From: Dusty town, somewhere inside central valley of CA
I like the concept of operational layer, and I enjoyed such games like Wargane ALB, Wargame RD, Close Combat 4 and later series where players control the movement of regiments / divisions from operational layer and fight in tactical layer.
However, there are really big issues. No matter how many times I fought for specific region of operational map, all tactical battles are placed in exactly same map, same position, and fights for exactly same objectives. In addition, enemy AIs are pushing exactly same route no matter what kind of different groups I have or they have. At the end of day, you will be able to remember every enemy spawn position and push route, and exact same battles will be repeated over and over again. Plus, it is very hard to depict the battle damage and wrecks of region throughout the campaign. For example, in WRD, every time when I play battles in the same region multiple times, miraculously all buildings and roads are repaired, all wrecks are cleared, and all craters are filled, no matter how tough and fierce the previous battle was. Maybe superman cleared the battlefield for the players, maybe... Well, Close combat series depicts the wrecks of tanks and vehicles from previous battle (on RNG base, not all the time), but that is all. Buildings and trees are the same.
Those drawbacks are not only unrealistic, but also quite funny and silly, and make game boring at the later stage. After being bored, players will be tired of same repeating battles, so you will looking for auto battles which is unrealistic and RNG-dependent, or just give up the game before finish the campaign. This happens a lot, not only to me, I saw so many similar stories from other game forums.
There are several ways to solve these issues, but those requires lots of resources. Introduce at least 5 tactical maps per 1 region of operational layer, and decide the place of battle and spawn point based on movement direction of operational map plus a bit of RNG, and diverse the enemy AI. Keep the battle damage of battle field as realistic as possible. But those options are not that perfect. 5 tactical maps per 1 region is too much. If there are 20 regions, total 100+ tactical maps are required, which is too much burden, especially for small (low budget + low manpower) game studio. Also, improving enemy AI is not that simple task. Recording and tracking the location / various degree of battle damages and wrecks of each maps are also not an easy task, this requires too many details to be recorded and tracked through the campaign, which is also burden for coding and disk drive.
Don't get me wrong, operational layer is fun to play, this is another way to enjoy military strategy game, which induces a player feeling of control as a supreme commander. However, there's serious drawback of operational layer in tactical combat games, which is not easy yo solve.
So, how about play operational games, such as Gary Grigsby or TOAW series, for the fun of operational maneuvering and control? And let's focus on battle for the tactical games. This way is more realistic, because players will perform a role of divisional / regimental / battalion commander, and follow the order of higher command. In addition, this method will be less burden for programmers, and would help to increase the quality and the realism of the game. Instead, game can offer more realism and immersion in different way. For example, very well described scenario and very well made mission briefing will make players more immersion, which will give more fun and concentration to the battle.
And I like the idea of "branch style". Not sure about detail, but I also suggested similar idea in Flashpoint Campaign forum long ago... Well, wish to see how the game looks like.