Essential Tactics for Combat Mission Shock Force 222 Jan 2019 0
Sometimes I hate Combat Mission Shock Force 2. There I’ve said it! It’s a game that punishes the slightest inattention to detail with a hail of machine gun bullets or a blast from an RPG, and seeing squads’ indicators flashing away (as they take casualties) makes me feel like a complete failure.
This article is a selection of some of the things I’ve picked up to avoid total disaster in a typical CMSF2 game. To start with, we're looking at the US/NATO factions - the opposition operate quite differently and this guide will update over time as we add additional sections to it. Consider this your one-stop shop for essential tips and advice for Battlefront's latest real-time tactical simulation war game.
This is probably the most important thing that you need to do. With modern weapons seeing something is pretty much the same as killing it. The US/NATO side has big advantages here (at least at night) in terms of technology, but the opposition usually has the advantage of being in a defensive position.
Many US/NATO vehicles will have night vision and thermal optics allowing superior spotting during night time and daylight conditions. Unfortunately that’s only an advantage if the vehicle is stationary – if it’s moving the noise and dust will give away its position and an AT missile will probably be on its way.
If you are approaching an area where you are expecting trouble, and you don’t want to scout by getting your vehicles blown up, then you need to rely on dismounted infantry. Most US/NATO squads will have binoculars and night vision – they’ll usually have an advantage at night, but maybe not in the day time. That means they have to be careful. In particular you don’t want them taking pot shots at anything they do spot since this will make them visible to pretty much everything with a line of sight. So the first thing you want to do with your scouts is to give them a very small target arc (less than 10m) to prevent them firing. You also want the target arc to cover the direction you want the scouts to spot in – they won’t fire, but they will concentrate their observation in the direction of the arc.
What troops should you use for your spotting teams? There’s no straightforward answer here and you usually have to work with what you have. US/NATO infantry have basic spotting equipment, but some, like Javelin teams, have thermal sights that allow higher quality day time spotting. It’s also possible to vary the size of scouting teams by splitting squads or even using the ‘Scout team’ command to split off a two man team. I only really use the ‘Scout team’ command when I think there is a significant chance of the team blundering into something. Other than that I’ll use full squads or split squads as my recon. My thinking is that the more eyes that are available the better the chance of seeing something.
Recon teams need to get into a position where they can have a good field of view. Unfortunately this also means that the other side will have a good view of the recon teams too. An ideal recon position is one that has good views, but also concealment to cut down on the enemy’s chances of spotting the recon team. The recon teams need to approach recon positions using terrain to shield them from potential enemy spotters and need to go slowly (‘Hunt’ or even ‘Slow’) when crossing areas where they might be seen.
When the Recon teams get into position it’s important to check their lines of sight (you can use the ‘Target’ command to make sure they can see what you want them to look at – just make sure that they keep their tight target arc to stop them firing). It’s also important to be really patient. Spotting in CMSF2 is not instantaneous like some other games. If you allow the recon teams to spot for a few minutes you’ll often see contacts appear that weren’t immediately visible.
If the opposition is sensible it will stay still in cover, and maybe hide, making it very difficult to spot. Once the recon troops are in position it is often worthwhile stirring things up to try to get a reaction from the enemy. There are three basic ways of doing this:
- Artillery strikes: Bombarding an area where enemy troops are suspected will sometimes cause them to panic and change position.
- Reconnaissance by fire: Firing on a suspected position (by troops other than the recon elements) can cause an enemy reaction. The AI will often open fire in response, although human players might be more careful. You need to make sure that any return fires aren’t going to significantly harm the firing unit – you want to use long range weapons like heavy machine guns or vehicle weapons rather than small arms.
- Give the enemy something to shoot at: If you can find a volunteer amongst your virtual troops you can try dashing a vehicle across an area the enemy can see. Hopefully the vehicle will get back into cover before the shots zero in!
The US/NATO side usually has the advantage when combat takes place at longer ranges. If the Western forces get in close with an unsuppressed enemy then the AKs and RPGs really come into their own and you’re likely to get clobbered. This is the sequence I usually use when launching an attack:
- Get rid of the enemy’s long range AT weapons. Once these are spotted they can often be dealt with by artillery or by moving infantry weapons (machine guns) into firing positions. I also make extensive use of Javelins when I have them for taking out pesky targets (I take my steer from the movie ‘Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot’!)
- Get rid of the enemy’s long range anti-infantry weapons. If the AT weapons are dealt with then the vehicles can be brought forward to do the job here.
- Suppress the hell out of any piece of cover where enemies might be hiding and which have lines of fire on the approach to the target. Again I’ll use vehicles and heavy weapons for this – I don’t tend to try to suppress with small arms.
- Move the assault squad(s) towards the target using the ‘Hunt’ command or ‘Quick’ command – I use ‘Quick’ with pauses when there are bits of cover on the approach and ‘Hunt’ otherwise. I’ll often set a ‘Target Arc’ that covers likely places that enemy fire comes from. If the assault squads take fire I want them to stop. I never close on a target when the enemy is shooting back.
- When occupying an objective it’s important to watch for enemy that might be positioned to counter attack. These will often be in cover that won’t have been suppressed. It’s worthwhile having some vehicles in support of the attack to suppress potential counter attack locations.
US/NATO troops have a big advantage in defensive battles as they’ll often have vehicles with good spotting equipment. These vehicles can be setup in ‘keyhole’ spotting locations with tight target arcs and pretty much tear apart anything short of a tank that approaches them (even 50 cal. machine guns will stop BTRs and BMPs). If you also have a few Javelin teams set up in good locations you shouldn’t have any serious problems with most attacks.
Most defensive scenarios balance things a bit by increasing the numbers on the opposition side. The main problem for the US/NATO player then becomes managing ammunition, particularly AT missiles. I’ll usually overload my AT teams with missiles (using the ‘Acquire’ command in the setup) in situations like this and may even give them a limited target arc to prevent them automatically firing and wasting missiles on APCs.
Even in the age of satellite communications calling in artillery can be a pretty slow business, taking 5 to 10 minutes before the barrage starts. If you have a good idea of enemy positions before the battle starts it’s worth giving all of your artillery some pre-planned fires – these can be delivered with delay, but I usually schedule them for the start of the battle as I’m never sure how long the recon process will take.
Calling in artillery during a battle is always quicker if you use the most appropriate spotters.
The easiest way to do this is to select a candidate spotter, the artillery you want to use and then check the Delivery time. The shorter this is the better. You can use HQs and other troops to spot for artillery and sometimes they are the only ones with line of sight to the target. However, artillery will be faster and more accurate if you use the dedicated spotters and you should always be trying to move these into the best possible positions.
Fighting in built up areas could be the title of a whole series of articles, and there are some good tutorials in the forums on this. My own particular warning is never to attack a section of a building that you can't see into from outside (i.e. one that has no windows). I’ve lost whole squads in one turn trying this! If you need to get into a section of building like this either use troops with demo charges or blow the walls down with vehicle gun fire (or flatten the whole building with artillery or an airstrike!)
CMSF2 can be a hugely frustrating experience. However, when you get things right there are few other games that can give such an intense feeling of satisfaction in victory. Good luck and good hunting!