Terrain "Cover" Variable

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deducter
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Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:29 pm

Proposal: Terrain Cover Rating

Currently in the game engine, artillery and bombers do almost identical damage to a unit regardless of the terrain type it occupies. Historically, infantry entrenched in good defensive terrain like cities, hills, and forests almost are much harder to hit and suppress by bombardment. However, infantry caught in clear terrain or exposed terrain like swamps were very vulnerable to artillery.

One change that could make the system more realistic and interesting, and make infantry in rough terrain more resilient, is to introduce a new variable in the terrain.pzdat file. This variable would be called “cover,” and an entry would be an integer value that denotes the reduction in the rate of fire of an artillery or bomber attacking into that type of terrain. For instance, a forest might have a value of 7, meaning artillery fire in that hex only rolls 70% of its die, while a city might have a value of 5, meaning 50%, etc. Clear terrain and swamps would still take full fire from bombardment. This would apply for both offensive and defensive fire.

This system is intuitive, since a player can tell instantly by visuals how well his artillery fire may perform. Under such a system, combat in close terrain will need to rely much more on infantry rather than artillery.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by Anfield » Sun Mar 31, 2013 1:34 am

I like the idea, im all for anything that makes infantry more useful and a larger part of most peoples core units. Id like to see it appled to not just those attacks, even now Armor seems to roll over infantry to easy when in non-open terrain.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:33 am

Wouldn't such a system merely serve to duplicate entrenchment? Infantry already receives a minimum entrenchment level for being in rough terrain - wouldn't it be more intuitive to simply have entrenchment have a bigger effect at nullifying artillery suppression?

deducter
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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:51 am

boredatwork wrote:Wouldn't such a system merely serve to duplicate entrenchment? Infantry already receives a minimum entrenchment level for being in rough terrain - wouldn't it be more intuitive to simply have entrenchment have a bigger effect at nullifying artillery suppression?
No, because entrenchment is a non-constant unit property of a unit. Entrenchment can be worn down. Cover is an intrinsic property of the unit in a terrain that cannot be worn down.

I'm thinking specifically of examples like in Stalingrad, or at Monte Cassino, where infantry in close terrain negated a significant amount of artillery support. Chuikov ordered his men to attack the Germans and try to "hug" them as close as possible in part to negate German advantages in artillery and air power. I'd hardly qualify the counterattacking Russians as having "entrenchment." In game terms, defensive artillery suppression is now also reduced in close terrain. In the case of Cassino, artillery preparation artillery served only to make the German position even tougher, as the rubble turned out to be excellent defensive terrain (one could argue this is modeled more like destructible terrain, but such a feature seem to require an engine overhaul, whereas a cover system should not.).

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by ThvN » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:28 pm

I like this idea, I'm not 100% sure that the mechanism should involve a reduced RoF, but it is an interesting variable because it could be easily adjusted in small steps. A question, though:

Would every class of unit benefit from cover? Because your reasoning applies very well to how infantry works, but for other types it might not work well. What is good cover for one class (or type) of unit might not be for others. Say, transport units in a city hex would be more vulnerable to artillery because of debris and lack of mobility. But infantry could make use of basements and such (like in your Cassino example).

And speaking of historical accuracy, a forest was considered a bad type of cover against artillery for infantry in WW2, because any shells hitting the trees would often trigger an airburst, which was more effective vs. exposed personnel than a shell landing on the ground. This can be roughly observed: the bigger the crater, the more energy is wasted. A forest did provide good cover against other forms of attack, and was generally easy to fortify (entrench in). Even a swamp could give good protection against artillery, as a shell landing in mud (or thick snow) would be deeper when it exploded than if it had hit rock, if it exploded at all.

This is why the late-war US artillery was so effective, they used proximity fuses (codenamed 'VT fuse' at the time). If I remember they didn't use them in land warfare at first, fearing a dud might give the Germans a chance to reverse engineer one, they were really that effective.

And I would like to plug an idea of my own: the spotting system could use some work as well. I mention this because 'cover & concealment' are related concepts in military business, so your idea would go well together with some overhaul of spotting. And I'm very curious what you think of it, maybe some of my ideas can help improve this cover system as well, because I definately think your idea has merit.

viewtopic.php?f=121&t=41584#p391914

boredatwork
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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:08 pm

deducter wrote:
boredatwork wrote:Wouldn't such a system merely serve to duplicate entrenchment? Infantry already receives a minimum entrenchment level for being in rough terrain - wouldn't it be more intuitive to simply have entrenchment have a bigger effect at nullifying artillery suppression?
No, because entrenchment is a non-constant unit property of a unit. Entrenchment can be worn down. Cover is an intrinsic property of the unit in a terrain that cannot be worn down.
But base entrenchment level is an intrinsic characteristic of terrain (in the terrain.pzdat file) and defines the relative inherent value of a given terrain at providing cover/concealment in a virtually identical (albeit inverse) fashion to your proposal: Clear terrain having a value of 0, forests 2, cities 3, fortifications a value of 4. Why not just establish a relationship between that value and the type of artillery degradation you're proposing - say 10-20% loss of it's effectiveness per point of base entrenchment:

Your system:

Terrain Cover * 0.1 * artillery effectiveness = reduced artillery effectiveness

vs.

(100% - (Base Entrenchment * 15%)) * artillery effectiveness = reduced artillery effectiveness

Same result, one less variable. Unless you can think of a specific instance why the relation of Terrain Cover should be different than relation of Base Entrenchment between two different terrains.

If you establish a weighted scale with 0-4pts providing 0-50%(?) protection and 5-9 pts providing 51-75%(?) you could extend the same mechanic across the board: on defense a unit receives protection equal to the higher of it's entrenchment level OR the base entrenchment level of the terrain it occupies. On the attack an attacker receives protection from defensive support fire equal to the base entrenchment level of the terrain the defender occupies.
Last edited by boredatwork on Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:52 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:22 pm

ThvN wrote: And speaking of historical accuracy, a forest was considered a bad type of cover against artillery for infantry in WW2, because any shells hitting the trees would often trigger an airburst, which was more effective vs. exposed personnel than a shell landing on the ground.
But a forest would provide good concealment from detection and accurate spotting thus degrading artillery effectiveness regardless. In the absence of more involved spotting mechanics along the lines of your proposal, I think that some degree of degradation of artillery is appropriate given the abstraction level of the game.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by ThvN » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:49 pm

boredatwork, I think deducters proposal would not be the same as entrenchment, if I understood it correctly. For example, an attacking infantry unit would not use it's entrenchment value, so that value would be 0 if they attacked another unit. If artillery fired in defense of the unit the're attacking, it would be like it was out standing in the open. But if the the attacking infantry was allowed to use a 'cover' value, the entrenchment would still be zero but the attackers would be hurt less by the artillery bombardment. If they attacked from a city hex, it could make a big difference. But maybe I misunderstood deducters reasoning.

And thanks for the comment on my post, to be clear, if the spotting remains as it is now I would be in favour of reducing the effectiveness of artillery fire vs. units in forests. Perhaps even have a range penalty, where longer range bombardments are less effective to top it off. But I think deducters idea would be a good mechanism to implement along with my spotting/concealment idea, but even with my spotting system I would still think it would be logical that a forest should provide some cover, as infantry could easily dig in and move undetected until they were close to the frontline. My examples were more to correct the general notion that trees are a safe place to hide under when subject to incoming, wether it's arty or lightning :wink: .

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:13 pm

ThvN wrote:boredatwork, I think deducters proposal would not be the same as entrenchment, if I understood it correctly. For example, an attacking infantry unit would not use it's entrenchment value, so that value would be 0 if they attacked another unit. If artillery fired in defense of the unit the're attacking, it would be like it was out standing in the open. But if the the attacking infantry was allowed to use a 'cover' value, the entrenchment would still be zero but the attackers would be hurt less by the artillery bombardment. If they attacked from a city hex, it could make a big difference. But maybe I misunderstood deducters reasoning.
No I get that and I fundamentally agree with his proposal - the point I'm making is he wants to introduce an entirely new value (Terrain Cover Rating) for something that already exists.

Don't confuse two separate values:

There is the ***unit entrenchment level*** which is the variable level of actual entrenchment of a given unit at a given time including any digging in they've managed to achieve which he is referring to.

And there is ***Terrain Base Entrenchment*** which is the fixed inherent value of a given terrain type as laid out in the terrain data file at providing cover which I am referring to:

# Name Traits Initiative cap Base entrenchment
IDS_TRN_SEA 100 0
IDS_TRN_CLEAR 100 0
IDS_TRN_FOREST close,glow 2 2
IDS_TRN_THICK_FORESTclose,glow1 3
IDS_TRN_CITYclose,gndsup,railemb,glow 1 3


What I'm saying is if we already have in place fixed values that rate terrain, simply by virtue of being in them, as better or worse at providing cover/concealment why do we need to introduce a second set of values to accomplish the same purpose? There's no real need for another column for Terrain Cover that lists Sea 10, Clear 10, Forest 7, City 5 because it's just duplicating the exact same relationship that already exists.*

He's suggesting using his number as a % of artillery effectiveness - you can achieve the exact same result by inserting "10-(Terrain Base Entrenchment * ~1.5)" into whatever formula he proposes instead of having to add a value to every row in the file.



*Unless, within the abstract context of the game, you could make an argument for the improvement a given terrain type offers against direct fire not being *proportionally* related to the improvement it would offer against artillery fire in the way that HA and SA values are not directly related thus justifying two separate values.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:08 pm

I don't like the idea of repurposing an existing trait for a cover system, because a cover system surely would require additional coding and a mathematical formula to describe the reduction to damage. It would seem much clearer to simply introduce a new variable, which can then be modded independently from terrain base entrenchment in the terrain.pzdat file. Best of all, this new variable can be easily explained to players by adding a column to the library terrain file:

Image

This is as opposed to just reusing an existing variable in a new formula, which would be difficult to explain in a simple manner the difference between three different concepts with "entrenchment" in it.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 5:12 pm

ThvN wrote: And speaking of historical accuracy, a forest was considered a bad type of cover against artillery for infantry in WW2, because any shells hitting the trees would often trigger an airburst, which was more effective vs. exposed personnel than a shell landing on the ground. This can be roughly observed: the bigger the crater, the more energy is wasted. A forest did provide good cover against other forms of attack, and was generally easy to fortify (entrench in). Even a swamp could give good protection against artillery, as a shell landing in mud (or thick snow) would be deeper when it exploded than if it had hit rock, if it exploded at all.
I can't speak for the Western Front, since I'm not too knowledgeable about infantry tactics there, but from every account of the Eastern Front I've read, infantry (particularly Soviet) in forests are incredibly difficult to root out and almost always required bloody hand-to-hand fighting to defeat them. The main reason is that German advantages in firepower, like artillery, are much less effective. This is because it was impossible to figure out where the Soviets were hiding in these huge woods, and hence impossible to lay down good artillery preparation. The lack of spotting more than compensates for any sort of extra damage taken from a lucky hit.

As for bombers, they too weren't very effective against troops in forests. Dive bombers in particular were wasted flying missions against forces woods. They relied on accuracy to inflict damage, hence why they could devastate tanks/trucks in open terrain. The Germans resorted to moving their armor by night and hiding them, often in woods, by day to reduce the effectiveness of Allied air power in 1944. It can be argued that late war heavy bombers, like those that pounded German positions in preparation for Operation Cobra, were much more effective against troops in rough terrain. But that required overwhelming saturation bombardment (it'd be like if 5 bombers could hit a hex at once).

Cover will only apply for ranged units (artillery/bombers) for the purposes of a game like this. Regular combat (effectively melee in the game engine) takes place in the hex of the defender. Already the game correctly models close terrain engagements between infantry as being incredibly bloody.

PzC is an operational level game, and almost every game of this nature gives units in terrain like forests/hills/cities a reduction to take damage, generally for all units. Since this is game with straightforward and simple rules, I propose that all units can benefit from cover in the terrain they occupy, with the option to mod in a trait in the equipment file for a unit, called "nocover" such that the unit won't benefit from cover.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:21 pm

deducter wrote:I don't like the idea of repurposing an existing trait for a cover system, because a cover system surely would require additional coding and a mathematical formula to describe the reduction to damage. It would seem much clearer to simply introduce a new variable, which can then be modded independently from terrain base entrenchment in the terrain.pzdat file. Best of all, this new variable can be easily explained to players by adding a column to the library terrain file:


This is as opposed to just reusing an existing variable in a new formula, which would be difficult to explain in a simple manner the difference between three different concepts with "entrenchment" in it.
While sometimes adding traits could improve the game, at other times they're unnecessary complication.

The difference between soft attack and hard attack values for example give an appropriate nuance between the two target types.

On the flipside I could for example give each unit an Attack Strength (AS) against Infantry, an AS against Heavy Weapons, an AS against Cavalry, an AS against Paras, an AS against Guns, and AS against Trucks, etc and you would have the ability to mod fine distinctions until the cows come home. Would that (in the context of the abstract simplicity of PzC) really improve the game? How many of these values would differ greatly from the current Soft Attack value? Would it be clearer to the *average* user to see a wall situational of stats as opposed to a single "if I'm shooting at anything soft a higher value in this single stat will likely be better than a lower one" value?

Similarly with replacements there's no need to provide separate stats for replacement cost because, within the context of a simple game, simply directly relating their value as a % of the total cost is sufficient.



With cover, unless you can provide a compelling example otherwise, cover is cover. Both defense from direct fire, as well as protection from artillery rely on similar factors - the amount of concealment, the strength of obstacles, the density of terrain. Again given the simplicity of the game I don't see one type of terrain being better at providing a basic level of entrenchment than another while simultaneously being no better or even worse at protecting from artillery fire.

Just rename the base entrenchment rate "base terrain cover" and the *average* player would have no problem understanding that a higher number means a unit is less likely to suffer losses via any source while in this terrain. (close combat excepted)

IMO the importance of modding isn't the being able to set different values from the base entrenchment value, but rather being able to mod the scale the values and thus their specific impact in the various formula that make use of them.


Failing that, using your example you'll have high numbers reducing damage for entrenchment but low numbers reducing damage for artillery - you don't think that would be somewhat abstract for the average player to grasp? At the very least having both systems work in the same direction would make it easier for the average player to grasp that higher number = more cover = less damage in the same way that a unit's higher defense reduces casualties.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:51 pm

I prefer any cover system reducing ROF since it is the most direct method in the game engine to provide a flat, average damage reduction. Going from a ROF of 10 to a ROF of 8 reduces damage by 20% on average, for any unit. Adding defense values to a unit is a less linear method, furthermore, it would likely do little against high attack units like the Wurfrahmen but make units like the Wespe completely useless.

I certainly agree that it is more intuitive that higher numbers should provide better damage reduction. This is a better method of presentation, so base terrain cover = 5 means 50% reduction, or 50% ROF of attacking artillery, while base terrain cover = 3 means 30% reduction, or 70% ROF, etc. Mathematically the changes are minor.

Redesigning the existing "base entrenchment" value is fine, but there may be problems decoupling base entrenchment provided by terrain from the flat damage reduction. I consider it better to be able to change the variables independently, and I assume most players can understand the introduction of a new variable that provides a very clear, very simple damage reduction. Abilities or terrain that provides flat % damage reduction is extremely common in all modern strategy games and RPGs. The example of adding a whole host of unnecessary damage types, on the other hand, would be a negative feature creep, because introduces a lot more complication with little obvious benefit.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:50 am

Boredatwork is right: base entrenchment mechanics is supposed to model "cover" provided by the terrain. While implementation of "cover" would differ from what base entrenchment does, it would be a parallel concept nonetheless, and so not a clean way to extend the rules.

It might be more useful to rethink how entrenchment works in the game. Thus, it could provide 2x defense against air and ranged attacks, just like it provides 0.5x bonus against infantry. What units reduce entrenchment and how exactly they do that might be interesting as well. Entrenchment is PG/PzC is an underdeveloped concept. I would prefer to improve what we already have, than to introduce something new.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by ThvN » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:04 pm

Is there any chance the spotting system might get some attention as well somewhere in the future? I consider the current system also a bit 'underdeveloped', it does the job, but the recent changes (structures remain spotted, camo trait) made me think of how to improve the system, since it is still being changed here and there.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 2:00 pm

ThvN wrote:Is there any chance the spotting system might get some attention as well somewhere in the future? I consider the current system also a bit 'underdeveloped', it does the job, but the recent changes (structures remain spotted, camo trait) made me think of how to improve the system, since it is still being changed here and there.
Spotting system in this game works. It serves its purpose (sneaking a unit behind the line and doing much damage with it is very real, recon is an important aspect of playing), it is simple and intuitive, and it does not have any serious inherent problems. So, I don't see an immediate need to revisit it in THIS game. Doing this in another game would make much more sense, even simply to make gameplay more different from what we already have.

And another point. There have been so many suggestions regarding spotting (even in the recent thread), any discussion is not possible without first agreeing what suggestion exactly we consider. For example, "spotting levels and camo levels" idea is very interesting, but very hard to show well on the map. More advanced rules for calculation spotted zone do not suffer from this problem, but don't give such a drastic gameplay effect either. Etc.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:10 pm

Rudankort wrote: It might be more useful to rethink how entrenchment works in the game. Thus, it could provide 2x defense against air and ranged attacks, just like it provides 0.5x bonus against infantry. What units reduce entrenchment and how exactly they do that might be interesting as well. Entrenchment is PG/PzC is an underdeveloped concept. I would prefer to improve what we already have, than to introduce something new.
Units like Wurfrahmen would barely notice the slight increase in defensive power of extra entrenchment. Entrenchment is easily eroded, which still doesn't make logical sense for terrain. Most importantly, would do nothing to decrease the super effectiveness of defensive artillery fire in close terrain. Right now the king of close terrain isn't infantry; it's actually artillery.

This is why I think only a drastic solution is needed. I think what I'm proposing isn't some radical new system, but rather, should be fairly easy to implement and test.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:22 pm

deducter wrote: Units like Wurfrahmen would barely notice the slight increase in defensive power of extra entrenchment. Entrenchment is easily eroded, which still doesn't make logical sense for terrain.
For some terrain it does make sense, like cities and fortifications. For some it does not, but the whole game model of terrain is abstract (I'm not sure how artillery bombarding high mountains from a plain below would look). How fast entrenchment is eroded is exactly what I suggested to consider in my previous message.
deducter wrote:Most importantly, would do nothing to decrease the super effectiveness of defensive artillery fire in close terrain. Right now the king of close terrain isn't infantry; it's actually artillery.
Why is artillery super effective in close terrain specifically, and what problem exactly are you trying to solve?
deducter wrote: This is why I think only a drastic solution is needed. I think what I'm proposing isn't some radical new system, but rather, should be fairly easy to implement and test.
I know it is very easy to implement and test, I just hate parallel concepts in game design. Occam's Razor in action. :) If cover is introduced, base entrenchment must go away. Two columns of numbers in terrain table for essentially the same thing are bad. Basically, each new player must grasp two concepts instead of one, and this is redundant.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by deducter » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:40 pm

Rudankort wrote: Why is artillery super effective in close terrain specifically, and what problem exactly are you trying to solve?
To demonstrate this, I submit a number of common examples of combat. In these examples, all German units are at 400 exp and Soviet units at 300 exp.

Image

Image

So far so good, a Panther takes heavy damage vs infantry in close terrain. Infantry vs infantry is appropriately bloody for both sides.

Let's give the Germans a Wespe, the weakest German mobile artillery:
Image
Image

The results are completely in favor of the defenders. In the case of the Panther, the odds are nearly flipped. And in the case of infantry vs infantry, it's a mostly one-sided massacre of the Soviets.

Let's give the Germans a very good artillery now.
Image
Image

The defending unit becomes completely irrelevant at this point. I could garrison a 1-strength Panzer I in the city and the attack is worthless, since it is completely broken up by the defending artillery.

deducter wrote: Two columns of numbers in terrain table for essentially the same thing are bad. Basically, each new player must grasp two concepts instead of one, and this is redundant.
That's a very good point. However, entrenchment does serve another purpose in the game: surrender/retreat mechanics. If you completely change the entrenchment system, you'll also have to tweak surrender/retreat. Adding a new variable has the advantage of being an easily tweaked independent variable. But it does have the disadvantage of added complexity. Changing an existing variable is fine too, but I imagine it'd take quite a bit more work, and you'd have to carefully adjust all other values which depend upon this variable.

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Re: Terrain "Cover" Variable

Post by Zhivago » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:55 pm

Rudankort wrote:Boredatwork is right: base entrenchment mechanics is supposed to model "cover" provided by the terrain. While implementation of "cover" would differ from what base entrenchment does, it would be a parallel concept nonetheless, and so not a clean way to extend the rules.

It might be more useful to rethink how entrenchment works in the game. Thus, it could provide 2x defense against air and ranged attacks, just like it provides 0.5x bonus against infantry. What units reduce entrenchment and how exactly they do that might be interesting as well. Entrenchment is PG/PzC is an underdeveloped concept. I would prefer to improve what we already have, than to introduce something new.
I think some of these elements might be best incorporated in Panzer Corps 2. If you have an enemy entrenched in a city and start blasting away with artillery or bombing it with aircraft, you often times create an effect opposite than intended--the rubble of buildings creates greater camoflage and ultimately entrenchment for that unit. Perhaps the rate of suppression in a city hex should be reduced as opposed to the rate of suppression for a unit out in a clear field hex, regardless of initial entrenchment level?

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