'Shock & Awe' is pretty impressive.....With a properly set up surprise attack it's possible to take positions with little to no casualties on either side.....The Syrians just panic, then surrender!  B)

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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More time would be good in many scenarios...but I guess that a downside to that would be that quite a few scenarios might need to be cease fired to end the fight. 

No big problem though,  perhaps.

I would also like to see the scenariodesigners getting somewhat more controll over the pre-battle intel...like being able to select certain units to be exluded from the pre-battle intel the enemy gets...

Or having the option to out right pick wich units that should be included in that intel.

The  current randomness of the intel can lead to units that preferably should not be revealed to the enemy...might be just that.

 

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If you are playing a really good scenario, maybe there is truly no weak point. Then you are forced to attack the strength of the enemy.

But even then, there is always a possible weak area even as to a strong point in the defense.

Always coming up to the best approach to any task will bring about the best chance for success.

 

In otherworld's, Always look for any weakness available, whether large or small.

 

I never like to see complaints about scenarios not giving players enough time. You are correct in that it forces the player not to be able to dismantle the AI defense.

But that is exactly the point of time restraints. The AI defense cannot react as if its a real commander, there is a very amount of reaction that can be programmed to selected guesses as to what a player might try to do. The AI is very handicapped as is. Limiting the time forces the player to take the defense on as intended. In otherworld's to take the scenario on as intended.

So if you are one that is always wanting more time in your game, all I can say is, you are not testing your skills against the game as intended.

As far as I am concerned. Too many battles have given way more time than is needed to be successful.

 

In truth, the game would be much better if the battle time could be set by the designer to test the player. If at that point, instead of the game ending no matter what as it does now. The player could just hit a button and extend the game as long as he wants. Thus providing a method for those that want to be slow and precise. but also providing the scenario designer the ability to truly test and create limited time situations.

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I think time limits are an important simulator of command pressure. Done correctly, they're nearly always appropriate, but everyone has played campaigns and scenarios where <annoying voice> "You have two occupy objectives, plus an opposed obstacle crossing. Your force is a single recon Platoon. Enemy forces are unknown, and your time limit is 40 minutes" </annoying voice> 

Combine the above with a single avenue of approach (an obstacle) and you're in frustration town. There's nearly always only one way to do it, which you have to find out through trial and error. My point is, real world tactics are not just a part of the playing experience, they're also part of the design criteria, or at least should be. 

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