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Bulletpoint

How come Nebelwerfers are so rare in the big German scenarios?

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Posted (edited)

Just wondering why the designers of the various scenarios are so hesistant to give the Germans any kind of real artillery support, even in the largest battles.

Finished KG Peiper and found no Nebelwerfers there, but with the level of detail evident in that campaign, I think it's safe to assume that it was because he didn't have any in reality.

Then I started looking at the other huge scenarios that come with the game.

In "Day of Attrition", you command most of an entire regiment of Volksgrenadiers, but your fire support is a medium mortar platoon and two 75mm infantry guns.

In "Hot time in Hatten", you have a battalion of Panzergrenadiers, and about 25 tanks, but your fire support is.. two 81mm mortars.

Now, I understand arty might be held back for balance reasons, but when tasked to take an entire town, a module or two of heavy artillery would hardly be an "I-win-button".

Actually I did some tests of the various sizes of Nebelwerfers, and while they are powerful, they don't fight the battle for you. Even firing a whole module of the biggest rockets as a point mission (against infantry in a small village), I'd still find a couple of survivors in the beaten zone afterwards.

But, as I understand it, they were quite often used, especially before assaults. So it would have been nice to see them used more in CMFB.

Edited by Bulletpoint

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I’ve just finished reading the official US army History of the Bulge (Cole) and one thing he emphasizes is that after the initial assaults on 16-17 December, the werfers and other artillery had trouble keeping up with the volksgrenadiers (not to mention the panzer divisions). So that might be part of it. 

The other factor might be that heavy and rocket artillery was usually used in preliminary bombardments, outside CM’s scope. 

I havent played “Day of Attrition” yet but I see it’s about Höfen and Monschau. Cole says that in that battle on Dec 16, the higher German command inexplicably forbade using artillery on Momschau itself. They did use werfers and guns north and south of the town, but 1) it lifted at least 15 minutes before the infantry assault, and 2) “Neither the [US] infantry nor cavalry (gone well to ground) suffered much from this fire, heavy though it was; but many buildings were set afire in Höfen and some were beaten to the ground.” Excluding the rockets from the CM scenario seems right to me (though it does show the absence of terrain fires!)

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It is interesting what does and what doesn't get commonly used in a game. Scenario designers aren't restricted by points totals or rarity so they can use whatever their heart desires. Maybe its the wait times. A 15 minute wait can be painful if medium mortar can be called on in half the time. Maybe its because its 'too much'. Calliope and Xylophone artillery rockets have the same problem (and BM21 artillery rockets in CMSF). They can abruptly bring gameplay to a halt. I heard that some H2H players insist on a 'gentleman's agreement' to purchase no artillery rocket batteries for QB games.

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16 minutes ago, Bearstronaut said:

You can always add artillery in the scenario editor.

Yep, but I prefer not to - out of respect for the scenario designer and because I don't want to spoil the challenge of a scenario that was balanced to not have those weapons.

But I just did change the weather to avoid the snow flurries. I find the graphical effect doesn't look very good and because it slows my computer, so I replaced it with mist (to still get a bit of effect on visibility).

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26 minutes ago, General Liederkranz said:

I havent played “Day of Attrition” yet but I see it’s about Höfen and Monschau. Cole says that in that battle on Dec 16, the higher German command inexplicably forbade using artillery on Momschau itself.

Thanks for the good reply. I could imagine it's because they wanted to avoid destroying the two bridges in the town. Would make sense.

I'm sure there are similar good explanations for many of the absent heavy guns in many of the German scenarios. It's up to designers what battles they want to recreate - I just sometimes get the feeling I keep fighting battles that were the exception :) When fighting a huge battle with a regiment, it would be fun to get some bigger support assets to plan how to use ...

 

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1 hour ago, MikeyD said:

I heard that some H2H players insist on a 'gentleman's agreement' to purchase no artillery rocket batteries for QB games.

Dc and I had an agreement that we wouldn't use any artillery at all, only on map mortars. We used that rule in all our H2H battles.

 

Mord.

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Reading more about the battle, it strikes me again how there are so many anecdotes about how just a few rag-tag green US infantry survive massive assaults even while extremely outnumbered, causing huge losses. I've yet to read about any action post-normandy where the Germans had any real success with anything.

From the wiki:

Just after noon, at 1235, the Germans launched their attack again, and they were pushed back by artillery and mortar fire. The result of the first day of what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge were 104 Germans dead "in an area 50 yards (46 m) yards in front of our lines to 100 yards (91 m) behind the line, and another 160 wounded counted in front of battalion lines."The 3rd Battalion lost four killed, seven wounded, and four missing.

 

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It may help to keep in mind the artillery preponderance the US had available particularly in the North and the western overall better use of their artillery.  Add to that the deficiencies in rapidly formed ill trained units and you have a full recipe for failure.  Even the green units the US deployed (99th ID for example) were still pretty well trained.  Having some veterans distributed throughout a unit doesn't make up for poor unit cohesion and training experience.

As to the earlier statement about German artillery keeping up with the advance, I think that one is well documented.  The road network simply just wasn't capable of supporting what the Germans were trying to do especially considering their opponent was far more mobile and could move units around the periphery of the battle.  The German advantage in mobility was long since gone rendering them into the role of the western armies the last time they tried an attack in the Ardennes.

On the other hand there are instances where the Germans did fight very well defensively including local counterattacks.  Large scale not so much.  This book is a good account of the 272nd VG division that fought very well in the Huertgen.

https://www.amazon.com/Victory-Beyond-Their-Grasp-Volks-Grenadier/dp/0977756327/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533844202&sr=1-2&keywords=victory+was+beyond+their+grasp

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Posted (edited)

One interesting thing I just noticed now is that the Germans and US actually suffered apprx. the same amount of casualties during the Ardennes Offensive (about 90,000 casualties), and the Allies lost significantly more armour and planes.

So obviously the Germans didn't get mown down everywhere. They must have had success somewhere. Was it the Hürtgen Forest battle that made up for all this, or were there simply many more battalion sized actions that we don't hear about where the Germans did better?

Is there a kind of victor bias at work here - or am I just reading the numbers wrong?

Edited by Bulletpoint

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Posted (edited)

What period are these numbers for? Those numbers on Wikipedia go up through Jan. 25, which would mean they include about a month when the US was back on the offensive and only 2 weeks when it was mostly the Germans attacking. Presumably Huertgen losses wouldn't be included since that battle was over by Dec. 16.

I would also imagine the Germans inflicted far more losses than they suffered in the opening days, mostly not by winning relatively equal head-on engagements but by cutting off and overwhelming smaller American units (or forcing them to surrender, like the whole 422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments).

Edited by General Liederkranz

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3 hours ago, General Liederkranz said:

the higher German command inexplicably forbade using artillery on Momschau itself. 

IIRCR, Hitler himself requested, that Monschau should be spared. As the story goes, he visited the town before the war and wanted to preserve it‘s beauty. If it is true, it’s a shame that he did not think to have some more places preserved.

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14 minutes ago, General Liederkranz said:

What period are these numbers for? Those numbers on Wikipedia go up through Jan. 25, which would mean they include about a month when the US was back on the offensive and only 2 weeks when it was mostly the Germans attacking.

Good detail. The wiki talks about apprx. 89,500 US casualties from 16th of December through 25th of January, of which 23,000 are captured and missing. The rest are killed and wounded. So the Germans must have had some tactical successes somewhere, I just haven't really found any stories about that (admittedly I'm only an amateur armchair historian at best, and my only source for this is what I can read online...). I can only find reports of Germans attacking in hordes and getting cut down by Joe Greenhorn and a couple of his buddies.

Stuff like:

The 395th was outnumbered five to one and was at times surrounded. They initially pushed the Germans back with machine guns, small arms, mortar fire, and hand-to-hand combat. Without any significant armor support, the 395th stopped the German advance cold.

 

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It seems natural that those got the most attention in US accounts. My memory (just based on reading Cole recently) is that there are many other instances, early in the battle, of platoons and companies being overrun. Those who survived as stragglers or prisoners probably didn't get as much attention as intact units that survived assaults, like the 395th stand at Höfen or the defenders at Bastogne or Krinkelt-Rocherath. (As I recall, even Lt. Bouck's heroic stand with his I&R platoon at Lanzerath only got attention decades later, because he and all his men were captured. That action doesn't even show up in Cole's account, written in the early 1960s.)

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3 hours ago, MikeyD said:

I heard that some H2H players insist on a 'gentleman's agreement' to purchase no artillery rocket batteries for QB games.

That was true years ago due to their going-out-of-business low price, not their effectiveness. The prices were adjusted and there's no issue now that I am aware of.

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To Save Bastogne is a good read on the southern portion of the Bulge for the units of the 28th ID.  While they did get overrun, they fought hard and German tactical capability certainly showed issues here as well.  If the Allies had read the attack better things might have gone differently, but considering how long it took to form a full assessment and how long these units were essentially left to themselves, they cost the German army critical time.

You can repeat that with the stand at St Vith which has it's own highly regarded study of armor on the defense.  It used to be available free but is only $1.99 on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Battle-Vith-Belgium-17-23-December-ebook/dp/B0176RGR1A/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533854823&sr=1-2&keywords=armor+in+the+defense&dpID=51mtZGz8T1L&preST=_SX342_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

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The Germans in Hot Time in Hatten get about 20 mortars and 6 150 Infantry Guns.  They just become available as part of the reinforcements that are listed so the two tubes is just what you get at start.  Hot Time In Hatten is in the Alsace region and was part of Nordwind not the Bulge and the German units involved in that operation were mostly scratch units that didn't have much in the way of standard TO&Es or heavy artillery.  Nebelwerfers, from a scenario perspective, are also a bit limiting since they are primarily an area saturation weapon and so their usefulness or applicability are fairly limited.  They just aren't a weapon that is typically going to be used for on call strikes on precision targets which is what a player is primarily going to be using when playing.  Artillery in general terms is probably much more accurate in game than it would have been at the time for a variety of reasons that have been discussed and so the Nebelwerfer in game would benefit greatly from that extra accuracy.  The main thing about rocket artillery in the game is that they don't sound any different than normal artillery which is disappointing to me since I remember with some fondness the weird space rocket sounds in CM1 when Nebelwerfers were used. 

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11 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

Reading more about the battle, it strikes me again how there are so many anecdotes about how just a few rag-tag green US infantry survive massive assaults even while extremely outnumbered, causing huge losses. I've yet to read about any action post-normandy where the Germans had any real success with anything.

From the wiki:

Just after noon, at 1235, the Germans launched their attack again, and they were pushed back by artillery and mortar fire. The result of the first day of what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge were 104 Germans dead "in an area 50 yards (46 m) yards in front of our lines to 100 yards (91 m) behind the line, and another 160 wounded counted in front of battalion lines."The 3rd Battalion lost four killed, seven wounded, and four missing.

 

So much rubbish has been written. That simply never happened. During the fighting in the Ardennes the German divisions were still relatively well trained and led by good officiers, even the VG divisions. You won't find such numbers in the German divisional accounts, which were very accurate and detailed.

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18 minutes ago, Aragorn2002 said:

So much rubbish has been written. That simply never happened. During the fighting in the Ardennes the German divisions were still relatively well trained and led by good officiers, even the VG divisions. You won't find such numbers in the German divisional accounts, which were very accurate and detailed.

Some yes, but the performance of the German army in the opening days was certainly questionable.  The Twin Villages, Marnach, St Vith all examples of stubborn American units heavily outnumbered and holding their own long enough to completely disrupt the German timetable.  To say the above NEVER happened leaves one to ask then what did because the offensive certainly did not go as planned.  The above quote is from the 395th IR in front of Monschau in Cole's book Chapter 5 page 88 defending against the 326th VG division.  I have no reason to doubt the report.  The US units held the ground and would be able to verify the German losses.  German accounts may be detailed, that does not necessarily mean they are accurate. 

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The descriptions of German infantry tactics during Nordwind mostly consist of a lot of human wave attacks by the Volksgrenadier units involved some of whom were apparently intoxicated during the attack.  The veteran Nord Mountain division performed much better and was an effective unit during the fighting so I would say that the experience and effectiveness could be described as uneven.  Nord was mostly intact though from sitting in northern Finland for most of the war and so they would probably be an exception rather than the norm.  American units also had uneven performances at times, although I think for the most part the American units seemed to outperform their German counterparts in general.  The veteran American divisions in particular did very well almost across the board.  Most of the lesser performances could probably be directed at the various green regiments that were deployed in theater and hastily attached to other divisions rather than having a unified command structure.  I suppose the relatively inexperienced twelfth armored division laid a big fat egg too.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, ASL Veteran said:

The descriptions of German infantry tactics during Nordwind mostly consist of a lot of human wave attacks by the Volksgrenadier units involved some of whom were apparently intoxicated during the attack.

If that's the case, then I am pretty impressed actually, that they managed to cause 18,000 casualties, even though it cost them 23,000 - if the Wiki numbers are correct. (not trying to argue anything here - I understand you said not all the German units made human wave attacks). 

Edited by Bulletpoint

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1 minute ago, Bulletpoint said:

If that's the case, then I am pretty impressed actually, that they managed to cause 18,000 casualties, even though it cost them 23,000. (if the Wiki numbers are correct)

Like I mentioned, the performance for Nordwind could be described as uneven and the descriptions I mentioned were for the initial attacks on New Year's Day with specific Volksgrenadier units.  You also can't draw much of a conclusion from total casualty figures since those would include a lot of non combat related casualties and there were phases of the operation where both sides were attacking and defending at different times.  Hatten, for example, was an intense city fight for more than a week before the Americans elected to voluntarily withdraw several miles behind a river to shorten their lines.  The Germans were so battered and bruised from that battle that they didn't even follow up the American withdrawal for something like twelve hours if I remember right (scenario Hot Time in Hatten and Breaking the Line).  The US twelfth armored division also launched a division level counterattack on the German bridgehead over the Rhine and was annihilated (scenario: A War Without Mercy and Last Man Out).  On the approach march to Wingen sur Moder the Nord battalions almost wiped out an entire American company in prepared defensive positions and followed that up by capturing or killing several HQ and supply units in the town itself without suffering very many casualties in the process (scenario Wax Museum and Drive them Out).  Troops out in winter conditions with WW2 era equipment for extended lengths of time would also suffer a lot of frostbite and sickness related losses.  So basically quoting Operation level casualty figures tells you nothing of value with regard to how the units fought tactically.  In order to know what happened tactically at the squad and platoon level you have to read first hand accounts.

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2 minutes ago, ASL Veteran said:

Like I mentioned, the performance for Nordwind could be described as uneven and the descriptions I mentioned were for the initial attacks on New Year's Day with specific Volksgrenadier units.  You also can't draw much of a conclusion from total casualty figures since those would include a lot of non combat related casualties and there were phases of the operation where both sides were attacking and defending at different times.  Hatten, for example, was an intense city fight for more than a week before the Americans elected to voluntarily withdraw several miles behind a river to shorten their lines.  The Germans were so battered and bruised from that battle that they didn't even follow up the American withdrawal for something like twelve hours if I remember right (scenario Hot Time in Hatten and Breaking the Line).  The US twelfth armored division also launched a division level counterattack on the German bridgehead over the Rhine and was annihilated (scenario: A War Without Mercy and Last Man Out).  On the approach march to Wingen sur Moder the Nord battalions almost wiped out an entire American company in prepared defensive positions and followed that up by capturing or killing several HQ and supply units in the town itself without suffering very many casualties in the process (scenario Wax Museum and Drive them Out).  Troops out in winter conditions with WW2 era equipment for extended lengths of time would also suffer a lot of frostbite and sickness related losses.  So basically quoting Operation level casualty figures tells you nothing of value with regard to how the units fought tactically.  In order to know what happened tactically at the squad and platoon level you have to read first hand accounts.

Thanks, +1.

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1 hour ago, ASL Veteran said:

...The US twelfth armored division also launched a division level counterattack on the German bridgehead over the Rhine and was annihilated (scenario: A War Without Mercy and Last Man Out).  ...

Awesome post @ASL Veteran - tying game scenarios into a list of highlighted events from the actual timeline.

Wish I could plus two it. :)

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