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 in 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:

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: