Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Broadsword56

Flanking The Fortress - Hill 531 (Tunisia) - WIP

Recommended Posts

In late April 1943, the Allies had the Germans almost beaten in Tunisia as the campaign moved to the north, on the approaches to Tunis.

But as the US II Corps advanced toward the key road/rail junction of Mateur, they faced this:

George_Biddle_painting_Hill_609.jpg

Djebel Tahent -- marked on military maps as Hill 609. It dominated all approach routes and surrounding hills.

A modern-day photo of Hill 609, from the reverse slopes on the German side:

Hill_609_Djebel_Tahent_Modern_Color_Photo.jpg

As if Hill 609 wasn't daunting enough, it was actually part of an entire hill complex that made a virtual fortress guarding the route to Mateur.

After days of costly attacks, the decisive action came on April 30 when the 1/135th Infantry, 34th Infantry Division, got orders to flank Hill 609 from the southeast.

(more...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What the battalion faced was an interlocking German defense, with mutually supporting reverse-slope positions on all the hills guarding Hill 609:

TacmapinitialphaseArmyAARmap.jpg

To outflank Hill 609, the battalion first would have to secure Hill 531, then neutralize Point RR and Hill 455 beyond that. This scenario opens as the 1/135prepares to attack...

(more...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A smaller scale map, from the historical AAR, showing the attack routes of each US company ("K" on the map stands for the "knob" of Hill 609 that overlooked the battlefield:

TacMap_Brandt_Final_Phase_Hill_609.jpg

And here's an in-game overhead of the scenario map -- a 1,776m x 2,672m battlefield covering the unit boundaries of this 1/135th Infantry mission:

Aerialoverviewlevel9gamemap.jpg

The same map in the Scenario Editor:

Hill_531_map_editor_view.jpg

(more...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now for some in-game looks at the terrain:

viewalonggermanlinesfromknob.jpg

What the German FOs would see from "The Knob" on Hill 609, looking along friendly lines toward Point RR and Hill 455.

The spring rains are over but N. Tunisia is still very green. This is the wheat-growing belt. Wheat fields here have the hedge-and-cactus borders typical of this region (it's what Tunisians used instead of barbed wire, to keep animals out of the crops). It might look like nice tank country at first, but all the valleys and roads are deathtraps -- the key terrain here is the hilltops, which can fire on anything that moves in the areas below. The hills themselves are solid rock -- making it impossible to dig in. This was an infantry battle, where the fighting was boulder-to-boulder and it often came down to grenades and bayonets at close range.

Panning around to look from The Knob toward the US starting positions:

GermanviewtoHill531andUSlines.jpg

The rocky hills were criscrossed by ancient stone walls, making it even better terrain for the defender. Center left is Hill 531, the main US objective. To the right are hills 529 and 530, where the Americans started from the rear slopes. The "saddle" between those hills was a key approach route to Hill 531, but the Germans had all the obvious paths and roads in the valleys wired and mined, with TRPs on everything and heavy weapons covering them.

The German defenders were the fanatical Regiment Barenthin, a formation cobbled together from Luftwaffe and FJ troops. They will have loads of HMGs, mortars, and high motivation. But they will be spread somewhat thin for the area they have to cover. I may start them with one company + heavy weapons, and then have a few reinforcing platoons arrive later.

This will be an infantry-only HTH-only scenario, with no AI in it. It would also be ideal for a 2 or 3 vs. 1 PBEM, with several US players taking companies against a single German player.

Here's the historical AAR, in PDF in the US Army archives:

http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Donovanpapers/wwii/STUP2/BrandtArnold%20N.%20MAJ.pdf

I'd be interested in comments, and to hear from those interested in playtesting this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks!

The AAR is really a good read -- it's one of the best-written battalion AARs I've come across. You really get a feel for the action, and anyone playing the scenario will get a lot of insight about the tactics required.

I'm going to make the US battalion commander a +2 leader -- he led the key attack personally and really made a difference, I think. The US troops will be Regular by this time in the campaign, but tired and only average motivation.

US Hint: Use LOTs of smoke!

German hint: Keep reserves to counterattack every US gain immediately and vigorously.

For those who played CMAK: There was a Hill 609 scenario by a player named Iron Duke. I never played it, and mine is not based directly on that map or scenario, but if you liked that one you'll probably like this one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Biggest. Fields. Of. Fire. Ever.

Use lots of smoke indeed!!

I found the AAR very interesting. Actually, is it ever possible to access these kind of documents through the internet? I'd be really interested in reading primary sources.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, you're almost as crazy as I am. Great map!

Be careful with "fanatic" though, wrt the Germans. That term tended to get tossed around a lot by American writers, when they really meant "stubborn" or "fought harder than we would have in their situation". I haven't skimmed your document yet, but barring strong evidence of them repeatedly conducting suicide attacks or fighting "to the last man", I'd recommend you top off their morale at High or maybe Extreme. Fanatic in the game really is fanatic - they literally don't give up until killed and recover quickly from Pins. Be hard to see why they'd behave that way when so much of the DAK had already surrendered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL -- I agree, LLF. Too many wartime US reports tend to describe every German unit they faced as "fanatical Nazis." I'd make the Germans in this scenario High motivation, I think. Even though they knew it was the endgame in Tunisia, I think they still believed they would win the war. These Barenthin troops really were crack soldiers, though.

"Fallschirmjäger Regiment Barenthin, was called 'perhaps the best German troops in Africa' by none other than General Harold Alexander, Commander of the Allied 18th Army Group. (according to this wiki site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_von_Broich/von_Manteuffel )

But I've been having a devil of a time ascertaining the exact OOB for the Barenthin troops that faced the 1/125th at Hill 531 that day, or even how many Germans were actually on the battlefield. Any help in that from folks on the forum would be much appreciated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, you sure you can't do a simple AI plan for the Germans to make this a 1 player? I quickly read through the historical account and they seem fairly static.... Seems like their counterattacks were about as skilled and successful as the AI's would likely be on this ground. :P

JAC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose I could try, but it would be my first effort and would most likely suck.

True, the Germans were somewhat static but they counterattacked aggressively -- and how would that be coded into AI plans when the AI can't react to a lost position?

It would have to be done all through timing, guessing where the GIs would be at particular points in the fighting. Suggestions?

If there's anyone who's good at AI and wants to try adding it to the scenario, I'd be happy to turn it over once I have the OOB and briefing finished.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It would have to be done all through timing, guessing where the GIs would be at particular points in the fighting. Suggestions?

That's all that a designer can do at the moment. That's why short battles on small maps with a company or less work best for play against a dynamic AI opponent. Huge maps with large OBs and more than 2 hours+ on the clock are not really feasible for AI play unless the defenders do nothing. There's just too much that can happen for a designer to predict under these circumstances. Not only that, but if you take a chance and try to guess and get it wrong, players will complain. I'd just stick with a static German AI plan and balance it for H2H play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

Maybe Broadsword or someone else would be kind enough to help,

Did US forces have bazookas in North Africa? Had they already been introduced? I notice they are in the Tunisia scenario.

Thanks...

All the best,

Kip.

PS Am very much enjoying the scenario to which I have added basic, but quite useable, AI for the US forces.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re AI, PaperTiger is generally correct, but IIUC, the VC for this battle is driven by securing a bunch of hilltops, a limited objective set. And the German counterattacks could be timed to occur later in the game, so that if the US hadn't yet taken the objectives, the game would be already lost anyway. Based on a quick readthrough of the AAR, the German CO would be unlikely to fail to try, even against the odds, as it appears they had "hold at all cost" orders for these strategically dominant features.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, I know there's a vocal faction on the boards that dislikes larger maps/scenarios. In this case, I gave this scenario the map and scale of forces I felt it needed to represent the historical battle accurately, and to re-create the tactical problem.

These were mutually supporting German hill positions, and a major challenge of this attack for the US commander was how to deal with all the German support fire coming from all the other hills, over such a wide-open area.

I think it's much easier to make successful small scenarios in close terrain or bocage, where smaller units often fought in isolation. But more open terrain tends to lead naturally to bigger-scale scenarios, IMHO.

Market-Garden probably won't pose this problem as much, despite the flat and open terrain of Holland. That's because so many of the fights happened as flare-ups between isolated forces all along the corridor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been trying to make AI plans for my own scenario in a tiny map,...and I don't even want to imagine what would it be like to manage so many AI plans for so many troops in such a big map, nightmare. AI behaviour is not easy to understand to say the least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

I do have a basic AI defensive plan for the original Tunisia scenario. Will make it available as soon as possible. “Basic...” but still quite useable defensive plans are quick and easy to do. More complex plans are very time consuming.

Fuser thanks for the info on the bazookas. Was not quite sure if they were actually used.

All the best,

Kip.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Motivation values are the most important factors when creating very tough defenses but they may turn to be balance breakers easily, very dangerous when creating scenarios.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think it's much easier to make successful small scenarios in close terrain or bocage, where smaller units often fought in isolation. But more open terrain tends to lead naturally to bigger-scale scenarios, IMHO.

I must agree here,...BUT,...In small scenarios, there are certain KEY units, that if prematurely lost by the AI defender lead to unbalanced, not fun results. It´s hard to find the best position without making the game too difficult or an unfair mouse trap. I tried hard in Assault in Huberderie, enemy units are very well positioned IMO, but that leads to difficult, sometimes frustrating battles for the human. Bocage scenarios are even more challenging, since designer must avoid the use of vegetation as "go through here and expect my ambush" unfair or not playable labirinths.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...