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 Artist Was Too Good

Sometimes, an artist is meant to mock or attack something, but they end up actually looking good. DC was mocking the 90s belts and pouches fashion with Magog. Not only was he drawn so well that the garments flowed a lot better than their targets, but the authors ended up actually liking his design.

Similarly, the irreverent One Punch Man set its sights on Dragon Ball villains and spiky-haired power-ups in particular with villain Lord Boros. Instead of something like an even more disproportioned Broly, Boros ends up as an interesting and effective design himself.

So, a mockery can become art by itself.

Command Fiction: Sixty Turning And Forty Burning

This Command Fiction is based on the community scenario Operation Vulture, which is in turn based on a real (and thankfully never enacted) proposal to use heavy bombers to support the French at Dien Bien Phu.

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Only ten of the Peacemakers were serviceable. There were many reasons, from spare parts still being flown in to the tropical air not being to the liking of any aircraft. Still. The number-crunchers would have something to chew on once the analyses came back.

Could a greater payload (a much greater payload) in an individual platform make up for a decrease in overall platforms? The world, the French, the PLA, and the Viet Minh were about to find-

Ok, that was loud, the staff officer thought as the aircraft hefted its tons of bombs upwards. Really, really, loud.

-find out.

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.

 

 

 

What Every Writer Has Learned

In lieu of Command Fiction today, because I’m having a case of writer’s block, I guess I should share something that I’ve learned, along with every single writer.

That lesson is that the speed of typing, actually pressing on the keys and making a paragraph, is much faster than the speed of writing, that of actually gathering one’s thoughts into something worth putting down.

Because I read and type fast, I’ve occasionally underestimated how long it takes to actually write something.

Arcade

Ah, Arcade.

Arcade, one of the Marvel villains ideal for one story, yet utterly unable to work in anything beyond it.

arcadesb

Arcade, for most of his existence, was/is a normal human in a bad 70s suit and giant bow tie who builds deathtrap amusement parks called Murderworlds and has an inexplicable ability to capture superheroes and plop them in there. Appearing in the second-rate title Marvel Team-Up, by all means he should have been a one-issue wonder who would be “lucky” to be a victim of the Scourge, a character created to eliminate “embarrassing” villains.

Instead, the legendary Chris Claremont liked the character and used him as an X-Men villain, and he became a B/C-list supervillain, even earning a place in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

There have been multiple attempts to make Arcade a “serious” threat, the largest and most recent being the Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff Avengers Arena. None have worked. How could they work? It takes so much effort to force a character whose gimmick is ridiculous even by comic-book standards that one might as well make a new character or use someone more appropriate.

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Thankfully, the version that I call “Classic Arcade” is an ideal ‘filler’ villain that almost any low-mid level superhero can face. The amusement park gimmick can make for some interesting visuals, and Arcade rarely facing the heroes directly means his reappearances aren’t quite as contrived as-well, everything else about him.

The Ultimate Alliance appearance uses Arcade well, with his presence being an excuse to have a carnival level and some extra-hammy voice acting.

Even crossovers can work-there is nary a Marvel crossover I’ve come up with that doesn’t involve the other crossover characters being tossed into Murderworld.

Command Fiction: The Challenge

This is based on my scenario “A Day At Red Flag”. That scenario was intended to be a brutally difficult challenge. And it succeeded. I’m intending a revision to make it more diverse, but in the meantime, enjoy this in-universe challenge.

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The MiG-28s of the Krasnovian Frontal Aviation served as the first line of defense. If anything limited them, it was that they had been too successful. Their ground-intercept radars were intact, while those of their enemy had long since been reduced to scrap. The war was going well. But not well enough that they didn’t have problems. An array of contacts appeared on the radars. The enemy was trying something.

The CAPs were doing their job. As skilled as the Krasnovian pilots were, the F-4 Phantom could simply fire more weapons at more angles than their own light fighters. More importantly, the dogfights were keeping the MiGs off the strikers.

Of course, the strike craft had their own problem, as they flew right into a hail of Yastreb-U missiles and AAA. To their credit, the Weasels had managed to hit a surprisingly large number of radars-but it was a far from bloodless victory.

Then the few surviving Phantoms dropped their bombs on the fuel depot. The result was-very little damage, with only a handful of AA guns destroyed for good. Analysts revealed that the bombs released were not intended for such a hardened target.

In all, the mission was a success. At the cost of a few replaceable light fighters and radars, they had obliterated a high-end strike package.

For years afterwards, Krasnovians would celebrate “The Wipeout of ’77.”

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In fact, this was all a simulated but intense exercise. The Wipeout of ’77 over Nellis would go a long way to minimizing the odds of a similar one in real life. Many lessons could be learned.

Behind the scenes:

  • Krasnovia (from “Krasny-red”) was a common placeholder name for a Warsaw Pact-styled force in Cold War exercises.
  • MiG-28s are from Top Gun, played by F-5s. Since I used F-5s as Aggressors in the scenario, the name works.
  • Yastreb-U is a crude translation of “I-Hawk”, the missile I used in the scen.

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.

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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.

Command Fiction: Fisherman’s Knowledge

This vignette is based on the latest preliminary release in the Northern Fury series. In it, you command an improvised naval flotilla assembled by a crafty Soviet division commander for a hop across the Trondheimsfjorden.

I immediately thought of a background that could give the commander the knowledge to raise the flotilla successfully. The player, controlling one of the division’s regimental leaders, is not so gifted, as evidenced by this line in the introduction

“You can barely hold back a retch at the stink emanating from one of these dilapidated old working boats.”

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March 9, 1994, near Leksvik, Norway.

Anton Mikhailovich Yatchenko never thought he’d be glad to sense the smell of fishing boats again as he hurried south for one more furtive inspection.

It was either join or spend my whole life being a fisherman like my father and grandfather and great-grandfather. And now I’m back to square one. Oh well.

The ad-hoc multi-service force was poised to try something really, really crazy. Yatchenko in his heart did not expect himself or anyone else in his force to survive it. Much less the infantrymen in the lead regiment, and for the lead battalion-that was a horror of its own.

But the major general wasn’t going to try something he knew wholeheartedly couldn’t work. Having seen and crewed fishing boats like the ones in his new flotilla, he felt there was a chance they might-might be useful for an amphibious assault.

“We have nothing to lose. Either we take Trondheim and run low on supplies or run out of supplies without taking Trondheim-do not make this a Gallipoli and lose your nerve.”

Speaking with the unlucky regimental commander who was picked for the first wave, Yatchenko noticed him suppressing a gag as he passed near a fishing boat.

“And-uh, make sure the troops in the fishing boats can handle the conditions. I don’t want them collapsing from er-seasickness- before they hit the beach.”

Even in the darkening skies, Yatchenko could see his subordinate blushing slightly.

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The scenario, Northern Fury 12.1, Something’s Fishy, can be found here. I was hesitant to include the ranks because I wasn’t sure of them-I think it’s major general and colonel, but don’t know enough about Soviet/Russian ranks to be sure.

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.