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Subject: Artillery in WWII rss

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Wilbur Whateley
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"During World War II, artillery caused nearly 60 percent of all casualties." - James F. Dunnigan, How To Make War

Has any WW2 game given you this impression? If so, which one?
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Seth Owen
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chuft wrote:
"During World War II, artillery caused nearly 60 percent of all casualties." - James F. Dunnigan, How To Make War

Has any WW2 game given you this impression? If so, which one?


Most tactical wargames concentrate, naturally, on tactical engagements where artillery is in a supporting role. Most artillery-caused casualties occur in preparatory bombardments (done before the action commences in the tactical game), harassment and interdiction fire (never gamed at all) or destruction fire missions (likewise not gamed).

In operational and strategic games the artillery is subsumed into the whole model and therefore not really visible to the players.

Probably the best at representing artillery properly in proportion to its real role is the Tactical Combat Series of The Gamers/MMP.
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Andrew N
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Artillery can be quite effective in Fast Action Battles Series (FAB), but it can also do a whole lot of nothing if you roll poorly. I remember always keenly feeling the difference when one side had an artillery advantage in Combat Commander Series, too.

I also remember artillery making it's presence known more than usual for an SCS game in Bastogne: Screaming Eagles under Siege.
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M St
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All the artillery heavy TCS games will at least get you close:
Black Wednesday (best tactical example I've seen of Russian artillery preparation and German artillery-based defense of strongpoints)
Screaming Eagles in Holland
Canadian Crucible: Brigade Fortress at Norrey

Disagree on Bastogne. Artillery ammo is limited and the SCS CRT is so bloody as usual that infantry and tanks eat each other with abandon (and also with zero tactical differentiation or feel).
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Michael Rinella
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Breakout: Normandy definitely models this as do many of my area-impulse games, from Monty's Gamble to Last Battle.
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Jason Cawley
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It was more like 70%, but no.

Above all, the way in which artillery mattered is almost never shown. It is always shown as subservient to the maneuver elements and their missions.

The reality is that sustained shelling at good targets - meaning spotted enemy, in contact and forced to be out of their shelters to fight - by divisional artillery, could trade 5 or 10 shells for each man on the other side of the field and run the enemy out of men before running out of shells. They didn't annihilate them, they bled them. And bled them some more. On a time scale of a few weeks to 1 month, the enemy formations in contact could not take this and evaporated.

The key is that artillery could not get this effect on its own, shelling enemy positions from across the battlefield, with no tactical recon to direct it and the enemy not threatened and forced to leave his shelters to defend himself. But if such threats were created, and artillery ammo wasn't wasted on huge useless overkill shoots or prep fires while the enemy was safe in a dugout 20 feet below ground - then the maneuver elements honestly didn't need to win their own fights. They didn't need to take the objective, outflank the enemy, out think him or out fight him with tanks and rifles and machineguns.

Those things only needed to create the threat that brought him out of his dugouts and into contact, revealed his positions, and let the infantry and armor call down fire upon him. And accurately adjust that fire. Whether this achieved some daily local mission of the maneuver arms was basically beside the point, if they achieved those "good shoots". The enemy could not stand in front of the artillery parks involved, applied relentlessly and in such "good shoots". They'd just evaporate.

The worst things that could happen on either side of the ball were the artillery being called upon to do what it could not do, and inflict annihilation or decision in one day. Or, the maneuver arms seeking decision by their own massed action, bunching up to present a thick attacking target, out of cover and under un-silenced enemy guns. The former wasted the shells to no purpose. The second wasted men to no purpose. The right thing was just enough pressure to make the enemy deploy, as much battlefield intel as possible to fire accurately. Then time and throw weight could do the rest, and run the enemy of out men.

I've yet to see a single wargame, any scale, that understands any of that. Heck, most of the commanders at the time didn't get it...
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Confusion Under Fire
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Looking at this from a slightly different angle, imagine this scenario.
Your men are over there defending the objective. My men are over here waiting to attack. I spend 40 turns bombarding you with my arty. Your remnants are disorganised and retreat. I move my men forward to take the objective. Game over.

Arty fire is better at a higher scale where deciding where your point of attack is going to be and then concentrating your fire against that area. It also depends where you draw the line over what is artillery and what isn't artillery. Company commanders could have a platoon of 3" mortars at their disposal and German squads could carry knee mortars.
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CJ
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wernervoss wrote:
I remember always keenly feeling the difference when one side had an artillery advantage in Combat Commander Series, too.


I've always been impressed by CC:E's game design that artillery isn't really that powerful. IDF is rarely better than DF and the area effect is countered by the inaccuracy; smoke is a double-edged sword and a clever opponent can take advantage of it. The best thing about it is the reduction of command confusion cards from the deck as AR cards have a use.
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Robert Stuart
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One of the factors is that in squad level games such as Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles (that being the one I've played the most), it's not casualties which are being modeled, but loss of unit cohesion, which equates to 'unit destruction' in the time frame of the scenario being played. That is, both rifle and artillery fire against, say, a unit moving in the open, can cause a unit to disintegrate, but in real life the artillery strike would have inflicted far more casualties. This extra casualty loss is not tallied in the game, nor is it the purpose of the game to do this. One way to reflect this would be to arbitrarily assign a 'casualty loss' due to particular actions leading to unit destruction, and keep a running total throughout the scenario (ie, a unit destroyed by rifle fire has, say, a 20% casualty loss, whereas one destroyed by artillery fire has 60% casualty loss). I would think, however, that this would make the game tedious and boring.

Artillery strikes in Band of Brothers create zones in which all units present at the time of the strike, and any units entering the zone, or moving through it, are 'attacked'. The artillery strike effectively immobilizes units in the zone and seals off the zone for movement throughout the turn. In the scenarios which contain artillery, proper coordination of artillery with direct action by ground units is crucial to winning.

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kevin halloran
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I don't know if it's much relevant to the main point but in this context "artillery" includes mortars which some authorities state as the single highest cause of WW2 casualties. One book - I think called "Citizen Soldiers" - suggested US casualties in Normandy were as much as 75% caused by mortar fire.
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Andy Daglish
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chuft wrote:
Has any WW2 game given you this impression? If so, which one?


The clear example is Beda Fomm / Beda Fomm.
Artillery is the most powerful arm on both sides, trumping the contemporary view that tanks were.
The game allows Harrassment & Inderdiction fire, but players very rarely use it, except to block the last open hex. This doesn't reflect the theory, which involved indirect fire used in a non-tactical manner. Interestingly the vaunted 25lber batteries are rated the same as the majority of Italian artillery, and in AT strength they are the same as 2lbers, and this is reasonable given their underpowered quintessence, oft-overlooked. They were however excellent for training young lads...at Larkhill in the mid-1960s.

Another harsher example is Thunder at Cassino, the battle Hitler declared as the closest to his Great War experience. Here artillery observers rule the board, and create rubble in the town which hampers the Shermans, until labour battalions clear the rubble. They can lay smoke, which imposes temporary nighttime upon an area. The game portrays the active German tactical synthesis of mortars & machineguns very well [here mines and snipers are rendered moot by the firestorm]. It has numerous simulation successes, which are the cleverest you'll find, and has no difficulty rising above the other three TAHGC area-move games.

In To the Green Fields Beyond you can plan your shoots all day long, and it works very well, but like TaC it takes a while. Though IMO it would be far better spent than in monster nonsense such as Case Blue. In that game I have often wondered if its almighty supply characteristic reflects the difficulties imposed by the wide variety of Russian artillery ammunition types. I bet it doesn't.
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Wendell
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Finnish artillery kicked my Soviet ass in a game of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939. (Technically not WW2, so sue me.)
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Carl Paradis
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I f-und this game to give an excellent representation of the effect of artillery, and in Normandy to boot!

"Artillery plays a crucial role too. Good observation posts are essential for accurate fire. You will find yourself fighting many desperate actions for control of hilltop vantage points or church steeples."

St-Lô







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Jeb
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wifwendell wrote:
Finnish artillery kicked my Soviet ass in a game of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939. (Technically not WW2, so sue me.)


This is a good point. The company/platoon level games seem to show artillery in all its glory. If I remember correctly, it's not that the Finnish have great artillery but that the Soviet offensives require troop concentrations that make artillery exceptionally effective.

GTS also does a great job of this with mortars becoming a devastating weapon at this level of play by breaking defenses down and breaking attacks up.
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Jason Cawley
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kevin - no, mortars were not the leading cause of artillery casualties, though they are included of course. Div arty on all sides did more because it had more ammo fed to it, better fire control, greater range etc.

For the Germans specifically, 81mm mortars were about a quarter of shells fired by round count, and much less by weight and lethality. 105mm outshot then by about 3 to 2 and the much bigger 150mm shot about half their shell count, of 100 lb shells not 7 lb ones. The remainder was rarer other calibers, rockets, and the like.

For the western allies, the heavier role of div arty was even more pronounced. The US had a severe shortage of 81mm in Normandy from one week after the invasion to the breakout, because the demand was infinite, there being far more tubes in near contact, capable of being fired so rapidly, that any rounds that made it up to the units was gone in half a day. Less could get to them, because they were so far forward the rounds had to be man carried the last couple of miles, in the German's own artillery beaten range where unarmored transport movement was unsafe, etc. The tube arty was easier to keep supplied.

German div arty was certainly a but less effective in Normandy than most if the war, simply because the density of western air over the battlefield was so high, and counterbattery was one of its main missions. Little L-5s were spotting for a huge gun park of 155s as well. A mobile and stealthier mortar wasn't as good a counterbattery target. Still the Normandy mortar estimate you gave is a misunderstanding for all shell fire.
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Jason Cawley
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Actually, low level games are precisely the ones that competely miss the real effectiveness of artillery. Because realistically portrayed, it was not a full unit killer in the short periods of time and the single fights those depict. Yes it can help take an objective, inflict some loss, neutralize or demoralize a given enemy formation, and from the frog's eye view of a rifleman or platoon leader that looks powerful and decisive compared to what he can do with his other resources. But it doesn't destroy the whole enemy force - it bleeds him some. And on the be fight, tactical scale it seem "indecisive" to "only" inflict 10% losses on a defending formation, say. So the temporary morale and cohesion hit can seem like the main thing, advancing the local plan more.

That perspective is exactly the wrong one to understand how decisive artillery was. Because the thing is, if you do that 10% to a defending formation *every day for a week*, you cut them in half, and they may not fight effectively at all afterward. If they still can, do it again every day for a second week, and they are a quarter of their original number, in shellshock, unable to protect themselves from the maneuver forces in front of them. Unless relieved or another formation about the same size reinforces them.

And you can just keep doing that, as fast as shells can be trucked to the front. An attacking division's artillery can "eat" the trench rifle strength of the whole formation opposite twice over in a month, if they stand in front of you to fight and take it, and you are supplied, and they can't just hide in their dugouts because they are under maneuver force pressure. It is the relentlessness of this battle to campaign scale *attrition* effect that is decisive artillery power.

Maneuver arms thinking doesn't think of it as decisive because the front doesn't move rapidly while it is going on. Then the enemy can't hold anymore, here or there, where his trench strength is a quarter what it was two weeks ago, and the front collapses, and armor exploits, and thinks it did it all.

Tactical games don't show enough repetition of those 10% losses to see how they can prove decisive on their own, and operational ones usually focus on the maneuver units, depict those as way more resilient than they actually are, and relegate artillery to a column shift or similar here or there, in what they typically show as a maneuver combat dominated affair. The slight truth in that is that arty *does* need combined arms, maneuver pressure to give it a vulnerable enemy target; if it just fires on its own without that, the enemy goes deep in his holes and losses per round fired drop 90 to 99% compared to "good shoots" on exposed enemies.

But whenever the arty gets that pressure, it is nearly deterministic (in a law of large numbers, insurance like sense) that firing off N heavy shells will "drop" N/2 to N/10 enemies - and the rest is just logistics. The armies field millions of men, but the factories turn out hundreds of millions of shells. The arty tubes are just hoses to spray those onto the enemy the last 5 miles; making and moving them to those points is enough to kill the entire enemy force stone dead, just given enough time.
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John Brady
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wifwendell wrote:
Finnish artillery kicked my Soviet ass in a game of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939. (Technically not WW2, so sue me.)


Technically WWII or not, it's an awesome game, so I won'b be the one to sic the lawyers on you .
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D M Laura
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I think The Battle for Normandy does a pretty good job with artillery. They don't always cause casualties per se, but you are constantly juggling priority attacks using artillery units. Which makes them very important in the overall strategy for either side. Again, its somewhat abstract, but artillery is not lost on what I think is a very good game/simulation design.
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Daniel Broh-Kahn
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Re: Artillery in WWII: What about Day of Days? by MMP?
My gaming group just finished playing MMP's excellent Day of Days (First ten days at Normandy) at the World Boardgaming Championships. If anything, we all noted that artillery (and its siblings, Naval Fire and Air Bombardment) were easily responsibly for a majority of the casualties. If the defender, usually Germans, were in a city, you would not take the city without vast quantities of artillery. And to kill anyone, they usually needed to be disorganized first, requiring artillery again.
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Wilbur Whateley
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That is one thing I liked about OCS, the fact that artillery could outright kill units, and large artillery concentrations could be very scary. For the Soviets in 1942, for example, often the best way to take on a 5 AR German unit was to literally blow it away with a massive artillery barrage. The unit's AR was no defense to this kind of attack. As the German, the one thing I feared about all else was seeing those Katyushas lumber up to the front where I had good units. You very much had the feeling of the infantry "you can't fight back, you just have to sit there and take it and hope you don't get hit."

Most operational systems, as Jason notes, just have artillery give a shift or something which acts as a force multiplier for the manuever elements. It's rare to have artillery take its place as the killer.
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Terry Yoder

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In tactical games it seems pre-assault bombardment can be abstracted away by simply starting the scenario with a weakened defense. For battles I like the way artillery is used in Fields of Fire. It can be called in by observers to great effect.
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Carl Fung
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My feeling is that while artillery did cause the greatest proportion of casualties in battle, it's a bit boring in terms of game play since its passive. That is, declare a barrage and roll the dice and see what happens. Compare this to the sexy tank-on-tank action or even infantry close combat. Therefore small tactical games will use artillery in the secondary role to blast the enemy once they are spotted, but things like the big prep barrages are rarely modeled. At Strategic levels, artillery is factored into divisional/corps/army combat factors. At the Grand Tactical and Operational level, this would be the sweet spot where artillery would matter much but the caution is not to model it too well, making the common issue of a barrage of destroying a enemy hex before a declared combat can occur to advance after combat into it.

Another issue is fog of war. Statistics show that artillery causes 60-70% casualties but the friendlies don't know that. The replete examples of the WWI Generals declaring that their whirlwind barrages will utterly destroy the enemy only to find out that they just turned up mud and the enemy just hunkered down. It is still up to the ground forces to advance into enemy territory to declare if they just see fragments of the enemy. In the near perfect vision of the game player, is the ground combat and advance after combat incorporate the residual effects of the barrage?
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Colin Raitt
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The Longest Day

The US has loads of corps artillery brigades, a lot of it mechanised and independent heavy mortar battalions.
The Brits had 24 tubes in each 25 pounder battalion.
The Germans gets nebelwerfer battalions. Brits and Germans both have longer ranged guns intended for counter-battery work.

In a typical attack 3 infantry battalions and an attached tank battalion would be supported by the 3-4 battalions of artillery belonging to the division plus 6 more corps artillery battalions for a whole supply roundel. Hence artillery accounted for more than half of the attack strength.

Artillery also had a barrage phase just before the enemy attacked. that could be used to break up attacks, wear down your opponent or finish off a unit on its last legs (creating a gap you could exploit in your movement phase). It still used supply if more than 1 battalion acted and you could only fire in barrage or attack phase, not both.

The allies had more supply and more artillery so they would gradually attrite the Germans and breakout.

Krieg
had army group and front artillery which were pretty decisive. If 1 side brought army group artillery and the other didn't they were much more likely to win the battle. It was more powerful than air support and could absorb losses.

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Andrew N
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wifwendell wrote:
Finnish artillery kicked my Soviet ass in a game of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939. (Technically not WW2, so sue me.)


My experience has mostly been the opposite. As the Finns, I was always cursing the uselessness of my arty/lack of ammo, and fear the Soviets' guns.

Edit: I see above I wasn't the first one to think this.
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Wendell
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wernervoss wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
Finnish artillery kicked my Soviet ass in a game of Red Winter: The Soviet Attack at Tolvajärvi, Finland – 8-12 December 1939. (Technically not WW2, so sue me.)


My experience has mostly been the opposite. As the Finns, I was always cursing the uselessness of my art/lack of ammo, and fear the Soviets' guns.


Then either Kevin (the Finn) rolled better than you, or I had worse Soviet tactics than your opponent!
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