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One idea to deal with area fire that gets around relative spotting rules


Redwolf

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In the Trenches thread we were discussing methods to prevent player from using "God mode" and use area fire to destroy guns from units which didn't spot the gun.

I posted this:

> You could also model gun emplacements are protecting pretty well

> against area fire except indirect fire. That would be a slight hack

> but it would properly reward moving the attacker's tanks into a

> position where they can see the flippin' gun.

This is meant to improve the situation that we see with the famous Nashorn scenario in CMBB. The ambushing Nashorn in CMBB gets an unrealistic amount of return fire right away because CMBB has absolute spotting. So once a single units spots the Nashorn a dozen T-34 shoot at it. CMx2 has relative spotting but in the case of a gun opening fire it will die not much later when the enemy player orders area fire from all units that didn't spot the gun yet.

If we find a way to make this less effective we would get much more realistic ambush behavior.

My suggested "hack" would just punish area fire against dug in guns (in gun emplacements). If you can't see it you might be able to kill it but it is much less effective than maneuvering your tank until it gets LOS to the gun itself.

There are some drawbacks, namely that recon by fire doesn't work as well, but overall I think just making area fire against units that aren't spotted by the firing unit sounds like a fair thing to do and will force players to use realistic tactics to improve kill chances.

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Sort of a "bunker - lite" approach? Sounds good.

Recon by fire can still be used if you have a less determinable accuracy from the Area Fire - i.e. it includes an area of ground 10mx10m instead of 1mx1m. Improves the survivability chances of anything being deliberately targeted by Area Fire, too. I think BFC went some way toward this with CMX2.

I think you run into problems where the gun isn't able to be positioned well enough to take advantage of the terrain as in real life. I modified the Hornet's Nest scenario to include a Pak43 - placed well back on the crest it took well over one hundred shells from the attackers to knock it out because the angle of the incoming shells was too fine - the mix of ballistics and range (and a lack of attacking mortars) ensured good survival for the gun. The range and the height differentials were such that the game engine was giving a nearly realistic result - the exaggeration of both let the calculations come out 'better'. In the course of a normal map setup, I don't think you can get these results because the ability to adjust the original placement of the gun doesn't go down to that fine a level (certainly not with CM:SF). [As an aside, placing the gun back on the crest meant that once the attacking tanks were close enough (about five hundred meters) they could not be zapped due to lack of LOS.]

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I like the approach.

But what about Panzershrecks? They aren't different than guns in this regard.

What about mortars? Fast-forward 60 years - what about pesky AT-14 that just took out your M1?

I think area fire overall, both from tanks and small arms (except against buildings) should have artificially reduced lethality effect, which will help with this gamey tactic.

Besides Computer AI never even uses area fire, so this will further help avoid human player cheating the stupid computer.

Only exception - artillery should not be handicapped like this.

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How about a "build keyhole" option at setup? The covered arc is used to define the arc of fire for the dug in gun. Outside this arc (maybe with a penumbra effect coded in) nothing can get at the gun, except mortars where there is no roof and sufficiently large HE shells, CAS etc. The attacker doesn't know where the arc lies, beyond analysis of ineffective area targeted shells, but to counter this, the defender can't move the gun to fire outside the defined arc without giving up the cover values.

The advantages (as I understand it) for CMX2 are that the placement code doesn't need to be re-defined to a smaller scale to give the desired effect (i.e. place the gun, define the arc and not worry about micro-placement issues) and that the same option can be used to site MGs, schreks, etc. :D

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The game system already has Area Fire as quite inaccurate, so it would take a significant amount of fire to cause significant damage to something like a Nashorn or a dug in Pak40. At least on average, because of course a lucky hit is always a possibility.

The big difference between CM: Normandy and CMBO is that the Yellow Lines of Death (tons of targeting lines on single target) isn't a problem with CMx2 since if the TacAI can't see the target it can't fire at it. In CMx1 the TacAI always saw the target, so it was only a function of LOS/LOF that would prevent a unit from firing (in theory, since we did have some dumbing down code to take the edge off). It's one of the unsung major improvements in CMx2 vs. CMx1 that comes about due to Relative Spotting. However, as Redwolf points out this can be overridden by the player using Area Fire.

Previously we discussed this issue of Area Fire in another thread. Since the primary unrealistic threat to immobile heavy weapons (or anything, for that matter!) is Area Fire, the two things are directly linked. I said it was critical that we distinguish between legitimate Area Fire and "illegitimate" Area Fire. By and large this is impossible to do, so restrictions on illegitimate necessarily have a negative impact on the legitimate stuff. So there is no sort of universal fix that I can see.

However, I do see a specific situation that we might be able to do something about. And that is the situation where a mobile asset is out of LOS/LOF of the enemy, it's given an Area Fire command (because it can't see the target, it doesn't know it's there), then moved into LOS/LOF so it can engage that area as soon as it is able to. Now the chances of the defending asset to respond first is reduced by quite a bit, especially if the advancing firing unit is coming at it from an angle where the defending unit would need to rotate to fire at. Rotation speeds of things in WW2 were generally pretty slow, so this will be a definite negative for the defending unit.

OK, so as we always do... we start by looking at the realism of the situation. Let's use the example of some Sherman 75s (great HE capability!) moving against a dug in Pak40 (low target, but very vulnerable to even nearby HE).

The Pak40 engages Sherman 1 coming down Road A. It takes a shot, misses, and alerts Sherman 1 that there is something shooting at it. The Pak40 fires again and Sherman 1 spots it, then gets knocked out seconds later. There are no witnesses except the player, because he's God and sees all :D

The attacking player selects Sherman 2 on Road A and Sherman 3 on Road B. Both are currently out of LOS/LOF, but can get it very quickly by moving a little bit forward. Neither one can saw the Pak40 engage Sherman 1, but they know that Sherman 1 was toasted. So realistically they are VERY aware that there is some form of deadly AT weapon in the area, but no idea what. The player, on the other hand, knows exactly what shot and exactly where it is. This, unfortunately, is where the problem lies and inherently there is no fix for this at all.

The attacking player orders Shermans 2 and 3 to Area Fire the gun's location, then tells them to both HUNT forward. They do this and as soon as they get within LOS/LOF they start firing their beefy 75s at the Pak40. This is, of course, unrealistic since neither Sherman would know exactly where to fire without some sort of confirmation by infantry or something else like that. Even then the accuracy of their shots would be highly conditional (quality of information, confusion of terrain, etc.).

OK, so the two Shermans advance and start wailing on the Pak40. Since Area Fire is inherently inaccurate, and the Pak40 is in a good position, it's possible that the Pak40 will survive and even take out both Shermans. But the Area Fire has unrealistically reduced that chance. What should happen, in real life, is the two Shermans would move forward and then have to ID the Pak40 first, which would likely result in at least one Sherman getting knocked out, decent chance of both getting knocked out.

What can be done about this?

Two possible suggestions:

1. Completely, and utterly, prevent Area Fire commands from being issued to points currently out of LOS/LOF. This would fix the problem described above 100%, guaranteed.

2. Assess some sort of penalty on Area Fire commands made when out of LOS/LOF. This won't guarantee the problem is fixed, but it greatly increases the chances that the end result will be more or less realistic.

I personally favor #2 because there are times when it is legitimate for a unit to apply Area Fire without having LOS/LOF ahead of time. Especially in urban terrain. So completely outlawing it would nix that, and I think that would be suboptimal.

What kind of penalty, then? I think a delay in firing would be the best approach. Not a blanket delay penalty proposed for all Area Fire, rather one specific to this situation. So Shermans 2 and 3 move up and are now exposed to the Pak40 but aren't shooting. The amount of delay would be random, so the player couldn't count on when the firing would kick in. If they spot the Pak40, legitimately, then as would be the case now the Area Fire is cancelled and the Pak40 becomes directly Targeted without delay.

This appears to fix one of the primary abuses of God Area Fire without impacting Recon By Fire. It doesn't fix Area Fire against the gun if there is LOS/LOF exists, but in that case the Pak40 isn't disadvantaged much if the Sherman is already spotted since it can take it under direct fire pretty much right away. And if the Pak40 hadn't yet seen the Sherman then the Sherman has actually disadvantaged itself because if had just sat there it might have spotted the Pak40 without giving its position away through Area Fire.

What do you guys think?

Steve

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I like the 2nd idea more then the first, although the idea of a random time delay seems a bit odd at first glance. I am assuming it's modelling (to use your sherman example) the tank commander hesitating between returning fire immediately or waiting to see if he can finally see the target to shoot at?

Could there also include a further drop in accuracy from regular in-LOS/LOF area fire to out-of-LOS/LOF area fire, i.e. scatter the shots even further?

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Two possible suggestions:

1. Completely, and utterly, prevent Area Fire commands from being issued to points currently out of LOS/LOF. This would fix the problem described above 100%, guaranteed.

2. Assess some sort of penalty on Area Fire commands made when out of LOS/LOF. This won't guarantee the problem is fixed, but it greatly increases the chances that the end result will be more or less realistic.

I personally favor #2 because there are times when it is legitimate for a unit to apply Area Fire without having LOS/LOF ahead of time. Especially in urban terrain. So completely outlawing it would nix that, and I think that would be suboptimal.

What kind of penalty, then? I think a delay in firing would be the best approach. Not a blanket delay penalty proposed for all Area Fire, rather one specific to this situation. So Shermans 2 and 3 move up and are now exposed to the Pak40 but aren't shooting. The amount of delay would be random, so the player couldn't count on when the firing would kick in. If they spot the Pak40, legitimately, then as would be the case now the Area Fire is cancelled and the Pak40 becomes directly Targeted without delay.

This appears to fix one of the primary abuses of God Area Fire without impacting Recon By Fire. It doesn't fix Area Fire against the gun if there is LOS/LOF exists, but in that case the Pak40 isn't disadvantaged much if the Sherman is already spotted since it can take it under direct fire pretty much right away. And if the Pak40 hadn't yet seen the Sherman then the Sherman has actually disadvantaged itself because if had just sat there it might have spotted the Pak40 without giving its position away through Area Fire.

What do you guys think?

This is better than nothing, but does not really solve the problem.

In RT this would not do much. You could issue the area fire command immediately when in LOS. In WEGO this would do something, but not much, as one could time the moves so that the tanks would be in LOS for the last couple of seconds of the turn. Issue immediate area fire for the next turn.

I would suggest again, if there is no question mark for the firing unit, then have a area fire delay. But only for heavy weapons. This would include infantry heavy weapons and all vehicle based weaponry (or maybe only heavy weapons on vehicles, too). Heavy weapon could be defined as a weapon bigger than or equal to .50. Area fire from small caliber weapons isn't that lethal anyways.

In the above example this would prevent the tanks from firing at the AT gun immediately when at LOS in RT / in the beginning of the next turn. As far as I know, recon by fire with heavy weapons isn't that common. Small arms recon by fire would not be affected. If you have infantry close by to the AT gun, but not in LOS, then you could do gamey area fire command. But I don't see that as a huge problem.

If we take immediate recon by fire as mandatory, then the question here is how common recon by fire with heavy weapons really is. I do not have any real world data about this, but I have a feeling that it isn't that common.

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I think your analysis/example is pretty tight. Option #2 is my preferred option, given the choices.

The details would be problematic and cause the most angst. How much a of a delay? How is it based? How variable? Would a quad .50 have the same delay as a Tiger II? (Turret slew rates, visibility, training, experience, comms, command bonus, etc.)

Drusus, above, brings up an interesting point; delaying certain weapons may be better than delaying all weapons. Let the exposed commander fire the .50 at the clump of bushes. Hmm, what about coax? If there's no delay on the coax, does allowing the tank the ability to point the turret right at the pak40's location constitute a gamey workaround? If so, what about covered arcs? Would it be gamey to advance with the covered arc centered on the Pak 40's location? Would you try to induce a delay for that? (I hope NOT!).

In sum, yeah, a variable delay for area firing on a location out of LOS at the beginning of the turn/movement would balance the equation back in favor of the defender.

Ken

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If we take immediate recon by fire as mandatory, then the question here is how common recon by fire with heavy weapons really is. I do not have any real world data about this, but I have a feeling that it isn't that common.

This is a key question indeed, and perhaps our historians have sources with answers.

My (irrelevant) contribution is the scene in "We Were Soldiers" where recon by fire across the dry riverbed triggers a Vietnamese attack.

Best regards,

Thomm

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"Thunderbolt II", a biography on Creighton Abrams has a revealing anecdote. As COS of the Army, he visited a unit in Germany and was taken to the combat range by the "best" tank crew. They had earned that designation by going through the range and hitting the most targets at the best speed. They showed him how they did it. He was furious. He had them go back to the start and then, instead of zipping pell mell from one target to the next, he told them to imagine a Soviet was trying to kill them. That an RPG launcher was behind each bush and obstacle. He then showed them how they did it in WWII; slowly advancing, shooting up everything in sight with their machineguns.

(Creighton Abrams was the tank battalion commander who led Patton's relief of Bastogne in WWII. He knew something about real combat.)

Salient points: the profligate use of machinegun fire on possible enemy positions. (Not heavy weapon fire! See Drusus' comment.). Combat experience vs. school solution. Etc.

Side comment: "marching fire" was recon by fire by infantry, esposed by US doctrine, and Patton, at least, was a big proponent of it.

That's off the top of my head.

I think we should differentiate between small arms and other types of weapons when considering the area fire question.

Regards,

Ken

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Perhaps there should also be an exception for the use of heavy weapons against buildings, because an Army friend of mine told me that one clears the outermost rooms of buildings with HE before entering. :( On the other hand, it is not clear to me whether one would do that without knowing that the building is occupied beforehand.

Best regards,

Thomm

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Drusus, above, brings up an interesting point; delaying certain weapons may be better than delaying all weapons. Let the exposed commander fire the .50 at the clump of bushes. Hmm, what about coax? If there's no delay on the coax, does allowing the tank the ability to point the turret right at the pak40's location constitute a gamey workaround? If so, what about covered arcs? Would it be gamey to advance with the covered arc centered on the Pak 40's location? Would you try to induce a delay for that? (I hope NOT!).

Ken

No, I am not suggesting anything to do with turret alignment.

The problem with heavy weapons area fire is that explosions are area effect. The inaccuracy of area fire should be really big to cancel that. Delaying the area effect weapons is in my opinion the right choice. It would make AT guns much more lethal against tanks.

Another example, that out-of-LOS delays do not solve, is ambush situations. In WWII era tanks, when buttoned up, are almost blind. A concrete example: a platoon of infantry shoots at 3 tanks to make them button up from close range. Then a AT gun starts to shoot at the tanks. Let the gun be 500m away from the tanks, so that small arms fire is ineffective against it.

If we go with proposal #2, the tanks can fire at the AT gun immediately (at least in RT play) when any of the players units spots the gun (supporting infantry, for example). With delayed area fire for heavy weapons, the best they can do is fire their MGs at the AT gun. That will likely only slowly suppress the AT gun, while heavy weapons would likely suppress the gun really fast and that will result in a destroyed at gun, sooner or later.

I just have to add that I really like that FoW for foxholes and gamey use of area fire are the types of problems we are discussing now.

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For me the main question would be: How can you simulate the information transfer between units that lead to legitimate "out of los" Area fire?

In Steve's example, Tank 1 gets toasted - lets assume some infantry nearby saw the gun, or the trailing tanks at least saw some impacts that give them a rough idea. Then Tank 2 and Tank 3 will need some time to assess the situation and figure out where to shoot. Right now, the area fire function commanded by the player does this immediately.

So some sort of delay for AF out of LOS seems to make sense in simulating the information transfer.

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One thing to keep in mind is, obviously, CM2 is not CM1. I think some people may be looking at the AT gun issue through CM1-colored glasses. In CMSF, I find well positioned ATGM and RPG (even not emplaced) very difficult unit to spot by Red tanks. I play almost exclusively Red v Red and spotting with question marks is done very well in 1.11. I would like to see how CMN plays out with the CM2 spotting engine before a lot of changes get made. One way I validate some of this is playing with T54s and T55s. They are more on par with spotting capabilites to WW2 era tanks than an M1. I can shoot 4 or 5 Saggers from 700m at a regular T55 before its spotted.

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I think we're talking about the following: Area firing on an OUT OF LOS target. You want to shoot on a clump of bushes (or building) which your unit cannot see. Only then would there be a delay. Once you advance into LOS of the desired area target, your unit would hesitate to fire.

If you want to area fire on a building, you can still do so. Either with a delay (as proposed), or advance into LOS and THEN area target it with no delay. No exception required that I can see.

The idea proposed by Drusus is to make the area target delay specific to heavy weapons.

Edited to add: thewood makes a good point. A lot of times in cmsf, I am able to locate an enemy firing location only through the launch signature. I do not even get a "?" at first. I have lost many vehicles, red and blue, to enemy ATG assets. Perhaps, in WeGo, my ability/proclivity to pause right at impact (when my vehicle is destroyed) and then fly around the field looking for the tell-tale smoke puff should be limited. If I do not have a unit in LOS to the smoke puff, why should I see it? I use that smoke puff as my area target to suppress the ATG unit. My point being, without the smoke, I would have NO idea where the unit was. The smoke appears even without any friendly having LOS (that I am aware of).

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I think we're talking about the following: Area firing on an OUT OF LOS target. You want to shoot on a clump of bushes (or building) which your unit cannot see. Only then would there be a delay. Once you advance into LOS of the desired area target, your unit would hesitate to fire.

If you want to area fire on a building, you can still do so. Either with a delay (as proposed), or advance into LOS and THEN area target it with no delay. No exception required that I can see.

The idea proposed by Drusus is to make the area target delay specific to heavy weapons.

Edited to add: thewood makes a good point. A lot of times in cmsf, I am able to locate an enemy firing location only through the launch signature. I do not even get a "?" at first. I have lost many vehicles, red and blue, to enemy ATG assets. Perhaps, in WeGo, my ability/proclivity to pause right at impact (when my vehicle is destroyed) and then fly around the field looking for the tell-tale smoke puff should be limited. If I do not have a unit in LOS to the smoke puff, why should I see it? I use that smoke puff as my area target to suppress the ATG unit. My point being, without the smoke, I would have NO idea where the unit was. The smoke appears even without any friendly having LOS (that I am aware of).

Smoke and muzzle flashes are now subject to FOW rules - as you'll see in 1.20.

Be careful what you wish for ;)

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Excellent (until I lose a platoon of tanks to it...). Does smoke FOW also apply to the vehicle Dust Radar ?

Yes, according to recent post one's unit dust, smoke and muzzle blasts will only be shown to enemy units that have previously spotted that vehicle.

That's slightly unrealistic in the other direction since now you can't see the dust cloud over the hill either but it's certainly better this way.

BTW, delays for area fire are strict out according to Steve. If we want to keep the Borg return fire down we need to find something else such as what is proposed here.

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Smoke and muzzle flashes are now subject to FOW rules - as you'll see in 1.20.

Be careful what you wish for ;)

What a significant improvement!!

Is 1.20 the British Module code? If yes, there must be major stuff in it if they do not call it 1.12 (or whereever we stand now!)

Best regards,

Thomm

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Maybe it would help, if we could find numbers, how realistical the use of area-fire against heavy weapons was?

I want to raise an additional aspect why area-fire in CMx1 is so effective: it's the immobility and slowlyness of ATGs (also HMGs).

Therefore someone only needs to have two 81mm mortars available for each attacking group and every ATG is toast without any chance to escape and without own losses. With almost 100% success.

But in reality they could change their positions quite quickly if cover was available.

For example, Otto Riehs in his famous fight, was positioned only beside a street with his PAK, and even during the rolling attack on his position, he considered to change the position. But he couldn't bring the K├╝belwagen to the gun, because there was no cover for it.

What i want to say with that example: the unrealistical success of area-fire against heavy weapons can be seen in conjunction with other aspects, i.e. the undermodelled responsiveness of ATGs (and HMGs) to threats in CMx1. Turning around was already mentioned, but also retreating quickly is one aspect.

Or seen from the other way around: knowing as attacker about the extreme effectiveness of my area fire, already makes certain defensive weapons less effective.

If i imagine that area-fire is less effective against heavy weapons AND that they maybe are no longer bound to their positions like they are in CMx1, i would REALLY think twice before i would order my tanks forward with area fire until they get LOS/LOF to the old expected position. Maybe the ATG will welcome me again 10 meters beside it's old position?

The same applies for mortars: if i as attacker do no longer know, that my 81mm mortar fire will have almost 100% sucess against single ATG positions, but instead there is a good probability the ATG can retreat and come back later, things will become much more uncertain and therefore ATGs more dangerous.

A problem is see, if area-fire is reduced too much in it's effectiveness, that certain weapons could become too strong (i.e. dug in HMGs). The correct balancing between the several measures seems important and one measure can be traded against another (i.e. quicker retreat be traded against a slighter reduction of the area-fire effect).

Another effect, why area-fire is so effective against ATGs in CMx1, is the bahviour of the ATG-crews. I don't know if it is possible to model it differently from infantry, but while normally self preservation against incoming fire has a very high priority in the field, the situation for ATG-crews can be very different: when engaged in battles against tanks, the crew even has to ignore incoming suppressive fire. While neighboring units already put their heads down, the ATGs (in conjunction with their protecting HMGs) are not allowed to care about own losses in that moment.

Therefore i'd encourage to see solutions of too effective area-fire against heavy weapons in a package of possible additional measures.

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