The Generals Repelled The Fandom Attack

I’ve spent years, almost since I started both playing the game and expanding my military reading material, trying to come up with a more “grounded” take on the game Command and Conquer Generals.

Constantly rolling a boulder up a hill would be more pleasant.

The game is nothing then an early 2000s pop culture view of the military. That’s why F-117s are more stealthy in-game than F-22s (they’re distinctive looking, ok?), the ramshackle terrorist force is made with just enough leeway to avoid a backlash while still meeting the villain of the week quotient, and Iowa battleships fight alongside beam cannons. China is the second faction because Russia was still picking itself up, and you get the idea.

Ok, so the real conflicts in Syria and Libya have featured conventional wars with ramshackle technical contraptions, so in hindsight it’s slightly better. Fair enough. But battles ranging from the pyramids to the Pacific, with the US able to traipse around as it pleases in Iran and even Russia (!), and geography being a dubious afterthought. Yeah, it still has some way to go.

The cancelled Generals sequel, to its credit, did try to turn the GLA into a more diverse and less blatant world populist uprising, but that still leaves everything else.

Sometimes settings just aren’t salvageable, and aren’t even fun to try and salvage. Generals is another setting with no foundation.

Unleashing the Circle Trigon

So, it’s very weird how when dealing with the early “Circle Trigon” phase of US military OPFORs (a history of their progression I recorded in another post at Baloogan Campaign), my usual approach to exercise scenarios has been turned on its head. I played a largely futile attack by USMC aircraft on a battleship/cruiser pair in Command, and it was really fun.

However, instead of an American battleship and cruiser, I represented the Trigonist warships with a French battleship and Spanish cruiser. This was “in-character” for the Aggressor backstory, which featured them carved out of Bavaria, Italy, Spain, and France. The Aggressor Navy being vaguely defined gives me a lot of creative freedom (it’s neither a direct copy of an American unit or obvious Soviet stand-in). I think my approach involves…

  • For later OPFORs, using “Actor” aggressor units adds variety, as a break from the waves of units. But for this earlier environment, obscure French/Spanish/Italian units “in-character” get their chance to shine. The Circle Trigon backstory is so goofy I feel compelled to run with it.
  • The proficiency setting is not always “Ace”. Weird how, even as I focus on the ‘characters’, I shift to the ‘actors’ proficiency. These are ad-hoc units trained in Aggressor tactics and speaking Esperanto, not the full-time OPFOR that became a beast at Nellis and the NTC. But who knows, I could make them aces if I wanted to 😀
  • Just wanting to have fun.

And I certainly did. I really should make a full Aggressor scen that treats everything seriously.

 

 

 

FE Battalion Operations

To put the FE Battalion on the offense or defense?

I’m leaning towards defense. A basic foot infantry battalion is more capable in defense, especially in closed terrain than it is on offense against a heavier conventional foe. Then again, I’m considering putting them in a mechanized battalion, because a foot one is simply too limited.

I don’t want to put them in some sort of special forces unit, even though bizarrely it’s what arguably fits them the best[1].

Now for the enemy. In military terms, this is easy-it’s the Circle Trigon/Krasnovia/Donovia. In other words, an enemy made as a bland opposing force in an artificial battle. Good for artificial battles (and it’s not like the canon FE games are the most deep and intricate anyway), not so good for character development or a sense of meaning.

Now for what their parent regiment/brigade will be like-will it be composed of other high fantasy turned-soldier transplants? Regular troops regarding it as a weak link?

Good news is I have a command staff.

Robin as CO.

Cordelia as XO

Mark as Operations Head

Matthew as Intelligence Head

Merlinus as Logistics Head

Oh no, I’ve stacked the staff with people from my favorite game (FE7) and the most popular (Awakening)! :p.

Now to figure out where to put the more problematic ones…

[1]FE characters have some anime physics and a few superhuman strength feats. I call them “Captain America level”, but their lower durability means they can’t be wasted in a line unit. At least if I wanted to be practical.

Army Unit Names

So, when naming fictional military units, I like to use fictional names rather than real equivalents. There are many reasons for this, from creating a sort of “wall of separation” between fiction and reality that makes me feel more comfortable writing them, to just the fun of thinking up appropriate names in the same general class.

Regrettably, US Army units encounter both of the seemingly contradictory stumbling blocks I described in an old post on unit names at Baloogan Campaign. Its current divisions are (comparatively) few and in many cases distinctive, especially specialty units like the 82nd Airborne. Almost like aircraft carriers.

However, they’re also numbered-and the US has a huge pool of inactive World Wars-only divisions that make putting a number above them an exercise in stumbling over triple digit units.

130_inf_div_ssi

The shoulder patch for the phantom 130th Infantry Division.

This is not an insurmountable issue, and in fact I have an in-jokey way. I’ve used the phantom units used in WWII as “real” units. So units that were fictional in real life become real in fiction.

Plus it’s also somehow less of an issue for units not American, especially from fictional countries. There I can add all the 1st and 3rd and 82nd divisions I want to.

The FE Battalion Has Arrived

So, my insane, twisted mind is taking the playable characters of the heroic fantasy series Fire Emblem and forcing them to work as drilled soldiers in a more modern battalion. Trained in technologies, these confront a level of war they could not understand before.

There are roughly 500 playable characters across every Fire Emblem game[1]. Enough to fill a small-medium battalion. Several large problems are:

  • Age and condition. These range from the very young to the elderly.
  • Division of labor. These people range from kings to lowly nomads.
  • Willingness to go into the more drudgerous parts of the unit (support, etc), which ties into the above point.
  • Degree of support the FE Battalion would have from higher levels.
  • Overall objective and type of opponent they’d be facing[2].

Another question mark is what the basic type of battalion it would be. A boring but effective plan would be using the healers as the basis for a medical unit and using the rest as just guards and clerks to support them. But since logic got thrown out, I might as well have them be a line unit.

A mechanized one, with the horse-mounted fighters as vehicle crews and the footbound ones as dismounts? Or a lighter one that takes advantage of their experience in less-developed conditions?

And finally, which of the heroic commanders would get to lead the whole unit?

[1]My count was preliminary and either ignored or double counted the same characters appearing in different games. But it’s around that number.

[2]This is actually clear. It’d be a conventional conflict against a powerful but not too powerful OPFOR.

The Commander

I’ve been looking at surplus military manuals from various time periods to give me the important information of where a formation commander would physically be during a battle.

Obviously, the answer is “it depends”. Especially at lower levels, the rule of thumb (at least according to American military manuals) is “behind the lead subunit, so you aren’t at the very tip, but can still control the march and battle”. Of course, what the lead subunit is depends on the formation and the circumstances. The manuals themselves do not give a set location for where the command post should be (for very good reasons of both safety and flexibility), and throughout decades of major updates and technological changes, are adamant that the commander personally move often to the best location, which is frequently not the main command post.

Thus this gives me a feel for writing. The nuts and bolts of every specific engagement matter less than general details like where the commander would (in-theory) be. There are exceptions to the norm, for better and worse, which many of the manuals cover to their credit. Naturally, these won’t stop me from putting commanders into very weird situations, because I like weird.

It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve seen in my numerous forays into bad fiction examples of rather dumb commander placement, on all extremes. Many of which are not justifiable in either a tactical or literary sense.

And of course, pre-mechanized command is an entirely different story.

 

 

 

Unconventional Army Formations

I’ve been looking at two unconventional military formations. The High-Tech Light Division proposals of the 1980s (brought to life in the form of the 9th Infantry Division), and the various plans to mechanize the US’s airborne infantry.

This led to me reading the book “AIR-MECH-STRIKE” by the infamous Mike Sparks.

The failure is when they stop talking about mechanizing airborne forces (which does have a lot of precedent behind it) and start talking about “AIR MECH STRIKING” the entire military, ripping apart heavy armored units in favor of their zippy-airborne operations, and yanking the helicopters away from existing divisions. Aviation assets would be concentrated at high levels similar to Cold War Soviet practice of focusing on the operational level.

Out of fairness, they do keep M1 and M2 AFVs in the proposal. Which begs the question of how often the AIR MECH units would go deep in practice. That is a question the authors shy away from. The three hypothetical scenarios given in the book are an attack against a ragtag force threatening Afghanistan with a handful of T-55s, a North Korea scenario which is tailor-made for the AIR MECH forces to jump in and save the day, and a Kosovo scenario that is laughable in its overoptimism (easy and over in ten days, against an enemy that showed that they weren’t to be underestimated).

Most of the book talks about organization and the exact gizmos employed, with little space devoted to how they’d be used. As a contemporary critique in Armor Magazine by LTC Steve Eden (page 48) noted, the buried secret to the AIR-MECH unit’s success is precision indirect weapons-which, if working as well as claimed, would turn any unit, regardless of organization, into a juggernaut.

Then there’s the secret weapon-the M113 GAVIN. (Yes, this is where the meme got started). Now, in the book’s context, it’s a lot more forgivable, since the term Gavin is only used to refer to a heavily modified M113 that I’m still skeptical could be airdroppable and have the equipment upgrades they want at the same time. Sparks later retconned it into being a name for the APC overall.

I just have the gut feeling that the AIR-MECH units would, the majority of the time, fight as conventional mechanized infantry in vehicles scrunched-up to fit a requirement that they would rarely execute. Either that or be deployed in an overambitious 21st century Market Garden.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The HTLD is more interesting. There’s a plan for an “assault gun” (either the Stingray or AGS could work), buggies, and zipping Humvees containing the line infantry. While it’s still a little dubious in terms of facing a combined arms force, the Cold War background makes it more tolerable. After all, it was raised along with the heavy divisions and didn’t pretend to be a substitute for them. (That the requirement was for air-transportability rather than droppability helped a little).

What doomed it was interservice politics-to be truly effective, it needed new specialized equipment, but that came at a time when the Army wanted every M1A1 it could get. So it limped along with stopgaps such as TOW-Humvees and conventional M60 tanks until being disbanded post-1991.

I do like to imagine a “semi-objective” HTLD, with the in-production Stingray and commerical buggies being used. While I don’t think the HTLD was still a good idea, it’s at least an interesting one.

Post-Soviet Snags

I like obscure conflicts in Command, even hypothetical ones.

However, there’s one (not insurmountable, but still present) issue I’ve fond with would-be post Soviet conflicts. The issue comes from the Soviet-era force structures. In many ex-bloc states, a conflict in the scenario editor ends up in an unequal squash. Surplus aircraft with little standoff capability go against top-of-the-line air defenses designed to stop the USAF.

Thankfully, there are workarounds. Plot ones like saying the missiles aren’t totally deployed, in-game ones using WRA and proficiency changes to make the SAMs less effective, or, in the case of large countries, taking place in an area where the best defenses wouldn’t be stationed anyway.

Command Community Update

The Command Community Scenario Pack has just been updated, with a wide array of new scenarios ready for play. These range from adaptations of classic Tom Clancy novels to large original works to alternate-history what ifs.

The scenarios are described in full here and can be downloaded in the usual Warfaresims spot here.

Old Wargames And Possible Adaptations

I remember two of my Steel Panthers games I played all the way through, and wondered if I could adapt the “plot” of them to Command

The first was an unusual skirmish. This consisted of the unconventional UN side trying to break a dug-in position belonging to Ukraine. The vanilla UN isn’t even meant to be a proper side, just a scenario placeholder for its “Allied” components (They have decent “Peacekeeper” infantry, but their only real AFV is an over-expensive for plain armor mine-plow M60 Patton).

I had two of those tanks as the peacekeepers breached the line, although one sadly did not survive the battle. The peacekeepers were not unscathed, but their opponents were hit far harder.

(The plot is difficult-the best I can think of is an earlier Crimea/Donbass style conflict that ends with a demilitarized zone patrolled by peacekeepers, a potentially unauthorized attempt to occupy part of it that the UN defuses by attacking by itself rather than having the Russians and their local allies risk reigniting it)

The second was a France-Sudan battle in Chad. This is vastly more suitable.

A company of Leclercs and APCs destroyed a large force of Sudanese armor, infantry, and militia. A few APCs and infantry were lost, but that was it in the very Desert Storm-like lopsided battle.

The aftermath of that would be something. Even better, I can use it for either side. A push-on as France with casualty-sensitive events for balance reasons, or a desperation sortie by Sudan. Then again, I have a million scenario ideas already…