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jaeger8888

Is the attrition rate in combat mission "accurate"

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If I line up 10 t-34c's and 10 Panzer IVH's at under 1000 meters in open terrain they pretty much obliterate each other in two minutes. After the first minute less than half the vehicles are still operational. That sound about right?

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Panzer IV has it all over the T-34c.

T-34/85 defeats Panzer IV handily.

5 x T-34/85s and 5 x T-34c's a much more even match against 10 x Panzer IVs.

All regular crews. None of the matchups ever last more than 2 minutes. Most end in 1 minute. Ranges about 700 to 800 meters.

Is this representative of tank crew performance?

This is in complete flat open space.

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If the real tanker of WWII would have been as combat minded as our CM counterparts, that would have been the case. However, the real man had a real life to worry about, with real wife and kids at home. He would try to avoid sudden Mexican showdowns at 1000 meters.

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Assuming that one can find 1000metres of clear level terrain one is left wondering what persuaded both sides not to have opened fire at longer range or sought advantageous firing positions first.

The art of war is to make the fight as unequal as possible so that you lose nothing or minimally.

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That sounds right to me. If one is used to the 'softer' combat mechanics of RTS games then that attrition rate might seem too high. But the numbers in this game are modeled after the real things, which were designed for killing not for elongated shooting scenarios.

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Every firing range performance of weapons predicts vastly higher rates of battle loss than actually occur. The reason isn't that in combat everyone misses but that the majority of forces on both side are never in each other's highest lethality zones. Since the portions of either force that did get to such ranges would indeed be slaughtered in minutes, they avoided going there (one) and (2) 90% plus of all forces spent 90% plus of all time in safer locations farther from the enemy or more out of sight.

Troops have not been limited by their physical ability to kill each other if they stood toe to toe in the open exchanging shots, since the advent of decent flintlocks, at the latest. A man with a flintlock musket could hit full infantry formation sized targets up to 40% of the time at 50 yards, and easily 10-15% of the time at about twice that. They carried 60 to 75 rounds apiece and could fire 3 or 4 rounds a minute easily.

So were they all shot 10 to 30 times over within 15 or 20 minutes? Nooo. Instead, battles lasted all day and the worst thrashed losing side lost a third of its men wounded and the rest walked off the field unscathed. Why? They didn't spend any extended period of time - not even 10s of minutes, let alone the hours the battles lasted - at ranges where such hit chances were possible. Instead such hit chances might be achieved for 1 volley, or 2-3 at the outside for the longer range, lower accuracy figure, before one side or the other thought better of the whole affair and ran for it.

The same thing happens with major weapon systems like tanks and the heavy AT guns that counter them. Only thin crusts of them engage on anything but the most lopsided and favorable odds. When one side does have those lopsided and favorable odds, the other is wiped out in minutes for modest loss and the loss rate reverts to "0" on both sides. The killables on one side are all dead; on the other side there is nothing left in range that can hurt them.

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Instead such hit chances might be achieved for 1 volley, or 2-3 at the outside for the longer range, lower accuracy figure, before one side or the other thought better of the whole affair and ran for it.

Or they closed the range and got to work with the bayonet.

Michael

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No, they really didn't. Medical evidence from the era shows that cavalry swords accounted for about 7% of wounds, but infantry bayonets less than 2%. Artillery caused around 20% of wounds. Musket ball accounted for nearly 70%. Musketry was as dominant a wound cause in the black powder era as artillery shrapnel was in the era of high explosive (WW I and II). Machineguns were the second wound cause by importance in the latter era, as artillery fire was in the former. Hand weapons were not an important wound cause in either, and the only hand weapons that had any chance of closing to blow distance were those used by the cavalry - especially against each other.

Infantry played chicken with loaded guns, and firing was flinching. When one side had a front rank of charged tubes left, and ran down the point blank, the other side gave way and got shot at close range, both.

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Are you excluding the post-Napoleonic era from that estimate, Jason? I was. If instead, you include the Crimean, ACW, Austro-Prussian, Franco-Prussian, and Russo-Japanese wars your statement makes a lot more sense.

Michael

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The medical info I cited was from the Napoleonic wars. But the relation holds once the guns become rifles, only more so, and cavalry wounds from edged weapons largely disappear (cavalry are using firearms too by then).

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is this also true for the "column versus line" engagements which Oman made so much of, and which migrated into popular fiction ? ( I mean the, in my view dreadful, Sharpe series, where Frenchmen are mowed down in heaps by heroic Brits).

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Culumn vs line. A whole industry rests on that point. As it happens most armies fought in line , there are instances of French column going into line despite orders! Over the length of the wars the French army evolved different tactics fro different enemy anyway so being categoric on any point would be useless.

As for bayonet combat the chnaces of both sides wishing to close for bayonet practice in the open field is slight. Off-hand I cannot think of any but I am sure it did happen. Most bayonet work would have been close quarter work - town, woods etc.

So in overall terms not occurring very often - and I suspect there may have been no column in the records for enemy clubbed by musket. Interesting to consider how they would have managed without the benefit of bayonets in close quarter situations, and of course most importantly deterring cavalry from getting uppity.

So in my view the bayonets effectiveness was not by % killed but by its deterrent effect on the enemy and the morale boost for the infantry.

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What I mean: in a Peninsular battle, when the French column marches up to a reverse-slope protected British line, and the firefight takes place: without indulging in Oman style visions of meatgrinder-like slaughter of the column, what happens ? Is it that JasonC's "crust" moment is amplified (because on 3 sides ?), and the column breaks almost instantly ? Is there a real firefight, resolved after a while because the "killables" in front are down and the back of the column (which is, what, 9 deep) has retreated back to safer distance ?

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Lines don't have any more firepower per unit of frontage than any other infantry formation.

In fact, every infantry formation that lines the frontage generates the same relative firepower as any other. It doesn't matter whether there are more men or less, deployed 9 deep or 2-3, or even whether they are in closed order or open order.

Fire beyond about 20 yards was not aimed, it was area fire. Maybe 40 yards at the outside. The thinner a line of men shooting, the few hits they took from incoming, as more shots passed through the gaps between them. Meanwhile an open order skirmish line would put just as many hits per unit of frontage and time, as it received, on even a full line of battle opposite. Because their own shots miss less often, in exact proportion to the difference in manpower density. Shots per unit time can be driven up only by simultaneously driving up exposed area to the enemy. Which means both formations in contact will bleed as fast.

The thicker formation will however use a lot more shots doing it.

Being in line doesn't make you shoot any straighter, and it sure doesn't multiply the number of ball in your ammo pouch, or the number of times you flint can fire before being worn to nothing, or the number of times you can fire before unburned powder clogs your tube. 7 or 8 shots between misfires was about average (lol).

The notion that men in 2 rank line will shoot more and harder than men deployed 9 deep assumes that men are scarce and frontage to shoot from is abundant. This was not remotely the case.

The French had 2 preferred formations, loosely called "column" both at the time (but with other qualifiers) and by wargamers since. Column just means something behind something else of the same sort. Just as "line" means anything side by side with anything of the same sort. You can have your divisions in line and each division in a column of brigades and each brigade in a line of regiments that are each in... you get the idea.

The most common French formation at the battalion level was what they called a column of divisions. Divisions not in the sense of a formation bigger than a brigade and smaller than a corps, but in the sense of "split in half, divided evenly". The battalion consisted of 6 companies (very early, 8) and a column of divisions meant 3 companies on the right and 3 companies on the left, overall frontage 2 companies.

Each company was in turn in line. 3 rank line. Always. Thus a column of divisions was 9 deep. A 450 man battalion means 75 man companies means each company in 3 rank line is 25 files wide, 3 ranks deep. The column of divisions arranges those on a total frontage of 50 files and a total depth of 9 ranks.

Such a battalion column was small enough it was used as part of a larger formation, typically. A regiment would put them side by side in a regimental column 100 to 150 files wide, still 9 ranks deep. On 100 to 150 yards of frontage. Which is what would stand opposite an enemy *battalion* in line. The front 2 ranks fire, the 3rd rank in the front line companies is reloading, and filling gaps in the first 2 as men take hits.

So why are the other ranks there? To provide staying power. To outlast the enemy on that frontage. When charging home, to present the threat of a fully loaded musket along every yard of front, side to side, no matter how many men ahead have been shot down or have already fired. If a full rank of charged muskets faces a rank that has fired off every shot and is trying to reload, then the charged rank jogs to 5 paces and blasts the entire line opposite down, to a man. Muskets hit a few percent of the time at 100 plus yards, and 10 percent of the time or so (that order) at 50 yards. At 5 yards they do not miss. The danger rises an order of magnitude in the distance a man can cover in less than 10 seconds, and then does it again for the next such distance.

"Melee" in the gunpowder era was jogging to point blank with a loaded gun, facing a line of men who had already fired and were dry. There is a reason for the expression "hold your fire", and it wasn't to be nice. To throw away your fire was to make the formation defenseless. Platoon volleying might try to mitigate this, but didn't really. The underlying reality is in the time it took to reload a flintlock musket, a whole formation could raise its hit percentage by a factor of 10. So firing first at longer range and hoping to make it up by firing often, was strictly dominated by firing closer in after the other guy made that mistake. In shorthand, it is "chicken" played with guns.

And knowing that even hitting the entire enemy front rank, or two, or three, won't make the slightest difference, is kinda persuasive in such situations, most of the time. Men without powder in their tubes get out of the way of an advancing infantry column. And if they don't, and promptly, then they go down.

Now, that doesn't mean a column is better for fire combat. It is better for that occasional very violent brush at 40 to 5 yards distance, that will kill or wound 40% of the front couple ranks in either formation. Russian roulette with 2 bullets in the chamber is not something men play all day, and if they did nobody would walk off the field alive.

Sustained fire combat is best done in open order, not a line. And that is how the French fought for most of the day. They didn't all fight that way because they didn't all need to - a thinner lines of skirmishers will bleed the enemy opposite just as much, and can keep it up a lot longer, topped off from the main columns as required. The main columns shelter in the meantime in dead ground, and "own" this or that real estate by their surrounding skirmisher screens, and by the threat of close assault as descibed above.

The second formation the French liked was "mixed order", a combination of line and column that is a simple evolution from the column of divisions described above, typically implemented on the regiment scale. The frontage is lengthened for the same manpower by putting 2 companies in line, 3 rank, across the middle of the formation, while the flanks remain 9 deep. Instead of a regiment having 4 companies up (2 from each side by side battalion, each in column of divisions), it has 6 companies up, with the center 2 only 3 deep.

Note that the average depth is thus 6 ranks, or a doubled line. Also notice that a regiment deployed this way puts the same firepower on its front as a battalion in one thin 3 rank line. The mixed order regiment was considered to have greater flexibility, strength in close combat, and ability to resist cavalry (it is much closer to already being in square - only the center-rear needs to be covered by a movement). It was however also a bit complicated, and many commanders stuck with regimental columns as having most of the virtues and being much simpler in action.

Next to the myth that the Brits always fought in line. Um now. You will find them walking up Bunker Hill in wide front "columns" of the same variety described above. And you will find they spend half their time in battles against the French, standing in square, and those squares in turn laid out in a 2 rank "checkerboard" by battalions.

The battalions in any given division were typically deployed in 2 ranks, a forward and rear one. The rear rank was the reserve and its job was to reinforce or counterattack at threatened places along the front. The front rank was the shield. It frequently had intervals between the formed men that were covered by men in open order. For fire combat and especially for defense, both front and rear rank battalions would form 2 rank lines - but notice, that means the whole deployment is actually 4 deep. When cavalry threatened, they'd each form square instead, and the gaps between them became quite large.

The way the formation of lines worked was to threaten local counterattack from all sides, against any heavy enemy column that pushed its way into the division formation, by defeating and forcing back any of its front line battalions. There was no requirement and practically no expectation, that a single thin 2 rank line up front, could hold off a charging regimental column or more. But the fight would disorganized any regiment attacking that way, and leave it sticking into the British infantry division. Which could then lap around it - 2 lines to either side, 2 in checkerboard behind the battalion hit in the front rank.

If you read the tactical accounts with care and attention to detail, you will find the Brits frequently recoiling from the first assault, descriptions of the issue appearing to be in doubt, then descriptions of this or that battalion rising to the occasion and appearing suddenly on this or that flank of the French column. After some effective close in flanking musketry and maybe a little demonstrative "charge" (rush to point blank with charged muskets, really), the French often take to their heels.

This is *not* a description of line always beating column. It is a description of an intelligent and flexible formation of layered lines, lapping around and enfilading an initially successful enemy attacking column.

FWIW...

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Tactical descriptions of disciplined column infantry and the effectiveness of their willingness to hold their fire down to point blank range -

Borodino infantry assault on great redoubt -

"A line of Russian troops tried to halt us,

but we delivered a regimental volley at 30 paces

and walked over them".

French guard clearing Ligny town -

They entered Ligny and swept everything before them with the bayonet,

moving like a raging bull with lowered head...

The enemy fled everywhere before them

French guard attacked by Prussian cavalry at Ligny -

"The Landwehr cavalry attempted to rescue their comrades

but received a volley at point blank and fled in great disorder."

"...a desperate counter-attack.

The Guard let them get close before delivering a deadly volley.

The Black Uhlans were decimated by the 4th Grenadiers,

13 officers and 70 troopers swept down within 20 m of the square."

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The situation should not be seen as solely infantry versus infantry as artillery and where the respective cavalary were had a bearing on waht wass going on. Column is a denser formation and therefore a juicier target than a line to artillery. Enemy cavalary within charging distance meant a square was very advisable.

And of course how many friendly formations were there that could assist, and did they out-number what was attacking, would also be factors. However in the heat and smoke of a major battle the PBI were not really in a position to make such a call. Then it came down to sheer bloodymindeness or espirit de corps.

I do have a theory that the English/Scottish/Irish troops knew that they could not walk home and therefore were very bloodyminded and with a long tradition of not losing [naval] battles felt good about their toughness.

I am sure many armies had phases of extreme pride, the Revolutionary French armies fought above their weight, the Prussians had a tradition, and the Russians are generally tough.

However for detail you should really try one of the many extremely detailed Napoleonic sites. I have a modest libraryon the Napoleonics of perhaps a dozen or so very good books but I cannot regurgitate them all here!!

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At the risk of being a wikibore, I remember reading this, off wikipedia

http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/maida/c_maida.html

-- which makes the point that Oman's account of Maida, so central for "col. vs line", was in fact mistaken: the French at Maida deployed

I note that JasonC's account above seems to apply to black powder warfare the same principle that underpins e.g. his primers on how to attack in CMBB-- it's not the case that 1 Battn in line receives 1 Battn in column, but that the attacking force is superior in numbers (1 Reg attacks 1 Battn ?), so that e.g. everyone in the defending Battn line is shooting at someone, but only a small portion of the defending Battn line is shooting at the "column" portion o the attacking formation. Have i got JasonC right, and is he correct ?

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Setting the Napoleanics aside, I would say that CM has inherent within it a higher attrition rate. How many QB PBEMs end with 40-50% losses for the attacker and 80-90% losses for the defender? In a company-vs-company size battle, these losses are egregious and, as I would believe, unrealistic. In the CM battle rectangle, a player has no ability to stage a withdrawal or fighting retreat except in the very largest of battles. Thus, with our backs to a very real and arbitrary wall, the defender always fights to the death and the attacker always presses on without regard to losses. Strongpoints can't be bypassed (e.g. you can bypass a house or patch of trees, but not a village), and the attack can't be postponed for further artillery preparation. Thus, more casualties occur while engaged in small arms battle than would realistically be the case.

P.S. I still find it odd that the death-per-casualty ratio is higher in an operation than in a scenario.

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Yes you have and yes he is.

Basically an infantryman was an infantryman - if you chose to have 75% of your troops in "rear ranks" wher they couldn't shoot then you only had as much firespower to teh front as 25% of your number deployed so they cold all shoot.

however you also had reserves and the other guy didn't, so if you could feed the reserves forward you would still win the firefight.

"Famous" examples of the British trouncing French columns invariably have the British not so seriously outnumbered (if at all) and having a much wider frontage that allowed them to "lap around" the flanks to some extent - so getting many more men shooting. Such lapping around would also prevent the French deploying to line as was their doctrine.

The battle of Bussaco is a good example - 1 Brigade of II Corps advanced 1 company wide and 8 battalions deep - teo be met by 3 battaions in line side-by side - the French tried to deploy "as if on an exercise" but could not due to the heavier musketry.

Another division met a simlar fate further north. A 3rd attack found a Portuguese militia unit that wasn't quite so effective and routed it, but was counter attacked and thrown back before it could deploy properly.

Ney's division attacked into 2 British battalions that were lying down - they literally stood up at point blank range, fired and charged - the French fled!

There are also numerous examples of "even" firefights where the Brits and French when toe-to-toe with no appreciable advantage to eitehr side.

The 2 deep line apparently came about because it preserved teh frontage of the unit, and officers trained to manouvre and command units of given frontages - most British battalions were around 60-70% strength at most in the Nappy wars (excepting a few such as the Guards) and so being 2 deep meant an understrength battalion would deploy across the "correct" frontage.

the French did adopt it for a while, but found 3 deep better.

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I'd say the game's CRT (in boardgame terms), i.e. the combat mechanics is soft, compared to other games or boardgames. It's more suppression-oriented.

It is us who play gamey. Taken out of an operational context, in a single pitched battle, you will sacrifice your men till the victory point ratio is on your side. No point to retreat or concede the game after 10% casualties.

Setting the Napoleanics aside, I would say that CM has inherent within it a higher attrition rate. How many QB PBEMs end with 40-50% losses for the attacker and 80-90% losses for the defender? In a company-vs-company size battle, these losses are egregious and, as I would believe, unrealistic. In the CM battle rectangle, a player has no ability to stage a withdrawal or fighting retreat except in the very largest of battles. Thus, with our backs to a very real and arbitrary wall, the defender always fights to the death and the attacker always presses on without regard to losses. Strongpoints can't be bypassed (e.g. you can bypass a house or patch of trees, but not a village), and the attack can't be postponed for further artillery preparation. Thus, more casualties occur while engaged in small arms battle than would realistically be the case.

P.S. I still find it odd that the death-per-casualty ratio is higher in an operation than in a scenario.

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P.S. I still find it odd that the death-per-casualty ratio is higher in an operation than in a scenario.

It's not really. In any one battle, the fraction of 'knocked out' men who end up KIA vs WIA is the same. But men in the wounded pile can return to action, where at the end of the battle, they might be okay, wounded or killed. The men in the killed pile however stay there. The net result is that the number of men in the killed pile continually increases, while the number of wounded can go up or down since men are removed from it as you go along, possibly faster than they are being added to it. So as you fight more battles in an operation, the ratio of killed to wounded weighs ever more in favour of 'killed'.

Note also that all wounded soliders are capable of returning to duty. There is no category of e.g. missing two legs but still alive. Presumably you would consider them KIA for game purposes).

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It's not really. In any one battle, the fraction of 'knocked out' men who end up KIA vs WIA is the same. But men in the wounded pile can return to action, where at the end of the battle, they might be okay, wounded or killed. The men in the killed pile however stay there. The net result is that the number of men in the killed pile continually increases, while the number of wounded can go up or down since men are removed from it as you go along, possibly faster than they are being added to it. So as you fight more battles in an operation, the ratio of killed to wounded weighs ever more in favour of 'killed'.

True enough, but if you compare only the first battle result to a stand alone scenario, the ratio is still higher.

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It is us who play gamey. Taken out of an operational context, in a single pitched battle, you will sacrifice your men till the victory point ratio is on your side. No point to retreat or concede the game after 10% casualties.

True. Perhaps the game does not place enough emphasis (i.e., victory points) on force preservation. As it currently stands, it encourages "do or die" play.

Michael

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