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Walk on Water scenario

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Walk on Water scenario - 3/10/2019 2:17:09 AM   

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This is my first AAR. I started recently to play this game and I’m still learning how to plan and execute my plans. For that reason this AAR will not provide minute by minute narration but will try to layout a general plan, explain tactical decisions that I made and provide thoughts on an outcome and lesson learned.

This AAR covers Walk on Water scenario. The following forces are available:
• 2 BTR-70 Mech Inf Company
• 3 T-72A tank platoons
• 3 mortar sections
• 3 scout sections

Soviet forces are deployed on the northern portion of the map, with ground lowering gradually towards the southern edge. That gives me a slight height advantage that I could use to establish fire coverage for advancing units.
The river runs from west to east and divides the battlefield into two halves. There are two fordable points, on the western and eastern edges of the map.

I played this map several times, and my initial plan was to utilize both crossing points and execute two prongs attack that would converge at the second victory location. That would in theory divide enemy forces and keep them pinned while I would maneuver around.

However, after a few attempts, I realized that this may not be the best course of action. Eastern causeway is covered with woods and provides ample opportunities for cover and ambush. I attempted to screen potential ambush locations with my infantry squads, but after I lost a few of them, my capability for that was severely reduced and BTR’s got picked off one by one by a hidden enemy.

Therefore, I decided to change the approach and amass on my forces on the western causeway with the following orders:

Assembly Area “Москва”
: Two companies and one tank platoon will assembly there and proceed south.
Once they reach Phase Line “Франкфурт” they will turn east and proceed towards the second objective.

Infantry will go first and sweep edge of the forest, and tanks and BTR’s will follow at distance and provide support fire as required.

Battle position “Ленинград”: One tank platoon will take overwatch there and provide support fire. Once the main attack group reaches ““Франкфурт”, the platoon will cross the river and join the group.

Battle position “Сталинград”: One tank platoon will take overwatch there and provide support fire. It will remain there during the whole operation as this position provided excellent field of fire. . It will also protect the rear and mortar sections from any counter attack that might come across western fording point.

Mortars will be used to preplan and execute smoke screens ahead of river crossing. They will be also used to suppress an enemy anti-tank weapons. Scout sections will try to identify enemy position early in order to save casualties.

The map is in the attachment:

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by reg_reg -- 3/14/2019 2:16:26 AM >
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Counter-attack - 3/10/2019 2:25:13 AM   

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As my forces were approaching Phase Line “Франкфурт”, the enemy tried to counter-attack with a platoon of T-55A tanks. My tanks managed to dispatch them quickly, but the enemy maneuver was a pleasant surprise.

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by reg_reg -- 3/14/2019 2:16:48 AM >

(in reply to reg_reg)
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Phase Line "Кельн" - 3/10/2019 2:28:12 AM   

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Infantry squads were approaching Phase Line "Кельн" when the enemy gave up.

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by reg_reg -- 3/14/2019 2:18:24 AM >

(in reply to reg_reg)
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Closing thoughts - 3/10/2019 2:31:15 AM   

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I liked this scenario and I think that it is suitable for a new player as it represents relatively gently introduction into art of combined arms operations. For me personally it was valuable experience as I was able to learn and re-learn a few important lessons:
1. It is difficult to use vehicles in terrain covered with forests and houses. It is hard to spot enemy and identify fire corridors that needs to be avoided. It requires a lot of time to scout potential ambush location and due to line of sight limitations you need to keep vehicle close and vulnerable if you want to provide effective fire support.

2. Importance of force concentration principle:
a. It is nice to plan encirclement battle or a fancy two prongs attacks, but it reality your divided forces can quickly get diluted and bogged down due to casualties. It is advantageous to use overwhelming forces on a short front, as the attacking side should maintain 2 or 3 times superiority in numbers in order to ensure victory.
b. By focusing on one flank you are making enemy forces on the other flank irrelevant. The opponent tried to counterattack with mechanized units, but infantry units and anti-tank guns were left behind.

3. Overwatch is really helpful, and a few well-chosen spots can dominate the battlefield. My tactics were to occupy a dominant position, identify an opponent early with scouts and focus fire of a whole platoon against the individual target. The accuracy of guns drops with distance, but with a larger number of firing pieces, I would obtain a higher probability of a hit.

It should be noted, however, that in this scenario opponent didn’t have long ranged guided missiles. A few well-placed and hidden ATGM team could snipe my exposed tanks from distance before I could see them.

4. Combined arms operation is a must. It takes some time for your units to locate a firing position of an anti-tank weapon, and during that time several vehicles can be destroyed in quick succession. So, infantry needs to push first, find an enemy, pin it down, and then engage and destroy it with your support force.

Exact tactics and spacing between infantry and supporting vehicles will be dictated by the tactical situation, type of terrain, coverage, a line of sight and opposing weapons (guns vs ATGM).

5. I don’t have a firm grip on how to use mortars. It is obvious that the smoke screen should be planned in advance and used to cover approach vectors, but I’m not sure how to effectively plan suppressing fire. Should I try to guess AT weapons placements and designate these areas as target reference points or I should mark a wider area, like an edge of a forest? I guess that width of area would affect density and effectivity of fire.

Attachment (1)

< Message edited by reg_reg -- 3/14/2019 2:18:47 AM >

(in reply to reg_reg)
Post #: 4
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/12/2019 9:23:26 PM   

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A very nice AAR and useful tactical insights.

There's something wrong with some of the screenshots. They're huge and I cannot view them in my browser.


Know thyself!

(in reply to reg_reg)
Post #: 5
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/13/2019 2:28:27 AM   

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Thanks, I resized 1st and 2nd attachment, let me know if it still does not work.

I'm reading articles on tactics and I'm trying to incorporate elements of formal mission planning and presentation into my AAR. It is a great learning experience.

(in reply to Veitikka)
Post #: 6
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/13/2019 4:16:31 PM   

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I think "embed picture in post" needs to be checked for them to display.


People shouldn't ask themselves why schools get shoot up.
They should ask themselves why people who finish schools burned out due to mobbing aren't receiving high enough compensations to not seek vengeance.

(in reply to reg_reg)
Post #: 7
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/14/2019 2:20:48 AM   

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I tried that I'm getting the following error:

"You are not allowed to post links, emails or phone numbers for 7 days from the date of your tenth post."

I managed to embed the first two pictures this evening, but not the other two. Strange.

(in reply to Perturabo)
Post #: 8
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/14/2019 8:58:25 PM   

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I enjoyed reading this AAR, tactical insights are always great!

(in reply to reg_reg)
Post #: 9
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/15/2019 10:00:08 AM   


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As a beginner I've played this lots of times - having wasted hours trying and failing to move and place units prior to start only to be told in another thread that you can't because the designer fixed them!

Anyway, I generally got massacred.

But then I decided to start the scenario and do do nothing for 10 minutes.
Sometimes there was a huge fire fight, other times nothing.

I then realised that the AI units are in a different place almost every time! D'oh. Switch to developer mode (requires edit to some file or other) and it is a bit like playing with fog of war off. Lo and behold sometimes there are enemy scouts on my side of the river, other times infantry - especially in the far right.

I've yet to get a "real victory" i.e. fog of war on and no experience adjustments.

As a beginner also I found making a small map with minimum number of units helps get an understanding of what to do.

(in reply to nikolas93TS)
Post #: 10
RE: Closing thoughts - 3/16/2019 2:24:12 AM   

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I find this game challenging and interesting and there are several reasons for that. First, as you have noticed, the game has dynamic AI. that will use different disposition of forces every time. Also, dummy objectives are a great thing as you are never sure where the enemy will decide to concentrate their force. In other games, I could always guess where the enemy would be, so I could maneuver freely around that point, cover ground quickly, flank it etc. Here, the game is keeping me honest and I need to maintain proper stance all that time, e.g push scouts ahead, keep proper spacing etc.

For example, you mentioned that AI placed infantry on the other side of the river. In my game, AI placed there something with more punch (anti-tank gun or BMP) and that opened my BTR’s like cans. This is one of the reasons why I abandoned the eastern approach, as I didn’t want to spend time and resources clearing a few houses in the corner of the map.

Second, the game really rewards methodical planning and execution and punishes click and drag approach that we are so used to. Most of other RTS games are set in WW2 setting, but weapons from late 80-ties were much more lethal. That, combined with order delay can ruin your day pretty quickly. To counter that I’m using disabled points a lot, so support units have a pre-planned path to approach front line or flank, while units that in defensive posture have pre-planned fall-back path (reverse for vehicles).

I’m also trying to develop a fairly detailed plan before I start the battle, and that implies not only to think about the general direction of advance but I try to figure out where and when I want to have individual unit positioned. This is not because I expect that the plan will survive the first contact, but it forces me to be methodical and go through rigorous assessment of terrain, forces, visibility, avenues of approach etc. It is like a going through questionnaire and forcing yourself to actually articulate answers instead of just skipping over with a warm feeling that you know what you are doing.

Additional advantage of having a plan is that it helps me to understand why things failed (and they will fail) and learn lessons from it. I planned my battle, I assumed certain things and I failed to execute. If underlying assumptions (on terrain, enemy position…) are clearly expressed in my plan, it is easier to identify the one that did not work.

As I mentioned in another thread, I find "101 Tactics" series of articles very useful. I suggest that you should look at Articles 001 to 005 that lay out basics of mission planning. Advices there are of general nature, but they should not be regarded as a cookbook with recipe for every tactical situation, but more as a guideline or “questionnaire” that needs to be filled.

I still cannot post links, so search for Armchair general tactics 101.

For example, lets try to apply OAKOC acronym (defined in Article 002) on this scenario:
O (Obstacles) – Where are the existing (natural) obstacles? Where are the emplaced (manmade) obstacles? How will they or could they influence maneuver and the flow of forces?

The river is a major obstacle and it is fordable at two locations, eastern and western fords.

A (Avenues of Approach) – Based on the obstacles; where can you and the enemy move and with what impact on formation and rate? Where are the mounted avenues? Where are the dismounted avenues? Where are the air avenues?

The river dictates two potential routes, Western and Eastern causeways.
Western causeway can be used for mounted offensive, as it allows echelon and line formations.
Eastern causeway favours infantry action, at least in vicinity of the river. Forest limits movement of vehicles, while burnt areas that does not provide concealment. (I learned that the hard way).

K (Key Terrain) – Where are the areas along the avenues of approach that provide a decided advantage for you or the enemy?

I will focus on Western Causeway, because this is where my main effort was:
There are a few houses and forested areas where enemy can hide AT guns. This is why Phase Lines “Франкфурт” (Frankfurt), “Штутгарт” (Stuttgart) and Кёльн (Cologne) are placed there, as they represent major milestones that need to be achieved before the majority of force could proceed forward.

Northern side of the river lays on higher ground, and that gives me excellent overwatch positions, i.e. Battle Positions “Сталинград” (Stalingrad) and “Ленинград” (Leningrad).

O (Observation and Fields of Fire) – Where can you or the enemy detect each other? Where can you or the enemy physically engage each other with weapon systems? Where are the potential engagement areas and kill sacks? Defensible terrain?

The terrain is open and weather is good, that means that detection can occur early. This leads to one of the hardest questions for me: how to determine the distance between advancing forces, i.e. scouts, infantry and tanks?
Too close, and AT guns will engage follow up force (vehicles) before they are detected.
Too far and vehicles will not be able to support scouts and infantry when they get pinned down.

Rule of tumb stipulates two thirds of the effective range of the majority of employed weapons (see Article 102). However, as in this case enemy does not have ATGM and I feel confident because I'm attacking with overwhelming force and control high ground, so I went with smaller separation.

C (Cover and Concealment) – Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade fire? Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade visual detection?

There re not many areas where enemy can avoid detection, apart from forested regions and houses.

I hope that this illustrate the value of structured, formal approach.

But, perhaps the most important and practical take that a new player could obtain from these articles is a necessity to determine a decisive point. A decisive point is something that is crucial for execution of a mission that, if achieved, will determine the course of the battle. It can be terrain-oriented (a position that needs to be held or covered approach that will enable flanking) enemy-oriented (unit that is a keystone of defense) or time-oriented (importance of timing attacks or time limit for execution of the mission). The decisive point helps you to define your intention, and from intention your units will get its purpose, and purpose will flow down into individual orders.

For example, I decided that the decisive point for this battle would be control of the ridge that I named Battle Position “Сталинград”. This is due to following reasons:

1. The position provides tremendous field of fire. In some plays, I actually placed two tanks platoons there, as I wanted to ensure that I have superior fire power. The game has an element of luck, like real life, and that pesky T-55 could get a lucky shot at the weak spot of your T-72. So, sometimes, it is good to double down and increase probability of killing enemy before he kills you.

2. It enables control of central portion of the plain, which splits enemy zone of operations into two halves and prevent flanking, which actually happened when enemy rushed the enemy platoon across the field.

3. It provides security for mortar sections in the rear. We can argue if that was necessary or not, but A.I. showed that is capable of executing counter attacks, and I also like to role play my game. Competent commander would never leave mortars unprotected in a field.

Another example, at the moment I’m working on a plan for Winter Desolation scenario. In this scenario I need to move quickly a mechanized force (in the north-west corner) and reinforce a tank platoon in the south, while Soviet forces are rolling from the east and are trying to cut my lines of communications.

So, in this scenario the decisive point is time. Will I manage to move my mechanized force down before lines are cut? In order to do that, I need to avoid contact with an enemy as combat will slow me down. This leads to following considerations:

1. Route: which route is the farthest from the enemy?

2. Concealment: it is night, so visibility is low, but should I deploy additional smoke screens to prevent enemy from observing my movement?

3. Interdiction: how to prevent enemy from interdicting my lines? My BTR’s have 7.62mm machine guns, not a match for a tank or BMP, but infantry squads have recoilless guns. Should I dismount leading squads and try to secure critical intersection until my column passes?

These are decisions that flowing down from a choice of the decisive point.

Third, and the last point that I will try to make is that units should be used in a way that they are supposed to be used in real life, and this can be only learned by trial and error method. This sounds obvious, but that is where our previous experience with other RTS does not help, as usually it is enough to just select a bunch of units and order them to go forward. This game, in my opinion, models well strength and weaknesses of individual units, so we should study their specs in order to understand how they should be utilized.

For example, tanks and assault guns are there to support infantry, but APC’s (Armored Personal Carriers) are just glorified trucks and it is best if they stay behind. However, in some circumstances, APC’s could be brought forward to lay out suppressive fire.

IFV’s (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) are between tanks and APC’s in terms of capability and tactics. If the threat of anti-tank weapond is low, they could be used as tanks and support infantry with direct fire. If the threat is high and we have a luxury of having tanks in our OOB, they should be kept behind tanks. But then Bradley is heavier and better armored than BMP and that could affect tactics as well. If enemy is charging ahead with armor, they could be employed as mobile anti-tank teams, firing from concealed positions and then moving to a reserve site.

I apologize if some of my points are considered obvious, but as I mentioned at the beginning, we often have that knowledge ingrained in us, but sometimes it is difficult to fill the “questionnaire” and put that knowledge into structured and determined plan of action. I hope that these thoughts would help with that.

(in reply to altipueri)
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RE: Closing thoughts - 3/16/2019 5:21:49 PM   


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Great post, and great understanding of why AB is. AB is not a RTS, it’s a sim that happens to play out in real time. Prior planning and then execution in this game are as challenging and as rewarding as they are in the real world.


(in reply to reg_reg)
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RE: Closing thoughts - 3/19/2019 8:49:08 AM   

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Great post, and great understanding of why AB is. AB is not a RTS, it’s a sim that happens to play out in real time. Prior planning and then execution in this game are as challenging and as rewarding as they are in the real world.

Yeah. IIRC, they used to call them Real Time Simulations in the 80s.


People shouldn't ask themselves why schools get shoot up.
They should ask themselves why people who finish schools burned out due to mobbing aren't receiving high enough compensations to not seek vengeance.

(in reply to 22sec)
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