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"Prosecuting the Attack in Command Decision" Topic

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Achtung Minen25 May 2023 4:38 a.m. PST

One of the hallmark features of Command Decision in my mind is how easy it is to play incorrectly. Now I don't mean getting the rules wrong (they're fairly straightforward), but rather how if you approach a tactical challenge with the wrong plan, it will very quickly and very predictably unravel into a disaster. Both attacking and defending in Command Decision are quite difficult and have their own unique wrinkles, but in either case you cannot really rely on dice luck to rescue you if your approach wasn't air tight.

I wanted to make separate posts about attacking and defending and thought I'd start with going on the offensive in Command Decision, since that clearly makes the point. Attacking in Command Decision is going to be bloody. You can downplay the risk in the traditional pre-game address to your little Pewtertruppen, but you know deep in your heart that you are lying.

Combat in Command Decision is decisive… there is little room for recovery, for buffer zones where temporary conditions are applied in lieu of casualties. Every hit on your troops causes permanent, irrecoverable damage and infantry attacking across an open field against dug-in attackers are simply going to be mauled for little to no gain. You can (over the course of many, many lost turns) regroup survivors, but this is simply the last leg for a badly depleted force. Similarly, attacking is always bloody. You have to understand that you are sacrificing the forces that you commit to an attack and there will be blood. Once committed to an attack, you likely won't be able to effectively turn those troops to further operations if the defender is holding multiple key terrain points on the table. You must consider that they will be spent from the attack. Since attrition in the attack is guaranteed but the success of the attack is most definitely not guaranteed, the more important consideration will be deciding how many forces are needed to achieve that particular mission and how that mission should be executed to maximize the chance of success.

To get a sense of this, let's look at those attack odds. Assume trained infantry on both sides. Say the attacking infantry start at 16", outside of shooting range. In the first turn, they can make a full advance to just 4" away from the enemy. Assuming the enemy does not interdict them the moment they come within 15", we'll say the firefight starts at 4" range. The defender gets to resolve their fire first, rolling 2 dice per stand and causing a hit on a base roll of 5. On average, the defenders will repel one attacker for each defending stand. In the general fire phase, the attacker then gets to shoot. Assuming they started with equal numbers, the attacker now has half as many stands as they did previously, and each stand only rolls one dice, meaning if they had equal numbers to the defender at the beginning of the turn, they will roll a quarter the number of dice as the defender. Not only that, but the base 5 to hit roll is modified by -2 (for defender in foxholes) and a further -2 (for the attacker moving at full advance). The four-times fewer dice will only have a 10% chance to cause a hit. Even if they do luck out and cause a hit, the defender doesn't actually have to vacate their foxholes and simply become pinned instead of forced back and pinned (the fate suffered by attacker).

More than likely, your attack just failed spectacularly. You would have needed to bring many, many times (in excess of 10x) the number of attackers to guarantee you "give it as well as you take it." Unfortunately, the situation is not much better if the attacker sneaks forward with a cautious advance, since this would mean spending even more turns under withering defensive fire before making contact. And once you make contact, the situation is even worse, with the defender hitting first and getting double dice, each of which has a 70% chance to hit (meaning, roughly, each defending stand will destroy 1.5 attackers).

Throw in bad ground conditions and the attacker is moving even more slowly through defensive fields of fire. But once you factor in spotting, the situation becomes even worse! By the book, at least in CDI through CDIII, there are no "models on the table" at the start of the game. The defender (under normal spotting conditions) only has a 10% chance to be seen within 10" (500 yards) (base roll of 5, -2 for concealed and -2 for infantry). The same attacker as above has a 100% chance to be spotted (moving in the open means automatic spot), but even if they decided to spend the extra turns and sneak forward with cautious movement (and the open field was instead a wheat field providing concealment), the attacker would still have a 70% chance to be spotted at the same distance (base roll of 5, -2 or infantry, -2 for concealment, +2 for stationary spotter, +4 for moving target).

As you can see, going on the attack without a good plan in Command Decision is not unlikely to work. Rather, it's basically impossible that it will work, regardless of the numbers of Pewtermenschen you throw at the defenders. In the next post, we will dive into these factors and consider what goes into a good attack plan in Command Decision.

BillyNM25 May 2023 5:15 a.m. PST

Advancing unsupported infantry towards an equal force of dug-in infantry is a plan?

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 5:20 a.m. PST

Advancing unsupported infantry towards an equal force of dug-in infantry is a plan?

Yes, just ask the Russians.


myxemail25 May 2023 6:06 p.m. PST

In Command Decision, you really need to be using combined arms tactics, and also look for opportunities to degrade your opponent's morale when an outright kill isn't likely

Achtung Minen25 May 2023 8:23 p.m. PST

Prosecuting the Attack 2

Having discussed the dangers facing the attacker, let's consider how to prosecute a successful attack mission. As suggested above, one of the main factors is the amount of time your troops spend under effective enemy fire. I see two main methods of reducing these occurrences—avoiding the enemy and suppressing the enemy—both of which depend on another underlying element: reconnaissance.

The first method is to simply avoid concentrations of enemies. In a typical game, there will be more tabletop than a defender can effectively protect with the frontage of his forces. There will also inevitably be key terrain points upon which the defender will concentrate forces, leaving other areas more lightly defended. The nightmare situation for me as the defender is the breakthrough event, where mobile (and possibly well-armoured) forces simply bypass my main defenses and run amok in my rear areas. This occurs because generally the movement rates in Command Decision outpace the ranges of weapons, meaning the tabletop feels like an open field for dramatic maneuvers with little, localized firefights taking place here or there. When a T-34 can move 30" off-road in a turn (and up to 140" on a road!) and your humble PAK40 only manages a 50% hit chance at 20" or closer, you can see how maneuver predominates in games of Command Decision. If you can punch through thinly screened areas and bypass concentrations and then loop around in the rear area to approach the enemy from behind. This allows you to close to your own effective range while the enemy shuffles troops to his flanks piecemeal. Now, you will be the one in position, able to take shots at the defender as he moves to redeploy. Mobile troops are especially useful in this as they allow you to swing in one direction or the other, concentrating your forces on a particular point and exploiting weaknesses before swinging back in another direction. Even then, however, infantry (with their solid 12" movement rate) can be very useful if they seep into the rear areas.

The second method is to suppress the enemy, which dramatically reduces the effect of the defensive fire. Hitting an enemy that hasn't dug in will drive them back and out of position, allowing you to move in and occupy their ground or at the very least reducing the number of defenders in place. Stands that are forced back are effectively out of the fight for several turns as they recover, allowing you to seize the initiative and take advantage of their retreat. A defender in cover will not be forced back, but will be pinned in place, losing a die from their attacks, taking a -2 penalty to hit and only being allowed to attack during the General Fire Phase (i.e. simultaneous to your advancing forces). Each of these represent a significant reduction in the effective firepower of the defender, as the lost die basically cuts the attacks in half for typical infantry stands, the -2 represents an entire range band shift in the attack odds and restriction to simultaneous fire means the pinned defender no longer has priority to resolve his attacks before the advancing enemy even gets a chance to pick up the dice.

But to suppress the enemy, you must outgun the enemy, particularly in terms of range. Ideally, you want to sit outside of the defender's effective range and soften the defensive positions up with fire from a safe distance. Indirect fire is useful here, since the to-hit roll is based on the weapon's calibre and not the range. Direct fire HE, such as from an infantry gun or assault gun, is also very useful since you effectively get two chances to hit per attack (one for the direct fire attack and another for the HE burst effect). Nevertheless, it can be difficult to shift enemies who are dug into hard cover and limited ammunition rules can mean that you will run out of rounds before your fires have produced any results. If you need to get closer to make your fire effective, tanks operating in a close support role with infantry may help you put more accurate fire unto the opponent, particularly if the defender has few anti-tank guns or other defensive weaponry for keeping enemy armour at bay. Either way, some amount of these heavy weapons is necessary for prosecuting a successful attack.

Finally, as suggested above, both of these methods hinge upon one critical factor: reconnaissance. In order to strike an enemy at range, you must first be able to see that enemy. In order to avoid concentrations and identify weak points in the line, you must first be able to uncover the enemy's disposition. Reconnaissance is essential to the attacker for carrying out your plan of attack and avoiding enemy traps alike. A key consideration here is how much advantage the defender has over the attacker in terms of spotting. An infantry stand defending a wood line may by nearly impossible to see (10%) at a typical range of 10" (-2 for personnel, -2 for concealed), while the enemy is automatically spotted for moving in the open or is much easier to see even in cover (70% if moving cautiously through concealment at 10", assuming the defender is stationary for the spotting attempt). Generally, the defender will see you before you see them, especially if they've taken the initiative to occupy a prominent terrain feature like a hill that allows them to see over intervening terrain like forests and automatically spot movement anywhere on the table.

The best option here is to use actual recon forces, if they are available. Break them into recon patrols so that they can move at full speed and still use concealment from terrain (a total -1 to be seen, even with the movement penalty). This allows the patrols to advance safely and quickly into position, where their +2 spotting bonus (and likely a further +1 for being veteran or elite) will allow them quickly to pick out key enemy positions. Subordinate each patrol into each battalion to share target information, which you can then use to direct fire for organic artillery batteries (or take command of a higher level FOO to share targets with the divisional-level artillery).

Ok, next we'll take a look at how to plan a defense.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 9:51 p.m. PST

if they had equal numbers to the defender at the beginning of the turn

That's what you mean about the importance of planning right? Outnumber the defenders 5:1 or better by the time you make contact. That is, use air strikes and artillery barrages to bring the defenders' numbers down before you jump off.

Achtung Minen26 May 2023 3:14 a.m. PST

Yah, that section on the attacker advancing over open terrain against an equal number of dug-in defenders was not related to the other discussions, it was merely meant to demonstrate the math involved! It certainly wasn't meant to represent a "good plan"… just an easy starting point for showing the underlying mathematics, that is all.

Incidentally, a classic 3:1 advantage still doesn't work out in Command Decision (mathematically speaking) in those conditions (trained troops, open ground, dug-in defenders etc). In the first turn of the advance, a third of the attackers will be sheared off. In the second turn, when the attacker closes to assault (assuming he hasn't failed morale), the majority of remaining attackers will be driven off, leaving those who make it to contact outnumbered by the defenders!

5:1 odds sounds a little luxurious to me. Certainly a part of the puzzle is force multipliers, not just multiples of troops, as suggested above, but recon plays an enormous role in CD 1 through 3. The whole "combined arms" thing falls to pieces if one of the arms cannot identify the same targets as another arm. As I'll talk about in the post about planning the defense, taking advantage of of this should be a goal of the defender.

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