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Cold War scenario design


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So I've been playing the first mission of the Soviet campaign a bit. A lot. A heck of a lot.

It's almost a great mission, almost the best I've played in any CM campaign. But there's one thing at the start that turns it into a mediocre mission, which forces save scumming, and I hate it.

When you start the mission, you have your CRP with an FO, and you have 10 minutes before the FSE shows up. 10 minutes in which to do recon, find the enemy, and call in suppressive arty. Bear in mind that call-in times for the 122mm guns without a TRP is 12 minutes (8 minutes with a TRP).

You start with your CRP in the middle of a forest and it takes about 4-5 minutes to get your FO into a position from where he can start getting spots and calling in fire missions.

When the FSE arrives, they start in a position overwatched by four M60s with TTS and one M901. That's five vehicles with thermal sights with line of sight on a 4-tank platoon of T62 (1975) and a company mounted in BTRs as soon as they spawn on the map.

Why in the name of all that is good and holy would somebody do that to the player? I just don't understand.

The lack of time to perform a genuine reconnaissance and location of the spawn point of the FSE are absolute killers - it forces the player to basically save scum and pretend that they have done the recon phase in order to have timely artillery support suppressing the tanks and M901s for the arrival of the FSE.

The fact the player has a CRP and artillery support available at the start of the mission indicates that the player is supposed to do recon and use the FO to hit enemy positions prior to the arrival of the FSE. But the position of the CRP makes that impossible to do.

The lack of time and spawn point of the FSE indicates that the player should already know the position of the enemy at the start of the mission and be suppressing the enemies overwatching the spawn point with artillery, but the player doesn't - at best they have tentative spots of 2 random vehicles across the entire map, and that's it.

If you can survive the 11th minute in the mission, then it becomes an amazing mission. But that requires loading the mission, making a save, and hitting cease fire in order to know where to have your artillery coming in. And it's so frustrating as a player.

By rights the player should have 20-30 minutes before the FSE arrives in order to allow them to conduct a proper reconnaissance at the start of the mission. If we had that, then it would be perfect.

Edited by Grey_Fox
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The_Capt's original discussion on the same.

Honestly, I mostly just really want those twenty minutes back.

As-is, the recon phase is compressed by using the pre-battle intel, but that's entirely random - if you get a good roll that's fine, but otherwise the challenge is essentially unfair. With those twenty minutes, I have zero problem with any other aspect of this scenario, the enemy, the map, the air attack... even the location where the FSE spawns, these are all 100% solvable problems, if you're given the tools (in this case the time, since you have the tools) to do something about them.

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1 hour ago, Grey_Fox said:

By rights the player should have 20-30 minutes before the FSE arrives in order to allow them to conduct a proper reconnaissance at the start of the mission. If we had that, then it would be perfect.

Hmm, well I do recognize that the openings of the Soviets is probably one of the biggest issues we have with the campaign, this statement is not entirely true in RL and definitely not true in context of the campaign.

So off the bat we were aiming for realistic portrayal of how things would look and feel should the Soviets and US had dropped gloves in 1982.  So to do that we took doctrine and then some contextual professional military judgement, mixed them together to try and give the closest we think we could get to this "what if" war.

So doctrine:   https://irp.fas.org/doddir/army/fm100-2-1.pdf  (among others)

Here doctrine for a Soviet MRR on the advance/attack (which is very much what is happening here).  There doctrine states that an MRR will have "5-10km" between the CRP and FSE. 

 image.png.b1fb8e56c8eeef09abfe9a0cc361709b.png

So a 10km gap would probably give a 20min window (assuming a 30km/hr push) for the CRP to bang around and try a more nuanced approach [aside, the CRP normally does not have any arty/FOs but I was in a generous mood].  OR half that if the distance is 5km = 10 mins.  But contextual factors of LOS and speed play a key factor here. 

Speed is easy.  We have the Soviet opening of a surprise attack against 11 ACR (probably the best US unit on this front), who have owned this ground for a generation by this point, so speed is essential.  The speed-pressure, normally high in the Soviet military, would be more intense given the requirement to attempt to dislocate 11 ACR. In short no way that the MRB Bn CO is going to go slow and cautious here.

Distance.  Ok, so Soviets didn't like radios for a lot of reasons so they relied a lot on LOS (flags etc).  So now we need to look at the terrain with a bit wider lens:

 image.thumb.png.8aaea5d687a247c1cfef415fdb6e2f61.png

So that is Manbach on the left, that lump of trees is where your CRP starts.  That line is 5km back along the likely route of advance for the FSE.  As you can see it is already stretching LOS, 10km is out of the question, they would totally be out of contact with the CRP.

So we have situation where we are at the opening of a risky "all or nothing" attack as the Soviets come crashing over the border.  A lot of pressure to move fast and furious before the 11th ACR (or god help them the the 3rd Armd) could get into their very well prepared positions.  Add to this terrain that really did not support stretching out too far and we have the conditions for a "door-crasher" situation.  

So in that context the Soviet player does not "by rights" have the luxury of time with respect to a more deliberate recon effort, in reality the MRB "is" the Recon effort.

So is it fair?...probably not.  Is it realistic...absolutely.  Is it fun?  Well a matter of taste really and I am going to have to leave that to you all to decide.

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19 hours ago, The_Capt said:

Hmm, well I do recognize that the openings of the Soviets is probably one of the biggest issues we have with the campaign, this statement is not entirely true in RL and definitely not true in context of the campaign.

So off the bat we were aiming for realistic portrayal of how things would look and feel should the Soviets and US had dropped gloves in 1982.  So to do that we took doctrine and then some contextual professional military judgement, mixed them together to try and give the closest we think we could get to this "what if" war.

So doctrine:   https://irp.fas.org/doddir/army/fm100-2-1.pdf  (among others)

Here doctrine for a Soviet MRR on the advance/attack (which is very much what is happening here).  There doctrine states that an MRR will have "5-10km" between the CRP and FSE. 

 image.png.b1fb8e56c8eeef09abfe9a0cc361709b.png

So a 10km gap would probably give a 20min window (assuming a 30km/hr push) for the CRP to bang around and try a more nuanced approach [aside, the CRP normally does not have any arty/FOs but I was in a generous mood].  OR half that if the distance is 5km = 10 mins.  But contextual factors of LOS and speed play a key factor here. 

Speed is easy.  We have the Soviet opening of a surprise attack against 11 ACR (probably the best US unit on this front), who have owned this ground for a generation by this point, so speed is essential.  The speed-pressure, normally high in the Soviet military, would be more intense given the requirement to attempt to dislocate 11 ACR. In short no way that the MRB Bn CO is going to go slow and cautious here.

Distance.  Ok, so Soviets didn't like radios for a lot of reasons so they relied a lot on LOS (flags etc).  So now we need to look at the terrain with a bit wider lens:

 image.thumb.png.8aaea5d687a247c1cfef415fdb6e2f61.png

So that is Manbach on the left, that lump of trees is where your CRP starts.  That line is 5km back along the likely route of advance for the FSE.  As you can see it is already stretching LOS, 10km is out of the question, they would totally be out of contact with the CRP.

So we have situation where we are at the opening of a risky "all or nothing" attack as the Soviets come crashing over the border.  A lot of pressure to move fast and furious before the 11th ACR (or god help them the the 3rd Armd) could get into their very well prepared positions.  Add to this terrain that really did not support stretching out too far and we have the conditions for a "door-crasher" situation.  

So in that context the Soviet player does not "by rights" have the luxury of time with respect to a more deliberate recon effort, in reality the MRB "is" the Recon effort.

So is it fair?...probably not.  Is it realistic...absolutely.  Is it fun?  Well a matter of taste really and I am going to have to leave that to you all to decide.

That's all well and good post-hoc* rationalization, but from a gameplay point of view you're still forcing the player to use save scum in order to do recon, which is not good game design. If you actually want the player to have to rush into the fight, don't give them a pretend recon phase, or at least give them an indication of where they can anticipate enemy strongpoints to simulate pre-battle intel.

*post-hoc because according to a previous post @domfluff linked you did actually give the player a 30 minute recon phase when you initially designed the scenario but then shortened it because "boring"

Edited by Grey_Fox
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22 minutes ago, Grey_Fox said:

That's all well and good post-hoc* rationalization, but from a gameplay point of view you're still forcing the player to use save scum in order to do recon, which is not good game design. If you actually want the player to have to rush into the fight, don't give them a pretend recon phase, or at least give them an indication of where they can anticipate enemy strongpoints to simulate pre-battle intel.

*post-hoc because according to a previous post @domfluff linked you did actually give the player a 30 minute recon phase when you initially designed the scenario but then shortened it because "boring"

"Post hoc"? Formulation after the fact?  So my first post on that thread:

"No, the FSE shows up as intended.   The short answer is “Soviet doctrine”, the FSE is designed to basically “recon in force” and will follow up a CRP quickly and in force to either 1.  Defeat the enemy in contact, 2. Piquet the enemy, if they cannot defeat them, so the follow on forces can attack or bypass.

In the first Soviet campaign scenario the FSE is going to come straight down that road with momentum based on the enemy they are facing and overall operational context, it main mission would be to take Mansbach (the first objective)…and they are going to take losses.

A lot of players have found the switch to Soviet tactics somewhat jarring but once you make the shift they can be really cool to play and a great challenge."

I did have it at 30 mins (10Km at 20kph) between CRP and FSE, but it was 1) boring and 2) did not make sense given the context, so I changed it before it was released.  That is not rationalization, it is deliberate scenario design.  "A pretend recon phase"...take it up with Soviet military doctrine, they are the ones who insist on a CRP.  As to "scum saving" well that is a player choice in the end.  The player is given the tools based on realistic force laydown, what you decide to do (or not do) with your recon phase is really up to you.

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1 hour ago, Bufo said:

Seems like that's not the only scenario like that. In the Czechmate battle, after I got the reinforcements this happened right after they were deployed:

Untitled.jpg

I really hate it when that happens.....The discussion here is rather putting me off the Soviet campaign which I had been looking forward to, having thoroughly enjoyed the Soviet training missions.  :unsure:

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The Soviet campaign is amazing. It's brutal, unforgiving and does a really good job of expressing the fundamental concepts. I'm working through it slowly, but it's one of the best campaigns I've ever played in Combat Mission, as all of the Cold War campaigns are.

I do think having that mission as the first mission is harsh, and not being given the tools to deal with that situation (when you could easily have that) pushes that from being "challenging" into being unfair.

When I did this scenario last, I took zero casualties in the FSE, so it's certainly possible (with some luck, since air/anti-air is always down to luck really). That firmly was not the first attempt though, and that's the part where I agree with Greyfox.

As said, I'd really like those 20 minutes. The (worse) alternative might be to start the CRP further forward, in position to get LOS on the hill-based defenders on turn one. That would reduce your agency significantly though.

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2 minutes ago, domfluff said:

The Soviet campaign is amazing. It's brutal, unforgiving and does a really good job of expressing the fundamental concepts. I'm working through it slowly, but it's one of the best campaigns I've ever played in Combat Mission, as all of the Cold War campaigns are.

I do think having that mission as the first mission is harsh, and not being given the tools to deal with that situation (when you could easily have that) pushes that from being "challenging" into being unfair.

When I did this scenario last, I took zero casualties in the FSE, so it's certainly possible (with some luck, since air/anti-air is always down to luck really). That firmly was not the first attempt though, and that's the part where I agree with Greyfox.

As said, I'd really like those 20 minutes. The (worse) alternative might be to start the CRP further forward, in position to get LOS on the hill-based defenders on turn one. That would reduce your agency significantly though.

Now this is good feedback and I am very glad you enjoyed it.  

I kinda agree with you on "unfair" and trust me we (myself and testers) went around on this one more than a few times.  In the end, we kinda went with realism, which frankly is unfair to the Soviets at this level.  But you have to remember the Soviets really did not care about tactical fairness, they were really all about momentum (and with good reason).  All of their doctrine and organization reflects the fact that tactical level units were cheap in comparison to operational success.  

So we were in a bit of a dilemma with this whole campaign: unfair but realistic, fair but unrealistic.  This is why there are two Soviet campaigns.  In the Standard one we added things like an extra T80 platoon and more RRR along with second chances (i.e. branching), while in "March or Die" it is brutally realistic, with extra brutal sauce on top.  

In Mission 1, we added arty and a FO to that CRP which is not entirely doctrinal either.  Here, based on feedback and the context of it being a break out attack, it made sense and favored the player.  In reality maybe 15 mins is the sweet spot but the bolt is fired.  If I were to do it again, I would probably leave out the CRP and just start with an FSE crashing into Mansbach (kinda how Mission 2 unfolds) but as the first engagement, that didn't really make sense either.

Love it or hate it, the Soviet campaign is supposed to be brutal, some of you really like that.  If there is bragging rights in CWCW, it has to be a screenshot of Alsfeld.

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