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.


  1. Really happy to see the site updated. This is still the best resource for learning Combat Mission anywhere. Thank you Bil :)