Hans and Carl take over the Nakatomi Plaza

This blog is to discuss game designs that I've been working on: insight, information, and updates. I've been the research expert (no, seriously, it says so in the rulebooks) for Dean Essig for The Gamers' line of products (Battalion Combat Series, Line of Battle, Standard Combat Series, Tactical Combat Series, and at times Operational Combat Series). Hans Kishel will chime in from time to time when he's free to discuss his designs (he's the big bad designer for OCS's The Blitzkrieg Legend and Smolensk: Barbarossa Derailed. Much like the villains in Die Hard, Hans is the brains and Carl is the muscle. Dean I guess would be John McClane. Enjoy and let's keep it light and civil... until we need hostages...

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [39]

Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Wannabe Polyglot: Not Limiting Myself to My Mother Tongue

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
I took French in High School, and I learned it very poorly. Thankfully, I was exempt from taking the required foreign language courses in college. I can barely speak the dialect of my parents. I simply have a hard time learning a second language.

Yet I do not and cannot limit my research to English. I'm very dismayed on reading game bibliographies about foreign topics where only English sources are listed. How limiting.

The breadth of topics that I've researched for games cover a wide variety of non-English places on this earth and their respective languages. Besides the plethora of American/Commonwealth vs. Germans games in WWII, there's:

Soviet (Russian) - BCS PLS
Hungary (Hungarian) - BCS PLS
Arabs (Arabic) - BCS VoT
Israel (Hebrew) - BCS VoT
Italy (Italian) - BCS BC, BCS BbF
France (French) - Arracourt, BCS France 1940
Argentina (Spanish) - TCS Goose Green

Plus the slew of nations/languages when I was researching Iron Curtain in addition to the above like Dutch, Polish, Czech, and Danish. Hell, there's even Japanese when I was exploring Khalkin Gol for BCS.

This isn't to say that I have a library full of Hungarian, Hebrew, or Dutch books. Far from it. And there's some good sources available in English on the topics I've worked on like Hungarian author Norbert Számvéber.

But I certainly don't limit my research to just finding books in English. Particularly for topics where there's few books written or translated into my limited mother tongue or finding more obscure minutiae that I need to dig into.

I can struggle through reading Romance and Germanic Languages if given the need or patience. Usually it's picking up key words, like a unit designation, weapon, or location, and then translating the full sentence of paragraph to see if its relevant for my research needs.

Sounds painful, doesn't it?

Well, that's if there's only a physical copy of a foreign language book. The best example of this are the various sources I'm using to research the BCS France 1940 design. There are no English translations or eBooks where I can copy and paste text into Google Translate.

External image
External image


High School French... don't fail me now!

While there's books in English on the Battle for France like Horne's To Lose a Battle or Freiser's The Blitzkrieg Legend (itself translated from German), the information in the books above as well as other books and documents in French cover so many gaps left by the those in English.

Despite my limited ability to read French or German, reading Latin alphabet-based words is hell of a lot easier than other languages such as those using Cyrillic, Hebrew, or Arabic alphabets.

I've been able to do letter-by-letter mapping to English alphabet and translate a few words at a time. I've been able to do this with Russian, remembering things like "C" is an S and "H" is an N. So you can't fool me with "CV-76" which are SU-76s.

External image


I've discussed this in Learning Hebrew The Hard Way: IDF Code Names in the Yom Kippur War and Finding the not-so-secret base: IDF Bases, translations, and OCD (Shhhhhh!) with Hebrew. But it'd be impossible to translate whole reports and books this way. I don't have the time and even offering someone who can read Hebrew, Russian, or Arabic would be painstaking for them as well as time consuming. Much of the information I need is select specific information, so the cost-benefit analysis of doing a full translation but getting only portions of it is not worth it.

I don't have any physical books in Hebrew, but I was able to find a copy of a Yom Kippur War memoir in the New York Public Library written by Amnon Reshef, whose brigade was the most involved on the Sinai Front from the start of the war to the end. The only way I could "read" this book was to do it Playboy style... skip the text and look at the pictures maps.

External image


I have not even ventured at all into learning the Arabic alphabet but when I visited Egypt, I got to remember at least the numbers.

External image


Of course, if available, electronic/online sources are the best as they can be translated easily for me via automatic translators. This has helped immensely with Arabic and Hebrew sources online. While the translations can often be off or odd, it is still very useful. This usefulness is coupled with the expansion of the internet and the amount of information that is available in forms such as professional articles, unit tribute sites, and even social media where veterans will post their experiences on places like Facebook groups.

One can be wary on the reliability of online sources, but I don't see how this is any different than authors gathering source material to author their books. Interviews are subject to individual bias whether conducted in-person or written online. It's still up to the researcher to determine its trustworthiness and usefulness within the context of where the information is to be applied.

Likewise, there's many who shun eBooks and prefer the physical books for many different reasons. They may just like the feel for paper between their fingers. They may find reading on a blue light screen too harsh on their eyes (this is certainly true and exasperated given the phone addiction the majority of us face these days). Some like the collection aspect of physical books to build up their library. For my purposes, I love my physical books but for research purposes, electronic books and other sources are incredibly useful. This is obvious from the need to translate foreign languages but also in the speed to search for specific things that a traditional back of the book index cannot replicate. For my research needs, electronic is efficient and vital.

I will note that phone translator apps do have the ability to do real-time translations using your camera. But it's tremendously tedious and the translations (and formatting) is... weird. I would and could not read a whole book this way.

From gallery of calvinboy24


What prompted me to write this blog post was a question that I was trying to answer for TCS Goose Green. I was trying to find the number of artillery shells available to the Argentine forces in the Battle. The primary source, Mark Adkin's Goose Green: A Battle is Fought to be Won, is incredibly detailed but had failed to note how many shells the Argentines had. He lists the number available to the British (960) which is useful in calculating the number of fires available to the British player.

While aware of the Argentine commander's memoir, in the 20 years since designing the game, I had never felt the need to read it. Yet last night I went through Piaggi's book (in Spanish of course) and searched for "proyectiles". I not only found the number of shells the Argentines had (2500) but also that he notes at the time of surrender that he had 394 shells remaining, good for 2 hours of fire for his 105mm howitzers. These figures help corroborate the number of fires needed for the game. I would not have gotten this information had I limited myself to just English sources.

External image


The overall theme is that sourcing research material in a single language (the researcher's primary language) is limiting. It goes to the whole secondary and tertiary aspect of sourcing research material. If the guy (in English) who reads another guy's source (not in English) and doesn't include a tidbit that this guy (me) needs, then I'm already at a disadvantage in the amount of information that's available out there.

External image
Twitter Facebook
3 Comments
Thu Jan 20, 2022 3:07 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

Who or what is Sorrel?

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
Which one of these Sorrel's will feature prominently in LOB's No Turning Back?

A) A small edible green plant that can be used in salads.

External image


B) A horse that has a reddish coat color

External image


C) A field-grade officer under Longstreet

External image


Well, if is A) or B), those are some damn impressive plants or animals.

Moxley Sorrel was Longstreet's Chief of Staff and had been in Longstreet's staff since 1861. We should remember him from the movie Gettysburg as the fresh-faced aide to Tom Berenger's character (and not the one offering mounds and mounds of flapjacks and bacon - that was Lee's aide Taylor and apparently part-time breakfast short order cook).

External image


In the movie he didn't feature prominently, mostly being a speaking role and at the side of the main characters, but it's nice to see a non-Lee or Longstreet character being portrayed on screen.

So why am I giving him a lot of attention?

Well, the real guy, while remaining mostly behind the scenes in history, would make a name for himself in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Sorrel arrived on the battlefield in the early morning of the second day of battle when Longstreet's timely arrival saved Lee's right flank. The counterattack stopped Hancock's devastating attack that had drove A.P. Hill's Corps into a rout. Both sides were spent by 9am while resting and recovering in the woods.

An unfinished railroad lay parallel to the Orange Plank Road, the main avenue of advance. It was discovered by the Confederates and allowed for a path to the Union's flank. Seizing the opportunity, Longstreet ordered Sorrel to command an ad hoc division to use the railroad and fall on the left flank of the Union position.

Sorrel commanded four brigades each from a different division from two corps:

Longstreet's Corps:
- G.T. Anderson's Brigade from Field's Division
- Wofford's Brigade from Kershaw's Division

Hill's Corps:
- Mahone's Brigade from Anderson's Division
- Stone's Brigade from Heth's Division

Mind you, Sorrel was a Lieutenant Colonel with no field command experience. Under his command were officers ranked higher than him and veteran troops. Yet Sorrel wasn't some upstart teacher's pet. He was described as 'a capable and “particularly gallant officer.”' Also, given his constant presence alongside Longstreet from the inception of the Army of the Potomac, it must be understood that he was a known quality and competent.

He positioned himself in front of Mahone's troops and urged the Virginians to follow him through the woods. They did along with the other brigades and fell on the flank collapsing the Union forces south of the Orange Plank Road.

External image


If anything, Sorrel's success on reaching the road led to Longstreet's wounding by friendly fire. Following the successful maneuver, Longstreet rode out down the Orange Plank Road with Jenkins, a brigade commander, other command officers and met up with Sorrel, happy with the success of the attack. Seeing movement along the road that had been previously occupied by the Union as well as possible confusion over the darker gray uniforms of Jenkin's brigade, they fired on Longstreet's party, killing Jenkins and wounding Longstreet.

Following the Wilderness in October 1864, Sorrel would receive his own brigade under, of all people, Mahone. He would rise to Brigadier General and wounded twice.

In No Turning Back, Sorrel is present and will need rules for his special role. Initial rules were written but they needed to be revised as he was being used as a glorified Trimble from Last Chance for Victory. He wasn't a spare division commander with better command and morale ratings. He had a unique role, able to command multiple brigades from different divisions and corps on the fly, and execute his orders well. But he shouldn't be used over and over again in the battle so limiting his usage was needed. He is justifiably a 4-4, a standout officer given a special mission and brigades whose officers outranked him and had more command experience. His command all just ensured security for Lee's right flank and gave an opportunity for Lee to potentially win the battle. In the end, it didn't, given a failed late afternoon attack on Union breastworks along a Brock Road, but these actions showed the back and forth nature of the Battle of the Wilderness where both sides had an opportunity to win.

I haven't mentioned No Turning Back in a while, but it's playtesting is continuing. It's a tricky battle to represent in game form, but the strides made so far are looking to pay off. The fact that were fussing over Sorrel rules means things like getting lost in the Wilderness are settling down... I'm hopeful but not thinking we'll be done all that soon.
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Wed Jan 19, 2022 12:47 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
6.00
 tip
 Hide

The Wumors Were Twue!!! Ardennes II for SCS

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
Picture a bag with a cat emerging, via Lee Forester from CSW:

"Since we've been talking about Ardennes {discussing SCS Ardennes}, I'm sure you'll all be happy to hear that Dean is working on Ardennes II. Not a ton of details are available, but I can say:

- It makes full use of Carl’s fantastic data base of OOB information
- Will be base on detailed maps used to make LB
- Two maps
- Number of countersheets not yet determined
- Much more streamlined game specific rules than the original game.

I'm looking forward to it"


Yup. I've dropped mentions about Ardennes II in some prior posts (like here, and here, here, here, and here), but those were only brief mentions that Dean was looking into doing one.

The number of countersheets looks to be two total, but don't hold that to me.

Out of the blue, Dean has a very rough first draft of game specific rules. I dusted off a list of map changes that I had wanted him to do back in December 2018, and voila... progress again on Ardennes II. As Dean even puts it, "In wargaming, nothing really dies… it was just asleep."

Here's the current map (still being worked over) and lo-res for you folks who can't get enough of teasers:

From gallery of calvinboy24
Twitter Facebook
9 Comments
Thu Jan 13, 2022 7:41 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
26 
 Thumb up
11.25
 tip
 Hide

The Rabbithole of Research: Finding Information Without Getting Your Feet Wet

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
Happy New Year, everyone. No predictions, expectations, or resolutions for 2022. That is so 2020 and we know what happened when we all had positive resolutions back then that all went to shite. But hey, in that time I've had two of my games published (Iron Curtain and Panzers Last Stand) and have two more games in the wings (Arracourt ought to be published this year and Valley of Tears is in playtesting).

As we set off into this new year, I'll be continuing to support Valley of Tears. As much as I'm the designer, it's in the capable hands of Dean to develop and with the crop of dedicated playtesters trying to break the thing. While a designer typically has his hands dirty in playtesting, my schedule and non-gaming commitments doesn't allow me to join the Saturday morning live playtest sessions. I get the after-action reports and the set of findings from Dean and provide my input and direction as needed. There's nothing to "design" other than to make sure that the overall path of the game is going in the path I wanted it. This is where Dean's experience and skill play's a big part as much of it is resolved in changing/fixing the game specific rules based on the playtesting effort and with few modifications or disagreements from me. I have a great working relationship with Dean (he may disagree ) and it helps as resolution needs to be amicable and understood by both sides. Being stubborn never helps.

With Valley of Tears moving along, this has allowed me do some work on the France 1940 BCS design. I've had this design in my head for some time, and it's started and stopped as other design projects took to the fore. As much as my fixation is with late-WWII, the battle for France and the Low Countries is fascinating. The more I dig into the subject, the more and more I find the situation and events something that I want to put into a game. Not to sound smug, but the fascinating aspect are the reason why I want to showcase the battle to you all. Hell, I can say the same for all the games thus far in the BCS series. There's something unique and really fascinating about all the situations depicted and will be depicted (with Arracourt and Valley of Tears) that it is my wish that others discover it as well.

But I digress.

I've had an opportunity to complete the game map, two maps aligned along the short side to span the entire length of the Meuse River with Stonne in the south all the way north to include the Belgian Plain where Hannut and Gembloux were fought. In a summer blog post, I noted that I was slowly drawing all the woods in the Ardennes needed for the map. Damn Happy Little Trees...

Aside from the eons of trees, rolling, and slope terrain that I had to draw in, I came across a research issue...

What do Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and Case Yellow all have in common?

They all take place in Northwest Europe? Well, sure, but guess again.

They all have too many games on the subject so why bother with another? Well, jury is still out if there's too many games on France 1940 and I'll easily keep buying games on the other two topics (as should all of you!) if they are worthy enough.

The common bond is that all three were highly dependent on river crossings where bridges become a key factor to achieving victory for the offensive side.

I've noted how researching bridges themselves can be tricky and how simply looking at a period map does not necessarily show if there's a line drawn across a river hexside in The Bridge to Nowhere: Wargame map accuracy. I'm still dismayed that Bulge games depict bridges over the Meuse that were blown before the battle started. Any magical German victory crossing over one of the bridge locations where they were in reality no there will be extremely hard to justify as being "historically accurate". And let's remember the Germans did not have sufficient bridging equipment to span the length of the Meuse so capturing an existing bridge was critical.

The Germans were a little more prepared when they first attempted to jump the Meuse River in 1940. They had pontoon bridges to allow their tanks and other vehicles to cross, but the initial jump across the river was up to the Schützen Infantry (before they were renamed Panzergrenadiers). Still, identification of the bridges over the Meuse was important because the French Cavalry needed to retreat over them before they were blown to prevent the Germans from crossing.

One such bridge was one at Bouvignes, just north of the city of Dinant. This was in the area that Rommel's 7th Armored Division would attempt to cross. Looking at the period AMS maps, it was difficult to discern if there was a bridge there and there is no bridge in the village today. I didn't draw one on the map but when I was going through Jean Paul Pallud's Blitzkrieg in the West: Then and Now, it noted that the bridge there was blown.

External image


More interesting, there was a photo of the destroyed bridge at Bouvignes taken by Rommel himself.

External image


But where the hell is that bridge so I can put it on the game map? Some bridges do not span into the downtown location so just drawing a line into the Point of Interest of Bouvignes may not be accurate. More importantly, it's not which hex it goes into but which river hexside it crosses.

Pallud's book notes in the image caption of the contemporary comparative image taken before book was published in 1991, "The bridge was never rebuilt - the only trace remaining today being part of the westernmost abutment."

A clue!

But how helpful? How would I find the westernmost abutment remnant of this destroyed bridge? Using Google Maps and "walking" along the western bank using Street View didn't reveal anything. There may have very well been urban development in the 30 years since Pallud's book came out.

What then?

A regular google search just for references to the bridge itself at Bouvignes didn't have too many hits. But looking at the image search results showed the intact bridge taken in 1914. What's more important than the bridge itself are what's behind the bridge. Namely, the church to the right and the castle remnants in the upper right corner.

External image


These points of interest I can find on Google Maps.

Using Street View again to "walk" now on the eastern bank of the Meuse, I can closely match the 1914 photo.

From gallery of calvinboy24


I circled in red the church and castle and in yellow circled the building with the unique dormers in the roof. Looking from the overhead, I denote in green where the bridge would have been. It makes sense as the meandering Rue de Camille Henry off the N948 meets the N92 Boulevard Père Pire there.

From gallery of calvinboy24


Problem solved for the Bouvignes bridge. But as noted, it was blown as were many of the bridges over the Meuse before the Germans could capture them. Many of the crossings had to be done Robert Redford style, a la assault boat crossing. In the Dinant area, they failed, but enterprising infantry were able to successfully cross and establish bridgeheads... with dry feet.

But how if the bridges were blown?

Note in the overhead image above what appears to be a bridge at the bottom. This is a weir, a small dam across the river to help regulate the water flow. It also had a walkway for pedestrians to walk across. The Germans were able to use the one at Dinant (the one pictured) and one north at Houx. As these were unique and allowed infantry to facilitate crossing aside from a default "All" Movement Point cost (denoting boat crossing), identifying the weirs with walkways is likewise important at the BCS scale (but otherwise ignored in higher-scale games).

So I had to scour the entire length of the Meuse River and physically spot them. Not all weir had walkways so I had to make sure I only identified and drew the ones that infantry could use.

External image


Finally, as I was looking at the recent game released in World at War magazine, Hannut: France 1940, I noted an omission from the map. The fortified defenses around Namur, the Position fortifiée de Namur (PFN) is missing. While the game map does not include Namur itself, the northern defense zone (subsectors IV, V, V bis, VI, VI bis) factored prominently in the fighting at Hannut and Gembloux. The perimeter were formidable anti-tank ditches centered around forts studded with artillery and machine guns. Within the fortified position were two Belgian divisions, the 2nd Ardennes Jager Division and 8th Infantry Division, were stationed. The fortifications were imposing enough that they were not directly attacked until 16 May when a German corps dedicated with taking out the fort started besieging it. So while directly a non-factor within the scope of a game on Hannut and Gembloux, it was enough of an indirect factor that a small portion of the map would be unable to be traversed through and influenced by the fort's guns as the Germans pass by it.

External image


And let's not even get into the successive Belgian Gate anti-tank defense line that ran north to south that had to be passed though.

External image


OCD? Anal Retentive? Yes! But if these things were important in the events that led to the defeat of France in 1940, then it is important to know and get these details right if it is ever to be held accountable to be "historically accurate".

And since you've all been so good, here's a teaser of the map with the initial French set up. Just note that the design is still in its infancy and there's still months to years left of work to be done.

From gallery of calvinboy24
Twitter Facebook
12 Comments
Wed Jan 5, 2022 3:40 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
22 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

Christmas Wish Come True: The Perfect Battle

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
A few weeks back a new person joined my team at work. She brings a lot of experience and has been working in the company for a number of years and transferred over to my team. In a knowledge sharing one on one meeting, I asked what she expected and her approach to delivering output. Her reply:

External image


She wasn't being facetious and I appreciated her desire to wanting the best. Yet I had to temper expectations mostly because "perfection" is subjective. Just like "historical accuracy".

Each of us has different ideas, desires, and expectations from wargames. This can cover a wide gamut of facets - from game mechanics (a 25 step sequence to determine combat DRMs, love it!), physical component presentation (ooh, purty colors and thick counters!), or recreating a historical event (can TF Hogan be encircled? Haven't heard of that event? Then the game is broken).

There is no perfect wargame. Nothing can cover 100% of the ideals of 100% of the players. Moving past game-mechanic expectations as the correlation between rolling a dice against a table to what the thing actually represents is hard to define as a perfect simulation, let's look at another subjective perfection argument.

What is the perfect battle to represent in a wargame?

The obvious answer is that there isn't one. As much as we know games on the Battle of the Bulge, Waterloo, and Gettysburg are perpetually popular, there's naysayers that say these battles aren't ideal (aside from the trite argument).

The Battle of the Bulge was one-sided - Germans are strong and on the offensive and the Americans can only defend.

Waterloo was just a series of frontal bashes against a well-defended enemy.

Gettysburg was gimped because Lee was slow/off his game.

None of these reasons are wholistically true and are just generalizations. The Bulge was a back-and-forth battle, with the Allies counterattacking on 22 Dec 1944 and even their defense was dynamic with St. Vith being an excellent example of armor in defense. Waterloo was a race against the clock with the Prussian approaching and there were many attack and counterattacks with feints (Hougoumont) and need for combined arms deployment (Inf/Cav/Arty). Gettysburg was likely the ultimate meeting engagement battle. Many things could have been done different and Lee wasn't entirely off his game (stopping short of the blame game to Longstreet, Ewell, and Hill).

And of course, these battles are in the list of "greatest battles" in the history of the world - the Bulge was the largest battle fought by the American Army and Germany's real last attempt to defeat the Western Allies; Waterloo was Napoleon's last grasp at staying in power; Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the Confederacy.

Perfect? Sure, they're all fun to play.

What about other battles?

It depends on the many factors.

Personally, the topic has to strike the right balance of relative familiarity and enough options for both players. Bulge, Waterloo, and Gettysburg offer that. Battles like the siege of Leningrad or Fredericksburg don't offer that (sorry, I couldn't think of a boring Napoleonic battle).

External image


The siege of Leningrad, to my knowledge, didn't offer many maneuvering battles once the city was surrounded. Portraying a 2.5 year battle where the lines were static doesn't sound fun for either side. Even if there was a penetration attempt by the Axis into Leningrad, what is the Soviet player doing? This applies to Fredericksburg as well. Aside from some reinforcements moving up for the Confederates, the Southern player is just rolling defensive fire. Even the Union player is just moving his forces forward in a straight line.

But of course there's been games on Leningrad and Fredericksburg (not many but there are). Here's where the game mechanic or game system comes back into play. From an higher tactical to operational perspective, Leningrad and Fredericksburg are boring situations. Static battles. Yet change the scale and you might, might, have something.

Convert Leningrad to Stalingrad for a second and there's been voices suggesting that BCS be used for Stalingrad. Epic battle, both sides slugging it out and almost a near-run thing. But at a battalion scale, it's kinda boring. Fighting one hex at a time over a long number of turns will get dull in BCS. Hans did try, changing the scale to 333 meters per hex to help get a more granular feel, but the design still had issues. Mind you, this was before the Urban Warfare rules introduced into the series because of Budapest in
Panzers Last Stand. Even so, having an entire battle on the urban battle in Stalingrad flipping control markers turn after turn isn't fun. Historical yes, but there has to be a fun aspect to it. But this is within the context of the scale represented by BCS. Stalingrad works at squad (Red Barricades) to company (Streets of Stalingrad) because it shows a variety of arms (BCS is just infantry and armor with artillery barrages) with infantry, mortars, infantry guns, sappers, pill boxes, etc. There's more "stuff" to play around with and the smaller map scales add more action with fighting for individual types of buildings or crossing streets or blocks rather than a hex of urban terrain repeated over and over across the map. I've applied the same argument to Pacific Island battles for BCS, where they are "bug hunts". Rooting out static entrenched enemy. What's the Japanese player to do at the battalion level? Stay in Prepared Defense? I'm not adverse to the topic themselves, I just don't see the viability of the topic with respect to BCS.

This argument of type of static battle applies to another boogieman topic - WWI. Mid-war battles like the Somme and Verdun were epic, instilled in the annals of British and French military history. Yet they were static bloodbaths with little to no gain. Games can be designed on the battles, but they'd have to show enough tactical nuance to make it worthwhile for both sides. I figure the game would have to give a sense that "just one more push and I'll win" or at least save face.

On the other side of well-known battles are lesser-known battles that some pine for. The Battle of the Scheldt, a "Forgotten Battle" per the title of the recent movie (for the record, I didn't like the movie), has been mentioned as a potential topic for BCS.

External image


Looking at the map and you see a lot of movement lines. The problem is that the lines are all Commonwealth. And if we are believe the Forgotten Battle movie, a mad desperate attempt to breakout (complete with running straightforward against MG42s). What are the Germans doing? Defending with infantry formations (albeit with a surprisingly good bodenständige division in the 64. Infanterie Division). It's a scale issue again. At battalion scale, I can't see the situation being interesting for both sides. ASL scenario on the Scheldt? Thumbs up. Operational level representation of the battle like in Beyond the Rhine? Two thumbs up.

I get that battles like the Scheldt were important (and apparently forgotten) given its importance with opening up Antwerp, but the segmented battle within the context of the larger is lost. The same applies to some wondering why Operation Torch isn't better represented in games. The operation was America's entry in the west, started the topple of the Vichy government, and led to the big battle in Tunisia that led to the destruction of the DAK. But the landings were anti-climatic. Aside from some small actions between the Allies and Vichy forces, there was not grand sweeping or bitter fight. It then proceeded to a race to Tunisia. Why portray it?

These are, of course, all my opinion. And like they say, just like *ssholes, everyone's got one. But I weigh these things when trying to come up with design topics. Some topics sound interesting, but may not pan out. Don't worry, there's plenty of "perfect" battles that can be portrayed.

The saddest thing of all this is that I just realized that EXACTLY a year ago today, I discussed this topic. Is this the Ghost Division of Christmas Past haunting me? Bah fucking humbug.

Can we at least agree that the perfect Christmas movie is Die Hard?

External image
Twitter Facebook
14 Comments
Tue Dec 21, 2021 7:18 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
23 
 Thumb up
6.00
 tip
 Hide

Bulging with Expectations: Expecting or Learning from Games

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
As we turn the corner for 2021 and celebrate an annual tradition, not Christmas but rather the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, I've been reflecting on what we get out from our wargames.

The Battle of the Bulge as a wargame theme is both celebrated or vilified. Celebrated for its epic fight with potential dramatic payoff or vilified for its trite coverage in dozens upon dozens of games that have been published and continue to be published.

To those who pull out a Bulge game every December 16th, there's likely a familiar story in their head: outnumbered and surprised Americans being initially overwhelmed by Tigers until stubbornness blunts the Germans from reaching the Meuse. We've all seen this movie before, right?

External image


Given the familiarity with the battle to many, there ought to be an expectation from the games of a certain narrative or feel, right? We expect Bastogne to be a bastion of stubbornness, we expect Peiper to power his way through American lines and wreak havoc, we expect a desperate fight in front of the Meuse River. Are these qualifications required or desired? Certainly players know that the roll of the dice can change history. Yet many players weigh games on their "historical accuracy" based on the ability to recreate historical situations in the game because of the familiarity of the history that they can compare against the game.

The "historical accuracy"-ness is squishy. It can range from high-level expectations - Germans breakthrough American lines? Check! Game is historical! To minutiae - Game doesn't include the Canadian Forestry Companies? Game's faulty! To the absurd - Game doesn't have Liege? Broken!

The depth to which we know (or in some cases, believe we know) the history can color our expectation of and from the game. Certainly there's a lot of intricacy in designing games, and not every skirmish can be accounted for and modeled. The designer may be aware of certain situations that players can fixate on and expect, but disregard it for ease of play. The designer may not be aware of other situations that players could've picked up in some remote and obscure reference. No game is perfect because "perfect" is undefinable, just like "historical accuracy".

Hence expectations from games can vary based on what the player expects and what the design intends. They may or may not all meet in the middle. In many cases, players are respectful of the designer's intent and tempers expectations. In extreme examples, players excoriate games for not meeting personal expectations and can't be convinced otherwise.

I'm confident in my understanding on the Battle of the Bulge, and not just fixation on the Order of Battle. I know there's so many specific sequence of events and unique situations in the battle that setting all levels of expectations would be very difficult. Personally, having a solid core base of components like an detailed map (with Goldilocks road networks - i.e. not too many, and not too few), accurate* Order of Battle (* relative to the scale and unit usage), and just enough chrome rules to keep the game "historically accurate" yet flexible and not overburdened with rules that doesn't force players to be an automaton just pushing counters following programmed instructions just so history can be followed closely. There is a connotation of expecting "historical accuracy" through narrative in game play. KG Peiper running up against 30 Inf Div at Stavelot and the Tiger II unit rolling boxcars elicits the frustration the Germans must have felt 77 years ago. Yet not many players are looking to plot every move and compare it against the historical clock and match it 100% of the time. I don't think (or at least hope) that is someone's degree of expectation from a game.

But what about topics that players are unfamiliar with? Expectations shift as it likely becomes more about expecting to have a good time or making sure they play the game correctly. There is always the possibility of learning from the game about the situation.

This has happened many times in my wargaming experience as I've gained interest in a topic because of a game. While not necessarily an obscure topic, I played Raicer's Paths of Glory before knowing much about WWI. The only expectation was that it would devolve into a stalemate. Little did I know about places like Salonika and how the need to shut down the East Front as the Central Powers was key.

A concern arises if games are good for learning from. Wargames are used by professional militaries as teaching tools. Firefight was funded by the US Army, and if I recall correctly from Dunnigan's book, drew wrong conclusions because the map terrain was made wide open to showcase the increased range and lethality of modern US weapons, but in no way reflected real European terrain.

In a more innocuous example, playing AH's The Battle of the Bulge from 1965 cannot cause any player to claim, "I think I know the Battle of the Bulge now". Aside from laughable OOB, the map looks more like the plains of Spain where they filmed the movie from the same year.

External image


But knowing which games are "learnable" from is difficult. When asked, "Hey, I don't own any Bulge games and I finally want to play and learn about the battle, which game should I get?" What is the right answer?

Players with a lot of expectations will have different opinions about their favored Bulge game with additional qualifiers (this game is easier so it's a better intro game, or you might as well start with a 5 map monster!), so recommendations are skewed. Not that recommendations or choosing a game on a new topic needs to be scientific. It's just that I am cautious when expecting to learn about a topic from a game.

On both sides of the POV, it's like reading Hugh Cole's Green Book on the Ardennes, then having a lot of expectations from The Battle of the Bulge with Peter Fonda. Likely a major disappointment but hey, they got things like unstoppable "Tiger" tanks, the Malmedy Massacre, the stand at Bastogne, and the tank battle at Celles. On the flip side, learning about the Battle of the Bulge from the movie would make you think that the Americans won by rolling flaming barrels at Tigers.



And if I'm not able to post again before Christmas...

Happyeth Holydays to yee all.

External image
Twitter Facebook
9 Comments
Thu Dec 16, 2021 1:50 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide

October Tanks: Arab Tanks in the Yom Kippur War

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
The previous posts showed the inventory of the IDF in 1973 and the varied number of tanks employed. While the mainstay of the Israelis were the British Centurion (modified to their standards) and American Patton tanks (M48/60), the rest being obsolete but upgraded Shermans complemented with their own form of Beutepanzers.

To many, the Arabs became major clients of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact and their tank inventory included many of the post-WWII MBTs to fight proxy wars against the NATO-supplied IDF. This is true to an extent for the Egyptians and Syrians, the primary armies involved, but within them and the number of Arab Allies, the tanks used covers a large swath of different types: ubiquitous, modern, obsolete, and unique.

Let's start with ubiquitous - the T-54/55. This is the tank that defines the Cold War and is still found on battlefields today. The T-54's roots began with the T-44 which was developed late in WWII (the number designation indicates that). The T-44 was a medium tank to succeed the T-34/85 armed with the same 85mm. With the war still raging on and the Soviets on the offensive, to retool their tank factories to a new tank instead of producing more T-34s didn't make sense, so the T-44 was never mass-produced and did not see any operational service (even with 1800 built, limited spare parts and having only a handful of tank brigades equipped didn't make sense). Concepts from the T-44 were used for the T-54 which began production in 1947 (not 1954). It mounted a 100mm, based on the same gun mounted in the SU-100.

I mentioned in the previous post that due to the Gulf War that the understanding was that T-54/55's were weak, which of course by 1991, were completely outclassed by the newest cannons with Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) and Chobham armor. Yet at the time of its release in the late 1940s and 1950s, it was an excellent tank. Its turret armor reached 200mm with good sloping frontal armor.

External image


T-54s were becoming obsolete by 1973 but still equipped many units in the Arab armies.

External image


The successor to the T-54 was the T-55, beginning production in 1958 (Grrrr... destroying all my hopes of easy indication of when Soviet tanks started production). For differences... well... there's plenty but I never spent enough time to remember them all. Here's a Quora response that folks can further look at. In appearances, they are extremely similar and in BCS AV terms, they are identical. Even knowing which exact units had T-54s vs. T-55s, its near impossible. Many sources note that the newer T-55s equipped tank and mechanized brigades while the T-54 was relegated to tank units directly supporting infantry units.

External image


The T-54/55s were the main tanks used by the Egyptian and Syrian armies, as well as the Iraqis, Algerians, and Libyans. T-54/55s (many sources say T-54s) equipped the Moroccan Expeditionary Force that was supplied by Syria to help retake the Golan.

In the modern category, what the Soviets could offer was the T-62. To my understanding, the T-62 was based on and had many leveraged concepts from the T-54/55 but was not a direct descendant of it. The notable thing about the T-62 was its smoothbore 115mm gun. The T-62 was the shiny new object that the Egyptians and Syrians obtained to equip select units. Note that I said select and not elite. First, I hate the descriptor of elite for units. Second, even though formations like Presidential Guard units could be considered "elite", the Egyptian one was not equipped with the T-62. Two independent Egyptian brigades (referred in some sources as "elite" themselves) and a Syrian Tank Division used this newest tank. Certainly, the Defense force under Rifaat al-Assad (the Syrian president's brother) had T-62s.

As a side note, as I noted in Iron Curtain, by the mid-1970s, the Soviet forces was not equipped with their own latest and greatest tank, the T-64. Some units had started to receive it, but the T-62 armed the frontline and first line reinforcements in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War and in the 1975 scenario in Iron Curtain. So truly, the T-62 was the latest and greatest on the battlefield.

External image


That covers the ubiquitous and modern categories. Now the obsolete armor. The T-34/85 was still used in large numbers following WWII, and they were used in prior Arab-Israeli wars from the Sinai Crisis and Six Day War. Certainly by 1973 they were entirely outclassed by T-54/55s, Centurions, and Pattons, but they kept soldiering on. Hell, even their former Allied compatriot Shermans outgunned them.

According to Saad el-Shazly's memoir The Crossing of the Suez, Egypt used 280x T-34s that equipped the Infantry Divisions in the initial waves of the offensive. It implies that they equipped the tank battalions that were assigned to the Infantry Brigades where the infantrymen paddled their way over the canal and the T-34s crossed as soon as the bridges went up. The use of T-34s does not scream "first line of defense against Centurions and Pattons" but you gotta make do with what you have and the first line of AT defense were the Saggers and RPGs. T-54/55s were available in the Mechanized Brigade of the Infantry Division as well as the independent divisional tank battalion.

The specific number of 280 T-34s (and also noted in other sources) indicates that not all Infantry Brigade tank battalions were equipped with T-34s. Assuming the tank battalions were at full strength, they'd have 31 tanks (three companies with 10 tanks each and a battalion CO's tank) meaning they'd equip 9 such battalions. With five Infantry Divisions with two Infantry Brigades each, there's a mysterious tenth battalion that looks like it could've been equipped with T-54/55s. Which one? I can't say, but I speculate which division it was.

External image


The 280x T-34s doesn't seem to include a Frankenstein modification of the T-34 by the Egyptians. They mounted a 100mm gun on a large turret superstructure atop the T-34 chassis. These equipped two battalions at the Army level with 18 vehicles each. These were apparently served a dual purpose role for anti-tank as well as self-propelled artillery like the towed 100mm guns they were based on.

There is mention of Syrians modifying their own T-34s to mount the 122mm howitzer but as these were more truly used for indirect fire than direct fire, as well as the inability to identify any unit that used them, they are not included in Valley of Tears unlike the Egyptian T-34/100.

External image


Continuing with the obsolete category were additional Soviet WWII-relics. The ISU-152 was a Tiger Beast Killer in WWII but still chugged along in 1973 used exclusively by the Egyptians where it was used in the same roles as an anti-tank platform and assault gun for use against Bar-Lev fortifications. These equipped a battalion each in the Second and Third Egyptian Armies.

External image


The SU-100 was still found in decent numbers and used in 1956 and 1967 with their last use against Israel in 1973. Used by both the Egyptians and Syrians, they are featured only in Egyptian units in Valley of Tears as they equipped dedicated self-propelled anti-tank battalions at that Army level. The Syrians had a few SU-100s at the infantry brigade level and hence blended into the infantry units (well, more like washed out).

External image


The next tank fits into several categories: ubiquitous, obsolete, and unique with some caveats. The PT-76 was a light tank to be used for reconnaissance and amphibious purposes which made it unique. It was obsolete, being a 1950s design and woefully undergunned and ill-armored against MBTs. As far as ubiquitous... while there is an assumption that PT-76s and T-54/55s go together like peas and carrots, in the Egyptian and Syrian armies (and possibly the Iraqis as well), they were not as prevalent as they would be found in the Soviet forces. Egyptian divisional reconnaissance battalions did not have PT-76s (they were equipped with BRDMs and Jeeps) and the Syrians did not have divisional level reconnaissance battalions (they had recon assets at the brigade level). There are photos of some PT-76 wrecks in the Yom Kippur War so they were certainly used, likely in the brigade recon units for the Syrians (but not enough to warrant Syrian formations with recon units - remember that during the game).

The Egyptians used them in the unique 130th Amphibious Brigade, equipped similar to the Israeli 88th "Polar Bear" Battalion with PT-76s and BTR-50s. The PT-76 for this brigade provided for some modicum of armor, but really could not do much except be a target. It's interesting to note that the Egyptian Amphibiou Brigade was based on the Soviet Naval Infantry Regiment. However, the latter had a company of T-54/55s in the 1970s (as well as PT-76s) for at least some decent armor support.

External image


Moving away from the Soviet-dominated armies, let's move into the dedicated unique category. The Jordanians were unique among the Arab armies in being equipped predominantly with British and American equipment (until Egypt turned to the Americans in the 1980s). In the Yom Kippur War, their armored brigades were equipped with Centurions. These look to be upgraded Mark 5s with the 105mm gun. While supposedly easy to assume that they'd be equipped with the L7 gun instead of the 20-pdr gun, many sources don't specify. Note the image below depicts a Jordanian Centurion in the Six Day War and hence has the 20-pdr. These Centurions would still be using their Meteor gas engine, and not the Continental diesel engine that the Israelis upgraded theirs with.

External image


Venturing more into the unique territory, the next one isn't even a tank. Saudi Arabia sent their King Abdulaziz Brigade which was equipped with the French Panhard AML-90. They had no real tanks in their force. The AML-90 was an armored car equipped with a 90mm gun which could in some circumstances penetrate a modern MBT.

External image


While their contingent in the Golan Heights used T-54/55s, the motorized brigade sent to reinforce Egypt apparently used AMX-13s. Finding this out was based on a single comment and is difficult to verify, but Morocco did use AMX-13s in the 1970s and the motorized brigade would most likely had some armor support with it (albeit obsolete at that).

External image


Finally in the unique category were the tanks used by the Kuwaiti al-Jahra Force. While the Jordanians relied heavily on British tanks, so did the Kuwaitis where they used Chieftains in the Gulf War. In 1973, they had Vickers tanks... no, not the dinky light tank/tankettes, but a full blown MBT meant for export only. 70 Vickers MBT Mk 1 were sold to Kuwait, equipped with the L7 105mm gun. However, to keep the weight down, the tank's armor was not as thick as contemporary MBTs. The al-Jahra Force arrived too late to participate in the Yom Kippur War but in Valley of Tears, there's the chance that the war can extend past the historical ceasefire date so maybe one can see these in use.

External image


External image

Syrian T-62 found at the Oz 77 Memorial

I still have difficulty noting the differences between a T-62 vs. T-54/55 at first glance and at the time I took the photo I thought it was a T-55. When I compare profiles of the tanks, the two notable differences are the location of the bore evacuator (on the latter its near the muzzle) and the spacing of the road wheels where there's a "tooth gap" between the first and second road wheels while the T-62 has them more evenly spaced apart.
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Fri Dec 10, 2021 3:34 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
22 
 Thumb up
5.25
 tip
 Hide

Tanksgiving! More tanks n' stuff in Valley of Tears

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
Highlighting the Shermans as they transitioned from WWII to the Yom Kippur War hopefully gave a taste of what's looking to be modeled in Valley of Tears. Let's carve up the rest of the IDF tanks used in 1973 and leave the Arab tanks for dessert.

The British Are Coming!

During one of the playtest recaps, someone noted that some Centurion units had 12 Tracked Movement Allowance on their move side while others were speedier with 16. They wanted to see if this was intentional or if it was a typo.

The values are correct and there were two different variants of the Centurion in Israeli service by 1973. I noted in Shermans Forever that initially only France sold arms to Israeli. Following the Suez Crisis, the British opened shop and sold them Centurion Mk 5s. The Centurion was developed at the very end of WWII but did not see service there. It's post-war career, however, was legendary and easily one of the most used tanks by many countries around the word and serving actively until at least the 1980s.

The Mk 5 was armed with the 20 pdr (84mm) gun. The Israelis immediately set out to upgrade the gun to the British 105mm L7. As much as the Centurion was legendary, the L7 was likewise as popular, arming a great deal of NATO tanks like the US M48, M60, and M1 (as the M68) and the German Leopard 1 in addition to another whole host of foreign tanks. The L7 (called the Sharir in Israel) was needed to defeat the Arab T-54s and T-55s which, it may not have been readily apparent in the Gulf War, had thick frontal and turret armor. Note that there was a company of 10 tanks in 1967 that were armed with the original 20 pdr gun.

The version that came out of this upgrade was the Sho't (Whip). There were some other minor upgrades as well like exterior rear hull fuel tank. These would first fight in the Six Day War and performed very well.

External image


While offering excellent firepower and protection, the original gas Rolls Royce Meteor engine was lacking. The chief complaints were, according to Dr. Robert Manasherob in his Centurion Tanks of the IDF, "short service life, a lack of power resulting in a low power-to-weight ratio, the use of an extremely flammable fuel and its high petrol consumption rate, which resulted in an inadequate operational range."

The result was replacing the engine with the diesel Continental AVDS-1790-2A engine, the same found in the American M48 and M60 tanks that were entering into IDF service in greater numbers.

The result was a more robust (and faster) tank. With now two versions of Centurion Tanks, the variant with the original engine was called the Sho't Meteor and the upgraded version as the Sho't Kal (Kal being an abbreviation of Continental in Hebrew). The Sho't Kal is recognizable by the raised engine deck.

External image


To those who played AH's Arab-Israeli Wars, you may recall the mysterious "Patturion". This was undoubtedly the Sho't Kal, with slightly higher defense and speed values than the vanilla Centurion. The name Patturion looks to have been made up or at least some brief mention of Israeli modifications using components from M-48/60 Patton tanks.

From gallery of calvinboy24


So in Valley of Tears, the Centurion armor units with a move side MA of 12 and a deployed MA of 3 are Sho't Meteors, where two brigades were still armed with them. The rest of the Centurions were the improved Sho't Kals. Both variants sported the 105mm gun which is a whopping Red AV 8 on the deployed side for a battalion's worth of tanks.

American Through Other Means

The first American tanks (besides the Shermans) that the IDF used were sold through West Germany in the early 1960s. These were the M48A1 and later the M48A2C variants. These were armed with the 90mm gun where two battalions of them in the Six Day War. Following the war, they were upgraded, much like the original Centurions, with the 105mm gun and swapping a gasoline engine (a Continental) with the AVDS-1790-2A diesel which effectively brought it to M48A3 standards. The Israelis name the tank Magach (Battering Ram) and numbered it 3 after the variant number as the Magach 3.

External image


Prior to the Yom Kippur War, a number of M60A1s were sold to Israeli enough to equip one brigade. These were largely unmodified (same gun, engine, with some small attachment and other accoutrements that the Israelis standardized for their needs) and the tank became the Magach 6 (the 6 after the 60).

External image


The Magach tanks were used primarily by Ariel Sharon's division, and were not used in the Golan where their suspension system was not considered good enough for the rocky terrain there. Surprisingly, visiting the Golan Heights today there'll be a Magach tank parked by the famous Oz 77 Memorial. Knowing better, I know it didn't actually participate in the Yom Kippur War and likely towed there for unsuspecting tourists.

In terms of firepower, armor protection, and speed, there is little distinction between the Magach 3 and Magach 6. In Valley of Tears, there's no distinction and both are considered "M" tanks. Likewise, the unit values for the Magach 3, Magach 6, Sho't Kal, and the Tiran-4/5 (see below) are all the same in BCS terms.

Turning The Enemy Against Themselves

Israel's scrappiness in culling and upgrading armor extended to use of their enemy's equipment. There were many T-54 and T-55s captured in the Six Day War. The majority, if not eventually all, were upgraded with the 105mm gun Sharir along with a host of other updates. These were enough to equip a four-battalion brigade in the IDF. They helped defeat their former owners in the botched Egyptian counterattack on 14 October 1973. Following the Yom Kippur War, enough T-54/55s were captured and converted to form four brigades.

External image


The converted T-54/55s were designated as Tiran (described as translating as Tyrant) with Tiran-4Sh as T-54s with the 105mm and other updates and the Tiran-5Sh based on the T-55 (the Sh for the 105mm Sharir and the number being obvious). Sources (including Arab-Israeli Wars) lists these tanks as Ti-67. This was a collective description of Soviet MBTs but the individual tanks being Tiran-#. The Israelis would capture enough T-62s to use and designate them Tiran-6 but retaining the Soviet 115mm gun.

Lastly, the Soviet PT-76 Amphibious Light Tank equipped a unique Israeli unit that also contained OT-62s and/or BTR-50s. This unit (the 88th Dov Lavan "Polar Bear" Battalion) was less Skorzeny Trojan Horse unit than it was of scounging all armored vehicles that could float to conduct raids across the Suez Canal. During the Yom Kippur War, it was not used in its intended role, and its reputation has been inflated somewhat (again, Skorzenyish) but with thin-armored vehicles, it could not go toe-to-toe against Arab MBTs.

External image

Images courtesy of Tank Encyclopedia

So there's a lot of varied tanks used by the Israelis used in the Yom Kippur War. A bit of a logistics nightmare but at least with the majority using L7 105mm guns and diesel Continental engines, the major components could be swapped. This also leads to many of the unit values being the same. Hence to preserve the uniqueness of the tank types for flavor, letters are used to inform players which tanks are in the armor unit. Here, I base them on the NATO designation, not the Israeli designation, for familiarity and because there's overlap (M for Magach and also M for M-50/51)

"C" - Centurion (both Sho't Kal and Sho't Meteors)
"M" - M48/M60 (also works with Magach)
"T" - Tiran
"S" - Sherman (M-50/M-51)

External image

A photo I took of a Centurion when I was visiting the Golan Heights. You can tell its a Sho't Meteor by the level engine deck
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Wed Nov 24, 2021 3:41 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
6.25
 tip
 Hide

Shermans Forever: The Common Bond between Arracourt and Valley of Tears

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
Work (the real work thing that pays the bills) hasn't allowed me to have time to conjure up some interesting blog topics. There were a number of ones in draft on design-related topics which always start off as interesting (in my head) but often hard to follow through on to ensure its not just comprehensive but comprehensible as well.

So I'll fill in the gap a bit with a topic that's fun and relatively easy. The idea came up soon after Arracourt made its pre-order number and there was a video posted on YouTube by "The Chieftain" Nicholas Moran.

It tied together Arracourt and specifically the post about WWII Shermans in Armorcourt, Part I: Dizygotic Shermans how Shermans were still being used 29 years later in the Yom Kippur War.

The Sherman gets the polar opposite opinions in its performance and usefulness in WWII - it sucked or it was great (or at least good enough). The sucky part comes when in caliber measuring contests against the likes of Panthers and Tigers. High-silhouetted and prone to explosions, and if we are to believe the movie Fury, required 5 of them to destroy a Tiger (African Tiger I or European Tiger II? You have to know these things when you're a designer).

The good part comes with the Sherman's reliability, its genuine well sloped frontal armor, and the fact that there were so many of them built. So many, in fact, that many continued to serve after WWII and in foreign armies.

This segues to Valley of Tears and how the Israeli Army came to not only use, but upgrade the Sherman to continue their usage until the 1980s and some in one form or another well into the 1990s. So much for a sucky tank.

But the sucky label is often attributable to its original 75mm L/40 M3 gun. As I note in the earlier Sherman blog post, the 4th Armored Division prefered and predominantly had the 75mm Sherman - to little ill effect.

External image


As the war progressed, the entire US Army (including the 4th Armored), received many more 76mm Shermans. The 76mm L/50 M1 gun and the British Firefly with the 17pdr demonstrated that the tank could be upgraded in anti-tank capability.

External image


The Sherman was used in the Korean War where they were apparently prefered over the M26 Pershing and possibly the M46 Patton due to its easier maintenance and drivability.

Before the Korean War started, the Sherman was used by Israel in their War of Independence. The first two Shermans obtained by Israeli were done through dirty means... quite literally as they were found in landfills. The original gun was removed but replaced with WWI-era German 75mm M1903 Krupp field guns. It's not like the Sherman was facing Panthers or Tigers in the Middle East (the Syrian Pz IV and StuG IIIs were only used in the Six Day War, not in 1948). The only armor the Israelis actually faced were old obsolete WWII vehicles like the French R35 and British Mark VIb along with various armored cars. In addition to the few Shermans, the Israelis used two Cromwells and up to ten French H35 tanks. Hence it was a very oddball mix of tanks used in 1948.

External image


Following the war, the future lay in armored warfare. The competing factions looked to grow their armored forces and eventually mechanize their respective armies. By the time of the next war, the Sinai Crisis of 1956, both Israel and Egypt used Shermans.

The Israelis had three Armored Brigades (the 7th, 27th, and 37th) each consisting of a Sherman Battalion, an AMX-13 Battalion, and a Motorized Infantry Battalion. The AMX-13 is relevant here, as the French was the only major arms seller willing to sell to Israel at the time, and to the future upgrades of the Sherman. The 7th had three companies of 75mm Shermans (designated the M-3) with a company of 76mm Shermans (designated the M-1). I only recently learned that the Israelis designated at least their Sherman variants by the type of gun they mounted. The M3 75mm gun and the M1 76mm from WWII was used to designate the whole tank instead of M4. Different sources have different equipment used by the 27th Armored Brigade, but they generally say it had M-1s (76mm Shermans) and the new M-50 Sherman tank and the 37th Armored have predominantly M-50s and a company of AMX-13s.

The M-50 was an upgraded Sherman using the AMX-13's 75mm L/57 SA 50 gun, hence the designation M-50. The 75mm was reportedly inspired by the Panther's 75mm L/70 KwK 42. So all the power of a Panther gun fit into a small tank like the AMX-13... and it fit into a modified Sherman turret.

A quick pedantic point as the M-50 is often referred to as the "Super Sherman". It makes sense... put bigger modern gun into Sherman and you get... a super Sherman! Nope. The name Super Sherman was not used by the Israelis (nor the term "Isherman") for this or the M51 tank (more on that later). Instead, "Super Shermans" referred to... get this... the WWII-era 76mm Shermans (their designation M-1). Not so super at least in name but the longer 75mm definitely extended the life of the Sherman greatly.

External image


For their part, the Egyptians used Shermans as well, at least in a tank battalion stationed at El Arish armed with 75mm Shermans as well as a company of Egypt's own jury-rigged solution of mounting the AMX-13 turret onto the Sherman hull. The rest of the Egyptian army relied on the other ubiquitous WWII-era tank... the T-34 (85mm variant).

External image


Not to be outdone, in the 1960s the Israelis upgraded their Shermans with the French 105mm Modèle F1 that was mounted on the AMX-30. They went with a "sawed-off" approach by cutting the barrel from L/56 to L/44 with modified ammo. This version of the gun was designated the M-51 and hence the tank also named M-51.

The M-51 did not replace the M-50 but rather supplemented it. By the time of the Six Day War, there were eight Sherman Battalions, one fully equipped with the obsolete M-1 "Super Sherman" (76mm L/50), one fully with M-50s, one with only M-51s, and the rest a mix (roughly 50/50) of M-50s and M-51s. They would equip both Armored and Mechanized Brigades in the 1967 war.

External image

Images courtesy of Tank Encyclopedia

By the time the Yom Kippur War began, all the Shermans (with only the M-50s and M-51s as the M-1 Super Shermans were retired) equipped the Mechanized Brigades (save one that was actually equipped with Centurions). The M-50 and M-51 looked to have fought in that roughly 50/50 mix (some sources disagree) in the single armored battalions in the Mechanized Brigades with four companies as opposed to Armored Brigade battalions with three companies. The Shermans also equipped what were known as Command or District Armored Battalions. These were independent tank battalions assigned to the Israeli Northern and Central Commands (Corps equivalents).

You'll see these Shermans in Valley of Tears as "S" Armor, still packing some punch and able to dish out some pain against T-54s and T-55s.

Twitter Facebook
13 Comments
Fri Nov 19, 2021 1:07 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
28 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide

Fair or Foul Ball? Units that belong or don't belong in a game.

Carl Fung
United States
Riverside
Connecticut
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Battalion Combat Series FanMicrobadge: Multiman Publishing fanMicrobadge: BloggerMicrobadge: The Gamers fanMicrobadge: Arab-Israeli Wars Wargamer
There was a recent post commenting on supposed Order of Battle inaccuracies in It Never Snows. I found it interesting as it cited more recent works by Jack Didden that were released after the game was published and other games as references (always a no-no in my book). The 20/20 hindsight thing is always impossible to argue back against stuff like historiography and new material becomes available over time. I can easily critique Hell's Highway and Highway to the Reich as having incorrect Orders of Battle, but these were designed using whatever sources were available at the time. I did the same with It Never Snows starting in 2010 (and the game released in 2012).

But some of the comments I had to think on. Some of the units listed as missing made me second guess myself... but only for a second. Then I recalled that the units listed as "missing" were not included in the game because I had (at that time) determined they either physically didn't fight on the maps (right on the fringe) or were just on the edges that they didn't warrant being included on the map. It Never Snows focused on the Airborne landings and the XXX Corps ground relief. It didn't include the British VIII and XII flanking corps. Doing so would've involved more maps and many, many more units. The game (admittedly - but it's SCS so no one should be surprised) was supposed to be straightforward in its presentation. Sure I obsess over the Order of Battle and likely in many ways caused many wargamers to pull out their hair in trying to sort the counters. In retrospect I would've grouped their designations better, but given the hellish hodge-podge nature of the German Order of Battle in the battle, it wouldn't be easy.

It got me thinking about these fringe units. I had a similar post almost exactly 2 years ago on this: Are you in or are you out? The Fringe Formations (say that three times fast...), where I debating over including units on the edges of the map.

Now, if a unit is on the edge of the map, does it need to be included? This isn't as rhetorical as if a tree falls in a forest, but its relatively close. I figure the majority would say, "well, if it was there, obviously include it!" But sometimes it's not as clear cut.

The first difficulty is actually verifying if said unit was ACTUALLY on the game map. Those handy dandy maps we pine for in history books are often very rough sketches. I'll refer to them to get a general feel for where large formations were, but I'll rarely use them to pinpoint exact locations where individual battalions were located. For that, I need to dig deeper, preferably individual unit after action reports, morning reports, and the like. Barring that, references to unit locations in popular history books will do (Charles MacDonald's A Time for Trumpets was quite good at this for some Last Blitzkrieg positions).

With 20th century warfare and linear continuous frontlines, defining the exact edge of the battlefield for maps becomes difficult. Where exactly are the edges for the Battle of the Bulge? It's often defined by the boundaries where the German armies attacked. From the south, it's where the Sûre River turns south around Dickweiler where the majority of Bulge games have their southern map edge. To the north, it can range between Höfen to Monschau to around Simmerath. Where the northern map boundary lays depends on several factors, number of maps the game needs/wants, the map scale, and whether or not the feels compelled to include the falsely idolized automatic victory condition of Liege.

External image


The southern boundary includes all of the German 7th Army where the entire 212th Volksgrenadier Division held the left flank of the offensive with some 2nd line static units holding the extreme edge. Yet the opposing US 4th Infantry Division was stretched even further south, so inclusion of the entire division isn't possible. While some of the 4th Division were sent north to reinforce the Bulge shoulder, some remained off map through the entire battle. In the north, its likewise tricky. In Last Blitzkrieg where the map edge is just south of Höfen, which precludes the inclusion of the 102nd Cavalry Group defending Monschau area. Yet it splits the opposing 326th Volksgrenadier Division. As such, the units that remained north of the map aren't included. In both situations, it can create odd situations if the fringe formations pull out from the flanks. In any altered reality, the parts of the formation that were off map would've likely tagged up with their parent formation and fought as a whole. Yet squeezing in the whole formation creates incorrect depth and removing the entire formation creates holes in the line.

This brings up the second difficulty if including fringe units that were just on the edges creates unwanted game situations vis-a-vis "historical accuracy". And this ties back to the reply about some of the units noted as missing in It Never Snows.

Operation Market Garden does break the mold of having linear continuous frontlines. This is, of course, because it was an airborne landing and deep penetration into enemy territory. A frontline did exist, but this was what was penetrated on the first day of the operation, causing the Germans to scramble to contain and cut off the advance.

What complicates this further are the oft excluded British flanking Corps (XII and VIII). While they played second fiddle to the main XXX Corps effort, their activity was needed, but their inclusion in games can be tricky. Adding them can create "historical accuracy" in including the slow progress of the flank protection. Yet including them adds more units to move, especially along poor routes. More mess, more fuss for possible little gain. It Never Snows purposely did not include the flanking corps and kept the emphasis on the "traditional" operation effort - Airborne and XXX Corps (and hence the popsicle layout of the maps). Holland '44 includes most of the flanking corps, but as the map and unit scale and map size allows for it (battalion and 2 km map scale vs. company and 600 m/hex) and hence can show this explicitly.

External image


The flanking corps or the focus on just the main effort drives which Germans can, should, or must be included in the game. This is hard to define going back to the non-linear nature of the battle. Also, given the hodge-podge nature of the German forces in the battle, there was often little clearly defined hierarchical formations sent against the Allies. While there were German formations like the 59th Infantry Division, Kampfgruppe Chill, 719th Infantry Division, and 180th Infantry Division defined as being send and confronting the Allied drive, they were not straightforward formations. They were composed of a mix of depleted or half-formed units, attached units from different branches, and detached elements to other formations. As there were multiple threats and frontline evolved as XXX Corps and the Airborne Divisions tried advancing and consolidating their positions, knowing where exactly and which Allied forces they confronted, let alone if they were physically on the map or not is difficult to determine. A large driver is also the limited information on the German forces. Given the more ad hoc nature, there's limited or scattered references (or nonexistent) and piecing it all together is difficult.

Operation Market Garden Order of Battle research is notoriously difficult and little to no Market Garden game will have the same OOB. And this is to say that all are wrong, but there's still a lot of unknowns. Source material is disparate and every few years new accounts and sources come about. There also needs to be care in what's mentioned in books as which units fought vs. if its in scope or map area of the game. Books' scope is sometimes amorphous, as it can zoom in and out between the battle at hand and discuss some fringe actions. Games are finite in where the map playing area is.

Robert Kershaw's It Never Snows in September, often held in high regard for Market Garden research, is notorious in this amorphous scope creep. But I only realized this after many readings of his book (the primary source when I started researching for what would become The Devil's Cauldron and Where Eagles Dare) and then finding the same original source material as Kershaw. I realized that Kershaw would include units referenced in original source material but not necessarily plotting them on the map. What happens is that amateur historians or game researchers will note these units referenced in the book and assume they'd be in a Market Garden game. I take a different approach as I want to verify if so and so unit was actually on the map or if it actually directly contributed to the battle. Flank holders which did not actively participate and were JUST on the fringe of the map could be exploited and used ahistorically to drive some end run against the Allies. This creates an unwanted situation for those striving for some modicum of "historical accuracy".

In the end, which units that need to be included based on references in sources, particularly those on the edges of the map needs to be considered. It's often not as easy of a decision to make of which units to include.

External image
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Tue Nov 2, 2021 3:22 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [39]