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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Introduction

HOI3 Military FAQ (Semper Fi latest release with assumptions of defence fix in FotM)

This is my third attempt at a HOI3 military FAQ (first publicly published) and hopefully it is going to be much more complete providing a detailed explanation of exactly how combat works (when fixed). Unfortunately, some of you reading this are still going to be disappointed as it is going to be overwhelmingly concentrated on ground combat and, although I will attempt some material on air combat, it is going to fall to someone else to write up the now rather elaborate naval combat situation as I have so far gained rather limited naval experience.

Important warning: This FAQ is based on my understanding of how the game works and should not be taken as being of guaranteed accuracy. If anyone is aware of any errors then please post with the evidence for your belief. I have assumed that defence is fixed in the presentation of analysis.

Feel free to post requests for more detail if some elements are unclear but bear in mind that I am trying to be concise so we can quickly get beyond the simple facts and figures to some real analysis of the implications. Also, this is not a 'how to guide', it is a dive into the detail of what the actual rules are. If you came here looking for a guide to how to play rather than how to play better then I'm sorry but that isn't my objective.

In writing this I am going to assume that the audience already know how to play the game and issues like, for example, "movement is attack" do not need to be discussed. This guide will provide little help if you haven't learned the basic of playing the game but it may help to get from knowing how to play to knowing how to win.

It has been established on the forums that there is a fault in the game (Semper Fi) where defence values don't work. This significantly biases ground combat. For the purposes of this FAQ I have assumed this has been fixed and hence this FAQ should be correct for "For the Motherland" rather than "Semper Fi". If you are playing the version with broken defence then you can extrapolate your own conclusions from the analysis presented.
 

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Battles and Operations

Before jumping into the detail of battle resolution we need to consider the process by which units enter battle and all the limitations around it. Basically the player, or AI, moves units around the map and as soon as a situation arises where a friendly unit is moving towards a province that contains non-retreating enemy units a battle will commence. Note this may occur due to either the attacker starting movement to a new province or the defender arriving in a province. In all cases the force in the province is the defender and the force moving in is the attacker. If both forces are moving into each other's provinces then there are two simultaneous battles, one for each province. Note that it is possible to cancel movement orders for a defending unit whilst in battle without automatically losing the battle.


Combat Width and Stacking Issues

As soon as a battle commences we need to look at the issues of stacking and frontage. Whilst the game applies no restrictions on the number of units that may be present in a province it does limit how many units can take an active part in a battle and, unlike HOI2, the same limits apply to both attacker and defender. All brigades have a property called combat width - as follows

Armour - width 2 until spearhead doctrine researched - then 1
Militia - width 1 until large formations researched - then ½
Other frontline brigades - width 1
Support brigades - width 0​

The width of a division is the sum of the width of its component brigades. Theoretically you can have a zero width division consisting entirely of support brigades but a division with zero width will not fight (immediately loses) and hence is irrelevant to this discussion. This means that in practice the narrowest division possible is a single militia brigade possibly plus support units. In theory you could deploy 21 divisions consisting of 1 militia plus 4 artillery into a single basic width battle although, in practice, this might be a little foolish (see stacking)

Any battle that is in progress will have an active combat width which is shown in the battle display. The width for a battle is a base of 10 plus an additional 5 for every additional province that the attacker is attacking from. Note that this applies even if the units attacking for a province fail to join the frontline and are stuck in reserve. There is no rule insisting that the battle width is filled by divisions from the province that generated the additional width, the whole combat is pooled and units may be from any of the attacking provinces.

At the start of a battle those units assigned to it will be automatically assigned to the frontline until the combat width is exceeded even if the last division assigned does not have any space available. This means that the width of the units in combat may exceed the width of the battle but never by more than the width of the last division added.

I have observed situations where at the start of a battle units from one direction are assigned to the reserves rather than frontline as if they joined the battle after it started even though their orders were issued simultaneously. I'm not sure why this is but it does seem, on occasion, to occur. I believe it is much more common when the units in question are assigned the support attack mission. Further information on this would be useful.

Any units assigned to a battle that don't fit in the frontline or who join the battle after it has started are assigned to reserve. These units have a chance each hour of moving forward into the frontline if the combat width has not already been exceeded. If additional units join the battle after it starts then they are added to the reserve pool and if they introduce a new direction of attack the battle width immediately increases appropriately.

The combat width of battles can be modified by combat events. If the width shrinks this can push units out of the frontline and into reserve. After the event ends they will take some time to return to the frontline and a difference between the two sides in terms of rates of reserves moving forward may give a significant advantage. If the width increases it will take time for both sides to commit more forces and they will be pushed back to reserve when the event ends. See combat events for more details.

It can be seen that there are some advantages to having units with high values per unit combat width but only if the combat zone suffers from some congestion. There are no known direct benefits of having wider units except for the fact that they may consist of cheaper brigades.


Taking advantage of combat width

There are various arguments about the optimal process for taking advantage of division sizes that allow over-width combat. In a 10 width battle different division sizes result in different numbers of frontline brigades committed. 6x2, 4x3 & 3x4 give width 12 but 3x5 gives a width of 15. This provides an excellent argument for using 5 width divisions as these get you the maximum of extra brigades into a battle of any division size except that 5 width presupposes not taking advantage of the zero width property of support brigades.

If your side has a significantly better reserve advance rate than your enemy then there are advantages in incrementally building a battle by attacking on one front and then after the first hour commit all the flanking attacks. This puts all the units for the additional frontage initially in reserve with a potential advantage to be gained from having your units move forward before the enemy's do.

If you use lots of support brigades then you can achieve a higher combat capability per unit width than the enemy and in congested theatres this can give you a significant benefit but is subject to some further analysis because too many support brigades has a down side as well. This will be discussed further later on.

Combat width is defined by the number of provinces you are attacking from so attacking from additional provinces always gets you extra space BUT the additional width can be filled from different provinces than those that add the width and you can exploit this to, for example, avoid river crossing penalties. If you have a bridgehead across a river stuffed with units you can attack with 20 width of these and supplement with 2 other units attacking across the river from other provinces. This can even be manipulated to allow your units already across the river to use the additional width instead of units suffering river-crossing penalties that instead stay in reserve by being careful of the order in which units are ordered to attack. I haven't explored this issue thoroughly but I believe that units are assigned to the frontline either in strict sequence that they were given orders to attack or at least the order biases the choice.

This trick can also be used for attacking enemy units you have flanked. You only need the minimum of units from your breakthrough forces to open up the combat width which can then be filled by follow up forces that haven't yet advanced around the enemy flank allowing the remainder of your breakthrough force to continue advancing.

Flank attacks don't just give the enemy combat penalties; they also give you additional width to use from any attacking province.

Stacking

When reviewing the dynamics of combat width it is clear that having lots of narrow divisions is helpful and that having lots of reserves in the battle can also be a good idea for responding to combat events but there is also a downside. In any battle the whole force will experience a negative combat penalty for each division over the stacking limit that is assigned to the battle including both frontline and reserve divisions. Any divisions not taking part in the attack (in one of the attacking provinces but not ordered to attack) or any defending division that is now retreating does not count towards this total. The stacking limit is 1 + 3 x attack_directions. That is a base of 4 plus 3 more for each additional attack direction. The same stacking limit applies to both sides.

For over stacking by N divisions a penalty of 1 - (0.95 ^ N) applies adjusted down by 5% for Human Wave doctrine and by 1% times the skill level of the theatre commander. For those of you who can't handle the mathematical formula the penalty is 5% for each additional division but the penalty is compounded so each additional 5% is slightly reduced. For small over-counts the compounding effect is small but being 20 over gives a -64% penalty rather than -100%.

Note that the (0.95^N) formula appears to be subject to some rounding errors making the penalty very slightly larger than would otherwise be expected. This is only a fraction of a percent but can be slightly confusing if you are trying to reverse engineer the stacking penalty shown in the combat tooltips.

Taking advantage of stacking penalties

It is possible to take advantage of the stacking limit by attacking over stacked enemy provinces from a single direction with a particularly powerful concentrated force. The enemy will suffer significant stacking penalties until they retreat some or all of the over stacked divisions at which point, if you deem it appropriate, you can commit lots of extra divisions attacking from other directions. The retreating divisions cannot be cancelled to return to the battle so either way you can gain some advantage. This can be particularly effective against large concentrations assembled for offensive operations.

If you use 2 width divisions then careful management of stacking penalties is essential when performing attacks as the initial 6 divisions for a single width battle require both a skill 5 theatre commander and the human wave doctrine to neutralise stacking penalties. A significantly wider attack can avoid stacking penalties with only one of the two as additional divisions accrue at an average 2.5 per direction whilst stacking allowance rises by 3 per direction.
 

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How does fighting work?

Combat resolution lies at the heart of land military matters and therefore everyone needs to have some understanding of how it works. It sounds quite elaborate but can be represented by much simplified models if we just want to evaluate average results

Divisions and Brigades

There is a very important precursor to a discussion of combat, which is to clarify the different roles of divisions and brigades. For the purposes of ground combat, with very few exceptions, a division is treated as an indivisible unit. It may be made up of brigades but for combat purposes these are simply aggregated. The scores of the various brigades are simply added together and the percentage current strength of the division is based on the strengths added together. This has certain consequences that will be discussed later but for now just remember that we don't really care about the brigades; divisions always fight as a whole.

The following properties are added together for all brigades

SA - soft attack
HA - hard attack
Def - defensiveness
Tough - toughness
Width
Strength​

The following scores are averaged across all brigades

Soft - softness
Org​

However, it should be noted that game behaviour is as if org was summed across all brigades and the display of the average represents a display feature only. If any brigade within a division has reached zero org or zero strength then it is treated as if it is no longer part of the division. The brigade will remain present and contribute again as soon as it recovers any capability whatsoever. (Can someone verify that this is correct for both strength and org and that it applies to reaching zero rather than some small value)?

Evaluation of Unit Scores for combat

For execution of combat the first step is to evaluate the attack and defence scores of both sides factoring in all of the combat modifiers. This involves taking the base values for a unit and then multiplying them by various factors relating to combat conditions.

Modifiers are additive within groups of similar effects but are then multiplicative between groups.

For example, the combined arms bonus is a base 20% plus another 10% if you have the "combined arms warfare" doctrine plus another 10% if you have a panzer leader (or even more with panzer leaders at higher HQs). Within this group the modifiers are additive but this then multiplies with other factors.

All the factors are combined multiplicatively to a single modifier. Strictly speaking a +40% modifier represents a multiplier of 1.4 and if you express all your modifiers like this, multiply them together and then extract the bonus or penalty percentage you should get the same answer as the combat tool tips.

One last important step is that the game applies probabilistic rounding to fractions. If you end up with, for example, a soft attack of 11.4 then there is a 60% chance of rounding down to 11 and a 40% chance of rounding up to 12. This means that no fractions are wasted and they on average provide the result you would expect from the "average result" number crunching I will do later.

At the end of evaluating all this we should end up with the following scores

SA - soft attack
HA - hard attack
Soft - softness
DT - defensiveness or toughness (whichever is applicable to unit stance)​

You will notice that I haven't factored in the current strength of the division yet. This is because it doesn't affect the base scores of the unit as it is applied later during the evaluation of combat effects.

Actual performance of combat

This first step in the combat algorithm is for each division in the combat to randomly choose an enemy division that it will shoot at. This decision is re-evaluated every hour and hence will tend to average out but during a single hour the effect can be quite unbalanced. This process is extremely important to evaluating average combat results but is extremely hard to work out without using a combat modelling program (which is what I do).

Combat takes place as a serious of shots by firing units against enemy units. Each shot uses up one point of hard and one point of soft attack but which one is targeted at the enemy depends on target softness. If softness is X% then there is an X% chance that SA is used and a 100%-X% chance that HA is used. If the unit does not have the requisite attack point available then it does not shoot.

Having made a shot the enemy division will try to defend against it. The defence uses the following two entries in defines.lua

BASE_CHANCE_TO_AVOID_HIT = 0.8,
-- Base chance to avoid hit if defences left.
CHANCE_TO_AVOID_HIT_AT_NO_DEF = 0.6,
-- Chance to avoid hit if no defences left.

If the defender has more DT than the shots fired at it so far it has an 80% chance of avoiding the hit, otherwise it is 60%. If the target is hit then we come to the damage evaluation algorithms. These apply strength and org damage to the target and uses the following defines which define dice size (random range 1 to size) and some modifiers. I don't intend to analyse these further, except for the special 'armour on soft' rules, as they only affect the length of battles and the ratio of strength and org loss.

LAND_COMBAT_ORG_DICE_SIZE = 3,
LAND_COMBAT_STR_DICE_SIZE = 2,
LAND_COMBAT_STR_ARMOR_ON_SOFT_DICE_SIZE = 2,
LAND_COMBAT_ORG_ARMOR_ON_SOFT_DICE_SIZE = 5,
LAND_COMBAT_STR_DAMAGE_MODIFIER = 0.12,
LAND_COMBAT_ORG_DAMAGE_MODIFIER = 1.0,

Having evaluated the damage level this is then multiplied by the shooters current percentage strength (this is subject to some rounding). This is the stage where your reduced strength unit has its combat effectiveness reduced. Notice that the base strength of the division isn't relevant as its abilities are already factored into the attack scores and the modifier is simply its current percentage of the divisions full base strength. Also note it doesn't care about the strength of the individual brigades, just the central aggregate.

This determines the losses inflicted on the target division. This is where the new property of "strength" comes in. The losses inflicted are in terms of strength loss and therefore the affect on the division in terms of percentage loss depends on its total strength. A stronger division will take exactly the same losses as a weaker division but the percentage reduction in total strength is less and therefore this translates into a lesser reduction in divisional strength than would otherwise apply.

Losses in org are divided in proportion to current org across all brigades in the division.

Losses in strength are divided in proportion to brigade strength across all brigades in the division​

What does this mean on average?

For routine evaluation purposes the average result can be calculated as follows (where the X prefix is friendly unit and Y prefix is enemy unit)

XAttacks = (XSA x YSoft) + (XHA x (1-YSoft))​

This gives a very easy measure of the average number of shots we can take against the enemy but gives little info on how many are blocked.

The role of defence cannot be easily reduced to averages as it is profoundly affected by concentration of fire (target choice) and actual defence levels. The main thing that can be said about defence is the best it can do is halving your losses, which makes its effects significantly less than the effects of attack points.


Dealing with Combat Modifiers

As a general principle combat modifiers are only applied to the whole division. This means that any combat modifiers defined for brigades are averaged across all brigades. For example a 5 brigade division containing a brigade with a -20% terrain penalty will have this expressed as a -4% terrain modifier for the whole division.

Also modifiers from different sources in the same "group" add together rather than multiply. For example when attacking a level 10 fort the base modifier is -90% but a level 5 division with an engineer (+40%) with level 1 assault weapons (+10%) would give a +10% to the whole division making the modifier -80% so we just became twice as effective. Add 3 SP Art (+10% each) we gain another 6% adjusting the penalty to -74% giving a further 30% in overall efficiency.

Combat is subject to the following modifiers

Terrain
Night
Weather
Divisional leader skill, +5% per level
Leader traits (throughout the command chain)
Dug in - 2% per day max 20%
River crossing, -50% (variable by unit type)
Amphibious landing, -60% (variable by unit type)
Airdrop, -50%
Multiple combat penalty, -50% in both combats
Envelopment, -10% per direction above 2
Encircled, -10% (no adjacent friendly province)
Supply shortage
Combined Arms, +20%
Difficulty
Fort, -9% per level
Stacking Penalty, reduced by theatre commander​

It is important to understand that combat modifiers actually have greater impact on combat than their face values. This effect is a little subtle and has limited impact but it is there. Any modifier changing combat efficiency affects both attack and defence scores. This means that +20% will give you a +20% attack against the enemy AND also a +20% on your own defence scores leading to a reduction in friendly casualties. Improving defence scores has less impact than improving attack scores but under perfect circumstances where prior to the adjustment the enemy has exactly used all there defence and you don't have enough a +20% can give +40% enemy casualties and -10% of your own. Under more normal circumstances you might find that a +20% modifier may convert to something more like +21% or +22% combat advantage. Actual effects will vary significantly according to the circumstances and I may include some example analysis later to illustrate the point.
 

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Armoured Effects

There are a few extra considerations for armoured units that make them worth some separate consideration.

Combined Arms

The combined arms bonus applies to any division with softness between 33% and 66%. The base bonus is 20% but there is a further +10% available from the combined arms warfare doctrine and further bonuses from the leader trait panzer leader. Since traits can be applied all the way up the command chain (halved effect for each step up) it is possible to get a further +20% giving a maximum bonus of +50% (actually 49.4%). Since this bonus is on top of all other bonuses this effect on its own can make armoured units substantially more powerful than their base scores would indicate.

Tank Shock

If a unit has softness below 50% and it is fighting a unit with softness above 50% then there is an adjustment to the amount org damage done by a hit. This currently gives a +50% org damage bonus for tank shock.

Low Softness

Units throughout the game tend to have lower hard attack than soft attack. This typically means that the lower a units softness the fewer losses it takes. Bear in mind that this situation is not universal. Often enemy tank divisions have plenty of hard attack and low softness will be of no benefit against them​

As a result of the above special modifiers there are three softness targets to aim for.

Softness 66%

This target gets a unit just inside the combined arms limit but for the minimum of contribution from expensive hard units. This type of unit is usually based on trying to minimise cost of the resulting unit whilst maximising its firepower. Typically the brigade make up will be based on cost and firepower. This can be quite a useful category for mobile units whose primary purpose is movement rather than combat

Softness 49%

This target is useful for giving a unit that little bit of extra battle winning punch from the +50% tank shock bonus. This makes the unit significantly more effective but requires more armour and hence significantly greater cost.

Softness 34%

This target gives us minimum softness to still qualify for the combined arms bonus. This bonus is so significant that it is probably always a mistake to go for a harder unit. Units in this category will usually be aimed at minimising friendly casualties. Bear in mind that going to this category does not improve the unit's attack and it therefore will take just as long to win a battle but in most circumstances it will take fewer casualties.

In general other levels of softness have no particular attraction but will often apply as optimising the cost effectiveness of brigade mixes will seldom lead to exactly the level of softness targetted.

It is not absolutely clear what the exact boundaries are. I don't know the exact limits of the 33% and 66% partitions and I don't know what category you fall in with exactly 50% (or 33%) softness. If anyone actually knows then please post your evidence.

The conclusion from this is that armoured units can punch way above their weight based on face value scores but this is an issue for deeper examination later on when we start to compare units.

Battle Progress and Organisation

Actually winning a battle is about making sure the enemy runs out of org before you do. Battle resolution takes place as previously described and the divisions engaged in combat will slowly accumulate strength and org losses. When a division's org falls to 1 it will be forced to retreat from the battle and will do so immediately. If other divisions remain in combat the battle will continue and a reserve unit may move forward into the frontline to take up the vacated battle position. Note that a battle is lost when there are no longer any frontline divisions, which can happen when there are still plenty of operational reserves.

Note that for victory purposes only the org of combat brigades is taken into account. Once all combat brigades reach one org then the division will retreat. This effect has immediate impact on any division with no combat brigades as it is instantly defeated in any combat.

When defending a province and having many reserves available it is a good idea to make sure that your frontline doesn't consist of divisions that will all break and retreat at about the same time as this may leave inadequate time for reserves to move forward. It may be prudent to retreat single divisions early so that there is plenty of opportunity for reserves to come forward and replace them. This won't often be appropriate but when defending with militia the situation can actually be quite common.

It is worth considering here that the ability for a unit to remain in battle can be quite separate from the ability to win a battle. Sometimes there is a need for units that can hold the line for as long as it needs holding and what casualties they inflict in the process are incidental. This can make analysis quite difficult but for initial consideration I will simply analyse the ability to win a battle.

The balance of a battle is a question of how quickly we can beat down an enemy division and how quickly it can beat down us

Effective attack strength

Our ability to kill the enemy is derived from our effective attack score. This is the formula used earlier to evaluate attack strength based on our SA & HA versus the enemy softness. We also need to factor in how often we can exceed enemy defensiveness / toughness and whilst this is usually of limited effect it will almost always have some impact.

Effective Defence

Our effective defence is based on the ability to not take casualties (softness and defence scores), our ability to absorb those casualties that are taken and our ability to continue fighting. Softness and defence has to be factored against the enemy's attack capability, as they are profoundly interlinked. Ability to absorb casualties is based on overall unit strength and ability to sustain battle is the constituent brigades collective org.​

At the end of this analysis the old BWA (Battle Winning Ability) score of firepower x org is now replaced by firepower x brigades x org (not firepower x strength x org). This is an important change from HOI2 as you no longer lose out on the BWA front by adding additional brigades to your division. Notice also, that for battle winning the strength of brigades doesn't seem to matter, they simply count as a brigade and contribute their org.

Strictly speaking the formula is "total firepower" x "sum of org" where we simply add together the org of the constituent brigades rather than average and then multiply back up by brigade count. This also then extrapolates that the staying power of a larger force can simply be seen as the aggregate org of all the brigades present irrespective of the divisional make up they are deployed in.

Having looked at BWA we find that brigade strength has no impact but if we consider the contribution of actual losses this situation changes. The total losses your division can absorb before ceasing to exist are based on the strength of the division. This means that a division of 1inf+3art (strength 6,000) has half the survivability of a division with 4 inf (strength 12,000). This will have a significant effect later on when I start analysing different brigades and the divisions that can be constructed with them but only from the point of view of taking losses.

One side issue to beware of is the rather dodgy battle progress %ages offered by the game. Sometimes this can be deeply misleading as they don't properly allow for the two sides effective firepower or how much of each force is stuck in reserve. A battle against several enemy HQs may be rated quite poorly by the game as the HQs have a lot of staying power but they have so little firepower that they are going to lose rather badly even if it takes a while. Also a battle against many divisions mostly in reserve may be winnable, or at least favourable for casualties, despite very poor apparent odds.

Defeat and Retreat

This section is really about defeat of the defender since defeat of the attacker simply results in the battle ending without any further consequences for either side. Note that either side can exit a division or divisions from the battle at any time by scheduling movement (or cancelling movement for the attacker). The battle only ends when this affects all frontline units.

A defending unit that exits battle (either voluntary or forced) must retreat to an adjacent province. This must be a province that the unit could move to if there was no battle and which contains no enemy units. Note that this allows retreat to enemy controlled provinces. Also, you may not retreat to a province that contains retreating enemy units - I don't know if this is an intentional design feature but it is certainly the case and has a significant impact on over extended offensive operations.

When executing offensive operations it is possible to retreat forwards into enemy territory as long as the province is currently vacant. This is somewhat brave unless you are confident of winning all local battles as low org units are always in desperate need of safe and secure lines of retreat.

Once a unit is retreating new rules apply. It worth noting as a aside comment that retreating units are invulnerable to air attack (they cannot be bombed). A retreating unit will continue to retreat until it arrives at its target province or the enemy arrives in this province. If enemy units occupy the retreat destination then the retreating force (and anyone else heading there) immediately initiate an offensive battle against this enemy force. Any retreating unit that loses (eg is forced out of combat) from this battle will reoccupy the province it was retreating from. If the province it was retreating from is now enemy occupied then the unit is destroyed, if not it reoccupies the province and in all likelihood the original battle is restarts. If defeated again, which is more than likely, it initiates a new retreat using the normal rules.

The consequence of this is to destroy a defending unit by encirclement you have to occupy all adjacent provinces. However, once you have a unit retreating you can destroy it by occupy just the two provinces it is retreating between, although you do need to occupy its start from province first. This shows that you can destroy enemy units without completely surrounding them.

Two special rules - blocking a straits crossing will cause the retreating unit to cancel its retreat and re-enter battle. Defeated units in port provinces appear to be permitted to retreat onto transports at sea.

One thing to watch out for is enemy units disappearing as if destroyed by being surrounded when in fact they still have somewhere to retreat to. This can be somewhat confusing and caste doubt on the retreat rules but is in fact due to the enemy division shattering as a result of other aspects of the combat.
 

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Attack Delay

This is an extremely important factor in HOI3 and it is quite important for players to understand the dynamics. Every time a unit attacks it is subject to an attack delay before it can initiate any new action and meanwhile the only permitted action are the movement ordered that initiated the combat or cancelling the attack.

One very important point to be aware of is that a unit counts as attacking whenever it is moving towards an enemy held province at the time the battle commenced. This applies even if the battle is not for the province being moved to. A unit will suffer attack delay after defending against a flank attack from enemy units. (Note that if you have pause and popup on battle start and cancel the unit movement during the pause it will not be subject to attack delay.) Full attack delays also apply to units using the support attack order.


Attack delay is made up of the following contributions

168 hours base value
plus a random factor in the range 0 to 9 hours
less the reduction from current technology
less ((officer ratio - 100%) x 72)​

The only factor perhaps needing further explanation is the last one. This equates to a time reduction for officer ratios above 100% and a time increase for officer ratios below 100%.

Attack delay also applies to strategic movement in which case the delay is re-evaluated every hour during strategic movement using the standard formula. This means the delay will vary up and down but whilst this does give an opportunity to cancel strategic movement when the random element is low this is the sort of cheese paring approach that will yield virtually no benefit for a lot of effort and will also often backfire.

Whilst a unit is affected by attack delay it can only continue with its current orders or stop. Permitted actions in this period are …

  • If currently in strategic movement this will continue and may be extended using shift click to a further destination. The rules on extension seem slightly weird.
  • Cancel movement and become stationary.
  • Continue the current attack move. The unit will continue movement to its next destination province and engage with any units that appear there before its arrival. The attack delay is not restarted by a new engagement. The unit will not commence previously ordered movement into another province into the delay expires. If attack delay expires during this move (ie before arrival) and another battle starts then the attack delay restarts from the beginning.
  • A retreat order may be issued but in this case the unit ceases to fight and enters retreat mode but it does not start the retreat move until the attack delay expires. Issuing retreat orders under these circumstances can be very dangerous. During a defensive battle it is not possible to verify the attack delay status of a unit (very annoying) as the cross icon has been replaced by the star icon

Attack delay has a profound effect on the game but the impact changes with time. Early game everyone has massive attack delays and dealing with the problem is all about having uncommitted units that can still do stuff whilst your attack-delayed troops are stuck. In this early period the difference in attack delay between two sides is significantly less important than careful management of reserves. This puts the weaker side at a serious disadvantage as they often cannot afford to launch any attacks due to the risks from being stationary too long. However, a significantly superior attacker can find the situation is still very frustrating due to the syrupy slowness of progress and the inability to overwhelm any defence that doesn't launch any attacks. This is even more true in Semper Fi than it was previously as the AI is much more efficient at extracting units from slowly developing encirclements.

During this early period there is a very clear separation between the combat and movement roles of units. It isn't practical to combine breakthrough and exploitation roles in one unit so the combat capabilities of mobile units need not be a major concern.

As tech progresses we reach a point where differences in attack delay start to have a serious impact as it becomes possible to have short enough delays that recovered attacking units can begin to effectively substitute for reserves. A significant difference in attack delays between two sides can now have a significant impact on the balance in a campaign. Shortened delays also means that encirclements can often progress significantly faster so unit extraction becomes more difficult.

Later in the game it becomes possible to more or less eliminate attack delay entirely. 1952 doctrine plus 140% officer ratio leaves just half the random 0..9 element of the attack delay meaning that many battles will lead to no delay whatsoever. At this point everything can become far more fluid and the same units can provide combat power and manoeuvre capability. If you have reduced attack delays to minimal then powerful armour units really come into their own. Note that this used to be 1944 tech plus 200% officers but the 140% officer cap has significantly delayed the 'no delay' capability. Judicious ahead of time research can produce this situation in late 1942.

Exploiting attack delay

There are actually numerous ways of exploiting the attack delay rules

If you hold the initiative and are in a position to launch wide scale attacks then the absolute best way of defeating the enemy is to trick them into attacking and then simply swarm around them before they can move again. Once they have attacked they become totally inert obstacles until the delay expires and this will often give you time to counter-attack to make breaches in their line and insert reserves to cut them off. This can be achieved by fooling the enemy into attacking or as a backhand blow against an enemy offensive that has outrun its strength. Enemy breakthrough forces can be extremely vulnerable to this sort of operation.

The second trick is to try and initiate attack delays for as many enemy units as possible with the least commitment of your own. Under the current rules the least of battles will result in an enemy attack delay so a 1 hour defence by an HQ is as effective as an entire army corps. This means a weak defence can stall a large part of the enemy attack force and, against the AI at least, you will quickly see the attack forces becoming dispersed in depth making them vulnerable to attritive counter action by both ground and air power. This can become rather effective against the AI but will be a lot less effective against most humans.

Ultimately the attack delay rules will often mean that victory really does lie with the side that is the last to run out of reserves. However, you must take extreme care when trying to exploit an attack opportunity as any attack you make commits you to staying in the immediate area for a significant period of time.

The last exploit is a very simple, get your tech to 1952 standard and get a 140% officer ratio. Your attack delay is now 0 to 4 hours and this will often have expired by the end of any battle. Congratulations you now have no attack delay.
 

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Officer Ratio

This is simply a restating of the officer rules collected in one place

Unit org is multiplied by the officer ratio

Attack delay is adjusted by ((officer ratio - 100%) x 72)​

It is also stated that officer ratio affects whether and when divisions break but currently I have no information on the exact rules for when a division breaks.

It is worth noting that if you use brigades all with the same officer requirement and org then the total org of your army is proportional to the number of officers. That is, your staying power is unaffected by the number of brigades you have built and only determined by the officer count. This is an important result as it clearly shows that if you are trying to hold a line total officers is a critical army feature.

Note that diluting your officer ratio by building more brigades will give you more firepower, the same org but greater attack delays.

Combat Events

Combat events are at first sight a fairly simple thing but some surprise conclusions come from analysing them. First let's start with the rules.

Each side will have doctrines that give them a chance of combat events occurring. The chance of a combat event is equal to the value from the relevant doctrine every hour (is this correct? does anyone know for sure). Once a combat event starts no other combat events can start until it ends. A combat event lasts 8 hours.

One big unknown here is how the game evaluates the chance of a combat event. If it tests each in turn then the order of testing is important as the ones tested first will be more common. If it aggregates the chance of a friendly event and then chooses which occurred then the chance of a combat event is slightly increased. I have no idea what priority rules might apply between attacker and defender combat events.

The effects of the combat events can be seen in the file "combat_events.txt" and are fairly simple to interpret. The following is an analysis of the temporary impact on battle winning capability of each combat event

Assault

This increases damage inflicted by the attacker by 25% and as such is clearly a temporary +25% for the attacker. If the attacker is going to win this will also shorten the battle as casualties are being inflicted more quickly.

Encirclement

This increases attacker damage inflicted by +25% and defender by +5%. Ignoring other effects this is a 125/105 = +19% for the attacker. There is also an increase of 5 in combat width. If you have units in reserve to take advantage of this and they move forward then this can easily be a greater advantage but in my experience most encirclements do not involve additional units entering combat. Note that the defender can also take advantage of the increased combat width

Shock

This temporarily decreases the damage done by the defender by -25%. This amounts to a 100/75 = +33% for the attacker. Note how subtracting from 100 gives a bigger advantage than an increase. However, the temporary advantage also involves a decrease in combat intensity and hence has a smaller contribution to a lengthy battle than other events might have. This event will not allow an attacker to win sooner.

Breakthrough

This is probably the weakest attack combat event offering +25% for the attacker and +15% for the defender. This gives a 125/115 = +8.7% advantage to the attacker and the only additional advantage is improved advance speed. This improved speed will rarely make much difference since the attack delay rules will almost certainly stall the following exploitation and prevent this movement improvement from impacting the enemy defence. It may be significant in later game if you have more or less eliminated attack delay for your forces. Also it will have some relevance around the retreat rules if you have the enemy unit(s) cut off but not surrounded.

This gives us sufficient events to consider some analysis. If I have researched all 4 and have 12% chance for each then each hour I have a 48% chance of an event and with each event lasting 8 hours an expectation of an event being in progress 8 out of 9 hours for the duration of the battle. This means that combat events can have quite a profound impact on the game. If I evaluate combat events as being on average a +20% advantage then each 3% chance of an event amounts to 8 hours of event out of 33 which is close to +5% combat advantage from each step of each combat event. Now, in truth, because events block other events the advantage only exists for the first step researched followed by significant diminishing returns. However, there is a secondary bonus of competing with enemy events and blocking them so NOT having the doctrine offers a disadvantage.

Having a large number of event doctrines against an enemy with none is likely to offer a maximum benefit equivalent to approximately +20%. Note that this benefit is not the same as a combat efficiency modifier as it is just a damage modifier. Normal combat modifiers multiply both attack and defence strength giving them a slightly enhanced effect as they both increase the damage done to the enemy and reduce friendly casualties (a bit).

delay = inverse of breakthrough
counterattack = inverse of shock
tactical_withdrawal = inverse of encirclement
ambush = inverse of assault​

In evaluating these inverses it is worth considering that a +25% effect is not equivalent to a -25% effect (as seen earlier). The ratio of 125/100 (+25%) is different to 100/75 (+33%). Since the defence events have more negative modifiers this means that defensive events are very slightly more effective that attack events. The difference is rather small but not completely irrelevant to the game.

It is also worth noting that the width reduction events for the defence are significantly more effective than the width increase events for the attack. First of all being negative they represent a higher percentage difference and secondly they have instant effect and the reserve advance rates affect how much more than 8 hours the impact lasts whereas on the attacking side the reserve advance rate affects how much less than 8 hours the impact lasts.

Command Structure

The HQ structure is an important part of the game and can yield very significant benefits to the units in that command structure. The basic effects of HQs and their leaders are shown in the following table.

Code:
Level		Range (km)	Leader Effect
Theatre		2000	Reduces stacking penalty by 1% per skill level
Army Group	600	Reduces supply consumption by 5% per skill level
Army		400	Increases org by +2% of base unit org for each skill level
Corps		200	Multiplies reserve advance rate by skill level
Division		Increases combat efficiency by 5% per skill level

On top of the particular benefits from each level of the structure there are benefits from leader traits. A unit will receive the full benefits of the leader commanding it and then additional reduced benefits from all parent HQs in its chain of command. As you move up through the chain of command the benefit is halved at each level but the reduction is from steps up the chain not command level so a division attached directly to an army gets 50% trait benefit from the army commander rather than the 25% it gets if attached via a corps HQ.

If an HQ unit is committed to combat then it does not count as attached to itself. In other words a corps HQ is treated like a division attached directly to the army HQ above it and the corps commander acts only as a division commander for that unit. The HQ will gain no corps commander special benefits (reserve advance improvement) but will get one step closer to the higher commanders for benefiting from their traits.

The combat efficiency modifier for leaders is pooled additively into a single bonus including the divisional commander skill bonus and benefits from direct combat efficiency traits (offensive doctrine, defensive doctrine) at all levels. Note that the panzer leader trait benefit is added to the separate combined arms bonus, engineer trait is added directly to the river-crossing penalty and fortress buster trait adds directly to the fortress penalty.

If the command hierarchy of a unit isn't connected up to a theatre HQ then the levels that do exist operate exactly as normal. When there is an out of range link in the line of command this has exactly the same effect as not being attached to the superior HQ, all the connected levels apply as normal and the out of range higher HQs are ignored.

The command net for HQs is based on each HQ/unit in the chain being within the command radius of the next higher HQ. (Note that prior to SF 2.01 beta the unit itself had to be within the command radius of each HQ in its chain of command, it is now sufficient that the parent HQ is connected into the chain). This means that a unit can be up to 3,200km from its theatre HQ (used to be 2,000km) although a linear chain like this is in practice impossible to achieve. If a unit has an out of range problem anywhere in its command chain then its HQ icon will show red and the tooltip will explain where the broken link is. Any out of range links are also clearly shown in the command links display when you zoom out.

Needs rules for experience gain at different command levels.

Setting up a command hierarchy

I have this as a separate section as there is quite a lot of discussion to be had about setting up a command hierarchy. The first issue is to look at the downside of HQs. Each HQ brigade you create will add 100 to your officer requirements. How many officers this actually costs you depends on your officer ratio (or target officer ratio). Also the brigade is going to take 1.67 manpower and 6 IC days (yes, that's all under the current reinforcement rules) to bring up to full strength although there is an argument for blocking reinforcements to HQs as their strength does not affect their command capabilities.

The manpower and officer demands of HQs are a good reason for wanting to have as few as possible and use maximal command packing. The rules for ground units are that an HQ can have up to 5 subordinate units attached. This means a corps HQ can command 5 divisions, an army can command 5 corps (or divisions) and so on. If you really want to minimise the number of HQs used then you can use the following set up criteria.

A little aside to start with, when you create HQs you can only create the next level up of command (ie from a division you can only create a corps HQ) or you can create a new theatre HQ. This isn't a real restriction as there is no penalty for creating a corps HQ then creating an army HQ and then deleting the corps HQ.

For optimal packing you create an HQ for the first unit, then attach units to this HQ until it is full. Then create an HQ of a level up and attach our first HQ. Continue creating new subordinate HQs and additional HQs at higher level as long as you need to for a continuous command structure except you stop a little bit early when the total divisions left will fit into the empty slots in the higher HQs you already have. When you finish this you have an optimal command structure.

To absolutely minimise HQs you need to make sure that all your divisions have the maximum brigades allowed and your corps HQs (at least) have troops attached to them to make them into divisions. Assuming you are allowed 5 brigade divisions this allows 29 brigades plus an HQ in a corps, 149 brigades plus 6 HQs in an army and so on. This sort of density of command is going to be relatively rare and there will tend to be under population at the higher levels to allow your command structure to stretch across the theatre assigned to it.

Note that the above is not strictly true as you can attach an unlimited number of divisions directly to a theatre HQ. This is sometimes a reasonable way to operate but does lose you some of the important lower level benefits. Also lower level HQs will extend the theatre command radius.

My preferred command hierarchy tends to be very densely packed with divisions and my divisions tend to be big but the cost of relaxing this a little is fairly limited. It is also often a good idea to allow a bit of slack at various levels for convenience in reorganise commands during a campaign and to allow for large divisions to split for exploitation manoeuvres.

Reorganising your command structure during a campaign can be quite important and does require that a plenty of empty command slots are left. It is quite common for troops to drift away from the correct HQ as fighting progresses and it is much more convenient to be able to detach and then reattach without having to create empty slots as the user interface will conveniently offer the closest empty command slot. The new command hierarchy display is critical for monitoring these command range breaches and corrections.

When operating with limited forces spread out over a large theatre it can be beneficial to only put in the higher level command elements as these offer the longest command ranges. If you have 5 port defence divisions spread out over a large area then commanding with an army HQ or even an army group HQ can mean they can all be covered by one HQ and still benefit from more than one command level. The only major loss from this is the specific corps HQ bonus (reserve advance rates) which is not particularly useful in this context anyway. It can be appropriate to create multiple army group HQs directly commanding divisions should the spread justify it. Just remember that a flattened command hierarchy amplifies the effects from high level HQ leader traits but reduces the total number that can apply. Just remember a command layer with no traits is reducing the effect of traits from higher up and is only providing the special benefits of that command layer.
 

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Reserves

When divisions are in the reserve status in a battle the chance of them moving forward into the frontline is as follows …

Base Rate (BR) = 0.1% per 10 org

This is supplemented by a number of bonuses

Full Rate = BR + (BR x Corps Leader Skill) + minister + tech

where

Minister = (BR x 10)
Tech = (BR x 5) ???

This formula roughly matches what I have seen in the reserve tooltips but there do seem to be a few rounding issues and small anomalies. It is not clear how rounding is applied (if any) and there is the possibility of a small offset on the org level but this seems unlikely.

I assume the resulting value is the percentage chance per hour of a unit moving into the frontline although some of the values seen appear extraordinarily small.

Having seen how these values are made up it becomes apparent that without any bonuses your reserves are going to take an awful long time to join in and that bonuses in this area are highly relevant if you have battles where reserves are available. A few issues to note are …

Officer ratio will significantly affect reserve advance rates as it affects org with a 200% officer ration offering a doubling of the rate. Also, army commanders will offer a small bonus through their small increment in org. Corps commanders clearly become highly relevant as even the lowest valued leaders give at least a doubling of the rate. Also, the minister and tech bonus suddenly looks a whole lot more significant when you realise the huge jump involved.

Exploiting these rates is clearly possible via the combat width exploits described earlier. Start a narrow front battle and then commit flanking attacks. If you have high org, a level 4 corps commanders, the tech and a relevant minister then your advance rate can be high enough to have units join to full width in an hour or two whilst the enemy may languish for days if they lack all of the bonuses. The only downside is that this only works if the defenders have significantly more than 10 width of units defending a province.

Analysis of division sizes

I don't know how obvious it is to the general audience but bigger divisions are simply better when it comes to combat and I find it intuitively obvious so I'm not going to investigate further than showing a few examples and explaining the pattern of effect. This is most easily illustrated by running some examples based on splitting a set of brigades into different size divisions and pitting them against each other. For the purposes of fairness we will have attacking in both directions for each sample since def/tough have significantly different values

Test One

12 1940 infantry brigades

1) 6 x 2 brigade divisions: SA = 7.6, Def/Tgh = 15.5/9.6
2) 4 x 3 brigade divisions: SA = 11.4, Def/Tgh = 23.2/14.4
3) 3 x 4 brigade divisions: SA = 15.2, Def/Tgh = 30.9,19.2

1 -> 2 : 24% advantage for (2)
2 -> 1: 6% advantage for (1)

1 -> 3: 45% advantage for (3)
3 -> 1: 1.6% advantage for (3)

2 -> 3: 32% advantage for (3)
3 -> 2: 1.6% advantage for (3)

As you can see attacking or defending stance makes quite a difference due to the significant difference between defensiveness and toughness scores but putting your units into bigger division also makes a significant difference. The important point here is that bigger divisions are always better and that this can amount to a significant difference.

The actual advantage is obtained via the random process whereby each division chooses a target. By having your attack and defence points come in bigger chunks you gain an advantage in this random process that results in you enemy ending up using less of their total defensiveness/toughness whilst you end up using more of your defensiveness/toughness and the overall effect is a combat advantage. The pattern of benefit is most clear when the two sides are roughly balanced so my example shows quite a strong effect. When there is a significant imbalance between the opposing sides the division size effect becomes significantly reduced but is never completely eliminated.

Generally speaking for general operations you will obtain a significant combat advantage from using fewer bigger divisions. This is always the case although it is not necessarily the end of the story.

In a low density theatre the added flexibility of smaller divisions may be sufficiently useful to overcome the benefit from larger divisions. Also, in a medium density theatre you may have, for example, a position where you can assign 6 brigades to defend each province, which clearly doesn't allow a balanced defence with large divisions. This has an impact on division size choice but wherever possible try to have bigger divisions because it makes a difference and gives a real combat advantage.

It is worth noting that the larger attack values are relative to defence values the more larger divisions will help. Just think about it in terms of the average number of defence points each side will manage to involve in the combat.

Battle Winning Ability or Attrition

This is a big question in this game. Should I design my forces to optimise my ability to win battles or do I focus on maximising the casualty ratio. Unfortunately this isn't a question that I can easily answer for you as many optimisations simply improve both. The real issue is how important is org and it has to be said that generally speaking I find that my campaigns are won by attrition rather than anything else. Generally the enemy runs out of manpower to replenish their units and lapses into total collapse characterised by numerous severely depleted units floating about which shatter at the first sign of combat. However, earlier in the campaign part of the enemy loss of manpower is having units surrounded and destroyed.

If you are focusing on attrition then concentrated firepower supplemented by fleets bombers is an effective strategy. This is best achieved using inf/art divisions but mobile forces still have a significant role.

Supply

Not fully researched but the Wiki page provides considerable guidance

http://www.paradoxian.org/hoi3wiki/Supply_network#Supply_Networkhttp://www.paradoxian.org/hoi3wiki/Logistics_strategy