Sunday, May 19, 2013

Levels of Tactical Proficiency: The Beginner Wargamer and Terrain, Part 2 - Combat Mission Battle for Normandy

Orders issued, men move ahead. The objective is the ford, two (squads) up, one back. That's pretty much it for our beginner wargamer.

With one single waypoint for each unit, the beginner wargamer leaves his men to figure out their paths. In the screenshot above, one squad has to negotiate the hedgerow to reach its destination. The result is not pretty as they become exposed to fields of fire across the river.

Fortunately, the carnage is brief because there are no Germans in the hedgerows immediately across the river. But the fire from the elevated terrain beyond peaks up.

Not without losses, two US squads end up positioned behind the cover of the hedges, with one additional squad waiting behind.

Just one enemy position is pinpointed and suppressive fire is more or less effective on it.

The enemy fire slackens and the beginner wargamer launches his third squad (held in the back until now) onto the ford. All of the sudden, the enemy opens from seemingly multiple locations.

The squad in the open gets pinned down and everything stalls for a while. The mortar team is already positioned and starts to fire upon the only visible enemy location (tiny white smoke puff in the screenshot below).

Every mortar shell that impacts on that enemy position quiets the fire from across the river. Even from positions that can't be pinpointed precisely but are certainly elsewhere from the mortar target. The beginner wargamer gives the order to cross the river and the troops ford the waters. As soon as anybody gets their feet wet, the cut of the river bed protects him from enemy observation and fire. Ironically, the ford proper is the safest place of the battlefield.

All the US troops are now across the river and hugging the hedges on the far side. Enemy teams pop here and there. The objective (light green area in the screenshot below) needs to be free of enemy troops, so our beginner wargamer embarks on assaulting and eliminating each of those.

On the left flank, one US squad succeeds on a frontal assault on Germans positioned just a few yards away.

In this type of terrain, any type of gain no matter how modest translates in the great advantages that come from getting in the enemy's flank while still being under good cover. In the screenshot below, a German team (grey icon) gets caught in the flank by the US squad that just advanced forward (from left to right).

In the center, a close assault opens with grenades.

And is followed with a lightning assault that, despite of being launched across an open field, stuns the enemy forces again caught on the wrong side of the hedgerow.

The forces in the center, although they have reached and cleared the edge of the objective, can't fire effectively upon an enemy team located between them and the left flank. This enemy team is still within the boundaries of the objective and needs to be eliminated. 

An assault with the left flank US squad is on order. The forces in the center can provide suppressive fire. The perfect fix and destroy maneuver!

The assaulting squad in the left flank is cut to pieces from an enemy LMG team located in the high terrain near the map's edge. Completely unobserved until it was too late, this enemy team had a field of fire directly on the assault route of the US squad. In the screenshot below, a team leader (foreground) watches the helpless men of his squad lying in the ground (background) after the merciless fire of the enemy LMG team (located somewhere in the top left of the image).

And then the scenario ends ... 

That German two-men team in the image above is the LMG that ripped the US squad to pieces. Here is a better look at their position relative to their target.

The enemy LMG team is the grey icon. The US squad assault was moving from the right to the left to clean up some enemy troops between the mortar team (green mortar icon) and the center forces (green icon on the left). Note how the beginner wargamer has not pushed his troops beyond the limits of the objective (the road/trail in the center that crosses the map from east to west). 

Despite achieving a minor victory, our beginner wargamer has paid a high price on casualties. He succeeded securing the objective but failed to recognize how the enemy can use terrain to spoil his plans. In particular, that last action with the German LMG in the high ground was a failure to recognize crucial terrain and how the enemy can use it. In real life, a company commander (our beginner wargamer's boss) would be very pissed off at the outcome of this action. The objective is not secured yet (i.e. the enemy can still fire at friendly forces in the ford).



Johan said...

I was a CM beginner when I played this mission for the first time, and it went pretty much like your story here. I especially remember being surprised that the hedges didn't give me protection from enemies firing from higher ground across the ford, exactly like you mentioned :-)

Today I'd (hopefully) do much better, but I'm looking forward to see what your take on this is, as we move up to the more advanced users in the series.

Chris said...

JC I haven't played this scenario. What is the time limit out of curiosity? And could the American player, given more time have knocked out the LMG without heavy losses?

JC said...

Hi Johan,
Really? That's a great story. I am trying to recap my old bad habits in this entry. Not that I am too good right now ... :)

Hi Chris,
Limit is 40 minutes. There were still troops and ammo left to destroy this LMG.