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Didz

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Thanks for all the valuable guidance in response to my question about the effective use of AI.

However, I just want to get some more detailed advice on the best way to assign the AI with objectives. The original response suggested assigning objectives at Army HQ Level and equally spaced to avoid overlap and conflict between the units of different armies.

That makes sense, but I find myself wondering what it means in practice.

For example:

Lets take the Soviet 14th Army on the Northern Front.

It has three Rifle Corps consisting of fifteen Rifle Divisions plus some attached air support.

So it has a theoretical combat width of 45 and so should be able to cover a front of about four provinces without overstacking or weak points. If advancing or attacking I'd probably prefer it to use at least three lines of advance or attack.

But in assigning the 14th Army its objectives how would one ensure this?

  • Do you simply assign the entire army one objective to defend or attack and trust the AI to be sensible, e.g. assign one province as its defence objective and leave the three adjacent provinces unflagged assuming the AI will fill the gaps?

  • Do you place objectives on the four provinces you want the 14th Army to defend and assume the AI will assign Corps to them sensibly?

  • When moving do you assign the army just one objective to move to, or four adjacent objectives and assume the AI will use alternate routes to each?
 
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Do you simply assign the entire army one objective to defend or attack and trust the AI to be sensible, e.g. assign one province as its defence objective and leave the three adjacent provinces unflagged assuming the AI will fill the gaps?
If I understand your question correctly, select one important province to attack/defend (usually a victory point, strategic resource or strategically important province). The grey dashed line should indicate the front that the Army Group or Army on AI control thinks it can manage. No need to put multiple objectives right beside each other.
 

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Ok! So its best to let the AI dictate how many provinces it thinks it can defend with the number of divisions it has available.

Would you also let the AI choose the front boundaries between multiple armies?

So, if for example, I have three Armies (e.g. The 14th, 15th and 16th) defending a front do I assign each a different objective along that front and allow the AI to divide it between them?

So,
  1. Assign the objective for the 14th, see how much of the front that army adopts.
  2. Then assign an objective beyond that to the 15th and let it choose its section of front.
  3. And finally, select an objective for the 16th in whatever portion of the front is left unguarded.
Or does the AI not work like that.
 

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Ok! So its best to let the AI dictate how many provinces it thinks it can defend with the number of divisions it has available.

Would you also let the AI choose the front boundaries between multiple armies?

So, if for example, I have three Armies (e.g. The 14th, 15th and 16th) defending a front do I assign each a different objective along that front and allow the AI to divide it between them?

So,
  1. Assign the objective for the 14th, see how much of the front that army adopts.
  2. Then assign an objective beyond that to the 15th and let it choose its section of front.
  3. And finally, select an objective for the 16th in whatever portion of the front is left unguarded.
Or does the AI not work like that.
I think this strategy should work. The only thing is that I would be very careful which provinces are assigned to your Theatre HQ. Make sure your theatres aren't too huge, or you may find your AI army HQ sending units to far off corners of the theatre.
 

Didz

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I think this strategy should work. The only thing is that I would be very careful which provinces are assigned to your Theatre HQ. Make sure your theatres aren't too huge, or you may find your AI army HQ sending units to far off corners of the theatre.
Wait! So even though I've given an Army a specific objective, and the AI has marked the front it is going to establish to achieve that objective, it still sends random units off on R&R to some distant location within the same Theatre Area?

That seems a bit illogical. Does it just assume that it alone is responsible for the entire Theatre Area even though it may be only one for fifteen armies assigned to that theatre organised in three Army Groups. It still thinks its all alone?

Actually I've just spotted a problem trying to assign objectives anyway.

It seems Armies only declare fronts when ordered to attack an objective to their front. So, if you're on the defensive and tell an army to defend a VP or key province the AI doesn't declare a front.

Presumably, because the objective is either under it or behind it so the AI either thinks its already been achieved or that it's advancing backwards and has no opposition.

I've actually ended up falling back on my original approach of assigning objectives in every province I want each army to hold. That seemed to work when getting Theatres to distribute their units along a defence line even though the AI made a horrible mess of the command structure.
 
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Wait! So even though I've given an Army a specific objective, and the AI has marked the front it is going to establish to achieve that objective, it still sends random units off on R&R to some distant location within the same Theatre Area?
The thing is the front evolves, and the Army HQ on AI command is only limited in its range of movement by the coloured theatre borders. So if the situation changes it may send units outside of that area. Watch Marco Antonio's Youtube videos, like this one:
).

Whenever he's going to use AI, he creates a Theatre HQ that only includes provinces along that front, forcing the AI to stay within a specific area. You could also include a few provinces back for airbases, for example.

I'll give you an example. Let's say I'm UK snatching Libya from Italy and I want the AI to do it for me. First, I set up a theatre that doesn't border any other countries (Vichy Syria, for example). I also exclude provinces that I don't want the AI to defend (like ports or VPs). If I do all that, I can be sure the AI won't take troops off the front and send them back to Alexandria or Tel Aviv.

Btw, that's why the Soviet OOB is set up with like 7 theatre HQs at the start. The AI can't handle a long front, especially defensively. AI France also has separate theatres for the Belgian border, the Maginot and the Italian border IIRC.
 
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Didz

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The thing is the front evolves, and the Army HQ on AI command is only limited in its range of movement by the coloured theatre borders. So if the situation changes it may send units outside of that area.

Whenever he's going to use AI, he creates a Theatre HQ that only includes provinces along that front, forcing the AI to stay within a specific area. You could also include a few provinces back for airbases, for example.

I'll give you an example. Let's say I'm UK snatching Libya from Italy and I want the AI to do it for me. First, I set up a theatre that doesn't border any other countries (Vichy Syria, for example). I also exclude provinces that I don't want the AI to defend (like ports or VPs). If I do all that, I can be sure the AI won't take troops off the front and send them back to Alexandria or Tel Aviv.

Btw, that's why the Soviet OOB is set up with like 7 theatre HQs at the start. The AI can't handle a long front, especially defensively. AI France also has separate theatres for the Belgian border, the Maginot and the Italian border IIRC.
I have watched Marco's video but didn't find it very informative. It's basically one of those 'look what I can do' videos intended to prove that HOI3 is not a slow game, but personally I don't care if its a slow game. I'm really more interested in how the AI handles the counters and how best to use it.

The Theatre issue is obviously a problem as Soviet Fronts were by their very nature huge, But I understand the point you are making. Last night I found myself wishing I could assign Theatre style area's to specific Armies as was done historically. In fact, I'm surprised that HOI3 doesn't implement the same sort of controls as were used historically. It would have solved a lot of problems if the player was able to simply assign a defence line or corridor of advance to each Army or Army group rather than have them wandering aimlessly around the entire Theatre area.

I played forward to about 15th June 1941 just to test out some of the advice and ideas I had been given by this and my other thread. Fortunately, the Germans did not push the button on Barbarossa whilst I was experimenting.

My observations were as follows:

  • Separate Air and Naval HQs: Every Theatre and Fleet (e.g. Arkangel; Baltic; Crimea and Pacific) now has its own HQ command unit (Army or AG) with a token Rank 1 General in command. It means I can set all Air and Naval units on AI control independently without automating the land-based units in the Theatre and it keeps the OOB tidy. There was no obvious way of telling if this worked for the Air units as there was nothing for them to do last night, but I did notice that the Naval units were busy moving about and conducting patrols. Some of these may have been a legacy from the earlier Winter War assignments I had given them, but that was some time ago and some of the patrols I noticed were in areas I don't recall telling them to patrol. So, I'm deeming this independent Air and Naval idea a qualified success. I will still have the option of assigning Air and Naval units to specific Army HQs if I want more focussed support.
  • Army Front Management: I'm going to have to declare this a failure. The idea of being able to assign a specific section of the front to a specific army was promising but as you have quite rightly pointed out above the AI just doesn't think like that. Simply Automating an Army and telling it to defend point A has no real effect on the AI at all. Either the Army doesn't move, or it stacks everything on that province regardless of stacking penalties. The Black Front Lines, once generated, do seem to work and units do move to try and deploy along them. But to get one to appear where you want involves ordering the Army to attack an objective in hostile territory, which isn't very clever when on the defensive, plus getting it to appear where you want is like a weird game of hunt the thimble trying to discover the right hostile province to click on to trigger the right combination of provinces marked with the black line the army will deploy on. I even had one instance where the Black Front Line was clearly where I wanted it, but the Army deployed about six provinces further south leaving a huge undefended gap in my line. So, clearly not a reliable AI function and not one I would trust.
  • Multiple Defence Objectives: Eventually I fell back on my old approach and labouriously assigned each Army to the multiple provinces I wanted it to defend. So, an Army with 20 x Divisions was given a 5 Province front to hold marked by five Objectives. This was about the closest I could get to the historic system of assigning units to sectors of the line and it worked up to a point. But I suspect this is where your issue about Theatres intervenes to screw things up as it was obvious that each Army considered all its neighbours to be invisible and so acted as though it alone was the sole army defending the entire Theatre Area. So, as you warned I found that having assigned 20 x Divisions to defend a front of 5 provinces what actually happened was a scatter-shot of 20 x Divisions all over the Theatre area with only a portion actually deployed on the five objective provinces I had assigned to that Army. And of course, as always there was no consideration given the HQ distances so some armies were leaving isolated divisions well beyond their HQ command range and thus exposed and useless.

    This screenshot from last nights tests shows the Soviet 9th Tank Army (20 Divisions) trying to deploy along a five province front to cover the Dubno Gap. Its got most of its divisions in the right area but has crammed a massive stack of Armor in the urban province of Lwow and in Switaz whilst leaving the plain in the centre very thin and as you can see there are masses of other units mixed up in this sector which are obviously meant to be somewhere else. Including a lot of Light Tanks from the 4th Fast Tank Army that have no reason to be there.
My conclusion ultimately is that no matter which way you play it the Land-Based Unit AI cannot be trusted to do anything much apart from mass movements and even then its way easier and more reliable simply to click on the Army HQ, select all its components and CTRL+Click on where you want them to go.

I understand your point about manipulating the Theatre boundaries to limit the AI's potential for stupidity, but ultimately by the time, one has finished changing the way you play to suit the way the AI wants you to play you might as well have switched it off and done everything yourself.

Which is pretty much where I am at the minute. If I get the time today I shall start June 1941 again and this time just turn the AI OFF and tell my divisions to defend where I want them to defend. Division by Division and Province by Province.

However, until I see some reason not to I shall keep my Air and Naval HQs automated.
 
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Those are all reasonable points. You've got me thinking. If I had to make one major point, it's that land-based units on AI are not reliable in defensive situations. If you have the upper hand and are clearly on the offensive, you can usually rely on the AI to manage a front. For France and the Soviet Union, AI control of land units on the front is risky at best. Try letting the AI invade Poland or France as Germany and you will find it works unless you have really badly allocated your forces or have a flawed build.
 

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Those are all reasonable points. You've got me thinking. If I had to make one major point, it's that land-based units on AI are not reliable in defensive situations. If you have the upper hand and are clearly on the offensive, you can usually rely on the AI to manage a front. For France and the Soviet Union, AI control of land units on the front is risky at best. Try letting the AI invade Poland or France as Germany and you will find it works unless you have really badly allocated your forces or have a flawed build.
I must admit I've not had any major issues with using the AI during the Winter War against Finland, or the conquests of Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. Although I've had to occasionally intervene personally just to kick a specific unit to move where I needed it. For example: during the invasion of Afghanistan the 20 Spetsnaz Division defeated the Afghan militia defending Kabul and then seemed to decide it deserved an extended period of R&R before actually moving into the VP to end the war. So, in the end I kicked it over the border by hand.

But that sort of thing was rare. Although in those instances the unit population density was much lower and I was using the AI at Corps Level rather than Army. So the potential for a cluster-fluk was much lower. Also with only three or four airports in the area, I didn't mind manually assigning the plane's missions. Barbarossa is a whole different kettle of fish.
 
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Well as stated above I reloaded the game at the start of June 1941 and this time just turned the AI OFF completely and manually assigned defence sectors to the various Armies defending the Soviet border. The image below shows the central Dubno Gap sector being guarded by the 9th Tank Army with the arrows showing where the newly refitted 2nd Tank Corps will slot itself into the line.



It's not obvious from the image but each Corps has been assigned one or two provinces to defend and its HQ is then positioned just behind the front. The idea being to make best use of the combat width available so that ideally each province will have 4 x Infantry Divisions or 2 x Armour Divisions (I don't have the Spearhead Technology at the moment which is another worry as I suspect the Germans do along with those Heavy Tanks I can see just over the border) I'm hoping the defence in depth will compensate for the lack of heavy armour and tank concentration to at least buy me more time.

One other advantage of manual assignment is that I can make optimum use of the terrain. So, for example, this time you can see that the town of Lwow is being defended by a Rifle Corps rather than a huge stack of tanks and the armoured divisions have been deployed on the open ground around it. The other thing I noticed is that I have far more units spare this time as unlike the AI I chose not to overstack units in any particular province. In fact. having made my initial assignments I found I had a whole Army spare and was able to use it to provide the start of a second defence line.

I Still think I'm going to get steamrollered but at least that will reflect history.
 

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Some Notes on Air and dedicated Naval HQ's

I'm about three-game weeks into my war with the AXIS now and I thought I'd just post an update on my observations so far on the use of dedicated Air and Naval HQ's

Naval HQ's
So, each of the Soviet Fleets (Arctic, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific) have their own HQ to which every surface and submarine unit in that fleet belongs. Which means that I can just switch the AI on for each fleet and let the AI handle all the patrols and stuff and that's what I've done. They were initially set to 'Naval Prepare' stance and when war was declared I changed the stance to 'Naval Defence'. There doesn't seem to be any way of saying 'Be careful out there.' like the passive stance available in the manual orders and so I was half expecting to lose most of my fleet in the first few days. But surprisingly the AI seems to be doing a really good job. The Soviet Baltic Fleet actually seems to be dominating the Baltic at the moment. I have no idea what the German Navy are doing but we seem to be owning the Baltic and sinking a lot of Axis transports and their escorts. Fingers crossed it lasts.


Air HQ's
The Air HQs are harder to assess. I actually have a really large airforce almost all of which are interceptors. The logic being that they would intercept German Tactical Bombers thus taking the sting out of the German blitzkrieg and from early experience I know that INTs will perform ground attacks as well as air superiority missions if called upon to do so. A sort of jack of all trades master of none. So, I have an awful lot of them. Enough to earn 'The Great Airforce' Strategy bonus.

The problem with aircraft is that even at 1x speed it's really hard to see what they are doing and for a while, I actually thought the AI was sitting on its hands and doing nothing with them.

I could see that every wing had been assigned a mission but those on the ground simply had the tag (Resting) and the only clue that they had done anything was that some had lost organisation. In the end, I found the trick to catching them doing something was to stop looking for them and instead to look for enemy aircraft. Spotting an enemy bomber formation and clicking on it often produced an air battle report similar to the land battle ones you get when you click on a coloured battle pin.

Inevitably I found that almost every enemy bomber formation was being swarmed by Soviet interceptors and whilst some enemy bombers still got through they were paying a very heavy price. In one air battle over the central Western Front I counted no less than 17x Soviet Interceptor wings (1,700 aircraft) engaged with 4 x German Fighter groups and 8 x Tactical Bombers, a total of 2,900 planes in a single massive battle. Elsewhere, I saw single unescorted German bombers being bounced by multiple interceptors and in Finland especially the AI was launching both Air superiority patrols and ground attack missions.

So, in the end, my conclusion is that they are working but just not easy to see even at the slowest game speed.
 
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In my experience AI works best if it has a broad front or all areas under one theatre.
That way it can shuffle units as needed around the best. but the communication between theatres doesn't work that well.
So e. g. inf you have GER already in front of Moscow and many units in the far east under another theatre, it will not send enough units back to defend in time.
But if you have all under one Theatre, it will send units back in time.

You can still have some special Army under your own command and use that as a spearhead or for RPG reasons in AAR's.
The AI ussually sees that in areas are enough units and will not send more there.


One trick is to have enough units for the AI to fill all provinces. Initial BlackICE and my Mod showed already back in the FTM days that many more units allow the AI to act quite well even with defence in depth.
I had GER hvy Armor used in a historical role as fire brigade, allways send into hvy fighting and pulled back to refitt again just to fight again in the next breakthrough attemp of SOV forces in 42.

Another trick is the used stance. As SOV player you should use prepare and the ai will avoid battles and trade land for lives. That way SOV does not get overrun easily and can fight back with more units some later. So after front stabilizes, we would assign stance defend, and see that AI will even already attack if the odds are good enough. The Panzers will not chew through 3 prov full of SOV heroes that defend the motherland that easily as they can in vanilla HoI3..

The HQ's for the navy and air is also a good suggestion. That way you can assign land units to such an HQ and let them conduct naval landings.
AI will use air units quite well, but you need to check if they don't use too much units in an area and get bad penalities that way.

An own theatre in the "Hinterland" is great for GER to fight partisans. Just assign enough GAR and CAV units and the AI will take care of these uprisings..

Too bad that the AI from the NPC(non player countries), often fell asleep and so a powerhouse like USA can sit and just do nothing while it has plenty of units at hand. Often the Theatre-HQ's are then on stance "prepare" and changing that to "attack" will set the axis world on fire instantly..
(Multiple bigger landings included..)

Just do a search for the initial BlackICE from Dr.Johnson and look on the pic of the old threads.. :)
Some starting places to search:
https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/ai-unit-composition-what-should-it-be.539191/
https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/dr-johnsons-the-world-at-war.620231/
 

Didz

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Thanks! I'm now mid-way through October 1941 and Operation Barbarossa in it's third month having started a bit later than historically.

Naval AI: Amazingly I'm still using the Naval Fleet HQ idea detailed above as so far I've had no cause to change it. The Soviets have still not lost a single ship (touch wood) and are racking up a pretty decent tonnage in terms of Axis cargo ships, transports and escort vessels.



Air AI: I must admit I've intervened a bit in the Air war as I found the AI just wasn't being aggressive enough for my liking. So, whilst the vast majority of Soviet air wings are still attached to one of the four Theatre Based Air HQ's where the airbases are close to the front e.g. Minsk/Kiev/Odessa I've actually detached the planes on those airfields and assigned them specific continuous daytime missions. Admitted this is taking a heavier toll on my planes but is resulting in much more air support for my front line troops.

 
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