Thoughts about withdrawing, retreating and routing units

Discussion in 'CO2 - Feature Requests' started by GoodGuy, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    General withdrawal:
    In reality, and at medium range, the bulk of a Coy could disengage, while a rear guard, eg. one or another LMG team, maybe a sniper and one or another NCO, or maybe even one full platoon, would cover the withdrawal.
    Currently, and with order delay, it is virtually impossible to stop a unit from marching into a defending/dug in enemy unit, as neither a corrective move order nor a withdrawal order would stop the advance. The "taking cover" state will make the unit stop, if the unit gets under moderate - heavy fire, at least, but your unit will end up retreating most of the time.
    The adaptive order delay I suggested elsewhere could help here, but the function is still barely usable.

    In general, you end up with a unit that runs into an enemy unit at full speed (while even seeing the enemy the whole time) and that keeps moving at speed until it gets covered with bullets, with order delay.
    Setting max aggro will make the unit take cover and deploy earlier (and often at a larger distance), but you basically still end up with a unit sitting in the open (basically like a goldfish in a bowl) or even on the enemy's lap, while in reality such column - depending on the order, would either just hit the reverse gear to regroup at a safe distance, or avoid the area entirely and pick a different route.
    It's in these instances where it becomes frustrating that scouting is not implemented.
    Historically, a march column moving through contested or unknown (enemy) territory, used to send scout cars, a halftrack or even just a motorbike with sidecar forward, to screen the road sections ahead.

    But even without orders delay a deliberate withdrawal can hardly be achieved, as your unit will just cling to the enemy unit, even if you hit minimum aggro and max. casualties right away (which you should always do when using that order), so your unit will end up in the uncontrollable retreat mode in 90% of the cases, and where it might even retreat right into the next enemy unit that's waiting for "dinner".

    My suggestion would be to review and alter retreating and routing, and introduce new types/options:

    • 1) deliberate retreat (yellow)
    .... where the engine gives you the opportunity to determine the general direction of the retreat.
    If the CO ordered a retreat, then the troops used to retreat right away, once the word reached them. Depending on terrain and amount of natural cover, this could involve running back all the way to the FUP (or a safe spot) or the hasty "cover hopping", means hopping/running from one cover to the next until the soldiers reached a relatively safe spot that was out of range of the enemy or at distances where the enemy couldn't place aimed shots anymore.
    During such retreats, weaponry had to be dropped sometimes (say an LMG, a light mortar, or an leIG 18 that had been moved to close to the front, or extra ammo), IF its size/weight impeded the retreat, or if the retrieval of the weaponry would have caused casualties.
    On such retreat, the engine should deduct very small amounts of equipment, say a few rifles, some ammunition, or one or another organic light mortar, simulating that these items had been damaged (eg. grenades or HE shells) or dropped either during the fighting or during the retreat.
    Historically, a coy's armorer could replace damaged small arms, either by issuing the stocked Ersatz contingent, repaired weapons or by issuing captured small arms, so at least small arms should be replaced after say a few resupply cycles or within the next say 2 days, if there are no casualties. If there are casualties, then the active soldiers just grab the equipment from the dead/wounded. Such computation would then also apply to the enemy's weaponry. If the enemy retreats, then the "winning" friendly unit should be able to grab some gear from the enemy casualties, say Russ. submachine guns (eg. PPSh-41) + ammo.​

    • 2) forced retreat (orange)
    ... this would be the current yellow retreat, where the player has no control over the unit, and where the enemy's strength (or boldness, or the amount of the friendly unit's casualties) forces the friendly unit's retreat. Still, the unit should roughly move towards the point where the FUP was set or where the last order was issued. If that point is too close to the enemy, then the unit should still retreat in the general direction, but move past that point, to gain distance. A higher amount of equipment should be deducted, as this is not a deliberate retreat. If the enemy attacks from the North, then the retreating unit would not retreat NW or NE, it would pick a general direction where it is foreseeable that it will lead to friendly lines or to relative safety, as this type of retreat would be right between a deliberate retreat and a fully panicked routing.​

    • 3) routing (red)
    ... this should be rendered as is, but with a severe deduction of equipment. Troops in wild panic running for their lives have no time (nor the will) to save their heavy EQ. The majority of AT guns, HMGs and medium/heavy mortars should be deducted, and even vehicles to quite some extent.
    In severe winter conditions, and if the attacked/routing unit was deployed/idle before the attack, some vehicles should be definetely deducted, maybe except for a number of tanks, as their crews were ordered to start their engines and let em run for some 5 minutes every 30 minutes. This would accurately simulate that it was quite cumbersome and time-comsuming to start vehicles in severe winter conditions, as the motor oil or fuel wasn't designed for the harshest conditions/temperatures (extreme heat or extreme cold).​

    A short anecdotal insert:
    A friend's grandfather was part of the force stuck in the snow near Moscow, in late 1941.

    • Background:
    At that stage of the war, German motor engine fuel and engine oil was not meant to be used at say -40° Celsius or even below, fuel was usually usable until -20°C (motor engine fuel: -25°C, Diesel fue: -20°C), and engine oil until around -15°C to -20°C.
    The special engine oil "Motorenöl der Wehrmacht (Winter) Pz", meant to be used in tank engines during "severe" (central european) winter conditions, was even worse, it could only be used at temperatures of around -10° to -15° Celsius, so that units started to mix the "Pz winter oil" with the regular Wehrmacht winter oil, but also with Ethanol (an emergency/tricky solution, Ethanol would vaporize after a while, starting at and above 70°C when the engine warmed up, so the ratio had to be watched constantly). In 1942, the troops received paper charts for the winter season 1942/1943 outlining the "recipe" to mix engine oil and motor engine fuel, 15% fuel were applied at temperatures between -20°C and - 30°C, and 25% fuel at temperatures below -30C°. This ratio was also ordered for all Vehicles that were transported on train waggons. The current ratio could be verified by using the bubble "viskosimeter", the device was part of every vehicle's winter EQ in the next winter.
    Damper oil had to be treated in the same manner, as the shock absorbers lost almost all of their effectiveness, when the oil thickened, which led to truck breakdowns or even dangerous situations when trucks ferried mines and other finicky equipment.
    In the next winter 1942/43 (and during the following winter) large heater fans were used in barns or garages, blankets were put over the engines and even fires were allowed by the Wehrmacht in 1942 - if safety measures/rules were applied/followed, like putting a fire extinguisher near the vehicle and protecting (or even removing) fuel lines on the underbody- under the oil pan, as emergency solution.
    In 1941, with the unprepared equipment, German batteries delivered only 4% of their actual/usual power (at -40°C, compared to at least 26% at -20°C), which - usually - was not sufficient to drive the starter.​

    So in this winter before Moscow, my friend's grandfather, who was the driver or NCO of a truck crew, was pretty much the only guy in his subunit who had put a fire under his truck's oil pan, to prevent an increase of the oil's viscosity, and the heat of the fire was also sufficient to keep the battery at a more favorable temperature, obviously. When the Russian counterattack started and when the Germans had to run for their lives, he was the only guy in his unit who managed to start his car and who got away with his crew in a vehicle. All the other guys had to run for their lives, where many got lost and froze to death or where they were killed or captured.

    Basically, during this counterattack, most routing units had to drop most of their heavy EQ, an appalling number of vehicles of all types was lost, vehicles were either abandoned (engines wouldn't start), or destroyed/captured by the Russians during the onslaught, heavy guns couldn't be saved, because there was no time left to heat up the tow vehicles. Some tanks managed to get away, but quite a few of them then had to be demolished, because they ran out of fuel, & resupply was rarely an option during that chaotic retreat.

    That said, a unit should only route if a certain mix of conditions is present at the same time.
    A selection (or all) of the following conditions should be present before a rout is triggered:
    • a) element of surprise
    • b) superior enemy force size or "combat power"
    • c) low morale or alternatively ...
    • d) low health (explained in Part 3)
    • e) bad supply level (basics, ammo or fuel)

    For understrength (caused by lack of recruits or by previous engagements) units a
    • f) low personnel level
    should be included as common trigger as well, unless it's an elite unit with a higher morale/experience level or training level. Such unit wouldn't succumb to superior numbers right away.
    #1 GoodGuy, Sep 20, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2020
  2. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Part 2:

    The current withdrawal function

    The current withdrawal function is almost unusable right now. Often, an attack in the opposite direction (to move away from the enemy unit) is 300% more effective than issuing a withdrawal order and risking an almost immediate uncontrollable yellow retreat, especially on order delay.
    Ordering an attack with minimum aggro, max. casualties, low RoF and fastest speed often delivers what the withdrawal function SHOULD (but doesn't) deliver, actually.

    • I'd suggest to abolish this function and port it to and reshape it into a more accurate new function called "disengage".
    I am dreaming of an engine capability where the engine would be able to split forces (ie. temporarily create new units, eg. to split off one platoon and keep the other platoons in the original coy body). A disengage code would then make one platoon "pop up" as rear guard and keep/send the rest of the Coy to disengage and get to the ordered meeting point. Once the main body has finished breaking contact, the rear guard would disengage itself and rejoin the parent Coy. This was (and partially still is) the standard practice during disengagements. The enemy unit would then either proceed with the attack (on an empty position) or remain in a duck & cover state for some time, before figuring that the threat disappeared and moving again.

    But eben without such capability, a (real) disengage function would ensure that the unit breaks contact ASAP, means within mins, if the terrain/visibility/enemy weapons range allows for such speedy break-off. The time frame should depend on the unit's current task. If it is supposed to cease attacking, then this should take a bit longer (simulating that the noise of battle makes it harder to spread the word quickly), but if the unit just deployed, screening the area (and maybe just firing sporadically), then it should be able to disengage quickly. A dug in unit should be able to pack their stuff and leave the foxholes within mins, as well.

    The disengage order should also get a special option (checkmark) to perform a

    • "fighting withdrawal".
    Technically, such withdrawal is a tactical withdrawal, where the withdrawing unit keeps contact with the enemy.
    A fighting withdrawal should be applied if the AI/player figures that an approaching enemy unit is attacking and not just moving, and if a stubborn defense would a) harm operations in the area, or b) harm the unit's combat power (eg. if pitted against superior forces). The option would make the withdrawing unit automatically halt at favorable terrain spots (say in houses, woods, fortress perimeters or light woods) and deploy their LMGs/HMGs or mortars, engage for an X amount of time (this could be coupled with an additional field, where the player can set X minutes) and would then make the unit proceed to the final withdrawal destination, interrupted by the mentioned number of halts, to accurately simulate such planned/deliberate, still halfway orderly - but still risky - withdrawal. Such withdrawal could (and did) easily turn into a rout (sometimes), as described in a few unit war diaries and in personal vet accounts/books, so it was an option that demanded the full attention of the CO.

    In reality, such tactical move was and is also used to lure the enemy into an ambush or to a position where deployed/hidden friendly forces would then form a locally superior force.

    On a fighting withdrawal, the unit CO/its troops basically acknowledged that the enemy was superior (or that he possessed better/heavier weapons), and they understood that a stubborn defense would result in destruction or capture. A fighting withdrawal was also applied when subunits were tasked to cover the orderly retreat of superior echelons, say the retreat of entire divisons or Corps.

    While still risky (possibilty of higher casualty numbers and rout), the fighting withdrawal is an attempt to prevent that the enemy rolls over your force and that he gets behind your lines. It's also a measure that allows troops in the rear to gather/save their equipment and perform an orderly withdrawal say to a prepared blocking position or to the other side of a natural obstacle (river), where then stronger defenses can be built.​
    #2 GoodGuy, Sep 20, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
  3. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Part 3:

    Units should have a health bar:
    For instance, due to the lack of winter clothing, German units in Russia 1941 and US units in winter 1944/45 suffered of frostbites. In Russia, especially in the spearheading units near Moscow 1941 (as well as in the units trapped in Stalingrad, 1942/43), quite a few German troops froze to death right before (near Moscow) but also during & after the Russian counterattack (Moscow + Stalingrad).

    At least with the examples from German theatres, the bulk of the casualties was NOT the result of combat actions, but a result of the lack of proper winter clothing and the severe weather conditions.
    During the German offensive in the Ardennes, quite a few wounded US troops died, even though their wounds were rated to be "non-fatal", as a secret Army report put it. Their clothing was totally inadequate for winter conditions, so that - with combat wounds and improper clothing - their bodies failed to sustain the cold, vets and surgeons reported that even apparently light wounds could then result in a soldier's death, if exfiltration wasn't an option.

    US troops on the Pacific islands suffered of Malaria (and multiple other diseases) and had a hard time to cope with the humidity and the extensive rainfalls during the monsoon period, several units lost pretty much their complete combat power, due to their high illness rates, and had to be replaced. Japanese units rarely had the opportunity to get replaced, their combat power decreased constantly and severely, and the sick rarely received proper care.
    During the German onslaught in France 1940, with the German non-motorized inf units having to march for days, the number of footsore troops increased around day 4 or 5, other troops went through 2 or 3 pair of boots during the first 8-10 days.
    US troops increasingly suffered of trench foot in winter 1944, in addition to the common frostbites.

    On the other hand, many German soldiers used Pervetin, especially in 1940/41. The Methamphetamine was so popular among grunts and Pilots, that Germany's general surgeon Conti made it a prescription-only drug around mid-1941 which was the only way to reduce its use significantly. Pervetin then played a vital role again in Stalingrad, as it was issued to troops in numbers to suppress the feeling of hunger and the sensation of cold, and to at least temporarily "fix" states of exhaustion. Some unit surgeons or COs issued Pervetin to exhausted soldiers during the massive Russian onslaughts in late 1943 and 1944, to boost their energy levels for the retreat (which for some troops involved marches of 300-600 kilometers and which actually saved those soldiers lives, as they wouldn't have been able to keep up with the retreating units, otherwise). Some of the inf units had 60% footsore soldiers.
    Pervetin was then used again by troops participating in the Ardennes offensive, but only locally, as many unit COs denied to use/issue it, so that it wasn't used as widely as during the French campaign.

    Transferring these historical facts to the game engine would make an additional unit health bar realistic/historical/useful, imho.
    In practice, the game's fatigue routine would then allow to move a given non-motorized German unit of the earlier periods (say 1939-1942) for say 3-4 days "straight" (see below), until they'd need say a half day of rest, while after 4-5 days the value shown on the health bar would decrease, as the amount of footsore/sick troops would slowly increase.
    In turn, severe winter conditions or extreme heat (and lack of water) in desert areas would also affect the troops and lead to casualties (death from freezing, dying of thirst, fatal heatstrokes, etc.).

    While this probably appears to be too detailed for some folks, an additional equipment bar that displays the quality/adequacy of the personal gear (means clothing) would actually be useful too.
    A unit that is expected to operate at temperatures of -20°C or -30°C but that has no winter clothing is less efficient/capable than a unit that has received proper clothing. The same goes for a unit operating on a Pacific island during monsoon season that has no raincoats, no dry extra clothes and no rain covers for its foxholes. In the Pacific, it was at least possible to build makeshift covers (palm leafs, wood bars, etc.) on most islands, but the initial conditions were quite bad, and the diseases kept striking the troops, even in the more sophisticated positions/camps.

    Historically, German footsore solders were often put on the column's vehicles for a few hrs per day, or sometimes ferried by the unit's medical vehicles (if available), or were - in severe cases - even given a sick note and transfered to a field hospital, while the rest kept marching.
    Footsore soldiers who could still walk (slowly) were also put at the end of the column and allowed to lag (way) behind, if there was no space left on the unit's vehicles. Since the engine isn't able to split units, a function could deduct a number of troops, to simulate that these soldiers are moving way outside (and behind) the column. If the unit then rests for a few hrs or even a day, the troops could be added again, imho, simulating that they caught up with the main column.
    With a health bar, the game could also realistically simulate sick rates. Some US and Japanese units had pretty high sick rates, so that these guys either had to stay in the camp (to be put on light guard duty) or had to be sent to the field hospital.

    German units in Winter 1941/42 had pretty high sick rates, the food supply had partially crippled around October '41, due to the Russian mud season, and due to the following snow period, so that soldiers were put on lower rations. In November, the Corps surgeon of the XVII. Army Corps expressed that the rations' quality was too low, as they did not deliver enough fat, vitamins and calories. Several divisions reported that their troops were starving in December, the 2. Panzer Army reported that it would" live from hand to mouth". The 45th Infantry Division - in distress - sent a radio message in late December: "Unit deployed/committed and starving. Bread urgent."
    A Typhus epidemic that had started in October and might have originated from imprisoned starving Russians (German POW camps in Russia), culminated in February/March 1942 and even made it to Germany. German soldiers deployed in the Russian Southeast (Ukraine) got Malaria, there are a number of vet reports indicating that a number of soldiers were sent to a hospital in Dresden, where a number of them died in late 1943.

    Sleep: Historically, the general/theoretical sleep pattern during the French campaign was like 4 hrs march and 4 hrs sleep, for days. The Bundeswehr still kept up this pattern during exercises that involved long marches in the 1990s, and I'm guessing that it's still in place today.
    With Pervetin, a number of units managed to perform 10 hrs marches, where they then also proceeded to march at night, for another 6- 8 hrs, with some 4 hrs of sleep in between.
    I remember a discussion where Dave denied such regime, as he thought such regime would lead to total exhaustion/collapse on day 3-5, IIRC.

    I am not up to date regarding the most recent fatigue routines in the game, but I do remember that it was next to impossible to move an inf unit at night in CO1, the player virtually had to wait until the next morning, basically, means until the diva grunts had rubbed the sleep outta their eyes and finally agreed to proceed with the move order. That's a bit ahistorical, to be honest.
    #3 GoodGuy, Sep 20, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  4. ioncore

    ioncore Member

    Jun 1, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Agree with all/most of your comments on retreat.

    There is an option now, when issuing a task, to deny a rest to assigned units. I'm not sure if AI is capable of using this option in an effective way, though.
    GoodGuy likes this.

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