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Effectiveness of craters as cover

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I don't think it is gamey.

First of all, there were plans (i.e., at the Normandy landings) to provide craters on the beach through aerial bombardment, just to give the infantry something to hide in. (The bombers missed).

Second, I don't think it counts as gamey because it neither exploits a weakness of the game engine and because it is neither a "free" nor invincible tactic. The cover is limited and you pay for it by expending your artillery or HE fire on open ground rather than enemy units. It is just such tactical decisions and tradeoffs that one wants to see in a game.

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As far as i can remember, crates give cover similar to foxholes.

I think they are not gamey, because imho, the open ground itself has sometimes not enogh cover, e.g. for a city with rubble on the streets.

Since Tanks can't cross rubble, the only Option for me as a scenario designer would be some nice crates as rubble replacement.

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Troops routinely used existing craters as cover in WW1. Especially when attacking.

The similarity between a foxhole and a crater (both are holes in the earth, usually supplied with mounds of earth around them) is telling. So do you think all those grunts in WWII ignored craters? How long will it take for an infantry commander to ask the arty to provide some cover on his way forward - not just concealment from smoke or suppresion? If he doesn't get it by asking for it, his recce might find some "targets" in the neutral zone just to get craters.

How much craters will a rolling barrage supply to advancing troops?

It is not gamey - and should have made its way in the "how to attack over open ground"-threads. But it is damn expensive in CM. Each turn of arty big enough to supply craters costs about the same as an inf plt. And craters - just like foxholes - are inferior to scattered trees IIRC.

So as stated above, it is a trade-off.



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75mm arty will usually leave the craters that are only visible but have no terrain rating other than what the basic terrain around it is.

If a crater is big enough to count as terrain, then the effect is precisely the same as foxholes, e.g. negelectable in open ground with still 46% or so exposure.

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Be sure to get the mod that shows craters that are terrain distinctly differently from craters that are just eye candy on open ground. Don't fiddly with scanning them with the LOS tool. The default icons can't be readily distinguished but our intrepid crew of modders have solved that problem for us.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although I can see how at times craters might be effective, I would argue that it is always better to use artillery against the enemy than to blow holes in the ground.

Consider that when attacking, your objective is likely to close ground with the enemy as quickly as possible, becuase at any range the defender has the advantage of both precision fire from his bolt-action rifles, as well as the support of heavy machine guns and mortars. You on the other hand, have only the squad LMG and don't match up well as far as expose goes. Thus you want to avoid getting stuck in any one part of the field. While craters may offer more protection than just being in the thick of it, they should only be used if there is no possibility of advance, as being in a crater probably hinders your ability to fire back, and certainly makes it easier for the enemy to target you.

The exception to this would of course be if you were the defender. In such a situation, a planned bombardment etc not only adds to the available defensive positions, but also tears up the landscape making it more difficult for the enemy to maneuver his armor effectively.

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"your objective is likely to close ground with the enemy as quickly as possible"

Not if you want to win it isn't. Pushing hard to close with the enemy just gets you killed. His cover advantage just translates into a higher absolute number of kills as his firepower soars, when the range falls.

You don't reduce his fire because you are moving. The units that don't get close only stop because they panic, so they don't shoot either. The few bravest units get to close range. But the few bravest don't outnumber the enemy. They aren't in better cover, they are under fire, they are trying to move. So they get outshot, every time.

It is not a foot race, and the dangerous part is not "being in the open". It is a firefight, and the dangerous part is not having any effective shooters. Which happens to you when your men come apart, lose cohension, spread back to front, try todo useless things like sneak sideways 80m for better cover, or run away. What you need to do is not minimize time, but maximize cohesion, and with it effective outgoing fire.

Which means you need to focus not on how far your most forward squad has gone, but how good the morale state is of the ones at the back of the pack.

The forward edge can pin. Just halt them. Sideways sneakers, halt and order to fire. Let them sneak only if they are on top of each other (they won't listen to an order to halt if "overstacked") or within 10m of cover that is not already occupied by other friendlies. Fire if you see targets, hide if you have only sound contacts.

The rear edge must move. Accordian fashion, pile up closer to the enemy. A few will rout hopelessly away - some rear echelon higher HQ needs to corral those for things that will happen 10-15 minutes later but they are out of this attack. Everyone else needs to rally rally rally, and everyone on alerted or OK needs to advance 50 to 100m.

The advance will stand or fall depending on how much *firepower* you put out at 100-150 yards from the enemy, not how long things have taken. Only firepower protects attacking troops. You maximize firepower at the critical moment by waiting, giving each pinned unit time to rally, asking only as much of the men as they are willing to give, and shifting around who is going first to spread the pain around.

The amount of rally your company can achieve over the course of a 15 minutes advance is at least 3 times as much as it can achieve in 5 minutes. Rally power absorbs enemy fire. Rally power maintains cohesion. Cohesion produces firepower. Firepower protects moving men, nothing else does.

You also made the comment in passing that the attacker doesn't have mortars and guns and HMGs, while the defender does. I assume you mean, because those things can't keep up with an advance - which is true. But they make up for it with range.

Any attack is either made through cover, or across open ground within sight of the enemy. (Open ground tilesin "dead ground" areas count as cover). If there is cover, even support weapons can move, just staying a minute or two behind the squad infantry. When there isn't (the usual case), the enemy is visible across a wide expanse of open ground. So, fire across that wide expanse of open ground, yourself. Heavy weapons can always support an attack.

Shellholes are a perfect example of attacker cover, and need to be fully exploited. Other forms of attacker cover are patches of rocky ground, brush, wheatfields, wood fences, hedges, even just steppe compared to open on occasion.

None of these are adequate cover against men in trenches or woods foxholes. But all of them are better than the open - and in fact, the shellhole is the best of them (44% vs. 50% exposure, and all of it cover effective against HE rather than concealment which only helps vs. infantry FP). They also mitigate cover panic.

Real cover starts with scattered trees, rough, wood buildings, rubble - those you can halt in and fire from for any length of time. They get you within a factor of 2-3 of typical defender exposure and they eliminate cover panic.

The way to use attacker cover is to make each scrap of it the target of the next "advance" order of the nearest squad, never piling up into each bit or trying to reach more than 100m (when under fire, 50-70m often works better, actually). If every bit is spoken for or farther, the next waypoint is in the middle of the open, but on a line headed for such a piece of attacker cover - halfway e.g.

Why does it help so much? Because the units that reach a scrap of attacker cover and go stationary become much less attractive targets for up and firing defenders. Other units are still moving in the open, at similar ranges. Fire tends to shift away from those that "made it" to their shellhole etc. That gives them a chance to rally. And a rallied unit nearer the enemy is a potential shooter.

Over the course of an advance, a given unit has periods when it happens to be the lucky one that has attacker cover that minute. It catches its breath. That "tiring, cautious" becomes "ready, OK". One off, no big deal. Over the whole formation, the way to think about that is as having *destroyed* some portion of the defender's firepower. You rallied, that means you *ate* all the ammo shot at you, and are still standing. That is what I call "rally power". But you have to give it time to work, and keep the ranges relatively long, to give the men a chance at it.

Defenders have the firepower to break all the attackers, if they get to shoot them in the open and especially if they get to deliver some of those shots at short range. Especially if they live a long time themselves, and aren't too suppressed. Squad infantry defenders do not have the firepower to keep a whole company pinned at 250m for 20 minutes. They don't have the ammo to keep firing that long, and if they spread what they have by hitting each unit once or twice, in that period of time everyone will rally.

I'll start a new thread on firepower thinking in CM. It is critical to using infantry effectively, but apparently it remains counter-intuitive.

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I can see you've thought all of this out very well and agree with much of what you've said. My point about closing with the enemy was mainly in regards to how infantry firepower increases as you get closer to the enemy. As many assault squads, especially Soviet ones, employ large quantities of submachineguns, logic would suggest that these units would only be at their most effective at shorter ranges.

As far as heavy weapons go, while it is true that the attackers can use their HMGs to support the assault from a distance, their ability to suppress the enemy in terms of firepower is limited to a fixed value determined by their distance from the target. The defending HMGs, however, will become more effective as the attackers get closer. Thus my point is that it is difficult for the attacking force to match the defenders in firepower, especially when accounting for distance and exposure, unless they are able to make use of all of the shorter range weapons in their arsenal. Therefore, the primary consideration is not the time that it takes to close with the enemy, but rather attaining a position from which you can bring all of your firepower to bear against him.

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"it is difficult for the attacking force to match the defenders in firepower"

I will get to the qualifications in a second, but first pause and listen to yourself. If the attacker can't outmatch the defender in firepower, he has no business attacking.

Attacks require odds and superior supporting arms. Whether from tanks, direct fire guns, large caliber FOs, on map mortars - the attacker expects to have overwatch that far exceeds that available to typical defenders. Defenders who expose themselves by firing should expect swift punishment for the attempt, once attackers are close enough to pinpoint their positions.

The primary reason infantry closes is to force the defenders to reveal themselves by firing. And second, to identify the exact locations of the shooters. Third and only third, to saturate the defenders - especially those farthest forward - with their own firepower.

If an attacker has quite long infantry odds, plenty of time, and any sort of cover, then he may consider infantry firepower his dominant form of overwatch. But this is rare and exceptional. The usual case is half of the attacking firepower as heavy overwatch from range, delivered as HE.

The overall combined arms threat, not simply an infantry threat is intended to create a fire discipline dilemma for the defenders. Fire early at range, and the attacking infantry goes to ground and readily rallies. The fire pins them perhaps, but has no serious lasting effect. Meanwhile, the now revealed defenders are clobbered by HE from range, for any length of time the attacker wishes.

If on the other hand fire is held until close range, to ensure fast fire effects on the attacking infantry, its own reply fire is quite dangerous. And if you don't fire at all, that firepower will sit down in terrain right in front of you, then probe, and kill you easily when you are forced to reveal yourselves.

Now to your qualifications.

"especially when accounting for distance and exposure"

Distance makes little difference for HE. For the advancing infantry, it is reciprocal - the same for incoming as for outgoing. The only items effected by longer range for the attackers compared to the defenders are attacker MGs. They simply have a different, specific role in an attacking fire plan as a result. Still useful.

That role is to divide up the defenders and prevent easy repositionings, by covering open ground areas between their groups. To cut withdraw routes. To "pursue by fire" any defenders who are routed by HE or close infantry fire. And last, to maintain suppression achieved by other weapons, especially HE.

See, an HMG at 500m against a gun or MG in cover, won't do much more than push it to "alerted", from which it will snap back every turn. But hit the gun or MG with a minute of 81mm mortar fire first, and it starts pinned. Now put the MG on it, while the mortar switches to some other target. Those little dips from incoming will match the slow upticked from rally, once that deep into suppression. The effect is to prevent rally at all. The MG can keep this up for 15 minutes or more. It is the ammo depth of the MG that is wanted.

Exposure is the only serious asset the defenders have. If the attackers spend too much time moving or worse, cover-panic sneaking, then the defenders may have an edge in time spent firing - at least early on. But that is less of a blessing than it may seem.

Because shooting early and often means shooting at longer range. Shooting later means shooting at shorter range. If ammo lasted forever, the long range fire would be an extra gimme - and for MGs that is approximately true. But not so for squads. If you fire half your ammo at 250m ranges and the attacker just doesn't, the defender's net outgoing firepower falls maybe a quarter and maybe a third (half the ammo fired at half the fp, e.g.)

Otherwise put, when the range does get down to 100-150m, what do the defender's squad ammo counters read? What do the attacker's squad ammo counters read? Have the defenders wrecked an equivalent portion of the attacking infantry? Often not.

Next consider what numbers do compared to cover. Suppose I am in 15% exposure and the other guy is in 45%. Can I defeat 3 times my own number of men? I cannot. His net firepower and mine would be equivalent. But mine hits a third of his men, his hits all of mine. Numbers are a "twofer" - the not only effect outgoing fp, but also depth to sustain casualties and rally power to overcome suppression and separated targets.

If an attacker gets twice the men to close enough range without them being already broken, he can win even against a cover differential as high as 4 times. If his heavy weapons overwatch is helping, higher still (HE is less sensitive to cover and more sensitive to exact shell placement).

The defender's problem when facing odds is really quite unforgiving. If the attacker push too hard and come apart while already forced well into the defender's lethal zone, then yes the defenders can get a shooting gallery. But this is largely a result of a perfectly avoidable attacker mistake - racing to cross the open. It is not a result of an asset the defender can bank on.

And the attacker does not address it by running to 50m away. If you do face a 9% to 70% exposure difference, you want to send HE. Or steer for better than 70% terrain from which to conduct the actual firefight. Or absorb the enemy's ammo while still at range, where it can't hurt you much and you can rally from its effects.

Eventually he sees this and shortens his arcs. He has to, he will run dry otherwise. Then you creep a little closer. He is on 250m arcs, you cluster at 250-300m. Let him shoot at the forward guys, let them rally. No pushing. he shortens up again. You get to 200m. At some point you decide to cut loose in reply, and try to rout just the nearest defenders - without blowing all your own ammo.

The key factor in all of this is not treat firing opportunities as scarce. Units can expend all their ammo in well less than the length of a typical fight. They will necessarily spend half of more of their time not firing. Which half? Pick your shots. Let his happen at range, and earlier. You don't try to run him off his feet in 2-3 minutes, you outlast him over 20.

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Again, that was a comprehensive and very well written post, and my intention is not to disagree with you in principle. Keep in mind, that everything I have written is in the general context of using craters as cover. Were one to have readily available HE support, an advantage in numbers and firepower, and the ability to traverse the most favorable defile of the terrain then his primary concern would likely not be what craters happen to be on the battlefield.

The original author asked if craters were a valid type of field fortification. To me this question suggests an unfavorable for defferential from the outset. In such a case, a commander has neither the time nor the resources to get into a protracted battle that involves multiple rallying efforts and complex maneuvers

As you said, in such a case, such a commander has no business attacking, and I agree wholeheartedly. At the same time, however, I can think of a number of scenarios in which on may be forced to do so, such as encirclement, or in an attempt to save an isolated unit. Or in an effort to quickly destroy an enemy position which poses a greater threat to your forces as a whole.

Of course, whether you think there are any situations that warrant an attack against unfavorable odds is a different question altogether.

On a final note about HE placement-- While I would agree that the effectiveness of High Explosive fire does not vary with distance, at least not in the sense that that AP fire does (in terms of the effect that it has in the eventuality of a hit), I do feel that it is at least somewhat less effective at range.

Allow me to explain--

(I'm talking about direct fire weapons)

1.) It is ostensibly more difficult to hit a target at long range than at short range. Even with a good crew and optics, the longer the round has to travel, the greater its chances of being taken off course or deflected by brush and the like, especially considering the low muzzle velocity and short barrels of most anti-infantry cannons.

2.) Distance offers the enemy a greater opportunity to break contact. Due to the natural lay of the land, and his ability to either fall back or otherwise change his location, it is much more likely that an enemy would be able to find cover at 800m than at 100m

3) Overwatch may be less effective if the enemy has indirect fire support of his own. Depending on how well the defender is dug in, and what type of resources he has available, "counter-battery" fire may be effective in curbing your advantage.

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The original poster is asking about using foxholes as cover during an attack. You expressed the opinion that they are not useful and that an attacker needs to keep moving. The original poster envisions a very common occurance in CM battlefields, particularly in steppe fighting - an infantry advance across a large expanse of open ground or steppe, with quite limited cover. A few patches of brush or rocky, little else. And his question is, should he be using shellholes during such an advance, orienting on them as suitable cover to steer towards?

And the answer to his question is yes, attacking infantry routinely uses shellholes as cover. They are one of the better forms of attack cover. They are commonly encountered, highly useful, need to be considered in any route choice, etc. They count as cover, for an infantry attack across open ground. And cover matters in such attacks, little scraps of it.

Because they are not foot races, the attackers do not rapidly leave any open area. They are often sitting in open steppe 300m from the enemy for ten minutes, with some portions making progress at average rates of 25m per minute, only half to a quarter of the men moving at any one moment.

Your statements about racing out of the open or attacking infantry needing to get close to the defenders are simply false. That is not how infantry attacks. Good attacks don't do that, and attacks conduct that way routinely fail when they do not remotely have to fail.

I objected and intervened because you are giving bad advice to a player asking a reasonable question. The guy who asked the question understands the matter better than you do. You continue trying to give others instruction when you need it yourself, on the subject at hand, in CMBB&AK infantry fighting. Pipe down a little and learn.

[ March 27, 2005, 06:25 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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My intention was neither to give bad advice (as after reading your explaination of the various tactics involved, I would agree it is), nor was it to call your own experience into question. I simply wished to discuss the matter more fully; I wanted to debate.

I am truly sorry if I have offended you, or if I have tested your patience. I'm new to this forum, but after considering that this is a "Tips and Tricks" forum and not a general discussion, I see my mistake in repeadtly questioning you. Please accept my apologies.

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You haven't tested my patience, and discussing these things is what this place is for. See the next thread (firepower thinking). There is any degree of wild and wooly debate in all the subject forums. Tips and tricks is specifically meant to be sound advice for relatively new players. Make the distinction, mentally, between what you know to be sound advice from CM practice, and questions about how things work or ideas to try. That is all I was after, I did not mean to come down on you too hard.

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You don't have to deliberately target arty for it and doing so would be a waste. Just put a heavy module on an enemy position with open ground in front of it. You reduce outgoing fire from that position by messing up the men there. And you will always have some "shorts", which will make stepping stones for the last bit of approach.

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To add to what another poster (Redwolf) noted, 75 mm HE usually doesn't give you very many foxhole quality craters, just a swack of scarred earth. Based on my vague anecdotal memory, for a high proportion of those type of craters, you probably need to drop stuff that's > 100 mm.

Simplest thing is to run a quick test with a bunch of different FOs and see how many good ones you get.

Let me know the results smile.gif

As mentioned by JasonC, if you're interested in "craters as cover", you should get JS's crater mod for BMP# 1210; if you need it, send me an e-mail. It makes the unusable craters (BMP1210) into more of a dirt-doughnut so they are easily distinguishable from the foxhole-like craters (BMP1209).

Originally posted by Tigrii:

Is a 75mm crater comparable to a foxhole as cover for infantry in the open? If it does help considerably, couldn't you use artillery, gun or AFV fire to create foxholes on a stretch of open ground you needed to cross? (Gamey?)

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