sburke Posted April 26, 2012 Share Posted April 26, 2012 "...What was most terrifying of all was the whistling shriek of the incoming freight. Its soundtrack, tapering like a set of rails, started as a small point of noise and roared down the roadbed always expanding and always headed straight for Joe, Joe holding his breath to see if it was this one that had his bill of lading and only knowing that it hadn’t when it wrecked itself in a crescendo of blast and shock, its acrid burnt powder filling his nostrils, its unbelievably great explosive power lingering in his memory and suggesting shattering annihilation. "Often...these freight trains poured in as if funneled through a Herculean fire hose containing all the tracks in the Chicago yards, all tracks headed for the hole where Joe pressed himself down harder and harder into the alien Norman earth." From an account Broadsword came across written by the CO of the US regiment in our current battle: http://www.thomy.us/320/storyofthe320thpdfs/320th%20booklet%20text.pdf July 16th 1944. GIs taking cover from German artillery fire near the Hamel Manor This is the beginning of an AAR which will likely be quite long. The battle is now about 45 minutes in and still raging. This scenario is based on an OP layer campaign run by Broadsword for CMBN using the St Lo boardgame. I have been gifted with the privilege to play the German side in any CM games that are generated as well as offering advice on German operational plans. We have had I think 4 battles in this campaign prior to this one most of which had to be called due to OOM issues, but with enough info that we generally knew the outcome. This one, The battle for Hamel Vallee, was the first under 1.10 and the performance was a whole lot better (thank you BFC!). This was very fortunate as it was the largest battle of the bunch and is the German's last stand before St Lo. It has ended up being a truly epic fight and seemed to be the perfect platform to show off CMBN in all it's glory. No whining about missing features allowed. This AAR is to to show for those of us tired of the nitpicking of issues on the forum that we wanted to showcase just how good this game is. Not that those folks are wrong or that we aren't extremely happy they are part of the community, we just feel those issues need to be seen in the context that the game rocks and while addressing those items may improve upon it, they certainly don't define it. The battle is still going, but our expectation is it should wrap up fairly soon as we have a threshold limit on casualties that once it kicks in determines the effect on the OP layer battle regardless of the actual situation at the CM level. (the interaction is a little more complicated than that but I'll leave that for Broadsword to explain the mechanics - I'm just here for the fight ) The German situation is not good. The briefing is as follows: Overview 0730 Hours, 16 July 1944 Weather: Clear, ground dry. Situation: Our battalion raced to the front yesterday to block an expected major attack by the US 320th Infantry toward our division HQ, SW in Le Mesnil-Rouxelin. Fortunately, our spotters to the south on Hill 122 directed highly effective artillery fire onto the US battalion as it moved onto Hill 108, and stopped them cold. But our artillery is needed elsewhere and they do not have the ammunition to keep the Americans suppressed any longer. The US force brought up assets and replacements overnight, and is expected to attack at any moment. The massive US bombardment that began last night and continued into this morning has disrupted our force, leaving communications and leadership seriously impaired. We must make a firm stand here, because any breakthrough theatens to encircle our Le Carillon line to the W and our line blocking the Saint Lo-Isigny highway to the E, and would leave the door open to Hill 122 (the key to the campaign for Saint-Lo). Objective Defend and hold our battalion positions -- an area roughly 280m x 280m W of the D-91 road -- for at least 4 hours. Friendly Forces Our primary force is the 518th Battalion/Grenadier-Regiment 916. Strength: 60% strength. Fitness: Tired and battleworn: 3rd Company weakened, 1st and 2nd companies unfit. Supply: Adequate. Motivation: Normal. Experience: Veteran Leadership is poor (-2), due to the disruptive effect of the US bombardment. Order of battle: *518 Battalion/Grenadier-Regiment 916/352nd Infantry Division *4th Company/AG Bn/Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 352 (3 platoons of Stug III) *3rd battery/I. Falschirmflak Regiment 352 ( 2 x 88mm AT) *Forward Observer Team *916th Artillery Battalion (12 x 105mm, offmap, ammo supply adequate) *Reinforcements: None. Enemy Forces *3rd Battalion, 320th Infantry, 35th "Santa Fe" Infantry Division. This unit is fully trained to "regular" experience, rested, and fully manned, giving them a 3:1 superiority in personnel. But the unit has never seen combat. They moved into our sector yesterday and are believed to be lightly entrenched. *Enemy assets participating in the attack will include an Engineer platoon, and mixed armor in company or more strength. They will no doubt continue to have massive amounts of off-map medium artillery to use throughout the battle. Plan *Defend and hold at all costs. Do not reveal positions until enemy main units are within 300 yards. Allow penetrations but channel these into prepared kill zones and terrain favorable to our defenses. Use multiple lines and defenses in depth to wear out and stall the enemy attack. Preserve the Stugs as a mobile counterattack force to ambush enemy armor, but beware of the Shermans' superior mobility and ability to traverse turrets. Use indirect artillery only against known and spotted targets. My infantry battalion has been rushed into the line to stop an American breakthrough. Upon arrival in it's position with no time to dig in properly it was promptly hit by a heavy American artillery barrage. As a result the unit has has been rated as poor in terms of fitness which seriously impacts the staying power of my infantry. The position itself is also not great, it is the reverse slope of a hill (108) with the Americans on top. The only upside is the hill slopes away behind my position offering concealed movement capability as I shift units. I have also been given badly needed armored support in the form of 7 StuGs, an StuH 42 and 4 Marder IIIs along with a couple AT guns and supporting artillery fire from battalion and regimental mortars as well as divisional 105 mm artillery. My FOs have also had time to at least register a number of trp locations to aid my defense. This is it, a stand and/or die defense. I love these desperation battles! As the battle has not yet concluded, a review of set up and defense plans is still to be determined. However the true star of this battle is the map. There are a handful of folks who are true "map grogs' and I have the good fortune to have one as an opponent. Different mappers have different concepts. Some like creating unique battle situations, some create them to fit the requirements of a fair HTH battle to put opponents on equal footing and some are what I consider the simulation mappers. They want to create historical battles as true as possible to actual conditions. Broadsword is one of those and as you will see, the maps are outstanding. I also have the good fortune to have an opponent who likes to play CM with the view that it is a simulation engine not just a game. We play it to try to appreciate and understand what it was like to be there. In a sense we are historians who use the game to better understand the history. As we have fought about a half dozen battles we have some appreciation for each others capabilites, but over the past year we have both adapted to each others play and learned new tactics. On a side note, we do not have any set rules but the briefing and intent precludes a set up zone bombardment and I never like them anyway. Too easy to waste valuable artillery. On the other hand I expect pre planned bombardments from the Americans. No attacker should have to forego the opportunity to suppress the defense, it is one of the few advantages they have at start. Note the briefing also defines this as a prepared assault and not a hasty attack. For those who haven't tried but think you may be interested in PBEM I have only this to say. Selecting a PBEM opponent is very important to how much you will enjoy the experience. If you are clear about what your own vision is of what you want to get out of it and find a like minded opponent I can't recommend it enough. My debt of gratitude to Broadsword continues to grow the longer we play. Personally I feel I got more than my money's worth in CMBN even without the modding community, but Broadsword has easily increased the value of this game for me 10 fold. Watching my opponent successfully employ real world tactics is an absolute pleasure. Defeating them by doing something gamey would likely bother me more than Broadsword. I would have deprived both of us of what we most desire to see in the game. End result, we don't define rules, we simply try to apply what we understand from what we have studied. One conclusion I have personally come to is, any game has to have some amount of trade off decisions by the developer. You can't simulate everything especially things that are pure chance or based on human emotional reactions. Those trade offs represent decisions that make the game behave in such a way that you believe they accurately represent the average result in a given situation. I can't say that the decisions BFC made are going to be the best options given any terrain conditions, force structure or battlefield but my experience in this battle is I think they did a really damn good job in their decision making in CMBN. I know some folks might disagree, but our units performed about as well as we'd have expected and from everything we have read, we felt this battle showed all the difficulties inherent in attacking in hedgerow country. Tactical issues that we have read about (for ex trying to maintain an attack tempo behind a rolling barrage) played out almost exactly as many of the stories we have read. Combined arms tactics worked when we were able to apply them, but we also learned how hard that skill can be to employ and how even a minor disruption for a planned attack can have serious consequences. My AT teams were able to function, I don't think we really noticed any uber spotting by tanks (if anything we found armor to be highly vulnerable on the attack), tank commanders were suicidal to remain exposed for long around infantry, fox holes did provide a high degree of survivability from artillery etc etc. In short, the game engine worked and worked well - thanks BFC. So sit back and enjoy the tale of a ferocious fight on the morning of July 16th on hill 108 in Normandy. Hopefully this AAR will provide you with even a small taste of how intense this battle was for us and for those of you on the fence about PBEM, some idea of what you might be missing. To begin let's take a battlefield tour. 0 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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