Friday, November 26, 2010

Maneuver Warfare: A Wargamer's Notebook - Surfaces and Gaps - German KSKs and a Gap that Actually is a Kill Sack

This series of blog entries are about the so-called "maneuver warfare" as explained by William Lind. The writings of Robert Leonhard will also be included. I claim neither expertise in the subject nor devotion to this way of waging wars and thus I am not trying to convert you into anything. This series is not an analysis or a review of all ideas about maneuver warfare but rather some explorations about the topic based on computer war games and simulations. Future entries will be delivered based in readership.

This entry is related to the previous one. Today, a German SOF team reveals the hidden truth behind a seemingly inviting gap.

War is all about things not being what they actually look like. The wise warrior will use every ounce of imagination to trick his enemies into believing he is stronger or weaker than he actually is. In the previous entry, we found out about surfaces and gaps and how you as a commander should avoid the enemy strong points and pull through his weak spots. We should keep in mind that in the battlefield very few things stay the same over time or are actually what they look like. That's why once we detect an enemy's weak spot we should act fast but keep our eyes open to avoid any surprises.

Today's mission: a German KSK special forces squad is returning from a successful snatch and grab at a urban area and now is attempting an exfiltration towards a linkup point eastward from their position. The squad featured in this mission is part of a platoon and the exfiltration is being conducted by squads. The enemy (insurgents) is slowly coming to grips about the raid and is setting up blocking positions wherever they can.

A German KSK squad (light blue icon) is exfiltrating eastward towards a linkup point (not shown here). The wavy line is the tactical graphical symbol for an infiltration mission, but given the similarities between infiltration and exfiltration missions it is used here with a bit of gamer's ignorance license. Both lines set up a corridor for the maneuvering of the squad and provide a control measure just in case there is a need for indirect fire support. 
The German squad will attempt to move at or near streets to keep speed at a reasonable level.

First things first, I organize the squad into two teams: recon/probing and support teams. Shown here, the recon/probing team: squad leader (me) and a light scout (#4). I have come to appreciate this team organization thing after the previous blog entry. This type of organization works great for commanding the AI and ensures that you make contact with a very small force, giving you ample options to develop the situation with the support team. 
Peeking east through "right street" reveals an enemy patrol reinforced with an APC. "Right Street" is a surface.
Looking east down "left street". At least two enemy patrols in the distance with maybe a technical truck. "Left Street" is another surface.

Looking down "center street" was a bit more tricky because its corner was an obscene open space. Here I am looking down "Center Street" from the safety of a house in front of it. Note how I avoid staying close to windows and doors. 

No contact so far in "center Street", this one is looking like a gap. Since my scout (#4, not shown here) is pulling security on my flanks, I am the only gun and pair of eyes on "center street". But in any case I already observed the street from a house now on my back and it is relatively safe. An additional peek down the street, now "slicing the pie". The house in front of me is an ideal point to bring my support team to over-watch and close up in case we make contact.

SITREP. Left and right streets are definitively surfaces. The question is: is the "center street" actually a gap?
With the support team holding a house on the side of the center street, I carefully move east with my scout (#4). 

Contact on the right flank. A heavy machine gun. I quickly dispatch it from my position without incident. Damn I love my rifle!

Moving east down "center street". This is the not-so-fun part of dividing the team into a light probing/recon and a support one. I have the support team overwatching my axis of advance, but  my flanks are not covered. Note the side street and alley on my left: great fields of fire for the enemy.
#4 and me make it to one of the houses where "center street" ends into a "T". Careful scouting required to leave #4 behind (AI pathfinding is atrocious inside buildings). I am not a big fan of roofs but the buildings were extremely short on windows. In the background, an enemy APC with a field of fire perpendicular to our axis of advance.
Need a moment to think. I am watching towards my guys now (note the support team in the house across the "center street", green icons). We have no AT weapons, how are we going to take out this APC?

I have no options but to try to snipe the APC gunner. Since the APC has no overhead armor, I may have a chance. I don't know how on earth I killed the heavy machine gunner before without throwing the enemy onto us, but this time I may not be that lucky and I want to have the whole squad ready to move out east once I take out the APC gunner.

I come back to my support team and organize them on the sides of the "center street".

I them move east with #4 and choose my shooting position carefully. I want to have to engage the APC from the maximum range possible for obvious reasons. In this picture, a few last nervous chews at the gum before getting into position. The APC is at my left and #4  is covering my right flank. 
In situations like this, I hate being such a lousy shot. I got the APC gunner, though, and the vehicle moved away really fast. I was lucky that this vehicle was unsupported by infantry.

It is time now to move the squad east and this is where I am going to stop the narrative and get back to the original point.

It all started with a clear tactical picture of "left" and "right" street as being surfaces. "Center" street, originally thought as a gap, ended up being a kill sack.
Take home lesson:the physical absence of enemy in a piece of terrain doesn't guarantee a gap and any piece of terrain where the enemy has a field of fire is actually a surface. 



Anonymous said...

Really interesting !

THX, Koen

JC said...

Thanks for your comment, Koen.

More coming soon.


Grimm said...

Your illustrations of maneuver warfare through games examples are definitly, deeply interesting. Still looking for more!

By the way, you're right : in Arma series, pathfinding inside building is very bad. So bad that I generally avoid such tactical situations.

JC said...

Ey Grimm,

Thanks for your comment. More will be coming this way. I'm really pumped for this series.


James said...

Great stuff! I can't wait to see more.
I think Arma2:OA is a great platform for creating these types of illustrations; I would love to see some TDG's played out along the same lines as what you are doing here.
Keep it up!!!

JC said...

Thanks James,

More is coming.