Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Battle Doctrine

Recently, I have been thinking about some of the strategies and tactics we utilise during GM mission. After a simulation or mission, crews usually debrief then the commanding officers meet briefly to review how the mission went. This often generates discussion and ideas about new tactics and strategies and there is a lot of reflection on the performance of the Division. There is also generally at lot of discussion before and after the shift between the senior officers. As a result, we are constantly tweaking and adapting how we play and making changes and improvements.

A couple of recent discussions and some reading of documents highlighted to me that, though we have developed pretty clear ways of dealing with different situations, tackling enemies and deployments of ships, we have very little reference material or records. Though we have combat orders and fleet attack patterns, there is no guide on when to use them, how they might be adapted, and no guidance either on how to coordinate battle groups and adapt to different situations. We have no document outlining our Battle Doctrine.

Battles doctrine is a term I've heard of before a long time ago, but reading a document recently brought it back to the forefront of my mind. A quick bit of research into the actual definition and usage of the term convinced me it was the thing I have been looking for. Rather than defining what to do in detail, battle doctrine are the guidelines of how to conduct actions, however are not hard and fast rules. As a result,  they don't restrict you to a course of actions,  rather they outline current thinking and approaches to provide ideas on what to do in certain situations. With this in mind, I have started a document to record our current battle doctrines.

The first part I have been recording is our use of scout ships acting as part of a battle group. Over the past few weeks, our campaign has prompted us to establish a new doctrine of using scouts to break up a particular type of enemy formation. This has been what I will describe as a 'Command formation'. In basic term, it has been a group of 3 Torgoth heavies, with massively boosted shields (3000+ in strength) escorted by up to 4 heavy Skaraan vessels,  equipped with anti-torp/mine abilities (as well as several other elite abilities) and again, massively boosted shield (3000+). A single ship would find it impossible to tackle the formation, and it has takes the combined strength and coordination of all ships. The approach, although not new in game terms, had to be more clearly outlined, with the scouts carefully coordinating to lure the Skaraans away, and keep them distracted,  whilst a battle group attacked the Torgoths with repeated bombardments and firing passes until they were destroyed. With the Torgoths destroyed, the Skaraans often leave the battle space.

There are a whole host of other things I want to include, such as when it would be more advantageous to divide ships and when to keep them together. We've also started deploying other ship types, namely a missile cruiser (a modded 'mk2' varient with a close range beam with just enough power to destroy a drone), and this is likely to spark a lot of new doctrine.

Personal Reflections
Whilst writing our new doctrines, I thought about how we do not follow certain ways of thinking. The main one that always used to cause debate was dragging monsters to enemy formations to more effectively destroy them. There are a couple of other things we don't utilise too, or things we do, like providing close escort, that make it more challenging or some may say, makes us less effective in combat. One such situation would be having a ship escort an ally by remaining within 8K rather than combating nearby enemies.

Justifying this to some has always been difficult. A simple thought occurred to me though. There are many who play the game. By that, I mean they search out all the best ways to defeat the hardest levels. All the tactics, tricks and quirks that mean you can defeat co-op and solo games on the highest difficulty settings. I have nothing against people or groups that want to do this. I'm impressed at the research and effort that people put in to this, now and in the past. I've never looked or intended to do this with the TSN RP Community though. The group's aims have never been to play at the highest possible level (level 11 at 300%). We aim instead to create stories, roleplay, to act and behave as TSN officers. It's not about playing the game, but taking part in the story. As a result, our battle doctrine is going to reflect that.

Often, when we've created stuff, we've shared it with the wider Artemis community. Some has been taken and used by others, which is always rewarding to see as we feel like we've made a contribution. There have been times when we have been met with critisism, and sometimes open hostility. I've been caught up with this in the past, trying to defend my position, and fending off insults and critisism seemingly designed to portray us in a particularly bad way. Its only been a vocal few, but it is still damaging to us as a group and personally too. I realise now though, that what we do is for us. If others adopt it, or think it's good, than that is great. But we never force our content on others, and if people don't like it, well who cares, it was made for us.

From a personal point of view, I am starting to share less and less with the wider community. The newest Sandbox is an example. I'm writing it for the TSN RP, and we've been using it for a while now but I've not shared it with the wider community because I've realised, I don't need to (I put out a poll as to who wanted it, felt stung at getting one response, and now realise I shouldn't be and don't really care!) It is all for us; our group; the TSN RP Community players!

For me, it's been quite liberating to feel like I am doing things for the group of people I play with. I know people in our group all appreciate the effort that everyone goes to: in creating a mod; designing and running missions; creating medals and awards; organising the night; running the teamspeak; having a website.... I feel like a weight has been lifted; I no longer feel like I have to compete with others or justify ideas, or see someone take them and critisise and 'improve' them. This is going to enable me to write this battle doctrine without feeling any anxiety over how it might be accepted by others outside the TSN.

I think it also highlights to me how cohesive and cooperative the leadership team of the TSN is as well. I feel confident that we have a shared vision and understanding of the direction we are taking and I respect the opinions and feedback of those in the leadership team.

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