Friday, October 5, 2018

Combat Mission Fortress Italy - Shocking the Livorno

Another great scenario in Combat Mission Fortress Italy, "Butera Station".

One battalion of the Italian Livorno Division pushing towards the beach head at Gela. A reinforced company-sized patrol of the 3rd US Infantry Division deploys quickly and tries to block the Italians. In this scenario, my poor planning resulted in a nail-biting finale.

A late battle birds eye view of the battlefield. The Italians (gray icons), desperate to break through our hastily assembled defense (green icons).

A platoon of US infantry, which was moving to reinforce their beleaguered brothers down in the villa, collides with Italian infantry.

A few minutes later, and totally devoid of cover, the US infantry rushes the Italians back into an irrigation ditch. For my men, there was no other way but forward.

What won the battle was the sudden appearance of two US Sherman tanks on the right flank of the Italians. The two tanks made their way to the villa and stabilized the situation. The Italian infantry in the open didn't stand a chance.

The exceptional mobility of the US tanks allowed a continuous shuffle of machine gun and HE shells firepower all along the extended line of the Italians.

I should have taken advantage of the AT guns and mortars (I had the means of moving them from the hill in the west towards the village). But it was too late by the time I embarked in such endeavor: the Italians were opening their deployment and started rushing forward in a wide line. I cut them just a few meters short of the villa objective.

Nonetheless, I secured a major victory.

But anyway, speaking of "shock". Combat Mission has a built-in AI behavior which you can see when an under-armored AFV sees a tank (the AFV pulls back and covers its move with smoke). To a certain extent, infantry does something similar (hitting the dirt or just cowering in the worst cases). So, there is this simulated "shock" in the coded brains of crews and soldiers.

It would be great that the "shock" behavior would be higher if a unit experiences an overwhelming threat in one of its flanks, like it happened to many of the Italians suddenly showing their chops to a couple of Sherman tanks.



Brad Koziey said...

Good stuff as usual! I've never tried any of the Combat Mission games but I have played Graviteam titles. The UI in Combat Mission seems more intuitive. How about the AI? How does the Graviteam AI stack up against the CM AI?

JC said...

Hi Brad and thanks for reading.

The AI in Combat Mission is good enough for the small (compared to a Graviteam scenario) scope
- both terrain and time- of each scenario. Combat Mission's AI has some built-in routines such as figuring out a covered route and off course basic survival behaviors. The thing that Combat Mission's AI can't do is to elaborate an all-force tactical plan with schemes of maneuver and fires. That part is left to the scenario designer, who can issue a set of orders for groups of forces of his choosing. These orders can be general and relatively vague (attack on a broad front towards this wide area, do not bypass ENY units, for example) and leave a lot of room for variability and fun during game play.

I think that Combat Mission's AI is more than adequate for the type of scenarios that are the game's forte. But many times, the scenario authors play to much emphasis in the challenge factor (God forbid an scenario of theirs is "easy") and you will be facing situations where an AI-commanded "hasty" defense looks like an extremely well prepared defense (one enemy unit at each imaginable tactical position). This tends to make good tactical puzzles but not great scenarios.

But then you have scenarios like the one I reported on, where the AI is exquisitely crafted by the author. And by exquisitely I mean not overdone and focused in what the scenario is trying to convey. The author of this scenario is "the Fighting Seabee" and he is very good at this. If you get Combat Mission you will see his content across Battlefront's portfolio.

As a parting comment, I have to say that the chaos, blunder and expediency of a tactical encounter is very well represented in Graviteam's games. Can Combat Mission do that? Yes! But I don't see too much interest in Combat Mission's audience.


Anonymous said...

Thanks JC that means a lot coming from you! :) I put a lot into trying to make my missions interesting and it's so cool to see it get played!

Brad, once you get used to the controls, which is easy, and get to know how your units react, you'll get a very rich tactical experience. You'll have fun.

JC is right, the scenarios are somewhat canned, but there are a lot of good ones. Some will force you into a particular tactical predicament, while others will give you a bit of freedom to get into the predicament of your choosing. :P