Combat Mission University Course

The Actual Course

Todo / next steps

  • Try to get a ‘complete’ course done ASAP to build momentum, even if each individual part isn’t anywhere close to your final vision.

  • Work on the appendices as a way to build momentum (so, how to install the game, how to use the controls, etc.)

  • Write out a very step-by-step process (algorithm) that a person can follow to implement one piece of advice in Paulding’s videos. (Ex: an OCOKA analysis)

  • Create a small training scenario that tests a student’s understanding of how to use a particular unit. Imagine Mint as the student.

  • Create a shell product on Gumroad or create a shell website and host it on your Digital Ocean droplet.

Ideas for the content of the course

Target audience

  • Beginners who are interested in the game but intimidated by not knowing what to do: people who want an extremely step-by-step guide to playing the game well. Especially people who don't have powerful gaming computers that could run the newer games.

Course goals

Major goals

  • Provide an extremely step-by-step process new players can follow to play the game well.

    • (Thought: it seems like this may be in conflict with another goal, which is to get people up-and-running as quickly as possible. An extremely step-by-step process may still require that the student be familiar with a lot of different information on the capabilities of the different units. Or it might end up being such a lengthy process that players will get bored, like writing out an algorithm for multiplication for people who haven’t memorized the basic times tables.)

  • Engrain in the student generally-applicable concepts that the student can apply to other games.

Minor goals

  • Nice to have: Provide an introduction to the game for completely new players (in other words, cover the stuff the manual does).

  • Nice to have: provide training scenarios that drill individual skills.

  • Nice to have: pay Jeff Paulding to develop plans for a few different scenarios and then use them as tests for the students: the student would try to develop their own plan and then see what Jeff did and ask themselves what they neglected to consider.

Course outline

1-minute guides

  • 1-minute guide to how to play CM

    • So, like, if the person isn’t going to watch anything else, give them the absolute basics for controlling the camera, giving orders, and what the objective of the game is.

  • 1-minute guide to tank combat

  • 1-minute guides to the various weapon systems

Tutorial scenarios / basic training campaign

  • Use John and Kannika as your guinea pigs.

  • Follow Plants vs. Zombies' example of:

    • Short scenarios (each takes like 5 minutes in PvZ)

    • Introduce one new thing per scenario (new enemy or new weapon system).

    • Keep the stuff you’ve already learned in the new scenarios so you don’t forget how to use them.

  • Something I like from the DCS UN pilot campaign is that every mission feels real / immersive. Whereas I had been devising tutorials that were extremely small and simple and took small steps between them.

  • Come up with very short, one-sentence explanations of the jobs of each weapon system.

  • How I think I should order the introduction of different weapons:

    • Sharpshooter - Use these to take out exposed enemy crew of stationary crew-served weapons (AFVs, ATGs, mortars).

    • Antitank rifleman

    • Antitank guns?

    • Infantry guns?

    • AA guns?

    • Direct-fire mortars?

    • Flamethrowers?

      1. I feel like the fact that they need to get so close to be used may make them trickier to use.

    • AT teams?

      1. I feel like the fact that they need to get so close to be used may make them trickier to use.

    • HMGs?

    • Infantry - The defining job of infantry IMO is that they can move up very close to force enemy infantry out of certain positions. Like, you can have all the guns in the world pounding away at a position, but if the enemy infantry can just take cover in their trenches, you’ll have a very difficult time getting them to retreat just by shooting at them. That’s what your infantry is for: once the enemy is suppressed, your infantry moves in close to finish them off.

    • LMGS? The thing about LMGs is that it seems they’re really meant to be used in combination with assaulting infantry, so it might risk confusing the player if I have a scenario where an LMG is on its own.

      1. I feel like the defining characteristic of the LMG is that it can provide as much firepower as a squad at medium range, and is much cheaper than a squad in terms of points (I think?), but the downside is that it doesn’t have anything close to the same firepower of a squad at close range. So it’s best used in support of attacking infantry, holding back while the infantry move in close.

TLDR version


High-level concepts

  • Kill zones

Nuts-and-bolts on using the different units

  • Infantry

  • Artillery

  • Armor

  • Anti-armor infantry


  • An intro for totally new players.

    • How to install GOG, buy the CMx1 games, install them.

    • How to start the intro scenario.

    • What the objective of the game is / how missions are scored.

    • How to move the camera around, access the help menu, order troops around.

  • Changes to the game I’ve made.

    • Removing annoying sounds / music.

Ideas for how to organize and present the information

  • Have the course proceed from a very general high-level perspective to keep the student from getting bored and then go towards a more fine-grained view.

  • When presenting the nuts-and-bolts information on specific unit types, organize it in the same order in which the innovations happened: so, infantry, then artillery, then machine guns, then tanks, then anti-armor infantry, etc. So it helps reinforce the idea that these were developed as a series of counters to each other.

  • Present the ideas in a expandable text format so that the main ideas are easy to spot.

  • Have a video for each of the leaves of the expandable format. This would be like one of your slides in your python course. But unlike the python course you won't combine them all into one video but instead keep them as separate videos for each slide.

Misc. ideas I want to communicate

  • You can do everything perfectly and still get destroyed if the random unit selection and random terrain generation puts the odds against you. Perfect play does not guarantee victory. For example in one scenario I had a lot of my points put into an 88 mm flak cannon that would have been very easy for the enemy to take out with a mortar.

  • You can end up in a rock paper scissors type situation where in order to win you need to concentrate your forces in a particular direction and hope that the enemy happens to come from that direction. And if it turns out that the enemy comes from the other direction then you are lost. Ideally if you have time to move your forces you could try to adapt when you learn the direction that the enemy is coming from but in some cases it's simply not possible because the enemy immediately can see your area and can put fire on your location if you try to move any forces.

  • If you are charged with defending more than one flag, it may actually be smarter for you to only try to defend one of them instead of spreading out your forces. Another way to think about this is that if you assume that your opponent is competent and the scenario has been designed to provide a roughly equal chance of victory to either player (which is not always true) then the best you can hope for is a minor victory. So you should not take risks that would pay off and achieve a major victory but also make it more likely that you will suffer a defeat of some kind. So if you're playing chess you should not go for a fool's mate against a competent opponent but should instead expect that the game will be close and you should optimize for a minor victory.

  • In general in games and in real life you need to understand the likely outcome of micro decisions. For example in chess you know that if you move your piece to a square occupied by the opponent's piece then your piece will always capture the opponent's piece. But imagine for example that whether your piece captured your opponent's piece depended on variables like the facing of your piece and the facing of the opponent's piece and the pieces that surrounded it; then it would be more difficult to learn and understand the likely outcome of your decision to move your piece to your opponent’s square. That is the situation in combat mission. So, in order to be able to see more moves ahead than your opponent can, you need to understand the likely outcome of all of these possible moves.

  • Time is a critical resource. The more time an attacker has, the easier it will be for him to reposition his units to take out your strong points. For example a mortar or tank might be better off in a position on the other side of the map and if the attacker has infinite time then he can reposition those resources to the other side of the map. It's similar to how in chess, sometimes you would prefer one of your pieces to be in a different position. If an attacker is running low on time he might throw all of his units against an objective in a haphazard way which would allow you to have favorable odds in an engagement. So as an attacker it's critical that you make efficient use of time.

Concepts from other games that I want to introduce to the student

  • Knowing how you did may be more complicated than seeing whether you got a victory or defeat at the end of the scenario.

    • In Memoir '44 the odds of victory for either side are given for each scenario.

    • In the Zacklike games they tell you how you did compared to other players.

    • In contract bridge you are compared to other teams who are playing with the same cards you've been given.

  • The existence of hard counters leads to a balanced fighting force.

    • For example in StarCraft and Warcraft you see balanced fighting forces in elite tournaments.

Questions I had about how to play even after watching YouTube tutorials

  • What is the step-by-step process I should follow to do an OCOKA analysis?

  • What is the step by step process I should follow for every part of the game. “What do I do now?” Is a question that was coming to mind constantly while I was new to the game.

  • I think the problem with Jeff's videos is that I watch them and everything I hear makes sense when I'm listening to it but I don't actually retain it when it is time for me to take action. It was only by writing out a summary of his videos that it really became clear what his key ideas were and they really started to stick with me.

Other places where I have CM ideas

Misc. notes

  • TCNJ spring 2021 is 14 weeks with 1 week of spring break, so 13 weeks of classes. If a class meets twice a week, that's 26 classes.

  • 2021.06.26 - Players need to know the radius around an Ambush marker at which point your units will engage the enemy. Also, keep your units hidden if they're targeting an ambush marker, even your platoon HQ, or the enemy may spot you.

  • Here’s the USMC article on the lessons one soldier learned from playing Close Combat:

  • For a long time I was worried about all of the possible paths that the enemy could take, but from having played a few games, I now realize that you can often see those things coming several turns ahead, and so you will have time to adjust your positions to react to those unexpected approaches. This is especially true when the unexpected approach takes longer to travel. However, if you have no visibility on that avenue of approach, the enemy may be able to surprise you.

Combat Mission topics to cover in the course

  • How Combat Mission differs from other war games: it's a better sim of infantry, a less-good sim of long-range fighting

  • Why Combat Mission: One reason: Combat Mission was originally going to be the computerized version of Advanced Squad Leader.

  • How to make a cool battle report video, like the Armchair General ones.

  • People need to realize that, like Chess, this is going to be a brutal experience where you're likely to lose many/most of your men. So how much you've "won" may be ambiguous.

  • See if you can come up with an equivalent to Reuben Fine's 30 Rules of Chess.
    if the 'rules' include the intricacies of the simulation, then the rules are complicated. There is opportunity for people more familiar with the simulation to take advantage of that knowledge.
    A newcomer can be brought up to the basic rules of the game quickly, but learning the intricacies of the simulation will take time (for example, learning how to use the different weapon systems).
    The game does involve knowing more information than a command would know in real life.
    How to actually conduct a multiplayer game: where to save the files, how to load a file.

  • How to access the manual for the game from GOG's menu.

  • How to install GOG.

  • How to remove the annoying menu sounds (like the explosion sound when you quit).

  • Using dxcfg.exe to modify the resolution.

  • What is "winning"?

    • In Chess you're pretending to be a king fighting for his life against another king. In a situation like that a victory is if you survive the battle and a loss is if you are killed. If you can make the enemy stop fighting before you're killed, you will win. In Chess, you stop the enemy from fighting if and only if you kill the enemy king. But you can imagine an alternative set of rules where the enemy pieces can continue to fight after you've killed their king, and if you're killed after killing the enemy king, then it's considered a loss for both sides.

    • In Combat Mission, who has won can be ambiguous. And while the game does assign win/loss labels, they aren't always necessarily "correct" in the sense that they would match a real superior officer's assessment.

  • Gather the movement speeds of all the units in meters per minute, and the ammo of each unit in terms of minutes' of fire.

  • Add training scenarios.

  • The key thing to know about attacks is that they generally involved many attackers against fewer defenders. That's how the attackers could simultaneously suppress the defenders (which would require fire superiority and thus presumably more units) and also advance other units to push the defenders out of their position. If you're attacking with the same number of men that the defenders have, you're at an enormous disadvantage.

  • As a defender, the set-up phase is perhaps the most important single "turn" in the match. You can be in a guaranteed-to-lose position just from your decisions in the set-up phase, because you

  • If both the attacker and defender fail to make major blunders in their big-picture plans, then the battle's outcome will be the result of many smaller skirmishes and your ability to order units effectively on a turn-by-turn basis to 1) get them out of trouble and 2) maximize the effectiveness of their fire.

  • The 'fix' part in the 'find, fix, destroy' refers to your ability to prevent the enemy forces from moving around to better meet your advancing forces. So, for example, if they have an AT gun in one position but to hit your tank they need to move it 50m, if you're able to "fix" the enemy, you can prevent them from moving that AT gun.

  • You should think of yourself as 'trading' units like in Chess, and your goal is to get the best trade possible for each unit.

  • I feel like the scenarios generally have too few turns, which makes it harder for the attackers.

  • What ranges you should use for kill zones for your various units: this is dependent on their effective range and how easily they'll be spotted.

  • How to mount your units on vehicles and move them around as quickly as possible (so, knowing how to coordinate those units in the game).

  • Thought: let backers see the outlines you create for each lesson so that they can correct mistakes.

  • Explain to people that games are just a matter of 1) decision trees and 2) die-rolling (randomness).

  • Use a random-noun generator (from the internet) to determine your password for each game, and be sure to write down your password in a file or email to yourself so you won't forget it. Maybe email it to yourself in the same thread in which you're communicating with your opponent.

  • How to organize your PBEM files, how to name your PBEM files.

  • How to make a cool AAR.

  • Think of ways you can provide value to people who have more money.

  • Misc. advice in a 2005 thread:

  • BMBB and CMAK campaign generators:

  • Flags: Both major (300-point) and minor (100-point) flags have a radius of 80meters, which is 4 terrain squares (each square is 20m to a side). That is the maximum range at which a unit will be able to 'capture' a flag, assuming there are no enemy units also within that range.

  • If an enemy unit is within that range, it seems preference is given to the unit which is closer to the flag.

  • It seems there's a second radius of 40m which is more-heavily counted. If there's one unit on top of the flag, another equally-sized unit needs to be within 40m to set the flag to contested.

  • The flags are not set to one side or another based only on a simple check of who has more units in the 40m radius. A two-man flamethrower squad can maintain a flag as contested against an entire platoon. Whether a flag will be contested seems to depend on whether it's the start of a mission or if some of the units have just moved into the square.

  • Create an example mission with the smallest possible map where the flag is in the middle in totally open ground, and both sides have clear fields of fire to it. That demonstrates how it's not just about capturing flags, it's also about causing more casualties than you take.

  • This took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize: Note that the anti-armor weapons have their weapons rated in colors, which correspond to the colors of the armor of armored vehicles. So presumably if a weapon can produce damage of a certain color at a certain range, that means it can defeat armor of that grade at that range.

  • When calculating losses, the game uses the points value of the unit. So, for example, if a flamethrower unit costs 29 points, and you eliminate it, you will score 29 points. So, for example, a platoon is generally worth a little over 100 points, and a minor flag is worth 100 points, so if you captured a minor flag but it cost you half a platoon, you would come out ahead. A major flag is worth 300 points, and a company is generally worth so you could lose most of a company

  • Recommend Dungeon Warfare as a fun intro to the concept of kill zones.

  • Great explanation of off-map artillery from Treeburst155:

    • Also:

      • "Artillery is useful for slowing down your opponent's advance in meeting engagements"

      • "I've found the big stuff is rarely worth the cost." (he then goes into a lot of detail)

Handling payment / hosting the course

  • Just host the course on your existing Digital Ocean droplet.

  • Other options:

    • You could get some kind of payment page set up using one of those form offerings that Pieter had used.

    • Maybe handle the payment with Gumroad.

      • When the user pays, have the user redirected to my private Atlassian page and just host the videos on YouTube.