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Overwatch is an American term that supposedly came into existance in December 1944. It refers to assigning a body of troops or weapons to prepare to lay down covering fire, often in the context of another body of troops moving forward. Think in terms of fire and movement, only one unit is firing and another moving. (This brings to mind the D-Day quip about the officer's response when his commander asked him if he was advancing by fire and movement -- yes, they're firing and we're moving).

The term overwatch probably shouldn't be used ouside of the context of American forces after December '44 or January '45. I'm pretty sure that bounding overwatch is an anachronism from the seventies. Not sure what covering the advancing forces was called in the German or Commonwealth armies.

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Actually, in a way it does, if an army didn't have the concept, or if its version of the concept was different in some significant way. The American Army supposedly didn't have the concept before the year-end training exercises that I think I'm alluding to (it's discussed at various points as a somewhat seminal event in Closing with the Enemy, an otherwise unreadable book). The concept was a distillation and learning from experience based on all the things that had gone on in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, but especially France.

To use the term indiscriminately would be a bit like advocating the use of stosstruppen tactics in a wargame covering 1914-15.

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And why wouldn't you? As I see it the point of a wargame is to beat your opponent, not model historical tactics. Obviously you shouldn't cheat or use totally outrageous gamey tactics, but taking advantage of hindsight where the real-life commanders didn't have it is perfectly acceptable. You can use your 1940 CM troops with 1945 tactics if that helps.

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Originally posted by Tigrii:

... the point of a wargame is to beat your opponent...

Nah, the point of a wargame is to have a credible platform for role-playing. Different people want to role-play different things, depending on interests and personalities. Me, I'm hoping that CMx2 has lots of logistics so I can mod a mobile field kitchen and bakery.
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  • 1 month later...

Overwatch has been used ever since the invention of the firearm. Tactical studies always lag a generation or two behind the tactics used in the field.

A bounding overwatch is a series of alternating positions. One unit moves forward while the other (remains stationary and guards against an enemy ambush or rolling attack) overwatches. When the moving (bounding) element reaches its destination (ahead of the overwatching unit) it takes up the overwatching position and overwatches the other element's bound forward (past the overwatcher).

Looks a bit like leap-frog:

(unit A)----------bounding------------>X

............(unit B) overwatching

next phase:

.............................................(unit A) overwatching

..............(unit B)-----------------------bounding----------------------->X

An alternating overwatch is a little different. Again one moves, the other overwatches. The moving (bounding) element starts at the same position as the overwatcher (stationary) unit and bounds forward. They trade duties, the forward unit overwatching while the rear element bounds forward to the lead elements position. Again, one element overwatches while the other bounds forward. They trade duties. The rear element bounds now bounds forward (catches up to the overwatcher's position) while the leading unit becomes the overwatcher. Repeat. The same unit doesn't have to bound forward everytime.

The alternating overwatches looks more like a skipping maneuver:

(unit A)----bounding -->X

(unit B) guarding

next phase:

..............guarding (unit A)

(unit B)----bounding --->X

Usually the least experienced unit bounds forward while the more experienced unit overwatches. The more experienced unit being better able to deal with a sudden unexpected threat to the moving less experienced unit. The bound forward is easily the most dangerous part of either type overwatch.

Hope this helps.

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Overwatch is not covering fire. Overwatch can occur without anyone firing - that is up to the defender and what happens when the maneuver element moves.

The idea of overwatch is intimidation. If you dare to show yourself by pulling a trigger, a mountain will fall on your head inside of five minutes.

You can't wipe out the overwatching portion of the attackers, because they are in cover and at range. or armored, or asymmetric threats from mortars or FOs etc. They are no more vulnerable than the defenders are. And since the attacker has odds, probably at least as numerous and longer in the long range weapon categories (artillery, tanks, mortars).

If you choose to open up and start a long range duel with the attackers, then the maneuvering part of the force goes to ground, seeks cover, and withdraws if necessary. The overwatch portion of the force then blasts away at the now revealed defense on a standing of equality or better.

If on the other hand you are intimidated and hold your fire because of the overwatch threat, then the maneuver portion of the force gets closer, gets into some nice piece of terrain, and goes stationary there.

Now it is overwatching in turn. As another element back with the original overwatch, moves up closer. All the attacker's firepower thus caterpillars in closer, over time. Without any big portion of it being out in the open and vulnerable, at any one point in time.

The defender can trigger a firefight at any time, but not on favorable terms. Or he can give ground, slinking away from the threat of all that firepower.

To avoid this problem, a defender can also try setting up a reverse slope style defense, that can't be seen by overwatching attackers, because it only comes into view of advancing elements once those are far forward.

The downside of that is, the attackers can get close pretty much unmolested.

If you want to see the ideal form of overwatch in CM, imagine you have an infantry company with HMGs and mortars sitting in a treeline looking out at open steppe, with only limited scraps of cover for enemy infantry. Looks like a solid defense, suicide to try to get close.

Now, park 4 Tiger tanks 300 yards from your treeline, facing it, along with a 150mm FO that has dropped a spotting round or two already. Before the first grenadier steps into the open. Then one platoon moves off toward a small patch of scattered trees closer to the tree line.

What do you do? How solid does the defense look now?

See the idea?

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A credible platform for a mobile field kitchen and bakery would require ‘oven watch’ or your opponent may be eating under watched, over baked logistics… not much fun. If it ain’t fun, why are you doing it … unless you get paid for it?

Dawg in da mobile field kitchen and bakery… en guard … a French baking tem.

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Corridors of attack are better sealed off with a limited static defense composed of lower cost assets than are commonly found manevering in an overwatch.

An overwatch is a moving maneuver designed to cover terrain with minimum loss of men and materials. The overwatch element is not static, it's a moving element, not to be confused with a supported attack. You will note that JasonC correctly states that the overwatch converts into a supported defense, attack or withdrawal, upon enemy contact.

The purpose of the bounding or alternate overwatch is to avoid or limit early contact with the enemy by making contact forward of the FEBA (forward edge of the battle/battlefield) too costly for the enemy.

It's also different, but often confused with, a recon by force. A recon by force is designed to fix the enemy by threat of attack and hamper the enemies ability to gather information on the main element's intent, forces and lager. The purpose is to blind and confuse the enemy. The present CM serie's scope is generally too limited to effectively allow for effective counter-intelligence tactics.

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