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Subject: I want to know what this counter is.. rss

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Gary Tanner
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When I'm playing ASL (and I'm sure this would apply to other wargames), I look sometimes and wonder "what is this counter, what's it represent?"

Sure, it's a German 4-4-7. But has anyone ever taken the time and effort to put up info (even guesstimating) on the different units?

Like 'The German 4-4-7 represents a standard rifle squad of 12 men. They would typically be armed with xx and xx, possibly even xx after 1943'

Anyone know of anything like that here, or on another site?
 
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Brett Pierotte
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If I recall the designer notes for ASL (or maybe it was SL) did just that.
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Carl Fung
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Invariably for ASL, the same squad counters represent different squad types throughout the war. As squads can also degrade from 1st line to 2nd line, there needs to be some nuance to the men and equipment a squad represents.

But generally speaking the German squads represent the following squads. Using the squad descriptions in the http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/German/german_army.htm site you can get a general sense for what each squad represents depending on year and type:

The 4-6-8 > 4-6-7 > 4-4-7 > 4-3-6 squads generally represent Rifle Squads in Infantry Divisions

The 4-4-7 > 4-3-6 squads can also represent Rifle or "SMG" Squads in Volksgrenadier Divisions

The 5-4-8 > 4-4-7 > 4-3-6 squads generally represent Panzergrenadier (in Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions) or Fallschirmjager Squads

The 8-3-8's represent assault pioneer squads (around 9 men) fully equipped with MP-40's.

The SS 6-5-8 > 5-4-8 > 4-4-7 > 4-3-6 is a bit of an oddball. The SS were armed like Army squads, the myth that they were better equipped is not necessarily true. But since they get characteristic flair, they are different counters.

The British and American squads are a bit easier, generally for their 1st line squads which represent their Rifle Squads in the Infantry Divisions:
Brits: 10 men, 1x Sten, 1x Bren, 8x SMLE's
Americans: 12 men, 1x B.A.R., 11x M1 Garands (SMG's were allocated at the company level, where there were 6 total to be distributed)

The American Paratroop Squad had:
12 men, 1+ SMG (not officially allotted but they carried more than the Rifle Squads), 1x M1919A4/A6, the rest M1 Garands. In Normandy and more commonplace from Market Garden onward, squads would have a B.A.R. in addition to the LMG.

Soviet Rifle Squads would generally consist of 10 men with 1+ PPsH, 1x LMG, and the rest rifles, but the Soviets later on the war had a flair for arming their men more with SMG's. There were whole battalions armed with SMG's in rifle battalions or in mechanized units to be used as shock troops.

In general, look at the Bayonetstrength website as a guide for ASL.

For other games, unless the designer notes specify what the compositions are, then its anyone's guess.

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". . . I want you to show me"

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Gary Tanner
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calvinboy24 wrote:
Invariably for ASL, the same squad counters represent different squad types throughout the war. As squads can also degrade from 1st line to 2nd line, there needs to be some nuance to the men and equipment a squad represents.
<snip>
In general, look at the Bayonetstrength website as a guide for ASL.


That's awesome, thanks!
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Jason Cawley
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Gary - most of the differentiation of squads in ASL is by troop quality and not by armament or branch of service. Not just the morale differences, but also the range differences, reflect unit quality. Are the men using their rifles at longer ranges and are they effective with them, or not? If the designers think the answer is "no", they will give a squad a range of 4; if they think the answer is "yes", they will give the squad a range of 6. With exactly the same weapons.

In game terms, any squad can fire at 1/2 its firepower out to 2x its range, so the 4-4-7 stops firing beyond 320 meters. The 4-6-7 is firing to 480 meters. Mostly with the LMG in either case, supplemented by bolt rifles obviously. This is not meant to reflect K98s with different bullets or anything of the sort. It is men behind the rifles with the weapons training to fire effectively at long range, vs men who would not hit anything at 400-500 yards on their best day.

Some of the squad ratings are frankly pretty fanciful. For example, many US airborne squads are given 8-4-7 ratings, meant to reflect a high portion of the men using automatic weapons (higher firepower, lower range than the standard US 6-6-6 or 6-6-7 squad). In reality the primary difference between a US airborne squad and an infantry squad was that the former used an M1919A6 belt fed LMG, and the latter used a BAR, as the squad automatic weapon. Almost everyone else used M-1 Garand rifles. Either could substitute Thompson SMGs or M-1 carbines in an individual basis (officers and NCOs specifically), or add an extra BAR perhaps, but none where supposed to and there is no evidence that airborne units did this more in practice.

The biggest difference in German squad armament was that some squads were equipped with 2 LMGs per squad while most only had 1. In some branches of service the 2 LMGs - the theoretical ideal of their TOEs - was actually available. This included both Heer and SS panzer divisions. But there were also regular Heer infantry divisions with that load out - notably the infantry division defending Omaha beach on D-Day, for example. And there were large portions of the SS that were not in panzer divisions and had inferior armament to the Heer (eastern and "foreign" SS formations, horse cavalry, armed police formations, etc). The uniform and the top of the command hierarchy had nothing to do with it; the division type did, in that case.



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Confusion Under Fire
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JasonC wrote:


Some of the squad ratings are frankly pretty fanciful.



I remember asking a similar question about how firepower stats on counters are created. I can't remember the exact answer but those on ASL, or was it SL were just made up from educated guesses rather than any hard information.
 
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Carl Fung
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whatambush wrote:
JasonC wrote:


Some of the squad ratings are frankly pretty fanciful.



I remember asking a similar question about how firepower stats on counters are created. I can't remember the exact answer but those on ASL, or was it SL were just made up from educated guesses rather than any hard information.


It's mostly based on conjecture and feel. As most German squads had an inherent LMG, a 2 or 3 FP of the 4-4-7 should be the LMG, or about half the squads firepower. It took me some time to realize and accept this as I thought the weapon counters represented all the heavier automatic weapons.

When when considering that the squad or half squad doesn't have the same capabilities as the 3-8 LMG where it can't lay down a fire lane, ROF, and other benefits, the firepower values inherent in the squad get squishy.

The other controversy are the devil 6-6-6 American squads. Their supposed poor morale offset by the plethora of semi-automatic Garands and the B.A.R. Before I start citing heresy in SLA Marshall's "less than 30% fired in combat", I'll say that individual usage of semi-automatic and bolt action weapons was a lot less than a gunner who can hold down the trigger and be fed well with belted ammo. The stereotype that German riflemen were basically glorified ammo carriers has some truth to it, and certainly the high ROF of the MG34 and MG42 made that weapon the main "killer" in the squad and the tactics revolved around that.

Comparatively, the Tactical Combat Series has an unwritten firepower formula. For each platoon sized infantry unit, one LMG (MG34/42, to a lesser extent the Bren, but not so much the B.A.R.) is a +1. A platoon with a decent amount of SMG's will get a collective +1 (German/Soviets). Base bolt action rifles are a +0. A platoon armed solely with bolt action rifles is pretty much useless in the TCS model. The American Garand wielding riflemen get a bonus, but not a significant one.

So roughly (there's no set firepower standard in TCS, it could vary game to game) a standard German Rifle Platoon in, say, 1944 is a 5 (4x LMG's and enough MP40's or StG44's). The lowly Americans with their Garands and B.A.R.'s are 3's. This is basically opposite of the ASL firepower model where the Americans have a lot of base firepower compared with the Germans. At the other end of the spectrum, the heavily armed Panzergrenadier and Fallschirmjager Rifle platoons that had 2x LMG's per squad are like 7's. American Paratroops platoons with their higher proportion of automatic weapons are typically 7's as well, but I think these are a little too highly rated. A 5 or 6 is more realistic if the 60mm mortar firepower is taken out and pooled into a composite company mortar section.

I lean towards the TCS model. Firepower should be more measured in its ability to put X amount of bullets in Y time (sustained rate of fire versus cyclic rate of fire). So a bolt action rifle with aiming, firing, operating the bolt, re-aiming, repeat 5-10 times then reloading realistically gives about 10-15 rounds a minute. A Garand with 8 semi-auto shots would yield lets say about twice as much (20-30). A belt-fed LMG sustain fired (no Rambo squeezing 1500 rounds a minute without overheating) will be about 100-150 RPM. A B.A.R. with its puny 20 round magazine and the Bren with its 30 round magazine would fair a little less (say half at 75 RPM with the Bren being better having a dedicated crew and changeable barrels). This said, LMG's trumps rifles upwards to tenfold.
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The design section at the end of the SL rule book, although not explaining squad firepower, does discuss ranges and firepower of mgs. This does shed light on the thinking that went into the numbers. One of the important things to remember in the middle of all this--the designers say this explicitly in this section, but other designers no doubt have it in mind--is that they were designing for effect, not to represent everything exactly as it was in the real world.

This excerpt reflects some of that thinking;

Squad Leader Rule Book Designer's Notes wrote:

While discussing machine guns, let’s pose the question of what constitutes the difference between a light, medium and heavy machine gun. Once again, we came back to our basic “design cornerstone”; i.e., what is its effect? The conclusion we came to was that it was not necessarily bullet size, but most probably “rate of fire.” Hence, a “light MG” of 7.62 mm could very easily have much more effect, with a high sustained rate of fire, than a 20 mm “heavy” with a slow rate of fire. So, as far as killing infantry, the “little” 7.62 mm gun could be classified as the “heavy.” This leads to a peculiar point; the German MG42 could conceivably be a light, medium, or heavy machine gun depending on how it was set up. Technically, it could fire 1000 RPM, but that would only be effectively done if it was set up on a solid tripod, with plenty of ammo and some quick change barrels handy. It was often used that way, and when done so was indeed devastating. On the other end of the spectrum, it was often simply set up with a bipod and a small cylindrical drum of ammunition. In this configuration, it usually would only have an effective RPM of 150 or so, and would them be considered a LMG. So, in a way, the “heaviness” of a MG is almost scenario “defined.” But, this again, went back to our basic concept of “effect” rather than pure weapon classification, and the important thing is that it does work rather well with a minimum of hassles.



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Andy Daglish
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MilesF wrote:
When I'm playing ASL (and I'm sure this would apply to other wargames), I look sometimes and wonder "what is this counter, what's it represent?"

In ASL it represents a squad, or section, and no more than that. A squad counter has certain qualities and abilities shared with all squads whatever their nationality or type, which are equally independent of things such as composition, which might vary considerably with place & time anyway. ASL is about interrelationships between men and weapons, and does not deal with absolutes. That this game, with that frightening rules binder, must necessarily portray itself in simple & broadbrush terms demonstrates the complexity of the real thing. You'll notice modern squad-level combat defies attempts at analysis, in the manner of combat of previous centuries. You can attempt to separate the history from ASL's design, but I'm not sure you'll get it in the pure form you'd find in a good source.

Quote:
Brits: 10 men, 1x Sten, 1x Bren, 8x SMLE's

Standard number was eight, and all men knew their number and tended to keep it. Thus number 4 might be a Sikh in the desert, a Gurkha in the Italy or a West African in Burma, and moving forward would watch ahead. #1s [the corporal] and #6s would do the same, whilst the others would guard to their left or right, except for #8 at the back who would watch the rear.

Quote:
In reality the primary difference between a US airborne squad and an infantry squad was that the former used an M1919A6 belt fed LMG, and the latter used a BAR, as the squad automatic weapon. Almost everyone else used M-1 Garand rifles. Either could substitute Thompson SMGs or M-1 carbines in an individual basis (officers and NCOs specifically), or add an extra BAR perhaps, but none where supposed to and there is no evidence that airborne units did this more in practice.

The 30cal Browning was not a light machinegun, which explains why it couldn't be used as one. They were liberally distributed, in the manner of LMGs, but there the true similarity ends. The well-known photo of the gun firing in Aachen, surrounded by 1000 shell cases, shows what it did well, which is sustained fire from a fixed position.
The near-total failure of American light machine-gunnery in the 20th century is one of those extreme historical oddities that no uninformed observer of the far future would entertain. The 30cal dated from 1919, and the BAR from 1918, a time when the LMG concept wasn't fully formed, never mind developed. The British gave their BARs to the Home Guard, and their instruction book took for granted it wouldn't be used fully automatic, despite it having two rates-of-fire. We felt on the later ASL tests, with regard to the three-BAR USMC squads, that multiples of the weapon were hampered by a greater multiplicity of its obsolescent disadvantages. Bottom magazine reloading of a weapon normally used on a bipod is a case in point.

The German squad is usually characterised as a LMG moiety backed by four men whose common task was carrying ammunition & other equipment for the gun, because it could project far more firepower far past the effective range of many rifles. American soldiers recall being entirely outgunned at range, though this was exemplified by twigs and leaves falling on them as the German bullets passed overhead. Conversely the Czech-designed Bren, and its 303 bullet, had deadly pinpoint accuracy with four-round details, all of which might pass through the same German machinegunner. Neither was ideal in all circumstances, and ASL doesn't bother with this type of minutiae.

The original classification of machineguns [circa 1860] depended on bullet calibre, so light and heavy meant greater or smaller than the infantry's standard rifle. In 1939 the British still referred to the 303 bullet as 'RC' or 'rifle-calibre'.

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John Brock
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An excellent post, Andy, but I have a couple points of confusion:
aforandy wrote:

Quote:
In reality the primary difference between a US airborne squad and an infantry squad was that the former used an M1919A6 belt fed LMG, and the latter used a BAR, as the squad automatic weapon.

The 30cal Browning was not a light machinegun, which explains why it couldn't be used as one. They were liberally distributed, in the manner of LMGs, but there the true similarity ends.

This statement is a bit circular, so I'm not sure in what ways you're saying the A6 model "was not a light machinegun". Clearly in actual poundage it wasn't light; nevertheless it was bipod-mounted, which I'd generally associate with a LMG. So I'd appreciate hearing more about your thinking/defintions here.


Quote:
We felt on the later ASL tests, with regard to the three-BAR USMC squads, that multiples of the weapon were hampered by a greater multiplicity of its obsolescent disadvantages. Bottom magazine reloading of a weapon normally used on a bipod is a case in point.

But the point of having three BARs wasn't simply to triple the firepower of the squad, it was to create the three separate four-man fireteams, each of which centered around a BAR.

I've never seen anything about how this worked out in practice, but in the manuals each fireteam is basically the equivalent of a German LMG team: team leader, BAR gunner, assistant, and one more.

From that addition of an extra layer of leadership, I assume that the point was either to greatly increase their tactical flexibility, or improve their ability to lay automatic fire on more than one target at a time, or both. I would think that they may have even sacrificed non-BAR firepower in the process, since there were only three men in the whole squad who didn't have a designated job to distract them from firing their rifles.

I wonder whether only allowing the 7-6-8 to break down into two half-squads was a mistake; three 2-firepower HS might have been worth the extra verbiage. I suppose it might depend on whether the 3-4-8 half-squads have Spraying Fire capability or not (never actually played as the Marines!). At the very least it would be accurate to allow 7-6-8s to perform spraying fire on three hexes instead of two (theoretically; we all know rule changes aren't a realistic possibility).
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Carl Fung
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aforandy wrote:

Brits: 10 men, 1x Sten, 1x Bren, 8x SMLE's
Standard number was eight, and all men knew their number and tended to keep it. Thus number 4 might be a Sikh in the desert, a Gurkha in the Italy or a West African in Burma, and moving forward would watch ahead. #1s [the corporal] and #6s would do the same, whilst the others would guard to their left or right, except for #8 at the back who would watch the rear.


Ten in WWII from much of the documentation on the standard rifle company organization out there. Corporal as section leader, six man rifle group and a three man Bren group with a Lance Corporal, Gunner, and Loader.

The units fighting in North Africa, however, did have a propensity of modifying their set organization structure, but at least according to Bayonetstrength, may have reduced the section to 9 men.

Eight was used at least in the Falklands with two teams of four.

I'd be curious to see where your reference to eight is.
 
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Andy Daglish
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jwb3 wrote:
This statement is a bit circular, so I'm not sure in what ways you're saying the A6 model "was not a light machinegun". Clearly in actual poundage it wasn't light; nevertheless it was bipod-mounted, which I'd generally associate with a LMG. So I'd appreciate hearing more about your thinking/defintions here.

It was a medium machine gun, with all the pros of that, and cons when used as an LMG. The weight, the maintenance in combat [had to be partially stripped to change a barrel], the time required to find a suitable firing position and to set it up there, as this is a somewhat more complicated device than an LMG. It was designed for sustained fire from a prepared position at medium ranges. I was going to put something about putting a saddle on a elephant scaring the jockey, but this does it well enough: http://m1919tech.com/23934.html



Quote:
But the point of having three BARs wasn't simply to triple the firepower of the squad, it was to create the three separate four-man fireteams, each of which centered around a BAR.

Yes, here's a sea shanty:-


The trouble with using a BAR was that everyone knew what a neat target you were but you couldn't do much about it. The same applies to the dysfunctional M60 of Vietnam, which no foreigners ever bought except the Provisional IRA.

 
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calvinboy24 wrote:
Ten in WWII from much of the documentation on the standard rifle company organization out there. Corporal as section leader, six man rifle group and a three man Bren group with a Lance Corporal, Gunner, and Loader.

The units fighting in North Africa, however, did have a propensity of modifying their set organization structure, but at least according to Bayonetstrength, may have reduced the section to 9 men.

Eight was used at least in the Falklands with two teams of four.

I'd be curious to see where your reference to eight is.

The Mechanics of War series by Almark was good [infantry, tanks & artillery by farty old Farrar-Hockley, Macksey and Shelford Bidwell], published in 1976 I think, and today you can probably pick them up on Amazon immediately for sixpence. BUT back when they were published they were hard to find, and this points up how the past is a foreign country...where the protagonists are influenced not by our history of them, or since they died, but by their own previous decades. Hitler was a product of the Great War, the financiers in top hats and the hundreds of thousands of dead eaten by rats in flooded Somme fields.

The Bren tended to fire three- or four-rounds at a time because this was a 1930s economy measure. Eight-man sections would be led by a corporal, a two-man Bren team, Lance-Corporal, sniper, bomber, and the experienced man with eyes in the back of his head, plus a youngster. Three sections comprising 24 men and the HQ section with the officer, sergeant, two-man 2-inch mortar and Boys anti-tank rifle teams, officer's servant plus runners to make up a platoon. Perhaps in war you might add a few more youngsters and then losses would return things to the all-pervading pre-war system.
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Andy - pretty much all of that is utter tosh.

Firing faster doesn't let anyone fire more, or any straighter. All it gets one is the ability to concentrate more of the delivered fire into shorter time windows, hopefully when the enemy is more exposed. The limit on delivered firepower for all squad weapon load outs was the ammo the men could physically carry into battle. Every squad with any automatic weapon could throw all the men could carry in a small fraction of the time they would be in action.

As for the silliness about pretending that one thing the LMG was at one moment in time for one or two armies "is" what LMG-ness ever shall be, again just tosh. In 1916 a light machinegun meant a (28 lb unloaded) Lewis, because one man could carry it forward when a trench line was captured. Today a SAW weighs 17 lbs. A BAR was a SAW-ish 20, an A6 a Lewis-ish 31. No, splitting the diff at 25 for an MG-42 or MAG-58 doesn't make something a "true" LMG, 5 lbs more doesn't make something a medium, 5 lbs less doesn't mean is "isn't a true MG at all" (nose in the air at 75 degree angle, sniff sniff).
 
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