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Tactics Tutorials for CMSF

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First tutorial is loaded onto Repository, awaiting review. Should be up in a day or two.

This first one is just a basic overview of theory and doctrine terms and some basics in movement formations and techniques. However, those interested should read through it thoroughly as the information there will make understanding and discussing future tutorials a lot easier. If you come up on the forum one day and want to know what the Tenet Synchronization means I will simply refer you to Tutorial number 1! ;-)

Next will be a discussion of a dismounted Rifle Company conducting a night attack. Wait, out.

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Very useful - esp for beginners, also a nice reference for almost everyone.

I don't know if this even exists, but it would be invaluable to have information on the various DOCTRINES re how nationalities and branches (eg: USA vs US Marines) planned to USE the wide variety of units they field.

Eg: I am never sure what to do with my HQ or Exec/2IC units. Who stays in the vehicle and who gets out to fight, and WHY? Thy WHY being what I am interested in. What are they being trained to do - esp since NATO when it looks as if the nations are training for completely different wars.

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I cant speak to other NATO countries. But I will try to address all elements of a US formation (Army and Marines are very similar in this regard) in each tutorial. I will use different formations for each one so eventually we should get the whole spectrum.

As a a side note: game mechanics might inhibit a lot of the usefulness of these "extra" units. For example, in most situations a rifle company XO would accompany the support by fire element. The actual command of the SBF would fall to one of the Platoon Leaders but the XO would serve as a redundant C2 node and help keep the CO advised of any issues. The CO would normally go with the Decisive Operation unit (or the Main Effort in older lingo) so that he was at the "center of gravity" for his company. However, the situation might call for him remaining in a position providing wider perspective or situational awareness (SA) and so he will have his XO accompany the DO. In other words, the XO positions himself where the commander feels he wants his C2 and leadership. But in CMSF this is hard to simulate. I dont think the XO has any command and control value in the game mechanics. You can't cross attach all of the company machineguns to one platoon as a SBF element and have that PL or the XO serve as the "commander" for C2 purposes. So there are limitations. Truthfully, I just use the XO "team" as an additional maneuver asset to secure captured VP, secure vehicle crews, etc.

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Nice read indeed!

I'll try to put it to reality in one of my current PBEM's (Damascus Blues) which features a company of Dutch engineers reinforced with a platoon of Mechanized Inf against a bunch of uncons hidden in Damascus.

Although things like flexibility and concentration are quite logic for me, your guide is a very welcome asset to oversee the whole framework and to reflect upon my personal (amateurish but sort of functional ingame) choices. Plus it is a base of inspiration on how to tackle scenario's, especially when given a lot forces.

MOUT scenario's tend to be difficult for me since they are basically many smaller engagements grouped together. It is hard to remain flexible then, and audacity easily becomes fatal after that. In other words; any chances for guides with further MOUT references?

Anyway, cheers for taking the time to do this!

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Got tired of waiting for Repository.

Check this out instead: http://cmsfwarchest.blogspot.com/

A good read in the beginning. I found the basics of the offense, defense and movement techniques too theoretical. If you have read the (Mechanised) Infantry platoon and squad / Company field manuals on globalsecurity.org you probably won't find out any big news. On the other hand: you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

I hope future articles are going to be more specific. I'm looking forward to it :)

What I found helpful are the Armchairgeneral Tactics 101 articles, especially:

Decisive point


Tactical task

Main and supporting effort

The reserve

Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (part 1, part 2)

Since I've read the above I'm trying to employ these points in my wargaming and stick to the order of planning a scenario. I've had good experience with it in the Airborne Assault series.

I haven't tried it in CM yet but I think most points are applicable more or less (depends on the scenario I guess).

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Those are great resources and I highly encourage anyone interested in learning more to check them out. However they are pretty much regurgitation's of the Armys field manuals with some historical examples thrown in.

While, admittedly, my first tutorial was even more bland and cut from the same resources my intention is for the rest of the tutorials to be much more CMSF play oriented and focus on a "how-to" for the player. But I had to start somewhere and so threw in the big picture stuff as a starter.

I have started on the second tutorial, hope to have it out in a week or so. Hopefully it will clear things up.

Thanks for the feedback and input.

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I am looking forward to the next installment as well, especially when we start applying RL tactics to the game. I have fun win or lose, but part of the enjoyment of getting spanked in our COIN game, is I am able to see your initial description of Blue's mission plus your mid game advice applied. I had to look up some of what you said, and even armed with references, I was confused on how it applied in the game.

Apologies to those following the thread, I commented before the repository kicked in. I should have mentioned I had a copy. Apologies if anyone went searching for the tutorial based on what I said.

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In my experience people like to watch videos with audio narration, even if it isn't a complete narration that covers all of the text in your tutorials. I tend to apply my own tactical understanding to my videos, and people react well to it. One thing that is missing from my videos, is a CLOSE examination of the anatomy of an operation.

I think if you were to record video and narrate what you are doing, I think they would be hugely successful. My 2 cents.

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tyrspawn, I appreciate your two cents.

However, my tutorials will be rather indepth and it would probably take an hour long video to do one, maybe longer. And as you have undoubtedly learned, you can triple or quadruple that time estimate for the actual production of it. I will include short vids to support my key points once it comes to the execution phase of my tutorial. But just for the sake of man hours and the rest of my busy life I will stick mostly to text.

I tend to think people need to get out of the habit of being fed information these days anyway. If they have to read something perhaps there is better chance of some retention. But dont worry, there will be plenty of maps, graphics and vids for all the visual learners out there as well ;-)

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That second tutorial is very helpful jnt62006! I'm very keen to read the sequels. Having read the armchair general articles on decisive point, purpose, task etc. I think your tutorial already has and will add a few puzzle pieces to the big picture in my mind.

One suggestion to anyone: use paint.net for drawing your terrain analysis. It is a freeware software which lets you add layers to your graphics which you can hide or show as you like. This way you can add a layer for key terrain, avenues of approach, lines of sight etc.

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Any tutorial is always helpful, but it's almost like when playing a game, you need one written by someone who is good at playing the game, rather than by someone trained to use RL procedures.

For example, the above tutorial doesn't discuss really basic but invaluable info that a gamer needs to know like "what speed should one move at?" ie: In the game, when is it better to move at max speed, quick, move to contact/hunt, slow...? What units should lead, in what circumstances, and why?

It's also important in a game tutorial to point out where the game "breaks down" in its depiction of RL, and when "common sense" or knowledge of RL actually becomes a hindrance/is misleading - eg: the way CMSF handles recon teams and snipers - the fact that they are no better at spotting or hiding than a regular inf unit with the same experience level.

Other examples of logic, commonsense and knowledge of RL mil being trumped by knowledge of game quirks: The fact that inf units tend to fire off ALL their AT missiles at a single target when in RL they may use only one or two. That vehicles with telescopic periscope type capability in RL, do NOT have this capability in the game. Recent tests done by other forum members here demonstrate that it's easier to use artillery to kill units in bunkers than in buildings. That artillery sometimes won't kill enemy units exposed on building roofs, but will kill them in surrounding trenches and in the ground floor of the building. That even when artillery collapses a multi-story building, enemy units will probably still survive and be in fighting spirit - as many an unfortunate pixeltruppen assaulter has discovered.

It would be interesting to compile a list of these sort of counter-intuitive features that one needs to know to play the game really well.

So, while well-intended and interesting to read to see how war is conducted in RL, these sort of "official military manual" style tutorials are not that helpful to the average gamer trying to play the CMSF game. (In the same way that the BF manuals for all the CM2 games, while packed with information, are actually not that helpful.)

Just look at the volume of discussion and controversy on these forums as people, some of whom clearly have mil experience, become confused/puzzled about what the units in the game are actually capable of.

I am reminded of a pathetic photo from the good old Spectrum Holobyte days of the FALCON flilght sim, where a group of adults had gotten so much into the game they all dressed in fighter-pilot uniforms complete with their own badges etc. and thought themselves really hot **** - and there they were - bested in a well-publicized competition by a little spotty asian teenager, who "used wrist-twitch techniques" to beat the whole lot of them.

I also recall several years ago visiting a base on an all-game designer team playing Decisive Action with the designer (then LtCol Jim Lunsford) and his RL officers from his unit, and us gamers beat the crap out of the RL officers. What does that mean? That we could take over their units and operate better than they could? Of course not. But, we gamers were much better at playing the game.

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I personally play CMSF to get a better understanding of how things work in real life. In fact I avoid 'gamey' behaviour wherever possible (such as area firing at an unspotted target 2km away within 1 minute of a friendly unit taking fire).

I feel that these tutorials are enjoyable reading and I hope they turn out to be illuminating on US tactics because I have read the relevant field manuals but you can gain a much deeper understanding from examples.

Perhaps when the units actually get moving in this latest example we will get an explanation as to some of the game mechanics as well as US small unit tactics? That way we would both be happy ;)

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You have rightfully pointed out the difference between a gamer and a soldier behaviour while playing a tactical game. Today, in RL, tactical softwares are used for apprehending or test the faisability of a coming mission, more and more often. That way one can acknowledge and be ready to deal with known threats( specially in the Air Forces). Yet, it is more taking in account a coming Situation Awareness. That will lead to the making of a practical checklist, after having crosscheck numerous possibilities that might happen.

Anyhow, if a military ground tactical software, like the one deriving from ARMA, is used, a gamer will win against the military as it has already been tested quite a few time. That does not mean that the gamer will win in a RL mission. That I doubt. The training of a gamer is not to be compare to the one of a military.

That leads to two type of tutorial. one for a gamer and the other one for the military obedient gamer. What works in the game from one gamer tutorial, might not work as well in RL or the contrary. The Snipers in the game, to speak of them, are a clear demonstration of that


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I don't know no. If don't if it's the case, but if recon units are better at spotting in real life it is probably because they received specific training to do this. This should be reflected in their experience level. Same for snipers.

It's not because you join a sniper team or recon team that you somehow get better eyes or anything. Better training -> better performance and in the game this mean higher experience level.

Sniper teams or recon teams are just a way in which the pixelsoldiers are organised.

Also you have to remember that a four man recon team only has 4 pair of eyes, whereas a regular squad has at least twice that much. So even if they are individually worse, they make up for by being with more. On the other because they are with less, they have lower chance of being spotted.

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There was a thread here not that long ago re snipers and I had the impression that guys who had sniper experience were saying that due to the massive amount of extra training snipers get, there would be a lot more effect in a realistic simulation, than simply making their experience level higher in a game like CMSF.

I would also have thought the same for Recon troops. But, perhaps by making all recon troops crack or elite, maybe that would mitigate the problem at least for Recon.

Anyhow, I was simply pointing out that one is/can be successful at CMSF by "gaming the game" more than trying to use RL tactics etc. - since the game does not reflect RL accurately enuff (re the examples I gave above).

Of course, a basic grounding of RL tactics is helpful just to give one an idea of where to start. But, I consider that detailed manuals that appear to parallel real world military manuals, can appear overly complex, confusing and off-putting to the casual gamer. (One wonders how many potential customers take one look at these forums and reel back aghast at all the RL training they would need to endure just to play?) And to cap it all off, manuals based on RL are misleading and don't really help you play the game well, because a good CMSF gamer needs to know about and understand the game's (non RL) anomalies and "tricks" such as the ones I noted above.

What makes all the CM games outstanding is their brilliance at verisimilitude/making us "suspend disbelief" so that we really start to believe that we know enuff to be CO's of a battlegroup.

But, the first helpful hint of any tutorial needs to disillusion players just a little bit and make it clear that they must learn to play the "game" with all its non-RL flaws.

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