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Tips for setting up a PBEM campaign


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For your first campaign, I strongly recommend keeping it battalion size. Even a regiment scale campaign is a lot of work, and is best tackled as a second attempt.

My preferred method is what I call the CMx10 system (read "CM times ten"). The idea is to use the editor as a "virtual sand table" as your only operational layer, with everything possible recorded in scenario files. A GM keeps a map with both side's force on it, each unit representing one echelon size larger than in CM itself (squad = platoon, platoon = company, one vehicle = vehicle platoon, one gun = battery, etc). The terrain can be rough, "skematic", if you like.

All distances on the operational map are 10 times the CM scale. So the 5x5 large squares in the editor correspond to 1 km grids. Placement of units can be as fine as the right tile aka 200m grid, or you can keep it simple and coarse and only track things down to the square km. When both sides enter the same area a scenario is generated.

The terrain can be auto-generated to keep it simple, with the auto generate settings used, determined by the terrain shown on the operational map. If there is woods or pines in the tile, that means heavy woods - trees mean moderate woods - brush means light woods, open open. Wheat means the type is farmland, houses means a village map etc. For the relief, you can show it by height on the op map etc. Save the maps you generate so you can fight on them again if the same grid is fought over a second time.

The side that gets most of the flags at the end of a battle gets to keep the grid, the other side must retreat.

One tip is to send the last turn to the GM-ref without either side seeing the end of game screen, to avoid excess and unearned intel.

The ref consolidates losses, reducing squad infantry by full squads according to a regular progression. A company keeps 3 platoons by each lightens, then goes back to 2 full, then one of those weakens, then 2 weak ones, and then it become a lone platoon, weakens, and then evaporates, with leftovers making good other losses.

On artillery, my system was to represent the guns on the operational map for the actual battery location, and an FO for its fire assignment. Whatever HQ has its command line on the operational map, gets the fire.

I used 3 possible ammo states for each battery - plentiful, normal, and scarce. When an FO is used, it "resupplies" or doesn't according to 1d6 - plentiful is available the next turn on 1-5, normal only on 1-3, and scarce only on 1. If empty and therefore not used, roll for resupply with -1 DRM after the turn. Plentiful is for attack supply or Americans-Brits, scarce for large calibers and all rockets. Most should use normal. You can add +1 DRM if not on a road or other decent resupply route etc.

81s have only 2 km range on map, medium mortars and rockets have 5 km, all other types have 10 km. For the largest corps guns with the longest range, just put the FO on the map, only, with free targeting anywhere. (E.g. German 170s, Russian 122mm guns rather than howitzers, both meant for long range counterbattery etc).

Be very sparing with air. Like the side with the most has a 1 out of 6 chance of 1 plane somewhere on the map each daylight turn. A weaker side might only get that on its best day.

As for movement, only infantry has to worry about it, everyone else can pretty much go anywhere that doesn't hit enemy in one move. For infantry, limit them to 5 km off road or 10m on road. Op turns are 2 hours, or 4 if you want it to go faster in terms of night cycles etc. Night turns are 4 hours each or the whole night as one turn.

Units have to rest at night or they drop a fitness level all the next day (weakened then unfit). Units that just fought and either lost or took significant casualties (either is enough) can't fight again immediately without a penalty of -1 quality level - to reflect morale strain and the need to reorganize etc.

Avoid letting people overstack on one map. If the points sent to a grid square go over 1000, make the force arrive spaced out over time, with the first 1000 on map and the rest arriving about 500 points every 5 minutes. If the forces get really too big, split the fight into 2 adjacent ones, to reduce coordination still further.

The ref can make report maps by removing the enemy units and leaving a few enemy with unit labels like "infantry?" or "enemy company" or "tanks". The players give their orders by using the editor to move their men where they want them to go, and then send that file to the ref. An email with verbal explanation helps. Ref makes the moves on the op map and generates the scenarios, and sends them out to the players.

If you have a wide front and many fights per move, try to resolve them TCP-IP each weekend, to keep the campaign moving.

As for replacements and reinforcements, a decent rule of thumb is 1 infantry platoon and 1 full AFV per day can come back as stragglers and repairs etc. Scheduled reinforcements can be part of the whole campaign design. You can also toss in other ones, a third the size of the initial forces about, as local reserves tipping the scales or making good losses on the losing side.

One other thing is combat engineering. The rule I used there is ordinary infantry gets foxholes if and only if stationary the whole previous turn. Might be 2 turns if you are using 2 hour turns, more realistically. Engineers can add fortification points equal to the number of engineers working (raw head count), each op move. They can take up enemy mines the same way, same cost.

CM campaigns are a lot of fun - but a fair amount of work, too. If you keep it small and blindingly simple the first time out, you will enjoy it a lot more and have the energy to do another one. Big ones with lots of people burn people out, especially the ref.

I hope this helps.

[ September 18, 2006, 09:15 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow! A brilliant idea, is you the sole inventor or is it inspired by the CMC?

Can it be easier to administrate for the GM if players use "Kampaign Tracker" - perhaps a fruitful kombination?

Just a coupel of humble questions: Is 2x2 km battlemaps a suitable size for a regimental kampaign? 1x1 km is pretty small if there is armour involved.

What is your experience about the size of the OP-map? 30x30 km is perhaps not enough if things moves with 5 km/h and armor with 10 km/h on roads?

Thanks for the idea!

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It is my own system. CMC came much later. Haven't used any tracker, I just kept the forces in the editor etc. A small amount of side paperwork in text files or email reports to players etc.

I found 1 km maps quite roomy enough - occasionally I extended them to 1.2km. Those are small enough that a typical force sent to one op square is a company with a few platoons of attachments (weapons, guns, sometimes a tank platoon). In the heaviest sectors the forces stay battalion scale with up to a company of armor. That was already pushing the managable limit.

As for op map size, the smallest campaign I ran was only 5 sectors across, another was about 10 sectors across, and with one I didn't really define sectors but the width was about 10 km, but action was channeled to 2-3 road routes over much of the (wooded) map. Infantry did infilrate off road though. The depth can be 2-5 times the width, but much of it will only wind up being used in the event of serious breakthrough, or as one side backpeddles repeatedly and picks where to stand etc.

Movement rates rarely limit ability to reach any desired portion of the battlefield. In practice, the sides don't rescramble the forces every turn because (1) they need to cover the frontage even if thinly so in some areas and (2) they want the benefits of stationary defenders for foxholes etc. The real "movement" is an allocation decision of available force across frontage, where each side wants to be heavier than average etc.

As for movement perpendicular to the front - advances and retreats - advances are very rarely stopped by movement allowance, instead they hit something and are stopped by combat. Retreats are usually grudging and the limit set by desired terrain to hold, not by how far the men can physically get in the opturn etc.

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  • 14 years later...

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