May 21, 2016

Illustrated Vignettes

One of my favorite books of all time, and it sits on my night stand to this day as constant reading, is The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes, which is chock full of small stories like these from ancient times to modern.

These illustrated vignettes will be based on in-game PBEM experiences... when I experience an interesting or compelling situation I might use that as a basis for an Illustrated Vignette.

The images in these vignettes are all based on screen captures from the Combat Mission games, however many of them are highly modified.  Take for example this panel:

It started life as a simple screen capture, but after numerous modifications in Photoshop, some hand painting, and finally the application of several filters, it went from the image on the left below, to the one on the right.

The following image of the leader conference around the commander's jeep is made up of a total of six different screen captures from Combat Mission, the jeep, one for the map, and one for each figure.  This particular image was very time consuming to assemble as I had to match the lighting on the jeep to all of the figures, composite them, modify them, etc..

I will try to put these out once in a while as the urge hits me.  The first Illustrated Vignette, King of the Hill, is available now.  These vignettes will probably be rare occurrences on this blog, but they are a fun way to waste some of my time.

April 01, 2016

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg Mods

Gridded Terrain Mod
Essential to better see the lay of the ground, especially for snow covered terrain.

Period Floating Icon Mod
Uses period US Army WW2 map symbols to help identify unit types.  For me this makes it much easier to identify units quickly and accurately.

Note, this set is an improvement over my previous icon sets as it moves all armored vehicles out of the symbol boundary which now is reserved for soft units (infantry, guns, trucks, etc.).


Hex Shaped Marker Mod

Improved Rank & Branch Insignia
This mod covers the US Infantry, Armor, Mechanized Infantry, and Airborne, and the German Infantry, Panzer, and Panzer Grenadiers)

Shown in game:
 Ranks Key:

March 19, 2016

TANK TACTICS: Panzer Vorwärts! Aber mit Verstand! - ANNOTATED

Armor Forward! But with Intelligence!

This training circular that was issued by the German Panzer force in WW2 was intended to give panzer commanders and crews a basic set of building blocks for tactics, techniques, and procedures that could be used to better apply armored units in combat.  These were compiled from the German Army's combat experiences and are invaluable advise everybody who plays the Combat Mission games should follow.

What I intend to do with this post is to quote from this pamphlet and try to give a little insight into how each pointer applies to using armor forces in Combat Mission.  My comments will be in black text.

Though the lessons are mainly targeted at actions against the Russian Army, they apply to any combat force regardless of the opponent.

I searched the internet for a copy of the full document but alas was unsuccessful in my search.  What is freely available online is an English translation (by Fionn Kelly) of the 30 Points for Success on the Battlefield.  If anybody has a scanned copy of the original document that you can share, please contact me.


"The Panzer Regiment is, by reason of its firepower, protection and mobility the main fighting power of the Division. It’s strength lies in unexpected, concentrated and determined attack; aggressive leadership and daring operations."
The intent of any branch, but especially the armored force should be to apply superior combat power at key points at key times during an action.  Armor in particular is ideal in this role due to its:
  • Maneuverability
  • Inherent combat power
  • Survivability 
This paragraph which emphasizes "unexpected, concentrated and determined attack" implies:
  • Apply your combat power where your opponent least expects it.
  • Concentrate your fire, if not your actual units on one key point.
  • If you attack, attack with enough combat power to overwhelm the enemy held position.
In addition the paragraph mentions "aggressive leadership and daring operations" which in the CM world translates to:
  • Be bold in your maneuver, but not foolhardy or careless.
  • Take advantage of the situations presented to you and dare to take chances and seize opportunities or throw your combat power at weak points before your opponent can reinforce or support them.
"Combat in Russia has shown that victory is not necessarily determined by vehicle type or quantity, but the spirit and skill of the tank soldiers operating them. This is the critical factor.

This exemplary combat spirit can, however, count for little if the panzer truppe is not led by competent officers. Superior tactical leadership in battle is a prerequisite when one desires few, or better still, no casualties.

The purpose of this volume is to pass on the collective experience of veteran front line combat leaders in a simple and understandable format."
Whether playing CMRT against a Russian player, or any of the other WW2 Combat Mission games, it is a well known fact that troop quality and the skill of the player commanding them can redress many of the disadvantages inferior equipment has.  
When combating superior armor (say Sherman versus Panther or Tiger) then you have to use extra care in your maneuver and application of combat power.  This is "tactical leadership in battle".
A commander who does not use his head when using his armor, or who throws his combat power at an enemy without having some knowledge of what he is up against, can lose a battle regardless of the training level of his force, or how superior his tanks are compared to his enemy's. 
30 Points for Success on the Battlefield:

"1. Before any attack acquaint yourself with the ground. Use the information provided by other units or by the map. Share this information with your subordinate commanders. Exact information and correct estimation of the terrain will be the decisive difference between victory and defeat."
I cannot emphasize how important a good map analysis is prior to any battle.  At least during setup, examine the map from your point of view and from your opponents and attempt to identify key terrain, potential friendly and enemy avenues of advance, danger areas, etc.   
See my METT-T analysis post for more detailed information.  Also see any of my Combat Mission AARs for examples of terrain analysis in actual games.
"2. No armored attack is so urgent, even under the most pressing situation, that you do not have time to inform subordinate leaders of the tactical situation, mission objectives, and technical and logistical factors of the impending action. Impetuous action on your part can result in unnecessary loss of men and materials and place the success of the mission in jeopardy.
Take your time, study the scenario requirements and conduct a through reconnaissance.  In other words, do not be cavalier with your force.  Use your combat power only after you can make a studied appreciation of your opponent's combat power, where it is concentrated, where it is weak, etc.
"3. Only careful combat reconnaissance can protect you from surprise. Protect to your flanks as well as the front. Observation to all sides is the duty of every commander. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE OUT FOR THE ENEMY!" 
One of the main themes of my Blog is reconnaissance.  If you take nothing else from what I have posted, I hope you can take away how important I believe combat reconnaissance is to success in the Combat Mission games.   
Even though this post is primarily tank focused, most Combat Mission actions feature mixed forces of armor, infantry, and support assets.  Use them as a team and use each component in the role that best suits them i.e. infantry makes the best scouts, armor make the best quick attack force, artillery is best used to interdict or soften up an enemy position, etc.
See my post on ReconnaissanceLTC Scott Coulson's article The Patience to See, and my Platoon Scouts post for more information and guidance.  
"4. In the combat environment you must always be conducting an appreciation of the situation.  So at the decisive moment you can make the correct decision and issue short, clear orders without delay. This is the kind of leadership for which you are responsible."
This works hand in hand with your reconnaissance plan.  Always try to be in the process of assessing, or reassessing the enemy force, defenses, and intent.  It is a process that should only end when the scenario is concluded.  
When a "decisive moment" appears, unless you have been working this recon-assess loop then it might not be obvious to you.  It still might not, however you have a much better chance of recognizing these opportunities if you have a good assessment of the enemy force and a good educated guess as to the opposing player's intent.
See my Decision Process post and my Estimate the Situation post for more detailed information.
"5. Iron radio discipline is a prerequisite of good leadership, particularly when your only method of command is radio. In the point company, for instance, the trail platoons should not use the radio, except in emergency, leaving the net clear for the point platoon leader."
Not really relevant to the Combat Mission games until they more realistically model combat communications.  I have designed a set of  rules for the WW2 Combat Mission games that attempt to apply some modeling for the communications layer that is currently only abstractly modeled in the game. 
 "6. You must lead with strength. At least two tanks must be forward, and the trail platoons must be held far enough forward to support the lead platoon. The more guns that fire in the first minute, the quicker the enemy will be defeated and the fewer losses you will suffer."
A few important concepts in this point:
  • Do not operate tanks independently, at least use them in teams of two tanks.  
  • Concentrate your fire, if not your units.
  •  Overwatch any armor movement with as many tanks as is possible.
"7. When breaking cover, do it quickly and together. The more targets the enemy is shown simultaneously, the harder his fire control and distribution will be, and the more guns you will have in effect on the enemy."
In short, attempt to overwhelm the enemy, give him more targets than he can deal with while you attempt to have more guns on the enemy than he can handle.  be warned though, coming into view all at once without having an idea on where the enemy is can lead to major losses to your force.  In my CMFB BETA AAR I came over a ridgeline with two M18 TDs thinking I knew where all of the enemy armor was only to be ripped apart by an unseen and unexpected Panther tank.  
"8. In the attack drive as fast as you can. At slow speed you can see and shoot only a little better than at high, and are much more likely to be hit. For a tank there should be only two speeds: the halt (for firing!) and all out forward. This is the basic principle of tank combat!"
In the Combat Mission games it is not wise to take this point too literally.  When crossing open spaces, and while being overwatched by other tanks it is wise to travel as fast as possible to keep your exposure time to a minimum.. most times the speed of your tanks will be dictated by the terrain and the situation.  
The second point in this paragraph about using "the halt (for firing!)" is of course very wise especially when your target is an enemy vehicle or point target like a house, or trenchline where accuracy is important.  However a strong case can be made for firing on the move when the target is soft (infantry or guns)  and it is area fire.  Use this technique when your main goal is to keep the enemy's heads down as you advance your armor, but do not expect to cause very many casualties as the fire can be wildly erratic.
 "9. When antitank weapons are encountered at long or medium ranges, you must first return fire and then maneuver against them. First, issue a firing at the halt order to bring effective fire to bear then commit the bulk of the company to maneuver on the enemy with one platoon providing fire support at the halt.
This point is describing the Fire and Movement technique.  Though my post on this subject is infantry based, any of the tactics I describe can be used with armor units as well.
Also see my Squad Attack Drill post and the Tank Section Attack scenario.
 "10. When antitank weapons are encountered at close range, stopping is suicide. Only immediate attack at the highest speed with every weapon firing will have success and reduce losses."
Another point that is highly situation dependent.  Most times if you are maneuvering your tanks and come under anti-tank gun fire you might not even know where the fire is coming from.  In these cases I would suggest you pop smoke (if available) and withdraw.  Then scout the area where you suspect the fire came from in order to identify where it originated.  Once you have that information you can area fire to suppress the gun and then attack it.
If the anti tank gun's location is known then by all means area fire around the gun and assault it using the Fire and Movement technique. 
 "11. In combat against the antitank guns you may never even under the protection of strong fire support allow a single platoon to attack alone. Antitank weapons are not employed singly. Remember lone tanks in Russia are lost!'
Basically what this point is emphasizing is to not piece-meal your tanks.  If you have more than one tank in a scenario use them as teams of at least two tanks, but never alone.  Exceptions to this might be when in support of infantry and the tank is kept to the rear only coming out to fire when the area has been cleared by the infantry.  The tank is still part of a team in this case though, and is not alone.  
 "12. You must continually keep a broad interval (100m) between vehicles. This splits the enemy's defensive fire and complicates their fire control. Narrow intervals must be avoided at all cost."
The distance between your tanks is not as important as the guidance to never clump your tanks in close proximity to each other.  I always stress to concentrate your fire, not your armor, this translates to keep a good distance between your tanks (so an enemy anti tank gun or tank can't easily fire on more than one tank at a time) but ensure they can target the same enemy vehicles or enemy held position.  
Clumping your armor into the same piece of ground will only simplify the enemy's targeting.
"13. When an impassable obstacle, i.e., a minefield or antitank ditch, is encountered you must immediately and without hesitation give the order to withdraw into the nearest cover. Standing still, in open sight, trying to carry on the attack, is a poor tactical position to adopt and the risk of loss is high. Better to withdraw into cover and conduct an appreciation of the situation."
Similar to my advice in point 10 above, when any obstacle appears that will block your movement, whether it be a road block, minefield, or enemy gun or tank, you should back up assess the problem and only when you have an appreciation of the situation make your decision on how to tackle it.
"14. When your advance must pass potential enemy antitank positions, for instance a woodline, you should either pass by them so closely that you are inside their minimum range, or remain so far away that you are outside their maximum effective range."
 Common sense advise, and I would add to it by advising you to use Masked Movement whenever possible to keep your high value assets out of the line of fire of any anti tank weapons.
 "15. Enemy tanks should not be attacked directly. It is preferable to avoid them until you can move into favorable firing position, and surprise them from the flank or rear. Repelled enemy tank assaults must be aggressively pursued."
 Attacking an enemy unit, but especially anti tank guns and tanks, from the flank or rear is always preferred.  This can take some time to arrange, and you have to be constantly on the lookout for unspotted or unexpected enemy units that could be lying in wait for just such a move.
"16. A strongpoint, i.e., a small village or artillery battery position, whenever possible should be attacked from different directions simultaneously in order to split enemy defensive fire and deceive him about the true location and direction of the attack. In this manner your breakthrough will be easier and your losses fewer."
 Whenever attacking an enemy position coming from multiple directions is highly advisable as it thins the enemy defenses and forces him to guess where your main thrust is going to land.  
When attacking a position, I often don't know myself from which direction my main attack will come, that decision many times will come after I have contact with the enemy defenses and have a better picture of them.
"17. Always prepare dug in positions and camouflage against the possibility of air or artillery attack. Being sorry afterwards is no excuse for losses taken by these causes."
Of course the Combat Mission games do not take into account camouflage and you can not dig in during a scenario.  however you can be smart about unit placement, using treelines and woods to shelter your high value armor.  These will provide some concealment from roving enemy aircraft.
"18. Ammunition should not always be conserved; in the decisive moment, if you want to save casualties, you may expend ammunition at exceptionally high rates (for instance, an emergency attack)."
Ammunition consumption can only be controlled in the game by the use of restricted covered arcs and keeping your units out of contact.  Maintain fire discipline as much as possible until you come into contact with enemy high value targets, then let your tanks fire free until that asset is destroyed, damaged, or pulls out of your line of fire,
"19. Never split your combat power; that is to say, always employ the company so it can provide mutual support. When your mission has two objectives attack one and then the other with all force at your command. In this way your probability of a successful outcome is higher with fewer casualties."
The old military axiom to never split your force should indeed, whenever possible, be applied to the Combat Mission games.  Your platoons should at least be mutually supporting and your entire force should operate as a team to accomplish the task at hand.
The goal is to mass against one enemy position at a time and eliminate each prior to moving on to the next. 
"20. The benefit of support from artillery or aircraft must be taken advantage of immediately.  As soon as this support has ceased you must be on the objective engaging the enemy. Do not give the enemy time to recover. These fires generally only produce a suppressing effect, not a destroying one. It is better to risk a friendly shell or bomb than to charge into an active antitank defense."
Whether the support fire is indirect, direct, or tactical air, the goal is to keep the enemy's heads down and keep them from returning fire as your attacking force closes on the position.
"21. Other weapons and arms, attached to you, should not be misemployed.  Do not use them for purposes for which they were not intended, for example, do not use tank destroyers as assault guns, or armored infantry as tanks, or recon as engineer troops or infantry.
 Each asset has a purpose and a strength and using them in a fashion that does not play to that strength is asking for disaster.  Plan your battles wisely in order to utilize your force as a team each component of which has a role.  A force used in this fashion will be stronger and harder to defeat.  Look for opportunities presented by your opponent where he is not following this rule, and punish him.
"22. Unarmoured or lightly armored units attached to you must be protected from loss until they are needed for their own operational tasks." 
Protect the vulnerable.  If enemy tanks or anti tank guns are present on the field do not move your halftracks and truck borne infantry until those enemy assets have been neutralized, damaged, or forced to withdraw.  Protect the movement of these units by overwatching them with your tanks.
"23. Attached units placed under your command are not your servants, but your guests. You are answerable to supply them and share everything they need. Don't just use them on guard duty! In this way they will work better and more loyally for you when you need them. And that will be often!"
Of course in the Combat Mission games any support units will appear as a part of your force and will rarely be identified separately.  There is nothing to stop you from using them in any way you wish (as long as you follow point 21).
"24. In combined operations with infantry or armored infantry, ensure the various teams can provide mutual support. Which of the two is leading is a secondary matter; the intention of the enemy is to separate your combined forces. Your battle-cry must be "Protect the Infantry!" and the infantry's battle-cry is "Protect the Tanks!"
One hand washes the other, tanks without infantry is a weaker force than a tank unit supported by infantry.  See my CMFB BETA AAR and my CMBN Marketgarden BETA AAR for examples of all or heavy tank forces that ended up far weaker than they initially appeared.  I lost both of those games mainly because I did not purchase a balanced force (plus some sketchy game play on my part).
In action, if you can separate the enemy tanks from his infantry then the enemy infantry will be far easier to deal with, as so will the now unsupported enemy tank unit.
"25. You and your soldiers must always concentrate on your assigned mission. Do not vary from the task unless the enemy is a threat to the accomplishment of your mission. Then you must attack and destroy him."
In the Combat mission games I tend to concentrate on destroying the enemy force first, accomplishing the mission second.  Especially when on the attack.  When defending your task is the mission, and delaying the enemy is more important in many cases than destroying him.
"26. After a victorious battle keep alert and prepare for a counterattack, which will certainly come and probably from a different direction than you expect. Later you can collect the spoils of victory."
When an opponent does counter-attack, like in my CMRT BETA AAR where my opponent attacked my Deep Strike force with his armor.. unfortunately in this case I was ready for him and had time to react when I saw him coming.
"27. In a defense or security mission, position your tanks so that not only their firepower, but also their shock value can be brought into play. Only leave a few tanks in stationary firing positions. Keep most as mobile reserves under cover. Tanks defend aggressively!"
This is great advise when using tanks on the defense.  Do not show your hand too early and allow your opponent time to react and plan, rather let him advance then cause as much damage as possible with your previously hidden armor.
"28. Against strong enemy resistance, there is no point in continuing to attack. Every failed attack only costs more casualties. Your effort must always be to hold the enemy with only weak forces, in order to use mass of your strength at another, weaker place, breakthrough, and destroy the enemy by surprise attack in the rear or flank."
Never push an attack beyond the reasonable.  If it looks like the task is becoming impossible or will cause you more casualties than is comfortable then withdraw, reassess, and try something else.  If the entire battle has reached a point where it is looking hopeless to you, then there is no shame in asking for a cease fire.
The main item in this point that I want to call out is the third sentence.  When defending, use as few units as possible and husband your main strength for where the enemy's main attack appears to be going, or for where he is showing an opening for a counter-attack or a spoiling attack,  
"29. Never forget that your soldiers do not belong to you, but to Germany. Personal glory hunting and senseless daredevilry lead to success rarely, but always cost blood. In battle against the Bolsheviks you must temper your courage with your judgement, your cunning, your instincts and your tactical ability. Only then will you have the prerequisites to be victorious in battle and only then will your soldiers look on you with loyalty and respect and always stand by you in untiring combat readiness."
 Throwing units into senseless situations will rarely help your cause and could instead cost you the battle.  When you do commit your tanks and your main combat power do it with whatever knowledge you have gained through the Decision Process.
"30. The panzer division in modern warfare is the decisive arm of combat, much like cavalry was in former times. Tank officers must carry on in the tradition of the cavalry, take up its aggressive spirit on behalf of the Panzer arm. Therefore take note, as a basic combat principle, of Marshall Blucher's motto, "FORWARD AND THROUGH!" (but with intelligence)."
I want to emphasize the "but with intelligence" phrase.  After reading this and my comments I hope the one thing that you come away with is to think before acting, scout the enemy before planning, and to continually update your threat assessment as the battle unfolds, and only then make the decisions of how best to use your armor, infantry, and support assets.
I hope this post is helpful.


December 01, 2015

TTP Videos from Slim

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

This is the first video in a series of videos by Slim (from the Battlefront forum).  He is filling a basic knowledge gap with these videos and I believe these videos complement the information on this blog so I will maintain links to each as he posts them.

I highly recommend these videos, watch them until you fully understand the concepts he discusses.

C1P1 - Fundamental Tactical Principles Part 1 - Tactical Maneuver - movement with and without a supporting fire plan

C1P2 - Fundamental Tactical Principles Part 2 - Infantry Platoon Organization and Firepower - this interesting video compares the relative strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities of the U.S., British, and German rifle platoons.

November 22, 2015

METT-T Analysis

I have written about METT-T before in my Estimate theSituation  post, but I thought a more thorough explanation with a few examples would be valuable.

Prior to every battle, and in some cases during the battle, I will conduct a METT-T analysis.  METT-T (pronounced: met-tee) stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain and Weather, Troops, and Time.

Conducting this analysis will give you a fairly complete picture of your mission, the ground you are fighting on, the enemy force compared to yours, and the time available to conduct the assigned task. 

I highly recommend you go through this analysis at least in some way prior to starting any scenario, a sentence or two on each will be far superior to just jumping in and starting a game without taking a few minutes to think about it first.

An example of a rudimentary METT-T analysis was done for my Germans v SMGs in Woods AAR with C3k , in this scenario I just took a few minutes and made some short comments to give me a more complete feel for the task before me:

Delay the enemy in zone and cause as many casualties as possible while trading space for time. Basically make it uncomfortable as possible for my opponent, who I know is very aggressive. I hope to use that against him.
The enemy force is made up of one complete SMG Company, plus one extra SMG Platoon in support. That adds up to 127 enemy soldiers, all equipped with SMGs.
The map is a cropped down version of the map Elvis and I played on in the BETA AAR. When cropping it I concentrated on ensuring that most of the playable area was wooded so we would be forced to stay true to the test.
Looking at the map, it really has two main avenues of advance. I expect Ken to break his force into two parts and attempt to spread my defending force thin... however, I plan on concentrating on one side, with only a split squad on the other as an OP/LP. The goal is to concentrate on one enemy force, annihilate it and then switch to the other, a mini-Tannenberg if you will.
I was bringing two Fusilier Platoons to the party, my force make up was:
88 soldiers, only 20 of which have SMGs, there are a total of 6 LMGs, and 4 HMGs (2 per platoon). The rest are armed with single shot rifles.
Not that it matters, but we had one hour allotted to fight it out.

This amount of detail is normally sufficient for most scenarios; it forces you to at least think a little about your assigned task.

Note that in the above example that I created this scenario as a test so I had a much more complete breakdown of the enemy force than you normally will.  In most cases you must glean from the scenario briefing any clues on the enemy force composition you can find.  The enemy force composition breakdown should be added to, confirmed or corrected as you play and uncover enemy units.

The example that follows as I explain each component of METT-T is from my CMFI BETA AAR against ChrisND, Clearing theNiscemi Highway.  In this case the battle had been ongoing for quite some time before I sat myself down to think about what I was facing and why I was struggling (I had been losing to this point).  This also coincided with my German reinforcements that came in to support the on-map Italians who were way over-matched by Chris’s American force.

MISSION – when analyzing your mission you need to ask yourself several question, and attempt to honestly and realistically answer them.  If you can answer any of the following make a note of your answers to each.
  • What is the main mission of the scenario?  For example, defend the town, attack the ridgeline and clear the zone, etc.
  • Are there any mission specific tasks?  For example, kill the enemy armor; do not lose more than 15% of your force, etc.
  • What are the mission essential tasks?  For example, what objectives need to be captured or defended, what is the type of each objective (i.e. touch, occupy, preserve, etc.)?
  • What constraints and limitations does your force have?  For example, is your force mainly leg infantry, while your opponent has a mostly armored force?

Example of a Mission analysis (from Clearing the Niscemi Highway AAR :


What are the maneuver objectives?
·         The Orchard - Achieved, but abandoned - Must re-occupy
·         Secondary: The Hill -       Heavily occupied - Somewhat attritted - Forward slope position
·         Main: The Villa - Strong defensive position - Will require strong attack by fire element to enable a force to capture
The mission briefing:
“Capture the three terrain objectives. Inflict heavy losses on the enemy while sustaining little of your own.”
The initial Italian force has taken severe casualties, so the second half of the mission objective is off to a bad start.
I have occupied the Orchard objective, but was forced to pull off of it because it was becoming a tenuous position and every minute I stayed there cost me more of my combat power.
Capturing the other two terrain objectives will be a tough chore. I must wait for my final reinforcements to arrive before that is going to be even remotely possible, mainly due to the quality disparity between the forces, especially the armored components.

ENEMY – the questions you ask yourself about the enemy must be continuously revisited as you come into contact and uncover information.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  At game start you only have the scenario briefing to rely on and often the enemy force composition is incomplete or even misleading.  Use that as a basis then correct, confirm, or add to it throughout the game.  Always maintain as clear a picture of the enemy order of battle (OB) as possible.  Use the game’s scenario editor to compare the recovered enemy OB to different organizations to attempt to determine the type of force you are facing.  This can also help you predict what you have yet to find and will most likely still have to face.

Continuously ask yourself these questions:
  • What are his intentions?
  • What do you know about his force capabilities?
  • What do you know about the enemy order of battle (OB)? Note: you will continually add to your knowledge of the enemy OB as the game progresses.
  • Does the enemy have any strengths that you know about (i.e. is he expected to field Tiger tanks)?
  • What do you know about the equipment he is using?
  • Does the enemy have any weaknesses you know about (i.e. is the enemy entrenched, thus immobile)?
  • What are the enemy’s most obvious Courses of Action (COA)?
Example of an Enemy analysis (from Clearing the Niscemi Highway AAR:

Note, this analysis was conducted partway through the game and is a good example of an in-progress recovered enemy OB.  Note entries in parenthesis and with a question mark.. these are elements that have not been spotted, but because I have a template of the PIR Battalion OB I know what should be present and I plan for those elements being present whether they turn out to be there or not.


Current recovered enemy OB:
·         Battalion PIR HQ – overall command – Villa
·         Demolition Platoon (-)
·         Plt HQ – eliminated
·         Bazooka Team – eliminated
·         Demo Section
o   Team A – eliminated
o   Team B – eliminated
o   Team C – still kicking, one known casualty
·         Parachute Company (-)
§  Bazooka Team – Hill
§  Pack Howitzer A – right side – Hill
§  Pack Howitzer B – left side – KOed - Hill
§  HMG Team - Villa
§  Airborne Platoon
·         Platoon HQ – Hill – moved off the Hill
o   1st Squad – Hill – moved to Villa
o   2nd Squad – Hill – possibly moved off the Hill
o   (1st Team MMG) - ?
o   2nd Team MMG – Hill – possibly moved off the Hill
o   3rd Team – Light Mortar – Hill
·         Reinforcement #1
§  Sherman Platoon – (only one seen so far) – located on the ridge at the back end of the map. If only one came in then I can expect the rest of the platoon to arrive with the second batch of reinforcements
§  MMG Team – last seen heading towards the Villa
§  Assault Gun Platoon
·         (HQ Team) - (?)
·         (1st Halftrack) – (?)
·         2nd Halftrack T30 HMC – Hill/Villa
·         3nd Halftrack T30 HMC – Hill/Villa

Analysis: the American force has proven to have overall superior firepower and lethality to my Italians. The T30s are deadly, though if I can get some mortar fire on them they can be knocked out. I have nothing on the map that can take on the Sherman right now. Until I get something that can engage it with a chance of taking it out I will avoid the sector that it oversees.

TERRAIN – analyzing the terrain is probably the most important component of METT-T in my opinion.  Understanding the lay of the land and the obstacles it imposes along with the benefits you or your enemy can get from it can win you battles.   I will include as many maps as I think are necessary to complete the picture of the terrain.

What type of terrain are you operating in? For example, mostly urban, mountainous, wooded, etc. Note: this will get more detailed treatment in the OCOKA section. 
  • Where are the objectives? 
  • Where are the main heights? 
  • Where are the lowest elevations? 
  • What terrain can be determined to be “Key terrain”, that is, what terrain could turn out to be too important to be ignored? 
  • What areas have the furthest lines of sight (and thus perhaps the best ability to contain long range fire assets)? 
  • What are the enemy’s likely main avenues of approach? 
  • What are the your best main avenues of approach? 
  • What terrain is most defensible? 
  • What is the weather? 
    • What is the temperature (i.e. hot, warm, cold, snow, rain)? 
    • From which direction is the wind blowing and how strong is it? Note: this is very important information and should be referred to when plotting smoke missions and predicting how quickly dust and smoke will dissipate.

Example of a Terrain and Weather analysis (from Clearing the Niscemi Highway AAR :


Elevations and Objectives
Looking at the terrain it becomes clear where the high ground lies (blue contours) and the lowest ground (red contours). In this image the three objectives are also illustrated.

Key Terrain

Key Terrain 1 (KT1) dominates the entire southern part of the map and from it Normal Dude can deny my use of any southern approach.
KT2 is still advantageous ground.. the problem I had before is that I could not place enough firepower on it from which to dominate the US positions in the Villa and on the Hill objectives. It still looks down on both of these objectives and can be used as an attack by fire position.
KT3 is one of the few covered high points on the northern approaches that will allow me to lay fire on both objectives.
KT4 could provide a covered approach to the objectives, as well as numerous hull down positions for my armor support assets

Avenues of Approach  

I have identified three main avenues of approach:
Avenue of Approach 1 (AA1) takes advantage of the low ground to try to close with the enemy.
AA2 is more exposed but could allow a fast moving force to close onto the objectives.
AA3 currently is closed by the enemy tank located on KT1. It is the most exposed route.
Using AA1 and AA2 exclusively provide the only routes that are not exposed to the tank that is on KT1. Any movement down these routes will need to be covered by anti-tank assets in order to deny him the chance to easily move his Sherman out of position. If he does maneuver against my movements on AA1 and AA2 with his Sherman, then that will open up AA3. I need to keep that threat as a possibility in his mind.

TROOPS – analyzing your own force might not seem like an important task, however unless you understand your capabilities you will not understand the most effective means to use to defeat your enemy. 

The questions you ask about yourself should be penetrating, honest, and realistic.  Try to determine where your strengths lie and where your capability is deficient.
  • What is your order of battle?
  • What equipment do you have available?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What resupply capabilities do you have?
  • What courses of action (COA) are available to you? I n the example I included this in the Terrain analysis section. It doesn’t really matter where it occurs, just ensure that you keep your capabilities in mind when determining courses of action.
Example of an own Troop analysis (from Clearing the Niscemi Highway AAR :

Note, in this example I did not do a breakdown of my capabilities, I really should have done this and I encourage you to attempt that analysis in your battles as well.


The next part of the METT-T analysis is analyzing your own troops. Mine have taken a beating as can be seen in this table. But my German forces are untouched and have yet to engage ND's forces.

TIME – Understanding and keeping in mind the time available to complete your mission is extremely important. 
  • What is the time schedule that you have to work with?  In other words, how long is the scenario, is the end time variable, etc.?
  •   At what time of day does the scenario take place?

Example of a Time analysis (from Clearing the Niscemi Highway AAR :

·         This battle is 1.5 hours in length. That is the time I have to complete my tasks. The battle is now 20 minutes old, so I have another hour (plus) to go. I should receive my final reinforcements in about 5 minutes (at the 25 minute mark) My first set of reinforcements came in 4 minutes ago and I have already lost a crucial part of that (the Semovente) so I will need to be careful when I maneuver the remainder of my force.
·         Normal Dude will be getting the remainder of his reinforcements in 5 minutes as well, so I need to be in position before those arrive and upset the apple cart.

November 13, 2015

Battle Planning

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Battle Planning is the most important aspect of battle command.  Battle planning is not the same thing as having a plan however… in fact I rarely have a firm plan in mind when entering into a new scenario.  My philosophy is to rarely plan, but at all times to be planning.  Confusing?  I’ll attempt to explain.

Entering into a battle with a firm plan in mind before you have made any contact with the enemy can make you inflexible, less able to adapt to changing circumstances, can find you attacking into the enemy's strength, and it can leave you open to a counter-move by a more flexible and fluid opponent. This type of battle command can best be related to the Command Push style of reconnaissance.

Command Push has been discussed previously on my blog:
Command Push:  With this technique you have your routes of advance firmed up and the role of reconnaissance is to clear the routes of hostile forces or gather information for the follow on forces to use as they advance down these predetermined avenues of advance.
The German style of battle command Befehlstaktik, is similar to Command Push as it also uses previously determined orders and plans. This approach to Battle Planning can include phase lines, set objectives, strict timelines, and inflexible movement orders. It can be effective when operating in an area that does not allow for flexible movement due to extremely tight terrain, or with dangerous open flanks. For an example of this type of battle (at least in the opening stages) see my AAR – Wittmann’s Demise.

In this game I advanced down fixed routes against objectives arrayed in a linear fashion in front of me. This scenario had restricted terrain on the left of the map and a wide open area to the right that contained an urban center and very thick woods... I expected a counter-attack to come across that open ground and my whole scheme of maneuver was towards being prepared for that when it finally hit.
Another successful example of this type of battle planning was Combatintman’s Planning Tutorial on the Battlefront forum. If you have not read that tutorial then I highly recommend you go to the link and read it, then come back and finish reading this post.

Here is the detailed sync matrix from his tutorial:

In his tutorial Combatintman breaks down in terrific detail a real world professional approach to battle planning and in this case it was very effective. However for this type of thorough planning to be most effective you really need the following:
  • Good information on the enemy dispositions 
  • Good information on the enemy intentions 
  • Good information on the enemy force composition
Rarely is that information provided in any detail for you so in my opinion to embark on that type of approach to planning will not normally be effective and could get you into trouble against a competent opponent.
The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That's the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!
George S. Patton
I go into most battles without a plan in mind; I let the unfolding circumstances guide my movements.  However I will normally have a reconnaissance plan in place.  I will usually advance across a wide front with widely scattered teams in order to try to get a picture of the enemy positions.  If I am on defense I will try to have a wide picket line of isolated teams well in front of my defensive positions with the intent of uncovering the enemy main avenue of approach.  My goal in the early stages of a battle is to gather information.  This includes:

A full OCOKA Analysis
  • O = Observation and Fields of Fire - basically how well can you spot from key positions. 
  • C = Cover and Concealment - identifying where the best cover and concealment is in your area of operation can help dictate how best to maneuver 
  • O = Obstacles - obviously this process will continue throughout a scenario... as you uncover any enemy obstacles they will be rolled into your planning map. This also includes any terrain obstacles that can block, hinder, or channel movement 
  • K = Key Terrain - these pieces of terrain are what you think might be important for one side or the other (or both) in the upcoming battle 
  • A = Avenues of Approach - ideally this will include both friendly and potential enemy avenues of approach
Of course I also start a thorough reconnaissance.

This is the Estimate the Situation and Reconnaissance sections of the following chart (my Decision Process):
Estimating the Situation never ends, the battle and the field of battle will evolve and information will be updated throughout a scenario and you need to be constantly on the lookout for these changes and account for them in your planning.  In the above chart this is illustrated by the looping arrows, as your recon uncovers enemy information it needs to feed back into your situation estimate.

The Tentative Plan is really a series of potential ideas for plans that could be enacted depending on the information you receive; many times I don’t even have these in hand and let the situation dictate my approach.  From the beginning you should orient your force to be ready to act on whichever of these tentative plans appears to be best suited to the information gathered. 

The rule of thumb is to attack where the enemy is weakest… that is not a determination you can make without a complete Situation Estimate.

Even when I decide on a plan I am still never married to it and will change it at the drop of a hat if I determine that the plan is either, not going to be successful, or another juicier approach becomes obvious. 

In my first CMFI Gustav Line AAR I had made a determination that my opponent had a weaker force on my right so I planned to conduct my main assault on that side of the field…

However, as the situation developed my reconnaissance discovered that my opponent had two tanks approaching in this sector.  This changed the force balance back to his favor and forced me to reconsider my assault and I stopped most forward movement until I gathered more information and could make a plan to deal with the enemy armor.  I then implemented a severe withdrawal of troops on this sector and moved my main combat power to the center while my tanks dealt with the panzers.  In the end this turned out to be a winning move. 

Flexibility allowed me to quickly shift focus and react to events.

The bottom line: My battle planning philosophy relies on:
  • Maintaining flexibility 
  • Identifying the enemy formation (order of battle) 
  • Identifying the enemy defenses and/or movements 
  • Identifying the enemy intent 
  • Then applying that information to enable me to hit him where he is weakest with my main combat power