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Attrition vs. Maneuver

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At the risk a further beating an already dead horse, I have decided to re-open a topic that I feel I need clarification on. I have read many of JasonC's earlier posts where he has described his view on attritional methods to achieve anything from tactical the strategic victories. For me, this is a rather new concept, as I am more well rehearsed with the concept of maneuver warfare, as this recieves much more attention from authors and historians.

When I think about it now, I am not sure if I am an attritionist or a maneuverist. As JasonC explained in some posts I have read, an attritionist's only objective is the enemy's main body of troops. If you destroy it, all other objectives are easy. Napoleon also followed this idea. As for me, I also believe this is an effective strategy. Just grabbing certain chunks of terrain, whether they are political or economic objectives, a hill in a tactical engagement, etc, I don't think this wins anything from a tactical engagement to a war. However, if you destroy the enemy army, everything becomes simpler.

However, I don't think I am a true attritionist, because I find it difficult and bloody to achieve victories by beating down the enemy in a fight with numbers, where the side with the most reserves wins. Though victories have been achieved like this in the past, I guess I am not drawn to its simple, bloody and direct nature. Thus, I am partly a maneuverist, because I greatly admire spectacular, deceptive and glamorous schemes that famous commanders have utilized to win engagements, (though not wars) like Hannibal at Cannae and Napoleon at Austerlitz.

In the long run however, commanders who have employed attritionist warfare have traditionaly won wars, while maneuverists win engagements, but tend to lose in the long run. The spectacular and glamorous commanders just don't win. Go figure.

Also, I have a question for those who are attritionists. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, they set out to fight attritionist, somewhat I think, in that they were attempting to destroy the Soviet armies by means of cauldron battles before they could retreat to the east like what happened to Napoleon. So, in doing this, were the Germans attritionists in seeking to destroy Russian armies, or meneuverists in having certain objectives, like Moscow for instance, and by bypassing resistance before they set up cauldrons?

Also, when the German's diverted their central armies to complete the Kiev pocket, would this follow attritionist thinking in that it destroyed or captured a large chunk of the Russian army? In addition to this, many historians believe this tactical victory cost the Germans the war because they lost their chance to seize Moscow. However, I cannot see how possesion of Moscow could have won the war itself, other than it was the railway hub of the Soviet Union and, by taking it, the Germans would be in the central position and then could deal with the Russians in the South first, and then fight them in the north, or vise versa, to negate their numerical inferiorty to the Russians. So, was the Kiev encirclement a sucess or failure? And did it follow attrionist or maneuverist thinking?

Finally, (yes, this is a long, confusing post) I have read JasonC's tutorials on Company and Battalion infantry attacks that utilize attrionist tactics. In many examples, JasonC makes his attack look like abroad sweep but actually strengthens one wing, which has much depth, and advances using superior rally power and firepower. (correct me if I am wrong)Of interesting note, this tactic bears a resemblance to Frederick the Great's tactics, as he often weighted one wing of his army, (At Leuthen against the Austrians is an example)smashed his opponent at a selected location and then rolled them up along their flank. I just though it was interesting to note the similarity. smile.gif

Well thats it. I am tired of typing and don't remember what I said, so please have informative and generous responses.

Cheers ;)

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Well, since CM:BB is more or less a run of singular engagements (unless you're doing an operation), then wouldn't a more agile strategy work?

If you're doing an operation I can see where grinding down the enemy (and probably yourself as well) can 'work', but I for one don't believe in it. I believe in the preservation of my troop, not the destruction of it. Why simply trade off (attrionist-style) when you can have the possibility of a striking-blow with little-cost to yourself (maneuverist-style)?

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Germany in WW II was fighting over the subject, rather than in possession of a clear and coherent doctrine that they consistently adhered to. It helps to understand the German military tradition from Napoleon to WW II. Since you bring up Frederick, in fact I can start even earlier with his era. Napoleon himself was indebted to Frederick and studied his campaigns with care. Nevertheless it is clear Napoleon significantly improved on Frederick's methods, which were utterly inadequate by Napoleon's day.

Frederick had employed oblique order, as you mention. But as part of basically linear tactics. Nearly the entire front covered, he was deliberately thinner on one wing and in (2-3 times) greater depth on the other. Such side weightings go back to ancient times and aren't revolutionary in themselves. Frederick noticed how they interacted with gunpowder warfare in an age of linear tactics.

There were two dominate tactical considerations in that era. All armies could line their fronts with muskets. We would say, force to space was always high. Artillery was not strong enough yet to force men to spread out. And this has curious effects on firepower efficiency.

You might think - and they in fact thought at the time - that the way to maximize combat power was to put men shoulder to shoulder so as many as possible could fire, and then fire massive volleys. But men shoulder to shoulder maximize enemy hits as well as friendly shots, because hits taken was pretty much a straight linear function of men exposed to the fire (shots were unaimed, in effect - "area fire"). More men on the same frontage increase both enemy losses per unit time, and friendly losses per unit time and per bullet fired. For rapid decision that may be necessary. But it is not optimal for fire combat, as only really became clear during the wars of the French revolution.

Since you could get the same losses per unit time with fewer men on the frontage, and keep it up longer if you did it with fewer bullets shooting bigger targets instead of lots of bullets shooting sparse ones, open order beats closed for fire combat. Open order allows full use of cover, stretching this edge, but the basic effect does not depend on cover. It depends on per shot accuracy rather than per time loss rates. A skirmish line can keep up the fire longer, and it and the line it skirmishes against bleed about the same.

This was discovered essentially by accident by the French revolutionary armies, which lacked the discipline of their predecessors. The men were either voluntarily willing to advance into the "hot zone" and trade shots, or they were not. Most were not, at any given point in time, and hung back from the fray in loose mobs. A more spirit crust traded skirmish fire with enemy masses. Professionals were shocked to discover the loose mob with crust lasted longer and inflicted higher losses overall, than the neatly drilled firepower maximizing lines.

French tactics in the Napoleonic period drew on those lessons and combined them with reimposed discipline, and all supporting arms. Fire combat was conducted by open order infantry in thin screens for prolonged periods of time, plus artillery fire. Infantry masses and cavalry simple waited. Fire disrupted enemy formations wherever they tried to remained massed in close order. After they had been prepped or when their voluntarily thinned their fronts, the shock forces charged over them.

Infantry did so simply by playing "chicken" with guns, firing considered flinching because it left men with uncharged tubes facing men with charged ones. The latter could jog to just outside bayonet point and fire, unable to miss. The tactical point was, accuracy per shot rose by a factor of 5 or so in just the distance a man might jog, in the time it took to reload. Cavalry dispensed with this and just ran right in, only mass formations in good order being able to stop them.

Why all that background? Because it sets up shock vs. maneuver thinking, as it was before the modern German military tradition. What happened historically is, the Prussian army that went to face Napoleon in 1806 still used the old linear tactics of Frederick. And the French cleaned their clocks, in one of the most decisive defeats in history. When the Prussians got a chance to rebuild a nationalist army in 1813, they were determined to avoid another Jena, and learned scrupulously from the French.

The architects of that new army - Gneisenau above all - believed completely in Napoleon's doctrine of decisive battle. Tactically, they mixed fire and shock in the French way. Gneisenau also created the German general staff, which sought to duplicate the effects of Napoleon's personal genius in a distributed "brain" of expert professionals.

Thus Germany leaves the Napoleonic era with a living and successful tradition, wedded to tactical combined arms, decisive battle, and staff professionalism. Maneuver is secondary. It may help to bring about a decisive battle when the enemy seeks to avoid pitched battle. It may improve the conditions for tactics.

The basic driver is what I would call "tactical opportunity pull" from combined arms relationships. You look at what they enemy has and the professional formulas spit back the tool to use, as the "school solution", that he is most vulnerable to. Its action in turn creates opportunities to use other arms to their best effect.

You see a mass of infantry in close order on a ridge, say. Your first thoughts are not "shall I go right at them or around"? They are simply "enemy in close order equals use fire equals deploy skirmish lines in front and place batteries in positions overlooking said ridge". Like that, automatic, no thought necessary.

No scheme of maneuver beyond that neccessary either - yet. When fire changes the enemy force, creates disorder, or makes him move or alter his dispositions and formation etc, then sure you reach to the next weapon. And you think ahead about those additional moves, the instant you deploy the skirmishers and batteries. So the close order supports of the skirmishers go here, in case an opportunity to charge is created by the batteries, there. That you can scheme about all you like. But the actual charge is going to be made when the tactical opportunity appears.

Implicit in the scheme is the notion that the enemy cannot cover himself with one disposition against all weapons types and contingencies.

OK, mid 19th century, something else comes along. Modern firepower begins to appear, in the form of rifles for everyone, then breech loaders and repeaters, breech loading artillery with effective explosive shell, etc. It is found that physically charging into infantry ready to receive that charge, is suicidal. This does not mean frontal attack is suicidal. It means frontal attack must be delivered as fire and not as old style shock.

It also means thinning to fire efficiently is not so easily countered as in the past. To wear that out by fire alone takes time. This frees up numbers previously held massed for shock, and as a result the size of deployments expands dramatically. Long thin deployments create vulnerabilities at the ends. Now the stock counter to a thin firing line is no longer a charge, but is instead a turning movement.

This is a reintroduction of maneuver, to outsiders, or an increase in its importance. But within the scheme itself, it is simply an updating of an entry in a move-and-counter diagram. The counter to "thin extended firing line" is not "pick a flank and overload it" rather than "charge with shock forces".

In the wars of German unification, 1864 to 1870, Prussia showed this stuff off. The architect this time was Moltke the elder. Decisive battle remained the idea, but he added to features - the above tactical adaptation to modern firepower, and mobilization speed to produce an operational advantage early in the war. This was created by tapping the *managerial* abilities of the general staff system (and by wedding those to railway timetables, above all).

It has been said the Prussians of this era understood how to take the offensive operationally while standing on the defensive tactically. That is true to some extent, but what it calls "defensive tactically" is really reliance on fire, rather than defense per se. They don't charge, they envelope then sit down and plink. And it crushes their enemies. Nothing indecisive about it. Western traditions (especially French and British and especially cavalry thinking) sees the disappearance of Napoleonic shock as defense taking over. It is really fire taking over.

They go into WW I with that kit bag. It works better than anything the Allies have, but doesn't simply work. The armies are so large on limited space in the west, that there aren't any edges to envelope. Salients stand in for them. In the east they can still be found sometimes.

What does not afflict the Germans in WW I - with the partial exception of Ludendorf, late - as it crucifies the French and the Brits of that war, however, is the cult of the offensive and the dream of breakthrough, "rupture", "the big push", "restoring movement". At the strategic level, the Germans pick a target from there overall central position, rail in what it takes to hurt it, chose the right mix of tactics for the force in front of them, and hurt it.

The right mix of tactics starts with 210mm howitzers by the hundreds and adds nuance with a eyedropper. Somebody has to threaten attack to make the enemy man his front trenches in strength. Then heavy artillery annihilates them. This is the old mix of shock and fire, only now shock in "an infantry attack at all, as opposed to sitting in your own trench", and fire is not a skirmish line, but hundreds of batteries and millions of shells applied over months. As the enemy adapts to this with deeper dugouts and thinner outpost fronts, the infantry gets more aggressive. Trench raid tactics are scaled up to the size of armies.

The overall goal is still anniliation of the enemy army. But the enemy armies are so numerous, and overall enemy firepower is so high, even an application of this well developed and professional doctrine, does not suffice to win the war.

In the latter stages, the Germans are frankly gambling. The single biggest longshot bet is unrestricted submarine warfare trying to knock the Brits out, even at the likely cost of bringing the Americans in. The Brits institute convoys, tame the sinkings, the Americans do come in. That would have lost the war right there.

Russia dropping out gives them another long shot. Maybe US in and Russia out is a net gain, if they can beat the other allies before the US shows up. That is Ludendorf's 1918 reasoning and the reason he is driven to seek not sound tactical application of doctrine, but rupture and decision. He predictably fails to get it, and Germany losses.

All of which gave attrition doctrine a bad name, in Germany too. While the staff is still professionally trained a la Moltke the elder, and therefore believes in annihilation battle and tactical opportunity pull as combined arms, the new armor force guys aim higher. And there is a diffidence about the older tradition because it proved insufficient in the immediate past, to defeat half the world from a base of just Germany (though it had outperformed the allies).

This fight then interacts with the politicization fight going on within the German army, about its independence from or subservience to, Hitler and the regime. Those who slow up the new maneuverists are successfully painted as old stick in the muds who aren't with the new political program, and are opposed to aiming high because (it is insinuated) they secretly oppose the regime.

France is the first test case. The old guard sets limited objective attacks. Manstein presents his own plan instead, direct to Hitler, and gets it picked. It is a brilliant school solution in main outlines. The idea is to defeat the enemy army. In a classic maneuverist touch, he makes surprise a linch-pin of the plain, in pure head-fake fashion. He rightly guesses the French will expect a repeat of the nearly successful 1914 plan and will march NW into Belgium to stop it. And he plans to break off that wing and kill it.

It is Guderian who picks the actual target for exploitation, during a war game exercise. Having succeeded in getting his group across the Meuse in the exercise, he has to pick the next target - Paris or the channel ports. He picks the channel ports, targeting the enemy army rather than his capital.

This is strict old guard annihilation battle reasoning (and in my unhumble opinion, entirely correct). A "shot to the brain" maneuverist would have gone for Paris. Maneuverists who cite Kiev never cite this one, because it was obviously correct and because it worked.

There was also direct precedent. Germany won the 1870 war by encircling the French main body at Sedan. That resulted in a major battle the German fought with great positional advantages, and won handily. A later seige of Paris proved time consuming and did not help much.

So, at this stage, in their actions on the ground the Germans were still maintaining an operational focus on annihilation battle, and treated maneuver as a means of achieving it, under favorable circumstances.

But up at the stategic level, German was not mobilizing for total war. Hitler personally believed one of the lessons of WW I was that Germany should not compete in "material struggle", all out, but should instead rely on quality and tactics to achieve cheap and rapid victories. The up and coming maneuver minded commanders promised these to him, and he backed them against the older army establishment because he needed those cheap victories.

Now turn to Russia. The idea is indeed annihilation battle, but it is also to defeat Russia in one swift campaign of a single season. I call that an instance of "victory disease" - they confidently expect bigger and better things than they or anyone else has ever done before, because hey, the last three much smaller and easier things worked out.

Needless to say, the decision to attack Russia in the first place showed a singular contempt for the military importance of odds. The British empire, Germany, and Russia were approximate equals in industrial and economic terms. The Germans drastically underestimated Russian military power. They thought they, the Germans, were brilliant, while the Russians were inept recently purged barbarians who had had trouble defeating Finland. They thought it was going to be a cakewalk.

And the early successes fit that impression to a Tee. Which was singularly flattering to their daring, intellect, military prowess and reputation. You can't understand the first thing about the Russian campaign unless you "get" how long the Germans believed what they wanted and needed to believe, that the Russians were stupid and weak and the Germans were winning easily.

Now to the famous case of Kiev. Yes it was a decision consistent with annilihation battle and the school solution. Hitler insisted on it, over the objections of some of his more maneuver minded commanders (and lots of others only in retrospect, in the later blame-game). It was also a complete success that destroyed armies totally a million men. It was also correct, the right move, in my unhumble opinion. The Russians are vastly weaker after it succeeds, that before it is attempted.

Read Glantz. There is no "relief" that the Germans have turned aside from the Moscow axis, where they had just been stopped and all the reserves were. There is, instead, incredulity, command shock, strident fights with the responsible lower commanders, clear sighted demands from the latter shot down at central HQ, commanders relieved, advice not taken, and disaster. It is the greatest crisis of the campaign for the Russians. Greater than the near paralysis of the first week, because there is less to recover with. Greater than the battle of Moscow, where the Russians have much better cards.

But the "shot to the brain" types say, shoulda gone to Moscow. I say, what's in Moscow? Napoleon took Moscow, didn't make a darn bit of difference. Falkenhayn in 1916 said "an advance on Moscow takes us nowhere". The government was ready to move and essentials already had. If, moreover, the Russians have a million more men at the battle of Moscow, how are the Germans supposed to win it this time? Are the fronts on either side of the city any shorter? Is the winter any warmer there? Are there any more Germans to man them? They would not have kept it beyond January. They could if they liked have left an army there, like they did in Stalingrad a year later, maybe February - with a dead army thrown in.

The reason the Russians turn the tide in December is the Germans run out of logistic rope, their loss rate dips, and large Russian replacement streams therefore get a chance to build field strength instead of just replacing losses, for the first time since the invasion. If you give them a million extra men that just happens about a month sooner.

No, the reason the offensive fails is not Kiev. Nobody asks the right question. Why are the Germans weaker in front of Moscow at the start of December, than the Russians are? How on earth do you inflict 10 to 1 losses on the enemy, destroy a force larger than his whole army on the day of the invasion, and yet *decline* in relative strength? Sure, the Russians mobilized a lot - as much as they had before hand. But that alone will not cause the outcome.

Germany has as much industrial potential as Russian and the manpower base was only 2 to 1 on the day of the invasion, and was much less after taking the Ukraine and White Russia, and killing or capturing millions of military age males. They also had Finland and Rumania as minor allies, and later tapped Italy and Hungary for more, as well as minor formations recruited from various other parts of Europe. So, did German mobilize even half as much as the Russians did, from the day of the invasion to the gates of Moscow?

No. They didn't even mobilize enough to replace their own losses, which were a tenth as large as the Russians. The ratio of the reinforcement streams is not equality, it is not two times, it is 20 times. Capacity ratio 2 times or less, outcome ratio 20 times. What other variable stands between?

You have to know you'll need it, and actually ask for it. The Germans did not mobilize their economy or their manpower. You can see this easily by looking at what the rear gave the armies in 1944, and comparing it to what they gave them in 1941. They had 6 months notice they would invade, they weren't being bombed, etc. And by late summer and early fall 1941, they were instead switching factories away from armaments, because they thought they had already won.

This was strategic level, and it was not attrition strategy. It was overconfidence. Bred of faith in past successes, and memories of the sacrifices of WW I. The hoped that their new methods of warfare had made all of that unnecessary - the complete mobilization, the millions cycled through the fronts, the massive expenditure of treasure and blood through munitions to murder enemy armies. At the operational level, they were seeking annihilation much more by maneuver than by battle. At a tactical level, they had come to believe in armor as the restorer of shock in the old sense, and the decisive arm, always to be employed offensively.

The pure blood maneuverists, criticizing the performance and outcome, say they didn't shoot for the brain they hacked at the muscle, and that is why they lost. The brain was in fact mobile, and behind acres of muscle. In France, the odds created by killing half the enemy army proved immediately decisive. In Russia even higher losses did not. The time scale was longer and forces per unit time mattered, as they hadn't in the west. The Russians drove theirs up immediately, and the Germans did not.

Thus the paradox, the Russians beat the Germans in a war of attrition that Germans knew how to run and could have run, *by beating them to the draw* - even though the Russians were the ones surprised, completely, and hopelessly on the defensive for the first six months.

The Russians lost 40% of their industrial production from a base of the same size, and outproduced the Germans in tanks by 2 to 1. How? They produced at the same peak rate, longer. (They got there in 1942, the Germans didn't until 1944).

You can't win a war of attrition by not trying. And you won't try if you don't know you are in a war of attrition. And you won't admit that you are in a war of attrition, if doctrinally it is anathema to face the reality of attrition.

The Germans of early WW II were perfectly willing to believe in attrition *for the other guy*, and targeted his fielded forces on that basis. But they weren't willing to admit it applied to them, too, that they weren't above it and untouchable by its logic. Fundamentally, because it is indeed extremely painful and Germany had been through that pain in WW I, without success - a prospect difficult to contemplate facing again.

Which is nevertheless exactly what happened to them.

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NUB puts in a post for the "attrition is stupid" crowd. Why lose when you can win? Maneuverism wins, ergo, be a maneuverist. Not exactly cogent.

He thinks attrition is destroying your own force and just exchanging off. No, it is maximizing the ratio, enemy destroyed per own destroyed, but also being willing to pay the denominator of that expression. All the way to "no enemy left".

Petain is a classic attritionist thinker. His first dictum is, "firepower kills". If you look at how he handled his forces, you see how an attritionist really thinks, and how slanderous it is to conflate it with just throwing men at the enemy to wear him down. As a fact, the cult of the offensive types seeking breakthrough are the ones who recklessly threw men at the enemy, not even wearing him down all that much, and then pointed to any side effect wearing down as their booby prize when their longed-for breaktrhough failed to materialize.

Meanwhile Petain is noticing that a division that has taken 33% losses is ineffective for morale reasons - if order to attack will make no impression and take high losses, and on defense will be penetrated like as not by any heavy attack. He is noticing that a division reaches this level of loss in as little as 10 days under Verdun conditions.

So he has created a system of unit cycling that gets them all rest and replacement every 10 days, for 10 days. He mans the front with divisions in the first third of their strength with a few fresh reserves, but with long sectors each, no packing in to make nice artillery targets. Then the hurt ones get 10 days in the rear assimilating replacements, and 10 more in a quiet sector acquainting the new arrivals with basic tactics in real conditions.

He presents a fresh "cutting" front to each German attack, while spreading the pain and loss throughout the operational rear and flanks of the "wound" site. Is this, throwing away his own force? No, it is the only effective way to husband it under real attrition conditions.

Meanwhile a Magin or a Nivelle says, we must restore movement, seize the initiative, take ground, achieve breakthrough (is there an attritionist on earth who cares about any of these things?) - and send exhausted men over the top into machinegun fire and 210mm barrages, and get them killed by the boatload.

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Maxims of attrition -

Firepower kills.

Dead men hold no ground.

If you aren't willing to stand on the defensive when occasion calls for it, don't fight at all. Occasion will call for it.

If standing on the defensive inflicts a better loss ratio on the enemy than attacking, defend. If the reverse, attack. No doctrine, only opportunities.

"The initiative" has killed at least as many cats as curiosity.

Destroy the enemy main body and the rest will sort itself out.

To use your weapons, you must stay alive.

Use weapons when and where they do the most good, not where some ulterior plan says some extraneous end must be accomplished.

Shoot artillery at the densest enemy.

The decision is achieved by fire.

Firepower dominance, not movement, takes ground.

Firepower threat, not presence, holds ground.

Few enemies can long withstand the efficient application of all your available firepower.

Maneuver is a means of getting shots, or denying them to the enemy. Shots win wars, movements do not.

It is not a race. Battlefields are dangerous places. Slow down.

Infantry should never go anywhere it isn't prepared to stay indefinitely. But it must also be willing to leave.

Infantry prepared to stay somewhere indefinitely has great tactical and operational power. Infantry unwilling to leave a location has none.

Make them dig you out of every hole. Dig more holes in the meantime. But only to inconvenience them, and only as long as it does.

An attritionist is always willing to give up ground, any ground. Making everything the enemy does expensive is the point.

A defender willing to retreat fights where he chooses, an attacker striving for breakthrough by following weak paths fights where the defender chooses.

Be there *last*, not first. Nobody calls brawls "first man standing".

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I'm not saying fightin by attrition is stupid, there's just better ways inwhich to win a battle IMO.

Take, for instance, a situation inwhich you try to overwhelm a certain area of my forces. I can place a buffer, such as an ATG or a MG (or a combination) and hold off this threat long enough to flank.

Or if an attritionist is attacking a city instead of piling a lot of firepower into one spot, why not spread it out? I often have my tanks looking awkwardly down roadways just so they can tag unsuspecting (and over-ambitious) AFV's.

An attritionist can also be pick-pocketed very easily. While your tactics involve piling as much firepower into one spot, I can create brackets of defence made to deprive your very means of such a tactic, albeit slowly (but ever so surely). My defensive tactics take to heart the factor of stealth and being hidden, unordinary locating, and of unsuspecting counter-attacks. While I can see everything your bustling force is doing, you cannot see where something of mine is, what it is, or if there is more of it around.

I have faced attritionist opponents before. What most often happens is that there is a lot of bang to begin with, but as things slow down and their initiative fades away, my thieves come out to play. And that's the very thing to do against an attritionist: let him have the initiative. Let him envelope as much terrain as he wants, more terrain then he can handle. It's all about surviving that initial onslaught, then simply chipping away at a bogged-down contingent.

Attritionists are certainly a scary foe, though. And to be a maneuverist against such a person you have to be gutsy, hold ground, and be steady. Attritionists are what I call 'the ignorant'. This is not a bad thing, as 'ignorance is bliss', as they say. Basically what I mean by this is that an attritionist has little to think about besides the rotation of his firepower-roster. Besides that, such things as morale and casualty-rate are of little value.

Ultimately, though, I believe that to be truly successful (on a consistent level) you have to utilize both tactics. If I run into a building full of MGs, infantry and ATG's then I'm not going to set up a glamorous six-pronged assault. No, I'm going to roll up the tanks and simply demolish the building. Or if there are no tanks around it comes down to a human-wave-of-an-assault. I utilize both namely because certain situations call for them. I find that city-battles tend to be more of a brutal-affair. The only "maneuvering" is locations of defence and if you want to cluster your defence or spread it out. But if there's a battle in a huge field with plenty of spots for hiding and moving-about you wont find me crashing through forests willy-nilly with columns of tanks and rows of infantry.

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Seems like there is a discussion of the infamous case of apples v. oranges here. I recall reading that Chesty Puller once said that there is very little room for fancy tactics below the division level, or something to that effect. Now I definitely do NOT wish to get into a debate about Chesty and his abilities as a tactician. It just seems a little pointless to me to describe 'attritionist' or 'maneuverist' styles at a tactical level, which is what CM portrays, after all.

"Attritionists" would never deny the use of maneuver at the tactical level, as long as it brings about conditions that lead to the destruction of enemy fighting power. I think that the danger of 'maneuver' as an operational/strategic concept is that it can lead to the delusion that a conflict can be won without the destruction of enemy force. Sure, "attack the enemy C3I", say both sides, but the attritionist qualifies that by adding, "then make damn sure to destroy the body too, because armies are like weird zombies that can live on even without a head."

Perhaps our attritionist has been watching too much George Romero, but you get the point.

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NUB-read some posts (if you haven't already) on attritionist tatics posted by JasonC. I'll admit I was not very much of an attritionist before, but his tactics do work and do not contain the weaknesses you imply. I would be much more confident employing his straight-forward and effective attrionist methods in CM than using some vague maneuverist approach as you describe in your post. For example, you say when fighting an attritionist opponent (who will certainly have more forces than you in a given battle), one must be gutsy, hold ground and be steady. OK, but how will you hold ground when you only have a platoon, and entire companies are engaging your squads with heavy overwatch support. Not even elite units can withstand such fire dominance.

Also, you mention utilizing stealthy counter-attacks and keeping weapons hidden. Well if you intend to keep them hidden, they won't shoot, and if they don't shoot, they have little use. Attritionist tactics involve depth, and depth can counter any of your hidden shooters. (except heavy and well placed indirect artillery) Anything else is a pin-prick. For example, some German howitzers may have been hiding in dense woods waiting for the perfect, stealthy ambush against those relentless attrionist Russians, and open up on a platoon, halving it in size. Well, the point platoon may be broken for the time being, but the depth allows for fresh shooters to move forward and counter your now not so stealthy howitzers, while the broken platoon rallies.

Also, pure meneuvering is a lost cause in an open groung engagement, for their is no stealthy movement in those.

Attritionists also do not take prohibitively high casualties and of course, any sane commander cares how many men he loses. That is why firepower and reserves are important. They let a commander stack odds in his favor and allow him to have the flexibility to react to unforseen threats. Can you attack over open ground with a green company and take less than 16 casulties against a dug in opponent with better, though less, troops and ultimately rout them by maneuvering?

Now, I am not as skilled as JasonC, by a long way, and cannot match the feat in his tutorial probably. But attritionist tactics, to me, seem much more reliable, simple and sure than the vague implications you gave for maneuverist warfare above.

Just my thoughts.

Cheers! :D

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My main objection to NUBs comments is that he has confused wishes with horses. He thinks he must be clever and bound to achieve more because be is trying to be clever and wants to achieve more. My claim is that he doesn't, and more to the point that the typical commander doesn't. Frequently the net effect of all the clever attempts is piecemeal engagement (on defense), division of efforts (multi pronged razzle dazzle), or concentration of risk (aggressively handled schwerpunks).

He does however raise one point that calls for comment. A defender facing an attrition style firepower attack is driven to rely on stealth and concealment. That is fine, it is a good way of trying to stay alive. But the attritionist point is to stay alive in order to deliver one's full firepower, and that is somewhat harder to simultaneously accomplish merely through stealth.

I do think that one of the defender's greatest assets is that the attacker does not know where you are. That is one reason I am operationally in favor of standing on the defense sometimes, and why I deny the common maneuverist maxim that "the offensive is the only decisive form of warfare" and similar rot.

There is one other problem with avoiding firepower by hiding, though. It only works if the enemy waits for spots to shoot. Sometimes he has to, if there is enough space to hide in, not enough firepower or the wrong kinds, etc. But often, this winds up being a stupid AI or newbie trick, that simply does not work against a firepower attacker who knows what he is doing.

Because that includes hosing things down right before the infantry arrives, using high ammo weapons. It includes map fire artillery plans that plaster the key areas of cover for 4 of the 5 minutes before the attackers get there. It includes tanks and on map guns with large HE loads leveling every building along the route of advance, in village settings (in urban, some key blocks). And it doesn't matter how hidden you are when that stuff arrives.

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I'm getting that feeling too.

My tactics sound vague, but they work. Again, it is all about surviving the initial bang. Whatever depth the attritionist has I will have too (unless we're doing scenarios, or otherwise; again, play to the situation at hand). What's not to say that I my ATG lays into a platoon of his men. He falls those men back and brings up reserves. Well what happens when, during his trek into my territory, some ATG/MG he had completely passed up appears and start ripping him from the side, namely those he's making fall back. If it is depth the attritionist counts on, then I'll be sure that those front-line troops never actually get away from the combat, whether it be through mortars, hidden MGs/ATGs, snipers, or whatever.

These are merely ways to combat an attritionist. You can either become one yourself and have the battle come down to sheer firepower, or, if the situation deems that you cannot match his firepower, you have to make some placements that harass the depth that he relies on. That's ultimately the only way you are going to beat an attritionist if he has the upperhand in terms of sheer-firepower and numbers.

And, again, I use whatever strategies are necessary. Just today I did some 'Hornets Nest' scenario. I was the Russians and I was given a good lot of tanks and half-tracks and trucks all supplied with men. Once I realized that opposition was light for the most part I took every single tank and went straight for a hill in the far back, literally mowing everything down in my path. Then I took my mortar/arty support and levelled some areas around their forest-encampment. I took the half-tracks on sprees to get flags and used them to, really, just charge head-long into the German positions. The game was over by turn 21 when I took over the German-hill and destroyed all their reinforcements before they had time to act (although that proved costly). This is attritionist-strategy at its extremes, and it worked. Funnily enough, though, it was after my initial charges that I eventually took the majority of my casualties for the engagement, such as when the reinforcements surprised me (I came over the hill to spot them) or when a German regiment suddenly appeared in the forest that I had not seen before. If it hadn't been for the Germans mis-using an entire platoon (or two?) I may not have took a crucial flag at all, in fact. Anyway, just an example of when even I use the attritionist strategy (and even example of how it can faulter).

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Balls out charge does not equal attritionist attack. You just don't know the doctrine being discussed, you are confusing it with too many other things. Charging known positions with halftracks is the sort of thing you have to think you are invincible to try. It is not about trying to run the enemy off his feet in one go.

As for what happens when a deep formation is attacked from a flank by somebody missed before, the answer is, a fresh and as yet unengaged echelon in the depths pauses, does a right face, and fires for a minute or two. After which they try to avoid stepping on the blood smears. Pinprick forces make no impression whatever on a deep column. It presents at least as much firepower to the sides as to the front - unlike a line, which might be rolled up from a flank. "Flanking" a deep column is facing as many men as standing in front of it. It doesn't have flanks, it is a blob.

The more basic point is that attrition is about trading your ammo for his forces. It is a logistic mindsight, a counting game, a measuring of ratios. I've so and so many heavy shells, so and so many minutes of tank HE and vehicle MG fire, so and so many minutes of heavy weapons, and this much more of infantry ammo. The enemy has a force about company size, or two, or a battalion - I know the rough scale.

So I pair them up. Arty must deal with so and so many men, on map HE this many, infantry this many. Fire will be delivered if and only if it is possible with average effectiveness greater than or equal to the numbers each weapon needs to achieve. Shots are the whole point, piled up on as little of the enemy force as you please, time permitting.

I know what sort of damage each unit type can inflict from previous experience. I don't assume outliers, best cases. I assume average behaviors. If some do a bit worse, others will do a bit better. The safety margin is going slower or just accepting accomplishing less, not trying to do more than achieved firepower manages to make easy.

If some of my units get killed too, which I assume will happen, then I want them to have delivered their own firepower beforehand. Infantry I expect to absorb punishment and shrug it off, getting back in the fight a few minutes later. Occasionally a platoon will get cut up completely. Much less often, a whole company will get ragged out enough it can't accomplish much anymore. But usually that only happens after they've run through most of their ammo, which means they got in their licks. At a minimum, they've "eaten" the enemy firepower it took to break them.

I may have more or I may have less than the other guy. That changes the ratios I need to achieve, not the logic. Higher ratios needed mean I need more cover on average, need to shoot into open ground more, need to use FO minutes rather than full FOs, need to trade cheap guns for expensive tanks, need an infantry platoon to mess up a second by living through its first ambush. It may mean I need higher variance so I run higher risks, accepting a tactical defeat if they fail.

But always, always, the focus is taking apart the enemy force, and the process is viewed not as a search for free kills or perfection, but as trades, ammo for men. I spend X to get Y, X usually being ammo and occasionally being dead own forces, Y usually being dead enemy and occasionally being used up enemy ammo. One side ends with half its forces or more but low ammo, the other side ends without forces of any kind. So the ratio between them is what matters, keeping it above what the other guy achieves is what wins.

If the portion of my ammo expended is tracking lower than the portion of the enemy force dealt with, I am destroying his force. If the portion of the enemy ammo expended from the living and dead force combined is less than the portion of my force still standing, by about half, I am weathering his fire. If he shoots at me and I do not take lasting damage as a result, I have gained. If I take out a single unit of his without disproportionate ammo expenditure I have gained. The last is easy enough if everyone sticks to the targets and ranges their weapons are suitable for.

That is attrition thinking.

[ December 11, 2005, 08:08 AM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Yes, but when do you comfirm that you are firing at a numerable target? What's to say that the 'Infantry?' or 'Tank?' icons have not died along ago (or have not left the area entirely)? Wouldn't it be hard to concentrate fire when you're not completely sure of what you're firing at?

You can pile all that firepower into one spot, but what happens when it turns out there was nothing there? Two things: You've wasted your ammo; and I get some beefy intel on your positions due to the massive amount of 'ruckus' (for lack of a better word).

If the attritionist wishes to put his forces into a blob, what is to stop me from having a 'company'-amount of mortars and artillery spotters? If I see a concentrated force I'll hit it with said mortars and artillery. If my forces are spread out, what is there to mortar besides the occasional squad or platoon?

Again, I can simply wait around and watch you fire into nothing or have my men being fired upon sneak away and then let you fire into nothing. If your strategy is to use firepower to its strength, then what better way to nullify this strength by letting it go to waste?

If it comes to a city battle and you wish to destroy all the buildings, what would stop me from destroying the buildings and then putting the men into the rubble (so as to avoid losses from collapsing buildings)?

Ultimately what's going to stop me from piling up fake foxholes and trenches? Or having decoys that slither away once you put the weight on 'em? What's going to stop me from not shooting and conserving ammo, and making you blast it all away?

If you concentrate firepower I'll make sure it is at little as possible, if anything at all.

If you concentrate forces I'll make sure to hit it with as much support-weaponary as possible.

If you wish to destroy the buildings of a city, I'll do it myself (saving a select few just for you).

How can you concentrate fire when you're not even 100% sure what you're firing at is worthwhile or even there?

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"What's to say that the 'Infantry?' or 'Tank?' icons have not died along ago"

A half squad. Packet movement by infantry from the front, continually. The whole thing walks in behind the fire, at a leisurely pace, making no real attempt at deception or concealment.

"Wouldn't it be hard to concentrate fire when you're not completely sure of what you're firing at?"

No, in practice it is easy enough. There aren't that many possible locations of defenders along the chosen axis of advance. When a few stealthier ranged shooters are encountered, or a few trench positions otherwise in the open, a brief delay ensues. Trenches get direct fire, ranged stealthy shooters just bring the persistent infantry advance that rallies through their fire to spotting range.

"You can pile all that firepower into one spot"

Why would I do that? Everybody gets enough, that is all. The goal isn't overkill of a tiny place to be sure it is dead. The goal is maximum loss inflicted overall.

"You've wasted your ammo"

True, area fire wastes ammo compared to spotted fire. But dead attackers waste the ammo they would have thrown had they lived. It is a simple trade off, and the solution is equally simple. I budget the overall ammo over the defenders to be expected. Some can be used for area fire, some must be husbanded for direct.

Say an average tank needs to take out 2-3 point targets overall. Then it needs to keep 25 rounds of HE for direct fire, to get 2 of them, 2 minutes each. The remainder can area fire away, as long as they can average a single pinned or panicked enemy each.

"I get some beefy intel on your positions"

Yep. Not hiding or rushing about. That's for maneuverists who think everything can be perfect and they can head-fake and juke their way through entire armies. They see me coming, but they can't stop me. Relentless, that is the whole point. Maneuverists think anything predictable and predicted is already defeated. But attritionists know otherwise, and specifically design sound all arms formations and SOPs so they can deliver firepower effectively even when successfully predicted.

I don't need to fake them out, I don't need to get inside his head or keep him out of mine. I'm just never going to give him an outsized chance because of it, and nothing he does is going to avoid getting shot at by things that can hurt him.

"If the attritionist wishes to put his forces into a blob, what is to stop me from having a 'company'-amount of mortars and artillery spotters?"

Go right aheead. The blob maintains proper intervals, it is not a company stuffed onto a postage stamp. 25m between squads. Yes a barrage will land on a whole platoon. Always does. The ones not immediately pinned will scoot out of the barrage footprint, the rest take their lumps. Guys immediately behind halt. Guys ahead go stationary in cover, ready to receive counterattackers, and wait five minutes. The rest of the formation continues its advance.

On map mortars have about 3 minutes of fire. Artillery modules have 4 minutes typically, and can stretch that into a couple of shoots that hit hard enough to mess up platoons. (Off map mortar FOs don't even have that - they just pin and ding a few men). OK, so what'd it cost you? 100, 150 points? Against 3:2 attack odds in point terms, an FO needs to take out 150-225 points of attackers to break even. Five minutes after the last round lands, what is the average effect on a force that refuses to bunch up?

Everybody who is going to has rallied by then. You keep the outright kills, and an occasional deep rout. The answer is, truly big caliber artillery leaves a few broken half squads - but costs 200 points plus (or isn't reactive, in the case of army level Russian stuff with limited ammo). Medium stuff, the 105s and 120s, gets a squad or two and the rest of what it hits fights "messed up" - down men, some rattled. Does that to maybe 2 platoons.

You can't put enough of your points in that FO basket to trade your FOs for whole companies of attackers. Leave aside being able to defend your frontage afterward, the game physically won't let you. On map mortars will not help the case, their ammo is too limited.

The only thing that can mess up far more infantry than they cost, are the high ammo load direct fire HE guns, the HE chucker tanks, and infantry firing at close range, especially at men in the open. But all show themselves when they do so, and can be hit back. The stuff you can't hit back, the FOs and mortars and minefields and stealthy MGs, do not hit hard enough or cost too much, to shoot down the whole attack.

They can and do inflict delay, and that makes them very effective against somebody rushing to get somewhere before you can react to a head fake. They can punish a clueless AI for overstacking. They can temporarily deny a key location to anyone who makes a plan that hinges on a specific location at a specific time, a "taut rope" plan. But methodical attritionist attacks don't care about such things and do not rely on them. You can get average performance out of a well handled FO, and "trade" its shells for some of the attackers. Go ahead. Afterward, you fight without the FO, and I fight with one company somewhat less effective, and the remaining point odds are the same as they were before.

"If my forces are spread out, what is there to mortar besides the occasional squad or platoon?"

My own mortars only need to take out guns and pin HMGs once someone is close enough to spot them. That is their assigned role in the combined arms symphony. Anything else is gravy. My own FOs only need to break a platoon position along the main access of advance. That is just a trade down, reducing me by the ammo and you by the platoon.

Outsized kills come from the high reward guys getting their own licks in, in favorable circumstances. Tanks getting off their large HE loads because mortars have taken out the enemy guns; infantry getting close range shots because artillery has suppressed the men they are wading into. Each weapon does not need to outperform, only some need to, while all do their jobs.

"I can simply wait around and watch you fire into nothing"

Uh huh, but your defenders are somewhere, aren't they? I am going to walk in right behind the shells, so if you aren't there I just roll right in. Then close range infantry fire from cover does the heavy lifting. I am just neutralizing your cover advantage, overall. I'll take either, your men hit by my artillery, or my infantry in cover safely, in range of yours. You can pick which, I don't care.

"If it comes to a city battle and you wish to destroy all the buildings, what would stop me from destroying the buildings and then putting the men into the rubble"

Go ahead, I'll just make the rubble bounce. The point of the HE storm is to kill defenders before they get a chance to fire on infantry in the open streets closing with them, not urban planning.

"what's going to stop me from piling up fake foxholes and trenches?"

Go ahead. My firepower expenditure is gauged by defenders, locations, and the clock. It has nothing to do with your actions. I don't care what you do.

"What's going to stop me from not shooting and conserving ammo"

Go for it. Then my infantry walks in close unmolested and neutralizes the cover differential. They won't fire a shot. The artillery and HE chuckers, meanwhile, will pound a third of your men to smears before they get a shot off - the third in front of wherever I choose to enter. Net result, your 2/3rds in cover with full ammo face my 3/2s (attacker odds) in cover with full ammo. And I win.

"If you concentrate firepower I'll make sure it is at little as possible, if anything at all."

Wishes over here. Horses over there. You can't make me do anything when I am not even paying attention to you. I shoot where I shoot, based on my own prior guesses about where you are, and my own exact knowledge about where I am going. You can't influence either. I'll decide most of it in my set up, before I've seen a thing from you, so what handle could you possibly have to manipulate it?

"If you concentrate forces I'll make sure to hit it with as much support-weaponery as possible."

Sure, but some of it will be stealthy but only trade-down efficient, that I'll absorb. And some will be as efficient as you please but spottable, and that I'll just shoot back at. Net likely result, no razzle, no dazzle, no "refutations", no move and counter. Just trades. Trade trade trade, everybody getting a decent solid average result from their cost and their firepower, nothing perfect or avoided. And enough to win.

"How can you concentrate fire when you're not even 100% sure what you're firing at is worthwhile"

Don't need 100% sure because I'm not trying to be perfect. Just need average. And I know it is worth having those woods clear because there is only this much cover on the map, and only that portion of it can see and stop me over this chosen route of advance, and the rest of the world might as well be the far side of the moon. I shoot to my plan, not to yours.

Inexorable, that is the whole idea. I don't get inside the other guy's decision cycle, I *ignore it*.

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NUB, you seem to be advocating a concealment based defence that borders on no defense at all.

JasonC espouses the use of preparatory fires into likely enemy locations when your recce information is not complete. A good map recce combined with reasonable intel on enemy strengths will give good candidates for prep fire, and his strategy is to soften up these likely spots. Note that this does not mean expend all rounds until the grid square is turned upside down (unless you have the resources to do this and it would make sense, then go ahead). This means put the minimum amount of fire into likely enemy locations that is required to do one of several things:

1. Suppress the enemy so that a hasty attack can be launched.

2. Force the enemy to vacate their position, thus weakening the defense (because the likely positions being targeted are ones from which fire could effectively impede the advance).

3. Force the enemy to choose between leaving (see 2, above), or firing at the advancing troops. Note that this fire will be less effective because of the incoming area fire, and will be responded to with overwhelming force, as the attacker will have ensured that he has force and fire superiority on the axis of advance.

Yes, it is possible to use withdrawal and delaying tactics to slow an attacker down and make him bleed. But this is a dangerous game, because if you leave too little behind you will not slow him down or bleed him enough to avoid him catching up to your main body at some point, and if you leave too much, your main force gets smaller and smaller to no real gain - at some point you are no longer delaying, but offering a MLR. And it's hell on morale.

Again, this is an arguement of apples vs oranges. JasonC talks about the primacy of firepower at the tactical level, and the primacy of resource at the strategic. The nation with the most firepower at the critical points will on average win tactically, and the nation with the most resources used efficiently will on average win strategically. NUB, you seek to refute the primacy of firepower at the tactical level, but with what do you propose to replace it? Maneuver will only get you so far.

To test, go out with a friend into the outdoors. Give your friend a BB gun, and tell him to defend a patch of ground, which you are resolved to take. Arm yourself with anything you wish, but because you are going to use maneuver only, you are not allowed to use it. Note that supply will not come into the picture, as we are dealing only on a tactical scale. Maneuver around the position. Please ensure you are wearing goggles. How did it go? Feel free to try again. Now switch sides, except that your friend, as an 'attritionist', is allowed to use his weapon without doctrinal restriction. He may only, however, advance in a straight line toward your position. To simulate the 'attritionist' gamey tactic of local attacking force superiority, you will be armed with a small stick, which you may use in any way you choose. Wear running shoes. How did it go? Try again. Are you in pain yet? How about your friend?

Repeat until satisfied.

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A better example would be that the gun only has two shots, and with maneuvering I can make each shot miss. And then after that my stick becomes quite handy (in theory that my friend wont use the butt of the gun, of course).

You also seem to believe that since I am maneuvering I am not using my weapons (or at least properly). This is false, the point of maneuvering is, depending upon the situation or opponent: to 'kill' depth (aka, not letting any amount of troop the time to recover); to take shots that favor my troops (such as my tank facing his tank's side or even rear armor); and to wither his army. He says trade ammo for my men, except this in theory will not always work.


Because there is only a certain amount of ammo you have, and of course, a certain amount of men. We have both, of course. However, if he wishes to present his men in such an ambitious way, and I have mine rather obscure (if not hidden entirely), wouldn't it be true that most of the firepower that is supposed to kill my men falls on empty grounds, while my men's firepower hits targets that I can actually see?

He can take 10 shots with his tanks HE-rounds into a nearby forest, none of which does any significant harm (if there is a target there to begin with). With one shot, aimed at an actual target, I can terminate one of his tanks or disrupt a platoon.

Your giving too much up to "possibility" and "guess work" to depend so much on your ammo. For every 1/4 of infantry rounds you fire into a blank space, I can have 1/10 of mine hit an actual target. What if, throughout the entire game, you guess completely wrong? You are left with a force low on ammo (and by this time, probably a little lost) facing a force that has been conserving it.

There's also the act of filling in areas you barraged. You can hit that empty trench to all hell, then after you're done THAT'S when I move my HMGs and infantry into it. You can bombard that forest's edge all you want, but once you stop that is when I'll move my ATG's up. Again, if your strategy is focused on ammo and firepower, then mine is focused on making you waste both.

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NUB - infantry never uses area fire, it is for HE and high ammo vehicle and foot HMG teams only.

I'm not going to miss with all the area fire because you are somewhere. Some of it will hit people. Only a zero force to space ratio would be immune, and a zero force to space ratio can't hold anything.

And I am only going to area fire while you aren't firing at all. As soon as your tanks appear or your guns open up, it is direct fire at located targets both ways. You take something out with one shot, which is efficient. But you die the following minute, taking all your remaining ammo with you, which is not.

Some of my units expend ammo without each shot being perfectly directed, yes. But they do hit something over the 5 minutes or so they fire. Always. Sheer volume will see to that. And they won't die in response, if your whole defense is hiding. Which is the only time you will get teh full area fire treatment anyway.

Area fire to a plan while the infantry advances is simply a specific counter to a hidden defense. It does not have to achieve higher efficiency per shot than an active defense because it isn't facing one. It only has to achieve higher efficiency than a hidden defense, which (considering that it takes no shots) is not exactly hard.

Obviously, the defense wants to transition at some point. But by then, the attacker has reduced it somewhat, many attackers have gotten some of their licks in already. And they have kept enough for direct fire vs. an enemy or two. When the defense does transition, it faces the usual problem of confronting integrated attacker firepower.

None of those things are flaws in attrition tactics, none of them are answers to it. They are just part of the endless overpromising "I'll have everything", pure wish-work that peddles itself as maneuver doctrine. Wishes as horses, and endless faith that oneself will do everything just right, while everything the enemy does will fail. Based on nothing but sheer bombast. I eat such approaches for breakfast, they simply suck.

Here are the things I actually worry about as an attritionist attacker - and look to create as an attritionist defender. In none of which is there some magical formula that counters anything - but these are simply sound tactics that can be strung together in any successful defense.

I worry about large caliber FOs hanging over my head and refusing to fall. I do not worry about lots of FOs used early and often just shooting down my whole force - they can't afford it. But the threat of 4-8 large shells anywhere in a 200m arc any minute, restricts movements. Occasional flights disrupt platoons, the threat remains, unexpended.

I worry about the fire mission that lands, not during my approach trying to stop me from every getting close, but in the middle of a firefight with a defending platoon in cover, 100-150m away. Because there momentary pins turn into fire dominance and snowball.

I worry about counterattacks through close cover against the leading elements only, with the edge of said cover cutting those of from supporting overwatch fire. I worry about reverse slopes with guns on the next ridge behind, tossing HE into those just past the crest.

I worry about HE chucker vehicles that keyhole, get one or two shots, and reposition before AT overwatch can take them out. And keep doing it, from alternate position after alternate position. Why? Because they are racking up outsized losses inflicted for little cost.

I worry about 150mm sIGs and SU-152s and Brummbars, because rounds that big delivered pinpoint direct don't care about intervals and break whole platoons in a minute flat.

I worry about infantry positions I can't get at because they are protected by open and wire and mines and slopes, and the defenders skulk out of LOS but get angles to preferred routes etc.

I worry a bit about stealthy weapons that get their licks in at range, and then go quite before I get spots. Not because they stop me, but because they take time and they inflict pain and sometimes manage it with impunity.

I worry about the MGs stopping the half squads, so whole platoons take over on "advance", and the patient full platoon position lets them get to 80 yards with plenty of open behind them and then cuts them down. And decamps before the overwatch takes them out in reply.

I worry about the TRP on the cul de sac where obstacles, terrain, and ranged weapons prevent easy further advance.

I worry about the criss crossing fields of fire of keyholed full caliber ATGs, that I learn about from a dead tank. Not because they can't be dismantled, then can. But because the return is already negative and sometimes it costs in losses and ammo (and time) many times what the ATG cost.

I worry about cheap AT minefields and panzerschreck ambushes from locations off the best routes of infantry advance, because they can kill full tanks for far less, even when overcome after first encountered.

I worry about thick fronted AFVs that get "hot" and take even pairs of AFVs flanking them, as a miss or poor behind armor effect lets them live through the fire of one, long enough to kill the other and turn.

I worry about the hidden ATG that unmasks on an AT shooter right before it gets its own shot on the enemy tank. Leaving said tank unexpectedly free to mess up other things.

I worry about losing the armor war and facing a pair of turreted tanks with MG ammo remaining, standing with impunity in open ground with wide LOS and dominating whole areas by threat.

I worry about exposing unturreted AFVs of my own too much, and getting caught turning instead of shooting. I try to keyhole instead, but I worry about which way I need to face and which target to isolate, and whether there will be an ATG hiding there.

I worry about Tigers. It is insane not to. They frequently beat even the best counters in straight up duels, even if initially lined up perfectly.

I worry about good infantry tactics in tight terrain creating many-on-fews in sequence and rolling through equally numerous infantry, butchering them. I worry about SMG infantry in tight terrain - again it is insane not to.

I worry about massive caliber FOs and where they will aim, when I am defending. Especially el cheapo Russian modules bought as greens or conscripts then "map fired".

I worry about Sturmoviks, the strafing especially. They are expensive but can wind up scoring multiple full or M-kills in a few minutes and turn a battle like that.

I worry about enemy firepower tactic attacks, chewing through me methodically, playing my own game.

But I don't worry at all about silly people pretending everything they want to do is easy and nothing their opponents try to do works, because they say so and want it thus, and are clever o so clever maneuverists. I don't worry about being razzled or dazzled or head faked into next week. It is all puffery and fails in practice. At best it increases variance and makes a gambler feel smart when he rolls 7 a few times.

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JasonC, what you're "afraid of" is exactly what a good maneuverist will do: he wont give you those targets to push your firepower on. You said you're afraid of tanks and infantry popping up where you don't expect them, getting a kill, then scurrying away --- this is what a maneuverist will do. He'll take that risk of leaving behind units to mingle with your 'depth'.

And, honestly, if I don't have the advantage in numbers/firepower I might as well do some risky attempts. I don't mind leaving behind a panzerschreck team and having their cheap-buy bag me a T-34 or something of another. I don't mind leaving an ATG gun almost completely out of the battle until I see it fit that he starts shooting (and doing so at precise and specific targets). I have no problem with shooting-and-scooting, then moving said tank elsewhere to do it again. I don't mind leaving decoys or buffers or letting you carve into my terrain.

You said that my tank that pops out and bags one of yours is efficient, then also went to say it was not because all of its "ammo" was destroyed along with it. Well YOUR tank's ammo was destroyed as well, and considering your leaning on said ammo more than myself, this would be considered a minor-victory for me (one I'd take gladly, unless I'm terribly outnumbered, of course).

You say that I assume everything I do will work (I definitely do not, I have my expectations though, just as you do with your area-fires) and that everything you will do will fail (I definitely do not, again; wherever I fail you will succeed and vice-versa). However, this may reign true for you too: not everything I will fail as it appears you think it will. Not everything you do will work either.

Also, I'm not some 'extreme' maneuverist person either. I use attritionist tactics whenever the situation calls for them, but if I see a chance to get more of my money (and perhaps without any loss at all), I will take it. I am also not much of a 'flashy' maneuverist. It simply is not very possible, especially with armor, because there will always be sections of open fields.

While our views on how to use troops may vary quite a bit, I think we both believe in getting the most out of our purchases (or given-units).

(Side note: by FO, what exactly are you referring to?)

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hm, its my first post in this part of the official forums.

anyway i dont want to say that any of this two methods is better that the other. after reading this i found that i use a mix of both.

i have come to say that the method of attriton is "meybe" some kind of easy to use becouse your forces arent used afterwards.

and i would like to know how this tactic transforms when aplied to a CM game when playing with CMC. i dont know how resuplieing(sp) works in CMC(meybe its allready knowen!?), but to have a relatively worn down infantry and especially tanks and/or guns without "any" ammo becouse it got effectively expanded over the whole battle(ovcourse, meybe to good effect). but for what are they usefull now?

can i go that far and say that the use of attrition to this extent is somewhat "gamey"???

what would you guys mean?

but overall the attrition method looks well "planed" and useable for many different situation...


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Quite interesting posts, but In terms of how I play it really boils down to what side I am playing. The Russians really do lend themselves to attritionist tactics. This is especially true with their infantry, they are cheaper than most and the human wave tactic works wonders. But when I play as either CW or American I really try and manuver and conserve my forces. Their flexible and cheap artillery makes it really easy to sit back and let it do most of the work.

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Re the German decision not to go to Total War. This was as much a political decision as a military one.

The war was not a popular one in Germany. Conquering France so fast made it (for a while) popular but despite Nazi propaganda, the desire for a "show down" with communism wasn't there. Pressure was growing to demobilise men after the fall of France until Barbarossa - especially from the farming sector.

The Nazi Party did pay attention to public opinion, and IMHO the reduction in military output (or rather, not ramping up to total war levels) was driven by a wish to keep the home fires burning. So, when it looked as if full court press wasn't needed, the Germans seized on it gratefully

Compare to the UK, who outproduced Germany in aircraft in BoB. The war wasn't popular, but was seen as necessary defense against an aggressor. There was massive propaganda at all levels to try and explain why, how and what the fighting was for and worthwhile - with an explicit deal that the reward would be accelerated home rule for all colonies, and a welfare state in the UK, if sacrifices were made now

Politically, the Germans were able to switch to total war in late 1942 because it was then a war of survival. Before that, ISTR the only German of note calling for total war was Himmler, but he was one of the few who truly believed in the whole thing.

So, the Germans didn't go for total war not just because they didn't think they needed to, but also because they weren't convinced it was doable. Ironically, it turned out not to be a big problem. Whether or not 1944 consumption patterns could have been accepted in 1940/41 we will never know. I am not sure though - without a mortal threat, about the only country to have such a skewed consumption pattern was Russia during collectivisation.

I put it down as another wehrmacht p3nis envy - the view that the Germans could have won if only they had gone to total war two years earlier misreads the reality of the situation a bit - they didn't not just due to stupidity, but out of fear of the political consequences at home.

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Originally posted by JasonC:

The instant Germany decide to attack Russia, Germany *was* in mortal danger.

Not seeing that, is the whole point. It was reckless overconfidence.

I certainly consider that a fact, not an opinion.

Btw, great thread in here. I say we need a head-2-head battle for a great ender to this discussion. Also followed by an AAR. How bout it? Any takers? Lets get some wages going, I'll put $10 bucks on JasonC. Who's gonna take him on?

Then the winner will face his true test of wargaming, by facing MeatEtr's MeatGrinder. Yup, that's right. :D

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