June 22, 2018

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 - BETA AAR

Recently started a BETA After Action report (AAR) for the upcoming Combat Mission : Shock Force 2 game which will bring the original CMx2 title up to the latest Combat Mission engine standards.

My opponent is the SOB who beat me in the Combat Mission : FInal Blitzkrieg BETA AAR, Baneman.  I will attempt to put up a better fight than I did last time.

For this game we wanted to show as much as possible, and yet provide an entertaining and challenging game. We decided that each of us would take two nations, and some UNCONs and Fighters and duke it out man on man, steel against steel (or Chobham as the case may be)... the only constraint was that whoever chose the US would also have to field the Syrians as the US does come with some advantages (Javelins etc.).

This is a Meeting Engagement with the following forces arrayed against each other:

BANEMAN - UK and German - UNCONs including some Technical (gun truck) support)
ME - US and Syrian - UNCONs including some Technical (gun truck) support)

"Wow. An IDF officer I got to know was very insistent on the principle: "Anti-infantry armour and anti-armour infantry." You have provided his school solution here, Bil!"
LongLeft Flank - Battlefront forums
Follow along at the following links.  I will update this post as the game proceeds:

April 06, 2018

Combat Mission War Chest

Though the tactics that I have discussed in the past will work in all of the Combat Mission games from WW2, through Afghanistan and into the modern era, I highly recommend you read through this blog:  Combat Mission War Chest - especially for those of you who are interested in the modern games (Combat Mission Shock Force and Combat Mission Black Sea).  This blog also includes some examples from the second world war as well.

Though it hasn't been updated in awhile, I know the author and as a US Army commissioned officer he definitely knows his stuff.
Some examples of the subject matter you will see:
  • German Kampfgruppe in the Attack, Falaise Pocket, AUG, 1944
  • Mech Company Team in the Attack
  • Stryker Company in the Attack
  • Rifle Company Conducts Night Attack on Urban Area
So go and explore this blog, your time will not be wasted.

July 31, 2017

Lexington and Concord 1775 on Obscure Battles

If you have yet to read any of the entries on Jeff Berry's EXCELLENT Obscure Battles blog, then I highly recommend you start with his latest entry:  Lexington and Concord 1775

The Fight on Lexington Common, April 19, 1775 - Howard Pyle 1898

As a supplement to Jeff's excellent text and simply outstanding maps I also recommend you listen to the five part series that Marc Edelheit did on the subject for his 2 Cent History podcast series.  Like Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, 2 Cent History is an extremely well researched podcast, and his Shot Heard Round the World series is simply one of the best history podcast's I have listened to.  I think I must have listened to it four or five times and it is a permanent resident on my iPhone.

So give all these folks some love, read Jeff's blog, and listen to Marc's and Dan's podcasts.  You will not regret it.


July 04, 2017

Rifle Platoon Leader – PLATOON DEFENSE Part 2 - Fundamentals

Make initial contact with the smallest force possible.
FM 3-90 Tactics
A defensive operation can occur in any battle, whether you are on the offense or not. A local counterattack by a defender when you are advancing could force you to go defensive with at least a part of your force. Or you could be the defender in a scenario, in this case you might have offensive or defensive operations occurring simultaneously.

There are three main types of defensive operations:
  • Hasty Defense 
  • Deliberate Defense 
  • Delay/Withdrawal
Defensive operations may be necessary in order to:
  • Deny the enemy the use of a piece of terrain or an area (i.e. a hilltop, a woodline, or a village) 
  • Buy time to organize for other operations 
  • Hold an area (flank or key terrain) with a small element to allow more important operations to occur in other parts of the battlefield 
  • Force the enemy to concentrate against you, thus weakening him elsewhere 
  • Counter an unexpected move or action from your opponent 
  • Attrit or fix the enemy in preparation for moving to offensive operations 
  • Assemble and prepare to start offensive operations 
  • Regain your breath - especially useful when the battle seems to be getting away from you and you need to buy time to think

Fundamentals of the Defense

As a defender you must perform a thorough METT-T analysis.  Ensure you read my post on that topic fully and understand the basics.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing the terrain, understanding your force, and having a good idea of the enemy’s capabilities and goals  in being successful in Combat Mission, this is especially true when on the defensive.

Defensive Operations

Hasty Defense - most of the time in Combat Mission we are conducting a hasty defense.  If you have to seize and hold a piece of key terrain, then that is an example of a hasty defense.  Anytime you are dropping a formation into a temporary defensive posture (after a movement, or in reaction to enemy activity) during a battle, you are conducting a hasty defense.  

Deliberate Defense - if you are playing a defense scenario, then you are usually conducting a deliberate defense.  The deliberate defense normally has engineer works (foxholes, bunkers, mines, etc.) and mutually supporting positions.  Personally I find this type of action to be very limiting and it is the easiest to be successful against for an attacker as he can identify strong points and take them down one at a time.  For this type of defense to work the commander MUST maintain a mobile reserve to enable him to surprise the attacker with local counter-attacks or maybe even a spoiling attack.

Delay - The delay usually is made up of subsequent hasty or deliberate defensive positions and is used to slow or attrit an enemy to the point where he cannot continue offensive operations.  This is actually my preferred method of defending, and it can be devastating to an attacker, but it must be well thought out with pre-identified fall back positions, and subsequent lines of defense pre-positioned along the withdrawal routes.

Depth on the Defense - NEVER put the majority of your combat power in the forward positions or on the first line of defense.  

Plan a defense with successive defensive lines that you can fall back to and provide each line of defense with enough combat power to make it viable.

Example showing successive lines of defense

Intelligence - Whether on the offense or the defense it is paramount that you identify the enemy units, formations, and axes of movement. This information will be a combat multiplier that you can use to good effect as you plan on how best to meet your opponent with fire and maneuver.

Mobility - At times it will be necessary to stand at all costs in a position, but an efficient, effective defense is identified by mobility, both laterally and in depth to move forces as the situation dictates.

- In my opinion the single most important tenant when on the defense is flexibility, As the defender you will have no idea (in most cases) where the attacker will be coming from, as such you need to identify his avenues of approach (AAs) and his force composition as quickly as possible. Once you have a good idea as to where and in what strength he is attacking, you can shift forces accordingly.

Offensive Action - Even on the defense you should be looking for times to counter-attack or conduct a spoiling attack. This can be a tricky affair, and you have to weigh your available combat power against the enemy strength, ensuring you do not end up biting off more than you can chew.

Mutual Support
- Best case is to position your units so they can provide overlapping areas of fire and quick support for each other. In close terrain (like hedgerow country) this will be near impossible to achieve, yet this should be something you always try to achieve.

Mobile/Active Defensive Operations

I highly recommend a mobile/active or maneuver based defense, however:

    • Get so excited that you go over to the offensive before you are really ready
    • Waste your main combat power in counter-attacks in areas where little information has been received
    • Overextend your forces and risk getting portions cut off from any help 
    • Use fast moving scouts to gather information on the enemy’s dispositions and movements
    • Use your main counter-attack force to break up over-extended enemy formations or to eliminate smaller enemy units or formations that cannot be quickly reinforced by your opponent
    • Conduct spoiling attacks if possible
    • Withdraw through the next line of defense if the pressure gets too great

June 21, 2017

Rifle Platoon Leader – PLATOON DEFENSE Part 1 - Introduction

132. CONDUCT OF DEFENSE. a. Successful defense is predicated
on each subordinate unit holding its area. The platoon holds its position at all costs. It never withdraws except upon the verified order of higher authority.
FM 7-10 The Rifle Company (1944)

“Hence that general... is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.” Sun Tzu
There is precious little written about how to properly conduct a defense in Combat Mission games. Even most of my writings have been on maneuver and attack. I must confess that I find playing the defensive role in these games can be a serious challenge. Primarily because of the attacker’s main advantages:

  • The attacker almost always has a numerical superiority
  • The attacker often holds a massive combat power disparity over the defender
  • The attacker can choose where to attack, the defender has to account for all possibilities, which in most cases is an impossible task
  • The attacker has the initiative, he decides where and when any activity, movement or attacks, will occur
Many times those advantages are simply too great to overcome, but our goal, as defenders, is to make the attacker’s job more difficult and to take away at least some of his advantages, by:

  • Attriting the attacking force, ideally to a point where the attack is no longer viable, but at least to a point that forces the attacker to slow his advance
  • Keeping the attacker on his toes, in short, wrestle the initiative away from him and force him to react to our actions
  • Keeping the attacker at arm's length with picket forces, keeping the main combat power in reserve for counter-attacks or spoiling attacks
  • Ambushing enemy forces whenever possible, then getting out of the area as quickly as possible to reset in the next ambush position
  • Counter-attacking with a force large enough to cause serious damage
  • Conducting spoiling attacks on targets of opportunity whenever possible
  • Delaying - trade space for time, make the attacker bleed for every meter gained, make him get cautious, or so frustrated he gets careless
  • Maintaining a positive exchange ratio - try not to lose more than the attacker does, if that starts to happen your defense will unravel
  • Maintaining patience - trying to “make something happen” is almost always a recipe for disaster
  • Identifying the attacker’s schwerpunkt (if he has one), and planning ways to deal with it through counter-attacks, spoiling attacks, ambushes, etc.  
  • NEVER engaging the enemy strength with your strength, always look for opportunities to inflict pain by a thousand cuts, one small enemy unit at a time
  • Ensuring the attacker maintains a cautious approach and runs out of either enough combat power or enough time to complete his mission
I think of myself as an active player, so a static defense really goes against my grain and in my opinion leaves the defending player open to having his force taken apart one piece at a time.  Frederick the Great put it best when he said, “He who defends everything defends nothing”. I prefer an active defense, one that allows counter-attacks, spoiling attacks, and an active mobile force with which to react to and to interdict enemy movements.  
“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man.”George S. Patton
With this series of posts, I hope to explain my philosophy, show some examples from previous games, and to provide some guidelines on conducting a proper defense that will work.  Though these posts will be focused on the Platoon Defense, the concepts are scalable and can be applied whether you are commanding a Platoon, a Company, or a Battalion.

June 09, 2017

Battle Technique - Keyhole Firing Position

"One of the most successful techniques is the "Window" or "Keyhole" position. Simply stated, the basis for this technique is to limit exposure by deliberately restricting a tank's sector of fire. The tank is exposed only to the targets at which it is firing. It then shifts to other firing positions as targets are destroyed."
NTC Observations November '85

Whenever I place my armor in a Combat Mission game I try to find the most secure and effective position possible.  One of the most effective is called a Keyhole Firing Position.  The goal is to have a very narrow firing arc and to have security to each flank.  This position should also be easy to back out of as required.  Try to find and use keyhole positions for any of your important weapons, including tanks, halftracks, MGs, AT weapons, etc.

A keyhole position does dramatically decrease the amount of area your asset can cover, so it is best used as an ambush position, or as a temporary firing position.  Use it, then move to a new spot as the situation warrants.

Example:  from my CMFI Eye of the Elefant BETA AAR - I placed a halftrack in a keyhole position expecting my opponent's Anti-Aircraft halftrack to drive by, I was not disappointed.  Though I didn't kill the enemy vehicle I did cause it some pain and it backed off without being able to return fire.

May 18, 2017

Battle Technique -Throw Grenades Over a Crest

If you suspect the enemy could be just over the crest in a reverse slope posture:

  • stop on your side of the crest and target as far as you can towards the crest, or better slightly on the other side.  
    • (IMPORTANT: ensure your target is set to less than 30 meters) 
  • If the targeted location cannot be fired on with direct fire (i.e. no clear target), your team will only use grenades.

Your team will then toss grenades over the crest and you will be able to move to the crest with your second team to assault through the position.

Example in action:

I knew in this game, that there was an enemy mortar team in the foxhole just on the other side of the ridge from my recon team. 

My team were given a target order at less than 30 meters to the foxhole, there was no direct line of sight, so my team only threw grenades, which knocked out the enemy mortar team.