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AT Guns: Problems and How to Solve Them?


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Credit where it's due. Battlefront does listen and will make changes when the weight of evidence and the community consistently points to areas in real need of improvement.

The ability of MGs to suppress and kill, and the vulnerability of Half Track Gunners being two that have recently received attention.

So, now to stir the pot on another issue.

AT Guns.

The problems as I see them;

[1]. Movement Speed.

Currently a limbered PAK 40 will move approximately One Action Square (8 meters) per minute, regardless of whether it's being pushed along a flat highway or up a rocky incline.

The same gun, limbered, will take a full minute to make a 180 degree facing change, a feat performed by reeneactors in less than ten seconds.

A smaller Pak 36 will traverse approximately 1.5 Action Squares, (12 meters) on a flat road in one minute.

It still takes nearly a full minute to turn 180 degrees.

For comparison, video of period and reenactment AT guns being moved.

http://youtu.be/nmuY4B_W_aw

At the moment an AT Guns totally unrealistic lack of maneuverability is seriously hampering them.

[2] Deployment Speed

In a tactical game, deployment time for AT Guns should ideally be set to the period of time it takes to go from limbered to putting it's first shot down range.

In my opinion, current deployment times don't reflect any combat urgency.

I'd be interested to know which sources, if any, have been used to estimate deployment times for AT Guns?

Compare what currently happens in CM with the second video linked above.

In Game, the Pak 36 takes approximately 1 minute to turn 180 degrees.

Approximately 1 minute to travel the distance traveled by the gun in the video.

Another minute turn 180 again.

And 1 minute to deploy and take gunnery positions.

That's four minutes to achieve what the gunners in the reenactment drill in thirty seconds.

[3] Moving Deployed Guns

Small and medium caliber AT Guns can, and definitely should, be able to be moved while deployed.

Again it's opinion, but I believe the current limbered movement rates are a better approximation of what deployed movement rates should be.

Except 'facing', which should still be significantly faster.

The ability to move, albeit fairly slowly, a deployed AT Gun would greatly increase their survivability.

Especially in terms of the current situation where identified AT Guns are effortlessly destroyed by direct fire from mortars, due almost entirely to its complete inability to move while deployed.

[4] Mount and Dismount

Likewise the lack of ability to mount and Dismount the AT Gun has hamstrung it's effectiveness and usefulness.

This ability isn't as urgently needed as Movement while Deployed, or a general movement speed increase, but the ability to temporarily take cover at some point distant from the gun would greatly increase the suvivability of AT Gun crews.

I think that all the issues above, and probably some I haven't outlined, have compounded to significantly reduce the usefulness of AT Guns in game.

A historically common asset is often not taken at all in Combat Mission games I play, largely due to it's lack of ability to be relocated effectively or realistically.

It would be great to be able to setup an AT Gun in ambush, fire down a key-holed avenue of trees, knock out a vehicle then roll the gun back into the cover of adjacent trees, or behind a nearby house.

However at the moment, the Pak takes it's shot, then spends four minutes and forty seconds, hopelessly stranded on the spot 'packing up' before it can move at eight meters per minute to safety.

Meanwhile the mortar teams converge to blithely rain death on the hapless gunners, who can't even duck behind a nearby bush for cover without forever abandoning their gun.

I'm aware that it's easier to see the problems than fix them.

However, I thought it might at least be a useful exercise to try to identify what some of the issues actually are and hear some feedback and discussion from others.

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I don't know if my lack of presence on the forums would make my two cents any less credible or give me the appearance of an ass, but since I've started playing CMBN, two things stood out the most to me as questionable decisions.

The first being rocket-propelled AT's inability to fire indoors. Obviously, this is no longer an issue.

The second is the function of AT guns. They are in a unique position from a gameplay standpoint. They hit like trucks if its the right gun for the job but absolutely critical tactical placement of a gun that will, more often than not, stay stationary until it dies or the battle ends. Even in longer 1:30 or 2:00 battles, the time required to relocate and ready AT guns is not viable unless you are defending in depth (and even that is iffy because splurging on a tank could be a better choice).

Is the extremely large buff AT guns receive if move speed increased and pack-up/deploy times reduced too much? Not necessarily. The AA guns added into CMBN got me thinking. Aside from the difference in effective target choice, AA guns and AT guns are static (AA guns are truly static but AT guns are not far off). Both are pretty worthless choices in attacks or meeting engagements to me. Indeed, I don't recall any players using them in QB AAR's I have read, but that could just be my selective memory working hard.

So, let's say AT guns become faster in every department except fire rate. In a wonderful world, we'll say they can tactically withdraw from their gun and return to it shortly thereafter too. They have become poor man's tanks. With decent mobility and set-up times, they can fire a few shots and displace. This dramatically alters the flow of battle and for the better in my opinion.

At range, an army without tanks fighting one with tanks is at quite a disadvantage, and they should be. Again, the tactical placement of AT guns will determine your success, but what is the point of spending all that time checking fields of fire and protection if your crew will get mortared in a few minutes of revealing themselves? Even worse, when your opponent is aware of your position and creatively kill you with area fire at range, what was the point? An AT gun that can constantly change positions will keep an enemy on their toes and make up-to-date recon even more important.

There is the likely possibility that this buff to AT guns will make them obnoxious, but at present, AT guns aren't quite there yet. This is an extremely difficult game and everything has a high skill cap. AT guns are in a league of their own. That's a bitch thing to say and paints me as an unskilled player, but AT guns seem far too niche. Yes, they can really piss on a player when they're undetected. Once you have recon though, it's just a barrage away from being a thing of the past.

Woo, first post is a rant.

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How often did AT guns function as mobile platforms in midst of battle? They used prepared positions and were generally carefully camouflaged in situ . Unlike their typical usage by CM players, ATGs operated at least in pairs that formed interlocking fields of fire. There were severe penalties for abandoning one's gun unspiked.

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AT guns are essentially useless in meeting engagements because of all the shortcomings they have as posted here.

Prepared in place is really the only way they can be at least partially effective. If you have to transport them, push them around or try to set them up in the midst of a firefight, forget it.

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Maybe a simple solution in defense would be to allow the crew to get cover and let the gun, an come back after the mortar/artillery strike.

I think they should be able to take cover in trench/foxhole and be safe. The gun, except maybe a direct hit, would have good chances not to be damaged.

Placement in buildings could be a great addition. I remember some soviet movies were you could see 45 mm at gun in buildings even on the higher floors.

Some hmgs can be redeployed without time penalty with short distance movement, why not AT guns ?

I also think that guns should move faster when pushed by the crew at least for short distance, but not the biggest guns.

For the change of orientation, i think guns have the same problem than hmgs.

The crew starts to crawl on the ground, at very low speed making change of direction slow.

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Interesting stuff from a web site on German ATG tactics:

Antitank Guns:

German antitank guns are disposed in depth, with some well forward. They often are dug in and carefully concealed to prevent the enemy from discovering the location and strength of the antitank defenses prior to attack. In emplacing antitank guns, the Germans prefer positions in enfilade or on reverse slopes. They normally employ two to three antitank guns in each position, protecting them from infantry attacks with light machine guns. Ranges at which the Germans open fire upon hostile tanks vary according to the caliber of the gun and it's position. Although single antitank guns sometimes engage enemy tanks at ranges up to 1,000 yards, main antitank defenses usually hold their fire until the range is reduced to about 150 to 300 yards. The employment of close-combat antitank teams supplements the antitank defense. When the hostile tank attack is repulsed, the antitank guns move to alternate positions.

The Germans emphasize that the use of smoke can be of great assistance in defeating enemy tank attacks. Smoke shells are fired into the attacking formation about one-third the distance back from the leading echelon. Thus the Germans avoid blinding their own antitank gunners, and leading hostile tanks not only are left without adequate support but are silhouetted against the smoke. The Germans also rely on the smoke being sucked into the tanks and forcing the crews to dismount.

Also, Armored Tactics during Citadel

http://www.isegoria.net/2011/07/armored-tactics-during-citadel/

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Doctasm,

Welcome aboard!

Am with Childress on the general use of ATGs. They're not typically used for mobile ops in the defense and are there specifically to provide solidity to a fixed defense. This isn't to say, were the right code in place, they couldn't be used to defend from successive positions, but usually, once there, there they stay. The Russians to this day refer to their static ATGs as "Farewell the Motherland," for you either beat off the armored attack with the gun line or die at the guns. Am still trying to get BFC to model the smokeless, flashless powder the Germans used which made their weapons hard to spot when fired.

Regards,

John Kettler

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AT guns are essentially useless in meeting engagements because of all the shortcomings they have as posted here.

Assuredly so. But a Meeting Engagement as depicted in CM, an artificial construct in which force values are precisely equal and both players know that, bears the same relationship to an actual battle as a unicorn does to a cow. I know, I used to play dozens of 'em PBEM. 'Show me an ankle and I'll show you some leg'. Fun, but, er....

That said a valid argument can be made that AT crews should be able to 'bail out' and re-man their guns. Like tank crews. They're both treated as vehicles, right? And why can't they reverse? The counter argument that the enemy gains control of the piece and turns it around seems improbable given the heat of battle and the foreign equipment. On the other hand deserting one's gun intact was a strict no-no in every army. Who knows?

Might be interesting to have three speed options, based on mass, for pushing a gun: quick, normal and slow. The latter not a crawl but a very fatiguing walk.

Edit: German flashless powder may, as far as we know, already be simulated. If not, it should be. No daunting coding challenge there.

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I don't think anyone advocating for major changes to AT Guns is suggesting that they should be able to be raced all over the map like handbarrows.

Fatigue should take care of how far and fast they're able to move.

Terrain should take it's toll, at present it doesn't.

AT guns absolutely need a major overhaul in flexibility and maneuverability to have any relevance in Combat Mission.

Defense then relocation to an alternate position, as quoted by Childress, should be a viable tactical option.

It isn't.

Not even on a paved road with the lightest assets.

At present, AT Guns are barely more than a fixed emplacement without the benefit of a roof.

I'm going purely on memory here, but I seem to recall that part of the problem with fixing AT Guns was that they have to have the capacity to be mounted onto vehicles.

Which has put them in a grey area as far the functionality that can be applied to them.

If anyone knows more about that, I'd be interested to hear it again.

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I don't think anyone advocating for major changes to AT Guns is suggesting that they should be able to be raced all over the map like handbarrows.

Fatigue should take care of how far and fast they're able to move.

Terrain should take it's toll, at present it doesn't.

That's because the AT teams 'Walk' when pushing their piece. Walk, in the game, is a fatigue-free mode of travel. For all units, even uphill. Evidently a design decision.

Defense then relocation to an alternate position... should be a viable tactical option.

It isn't.

The quote was 'When the hostile tank attack is repulsed, the antitank guns move to alternate positions. ' This may refer to the conclusion of the battle. Or not.

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I don't think anyone advocating for major changes to AT Guns is suggesting that they should be able to be raced all over the map like handbarrows.

That would be a lovely mod.

Childress' suggestions for movement speed options would help with mobility. Deployment and pack-up times could use shortening still. I am not up on historical usage for ATG's per combatant country in WW2, but from a game standpoint, ATG's are troubled. It would be nice if some sort of rework occurred.

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Here's how the U.S. doctrinally employed towed ATGs. FM 18-12 Towed Tank Destroyer Gun Platoon. An excellent read.

http://tankdestroyer.net/images/stories/ManualPDFs/FM18-21%20Tank%20Destroyer%20Towed%20Gun%20Platoon.pdf

Childress,

Some time ago, I did a lot of research on the Italian Army after Italy surrendered to the Allies, this to help a guy wanting such pics while CMFI loaded. Dug up loads of pics, during which I unearthed footage of the Italians rolling a PaK 40 up a trail. No big deal. If you can find the thread, it'll be most informative.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Very well put argument. Many a time I have been frustrated by the limitations placed on AT guns by the game. If Battlefront could incorporate improvements to their speed of deployment and add an ability for crews to dismount and 'remount' their guns, these would be welcome additions in my opinion.

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... AT crews should be able to 'bail out' and re-man their guns. Like tank crews. They're both treated as vehicles, right?...

Wrong. ATGs are "crew served weapons" like HMGs or mortars. That's so they can "mount" their tows.

The counter argument that the enemy gains control of the piece and turns it around seems improbable given the heat of battle and the foreign equipment. On the other hand deserting one's gun intact was a strict no-no in every army. Who knows?

The reasons for every army having rules against not spiking your guns had nothing at all to do with the immediate tactical turning of the weapon which was, as you say, unlikely. They were concerned with the longer term; a reality which BFC feel sometimes has to impinge on our tactical battlefield.

On the whole, I remain to be convinced that ATGs are incorrectly modelled in most regards. I'm inclined to think that their failures are the consequence of the preconceptions of the users, about the ranges at and terrain in which they can remain concealed and their tactical disposition and use, as well as the expected results. If every ATG was expected to get a kill, it would be priced the same as the tank it could kill. Those German guns opening up at 300m or less are opening up en masse from reverse slope or enfilade positions on targets who have been isolated from their friendly eyes by smoke. That snippet doesn't mention how many guns were used against the lead elements of the advancing force with the expectation of giving them pause. Its comment about single ATGs sniping at >1000m is, I think, telling: not too many CM maps have that long a field of view.

I think there's a case for the lighter guns (probably the less than 75mm ones) being "pushable" with the trails split, on good ground over 10s of metre, and for all the wheeled carriages to be able to "reverse" short distances at least. It is possible, though, without any changes to the current setup, to stalk a Sherman with a PaK40; I've done it. The conditions to allow it are, predictably and satisfyingly rare, and include a cooperative target, but that's as it should be, isn't it? Perhaps there should also be a "camouflage" fortification which would allow "created" concealment in places that otherwise wouldn't be adequate; the current bonus to concealment for unmoved guns is heavily dependent on there being some concealment available to start with. I can see that being difficult with the current treatment of fortifications, though.

ATGs are operating at a slight disadvantage cf IRL at the moment, but I don't think it's big enough an issue to warrant the coding effort that would be needed to change the architectural decision to make guns "crew-served weapons". Especially as part of that disadvantage is rooted in the concept of the game where you, the player, know everything that any unit does, and can act on it. That's the biggest disadvantage ATGs have, cf real life and you'd have to be very sure of the results of any changes before you made any changes to gun mobility to compensate for it. Then again, how many armies still use towed AT pieces? Don't nearly all of them prefer the mobility of lightweight ATGW?

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I agree with everything WynnterGreen wrote.

I would only add that a "Reverse" movement speed for guns would greatly increase it's chances to be quickly withdrawn back from firing position - and hided behind a ridge or a building.

Currently before a gun can be withdrawn even few meters backwards, it first has to be turned 180deg... That's ridiculous :(

AT guns can't be concealed or masked in game, usually they are spotted as easily as if they were just put in the middle of a field (I hope that will change it the future, when it comes to Eastern Front).

To increase their survivabiliy they could at least be able to maneuver as well as they could in real life when manned by competent crews.

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