1 September 2014

After Action Report: Close Combat: The Longest Day AAR

Fresh on the heels of the game's release, lead developer Jim Martin takes us through an AAR of Close Combat: The Longest Day.

Published on 29 APR 2009 4:08pm by Scott Parrino
  1. Strategy 3 Tactics
  2. Matrix Games

82nd Airborne Landings operation

Here's an After Action Review (AAR) combined with a partial quick tour to give you a little taste of what to expect from Close Combat: The Longest Day.  I won't be covering every detail as there are far too many and the game manual does an excellent job of that.  This will give you a quick overview of the basic operation and some of the play options available and an idea of what the game is about.

MAINSCREEN, COMMAND SCREEN, PICKING THE BATTLE

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Close Combat's main screen is the hub of the game.  All basic operations are begun at that screen.  Since I'm going right to playing a game that's what I click.  That takes you to the command screen.  Here you select the battle you want to play.  For my purposes here an operation will serve nicely to describing the overall play features of Close Combat: The Longest Day.  You can see from the second screenshot there are several tabs.  One for selecting single battles, one for selecting operations and one for selecting grand campaigns.  So I click the operation tab and selected the 82nd Airborne Landings operation.  Before clicking next I needed to set the difficulty level and realism settings.  Generally I find the line vs. line is a good generic setting for historical accuracy and play balance.  Personal preferences vary so there are plenty of options to suit here.  Recruit = easiest, widest selection of unit types, elite = most difficult with most restricted variety of unit types.  Also my preference is to play battles 15 minutes long with the battle to end if one side’s force morale gets too low.  A 15 minute battle generally is enough time for an attack and counter-attack.  Selecting a battle and making the appropriate settings can be as simple or as complicated as you like.  As I've shown it can literally be that quick and easy to start play.  On to the strategic movement phase.

STRATEGIC MOVEMENT PHASE (Strategic Screen)

            This operation was intended to be a short and sweet opportunity to play a game with strategic movements while not playing as many battles as the Grand Campaign requires.  So there are not many choices for movement but still enough to consider.

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 Basically in this operation the 507th / 82nd Airborne Regiment is the only battlegroup not starting the op in enemy contact and only has one possible move which is to La Fiere Causeway.  My thinking is I'd move to that map then once I cleared St. Mere Eglise (map 505th AB is on) or captured the exit Victory Location (VL) to le Port Brehay I'd move the 505th to le Port Brehay (map to the right of St. Mere Eglise) and move the 507th into St. Mere Eglise their ultimate destination being Pont l'Abbe (map to the left of St. Mere Eglise) which would allow me to at least contest the German supply depots if not capture them.  Knowing I don't get reinforcements or air or artillery support, it seemed that would be the best way to make use of the three battlegroups I had.  Maybe once one or two of the German battlegroups had to retire from the battlefield I'd move toward the beachhead and take St. Marcouf / Azeville.   The main objective being to hold the German supply depots until I either eliminated all the German battlegroups or time ran out.

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 My move into La Fiere Causeway went uncontested and the first battle wound up being St. Mere Eglise between the U.S. 505th/82nd PIR and the German 1058th Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division.

UNIT SELECTION (Battlgroup Screen)

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There were a couple of un-written rules I'd decided to impose upon myself for this operation to make things a little more challenging.  One would be that I would take whatever the default selection of units was into battle.  Close Combat has several options in this respect that could have been used as well that would've been equally or more challenging. 

First, on the battlegroup screen you may remove or add any number of units you like.  You are not obligated to take what's given to you unless you're playing a game with locked forcepools.  More about that in a second.  So to amp up the challenge you could reduce the number of units you take.  Being intimately involved in the production of this game I know the German battlegroup the AI is commanding has armor.  So if I were to exercise the option of reducing my force size I'd probably start by removing some of the AT assets in my forcepool.  With only grenades to stop the tanks or reduce the German battlegroup to nothing but tanks would be a nice challenge.  For this battle I opted to take the default set of units.

With respect to locked battlegroups, Close Combat: The Longest Day contains all the features Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein (our previous release based on Battle of the Bulge) which included locked battlegroups option.   With this setting modded, the option of removing and adding one of the units in your battlegroup is not available, and both the Allied and Axis player must take into battle the units they are given.

Another option carried over from Wacht am Rhein is the point values we've assigned to each unit type.  This allows two human players to agree to maximum total point value based on the honor system to not exceed so that each player may “purchase” any units they like while not exceeding that total point value.

With my units selected I hit next and on to the battlefield.

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THE BATTLE (Tactical maps)

This is where the rubber meets the road.  It's all decided here.  Make a mistake here and all your strategic plans have to be re-written.  Succeed and you open up a world of options on the strategic layer.  This is where Close Combat: The Longest Day becomes a real time strategy game.

Deployment phase

At the beginning of every tactical battle both sides get the opportunity to set up their forces and issue pre-battle commands.  The overall tactical map is divided into deployment zones.  Area you set-up in, no man’s land and enemy controlled areas.  Lightest areas you control and darkest the enemy controls.

A feature of Close Combat: The Longest Day is the simulation of scattered airborne landings.  This is simulated by the broken deployment.  Typically if you enter a given map from an adjoining map you will gain deployment on one Victory Location (VL).  Victory Locations being one determining factor in winning or losing a battle.  Since the battlegroup I'm commanding is an airborne battlegroup my deployment is scattered across several VL's.  Here was my deployment randomly generated by the exe.

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Another self-imposed rule I made for myself was to not allow myself to move units from one friendly controlled deployment area to another.  Where they land is where they start the battle.  Seems more realistic to me.   So within those areas I issued some generic pre-battle orders to set each unit’s posture for the start of battle.  I suppose another self-imposed rule could've been to raise the realism factor that much further was to not allow myself to issue any pre-battle orders.  The goal being to simulate the conditions the airborne troops found in the Normandy landings.  Command and organize on-the-fly.  I wanted you to be able to see what pre-battle commands could be so I didn't impose that rule on myself.  Here's a few of the orders I issued:

Zone 1

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In the landing zone in the upper left corner I put most of my teams on ambush or defend but behind cover.  The thought here being I'd wait to see what kind of enemy contact they had before issuing significant movement orders.  The team behind the stone wall is a mortar team ready to start lending indirect suppressing fire on enemy teams.  I assigned a quick select key command to them (#1) so they can be selected at a second’s notice from across the map if I catch any enemy troops running through the open.  A good way to score some quick casualties.

The AT gun I put on ambush and trained down the main road through St. Mere Eglise.  Again knowing the enemy has tanks.  The deployment in the open was risky but parking them in a building or behind a wall or terrain limits their immediate usefulness and was a risk I was willing to take.

The last point of note in this deployment zone was to issue a move fast command to the rifle team that landed here to move to the two story house to get a view of the surrounding area hoping to spot some enemy troops.  If I was attempting to be stealthier I'd have issued a plain old “move” command or “sneak” command.  Move command results in troops moving as quickly as they feel they can while staying aware of their surroundings.  A sneak command is issued when you want them to find the most secure, covered route to their destination.

Zone 2

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Wow history really does repeat itself!  This landing zone was situated right on the church of St. Mere Eglise.  And the teams that landed there worked out in my favor as well.  One command team, one MG team, and one engineer team.  Given the open terrain around the church I could fend off nearly any attack the AI brought at me and see them coming before they get close.  Basic orders here.  Situated teams at points around the church to have a full field of view of every approach.

Zone 3

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The bulk of my force wound up landing here.  I decided to make this my main attack force.  They were in a good position to do this anyway.  The largest force with backs to the map edge and on a good axis of attack to take most of the major VL's in the center of the map.  Just to the south of this deployment zone was a VL in no man’s land that I decided to run an experienced rifle team to for a quick morale boost to my troops and quick VL score.  I split the rest of my force into two parts on either side of the road going from this deployment zone to the center of the map.  Later on I'll find that putting my bazooka team on the north side of that road was fortuitous.  The more refined plan being that my assault force would be north of the road and the covering fire force south of the road.  The latter would move up, take good cover fire positions and fire upon any found enemy while the other force flanked and closed with the enemy.

With orders issued the battle begins!