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"Accuracy of intel for plt to Bn sized operations/missions" Topic

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Gamesman611 Apr 2017 9:54 a.m. PST

I am thinking my rules and one aspect that strikes me is that of intelligence. Orders and plans would be based upon available intelligence. I thinking on ways to make represent the intelligence part of the pre game set, up. Players receive intell. which they may be aware is more or less strong, the Umpire etc would then have a way determining the actual situation on the ground…
To help does anyone have sources that give some indication on how much intel would be available for say Platoon up to brigade sized missions/operations, i know this is both broad and vague… and the general levels of accuracy of the intel. I am aware that in general that the more time and assets available the more accurate intel could be, though not always

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

Here's my two cents, as a former grunt:

-Intel assets of any type for 'regular' line units (in the US military at least) typically begin at the battalion level.

-In the overall scheme of things, the collection assets are not organic. Meaning, at battalion level you typically don't have actual collectors**, you have an Intel officer (the S-2), an NCO, and a non-rate. They are not out collecting information, they are sitting at HQ pulling down info from collection assets, higher-headquarters, and analytical centers.

**Starting in 2004, the USMC began putting an 8-man (not including interpreters) HUMINT team with each rifle battalion, and SIGINT teams at regiment, for deployments to Iraq (not all deployment Marine Corps-wide). The Army also plussed up the amount of HUMINT teams, but I'm not sure if they reached battalion level, or just Brigade (one team per, I mean).

-What this means is that the battalion orders will have the 'enemy' portion of the overall situation paragraph of the Operations Order pulled from other elements' (higher-HQ and analytical centers) assessments of the enemy situation. At company-level you generally got the battalion-level enemy sit from the Op Order pushed down to the officers and Staff NCOs, and at the platoon-level you pretty much just got the Platoon commander's best guess based off the Company commander's impression of the enemy sit from the Op Ord, and his own opinion based off his own observations.

-In some battalions the HUMINT teams stayed together as a single entity, and in others the HUMINT teams broke down into two-man elements to support each rifle company. In the latter cases, the HUMINT team might have direct access to some threat reporting from their higher-HQ and/or their own HUMINT networks.

-The battalions I was with in Iraq (1/5 and 3/1) were set up where the HUMINT teams had two guys with each rifle company, so a lot of the company and platoon-ops were based off their own reporting, i.e., they had multiple sources telling them 'the guy in the house with the blue roof next to the market is a bomb maker,' so a platoon would mount out on a presence patrol, then stop and do a cordon and knock on the blue house. There would also be tidbits like 'there's a new cell in the area and they've turned one of the taxis into a VBIED,' or 'they've got a rocket launcher in this general area, sources so it's being stored in the canal,' etc…

-If there was some particularly high-end issue noted by higher-HQ, it would typically be passed all the way down to the lowliest rifleman. Stuff like "intel says they've got" a tank, or a SAM, or a field piece, "in the area." But, my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan was that when that was the case, that high-end item WAS the mission.

Hope that helps, or let me know if there's anything I might be able to clarify.


Gamesman611 Apr 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

Thanks. If I may ask what was your experience of what you were told was in an areas and what you actually encountered.

My thoughts are for a game that the player will have a picture of what they may encounter based upon the intell. orders, they receive. they will then plan based upon that and their own training and experience, identifying likely locations for threats etc.
THe challenge is whether that compares to what is actually there… My issue with many games is that no real pre game planning or any real affect of a planning on what then happens in the game once there is aneed for the plan needs to change.

Mako11 Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 11:59 a.m. PST

Before, or after the shooting starts?

Gamesman611 Apr 2017 12:13 p.m. PST

both, though of course the hows of the reaction would be different depending on the level of shooting and the size of the unit being played/controlled by the player

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 12:29 p.m. PST

Worth remembering that the Afghan intel described is really good compared to most of what one gets even in the "modern" era. Drones and satellites were science fiction for a lot of wars. Maps have improved. Guys as late as Yugoslavia were dealing with seven different datums (correct plural in this context) in the country, which meant even if you read your map exactly right, supporting elements using a different datum could be hundreds of meters off--and might have briefed you (or bring down fire) on that basis. Also worth noting that "confirmed by multiple sources" is not quite the same thing as "true." Intelligence, like archeology, is not an exact science.

And GPS also covers only portions of the modern period. We will draw a discrete veil over an early 1980's "extended night land navigation" in which a team I knew didn't realize they'd left the state even though they'd had to traverse a river in the process.

Gamesman611 Apr 2017 12:59 p.m. PST

yep… Certainly as I am initially looking at WWII and Vietnam for this.
And yes confirmed by multiple reliable sources etc if only what t may mean to the side that receives it.
PArt of what I am thinking on is that a CO could receive A1 intel but find something else when they are actually in the field.
Part of what I need to figure out is how often intel can be "wrong" as well as , How much intel would they have.
So I think my points are
How much Intel would they have?
How accurate do they believe it to be?
How accurate is it really, (What is they enemy situation really in the field)
WHat degree of inaccuracy is there? How off would the reality be from the Intel.

Not that I am looking to be given these answers but some actual RL info or place to look would be great

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 1:07 p.m. PST

Gamesman6 – "Thanks. If I may ask what was your experience of what you were told was in an areas and what you actually encountered."
Well, I think in the overall scheme of things it wasn't that far off, though maybe that's because it was sufficiently vague. ;)

For what it's worth, I'm not sure the intel picture is the issue with pre-game planning. From my perspective, the intel picture really only affects the player's force selection (assuming he gets to pick the troops/equipment he uses in the game) and method of insertion (how the troops come on the table). For example, in a platoon-sized game the enemy sit can be simple:

"Intel says the target has a few bodyguards/cell members, and they're holed up in the northeast cluster of buildings."

I can take my platoon (with organic weapons, maybe a combat engineer/breacher) and go in however I want.


"Intel says we're facing a platoon-sized element transiting the area, and they may have armor."

I take my platoon, carry extra AT-4s, maybe attach a TOW/Milan/Javelin team, can go in however I want.

"Intel says we're facing a platoon-sized element, they've been here awhile and they're likely to be dug-in, likely have some Dshks/MANPADs."

I take my platoon, look for off table fire support to suppress the crew-serves, and I'm walking, not taking helos.

I think with that level of briefing you have enough fodder to make the player come up with a quick (verbal) CONOPS, like "I'm inserting via helo here, rally there, 1st (team/squad/platoon) moves off to clear this cluster of huts while 2nd (team/squad/platoon) is on overwatch and 3rd (team/squad/platoon) is in reserve.

If contact is nil/light, 1st (team/squad/platoon) carries out actions on the objective (kill the enemy sniper, capture the mortar tube, drive off the enemy team, whatever the victory condition (mission objective) is while 2nd and 3rd sit tight.

If contact is medium, 1st goes firm, 2nd supports by fire, and 3rd maneuvers to take the objective by passing through1st.

If contact is heavy, 2nd supports by fire, 3rd maneuvers to deny the unexpected threat (or, if from objective area, maneuver to support by fire), 1st disengages, and we get the hell outta dodge.

If you've got supporting fires (off table arty, mortars, fast movers), a fun thing I've done is have the player scheme out support priorities, and let him use off-table support only for his number 1 priority.

For example, he might say:
#1 priority is anti-air weapons
#2 priority is crew serves
#3 priority is objective area
#4 priority is enemy reinforcements

Then you, running the game, only let him have off table support if the enemy has AA weapons on the table (I'm not getting into whether those priorities are in the right order, that would all depend on the scheme of maneuver, just using this as an example). This is a cool mechanism to make the player actually think about what's going on and what he's trying to accomplish (as well as take into account the enemy situation), and help to keep off-table supporting fires from dominating the game.

Mako – "Before, or after the shooting starts?"

Once the shooting starts you generally have pretty accurate picture of the enemy situation ;)

Robert – "Worth remembering that the Afghan intel described is really good compared to most of what one gets even in the "modern" era. Drones and satellites were science fiction for a lot of wars. Maps have improved."

I dunno man. I got there in December 2002, drones and satellites were not a part of our lives. Absolutely higher-HQ had them (I think at the time the Predators were theater assets?), but down to company/platoon/team level is a big negative. I left the Marine Corps at the end of 2004, and by that time there were hand-tossed UAVs at company level, and they were trialing hand-tossed UGVs as well.

Regarding maps, yeah, we had GPS, but the maps were Bleeped texted. We had a lot of JOGAIRs (often used by pilots, almost completely worthless for small unit ground operations) and some Soviet reprints!

"Also worth noting that "confirmed by multiple sources" is not quite the same thing as "true.""
Okay. I wasn't getting at anything about what was true or not, I only know that the Rules of Engagement in Iraq in 2004 stated we had to have multiple sources saying the same thing before we could plan an op around that set of information. They later further tightened that up to say not just two different sources, but two different disciplines (i.e, HUMINT confirmed by SIGINT, or vice versa).

"Intelligence, like archeology, is not an exact science."
I'll have to take your word for it, just promise me we won't have a "Is Intelligence an Art or Science" poll ;)

Night Land Nav; but one of the things that makes me happy to be a civilian! ;)


Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 1:30 p.m. PST

Well damn, I just saw Gamesman's new post, hope the above isn't totally off base.

Vietnam is going to be a bit different and then, in my opinion, WWII is going to be in a totally different world.

There's a few Vietnam vets floating around here on TMP, but coming up with 'real life' for WWII is gonna be a bit of a challenge ;)

"Part of what I need to figure out is how often intel can be "wrong" as well as , How much intel would they have."
I can only answer from my reading and talking to vets:

Regarding Vietnam (at least Marines in Vietnam), they had a few guys that ran sources, though those didn't appear to be terribly effective, and mostly were used relating to enemy attacks (sapper, rocket, and mortar) on the big bases. Most of the battlefield intel came from interrogations, usually done by host nation (ARVN) personnel. A lot of battalion and company sweeps were the result of interrogation of captured VC or NVA, and sometimes the intel team and the EPW would actually accompany the company or battalion on the op, and either way they usually had someone on hand to do on-the spot interrogations of enemy troops captured during the op, and to talk to local villagers.

When intel was wrong, it was generally the fact that no bad guys or arms caches were found where the US thought there would be bad guys/arms caches, though there were also incidents where the information from the interrogation walked the US troops into an ambush. But who is to say whether that was the plan, or just the fact there were bad guys in the area of where we thought they'd be, just not exactly where the US thought they'd be?

"How accurate do they believe it to be?"
I don't think anyone that wasn't there could really take a stab at that, and even then, wouldn't that be totally down to the individual, i.e., that particular commander at that particular time? For my part, I think commanders at whatever level generally believe in the intel picture given them; it's coming from your own higher headquarters, and if you're going somewhere you've never been, it's the only picture you have. Though I may just be conflating my own views here…

"How accurate is it really, (What is they enemy situation really in the field) WHat degree of inaccuracy is there? How off would the reality be from the Intel."
I have no idea how you'd get that type of info. But man, it seems like you'd have to be getting pretty specific in your mission brief, far more specific than most folks would see, even in contemporary fights.

If guys are thinking you get a briefing like "there are seventeen bad guys, with nine in a trench here (pointing at satellite imagery) and eight in the building here (pointing). Twelve have AKs, two have PKs, two have RPGs, and one had onions for lunch…" That was not my experience, and while drones have been pushed down to much lower levels, the buddies I have still in the military tell me not that much has changed. The drones are able to fly over to see if there's activity in an area you weren't expecting activity in, but picking out individual fighting positions, individual equipment, I think is still confined to the movies.

Again, I hope I'm being helpful, though I'm not really confident in that ;)


Gamesman611 Apr 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

It all helps and thanks for taking the time..

No i'm not expecting that there would be minute detail…
It's given me things to think on and refreshed some ideas.

A simple solution is to say randomly generate enemy forces, one is for the mission briefing… the other is what is actually in the AO
Can then attach a A Reliability and Accuracy rating to the intell. Which could be based upon random assignment of based upon a unit intel "rating"

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 6:41 p.m. PST

A good friend of mine did Brigade intel briefings for the US Army in I Corps in 1967-68. The briefings were attended by Company Commanders. He said they were general in nature. It was mostly about enemy activity or movement in certain areas and unit ID's that were known. If your platoon was going out on patrol later in the day there was not much info that you had to work on.

The LRRPS and Marine Recon patrolling behind enemy lines were the ones that could get exact current intel by ambushing messengers, raiding caches, snatching prisoners, etc. On more than one occasion a platoon would be on a patrol in an area with no contact for weeks and then stumble into an NVA assembly area no one knew about.

Marine General Al Gray was the one that transitioned the Marines from a WWII intel to a modernized SIGINT organization.

What Jack said about ID'ing a guy in the exact room is true. I was hanging out with some Marines in the Radio Recon Platoon in Hawaii in December. None of this is classified.

They mainly use the AN/PRC-177 satellite communications suite. Having a TS/Crypto clearance they can get current intel on the targets designated in their area. This mean they can intercept his cell or push-to-talk transmissions and send them to CIA/NSA to get a voice print verification for positive ID. Snipers can send real-time video from their scopes to the SIGINT guys who can send it up to get facial recognition too. Interpreters could tell the Platoon Leader what they were talking about.

So how do they tell exactly what room he's in even if the bad guy is not transmitting? SS7 (Signaling System 7) is a set of protocols allowing cell phone networks to exchange the information needed for passing calls and text messages between each other. It can give the exact location of the target and his entire contact list and who he has called or texted recently, even if the phone is turned off. 60 minutes did a report on it earlier this year. I'm sure there are other tricks and technology being used.

One more thing. The recon unit's current training was to jump out an Osprey into the Pacific Ocean two miles from shore. Then take 4 hours to swim in pushing up to 150 pounds of their gear floating along with them. When they hit the beach they did a 12-mile forced march. Crazy!


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2017 6:43 p.m. PST

Good point, Jack. And I didn't mean to run down your problems. I just wanted to point out that, within the period covered by "moderns" there have been a lot of changes--mostly in the direction of better intel.

Perhaps worth noting that maps--and terrain analysis generally--are going to be a lot worse coming to a new country or region then they will be if this is the fourth time everyone's swept this same area, so the scenario itself drives some of the intel.

Also, I'm reading Street Without Joy, and Bernie Fall points out that while French intel in Indo-china was usually pretty good for OOB, especially at the higher levels, one of the consistent problems was that French commanders over-rated their own units compared to similar Viet Minh ones. The French were better, battalion to battalion, but not as much better as they thought they were. Probably not just a French problem, and sometimes something which can be worked into a game.

Confirmed by multiple sources--or even multiple ints. Yeah, I know Jack. And I know you know. I just wanted the audience to appreciate the difference. The analyst sits there with some fuzzy photos, usually not from the look angle he really wanted, and at the wrong time of day. He has humint reports translated from a language he doesn't speak, and not always translated well, amd all he gets is summaries of the elint and comint. Even the best of the intel types sometimes puts together a picture from these things which is consistent with all the evidence he has, absolutely convincing--and dead wrong.

But as for the poll, I disavow all knowledge. Art or Science? There were days I thought it was an addiction--or a mental disorder.

Gamesman612 Apr 2017 1:54 a.m. PST

Wolfhag, thanks, that's in line with what Ihave read, and useful to have the extra info.

Robert P thanks also..

My idea is that in RL the goal is to gain as much information as possible on a full spectrum, but ultimately one is dealing with what the individual commander thinks and the decisions they make.
Too often in games it seems that we are trying to find mechanics to allow us to replicate the some uncertainty that we have in a confrontation situation as we have too much information… This IMO is not ideal in the context that most of use get toplay games… and if that is something someone wants, set up a multi room mega game… or play online etc…
In smaller games or solo, it about the the players own assumptions.. but for… to amke that as close to the range and variety found in RW.
Tnanks again for all the thoughts so far…

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 5:12 a.m. PST

Wolfhag – Things have absolutely progressed, but I'd still say (assume?) that your average line unit does not have that sort of access to information for its run of the mill combat patrol running out of a COP in Afghanistan.

Robert – Great points, all, and no problem man, I wasn't taking it as you were running anything down. I apologize, I wish I had more time to respond, but suffice to say I think we're seeing eye to eye.

Gamesman – Sounds interesting, I'd love to hear what you ultimately come up with.


Legion 412 Apr 2017 8:25 a.m. PST

That all sounds about right to me Jack and Wolfhag.

As we know all intel is "perishable".

And almost everybody does deception planning.

The first report is almost always wrong.

Also, I'm reading Street Without Joy, and Bernie Fall points out that while French intel in Indo-china was usually pretty good for OOB,
A "must read" IMO, Robert.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 9:59 a.m. PST

The Marine Radio Battalions provide the SATCOM and SIGINT assets to the Marine ground units. They get attached as needed. Usually a team of 2 in a Company HQ. Sometimes it is just to provide communications and other times it may be to snatch someone or confirm parameters for a drone strike.

They get a target list from "up above" and then gather additional intel on the targets in their AO. The Radio Recon Platoon is the permanent SIGINT asset for Force Recon. They are Comms guys with Recon training, Jump School, etc. Comms is very specialized now.

At Thanksgiving I visited my son at Pendleton, he's with the 1st Radio Bn. His Bn Co spent about 15 minutes talking to my wife and I. I was surprised he knew who my son (a Corporal) is. Overall I was pretty impressed. When I was in about 30% of the guys were Cat 4's with 6th-grade reading and writing skills.

Their battlefield is the electromagnetic spectrum. You can be putting together a target package at 2am in your barracks sipping on a beer and listening to Black Sabbath. My son's room looked like a college dorm complete with empty beer bottles laying around. Sometimes they will be sent helmet cam footage or the drone feed when they take out a target. He said it's a real morale booster. When he was deployed with the 13th MEF he went on a number of foot patrols with the grunts. He said he also interrogates detainees. Knowing him that's a war crime waiting to happen.

He gets out in Sept and hopes to join some of his buddies on deployed agency contracts. Then go back to college and finish his EE degree.


nochules12 Apr 2017 11:05 a.m. PST

I think the biggest challenge you are going to find here is that intelligence collection is not going to really exist in a vacuum absent enemy activity. So you are not going to be able to present both players with a pre-game intelligence briefing which they then react to by building their force structure and determining their deployment. Because what the intelligence collectors collect will be based on the enemy force structure and deployment! I think it could work in a players vrs GM sort of game, or as part of a campaign though.

Gamesman612 Apr 2017 3:19 p.m. PST

Well as i said my game is either solo or vs umpire……
though even in PvP i think that it is still doable as the intel picture is what one side "believes" is happening…

Lion in the Stars12 Apr 2017 6:29 p.m. PST

We get into a bit of intel and ops when my group plays Infinity.

You don't choose your army list until you choose mission and have a table laid out, and you know at least which faction your opponent is bringing.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2017 8:01 p.m. PST


No kidding, a two-man RadBn team at each line company? Wow, that's an incredible plus up in terms of organic capability, to say nothing of the technology advancing at such a quick pace.

When I was in, the MEUs were the only ones with anything near this capability. Each MEU had its own R&S element with the Deep Reconnaissance Plt, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Plt, a HUMINT Exploitation Team, and a Radio Recon Team. The RRT was organic, but nowhere near the technical capability of contemporary gear, and a shipboard liaison had tie in back to national level assets, but that's only because the MEU is a theater-level asset and frequently operating alone in contingency operations directly for National Command Authority. It sounds like now every rifle company has that level of support!

It strikes me as a bit odd that the RRT guys would be responsible for long-haul comms. Not just a waste in terms taking the very specialized guys away from their primary role, but also, what happened to the comm platoon at each grunt battalion, and the comm company + (between MSSG, CSSD, BLT, and ACE) on the MEU? Hell, I think the forward CP (I can't think of the damn MEU-specific term we used) had a whole comm platoon itself! And probably ought to leave the interrogations to the interrogators ;)


Gamesman613 Apr 2017 2:06 a.m. PST

Also popping in to my head re Pvp could a roll vs something then get to draw certain number of cards etc that represent units types… inf armour arty bunkers etc.. players coukd also mix bummy cards I there too…

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 2:57 a.m. PST

This issue has been occupieing our minds at Maneouver Group for some time. I suspect from my readings that at least at platoon level generaly a platoon level gain game has as much information than a real wold platoon. in that:-

They have an accurate map.

Genrally they will have an idea of what the enemy will have. It would generally be a poor wargame game (for most folk) if they moved on table and nobody is present). Even for a typical barralion level you will know that there is enemy on table. That may be far better than a real wold unit who may only be aware of enemy within 5 to 10km.

To some extent what has been said here which is usefull, is that it can be a lot or a little and whichever it is it may or may not be true at the time you want to use it.

So the issue is gamewise, what do you want to do with that information on table. There are very tight limits what you can do depending on what a "good" game is.

We the authors are doing a great game involving gaining integence by probes. However you may spend a hour or so clearing a settlement that is empty of enemy or risking it and finding it was not empty and losing lots of assests becuse you did not check. We find that brain wracking stuff great fun and a challenge but it is proably not everybodies idea of a good game. There may only be a few items on the table. Most are hidden. Not a game for the minature oriented player.

Hve fun in you quest.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 5:18 a.m. PST


I play a lot of solo games, so I use the 'blinds' system for enemy forces, as laid out in Joe Legan's "Platoon Forward."

You don't get an intelligence briefing, but the enemy force is randomized and largely suited to the mission and what forces you're bringing to the fight. If you're on a patrol with not much expected, the enemy will have less blinds and the potential forces will be on the lighter end, while if you're in a deliberate attack, the enemy will have more blinds and perhaps be on the heavier end.

The 'lighter' or 'heavier' is worked out by having different types of blinds. In the overall scheme of things, there are rifle squad blinds (Type A), crew served weapons blinds (B), and vehicle blinds (C), though each blind could actually turn out to be nothing, and there is a small chance that any type blind could actually turn out to be a different-type blind (i.e., a very small chance something very unexpected occurs such as a Type A blind ends up being a tank).

For example, if you're on patrol with three squads, an attached MG, and an attached self-propelled gun, the enemy might have three Type A blinds, a Type B, and a Type C. If you were on the attack with the same force, the enemy might have five Type A, three Type B, and two Type C. Platoon Forward also throws in stuff like minefields, entrenchments, and off-table fire support for each side, using random tables. I.e., if you're on patrol, it's possible the enemy will be dug in, but very unlikely they will have arty or mortars firing in support, and it's likely you will have arty or mortars firing in support, then you roll on a table to see if you've actually got it.

I highly recommend it.


Gamesman613 Apr 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

I'll check thoe rules out…at the least they will give some extra ingredients for that dish… the perfect rules! ;)

wizbangs Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

The best way to represent intel would be to leave enemy tanks, number of men in a platoon, and even terrain vague and rolling a dice for what they really are once discovery happens. For example "German tanks are present: roll a d6 1= Panzer II, 2-3 = Panzer IV, 4-5 = Panther, 6 = Tiger. You could leave the density of woodlands random so that they could be anywhere from impassable, 1/4 move, 1/2 move or light enough that they do not hinder movement by provide concealment.

The game might not be worth playing if intel says there are tanks and it turns out there aren't any, although things like support weapons could also be random so that they may or may not be present.

Gamesman614 Apr 2017 4:16 a.m. PST

Yes… that's sounds. Little like the platoon forward mechanic as described…
I like the idea of using cards. Tokens or chit the are placed or drawn and this will actually reveal some thing.. rather than rolling dice at the point.
I remeber reading accounts of troops assuming the engine nose was a tank only to find out it was a truck… etc
I like idea of the radomisation being in deck… rather than in the roll.
A briefing might say
There is a platoon of infantry 8 inf chit
2 vehicles afv armour. 4 chit
1 support weapon 2 chit
These woukd be placed on the map
As well as a rolled for number of random chit. ..
The can be spotted or engaged… or depending on an activation they may engage friendly forces..
The Bleeped text may then be turned over and reveal what is actually there… or not… as there will be du. Y chit mixed in…
Just think quickly… out loud

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