Attrition

Attrition

So we’ve been waiting, me and the boys, standing still in this hellhole conflict for far too long. Five minutes in, and wouldn’t you know it? We’re right where we started: holding at the ready beside our barracks, decked out in full infantry gear and beautifully prepared to start taking some ground and blasting some filthy f*cking Nazis. Problem is, we ain’t got no orders.

No directions. No command from up above. Nobody authorizin’ us to go and secure that nice little hilltop, which is where we need to be to win this thing. That there hill’s a superior vantage over the enemy, plain to see. We could flush ‘em out and shoot ‘em down, those Jerry-wagglers! And up on that hill, there’s a flagpole to boot. We put up them flags, we win. I seen it all, and it’s simple as that.

Our Flagpole Jimmy, he loves raising him some flags. I don’t know, but that sumbitch will raise an American flag on every flagpole he finds, guaranteed. He got a billion flags stashed in that old satchel of his.

But Flagpole Jimmy ain’t put no flags up yet, because we got no orders.

Five minutes. No orders.

Off in the distance, tanks rumble through the streets. Explosions. We can hear the screams of our mortarmen. They’re running directly at the German machine guns. Been running at ‘em all day; getting cut down, dying, just like the mortarmen before them and the ones before them—disappearing when they leave too many bodies behind, of course. A line of kamikaze mortarmen, whole squads vanished into nothing. This ain’t the way wars are supposed to be.

“D’you think there’s some kind of plan up there?” says Expendable Rob. “Any strategy? How could they want this?” The mortarman massacre is getting to him, plain as gray day. He’s all nervous and twitchy, looking up at the sky, looking at nothin’.

“Shut your mouth,” I say, and I slap him fiercely. Expendable Rob sometimes tries a little too hard to be expendable. “You want to call attention to us? Want that? You wanna be the ones running at them guns, all suicide and no strategy?”

“Those ain’t the orders,” says ‘Ol Sarge. I don’t even think he’s a sergeant, but we call him ‘Ol Sarge, ‘cause he looks like one of them dogs, and ‘cause he’s the one what gets the orders. “Orders is to stay here and do nothing, unless some dirty bastards get the drop on us.” He glares at Expendable Rob. “Then we stand right here and shoot back, to the very last man.”

“Sir,” says Expendable Rob, and “Sir,” says Flagpole Jimmy.

Just then a new mortar squad comes out of the barracks, fresh as a newly-spawned daisy, all looking around and blinkin’ in the sunlight. Suddenly they stiffen and then off they run towards the town, probably to die.

“What’s your orders?” Expendable Rob yells after them, and one of the mortarmen, sprinting effortlessly with his mortar over his shoulder, yells back, “We runnin’ straight down to that city, right through the middle, and we stoppin’ to attack any Nazi that happens to step our way.”

And off he runs.

“Yep,” says Expandable Rob glumly. “Just like the last. Why don’t they set up a ways back so they can actually use the mortar?”

“Orders,” says Sarge.

“Orders doesn’t make sense,” I say. “Orders coming from somebody supposed to be a tank commander—look at them skills! All tank-related sh*t! And yet I haven’t seen one single tank. No tank factory, not even the teeny tiniest baby tank rolling out to the field.”

“Shut your mouth,” says ‘Ol Sarge, and he slaps me in the face. This is how we bond.

“Ow,” I say, rubbing my mouth. Like clockwork, we hear—once again—the mortar squad’s fearless rush cut short. Then a new sound: the ominous drone of approaching Nazi planes. Bombers, probably.

“I have it on good authority that I’ll be promoted to fighter pilot after this fight,” says ‘Ol Sarge, grinning congenially.

“That promotion don't make sense either,” I say.

“I’d like to be a sniper,” says Expendable Rob. “Pretty sure there’s a Nazi sniper out in one of them buildings, and he’s been poppin’ off heads all day. Seems like a sweet gig.”

“I ain’t never gonna be no Nazi sniper,” says Flagpole Jimmy, slapping Rob hard in the ear. “I’m gonna raise the American flag like I was meant to.”

I slap Flagpole Jimmy just ‘cause I ain’t slapped him yet today. It’s looking real likely that we’re gonna have a full-on slapping brouhaha, when a new rocket squad comes out of the barracks.

“Nice!” says Expendable Rob. “You all going after them flyers?”

“Naw,” says one of the rocketmen. “Orders are to head straight down into that town. And get this: Along the way we’re attacking any and all Nazis we see, regardless of how inappropriate they are as rocket targets!”

And away races that doomed squad.

“Jerry sniper,” Rob calls after, and I yell, “Have fun!”

But they aren’t going to have any fun, because that sniper is going to blow off their faces before they can blow up his building. Plus, you know, the ravenous machine guns. It's simple combat logistics.

Just then, “Orders!” roars ‘Ol Sarge, and he’s off and running after the rocketmen. We chase after: finally useful, newly terrified.

“What orders?” says Flagpole Jimmy. “We gonna take that hill? Put up some flags, maybe?”

“Can we flank those f*cking guns?” says Expendable Rob. “I’ll go first.”

“Nope,” says Sarge, stomping hard. “Our mission is an all-out assault. We run straight through that town, engaging any and all German opposition along the way.”

“Great,” I say, but this is surly sarcasm—our suicide orders are not great. This is a loser war, fought by some great imbecile handing out a never-ending stream of orders to feed the meat grinder, with no indication that success is viable or even a concern whatsoever. And we, the victims of attrition, jogging to our deaths.

Unless ...

The town’s gettin' closer.

Unless ...

The rocket squad goes down up ahead.

Unless this has all been some crazy plan to expend Nazi ammunition, to waste away their bullets on do-nothings so the real soldiers—me and the infantry boys—can come in and mop up.

Yes! It all makes sense now! Them other fools were just the opening act!

Brilliant.

And I run straight into the pop-pop of sniper fire and the clatter of machine guns, just like orders says.

Comments

Heh, that's awesome. I'm an A mover myself.

And I have Drowning Pool stuck in my head.

My first born will be named Flagpole Jimmy. If she's a girl, well... sucks to be her.

burntham77 wrote:

My first born will be named Flagpole Jimmy. If she's a girl, well... sucks to be her.

I have some Starcraft Zealots and Void Rays that are probably in a support group somewhere in the distant future having basically the same conversation .. those insubordinate bastards!

Forgive my ignorance, but in which game universe is this set? I have a hankering to order some sprites to their deaths.

Ah, I miss Close Combat, where your troops would refuse stupid orders after a while. "Wait, we're pinned down and you want us to charge through that field and assault that strong point with our pistols? Yea, we'll get right on that. Soon. Honest. Just after we finish counting these ants we've found because we were down here on the ground because of that DAMN TANK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD."

Happy Dave wrote:

Forgive my ignorance, but in which game universe is this set? I have a hankering to order some sprites to their deaths.

I'd guess Company of Heroes, based on the screenshot (and units and descriptions).

Wow, you just described how I imagine my soldiers feel in Company of Heroes.

burntham77 wrote:

My first born will be named Flagpole Jimmy. If she's a girl, well... sucks to be her.

As long as the second is named Expendable Rob, I see no fault in this line of thinking.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Happy Dave wrote:

Forgive my ignorance, but in which game universe is this set? I have a hankering to order some sprites to their deaths.

I'd guess Company of Heroes, based on the screenshot (and units and descriptions).

Not that it really matters. Sending sprites to their futile doom is pretty universal in the RTS genre.

Not just RTS. I always imagine a cloud of Koopas, Marios, and turtle shells floating under my TV.

-Charging known mine fields: 400 reqs.
-Sending machine gun teams against flak tanks: 800 reqs.
-Dropping paratroopers into that one spot where the enemy bunkers have overlapping killzones for, like, the millionth time: 1200 reqs.

Complete, blind obedience? Priceless.

I'm well familiar with this situation. Under my command, Company of Heroes rapidly becomes Company of Suicidal Retards.

merzy wrote:

Ah, I miss Close Combat, where your troops would refuse stupid orders after a while.

Hey, that's cool. I'd been wondering whether there might be an RTS game with 'intelligent desertion' one day.

Like an 'as if it isn't bad enough that your entire main force was mowed down in an ambush, now 1/5 of all the survivors are escaping off the edge of the map' kind of thing. With the option to furiously order the remaining soldiers under your command to open fire on the deserters, of course. Because you're just that bad of a general.

Brilliant piece!

I've given a good number of orders myself over the years. Good, loyal men (and women named Tanya) followed them to victory. Well, maybe not victory for them, but for some of those that came after them.

The most insane was Cossacks: European Wars, where you could literally create endless congo lines of troops marching out of barracks (imagine the Artificial Intelligence-level speeds of Rise of Nations) that would fall over just as quickly as they were produced. Cannons were nasty things vs fleshy opponents.

Man I need to play some CoH. Got it super cheap the last steam sale but haven't sat down to enjoy it yet.

Time to fire up Age of Empires 3...

Clemenstation wrote:
merzy wrote:

Ah, I miss Close Combat, where your troops would refuse stupid orders after a while.

Hey, that's cool. I'd been wondering whether there might be an RTS game with 'intelligent desertion' one day.

I believe Close Combat billed it as "morale." You've got to be mighty "brave" to charge an entrenched machine gun.

wordsmythe wrote:
Clemenstation wrote:
merzy wrote:

Ah, I miss Close Combat, where your troops would refuse stupid orders after a while.

Hey, that's cool. I'd been wondering whether there might be an RTS game with 'intelligent desertion' one day.

I believe Close Combat billed it as "morale." You've got to be mighty "brave" to charge an entrenched machine gun.

Back in the day, Sid Meier's Gettysburg had a 'break under cannon fire' mechanic - I was always cursing my lily-livered troops for not being man enough to take six hours of shelling.

Ha. I believe I once developed the endless dog rush stream attack against a machine gun position in Red Alert (2?)--much to the horror of my roommate at the time. Thank you, rally points.

And also, all the Total War games have morale and fleeing troops. I'm not sure if you can then order your own men to fire on them in a fit of truly egotistic ineptitude though.

Happy Dave wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Clemenstation wrote:
merzy wrote:

Ah, I miss Close Combat, where your troops would refuse stupid orders after a while.

Hey, that's cool. I'd been wondering whether there might be an RTS game with 'intelligent desertion' one day.

I believe Close Combat billed it as "morale." You've got to be mighty "brave" to charge an entrenched machine gun.

Back in the day, Sid Meier's Gettysburg had a 'break under cannon fire' mechanic - I was always cursing my lily-livered troops for not being man enough to take six hours of shelling.

Arronius wrote:

Ha. I believe I once developed the endless dog rush stream attack against a machine gun position in Red Alert (2?)--much to the horror of my roommate at the time. Thank you, rally points.

And also, all the Total War games have morale and fleeing troops. I'm not sure if you can then order your own men to fire on them in a fit of truly egotistic ineptitude though.

Variations on morale and discipline checks are a fairly common mechanic in tabletop war games. Unfortunately, there isn't generally a big enough market for mainstream gamers to even hear about when some of the great old systems get computerized.

Goddamn. Need to play some CoH again. Will set something up for Friday night.

Stele wrote:

Man I need to play some CoH. Got it super cheap the last steam sale but haven't sat down to enjoy it yet. :(

If you get in on the COH Online beta, you get the CoH base game included for free.

I'm enjoying CoH. Occasionally there's an obscure "one right way" for campaign missions (and it's usually due to developers' insistence on making it a base-building game), but it's still hooking me.