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Kaunitz

CM WWII: Are tanks "overpowered"?

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5 hours ago, markshot said:

A single T-34 which until a minute ago was averaging 20mph, now slows to 3mph right next to your camouflaged foxhole.

Obviously it slows down to an appropriate speed to navigate the difficult terrain (the foxholes) - just like in Combat Mission when a heavy tank has to go through a plank fence, it also slows to a crawl :)

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52 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

Obviously it slows down to an appropriate speed to navigate the difficult terrain (the foxholes) - just like in Combat Mission when a heavy tank has to go through a plank fence, it also slows to a crawl :)

Another reason to go slow is that going fast is dangerous when you're almost blind (if the enemy's fire at your vision slits gets more and more accurate). 

Of course there are huge risks in fighting tanks at close combat. And above all, I guess the feats you see in the instructional movies are rather unlikely due to psychological reasons, due to fear. But infantry support for tanks can be lacking. Artillery might drive the infantry away or at least pin it, or the attacked infantry still manages to put some fire down, despite the presence of tanks.

Quote

Thanks, very interesting. Much of it reminds me of situations I've seen play out in Combat Mission. From the part where they manage to cross the road under fire, to especially the bit about the two-man "scout team" that was maybe sent out only to draw fire and make the enemy reveal themselves. Thanking my lucky stars I grew up in peacetime.

The thing I really found interesting is that the tank crew acted as their own infantry support, dismounting to peek around the corner. I will see if I can find accounts of actions that are more relevant to the topic here. I.e. tanks (+infantry) attacking vs. prepared infantry. Even though these are just anecdotes, they might help us get a better feeling the "effectiveness" of tanks. In many US accounts, combined tank+infantry attacks are mentioned quite often, but in no great detail. I also found an account by a german parachute engineer who mentions that a single "Ofenrohr-Trupp" (stovepipe=Panzerschreck-squad), consisting of 3 Panzerschrecks, knocked out 13 attacking Shermans... Unfortunately, the action itself is not described in much detail.

@IanL

I just listed all the points, no matter how "established" they are. As for the fortifications, you probably know my personal opinion. Regarding the MGs, I rather think that non-tank-MGs are a tad too inaccurate. Bulletpoint and I had a PBEM in which his plentyfull light MGs (german Aufklärungstruppen) were fighting three of my heavy MGs for about 25 minutes at a range of 700-800m. I think in total, the MGs of both sides caused about 3 casualties. Now, I'm generally speaking a big fan of low casualty numbers. But here, it seemed a bit too low. All the troops were in the open (but prone), but I have to admit that there were some factors involved that reduced the effectiveness of the fire (my hMG sometimes suffered from a lack of binoculars, the terrain was sloped and all MGs were firing on the opponent frontally). Still it seemed perhaps a bit too ineffective. (Before you ask: the light and medium mortars I had proved highly ineffective against the spread out and still mobile germans; the frontal hMG fire was not sufficient to pin them long enough).

A whole platoon crossing in 3 minutes seems extremely fast to me! :)

Maybe at some point I can find a volunteer to try out the "greater reaction intervals for tanks" rule in a PBEM. :)

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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21 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

But as it is such an interesting read, I wanted to share it here.

I guess the people who run this forum aren't fond of spoilers. One of those would surely have been needed with that long story.

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3 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

The thing I really found interesting is that the tank crew acted as their own infantry support, dismounting to peek around the corner. I will see if I can find accounts of actions that are more relevant to the topic here.

Try Otto Carius: Tigers in the Mud. I believe there's a part where he leaves his Tiger to recon on foot, then the Russians attack overrun his position, and it's only blind luck that he doesn't get shot.

Haven't read the whole book, but I remember somebody posting that part of it on this forum years ago.

Edited by Bulletpoint

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6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

I just listed all the points, no matter how "established" they are.

OK fair enough and that is totally OK. One pattern I have noticed over the years is we have a discussion like this and then a year later someone posts saying OMG why haven't BFC fixed this terrible bug the game is broken meanwhile us testers are like "WTH are you talking about" and it turns out they either read such a statement or they made it and assumed a ) they were totally correct - cause each of us always is right :) and b ) that BFC should have gone off and started work on this statement right away. Heck it happened to me way back too. It doesn't work like that so I try to be the expectation police - at least a little. I realize that gives me a rep of being a wet blanket but I can live with that :D

So, express your opinion and share your thoughts. This discussion has been really good IMHO. I just want to keep everyone's expectations firmly planted in reality. I am not trying to stop discussion or disagreement - contrary to what some people have said about me in the past.

 

6 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

Now, I'm generally speaking a big fan of low casualty numbers. But here, it seemed a bit too low.

Wait what? You cannot have it both ways man :)

Your description of the MG duel is interesting and I have to say on the face it does not bother me at all. It all sounds fine with me. But those kind of things that bother people can be the start of finding an actual problem. So, getting back to the MG on tripod vs MG on tank issue I would be curious to know what changes if a tank takes one of those positions. Determining what the real differences are will be difficult because tanks typically are higher up which means they probably should do better at aimed fire at prone men. Making that even will require designed terrain to get the tank MG down at the same level as the tripod MG. And you have to run the tank out of HE (and possibly AP) ammo too. Etc.

But this discussion is a great example of the difference between "I think X is wrong" and "I have a test that shows something is off with X". The latter is actionable it probably still requires some investigation but if the test is reasonably constructed it would be worth doing. The former is just not something that can drive change.

Wet blanket mode off.

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1 hour ago, MikeyD said:

I've done this in the game, myself. Drive the tank up to a crest, dismount, carefully peek over the crest, get back in and continue driving.

Yep, over at TFGM there is a recurring armour only tournament. In that kind of environment you can gain a non trivial advantage by dismounting a few crews so they can carefully get eyes and ears on what the enemy is up to. There is no doubt that WW2 tanks have poor situational awareness and that is modeled in CM.

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4 hours ago, IanL said:

...tank['s MGs]typically are higher up...

Well now that depends, doesn't it? If speaking of the coax (or, god help us, the AAMG), which I'm sure you were, you are absolutely correct. But during the WW II period, a majority of medium and heavy tanks (some light tanks too) also had hull MGs which were well placed for grazing fire (about chest high to a standing man).

Michael

Edited by Michael Emrys

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7 hours ago, MikeyD said:

I've done this in the game, myself. Drive the tank up to a crest, dismount, carefully peek over the crest, get back in and continue driving.

If the dismounted unit is the platoon leader do the other tanks in the troop getting any intel?

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36 minutes ago, wadepm said:

If the dismounted unit is the platoon leader do the other tanks in the troop getting any intel?

Yes. Once the platoon hq remounts their ride. I use this tactic a lot. @MOS:96B2P did a superb thread based on testing re how info is shared in CM. 
 

 

Edited by George MC

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Re: Tank MGs are too accurate

I suspect part of the "problem" is that the game does a "hit calculation" by the shooter and change the point of aim for the gun depending on whether the shooter hits/misses. On a miss the point of aim is going to be off of the target by a certain distance. Vehicle mounted MGs, when they miss, don't miss by nearly as much as tripod mounted MGs. So the chance for collateral damage is much higher. Whereas tripod mounted MGs will "miss" and just go totally wide of the entire element its firing at.

This isn't necessarily a bad interaction, but it is visually very weird because it feels like the gunner is intentionally throwing his aim to meet the calculation the game is doing. Whether its correct or not you'd have to do a fair amount of testing for. But visually it feels off which, imo, isn't something that can't be totally discarded since the game has gone 1:1. The results need to be right, but it also needs to visually look correct too.

As an aside I would really love to see MGs traverse their fire more often. They don't really seem to do it at all.



Re: Fortifications

One of the key problems I run into, and this shows up elsewhere, is that the exposure of the man really determines how survivable he is. Essentially not being hit is better than being hit with a good saving throw. Fortifications tend to increase the amount of visual exposure in most cases. Meaning that even though the men are getting good saving throws they are also taking more hits than they would be if they were just prone.

 

The most obvious example of animation/exposure causing deaths is with half-tracks. Where the men are sitting bolt upright and take far more hits than if they were hunched over in the track. Similarly men don't fire over the lip of a fortification, but do so at a full kneeling position. Often leaving much of their upper torso exposed. Its been a problem in CMx2 as far back as CM:SF where there was a store window option for buildings. Resulting into entire squads essentially lining up to be killed at the window. If there is one improvement I would like to see in CM is an increased number of positions/animations since they track so closely with lethality.

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2 hours ago, Pelican Pal said:

Re: Tank MGs are too accurate

It was me who brought up tank MG accuracy, and I just want to say I actually don't know if they are too accurate. All I can say is that I notice them being more accurate than infantry MGs, so when debating relative power between tanks/infantry, that should be part of the discussion.

I read somewhere on these boards that tanks only have one "accuracy value", which they use for both the cannon and for the MGs. I don't know if it's true. All I can say is that if I flank a hedgerow with a tank, it zaps infantry quite fast with its MG at 200m range, whereas LMGs take a long time to hit anything. Maybe that is realistic, I honestly don't know.

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Tank mgs do nothing at all if you don't present them with targets to shoot. If you've got infantry within LOF of a tank's weapons its not exactly the fault of their weapons that you got shot. This is another case of depending on your opponent's incompetence to win. Expecting low situational awareness, slow reaction times and inaccurate return fire to win is not sound tactics (unless you're facing an early T34-76 ;)). I recall reading when John Huston did documentary work on the Italian front he was compelled to 'recreate' engagements for the camera because a real battlefield looks empty. If you show yourself for more than 2 seconds you die.

And by the same token, if a hmg opens up a full US halftrack close enough to get penetrations the deaths weren't due to the animations. The deaths were due to you driving a full HT up to within lethal distance of a hmg.

Edited by MikeyD

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2 hours ago, MikeyD said:

And by the same token, if a hmg opens up a full US halftrack close enough to get penetrations the deaths weren't due to the animations.


Its clear that the animations (well base sitting stance) is getting men who would otherwise not be hit killed. Half-track passengers will get repeatedly head shot by rounds that are bouncing off the vehicles armor solely because they sit in the vehicle as if they were on parade.

In historic photos you do not see men sitting in half-tracks they way they sit in them in CM and there is good reason for that.

Animations can have a pretty dramatic effect on the actual combat outcome of any given fight. Which is why I mentioned them in the first place.

 

2 hours ago, MikeyD said:

I recall reading when John Huston did documentary work on the Italian front he was compelled to 'recreate' engagements for the camera because a real battlefield looks empty. If you show yourself for more than 2 seconds you die.

 

That is essentially what I'm talking about. A lot of the basic animations in CM are not making men small targets so you have lackluster fortifications, well decent "hasty" fortifications and then you have men who aren't firing over the lip of the trench/foxhole and often expose a significant portion of their upper chest.

4 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

 

It was me who brought up tank MG accuracy, and I just want to say I actually don't know if they are too accurate. All I can say is that I notice them being more accurate than infantry MGs, so when debating relative power between tanks/infantry, that should be part of the discussion.

I ran some quick tests this afternoon in an old version of Red Thunder and HMGs were picking up kills at 800 meters and downright deadly at 200 meters. LMGs on the otherhand were not getting kills against running infantry at both 800 meters and 200 meters.

They seemed to consistently shoot high or low and there wasn't a lot of fire inline with the target. Whereas HMGs were often off on the horizontal but vertically had good aim.

I wonder if LMGs get a negative for being fried from the standing or kneeling position as that might be a factor? Its often hard to test accuracy as we don't have good information on what positively and negatively effects it. As far as I can tell CM doesn't do any modelling of weapon stabilization on miscellaneous items (trees, window, furniture, fence line, etc..) But I'm not entirely sure.

Edited by Pelican Pal
addtional

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1 hour ago, Pelican Pal said:

I wonder if LMGs get a negative for being fried from the standing or kneeling position as that might be a factor?

I don't think so. In a recent game. I had 3 LMG42 teams firing at an enemy team completely exposed on golf-lawn grass at 200-300m. My LMG teams were prone, so should get good bipod stabilisation. They really struggled to hit anything. Bursts massively to the right and left of the target.

By the way:

1 hour ago, Pelican Pal said:

I ran some quick tests this afternoon in an old version of Red Thunder and HMGs were picking up kills at 800 meters

I think it might be a good idea to do tests in the most recent version; 4.02. I have a slight hunch that things might have changed recently.

 

Edited by Bulletpoint

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Thanks for the recommendation for Try Otto Carius: Tigers in the Mud, Bulletpoint! I will take a look! :)

Here is a description of a "recon in force" attack of T-34s on a german position. The account by Guy Sajer, Der Vergessene Soldat (my own translation into English). The credibility of Sajer's accounts has been discussed ielsewehere n this forum before. I have no real doubts that what has is described could have happened (in contrast to, e.g. Wolfgang Faus's Tiger Tracks). The one thing that I keep wondering about though is how Sajer could remember so many engagements in such a level of detail. Anyone know what that "anti tank MG" is?

Shortly before nightfall we were abruptly roused from our rest. Our pulse racing, we ran over to our battle positions. The Russian tanks had started to move through the snow storm. The frozen earth started to vibrate.

 The guys at the PAK, as well as those with the Panzerfausts, had their eyes trimmed on their sights, which were constantly steaming over because of the cold. We had also dug some anti-tank-holes (“Panzergruben”), totally insufficient both in their numbers and effect. If our anti-tank defenses failed, we’d be lost. We knew that and clung fast to our AT weapons and magnetic mines that had been distributed amongst us.

 The PAK which we were covering was manned by Olensheim, Ballers, Freivitch and others. The snow storm reduced vision. A heavy MG started to fire somewhere to the north. We could only hear but not yet see the monsters. The sound of battle grew more intense in the north. Despite the fading light and the snow we could now see flashes. The short barking of the PAK whipped across the plain and echoed in a weirdly soft way. The tanks’ rumbling grew louder and felt heavy on our chests. Columns of fire splashed across the plain horizontally. Some also vertically, illuminating the whirling snow. The roaring of the accelerating tanks cut through the night and tormented our ears. Now five of those monsters appeared vaguely before us, rolling parallel to our defensive line. Our chaps at the PAK were already firing. Wiener calmly pressed his MG against his shoulder. I was paralyzed, filled with thousands of indescribable fears. Yellow flashes sparkled on the front sides of the T34s, whose turrets were pointing at our lines. Our PAK had already fired 5 shots, leaving behind white trails in the air, but to no avail.

 One of the tanks passed by our position at a distance of 10 meters. A Panzerfaust exploded at the flank of the monster. The tank slowed down, thick black smoke emanating from the chinks in the armor. The smoke was pressed to the ground by the wind. The hatches opened. You could hear screams, suddenly a loud explosion. The turret exploded. Parts of human bodies were spread all over the wreck, their colors changing from dark red to golden. There was no cheering. The barking of the PAK whipped over our foxhole again. The shell hit the rear part of a tank which was now also engulfed in smoke. Anyone who escaped from the wrecks was gunned down. We took a short breath. The fires illuminated the battle field. More tanks, now discernable for us at greater distance, appeared. One of them approached our line. We had goosebumps. The guys at the PAK were on point. In three seconds, they had turned around the gun, aimed and fired. The shell exploded on the front of the tank. Due to the shock, the engine stuttered for a moment, roared up, then died down. On the right flank, we were blinded by two muzzle flashes and explosions. Another tank was firing at us. Large junks of earth were flying about.

 At that point, I had no clue what was happening anymore. The tank on our right was suddenly engulfed in flames. “Hurray Panzerfaust!”, someone yelled.

 Our gunners continued their fire on the second tank, which had broken through our position and seemed to have had some mechanical issues. I saw a big explosion on its left side. We didn’t need to worry about it anymore. Farther to the rear, a strange scene happened. A T34 rolled through our positions, crushing everything under its tracks. It was pursued by one of our APCs (“Schützenpanzer”) equipped with an anti-tank MG. The crew fired away at the monster, racing behind it. Our lads at the PAK were in troubles. Freivitch was wounded, maybe already dead. We fired our MG at the Russian tank, which retreated full speed back to its own lines. Two shells exploded around the APC. A third shell hit its mark and knocked out our courageous tank hunters. The vehicle, marked with the helmet insignia of the “Grossdeutschland” division, melted away, engulfed in the flames fed by its fuel tanks. The enemy, still feeling pursued, continued his retreat and disappeared in the snow.

 The red tanks’ attack was now over. It had lasted for about half an hour and apparently was meant to locate and reconnoiter our defenses. Some of the tanks had been knocked out. Their casualties were much higher than our own. But those numbers counted little. There was still a whole armada forming to attack us. Despite our low casualties, the loss of 4 PAKs in our sector severely weakened our defense.

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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[Sorry for the double post, I was not able to put two separate spoilers in a single post]

Interestingly, an account of such a “recon in force” attack exists also from a soviet perspective:  Vasiliy Bryukhov, Red Army Tank Commander. At War in a T-34 on the Eastern Front (2013). The attack took place in September 1943, somewhere around Orel/the Kursk salient. The author, by that time in charge of a tank platoon (/I. btn/159. tank brigade/1. tank corps) can’t remember the name of the village.

I have also found other descriptions of infantry-tank encounters. Interestingly, in most cases the tank lack close infantry support. I will see if I will add some more transcriptions of the more detailed/interesting accounts. One factor that strikes me as very important and yet is almost totally absent from CM is that the mere presence of tanks causes fear/suppression. 

 

“A reconnaissance in force by a strengthened platoon is required. I realize that it I a most difficult task, hence I ask volunteers to take one step forward.”

 I stood forward with no hesitation. A that point – for the first and the only time in my life – I sensed the glare of my crew on my back, full of hatred. Everything shrank inside me, but there was no way back. The combrig came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder: “Thank you, lad. Take a seat in the car and let’s go to the spot to discuss the way you’re going to attack.”

We rode through the forest up to a grove on a hillock where there was a control-observation centre for a rifle regiment. Our infantry took up positions slightly below in shallow trenches, and the enemy defence line could be seen a kilometer away, on the outskirts of a settlement.

Preparations didn’t take too long. The commanders showed me the direction of movement and set up the objective – to drive a wedge into the enemy defence at maximum speed and force the enemy to reveal its fire-emplacement system. We were not to spare the ammunition. During the night the tanks of the brigade were refueled, ammo was replenished, and by morning they were ready on the starting line. Tanks from my platoon were deployed over a front sector that was 1.5 kilometres long. Kolya’s tank was on my left; I don’t remember the name of the guy in the tank on the right.

 It is hard to describe one’s feelings before an attack. There was no fear, which might have suppressed my fervor, but of course I was aware that I might die – that thought kept running through my mind.

A red flare put an end to my anxiety. Having yelled “Forward” to my driver, I moved closer to the dashboard. We passed the thin line of infantry which were supposed to rise behind us and keep up with the tanks, and at that moment our artillery opened fire and struck the German positions. There was no return fire yet.

 It was when the tanks approached the passes through the minefields that had been cut by the sappers that the Germans opened fire. The infantrymen dropped to the ground. Tanks immediately to my left and right began to lag behind, then the right one caught fire. I dashed ahead of the rest, and of course the enemy fire concentrated on me. Suddenly we were hit – there were sparks and flames, and unexpectedly it became light. I thought that the gunloader’s hatch had been opened, and yelled: “Akulshin, shut the hatch!”

“There isn’t one – it’s gone!”

A shell had hit the hinge and torn it off! We were still about 200 metres from the enemy line when a German shell hit the front armour. The machine stopped, but didn’t catch fire. (After the battle I saw that a solid penetrator shell had been fired at point-blank range, piercing the armour near the machine-gunner/radio-operator – the shrapnel killing him in the process – and going under the driver’s hatch, tearing it off.) I was deafened by the blast and fell onto the shell stack, just as a second shell smashed through the turret and killed the gunloader. I was lucky to have fallen over in the blast – otherwise we all would have died.

Apparently I was not on the ground for too long. Having come to my senses, I saw the driver lying in front of the tank with his head smashed. I never understood whether he had tried to get out and was killed by a mortar shell, or had been mortally wounded inside the tank and managed to crawl out with his remaining strength. The dead machine-gunner/radio-operator sat in his char. I climbed up on my seat and surveyed the locality using the panoramic viewer; two other tanks from our platoon were burning nearby. The Germans were not shooting any more, apparently having concluded that the tanks had all been destroyed. I took the driver’s place, started the engine with compressed air, switched the rear gear and took off. The Germans opened fire and several solid projectiles hit the armour. I stopped moving, deciding to wait until the brigade started attacking again. Soon our artillery began to shell the disclosed enemy fire emplacements, then tanks and infantry began to advance and dislodged the enemy from their positions.

Edited by Kaunitz

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58 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

The one thing that I keep wondering about though is how Sajer could remember so many engagements in such a level of detail. Anyone know what that "anti tank MG" is?

I reread his book recently and as often as he describes combat in great detail he describes more in very vague terms. I'd also assume he would make a point of recounting the battles he remembered well.

 

Re: Anti-tank MG.

Sajer mentions this weapon multiple times and my suspicion is that he is talking about either the Sd.Kfz. 251/10  w. Pak 36 or Sd.Kfz. 251/17 w. 20mm cannon. My bet is for the latter. While it obviously isn't an anti-tank MG - for a riflemen who fought as assistant MG operator and later with an STG-44 it would be an obvious mistake to make.

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@Kaunitz my $0.02 is the tanks in the game are not overpowered, it is you the player who is overpowered. I know earlier in this thread you mentioned the downfall of the all seeing player and the ability to tell units to area fire into places where they have no clue any enemy units are. Have you tried playing with @RockinHarry no enemy icons mod? It completely changes the way you play the game as it places you the player into a state of FOW, yet leaves your units with all the information you would have if the icons were on. It forces you to move slower, pay closer attention to the battlefield and reduces your reaction time. With enemy icons on, you can see where the enemy is coming from and a rough idea of what is coming at your men. With the icons off, you won't know what you are actually facing until every enemy unit is actually visible to YOUR eye. Enemy icons off makes any low visibility scenario an absolute nightmare to play. 

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5 hours ago, Heirloom_Tomato said:

 Enemy icons off makes any low visibility scenario an absolute nightmare to play. 

I tried it once, never again. But, each to their own I suppose.

Edited by Warts 'n' all

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